Posts Tagged With: Graves Park

Will you go out with me? Graves junior parkrun on National Get Outside Day.

Digested read: volunteered at Graves junior parkrun today.  It was awesome!

Undigested read:

National ‘Get Outside Day‘ Oh GOD!  Is that really a thing?  I mean apparently so accordingtofacebooksoitmustbetrue.  Never heard of it, but it seems that today, Sunday 29th September has been declared National Get Outside Day!  They said so on the (very marvellous) Let’s Go Peak District Facebook page and even put an enticing image on it to emphasise both the point, and the unambiguous loveliness of the great outdoors.

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What could possibly go wrong?

Nothing.

Nothing at all.

Apart from apocalyptic weather.  This is what the great outdoors looked like to me at 8.00 o’clock this morning.

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Still, the thing is, there is still no better place to be on a Sunday morning than a junior parkrun.  Granted, in an ideal world it would always be Graves junior parkrun, but for those of you not fortunate enough to live within either the catchment area of Graves park, or to be able to commute to it, there are other junior parkruns available, they too offer up their own unique fun factories, whatever the weather!

I was a late signee for volunteering duties this weekend.  I’ve had a bad back (lawks-a-lordy that makes me sound both aged and decrepit, both of which adjectives I’m currently inclined to ‘own’ as is the current zeitgeist).  I wasn’t sure I’d be up for it.  Also, the weather.  Ooooooooooooooooooh my loooooooooooooord.  Did you see the forecast?  Basically torrential rain ALL DAY.  Not just all day, but I think for all eternity.  I wasn’t over keen.  But then again, I very much prefer dramatic weather to low key miserableness.  There might be an anecdote in it.  Storms and torrential rain might be pretty awesome, as long as I was dressed for it.  Graves park is its own micro-climate, and whatever weather is happening in Sheffield more broadly you have to multiply the wind speed by 100 and drop the temperature by 20 degrees and add in snow, fire, ice and flood to get a more accurate indicator of what to expect.  FACT.*  Never a dull moment up at Graves.  Anyways, when I did send my rather late in the day email to offer up my services to graves-juniorshelpers@parkrun.com the Run Director (it’s a run not a race even more so at junior parkrun) he promised glorious sunshine and chortled at the nonsensical and alarmist rumour mill that included  “earlier on today, apparently, someone said they heard there was a hurricane on the way, well, don’t worry, there isn’t!”  As if!  The sun always shines at junior parkrun.  Ha ha, might have caught out Mr Fish – or might not, depending on what you choose to believe – (he did say it though, YouTube never lies) but definitely not our RD.  Guaranteed sunshine it would be, or your money back.  Count me in.

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Besides, volunteers bring their own sunshine with them wherever they go, here are some of them from today, basking in it.  Lovely indeed.

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So it was, alarm went off at stupid o’clock, not that it really needed to.  The rain had been battering on my attic window all night.  I was half expecting to find myself marooned in my roof space, rising waters surrounding the entire house.  It wasn’t though, although it was definitely exceedingly wet.  Waterproof over trousers it would be.  Not only waterproof trousers, other clothing as well, but just an extra top layer.  Woolly hat too.

I ventured out.  Yep, definitely raining.  Got to Graves park car park.  Pretty much deserted apart from the RDs car, we’re on then.  I got my ticket for the car park and then sat in the car waiting to the RD to appear out of the rain, which he duly did, dragging the all important kit wheelie bin with him.  We were ON!

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Other core team members started to emerge from the mist, and, each furnished with newly laundered and fresh smelling fluorescent tabards (comes under ‘any other duties’ for the RD of whichever week apparently)…

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we divvied up the set up tasks and off we went about our hi-vis business.  Astonishingly though, and this is indeed nigh on miraculous and proves that Mr P S-H does absolutely have supernatural powers, it had basically stopped raining.  I know, amazing!

Distinctly damp yes, but no longer a need to actively wear life-saving floats or other buoyancy aids prior to entering the park.  Better yet, we even had some early arrivals to the Graves junior parkrun ball, so what with a venue, volunteers and hardy parkrunners that was it, we had all the necessary ingredients for a fab event. We would make it so!

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I set off as is my way, to do course set up.  I  enjoy this, it’s a refreshing stomp round the 1km route to clear your head and you always see cool stuff.  Gorgeous trees whatever the season, sometimes parakeets, today a bedraggled fluffed up robin, sheltering in amongst the red berries of a hawthorn tree.  There are challenges of course.   Carrying all those signs is harder than you might think, though I’ve developed an idiosyncratic knack of sorts:

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I’m not going so far as to say I’ve perfected the art, but I have found my own pathway through.  The real challenge is with the parkrun tape, putting it in place around the lake to try to deter participants from running into the water.  The capacity of small children to run into inanimate objects is extraordinary, and the tape seems a modest barrier, but, alongside attentive marshals and accompanying adults has worked to date.  That’s good.  Disentangling the officially sanctioned parkrun tape is however really tough.  It’s also somewhat contrary, some days you effortlessly unfurl the tape as if unwinding a silken ribbon from a fairy’s spool – or like I imagine that would be, I’ve never actually experienced that to be fair.  On other occasions it’s a veritable Gordian knot, especially if you are in a hurry, have spectators or are trying to show a rookie volunteer how easy course set up is.

Got there in the end. Phew.  The distance shot is taken at a parkrun earlier in the year 10th Feb to be precise, but I realised to my horror, I’d failed to snap my handywork in action today.  I was also responsible for that fine tape work earlier in the year though, so I think the inclusion of this shot for illustrative purposes is probably fair enough in the circumstances.

You get to say hello to other hardy park users, and to admire the wildlife and livestock.  Next to the pond are often some guinea fowl in amongst the waterfowl, protected by a fence.  They are sort of 3D / 2D birds.  From the front they are most definitely three dimensional, but from the side, they look absolutely flat.  Honestly they do, go check it out.  Nope, no photos – hang on, that’s what google is for…

Hmm, not sure if it entirely captures what I mean, you have to see them for real.  Honestly, side view, like a cartoon drawing, then head on, a perfect sphere.  This pleases me, the amazing 2D/ 3D guinea fowl.  Awesome.  Some sort of optical illusion, perhaps induced by the extreme contrast in the two perspectives.  I look wide from both angles, but then I’m not a guinea fowl.

Carried on with course set up.  Oooh, Humungous puddle on the way to the entrance to the animal farm!  That’s not going to stop our junior parkrunners though, that’ll just add to the fun, a splish sploshing opportunity to enjoy not fear!

oh, mustn’t forget about change in access route from next week – wasn’t too confident how that would unfold (I know, I know, ‘ye of little faith and all that) but no time to fret about that because oh look!  A highland coo!  One of the highlights of Graves for junior and 5k parkrunners alike!  Not sure why this one is being kept away from the others, could be a promotion or a demotion due to illness, or injury, who knows?

Despite my ambivalence about animals in captivity generally, and the sanitisation of how farm animals are kept, it is nevertheless pretty cool to see the critters in the morning. Today they were drenched, and a bit put out to be honest.  For whatever reason, breakfast was clearly late, and most came to check me out in case I’d brought along a bucket of alfalfa pellets, or whatever along with my flags, and looked exceedingly unimpressed when it became clear I hadn’t.  Messed with my head a bit.  They galloped over ecstatic at the sight of me as I first came into view and then disdainfully – petulantly even – went off in search of a more promising candidate for breakfast service.  I understand their point of view, I need to learn to handle rejection better.  I’m just saying, if you’ve not been pointedly ignored by a trio of llamas you’ve never really been ignored at all.  Love the piglets though.  Warthogs will always be my favourites, but pigs hold a pretty fine second place in my heart.

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Up through the park, nice cone work in evidence from my fellow course setter upperers

One of the big container planters was a bit in the way of the course, but we couldn’t move it, basic physics really, it was full of water from the rain. Still, seems junior parkrunners are a svelte lot, they managed to negotiate the narrow space into the car park without incident.  Wonders will never cease.  They run into marshals and the sides of buildings often enough.  Still, all good today.

It took me longer than usual to set up, partly because of the Gordian knot, partly because of the standing water everywhere, partly because of my back and partly because I got distracted by the animals.  By the time I got back to the mustering area, there was a pleasing assembly of people, and the first timers’ briefing was just starting.  That’s one of my favourite roles at junior parkrun, so much eager anticipation and excitement and so much parkrun good will.  Not for me today though, someone else had the giddy joy of delivering that.

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I put the final arrow in place in the finish funnel, and checked out the other hi-vis heroes newly arrived.  The mist was thickening. Strictly speaking every child is in view of a marshal at all times, it was however looking like we might struggle to see our hands in front of our faces if this trend continued.  Oh well.  What’s the worst…

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Back to the start, all happening now…

It is always so worth rocking up to junior parkrun.  The weather may have been inclement, but it takes more that an arctic blast and world ending downpours to deter our juniors, particularly when they are to be running their 100th parkrun and have a balloon to accompany them en route by way of marking the occasion.  Anyway, it wasn’t raining.  It might be a stretch to say it was glorious sunshine beating down on us, but, as already explained, we’d brought our own sunshine along with us, parkrunners always do!  Plus flamboyant rainbow golfing umbrellas are guaranteed to lift your mood.

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More juniors and accompanying adults rocked up, but always time for an attempt at a selfie.  Really, I prefer to leave selfies to experts such as Smiley Selfie Queen, but in her absence we didn’t do too badly – if by ‘not doing too badly’ you mean we captured our gurning selves within the frame of the lens.  Anything else a bonus.  We also managed to alternate wide-eyed wide-mouthed deranged-demeanours with one another, which, dear reader, you must concede is good work.

back to the main business in hand, and the RD briefing.  It seemed like fewer people than usual, not entirely surprising, but it was a keen and attentive crowd.  We kicked off with a big round of applause for the parkrunners themselves this week.  ‘Our junior athletes’ no less!  Normally, the applause is for all the volunteers – and of course individual milestones and wrist band achievers, but in the elements today, the junior participants earned their recognition for turning out.  Usual rules and awards,

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Also, good news!  We are the only junior parkrun in the UK, probably in the world over, that gets to run through an animal farm. This is a great USP and quite a privilege.  New rules from next month mean the path through the animal park is going to be shut from Monday – oh no!  However, expert negotiation has secured the Graves junior parkrun special dispensation to continue running the same parkrun route as always for a trial period at least – as long as all participants make sure they only run though.  So no stopping to interact with the animals on the way round.  That’s OK, plenty of time to scratch a goats jaw afterwards, through the ‘official’ entrance, and excellent news for Graves junior parkrun as there isn’t any really viable alternative route as it’s hardly health and safety gone mad not to want to have 4 year olds running through an active car park.  That could quickly negate the positive effects of exercising outdoors, doesn’t take a genius to realise cars and children don’t mix.  Although you might think so, the way some drivers behave dropping off their precious cargo outside school gates in the morning in cow bar adorned 4 by 4s.  Terrifying.

Next base, warm up!  I was documenting this rather than participating, but in my head I was doing the swimming exercise with particular aplomb, and I reckon the hula hooping looked fun too.  Yay, go junior parkrunners, you are awesome!

Then a slidey trudge to the start line up:

Under starters order, with volunteers lined up like so many tenpins on a bowling lane, the tunnel of fear, and GO!

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The front runners sprint past!  Others skip, trundle and weave.  All are brilliant.  There can be no more joy-filled scene to behold on a Sunday morning.  Honestly, in dark times, this spectacle will lift the most hardened and embittered of hearts. FACT.**

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Gone.  Disappeared into the midst.  Oops.  Perhaps we should have counted them all out, in order that we could count them all back.  Never mind, too late now!

parkrun underway, cue the Reservoir Dogs routine as hi-vis wearers move to their new stations.

It’s a two lap course.  I was on the entrance of the finish funnel, to try to ensure everyone did the required two laps and didn’t enter the funnel unless they had.  To encourage runners and to shoo away parents from the funnel.  Well, except in exceptional circumstances.  Sometimes at the end you get some really scared juniors, we aren’t completely heartless, and can exercise discretion if faced with distraught participants who have completed the run quite happily, but are then overwhelmed by the sight of a veritable fluorescent army of towering scary looking marshals!  How are they to know they are entirely benign?  Well, for the most part…  some of the warm up sessions can be quite full on!

It’s quite fun, because you do get to see all the runners at least once before you have to leap into full funnel management mode, and so get a little bit of the stories of some of the participants as they complete their first lap.  The ones who are digging deep, the ones who smile the whole way round.  The knowing ones who like to be photographed, the ones who seem to be running in their pyjamas/ fancy dress/ favourite dinosaur or skeleton shirt (why not, I would if I could).  I was pleased to see the balloon was still attached to the 100th event runner.  One junior wanted to finish at one lap, but I explained she couldn’t come in the funnel unless she’d done two, but there was still time.  Negotiations went on. The outcome was unclear.  Oh no, had I done the right thing, or had I morphed into Cruella De Ville.  Still, rules is rules, and it would have messed up the timings something chronic if one-lappers in the finish funnel started to be a thing.  With great power comes great responsibility it seems, I wore the mantle heavily.   Still, at least I didn’t have to wear an actual mantel, that would have been worse, particularly with my back in the sorry state it is at present.

Before you know it, the first finishers are hurtling round.  Blimey, they weren’t deterred by the mud!  Sprinting to the finish at breakneck speeds.  Astonishingly, I didn’t see any either face plant or backslide in the finish funnel, more luck than my dulcit tones imploring them to take care.  I did see one really spectacular slide – but that was of a parent, racing to get a barcode to their offspring.  Good recovery if I may say so.

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The RD surveyed all, deep in profound contemplation…

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probably, he might have just been thinking about what to have for lunch later though.

I know you shouldn’t have favourites… . I don’t really, but even so, can we have a special mention for the two runners who finished holding hands together, and also for the brave parkrunner who, having been turned away from the finish funnel after lap one, did indeed go on to complete lap two.  Powered by haribos, she even achieved a sprint finish.  I got something in my eye watching those moments.  It happens a lot at junior parkrun.  Also, the parkrunner who had to stop for a pee after the first lap, also made it back out on the route and completed the run.  Yay!  Catastrophe averted.

Good news, our 100th junior parkrunner completed his parkrun too – we should give an anticipatory shout out to his sister who will be doing the same next Sunday.  Luckily the family have practised how to celebrate properly ready to up their game even further next week.  For today, they celebrated with ace star jumps.  This is the junior parkrun way!  It would be the 5k parkrun way too if it was down to me, but I recognise I need to win hearts and minds to bring that about over time…

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And then, in what seemed no time at all, the tail walker came into view, and that was that, parkrun done, we could all stand down.  Just a question of dismantling the course and we would be good to go.  There was one anxious moment when we nearly lost the RD for next week.  She momentarily took leave of her senses, contemplating retrieving some cones from the bottom of the kit wheelie bin. This was contraindicated for her on account of her height, which is on the petite end of the continuum.  If she’d disappeared head first into the bin that would have been the end of her, never seen her again.  And with fewer adventures than Alice down the rabbit hole, and more complaints about how surprising it was to fine our normally reliable RD a ‘no show’ and why was the wheelie bin seeming to be a bit heavier than usual and why are there some stiffened legs sticking out of it?  No worries, junior parkrun is about nothing if not team work.  A taller marshal was sourced, and saved the day by effortlessly reaching in to retrieve said cones. Crisis averted.  Especially good news as it’s her birthday next week!  Happy Birthday awesome one!

Team work is fun you know.  And you know what, you should really have a stab at volunteering if you haven’t already done so.  If you have, and so already discovered for yourself that volunteering at regular parkrun is fun, then volunteering at junior parkrun will blow your mind, so much so, you must understand you undertake such a role at your own risk.  FACT***  Clangers would be ace at marshalling, they have innate cheeriness already on tap, but you too could harness and channel your inner clanger by joining whatever parkrun team is in striking distance for you.  Go on!  It will be splendid!  Which one will you be?  Actually, I might be a froglet…

clangers supporting junior parkrun

Adjourned to the cafe for results processing and token sorting.  Normally I bagsy token sorting, but I was sacked gazumped on this occasion, so instead took on busy and important supervisory duties.  I must have supervised brilliantly – assisted by a junior parkrunner stationed at the opposite end of the table – as results were processed, tokens sorted and stashed and thank you texts to volunteers all sent out by 9.45.  A record surely?  Like I said before, team work.

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So there you go, job done, all done and dusted for another week.  Oh no, ages to wait.  Still, if you want to prolong your parkrun fix, you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.

I shall miss my junior parkrun fix next Sunday, but it’s for a good cause.  I’m joining Bushy parkrun for their 15th Birthday celebrations and International parkrun day.  It’s going to be SO EXCITING!  The park looks like this:

Sue Lindenberg Bushy park 28 sept 2019

I know this, because this picture was taken by Sue Lindenberg in Bushy park just yesterday in the early morning by the Leg Of Mutton pond in the park.  Granted, she has photography skills a tad superior to my own, but that’s a pretty stunning location whatever talent you have behind the lens.  Can’t wait!

So happy parkrunning people.  Share the parkrun love.

Oh, and yes, on balance, I think it was worth getting outside for today.  Funny thing is, it always is!  Get Outside Day or not.  Good to know.

🙂

*When I say FACT, I mean Lucy fact, i.e. what I choose to believe.  Works for me.  You’re welcome.

** as above

*** also as above

PS I’ve been careful in the photos I’ve used, but if anyone wants any removing, then let me know, and I’ll happily delete.

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

Right behind you all the way – tail walking tales from Graves parkrun

Digested read: tail-walking at Graves parkrun today.   Most educational.

Undigested read:

Yes, well, bit stream of consciousness today, but then, I wasn’t originally going to do a post about this particular parkrun.  Well, it’s one of my locals, and I’ve posted about Graves parkrun a fair few time before – and then I was just because.  But, spoiler alert, you might find this post to be even more parkrun-lite at times than usual.  The blogging reflex was instigated by my being at parkrun I readily concede, but the in terms of actual content, the linkage may be tenuous at best.  You might still enjoy scrolling through the pictures from today though.  Or you might not, because I have no innate photographic talent, but then again I was there, and might therefore offer up not so much the ‘least worst’ option, but the only available  photojournalistic documentation of the occasion.  Quite a responsibility on my part you’ll agree.  On the plus side, it will make you appreciate our fabulous, dedicated and regular Sheffield parkrun photographers even more – if such a thing is possible.  Also, maybe in the future my blurred offerings will seem innovative and genre challenging, you never know*.  Here is a taster to get you in the mood.  In my defence he was running awfully fast… faster than a speeding bullet at the very least.  Even Mr Carman would have struggled.**

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I like to manage expectations.  I think I’ve achieved that with the image above.

It’s been a very educational and pretty mind blowing few days to be honest.  Only yesterday, just before I had a flu jab, the pharmacist asked me if I was allergic to formaldehyde.  I said ‘surely everyone’s allergic to formaldehyde?‘ I mean, you don’t want to get a vial of that injected into your arm do you, even to protect you from the worst horrors of the latest strain of flu.  The vaccine however apparently includes this.  Only the smallest of trace elements I’m sure, allowing for the potential of some sort of homeopathic poisoning, falling into anaphylactic shock as a consequence of an underdose perhaps.  Even so, it seems allergy to formaldehyde is in fact a ‘thing’ raising the question of whether you can be similarly ‘allergic’ to strychnine.  It seems bizarre.  I know what they mean, an allergic response is a different biological phenomenon to that of poisoning, and I daresay the trigger quantities are entirely different but honestly who knew?  Unless you are a pharmacist or other medical specialist.  Just shows how every day has the potential to be a learning day.   This can be enlightening, but also terrifying.

I’ll get to the point eventually.

What if you discover that you are unwittingly in possession of a super power.  An ability to change history, and so influence the future in ways that are impossible to predict or control?  What’s more, that you have been unleashing anarchy for years, not so much a butterfly flapping its wings, but a crazed individual who has been carelessly lobbing grenades with untold potential to distort and contort future event,s without the slightest insight into what you’d been doing.  If a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state, then the cumulative impact of multiple changes could be almost infinite.  Gulp.  What. Have. I. Done?

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I know, scary.

Case in point, as I was tail walking at Graves parkrun today, I snapped away, trigger happy (with the camera button, not an actual gun, I’m not insane) and took photos en route.  It helps me remember each parkrun, and digital cameras allow an excess of photos to be taken.  If you get enough quantity, you never know, the occasional lucky quality picture might just sneak in.  I’m never 100% sure of photo sharing etiquette in public places.  But I’ve come to think as long as you are obvious and not sneaky in taking pictures it’s very apparent if people object to one being taken.  And I also have a personal rule that I delete any horrifically unflattering photos – the sort I wouldn’t want to see of myself – unless, and this is crucial, the hilarity induced by its inherent comedic value clearly outweighs the risk of personal humiliation to the subject of the shot.  This rule has I think served me well.  I’ll always delete a picture if requested to do so, so that’s a reasonable back-up plan.  Anyway, at the end of the parkrun, I just checked in with the core team about whether photo sharing would be ok, and explained about my unwritten personal rule.  Comedic talent v personal humiliation, and far from their agreement to me sharing them on this basis being given as a formality it was pointed out to me that this would never do.  It might not in fact be a good approach to take.  It could be, that the act of deleting photos was like trying to tamper with history.  In doing so I would basically be messing with the time/space continuum and this could have catastrophic results, not so much life changing for me necessarily (although, that too, obvs) but epoch altering.

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We’re all familiar with what might happen from Star Trek and Dr Who, surely.  And for the more literally minded, even the most casual reader of either Nineteen Eighty-Four or Brave New World must know, to rewrite history is a dangerous thing.  I have my 1981 ‘O’ level English Lit syllabus to thank for that insight.

We are right now living in a time where it seems a regime will indeed go ‘to any lengths to own and possess history, to rewrite and construct it, and to inculcate it by means of coercion.’ (thanks Christopher Hitