Posts Tagged With: Graves Park

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.


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


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.


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!


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

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

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


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:


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….


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.


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!


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.


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


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


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


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!  🙂


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.


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.


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

Go Geronimo go! Rocking our sixties chic for Graves parkrun’s Sixth birthday bash. Don’t they grow up fast?

Digested read: parkrun day, Graves parkrun had a birthday, yay!  Six today, party, and a sixties party at that.  Geronimo and I used it as our last joint run pre London (aaaaaaaargh) ’twas wondrous.  Great to catch up with folk over coffee and cake and as for the celebrity sightings – well you should have been there dear reader.  Miss parkrun, miss out.  FACT.

Elvis may well be working in a chip shop, I think that’s old news now, but what is perhaps rather more breaking news, hot off the press in fact, is that Bowie is back performing again – leaving his darkstar to materialise at Graves park in Sheffield.  Fact.  More of this later.

I’m mid taper now pre London Marathon now.  Which is now eight days away.  EIGHT DAYS!  Can’t imagine what it’ll be like to get to the other side of this deadline.  To be fair,    I think I may have gone a bit overboard on the resting part of the taper.  Problem is, I did genuinely pick up a bit of knee niggle at the Sheffield half  last Sunday, and I am terrified of making it worse, so basically I did nothing at all for a few days afterwards.  Tempting though it is to test it, I felt rest it was the better option.  The accepted mantra is you can’t increase fitness at this point, but you can exacerbate injuries.  Then again, lard-arse tendencies take over pretty quickly and by Thursday I was thinking I’d never be able to walk again, let alone run.  I had reached that point of decrepitude when you involuntarily make noises as you shift from e.g. sitting to standing, and this does not bode well.  I’m so stiff!  It’s ridiculous, can’t imagine doing a parkrun, let alone a marathon.   I should be joyfully cavorting round my abode with sprite-like lightness of foot and bouncing off the walls with excess energy at this point, surely?  Not fantasising about being reunited with my duvet all day…  On Thursday I decided I had to do something and so went for a walk into town, about 7 miles in total.  Not exactly arduous, and I’m pleased to report, knee felt better not worse afterwards.  However, not to worry, I have plenty of other things to fret about.  Specifically, I’m now really worried about the weather forecast. It’s predicted to be 21 degrees on Sunday!  That’s crazy, all my training has been in single digits.  Now I’m worried about heat intrinsically, but also how that will impact on hydration and maybe even electrolytes.  Also, fun as the Sheffield half was, and fine as a companion animal Geronimo turned out to be, we did have a couple of fancy dress fails, ideally I could do with another practise run with Geronimo, but I wasn’t over keen on undertaking this as a solitary endeavour, and laps of the garden wouldn’t really replicate the road running experience. What to do dear reader? What to do?


Don’t panic!

As always, the running community of Sheffield delivered, just for me!  Specifically, Graves parkrun announced that it was having a fancy dress themed parkrun to celebrate it’s sixth birthday!  Hurrah!  Perfect.  It was as if it was a gift just for me.  Good parkrunners of Graves, I thank you!

60 theme parkrun

Geronimo loves fancy dress and this way we could have another nice chilled run together, and practice getting our stride in rhythm together so we can yomp round more comfortably when we get to London.  Apart from the heat.  No idea what we are going to do about that.  Whatever approach we take though, we are going to be in this together!

Astonishingly, there was no sleet, snow, ice or even rain today.  I did wonder if I might be hallucinating, but reassured myself that even if I was this unfamiliar, nigh on trippy sensation brought about by the unfamiliar sight of sunshine would be entirely appropriate for the theme at today’s parkrun, so no need for alarm.

As usual, I got to Graves park ridiculously early, parked up, got a ticket for the carpark, and then sat in the car listening to the news about bombs being dropped in Syria, recoiling at the seemingly unending vortex of horror that is the state of the world today and contemplating my throwback pink CND symbol necklace and wondering whether anyone, anytime, anywhere has ever given peace a chance…  Eventually, having espied a couple of Monday mobsters decamping from their vehicle, I plucked up the courage to emerge from my own car, and kitted myself and Geronimo out ready for action.  We can so rock this sixties chick look don’t you agree:

GP6 Geronimo super star

I think the daisy headband rather suits her, I might see if she wants to keep that for London.  The colour suits her.

As is always the case, despite it not being my home parkrun, I quickly saw a fair few familiar faces which was great, and reassuring.  One person said she recognised me from the half, I have no idea how that could be, obviously.  Mobsters were out in force – hurrah, been a while since I could tick off quite so many in one go in my I-spy book of Monday Mobsters,  so that was a win.  A few were in magnificent fancy dress – at least I think they were in fancy dress, to be honest, they looked so at home in their gear I don’t know why the don’t wear it all the time… maybe they do?



Definitely an option, now we seem to have the warmer weather.

Precautionary pee was a challenge due to firstly the queue for the loo, and secondly the lack of a lock on the door and the distance to the door from the throne.  My arm just didn’t stretch that far.  Oh well, a little adrenaline surge pre parkrun can only be a good thing.

As always at Grave, there was soon a good humoured gathering.  Even though it’s a busy parkrun, it has stayed small enough that it’s always really friendly, and you get a sense that most parkrunners know, or at the very least recognise one another, so it’s basically always one big hug-in, only on this occasion with added sixties flare, or more accurately flares.  As if there wasn’t already more than enough vitality and glamour – pizzazz if you will – turns out, the RD had only managed to channel a mahoosive celebrity for the morning. They kept this quiet in advance, I can understand why, conspiracy theories abound, and this one-off appearance was a reward for the loyal parkrun regulars and locals, whilst tourists and visitors will always be made welcome, it would have cheapened the occasion if people only came to gaze in wonder at the star turn and didn’t embrace the whole parkrun participation ethos.  Just IMHO.  I was still massively star struck though.  Obvs.

Oh is it not clear to you yet?  We only had Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust incarnation to do the run briefing.  No way?  YES WAY!  Not only that, just like Elton John rewrote ‘Candle in the wind‘ for Diana’s funeral, in a way cooler exercise in creative genius, Bowie repurposed ‘Space Oddity‘ to cover all Graves parkrun eventualities.  I was in complete awe.  Although he was being channeled by the RD, it was like Bowie was actually there.  Uncanny!

graves control to parkrun

The Graves run report Happy 6th birthday Graves parkrun! (part one)  Event 304, reproduced the lyrics for posterity.  I hope I wont be in breach of copyright by reproducing them again here.  There is also a Graves run report Happy 6th Birthday (part two), because so much fun was had, it couldn’t all be adequately communicated in just the one link!

Space Oddity (Graves parkrun special edition):
Graves Control to graves parkrun
Graves Control to graves parkrun
Tie you shoes laces and set your running watches on
Graves Control to Graves parkrun (ten, nine, weight, seven, six)
Commencing countdown, trainers on (five, four, three)
Remember barcode and may parkrun love be with you (3 2 1 go)

This is Graves Control to graves parkrun
You’ve really made the age grade
And the barcode scanners want to know your position today
Now it’s time to leave the start line without a care
This is Graves Control to graves parkrun
And you’re all running in a most brilliant way
And the cows look very different today
For here
You’re running through the animal farm
Far from the start
The finish line is due
But there’s another lap to do

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, miss parkrun, miss out.  FACT.  Harsh, but true, definitely true.

This wasn’t the only novel happening of the morning.  As has become something of a tradition, it is laid down somewhere in parkrun law, that when events celebrate their birthdays, they shalt run their courses backwards.  Hurrah!  Thus, race briefing over, milestones, tourists and volunteers all duly clapped and cheered, we were led off on a trek to the new for the day start location.  The pretext for this was to avoid congestion at the start of the reverse route as you go into the narrow lanes of the animal park, however, I think we all know it was to give the hi-viz heroes a good laugh as they launched all us runners straight up a near vertical hill start, and yes dear reader, that meant we’d have to finish on an uphill sprint too.  Oh the joy!

As we wandered down, I was pleased to see more familiar faces I’ve not seen in a while, and took the opportunity for some post Sheffield half debriefing.  I got some top tips from others about London.  I still am struggling to say out loud to people I’m actually doing this, which is crazy when it’s barely a week away now.  I have trained, as best I can – admittedly, this might not be immediately obvious to the untrained eye, but I am going to give it my best go.  People were encouraging though, I take heart from that.  I want to come back from London, if not exactly glorious, at least with a feel good tale of how the underdog pulled through.

Hello parkrun, woodrun and miscellaneous other running friends I’ve not seen in ages:



After more communal clapping, for unclear celebratory/ congratulatory purposes, the shout went up and we were off.  Not terribly fast in my case.  I was telling myself this was legitimate,  I just need to get my legs moving, not fall over the extra legs I had with me for the ride, and remind myself that you can always push out a parkrun, because you can.  That hill was steep though.  Phew.

in reverse theyre off graves parkrun

There is something disproportionately joyful about running a familiar route in an unfamiliar way.  It is weirdly disorienting, and you do see things anew.  The steep start also slowed everyone down, and so it wasn’t such a mad dash as starts usually are.  Cheery marshals laughed and clapped us round, animals completely ignored us as we ran through.  I was particularly taken by a trio of large pigs, slumbering deeply in their straw beds, they weren’t venturing out for hours yet I imagine!

The route feels longer in reverse, and I found it quite challenging, as you get both short sharp hill sections and long more gentle upward inclines.  On the other hand, really who cares, loads to gaze at, cheery marshals and other runners to interact with, what’s not to like?  There was even an official parkrun photographer on hand who did a grand job of capturing many of us in action, and I can only presume edited out all the deeply unflattering ones as they are all crackers as opposed to corkers.  … unless of course she just didn’t need to, because Graves parkrun!ners are exceptionally well turned out and photogenic?  Now I come to think of it that is the more likely explanation.  All the same, thank you Gail Moss for taking some fantastic photos to capture the glorious occasion of Graves parkrun Sixth Birthday.  If you look carefully, you’ll spot the other celebrity sighting of the day in the form of Lily the whippet and wonder dog. Always a treat to see her in action!  Also, one of the runners has a shirt in exactly the brown and orange of a carpet I once had.  I feel it is important I share this with you.  Not entirely sure why.  I am of an age where I can’t quite claim to be a child of the sixties really, well actually I was, but not a teenager in the sixties, which I think is the accepted meaning for a ‘sixties child’ and would make the claim valid – however, I did live with its legacy all around me in soft furnishings in rented properties over the years.  Lava lamps, string art ‘paintings‘, swirly purple carpets and avocado bath suites, experienced them all.    I’m practically a walking oral history project.  Ask me about the firework display when the GLC was abolished or the London Poll tax riots, you’ll ace that history project!



This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was my usual slow and steady self, but at least I did keep on running, which was the point of the exercise.  There was some tiny cheer leaders en route, one in a buggy who obliged with a high-five, and another with a very fine elephant covered romper suit. It’s always good to see other African mammals when I’m out and about with Geronimo.

At one point, I heard a booming voice of encouragement from Monday Mobsters on my tail ‘go Geronimo!’ that was great.  Normally I have the runderwear ambassador shouting encouragement at me if she spots me slowing round the Endcliffe park route of Sheffield Hallam parkrun, clearly, for one day only, she had outsourced this responsibility!  Spies are everywhere.

It was a little weird running quite literally with rose-tinted spectacles, and I got really, really hot.  Partly from not having my hair tied back I think, but I have no idea how I’m going to cope if it’s as hot as threatened next Sunday.  As I romped round, someone alerted me to the fact they’d seen another giraffe out on the route.  Another giraffe?  Awesome!  Needed to track them down before the end of play.

GP6 which way again

At one point, on the new homeward straight, I had the slightly unsettling experience of seeing a familiar woodrunner charging towards me, I was pretty confident one of us was going the wrong way.  Panic not, of course dear reader, it’s just that she’d finished and was homeward bound against the traffic, whilst I was still heading to the hill sprint finish.  For quite a bit of the course I did a sort of leap-frog with another runner, she seemed to be faster than me going down hill, but I managed to over take her on the ups. It was quite motivating, and I found it companionable, although it was an unspoken pact between us I think, to get around the end stages in this way.

Finally, the finish funnel came into view, cheering parkrunners clapping us end of throng parkrunners home.  Tokens were handed out, barcodes scanned, and celebratory roses chocolates circulated. Have I said recently what particularly fine and hospitable hosts are on hand at Graves parkrun?  Really, they are!



Again, the shout went up for ‘first giraffe’ we are nothing if not consistent.  Of course it’s a run not a race however, so this wasn’t particularly important. What was VERY important was to track down this giraffe comrade, stalk her, and get a shot together.  Happily, I was able to spot her at the finish, cheer her in, nab her, and enlist the official photographer to document our meeting.  We are a relatively small giraffe community in these parts for some reason, personally I feel even-toed ungulates are somewhat under-represented at parkrun, so it’s great when we do encounter one another to meet up properly and support one another.n  Uncanny though isn’t it, we are so alike you can hardly tell us apart. For clarity, I’m the one on the right and on the left, depending on which photo you are looking at.  We are both awesome, that’s the main thing.



I cheered a few more runners home



Whilst mingling, another runner appeared alongside me and told me she’d found chasing down Geronimo’s tail quite motivational.  I find such comments pleasing and hilariously unlikely in even measures.  Having said that, I too often try to espy a conspicuous looking runner ahead and keep them in sight, and as Geronimo certainly has a most splendid and eye-catching arse, it’s not so surprising as all that.  I then headed off with selfie queen for obligatory post race selfie shots.  She really has a key skill in this line, handy to have on board and at my disposal.  Selfie Queen I thank you.



Then she went off to do more exercise at British Military Bootcamp because she’s hardcore, and I went off to get coffee and cake, because I’m not  having to carb up which is such a great hardship.

It was really nice in the cafe afterwards.  As good fortune would have it, not only were the run director team doing a little awards spiel to mark the day, but one of the Monday Mobsters was sharing belated birthday celebrations and, more importantly, excellent home-made cake! You might think I’d feel a bit guilty for gate crashing their party, but you know what, I got over that quite quickly, and it was fabulous to catch up actually. Plus I had many pep talks with each, downloading their marathon tips, running tales and being sold the merits of the thunder run, which I’d previously dismissed as paying a huge amount of money just to spend 24 hours running round in circles in the cold and dark all on your own.  I now understand this to be a team event where you get to face plant into a buffet and a complete festival going on around you at all times.  I need to re-calibrate my understanding of that one – not until September, well, we’ll see.

Meanwhile, here are photos of the Rose Cafe celebrations, many were rewarded for year round efforts as tail walker, run report writers – and the cafe staff too were included, looking somewhat overwhelmed as they were thanked for their Stella work!



Also, there was more cake:

cake there was cake

How lovely is that?

And then, as is always the way at parkrun, a couple of hours after we’d assembled, parkrunners magically dispersed.  Leaving nothing but footprints, and taking nothing but happy memories and newly acquired centres of gravity, depending on each individual’s extent of cake and coffee consumption.  Another glorious shared parkrun morning though, of that you can be sure.

Home, and found to my astonishment the sun was still shining, and there was a fox cub head on my lawn.  Really there was.  This was disconcerting, but I guess part of the circle of  life as first a magpie and then a crow tucked in.  Could have been worse, horses head in the bed would have spooked me more.

So a day of extremes, but overall good.

Thank you parkrun in general for another awesome offering and Graves parkrun in particular for laying on, once again, a fabulous parkrun party.  All is well with the world.  We have parkrun to punctuate our weeks.  What ever did we do on a Saturday before?

So, for me and Geronimo together, that was probably our last joint excursion pre London. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.  I’ll still do another couple of trots out, but Geronimo is going to properly rest up now.  Good plan.  Meantime, I need to focus on my spectator high fiving technique before tomorrow, when it’s back to Graves for junior parkrun.  Instant joy.  Can’t wait!


For all my Graves parkrun related posts see here scroll down for older entries

For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries.


Categories: 5km, motivation, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a 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?


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:


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


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.


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

Well stone me! Unexpected treasures on the Round Sheffield Walk. Rock on runners, eyes peeled and best foot forward.

Digested read: out and about and I found a stone in Graves Park!  I know, extraordinary, there were trees too, but all worth seeing in a new light. Get out there and look about you, there are mysteries waiting to be discovered all over the place if we but keep our eyes open to that possibility.

In desperation, I have taken to googling ever more obsessively about London Marathon training plans. It’s not particularly enlightening, more confusing.  However, naive as I am, I do think that my training priorities remain miles on legs and getting to the start line uninjured.  In  my heart of hearts, even on low morale days, I still think if I make it to the start line I’ll make it to the finish.  It might not be pretty, and their may be tears and tantrums along the way, but I will get round by sheer act of will. This is my theory.  Long may it sustain me.  The upshot of this is that today, I decided that I’d up my mileage even if only walking.

Yesterday, I took on the Monsal Trail and experimented with my walk run strategy (you might call that a ‘fail’ I prefer to think of it as a learning opportunity).  I did about 15 miles near enough, about half of which was running, which isn’t great at this stage in the game, but is a barometer of where I’m at for better or worse.  Unexpectedly, I got a blister.  This is unusual for me, but I think it might have been the sameyness (is that a word?  It is now) of the terrain, pound, pound, pound on the feet with no change in stride, it wasn’t a catastrophically bad blister, but I wasn’t going to wear the same shoes again for a few days.  Today therefore, I resolved to get back out there and try doing a distance on tired legs and see how I went. Round Sheffield Walk all over again.

I wasn’t going to do a blog post on this, as much as I love this route (apart from that bit with the steps up through the wood, how is it possible for them to be soooooooooooooo steep and never get any easier to negotiate I just don’t know) I fear that you dear reader might be a bit on the ho hum/ I’m actually really bored of hearing about this now cusp of interest, and I don’t want to alienate you any further.  Lawks a lordy I struggle enough with finding people to talk to, I’m already in an agony of awkwardness after inadvertently breaching use of skip/ cardboard recycling etiquette in my new neighbourhood. I mean, I think I’ve basically weathered the storm, but I’ve probably had my probationary period extended, but that’s another story for another time. The thing is, that something particularly unexpected occurred on the Round Sheffield  Walk route today.  Plus a few just generally nice things actually, things worth remembering, just to appreciate the moment and distract me from tired legs and blistering feet.   Specifically:

There were these lovely lichen and moss-covered trees, and that one as you go up to Ringinglow through Whiteley Woods and up Porter Valley, the one that has red baubles every Christmas, today it had a heart on it.  I don’t know who it is that adorns this tree over the seasons, but I noticed the decorations the very first year I moved to Sheffield, and that’s nearly a decade ago.  Whether the additions are in memory of someone, or because the tree has a particular significance I don’t know, but the changes in offerings are relatively frequent, and sufficiently discreet for me to see them as interesting additions rather than vandalism of the woodland.

Then there was the bit of the walk where the slopes are steep and the trees take on other worldly shapes in defiance of the wind and gravity, it is spectacular, couple of photos of that wouldn’t hurt I thought.

And then I wasn’t going to take any more photos because, well, what was I going to do with them all? But then, when I got to Graves Park I found a proper treasure, no really I did. This was the remarkable gift for today.  I found this!

whats that lurking

It caught my eye as it was the wrong colour for the spot it was lurking in at the base of a tree.  I was doing a sort of half-hearted litter pick.  I don’t pick up as much as I should, but I try to just pick up a couple of bits of litter every time I go out running, if we all did this, it might eventually make a difference.  Quick shout out for the Runners Against Rubbish crew, which focuses the mind on the difference runners can make.

I was tired, but I decided to go investigate, as it was a little off the path, and I found, to my delight, this was not rubbish, it was a gift for the observant, all smiles and good will.  Look:

smiley stone

How exciting!  Further investigation revealed this to be a special painted rock from Chesterfield UK rocks.  Gussies.

chesterfield uk rocks

How cool is that!  I found a rock, hidden in the woods, on my birthday!  I wasn’t sure of the rocking it etiquette, should I keep, re-hide, what?  I don’t have a smart phone so the googling option wasn’t available to me there and then.  I decided to enjoy the moment, take a photo, and leave it where it was for another to find.  It was great though.  Maybe during the next cold snap I should start painting my own stones and scattering them in hidden places for others to experience the joy of discovery. so me and Gussies stone, we shared a moment, and then I said farewell and skipped on down the path wondering whether to alert others to the find or let it take its chances… I opted for the latter.

So dear reader, I’ve since come home, done my research, and this is how it works people person!  You find the rock, keep it if you want, or re-hide, but to make it more fun for whoever hid it in the first place, take a picture and post it on the relevant rock facebook group. Such simple pleasures.

Chesterfield UK Rocks expresses it like this:

A Guide to ‘Chesterfield UK Rocks’

The idea of this project is to spread some simple joy around our county by painting or drawing pictures or simple positive messages on stones.

If you’re on a rock hunt and come across a lot of rocks, please don’t take them all home with you because there will be no rocks for others to find. By all means take a couple but please rehide as much as possible. More rocks = more finds 😀

but there are UK rock groups all over, including one in Sheffield, Sheffield UK Rocks, this pleases me, perhaps it will you too?

It fair made my day.  Rock on people.  Although it was a close call between that, and having a fellow Dragonfly Smiley catch me up on my traipse round the Round Sheffield Walk – she was running to my walking – and we stomped along together companionably for a fair old chunk, which was really nice and much appreciated.

I was flagging by the end though, the temperature plummeted, and was that a blister on my other foot now?  Weirdly, my actual legs felt pretty strong, it’s my feet that were complaining.  I decided to cut off a bit of the walk (I know. lightweight, not listening) and headed out of Graves along the Derbyshire Lane route, which takes you past Norton cemetery. The wintry light made for some spectacular skylines.

norton cemetery

and again, another cityscape as I made my descent:


and you know what, wherever you go in Sheffield you’ll see something new and unexpected.  Some messages are subliminal, some are in your face. Any guesses on what these two finds are trying to communicate:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So keep your eyes peeled out and about. Every outing, every time, new delights are out there waiting to be discovered.  If you can’t find them, you could always lay some for others to discover, or just make the world a better place with a mini litter pick for an extra feeling of inner warmth to match the outer warmth once you get back home.

So, people (and google) keep telling me that what will get you through a marathon in general and London in particular is mental strength as much as physical aptitude and preparation (though I think it’s only fair to point out there is probably a minimum base line of fitness which you ignore at your peril).  I can see this, but I also wonder if as a supplement to mental fortitude is an imagination and an appreciation of the moment.  Back to basics, my parkrun running buddy who in response to my question: ‘what advice would you give me for my first ever one and only  marathon?’ was, after something of a pregnant pause – ‘just enjoy it, enjoy every moment!’ and you know what, I think she’s probably right, and that that advice will get me through my long runs too. There is always something to wonder at on a run, walk jog out and about even if it is only to wonder ‘what was I thinking?’.

What adventure awaits you next on your doorstep I wonder… go find out… go now!  Running is supposed to be fun remember.  Really and truly it is.*

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Rock on.

Also, Happy Birthday to me.

That’s all.

*ok, well, maybe mostly fun.  But sometimes you have to be willing to make your own fun, just so you know.

Categories: off road | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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.


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.


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.


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 shark gif up, which briefly raised my  hopes before I forlornly lapsed into disillusion as a quick reality check indicated that clearly such a costume would be impossible.  Unicorns may be thought to be fictitious creatures, but there are loads on the Round Sheffield Run, skipping along the arches of the rainbows that line the whole route – sharks on the other hand, well, they are marine creatures, and wouldn’t do well out of the water surely.  Oh well.  I’m sure someone will be donning fancy dress, surely not only me…

Nice gifs though..

Sorry I am too much of a cheap skate to get you a paid package that will enable the shark gif to be seen in all its glory, but you could always follow the link here and be amazed…

I barely slept on Saturday night I was so exciting.  I imagine it would be like trying to get to sleep on Christmas eve if I lived in a parallel universe where I joyfully looked forward to Christmas Day.

At last, the morning dawned.  Cold, very cold, but bright sunshine.  I wore a ridiculous amount of clothes, but needs must, and after eyeing her for a bit and wondering if her eyes were maybe just a bit sinister, I squashed my new companion animal into the car and away I went.  This was to be my unicorn’s first outing in public.  Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I acquired her ages ago as a possible marathon running buddy.  However, even I have to concede, that whilst she may have many desirable qualities, suitability as a running outfit does not appear to be one of them.  She went back into her bag, and until now, there hasn’t seemed to be the right time to take her out and about. Graves junior parkrun birthday bash though – what could be more perfect!


Hmm, I’m still not quite sure about the eyes….

Despite my apparent bravado, on arrival at Graves park  I was relieved to see the RDs out and about in fancy dress along with their child labourer assistants.  It set the mood.  Even so, I decided to have my pre-event pee sans unicorn as don’t think this magical ethereal creature particularly needed to see the interior of the Graves park municipal toilets.  Also, I have a feeling unicorns poo glitter, and I don’t want to encourage that in case it ends up in the sea. I left her in the custody of a conveniently located Pippi Longstocking, who took her unicorn chaperoning responsibilities very seriously, carefully standing over her and stroking her mane.  When I returned, she asked what the unicorn was called.  I had to admit she didn’t yet have a name, so I asked what would be a good choice. ‘Sophie‘ apparently. When I asked why that name, it was explained ‘because Sophie is a very good name for a unicorn‘.  You can’t argue with logic like that.   Thanks Pippi!

unicorn guardian

I felt much happier once Sophie was so named, we partnered up and headed off to set off the course.  It was good fun.  Even at 8.00 a.m. in the morning fancy dress can bring joy.  As I ambled down the path I came across a little crocodile of beavers all with hi-vis jackets and toggled scarves round their necks. It seems they had come en masse to take part in the Birthday celebrations.  How splendid is that.  They were really excited, and so pleased to meet my unicorn too.  This was getting off to a grand start!


I can’t lie though, Sophie and I didn’t meet with universal approval as we did our walk round.  As I was wrestling with the twisted plastic string that we laughingly refer to as ‘tape’ to cordon off the lake area, a very unimpressed labrador approached me with real hostility, much to the embarrassment of its owner.  I’m sure the dog wasn’t inclined to animosity in general, but it was mightily suspicious of Sophie.  It was actually quite funny, like I’d been caught out by the fashion police for some massive infringement of rules regarding what one might legitimately wear in public. This hound was NOT pleased.

The next hostile encounter was with one of the llamas.  I love llamas, alpacas too, but I have a particular soft spot for the llamas. They always look slightly horrified by human activities, and definitely give off an air of some considerable disdain even when they are really just having a good look.  However, I realised quite quickly that one that looked up from eating as I approached, and then came over to the fence to have a good stare was actually outraged by our audacity in being in the vicinity of her pen.   I started to approach to see what might happen, but got scared away but the head being drawn back and some noticeable pouting.  I decided not to stick around to be spat at – though weirdly, and just between you and me, I was quite chuffed to have got such a strong reaction.   Sophie was certainly making a stir, even if not meeting with universally uncritical acclaim!  Whilst I most definitely did not set out to alarm a llama, I was pleased to have learnt this new thing about them. Llamas do not like unicorns. Who know?  Or maybe they just didn’t like this one.  I didn’t hang around to enquire further…

alarming a llama

We carried on without much further incident.  The pig didn’t care.  It takes more than a unicorn to put this one off its stride.

By the time I got back to the starting area, loads of people had started to gather, and there was a really good vibe, lots of smileys started to appear with offspring in fabulous fancy dress or at the very least fine fettle, and you have to appreciate a Smiley.  Here’s one, with their (self-described) matching rainbow puke tops.  The thing is, I honestly don’t even think that descriptor is derogatory, just factually accurate.  If you were to ingest a rainbow and then regurgitate it, I’m positive this is exactly the effect that would be achieved. That may even be what they do as part of the manufacturing process to achieve this stylish finish.  I might google it later and see what I can find out…

rainbow puke styling.jpg

Anyway, they were pleased to see Sophie, and encouraging about her debut appearance at this auspicious sporting occasion:

Sophie funtimes

So it seems that although I’d been a bit worried she might seem a bit sinister, in fact nope, Sophie was a big hit.  Despite the placid looking labrador growling at me during set up, and a llama building up to spit at her, reactions were mostly good.  One child actually said to me (true story) and what’s more spontaneously and without any accompanying adult – ‘I just want to say to you that you are amazing because you have come to parkrun with an actual unicorn’.  Maybe I should go everywhere with a unicorn in future.  Whilst I may have little or no intrinsic merit, perhaps I can work round this to some extent by milking the glory by association angle of proximity to a unicorn. It is more achievable than having a personal daemon a la His Dark Materials, which is surely the apex of companion animaldomness.

Pleasingly, Sophie wasn’t even th only unicorn present.  We sort of found each other out, like the fellow ethereal creatures we were.  The other unicorn was on cake duty.  A very important job.

unicorns find one another

Over time more and more marshals appeared, many in fine fancy dress formations, some quality effort went into outfits for the occasion.   Frankly, I think the adults were just as immersed in the joys of fancy dress as their junior charges… self-evidently more so in many cases!  See if you can spot the family resemblance between some of those attending.

even better, amongst the arrival of the great and good was

wait for it….

A shark!

I couldn’t have been more delighted if a bare-chested Paul Sinton-Hewitt himself had rocked up astride a real unicorn of his own! (You know, like Putin is prone to doing, charging around on horseback, only marginally less ludicrous).

shark attack

More accurately, a man being eaten by a shark.  Hurrah.  He should have just swum faster (a fact he himself acknowledged whilst leading the warm up).  Great costume, though just to be clear, sharks are more at risk from us than we from them many are critically endangered, in fact.  Little known one.  Did you know the writer of jaws has dedicated much of his life trying to restore the reputation of sharks in the wake of his book/ film?


It was great, such a fab turn out.  Most regular volunteers had turned out, along with the core run director team, and as for the juniors, they rocked up in great, joyous hoards.   A record attendance indeed.  Fab.U.Lous!

Another happy surprise was spotting Regal Smiley and family en masse.  This was despite her having done a pre-dawn run earlier.  I’m not proud to admit that when I’d seen her post her intention to go and run 10,000 miles and then run 10,000 more at 6.30 in the morning with a fellow Smiley buddy DESPITE having previously given me her personal assurance that she’d not miss the Graves junior birthday bash for the world, I thought dark resentful thoughts.  Anticipating being stood up, my first instinct was to indulge my passive aggressive tendencies with a carefully crafted Facebook message along the lines of ‘hope you have a lovely run I’m sure it will be charming and just as much fun as a birthday party and well worth standing up your so-called friends/Smiley compatriots for and you won’t be (made to) regret your choice for all eternity at all.’  Mercifully, lack of internet access rather than self-control prevented me from commenting.  She only did BOTH the early morning run AND made it to the party.  Impressive. Thank goodness she’ll never get to know about my shallow bitterly judgemental assumptions, I couldn’t bear for them to end up in the public domain!  That was a near miss indeed and no mistake!

Regal Smiley

Mingling was fun, so many awesome people to meet and greet! Bullseye too!  Love Bullseye.   Love junior parkrun!

It was a busy morning, as I still had to go and check out the under the gazebo action.

Oh.  My. God

Best cake ever.  It comprised a model of graves park, including such details as the lakes (granted, not easy to miss) and not only some of the animals from the park, but also an aerial view of the finish funnel, complete with the Graves junior parkrun idiosyncracies of arrow shaped entrance (keeps adults from crowding the finish) Genius.  Also, HUGE.  Be amazed dear reader, be amazed.

happy birthday cake

After much mandatory milling about, eventually we were mustered to gather together for the pre-event briefing

The briefing was noisy – partly due to extra numbers, including a lot of first timers but also noisy due to general excitement levels. Super heroes whizzed among us, and tutus bobbed up and down and donkies mingled with Frankenstein’s monster.  It was fun. Fancy dress is always fun. Don’t let anyone ever persuade you otherwise.  There was much thanks to milestone volunteers and celebration of juniors reaching their marathon and half-marathon wrist band goals.  All good, much cheering and clapping.

There was indeed a record turn out of runners and volunteers, which helped fuel a great party atmosphere.  To be fair, there always is a great atmosphere at junior parkrun, but this was a high even higher than usual, I promise!

There was even a game and enthusiastic rendition of ‘Happy Birthday‘ though I have to be honest, there may have been a slight scanning issue with the ‘happy birthday dear…. graves juuuuuuuuuuu-nior’ versus ‘dear graves junior parkrun’ which was a bit of a mouthful, but all very much in the spirit of self-conscious communal singing I feel.  It would hardly have been a birthday party without all of that.

Then, quick about turn, and everyone was soon into position and whisked up into a frenzy of physical activity for the mandatory group warm up… The warm up was possibly the best ever, not only for the inherent hilarity of watching a person being eaten by a shark lead it, but for surprise addition of a music tape accompaniment AND the inclusion of a freestyle dancing section. Genius.  Also, lest we forget, the old ones are indeed always the best, so good when we did our ‘bottom kicking’ exercise, squeezed between the fast feet and the high knees, it was grand to be reminded that you were only allowed to kick your own bottom for the purposes of this exercise, however great the temptation to go off piste…  Some tellers just own their material – no-one else could ever do it justice!  All engaged with gusto, a warm up just as warm ups should be!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From here, a count down, and then a mass migration to the start line.  Anyone else got the herding cats knack?  Just wondering…

start line

Lined up for off, human cones angles taking on a new level of interest with fancy dress options in hi-vis in abundance, but it didn’t really make us any more effective as a funnel the excited young runners ignoring us as much as always.

human cones start line

The official photographer for the day showed new levels of courage to the point of recklessness standing in the path of the runners as the shout went up to off.  I mean, photographers take their lives in their hands doing it at senior parkruns across the land, but my experience of marshaling suggests adults will on the whole take evasive action if meeting an obstacle such as a paparazzi in hi-vis.  No such instinctive avoidance reaction appears to kick in at junior events.  Those juniors will crash into anything.  The frissance of danger as you stand in formation to create a human shield lining the start funnel of junior parkrun only adds to the sense of occassion. I’m sure that adrenalin rush contributes to the post junior parkrun euphoria most marshals seem to experience as they skip away at the end of our near death experience of a Sunday morning.  I’ve survived that, I can survive anything, I am invincible!  (It fades quite quickly to be fair, but it’s fun while it lasts!)

He may or may not have been trampled, only if photos appear covering the period after the immediate start appear will I know if he survived. Still, if not, I daresay it’s what he would have wanted.  Isn’t that what you are supposed to say in such situations?  I think so. I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted to put a damper on things on our birthday after all. (Spoiler alert, he made it.  Phew.  Great shots too, thanks Dougal pics🙂 )

Finally they were off, at a fair old sprint. They were even nippier than usual, no doubt hurried on their way by the prospect of cake in abundance at the end.

As they sped off, I got my job allocation for the morning. Bar code scriber.  At this particular junior parkrun we write down the names and barcode numbers of any juniors who have brought along non-scanning barcodes, but also if someone doesn’t have a barcode with them we note the finish token number and record it as a no barcode/ unknown runner,  as this helps with processing the results.  Without wishing to go all Donald Rumsfeld on you, basically if the RD has an idea of the known unknowns there is less angst about missing places.  Apparently.


I love cheering round  the juniors, but it was quite challenging this week what with there being so many of them. When people have made an effort with fancy dress I always try to give them a personalised cheer ‘keep going wonder woman’ or ‘great effort donkey’ or whatever, but it was hard to keep up with so many glorious costumes resplendent in the sun.  Top effort from everyone, lots of smiles today.  Hurrah!

As the juniors strutted their funky stuff, whether or not trailing breathless adults in their wake, volunteer marshals moved into formation.  Impressive eh?

volunteers ready

The park looked magical, almost too bright.  The event seemed to go really quickly.

There seemed to be lots of unknowns – this was a shame, particularly as many of those were first timers, especially the beavers, who had come en masse but not necessarily registered.  To be fair, I was disappointed on their behalf, but none of them seemed especially bothered, then again cake is a great comforter in such circumstances, and there was indeed plenty of cake!

I can report the day had a record turn out of 188 junior participants.  Pretty fine eh?  Had the field exceeded 240 then the finish tokens would have run out although there was an emergency plan that could kick in! That would involve the scanners starting to handwrite the details of the final finishers. We were spared that today, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before that threshold is indeed crossed.  An exciting prospect, and it would be grand to share the joy even more widely.

The run/ walk/ jog concluded by all, as always, the course disassembled as if by magic.  Never was there a better manifestation of the principle that many hands make light work.  Struck in and instant.

There followed a bit more lingering than usual, enticed by cake which tasted even better than it looked.  I reckon the star baker must have been working on it the whole year, but apparently not, although it did take best part of a long, long day to concoct the extraordinary confectionary creation.

I met some beavers again, on the conclusion of their run. They were so excited, and all full of what they done and they’d clearly had a lovely time taking part, though some of the bounciness could possibly have been attributed to massive sugar highs I suppose. One wanted met to guess where he’d come ‘sixty-second’ I hazarded.  Aiming for mid-field not wanting him to feel deflated if I was too far out.   Wrong.  In fact he was first, but out of the beavers.  He seemed to have memorised where every one of them had come in relation to one another which was pretty spectacular to be fair!  I congratulated him because that is indeed great, but it’s also great to participate wherever you come in the line up I reminded him.  He didn’t believe me.  Fair enough, you have to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  I might seek but to complete events, he was clearly out to compete!

As people started to disperse, a random dog appeared and kept sneaking cake bits from table.  A few minutes later a mortified owner rushed over apologetically, explaining he will always beeline for a gazebo associating them with food from camping trips. As she explained this the dog espied a jolly hat and set about savaging it and galloping away with it being ripped about in its jaws. It was too funny to mind about, reminiscent of the infamous Fenton/ Benton ill-disciplined dog in Richmond park video for them as you as can recall that epic viral display of dog-owning mortification.  Order was restored eventually, but not sure the hat made it, hope Santa has a spare.  If not, no worries, there’s probably still time for his elves to rustle up a new one.  Just as well!

happy dog

It was all good-humoured, and I think it’s fair to say a grand and glorious time was had by all.  However, all good things, and eventually party-goers and parkrunners alike dispersed our different ways. However, Graves Junior parkrun had indeed offered up a fine morning of celebrations.  We couldn’t have asked for more. Even the weather gods were kind to us.  What a great climax to an awesome parkrun year!

And so we all vanished again, into the wintry mist.  Job done.

Happy Birthday to us!

More proof, if proof were needed of how the parkrun spirit extends to celebrating in style.  Graves junior parkrun’s birthday bash was executed with considerable aplomb.  That’s the fiftieth run. parkrun/walk/jog/marshalers are good at pop up parties it seems.  If further evidence is needed, check out this Red Arrow display on the occasion of a Bushy parkrun runners 500th run, that’s pretty impressive as a way to mark the acquisition of a milestone tee…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

even so, I feel confident Graves Junior parkrun has done a fine job of flaunting its partying potential, Red Arrows are impressive certainly, but Graves has more llamas, and unicorns too apparently, so we can respect and rejoice in the right of each parkrun to celebrate their own milestones in their own ways.  Agreed?

Good oh.  So now just party on and let us eat cake!

Nom nom nom nom nom.

So, same again same time, same place next year?  Also every Sunday in-between.  Just so you don’t miss out!  See you there.  🙂


For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries.

*did I mention that all parkrun events are free to participate in, just #dfyb don’t forget to bring along your printed barcode if you’d like to know your time.




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

The Grave Business of Returning to Running

Me and running?  It’s complicated.

What is it they say ‘you run therefore you are a runner‘? Something like that.  I don’t know if I’m completely persuaded by that logic.  I’d like to think so, obviously, on the other hand, imposter syndrome eats away and fear of being caught out and blah de blah until you (well, OK just me then) drown in a pool of existential angst of your own making.  Apologies to the grammar police for the confusing mix of metaphors, analogies and I know not what else, but it’s sort of complicated.  I’ve had such a gap in my running with being away for over three months, I feel like I’m starting all over again but this time at age 52.  Not the most auspicious of starting blocks available…

Parkrun again today.  Yay(ish).  It was raining.  It was grey.  Despite my inward promises never again to complain about running in the cold and wet after the toxic tyranny of heat and humidity and perpetual unrelenting sun in Phnom Penh, I find I’m not altogether brilliant at following through (who knew?)*  Rather, I am grumpy.  As ever.   I’m starting to wonder is this my defining – or at the very least my default – characteristic?**

It’s not all bad.  After a bit of a love / hate thing with Hallam,  (love it, it’s my local parkrun, on my doorstep, lots of friends there – but – just getting a bit too crowded for comfort) – a trio of us decide to head over to Graves, change is as good as a rest, should help with the motivation a bit.  I lurve Graves parkrun. They are pathologically friendly over there, though to be fair it is a well-known fact that all parkrunners everywhere are –  and you get to see Highland coos, always a boon at a parkrun and not true everywhere.  There are a lot of hills, but I weirdly missed them in Cambodia, and I’m never going to get any better at this running malarkey if I only ever heave-ho my weary carcass round routes that are millpond flat.

So it was this morning, we three were sat in a car at Graves Park, contemplating taking on Graves parkrun, looking out across the grey mist of the morning, and I accidentally said out loud ‘I don’t even think I like running very much to be honest‘.  It’s a worry of getting older that this happens to me increasingly often, I say things that I was just thinking without meaning too.  I’m quite comfortable with talking to myself in the privacy of my own home – isn’t everyone?***  I do worry sometimes when I find myself shouting so I can hear my own voice over the noise of the vacuum cleaner that I’ve maybe let thing go a bit far, but then again I hardly ever vacuum so it doesn’t really arise.  Let’s keep these things in perspective.  The response was mutual laughter, and a conversation with a slightly confessional tone to it.  There are many things about running in general and parkrun in particular that are inspirational, glorious and yes actually fun.  But when I’m actually running, I don’t know, it’s hard.  It doesn’t get easier, it’s complicated.  Gazing through the windscreen at the inclement weather I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to get out of the car.  Brrrrr.  We reminisced about other runs out, where keen other runners forced us out of roasty toasty vehicle interiors so they could do punishing warm-ups in horizontal hail to help them achieve pbs at the Percy Pud say.  What kind of an apology of a runner am I to favour a bit longer on the faux leather seating over a careful warm up and stretch routine?****

Time ticked by.  Eventually we conceded if we didn’t get out, we’d miss parkrun altogether, so out we got.  You know what.  Things immediately looked up. The reality of stepping out wasn’t anything like as bad as the anticipatory thinking about it!  A bit of spring drizzle is just the thing to run in.  Lemon drizzle cake might be better, but you have to take up what options are available to you or you’ll miss out on a whole lot.  Graves park is actually glorious. Don’t take my word for it, knowing the camera never lies just review the evidence for yourself.  Thanks to Gail Moss for the use of the awesome photos, it’s always great to have the spirit of parkrun captured by the volunteer snappers:

dont you just love it

The first glory of parkrun is the colourful tops congregating in one place.  Like Tibetan prayer flags floating about.  A generous sprinkling of luminous tabard-clad volunteers bore witness to either their generosity of spirit or the close proximity of the Dronfield 10k.  I like to think both.  Why not, more the merrier when it comes to volunteering, cheery marshals always help me round.  I will try not to hold too much of a grudge against the one positioned near the donkey who refused to swap places with me half way round.  (The marshal, not the donkey, the donkey might have appreciated the outing to be honest, but wouldn’t have been able to blag my barcode so easily.  Also, Roger might have been put out.

Turns out, who knew?  I love parkrun!  There was the familiar milling about at the start.  The run-director’s briefing.  Graves is small enough that you can all gather round to hear this.  The RD standing on a handily situated park bench holding forth like a preacher bearing witness.  Actually, it was a bit like being in a benign cult in parts as this run briefing includes audience participation!  Yes it really does.  Like panto. There are familiar utterings and responses.  So the RD declaims ‘no barcode’ and gestures for the expected shout out retort ‘no result’.   Good concept checking too I thought.  ‘How many times through the finish tunnel?’  rousing choral response ‘once!’  I might have made that one up actually, but who cares, you get the idea.  Anyway, it was all very pleasing.  Favourite moments for me today included:

  • Whoops and shout outs to the volunteer at the Graves Park cross-road point on the occasion of his 100th volunteering.  It was quite a commotion. Whether the rowdiness was sufficient for the noise of such vocal appreciation to reach the intended recipient I know not, but the appreciation was most certainly there. All volunteers everywhere, be it your one-hundredth occassion in the hi-vis or your first, we salute you.
  • Heckling by triangle.  Nope, really.  You know that BBC interview that got hi-jacked by the offspring of the interviewee talking about Korea?  Well, it was pretty much identical to that, except that in this instance the child was in possession of a very large triangle, which he utilised to noisy effect throughout.  Bravo!
  • Shout outs for newbies, anniversary runners (really, none today?) volunteers and parkrun tourists.  Though I think the bar must have been set quite high previously as when someone proclaimed themselves to be from Doncaster or wherever there was a bit of collective shrug and a ‘we were thinking more New Zealand’ response.  Said more in sadness than in anger, I was pleased I hadn’t stuck my hand up as a migrant from Hallam. I’m never sure about that. I mean technically I am a tourist as Hallam is my home run, but I think of all Sheffield parkruns as spiritually ‘mine’ so to speak.  Is that greedy, or is that usual?*****
  • The addition of a person with a white board, to get volunteers to sign up for future events.  I think this is a really good move. I’ve been turned down loads of times for volunteering because I always seem to be operating just in time principles or pick dates pre races when volunteers are in glut mode.  This is an encouraging initiative, and as today it was announced to be a course record in terms of the numbers of volunteers (25 in fact) I suspect they try not to turn away volunteers, which is also inclusive and encouraging.
  • Follow the breadcrumbs – i.e. other runners.  Yep, that’s OK.  I can do that.

I can’t remember too much more about the briefing.  Nor could I quite remember where the start line was to be fair.  We had to traipse back along the path a bit. I got slightly panicky when I thought we’d end up in the front line at one point. That would have had novelty value of course, but the fun element might have been reduced by being trampled early on.  Also, they don’t have their defibrillator yet, though they very nearly do, and it isn’t too late to donate either if you want to – though don’t forget to put ‘for defib’ in the comments column if you do.

As we hesitated at this point, a friendly (and very tall) marshal came to scoop us up and shoo us further back in the line up.  ‘It’s not just because your old I’m saying this‘ he said, ‘it’s because you have to be below 17 minutes to finish first and the course record is currently held by a 12 year old’.  That’s fair enough, I’ll concede we do look over 12 and I wont be finishing in 17 minutes unless I only do the one loop.

The start was a little late, but who cares.  And we were off.  You start down hill. Weeeeeeeeeee.  Then you get to wave at the 100 times marshal, and you get to look at the ducks and the frontrunners flying round.  It’s just about putting one foot in front of the other at the end of the day.  The route has been ‘improved’ since I was last there.  More tarmac, less mud. That’s probably good and inclusive to be fair, very buggy friendly, but gives it  less rural feel than I remembered.  Cheery marshals did sterling work on the way round.  The hundred-timer and a side-kick at the crossroads doing excellent cheering and pointing.   The two women cheering us up the hill at the Meadowhead entrance with motivational shout outs.  I only know it’s called that because I just looked it up on the course description for Graves parkrun, honestly I just follow the people in front blindly and hope they are actual parkrunners and not random others, who might not take to me chasing them.  Then there was the woman and girl positioned just where you turn right into the animal farm who clapped the whole time. No really, both times I went past.  I congratulated them on their stamina in this respect most sincerely.  I always try to clap everyone when I marshal and it does take a toll on your wrists over time I don’t mind admitting it!

There were tonnes of marshals out there today, too many to give all a mention, but all the words of encouragement were appreciated.  Also the donkey who brayed really loudly was in impressive voice too.  His (?) voice resonating across the park like a humpback whale mournfully singing across the oceans.  My mood improved.  I only had one bad moment, when I was puffing up the hill in the animal park, Shetland to the left of me, owls to the right of me stuck in the middle with me – and a fellow runner cheerily proclaimed, ‘oh well, at least it’s always easier doing this second time around!’ What the?  How had I forgotten this was a two-lap course.  ‘There’s another lap?’  Not my finest hour.  Fortunately though it is easier second time around.  Plus you get to pass the cheery finish funnel, which was flanked by volunteers like a guard of honour.  The shifty looking one with the dark glasses was either a body guard or just general security, you can’t be too careful these days when celebrity runners like Lily are participating, however low-profile they may be trying to be:

guard of honour at the finish line

Mercifully, and somewhat surprisingly I wasn’t lapped on this course, though disappointingly nor was I mistaken for the first finisher.  Second time around there were loads of kids on the climbing frame in the playground waving joyously and furiously at a little gang of runners ahead of me, that was rather glorious.   The volunteer marshals kept up their shouts of support, and even the presence of ‘normal people’ milling around in the animal park as I sprinted (ahem) through didn’t throw me.  Get me and my running credentials.  The car park marshal gave helpful directional point and then the final marshal urged for a sprint finish, which I didn’t actually achieve, but I certainly cheered up when the end was in sight.  And here dear reader, is the miracle of running:-

grave business of running

I might think I don’t like the actual running, but I am usually smiling when I’m doing it. That hair colour is still wrong though isn’t it.  Sigh, maybe I should start to go grey gracefully.

Of course I was last in of my trio, but that’s OK, meant they were around to cheer me in.  Then there is the post-run debriefing and the post-parkrun breakfast.  We went to The Rude Shipyard in the antiques quarter.   Food and ambience was really excellent, but it was a bit nippy in there.  I’d never been before and I’d definitely go again. Vegetarian and vegan options, most impressive.  I was glad I had my scarf though.

I had got noble plans of venturing out again for various outdoor city activities but was defeated by own near terminal inertia, inclement weather and my difficulty in working out what on earth was going on anywhere because of a really confusing website.  Oh well.  It meant I got to peruse the Graves parkrun photos and enjoy post run endorphins from the comfort of my own sofa.  Not too shabby a way to spend an afternoon in my book, it is possible to have too much excitement in one day. Let’s just enjoy the moments as they come eh.  Thank you awesome photographer Gail for all your efforts today!  Anyone would think from the photos that we were all having fun the whole time…

So thanks Graves People.  You never disappoint.  And I think you’ve already endured longer than Pan’s People or will do anyway.  Lycra terminology may have replaced a lot of the spandex, but who are we trying to kid?  It’s the same stuff, and the moves are certainly all there.  Go you, go them, go us, go me!

love parkrun

Oh, and was that Lily the wonder-dog I espied!  All’s well with the world.  Order exists, the world still turns, and we can temporarily at least ignore the horrors that threaten to overwhelm us.

lily the wonderdog

Sweet dreams y’all.

*rhetorical question, thank you for your interest but no replies required.

**also rhetorical question, as above, thank you for your interest but no replies required.

***also rhetorical, most questions are today, but your interest is noted.

****yep, that was too.

*****you know, that one might be an actual question.  I’m not sure. What do you think?  (See what I did there? 🙂 )

Categories: 5km, motivation, parkrun | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Winning streak? Celebrating Graves parkrun four years in the making!

The implausible and seemingly impossible delights of running continue.  Believe it or not, I wasn’t going to do a post this week.  Thought my reader might be bored and have something better to do, but then you know how it is.  ‘Events, my friend, events…

Glorious Graves, providing a perfect parkrun party for their fourth anniversary.  Despite a week horribilis, parkrun will party on, possibly even newly appreciated and newly reborn!   Well, we can live in hope…

accessible parkrun

The forecast for today was actually snow at one point.  However, on waking, no snow was in evidence, in fact it was looking nice out.  Deceptively so.  I broke with tradition and decided that my luminous lime green Sheffield half marathon finishers T-shirt should get an outing.  Just so you know, this will for sure be its only ever outing, as it is profoundly unflattering even by my standards!  I was like something out of Cinderella hoiking it on, not Cinderella herself as such, all petite and fragile, more an Ugly Sister, heaving technical tee over my head with as much grace as they achieved trying to squeeze into her dainty shoes.  Still, more fun to play  baddies anyway. The shirt does fit, it’s just erm, well let’s say ‘particularly unforgiving‘ in the way it caresses my contours.  Frankly, I’d rather my contours were covered with a poncho than lovingly defined in lime hi-viz, but who listens to me.  I decided that if I was ever to wear this shirt, it would be today.  It is a running fact, (in my world) that at the parkrun immediately ocurring post any particular event you can wear the T-shirt freebie acquired at said event.  Just to be absolutely clear about this, I’m referring to running events, not apocalyptic ones, that would be in bad taste.

Birthday party also means in my world, and thankfully that of Graves parkrunners too, fancy dress and potentially cake.  Thus, double bonus, Roger can come too.  Yay.  Graves do a good party usually.  Even when they can’t.  One of my runs there was on New Year’s Day in fancy dress, even though they’d had to cancel due to ice.  Still fun.  Those fairy lights with their own battery pack are a great boon for festive running outfits.  Party invite looked like this:

fourth birthday

Whilst getting ready, I managed to annoy myself by listening to Radio 4.  Specifically, Thought for the Day was sort of about parkrun.  It was one of those really generic pieces, sometimes they are funny when they make really tortuous and obscure links from topic to topic in desperation.  At best trite, at worst beyond offensive… You know the kind of thing  ‘The other day, as I realised too late that I’d run out of toilet paper, I reminded myself how important it is that we develop resilience, so we can cope with unexpected catastrophes.  This experience brought me closer to today’s refugees.  They like you and I, have to cope with unforeseen trials and tribulations….‘ blah blah.  Maybe that’s a bit unfair, occasionally there will be a genuinely thought-provoking one…  Today’s though was just annoying.  Fence sitting, lots of mealy-mouthed obscuration of what he really thought.  But I was suspicious.  He was talking about parkrun, and the outcry this week over the decision of Little Stoke Parish Council to impose a charge (£1 a week) on parkrunners to pay for use of the public facility at this time in order to contribute to upkeep.  Pah, as if – basically it is not only a lazy and shameless attempt at profiteering but an ultimately futile position.  It is against the founding principle of parkrun, so if it went ahead, parkrun can’t, everyone loses, they don’t get their money anyway, and the run stops.

There is so much about that position that makes me mad I hardly know where to begin. However, gist of my EXTREME ANNOYANCE, with the unfunny joker on thought for the day, is he was basically saying it is reasonable to ask a commercial organisation to pay to use facilities in order to help maintain them for the public good.  He said this whilst strongly implying parkrun is one such commercial organisation. WHICH IT ISN’T, and totally failed to understand the points.  Just like Jeremy Hardy on the News Quiz yesterday.  I used to like him, now he is not my friend.  Sad, but true…  Go to News Quiz Episode 1, series 90, 18 minutes 30 seconds in if you want to raise your heart rate for training purposes.  The link will only work for a bit, so sorry if you are a visitor from a future time and it doesn’t work.  Still, on the plus side, time travel eh?  That’s pretty cool!  Leave a message from the future back to us in the past.  You’ve had a lucky escape though if you are a parkrunner.  It would put you in a bad mood.

I will try hard to resist a general rant, but for a very measured argument against the charge see Chrissie Wellington’s blog – running free.  There is also  a QALY benefits analysis by Mike Weed  (not the point, but if needed) and mental health benefits of participation in parkrun too. Others have waded in with why charging for parkrun is a terrible idea .  There is even an Early Day Motion on the topic ‘this house is disappointed at the decision of Stoke Gifford Parish Council to begin charging Parkrun (I’m going to let the use of the capital ‘P’ go on this occasion, hard as it is), parkrun has never been more in the news.  I am going to gloss over the fact that even Katie Hopkins is apparently on side for this.  Oh well, we will find out to what extent the saying ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend‘ is actually true..

'Are you two friends?' - 'No, we just hate the same people.'

‘Are you two friends?’ – ‘No, we just hate the same people.’

Ironically, this has created a surge in welcome new registrations.  There is an online petition in support of parkrun (they don’t do anything, but do provide a psychological lift…) It has also got ugly at times, with so many people not understanding why the issue of a ‘simple charge’ is not simple at all, but strikes at the heart of what parkrun is all about.  Before I get too depressing, it is worth noting there have been moments of welcome humour too.  This notice was spotted at Little Stoke today, implementation of fee for using the children’s playground.  After all, why should non-users be expected to subsidise toddlers on a swing, think of all that wear and tear on those climbing frames.  Well, I’m assuming it’s a joke… though maybe that is the official parish logo, so if you are going out to play, best take your credit card with you.  Particularly at Cleethorpes too, they are getting in on the act.. Thanks Steve Green – loving your work with the pay machine, apologies whoever took the other shot, can no longer find the link  – oops.

Little stoke playground charges

Steve Green Genius

parkrun central have tried to keep it dignified, a stance I favour too, in theory, but in practise?  Well, let’s just say it’s hard not to harbour vengeful thoughts, counterproductive or otherwise.

Anyway, upshot of all this, best way to support parkrun this weekend, is to bloomin’ turn up, be part of that community, and really appreciate what a rare and potentially fragile initiative it is.  We must not take it for granted.  It is therefore not out of self-interest, but for the greater good, that I shall pick a parkrun to visit where there is a high probability of cake as well as camaraderie.  Graves parkrun, I’m on my way, ready or not…

I don’t know if Roger fully appreciated all of this political and personal background (the personal is political and vice versa) to be honest.  But he seemed pleased at the prospect of another outing.  Not that I anthropomorphize inanimate things, obviously.  However, I do find it quite companionable jogging along with him.  I like the way his head bobs up and down in front of me, and I especially like the way he covers my stomach (though the side view is more problematic to be fair, but I try not to think about that).

As always, I got to Graves early.  I ventured out of the car to get my parking ticket (80p for two hours, but a notice tells us there is to be a price rise at the end of April I think).  It was freezing, I nearly had to abort my mission.  This run was now not going to happen in a T-shirt, the jacket was going on, and quite possibly my buff too!  More suitably dressed, I braved the cold, got my ticket, and taped it to dashboard with some sellotape I had brought with me especially for that purpose,  in a not-entirely paranoid attempt to stop it blowing away when I was compelled to exit my vehicle later.

I sat and shivered for  a bit.  Where are all the people in fancy dress?  Then, finally  encouraged by seeing one arrival in fancy dress (presume she doesn’t normally don a suit and draw on a fake moustache for parkrun) ventured out of car.  Many of the photos that follow are from Keith Turton by the way, thanks, very public spirited.

KT fancy dress arrivals

It was as always, super welcoming at the start.  They are pathologically friendly at Graves anyway, but it helped to see familiar faces too.  There was Dr Smiley/ Fighting Feather team buddy still wearing a pot on her leg, but hopefully for the last time today.  She was on duty as back up timer and armed with a tin of jelly babies that was almost as big as her. The tin, not each individual jelly baby.  That would be stupid.

KT assembly and jelly beans with Dr Smiley

Pleasingly, there was also a banana, which as you know is the runner’s friend.  People may scoff, (laugh as opposed to eat, but both uses of the word are apt here) but great choice of outfit on a nippy and breezy morning, no drafts would be getting through that.

bananas are great for runners

My breakfast buddies had also succumbed to parkrun tourism and joined the migration from our usual Sheffield Hallam home parkrun to be enticed over to Graves for the party.  One of them was especially well-connected, and took time to introduce me to one of the run directing team who she used to share a flat with back in London years ago apparently.  Small world eh?  I like these kind of coincidences, I find that pleasing.  A further coincidence was that he was also called Roger – ‘like MY Roger!’ I exclaimed, introducing him to my pony with a bit too much noise and enthusiasm.  Afterwards, I hoped he wouldn’t think I was just being sycophantic, deliberately pretending my fine steed was named after him to gain some sort of unspecified advantage from being part of the in-crowd at Graves.  It turned out though, that Rogers are ten a penny at Graves, so he didn’t bat an eyelid.  Phew…

A few other runners appeared in onesies – it’s been too long since I’ve seen a tele-tubby, not entirely sure which one it was, but looking good.  The harlequin  morph suit was a brave but pleasing choice.  Not everyone can carry that look off cycling to a park, but this runner/rider can. Took the precaution of disguising himself with a wig though, didn’t fool us, we know him from Sheffield Hallam Parkrun too.

Amongst the many was the inarguable  eyesore of a multitude of hi-viz half marathon T-shirts, that looked like an alien  algal bloom taking over the park.  A great many were in evidence, worn proudly by people a lot hardier than me braving it without their jackets.  I was not budging from my earlier decision to wear my jacket over my finisher top as the wind whipped through the ‘Conquered the hill’ tee.

I was  initially a little regretful that I missed the chance of being snapped in it in all its glory on the way round, but having seen the photos of the end, I made a good call.  This must be one of the least flattering tops in the history of event T-shirts.  I shan’t be wearing it again.  However, I will achieve immortality on the internet by posting a photo here, what was I thinking?  Hopefully, you, dear reader, will be distracted by the juxtaposition of giant with Lilliputian, and not dwell on my barrel like appearance amplified by luminous lycra…  Also, meet (some of) my breakfast buddies, hello!  And, remember height isn’t everything you know.  I get more leg room on planes for a start.

I’ve got a headache from the light bouncing back off all those tops bobbing up and down even now, just from watching others running in tem, and I strongly suspect I’m now contaminated with radiation from wearing the darned thing just for a morning.   Surely a risk assessment is needed before encouraging runners to don these tops on mass again at any events in future.  Easy and forgivable mistake to make once in all the excitement of post half-marathon highs, but not one that should be repeated in my world or lifetime.

Back to the parkrun.  Lingering was eventually ended by a call to join the run briefing.  This is always something of a highlight at Graves, the bar has been set high – (no pressure future run directors at that venue then) .  They have adopted many clever innovations, not least, it is generally audible, as well as welcoming and imaginative.  This time it was all about the Fours.  Not as in golf, and ducking out the way,  but as in how the number four was eerily appearing everywhere in relation to parkrun as a sort of oblique tribute to Graves which was celebrating its fourth birthday today.  New runners signed up this week?  14,000 new people have joined parkrun UK in the past seven days.  Number of parkrun events across the UK?  487.  Co-incidence?  I think not, very spooky.  I am humming the theme for The Twilight Zone in my head as I type…  They tried to find someone doing their fourth parkrun today as part of milestone shout outs – but didn’t get lucky on that one which was a shame.

There were welcomes though for tourists, claps for the 50 and 100 club entrants, pretty much everyone in attendance got a personal ‘hello’ one way or another.  All delivered from the lofty heights of a park bench by a duo, one in the more traditional Run Director outfit, the other dressed as Wonder Woman.

I’d like to think she is always so dressed, but I think it’s unfair to create that expectation for future visitors, so will concede she had dressed for the special occasion.    I love that they do the run briefing so well at Graves. It is this warm and funny welcome, almost as much as the resident highland coos, donkeys and llamas that makes Graves my favourite of the Sheffield parkruns.

Scanning crowd the crowd during the briefing, I saw my favourite thing ever (after being high-fived by Harry Gration, and bearing in mind I do excite quite easily), a knitted parkrun hat!  It was sported by a guy in a suit with a spotted bow tie.  Looking great, that is the sort of mark of respect parkrun merits.  I’m having my own hat like that one day.  I wouldn’t go so far as to steal his.  Well, I like to think not, but then again, let’s say if it were to ever appear to be insufficiently appreciated by its current owner, perhaps because they recklessly abandoned it in a public place for example, temporarily unguarded, well then obviously it would be coming home with me for its own protection…

KT The Hat

My breakfast buddies were also present.  One had made an effort with fancy dress, combining it with political point, well done.  Not sure how she fared with the stethoscope surely offering up a strangulation risk on the way round, but I do think such verisimilitude shows an appropriate level of commitment which I like to see.

It being a birthday, high jinks was in order, and the plan was to run the route in reverse.  Hooray!  It is amazing how much fun and how disorienting this is in fact.   Oh just realised, some people like to have the course info blah de blah but it doesn’t seem appropriate here as we ran it the other way, suffice to say figure of eight, run it twice, lots of hills (up and down).  I think we may even have surprised the livestock with our early arrival and coming ‘the wrong way’ through the animal park.  Certainly the donkeys (I like donkeys) with their big fluffy ears looked interested to see us.  They don’t seem remotely bothered by everyone shooting past.  I know they must be used to it, but even so.  The pig didn’t even bother to come out from its straw bed to see what was going on, and the deer carried on grazing.  They must have seen it all.  More than even the researchers for Jeremy Kyle, they were unphased by any outfit.  If you aren’t a Graves regular you may be confused at this point, basic info, you run through a lovely venue, including past loads of animals.  LLama, alpaca as well as those already mentioned.  Worth coming just for the novelty of that- don’t be put off by the strava segment references to things like ‘killer hill to cow poo corner’, they are named with affection and good humour, nothing more. No slurry pits along the course  – it’s not an OCR (Obstacle Course Race) type scenario.

At the briefing, we’d been warned to take some care on the way round, as recent rain has made the course a bit slippery in places.  I’m sure he said ‘especially by the cricket pitch’.  Really?  There is a mown area in one part, but it’s on a pretty steep slope, not really ideal for the playing of cricket I would have thought.  Still, Sheffield folk need to see quite a bit of gradient before they’ll acknowledge anything as being a ‘hill’ as such, maybe it’s my latent nesh, soft southerner coming out.  Anything less than 45 degrees is regarded round here as ‘flat as a mill pond!’  Anything more, well ‘it’s only a hill’ oh how many times have I heard that in the last seven days! Half marathon supporters mean well, but those hills aren’t really ‘onlys’ in my world!  OK, so confusingly, this is a later edit, so new photos added in from Grave Parkrun facebook page – photographer was Gail Moss, all great shots, for which I thank you.  Though if the photographers keep supplying such fabulous photos I’ll have used up all my  free memory capacity on this wordpress site so that’ll be the end of the blog.  Oh well, cross that bridge eh… This start one, and the montage further down are her work.    Remember though, if planning a visit, this is the route in reverse, if you come back some other time as a tourist, you’ll be running in the opposite direction.  Basically make sure you concentrate and keep quiet during the run briefing – which it is only polite to do anyway, as I’m sure you know!

GP off

Loping round I started with enthusiasm, but quickly ran out of steam.  Blimey, it was weird, I wasn’t breathless, and my legs didn’t particularly hurt, it was just there was nothing in the tank.  I felt a bit sheepish walking for some sections, but then I caught a blinding glimpse of my half-marathon tee and thought ‘I’ve nothing to prove!’

KT on the run with roger

Some fun interactions on the way round.  Hello to my photographer friend who introduced herself and who let me use her picture in my last blog about the Sheffield half.  The man in the spotted bow tie with the amazing hat with the parkrun logo specially knitted in.  We joked lightly that he mustn’t leave it unattended, but I possibly came across as a bit too serious in my thieving intent.  I couldn’t talk and run anyway, so he sprinted off. Story of my life that, being left behind.    Oh well.

I was also massively impressed by the runner who had fully taken on bord that #DFYB Don’t forget your barcode.  I commented to him to this effect, only to be met with the unexpected response ‘you won’t believe this but..‘ Turns out whilst he hadn’t actually completely forgotten his barcode, he had left it in the car.  He said it was OK, he’d stop of and retrieve it during the second loop.  That’s the spirit!  I wonder what would happen if you tried to scan it that size?  I hope someone gave it a go!

KT barcode on the run

I don’t know if it’s quite fair to say the views are better when you run the reverse route, maybe I just paid more attention to them because of the novelty, and the glorious sunshine bathed everything in sharp spring light that was deceptive.  It ought to have been warmer, but my it was cold!  The views though were stunning.  How lovely a sight is this:

KT on the run

A stream of runners ahead, cattle to the left, llama to the right, me in the middle with Roger giving it his all, his little head bobbing up and down in front, it’s very comforting.  I tried to thank the marshals on the way round, even the one who thought Roger was a camel (she corrected it to ‘horse’ second time round, hope my assertive reply didn’t tip over into an aggressive retort earlier..)  The marshals had done good on the fancy dress front.  Well, I say that, I assume the ‘Where’s Wally’ outfit was fancy dress and not homage.  There were a fair few wallys (I’m not being rude, I’m being factual) out there, it was amazing!!

I got overtaken by armoured gladiator and superheroine, but promised to watch their backs as they passed.  I must have done this really well, as they both were alive and kicking (not literally as far as I observed) at the end.  You’re welcome!   He had impressive shield carriage by the way, I reckon he must practise in this outfit quite a lot.  A commitment I applaud.

KT gladiators

Also out and about was the grim reaper, I’ve always thought that was just my imagination.  You know, thinking death was on my heels every time I headed out running –  but here that nightmare was made manifest.  Perhaps I was a bit more burnt out than I thought after last week?

I love the interaction with people as you go around.  I guess faster runners get an adrenalin kick, but they miss out on the over heard conversations and companionable chit chat en route.  Parkrunners are fab.  Amongst the throng, I heard just behind me two women encouraging a younger male runner – he was struggling a bit, but still breezed past me.  I exclaimed ‘you’re doing great, you’ve overtaken me and I’m riding a horse!‘  I’m not sure he entirely appreciated it, but I  thought it was fun.   To be fair I am thinking I might be a bit on the heavy side for Roger, especially after the half last week, but he was uncomplaining.  Possibly because he’s a stuffed animal, I don’t know…

Here are some more atmospheric running shots, just so you can either know what you’ve missed, or nostalgically look back on a lovely morning. depending on whether you were there or not on the day!  Check out that car number plate by the way, a caption writer’s gift! (OAP if you need help spotting it!).

So, eventually I limped in, not my speediest run round, but I’d had fun, and was pleased I’d ventured out at the end if not always en route…  I was pleased to make it through the funnel and stop my watch.  Runner’s brain kicked in, and I got confused when asked for my time and finish token number (they do this to double-check accuracy on finish funnel – impressive attention to detail).  There follows a smorgasbord display taken from the late addition photos thanks to again to Gail Moss you can find plenty of others on the Graves parkrun facebook page Fabulous 4th birthday photos

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I found my breakfast buddy mates (yes, they both finished before me, but let’s not dwell on that).  I had a panicky moment of seeing proffered cake float past.  Seemed rude to chase it.  Loads of regulars had brought a massive bounty of culinary delights in celebration of their fourth birthday.  Don’t worry, I caught up with it in the end…

So, I lingered at the finish to cheer home the last few runners.  Awesome efforts all round.  It is a brilliant parkrun this one, real encouragement for everyone.  The grim reaper also got into position to chase a few stragglers home.  There may be a later edit if photos of that activity appears, it was hilarious!

All done, adjourned to cafe.  I think it’s the Rose Garden Cafe, but can’t be bothered to check.  Oh no, wait, I will, it will  be annoying otherwise – here ’tis:

rose gardne cafe

It looks lovely from the outside – albeit this is a summer photo nicked from their website.  It is roasty toasty cosy inside which is great. Welcoming to parkrunners, also great.  Not so great for quality coffee to be honest, and food is in the ‘cheap and cheerful’ rather than bistro category, worth lingering for, as long as you can cope with the shocking acoustics, really hard to hear in there.  Nevertheless, me and my breakfast buddies adjourned for the post run debrief, and to witness the Birthday Awards.  You will be relieved to hear that birthday cake was circulated again, so I did get to have a chocolate cupcake courtesy of the Graves parkrun bakeoff team. These, as the awards, were brilliantly done.  Maybe it’s a surefire sign of my middle age, but I actually felt quite emotional bearing witness to this ceremony.  There was so much good will in the room.  An outpouring of appreciation and affection.  There isn’t enough of that in the world.

KT the prize giving

Facts and figures were offered up. I’m sure their official report will capture it better than me, but twice round the world is the mileage of Graves attendees over the past year for starters if I was listening properly.  There was appreciative applause in all directions, not only for the points winners (impressive as that undoubtedly is).  This impressive awards ceremony was punctuated by astonishingly loud shout outs of numbers for food orders which were brought out at intervals from the kitchen area.  Nothing will stop the well oiled machine which is the Graves Park Cafe from running smoothly it would seem, hilarious, but true.

There were prize winners aplenty – though I couldn’t help wondering if some were the sort of parkrun equivalent of ‘imaginary friends’ as a suspiciously large proportion of the award winners appeared to be absent.  Generous audience participation/ heckling from the floor suggesting redraw the winner for e.g. most points, or to collect on behalf of others were brushed aside.  The team at Graves may be cheery, friendly and positive, but they are no fools it seems!

Amongst the prizes was one for most inspirational parkrunner.  This went to another Roger (that is what I mean about Rogers being ten a penny round here).  I don’t know what else he’d done, but the picture he had done of Lily alone would merit such recognition.  I didn’t have my camera with me, but I really hope someone did. It was the most fantastic painting of Lily, the whippet, resplendent in her parkrun 100 bandana/neckerchief. Amazing, just amazing. If you tune in regularly you should know Lily by now, but in case not, here she is in action today.  I  love Lily.  Actually, she also won an award, fastest canine, well deserved too!  All the awards and other good stuff is in the event run report for their 4th anniversary parkrun at Graves.

KT go lily

So then award ceremony concluded, I wiped a tear from my eye at the all-round loveliness of it all, and got ready for depart.  But, GUESS WHAT, nope, you won’t guess, not unless you were here in which case, that isn’t really a guess, it’s more insider dealing.  Well, there was still one more award to come.

It was an award for ‘Best Fancy Dress’, and, to my utter astonishment, it went to Roger and me!  I was beyond ecstatic, this is my first ever running prize.  I felt a little bit guilty, because Roger is real, so technically, it isn’t fancy dress, but seemed rude to quibble.  I honestly thought nothing could top the feeling of getting a high five with Harry Gration, at the start of the Sheffield Half last Sunday, but apparently it can!  Roger and I have had public recognition, how unexpectedly glorious is that.  Once again, it the seemingly impossible has come to pass.  I was ridiculously excited.  I felt ninja all over again!  Me and Roger together are clearly a force to be reckoned with.  Our prize, well, public adoration (the writer of their run report came and got my name, I mean it doesn’t get much better than that) and also some sports themed wine gums.  I appreciate that attention to detail…  Just hope the gelatine wasn’t equine in origin…


Touchingly though, even when the awards were sort of officially over, the sly parkrunners of Graves had clubbed together to acknowledge their run director team with these brilliant certificates.  It genuinely brought a lump to my throat, I don’t think I’m particularly hormonal, I was just feeling the love.  Graves parkrun community, you are awesome, officially, and I should know, I’m an award-winning runner, albeit only for fancy dress!

everyones a winner

So finally, a woman from Athletics UK or Run Britain or something – oh in fact England Athletics, I checked, came along to address the group about new running paths that are being put in around Sheffield as part of their Outdoor City project. I felt a bit sorry for her it was rather a ‘follow that’ moment, but heartening all the same that there are proactive initiatives to promote running (bursaries for run leader training as well as new local paths) against the backdrop of recent events at Little Stoke.  Plenty of scope for hope, let’s embrace that for now.  Outdoor city run routes are appearing in abundance we are lucky indeed!

KT new routes

So for now ‘that’s all folks’, thank you Graves parkrun, you are just brilliant. Had a fab morning, long may your reign of excellence continue.

There may be more photos to follow, or there may not, it will be a surprise!  Boo!  For now, you will forgive me if I need to celebrate my winning streak with a bottle of Tesco Prosecco (can’t go wrong for £6.49) and a David Bowie archive footage experience on ‘yesterday’ TV, I know, I’m wild.

Thanks Graves parkrun for hosting today, but thank you too, to everyone in the parkrun community that makes it the phenomenon it is.  I wish I had some clout, I’d love to share with the world what a force for good parkrun is, it certainly has changed my life.  We all have our stories.  Why anyone would seek to crush that is beyond my comprehension.  Let’s not let Little Stoke parkrun die in vain, let’s keep the vision more vivid and alive than it ever was.  Free, forever, for all.

always free

And yes, that prosecco has gone to my head, and I am a bit pissed right now (not in the American angry sense, but in the British, slurring sperch, temporarily disinhibited, uncharacteristally affectionate way).  Just slightly tipsy really, it will pass,) but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong, au contraire, I’m so right it hurts.

Keep on running y’all, in your own unique ways!

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

We meet at dawn…


In pursuit of Smiletastic (running club challenge blah de blah) we Feisty Fighting Feathers will do whatever it takes.

  • Dodgy pre dawn rendezvous in car park?  Tick
  • Dubious aliases courtesy of technically literate child gaining temporary possession of fellow Fighting Feather’s phone?  Tick  (wonder if that might be why that particular associated adult/parent ended up with alias of Poohead?  I don’t want to jump to judgement, but you have to concede I may have a point at least…)
  • Charging around a park in the dark?  Tick
  • Anticipatory giggling?  Tick

Reader, we Fighting Feathers had signed up to it ALL.  We are awesome, we are ninja, we are possibly marginally over-competitive and maybe even have lost all sense of reason or perspective.  Also, there was bait.  Hare to our greyhound selves if you will.  Not that I approve of blood sports, or greyhound racing, but the analogy yet seems fitting.

greyhound hare

Let me explain:  The final Smiletastic challenge is to improve speed times over certain Strava segments.  Our cunning ploy of talking to other members of our Fighting Feathers  team (via Facebook messenger, not in real life, obviously, why risk spoiling things by being faced with the awkward physical reality of actually meeting up in person) revealed that a number of us still had to take on the segment in Graves Park.  This segment is basically one of the Graves parkrun loops and involves a big hill.  It is a steep but short section, and I hoped that now I’ve conquered (sort of) the hill up to Ringinglow, this will seem positively tame by comparison, though I fear not.  At least there is some down hill running too to make up for it…

graves segment strava

Speaking personally, it’s a bit of a annoying one to get to, as if you do it as part of parkrun and you are slow like me, you are going to get blocked by other runners ahead of you on th first circuit, and will be to knackered to do it justice on the second, thus, for Smiletastic purposes, completion of this segment requires a special trip out.  It’s a bit too far from where I live for someone of my fitness level to run over to and still have enough energy in my tank to run the segment with any particular turn of speed, so that means driving over.  Seems a faff to drive for such a short run… However, the collective enthusiasm (if not wisdom) of my Fighting Feathers compatriots was such that we cunningly outed each other  in terms of who had this loop outstanding.  Soon enough, we had been named and shamed.   Before I knew it Super Spy 007 Smiley Half Pint had suggested a pre 7.00 a.m. run – last chance to nab the bonus point for early or lates in this the last week of the Smiletastic challenge after all –  and I’d accidentally somehow agreed to be there.  Pre 7.00 a.m. starts aren’t the best, even though I wake early venturing outside and running about at that unearthly hour is another thing altogether.  Also, the clocks have just changed, so essentially we were signing up to get up in the middle of the night.  Nevertheless, I do like a group outing/ project, and one for all and all for one etc.  So I was in.  So were four others.


By the way, in case you’ve been wondering, Super Spy 007 has recently returned from her overseas mission in the US of A, and hence is available to provide in country support and mission leads back in Sheffield now.  Her cover story for her 7 week sojourn was an extended ‘holiday’, but really she did it to ensure no rival members of other Smiley Paces Smiletastic teams would be able to get to the same timed runs as her.  She doesn’t even like Florida, she was honestly martyring herself by staying there just so she could grace Clermont parkrun with her presence.  It’s that willingness to make sacrifices for the team and all pull together that has kept we Fighting Feathers up at the top of the leader board.  We have the end in our sights, we must make one final push to the finish and then our work will be done.

triumphant feather

Inevitably, there was quite a lot of planning, not least working out who would be in attendance, whether or not fancy dress was required (the consensus was not for this one, concern about drag effect of bunny ears within onesies for a start – no monkeying around appropriate here).  Also a particular cause of anxiety was how on earth we four details were  to be expected to run round any part of Graves Park without Dr Smiley (aka broken jelly baby) present to hurl jelly babies for instant energy/ nutrition purposes/ psychological support purposes.  For those of you who haven’t been concentrating, Dr Smiley is a regular participant at Graves parkrun, and when unable to run due to injury or tapering – she always turns up to volunteer, and lobbing jelly babies at runners as they reach the half way point has become her signature dish of support.  Alas, at present she is in injured mode, and hence largely non operational for running purposes.    We did try and persuade her that she needed to come join us anyway, but were left with impression – as far as it is possible to glean an impression through the medium of Facebook messenger –  that she was laughing in our faces at the very idea of voluntarily getting up at that unseemly hour when she can’t even run at the moment.  Some people have little commitment, Fighting Feathers aren’t normally put off running rendezvous by having a leg in a pot and requiring crutches to move about on.  It’s only a broken foot for goodness sake…  In fact, I don’t think it was that which put her off coming, I think it was the early start.

Still, it’s amazing what a bit of collective emotional blackmail on Facebook messenger can do (and actually, it is completely different from cyber bullying, so I’ll thank you to take your unseemly accusations and protestations elsewhere) and soon enough we running quartet were not only pacified, but fired up by a turn of events (is that an oxymoronic description to give?  Half-hearted apologies if so).

Our very own Dr Smiley/ Broken Jelly Baby Dr Smiley is not completely without a heart.  At the very least she can be manipulated by others.  She may need her beauty sleep (don’t we all) but it seems she is also able to fully appreciate the importance of her motivational role, as trainer, coach, mentor, role model etc etc pot or no pot (medical not hallucinogenic variety).  So it was that the day before our morning rendezvous she  whet our appetite and sharpened our resolve with the following poetic treasure map, a pen portrait that would surely lead us to a sweet bounty – things were looking up:

Betwixt the car park and the cafe
Awaits a treat for those who run
A bonus point for fighting feathers
In the hail or snow or sun
Look to the left from on the path
Beside a shocking grey construction
Amongst our Jenny’s lovely flowers
Find the baby sweet confection

jelly babies

This last minute revelation was SO EXCITING I was worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep the night before.  Plus, there was always the awful possibility that this motivating tactic could backfire if we spent so long milling about the park trying to find them that we missed the crucial pre 7.00 a.m. cut off time and started too late for our bonus points.  We Five Fighting Feathers would need to be highly disciplined, as well as early risers and elite runners to take on this challenge, the stakes were high indeed!

Incidentally, the jelly baby photo above is stolen from the Round Sheffield Run people, they won’t mind, they are lovely, and they have done a great job in documenting the progression of jelly babies running the trails of Sheffield over the last couple of years.  Mind you they are not alone in so doing – below is a Fighting Feathers image by our very own Elevation Queen, she does like her jelly babies.  I fear it may not have ended happily for those pictured below, Elevation Queen and Maths Geek of the FFs together gorged on these and their kindred I believe, but all for a good cause eh?

jelly babies on high

We Fighting Feathers are focused and strong however, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, the other thing I was fretting about whether, post clocks changing, we might actually have to do this run in the dark! Uh on, that wasn’t part of the master plan.  Still, it was 007s fault, sorry ‘idea’ that we’d try and nab the pre 7.00 a.m. run bonus points for the last week of challenge, so I guess that did mean it was only fair that she would call the shots.

Mercifully dear reader, the BBC weather forecast (which never lies) assured us that the sun will rise at 6.45 a.m.  what could be more perfect?  Also, rain due to hold off until 10.00 a.m. and I’m hoping as my previous time was around the 9 minute mark, I should be done within 3 hours time band – hopefully even before 9.30 when car park charges kick in.  Actually, I was a bit fretful about whether the car park would be open pre 7.00 a.m. but one can only fret over so many topics at one time I find.  Probably a blessing.

sunrise and weather


So, after much, squawking, clucking and prior preparation, the plan emerged. 06.45 hours, Tuesday 29th March 2016 the Fighting Feathers detail of five runners would rendezvous in Graves Park car park.  There to warm up, and then take on the Smiletastic Graves Strava Segment.  Mission accomplished, a jelly baby hunt would follow.  We had nothing to lose and all to gain.  How exciting!  We would indeed meet at dawn!

I was secretly hoping a Clucky Duck would come across us unexpectedly, for them to witness yet another display of our team work in action like a well-oiled machine would freak them out entirely.  Mean-spirited perhaps, yet true.  I cannot tell a lie…

So it was this morning dear reader, I found I woke up spontaneously about 5.30 a.m.  rather than risk falling back to sleep I made a coffee, and peered out of the window.  It was still dark, and decidedly nippy, but I was still up for it.  I headed off pretty early, and found I had to scrape some low grade ice of the car which was a bit unexpected.  I got to the park entrance about 6.35 a.m. to find the entrance had a massive gate across it. Uh oh, needed to find somewhere to park.


Mercifully, there was a handy road just opposite, a little cul de sac with lots of space to park.  More of concern to me was that this might also impact on my fellow FFs, what if this made us late and we missed our bonus points?  I walked up the short distance to the car park.  I had the place to myself, apart from a couple of dog walkers.  The animals in the animal park were pretty noises, and the hens and other birds waking up made quite a din.  I wandered over to have a snoop, and came face to face with an owl.  It took one look at me and dive bombed the chicken wire that separated us exactly where I was standing.  It was magnificent, and I couldn’t work out whether it was attacking me or maybe had been hand reared and was trying to get close.  I do know I felt sorry for it.   It doesn’t matter how big the aviary is, and to be fair this one isn’t too bad, I don’t like seeing birds in cages.  Hypocritically though, it was amazing to be so close to it, even if it was a very pissed off owl indeed:

The owl and other animals distracted me for a bit, and then I made my way back to the car park.  At this point it was dawning on me that time was ticking and I was all alone in a deserted car park with a distinct lack of other FFs to join me for our fun running plans:


So, just as my nerve was failing, an FF came into view.  My I was relieved, two others followed, and we did some enthusiastic mutual and relieved greeting of each other, whilst debating where our 007 Smiley half pint was?  We did some running round the carpark, partly to keep warm and partly to make sure our run would pass the 2 mile minimum run length threshold once we finally got underway.  Not the most imaginative of running drills, but an efficient one!  She eventually materialised, rather appropriately apparently appearing out of thin air in keeping with her strictly undercover modus operandi.  She had the gall to question whose stupid idea it was to do this ‘er, that would be you?’  We others were willing to plead guilty to the charge of contributory negligence for agreeing, collusion even, but initiators of this idea we most definitely were not.  Anyway, pre-run shots were duly taken.

So, let the records show that:-

At the appointed hour, those present and correct (if not exactly bright-eyed and bushy tailed) were:

  • 007 Smiley Half Pint
  • Hobbit – myself
  • Fighting Feather Elevation Queen
  • Fighting Feather currently incognito 1
  • Fighting Feather also incognito 2

Apologies (I use the term loosely in relation to Mountain Goat) were received from:

  • Dr Smiley/ Broken Jelly Baby – injured, but sterling work in hiding jelly babies so we love her best
  • Mountain Goat – she apparently isn’t aware that there are early morning options for hours such as 5.30,  6.30 etc.. as opposed to pm. variants.  She has a point, though I don’t entirely feel describing her fellow team makes as ‘crackers’ for coming up with the plan in the first place was quite in the spirit of comradely support we had been hoping for  – though granted it was a completely authentic response…
  • Poohead – sleeping as rest is just as important as running. Also didn’t need to do this segment, already done, very good point, very well made.  At least that is what I was led to believe… maybe I’m too gullible
  • FF nameless – away skiing (probably not absolutely sorry not to be joining us then, felt ‘apology’ might be stretching it)
  • FF playing away in Saltburn – North Yorkshire seaside basically, very nice, and probably not entirely compatible with nipping back to Graves for a dawn death run round a Smiletastic segment

Other FF members are available, but unaccounted for.  Some injured it is true (cheetah buddy, your running regeneration will happen, give those calves time), some not on the segments anyway so thereby exempt, as for the others.  I like to believe they will have slept soundly as a deliberate strategy and so conserved their running talents to turbo charge other outstanding segments later in the day.   They may of course just have had better things to do than be on Facebook messaging other Flying Feathers on Easter Monday and therefore known nothing of the plan, but I always prefer a good conspiracy theory given half a chance…

We checked our watches, we agreed our game plan and headed off. Gentle romp down to the start point and a final pre-run shot


After not nearly enough faffing for my liking, we were suddenly off.  The others shot ahead, I lumbered up the rear.  It is undoubtedly motivating having other Fighting Feathers flying ahead.  I was never going to keep up with them, but it was reassuring to keep them in sight, and fun to watch too.  The sun was breaking through, the park looked lovely.  My leg was really hurting, I have definitely knackered it somehow, it’s the speed running that’s done for me, but I didn’t want to give up, and I was pretty confident I’d still be going faster than last time I did this loop which was with a streaming cold at a particularly congested parkrun in the rain.  Head up, arms pumping I just ran as fast as I could.  There was an anxious moment when just before the steep killer hill a dog walker with a mass of half a dozen mutts appeared.  She carefully waited for the other four to pass her before letting them off their leads.  They were polite dogs, but curious canines and I was a bit worried they were going to chase me up the hill.  They didn’t. Onwards and upwards, at least I didn’t break my stride.  Then sharp right turn and slightly uneven path which eventually turned down a steepish hill.  Recent rain had scoured the surface of this and it was wet and gravelly and I did consciously brake, I did want to improve my time, but more than that I wanted to stay vertical.  I soon enough joined the others, and before we knew it we were whooping in mutual celebration and posting for ‘after shots’.  We even found a conveniently located passer by who took a snap for us.  The jelly babies were courtesy of our Elevation Queen Fighting Feather by the way.  A precautionary measure in case we were unsuccessful in the later hunt for goodies courtesy of Dr Smiley/Broken Jelly Baby.

We look pretty pleased with ourselves yes?  Alas, short lived.  One of our number had a calamity befall her.  Despite wearing not one, but two recording devices, neither had logged her run.  Uh oh.  There was no alternative, she would have to run it all again!  Well there would have been another option in my world, I’d have just thought, ‘shame’, and gone home annoyed, she is made of sterner stuff.  A plan was devised.  One would run with her, the other three of us would just gently jog the loop in reverse and cheer her round the last bit.  Also, this meant I could gaze about for a bit and take some photos of the park.  I concede, I’m distracted way too easily.

So, we applauded and cheered our Feisty Fighting Feather on her way, and she went off like a rocket.  It was so impressive it was a bit unsettling.  The rest of us got into position, and then we waited for our compatriot to come into view. When she did, the effort that showed on her face was humbling.  I was once again reminded that maybe the reason I don’t ever get any better is I just am not willing to try that hard and put my body through that.  It is fair to say that some people look elegant and gazelle like running.  Some people. I have a bit of a dilemma here, as generally speaking I avoid putting unflattering photos of other people in this blog as it seems unfair.   On the other hand it seems a shame to miss out on comedic potential when offered up on a plate.  Also, ‘unflattering’ is maybe not the right word to use, I was just capturing the reality of the pain she was experiencing at the time. It is not therefore an unflattering photo, so much as an authentic one.  Should really be on the cover of ‘Time magazine’, or at least ‘Women’s Running’.  See what you have done to us Smiley Elder Super Geek? see what lengths your disciples will go to to make you happy?

So the FF’s in waiting scooped her up and ran with her for the final few hundred metres, even though she was weakly protesting that she could run no more.  I waited for the other FF who’d helped pace her out at the start, and joined her for the final fling. It was fun.


I slowed again on the downhill gravel path finish.  My bloomin’ leg, it’s not right.  And by the time I caught up with my FF friends, they were in self-congratulatory mood.  They seemed completely unconcerned that our Feisty FF who’d just been compelled to run it all again at high speed was collapsed on the concrete at their feet.  Oh well, all in a good cause I suppose, plus she’s made of strong stuff.  Anyone who admires the FF Team Spirit should look at this photo, it sort of encapsulates what we are all about… for better or worse!


So, Fallen Fighting Feather was revived, and we hared off for our final challenge, the search for jelly babies.  The clues were pretty fab, and we quickly located the grey man made bin in ‘Jenny’s flowers’ – daffodils, and were rummaging around in the foliage.  I espied the Jelly Babies eventually, but not before having a too close for comfort encounter with dog poo in the bush above them.  I think the legacy of one of those biodegradable dog poo bags being hung in a tree.  The bag had decomposed and a rock of dog poo is now forever welded into place in that bush.  Honestly.  Still, didn’t put us off finding our treasure though.  Dr Smiley/ Broken Jelly Baby, we salute you!

How happy we were.  Final photo session to record our success, whilst our poor Fallen Fighting Feather ran backwards and forwards like a caged wolf pacing, trying to capture the necessary missing mileage to avoid having to go out running all over again.  Suddenly, it was mutual farewells, and scattering to the four winds as we exited the park.  Tired, but happy, and pre 7.00 a.m. bonus points bagged, along with new PRs all round for our Strava segments.  Yay, go FFs!

Mission accomplished, dawn raid paid off.  We shall miss these Smiletastic gatherings in a way, but when it comes to an end we will have memories, and our injuries too, to keep reliving the extra special moments…


Categories: motivation, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: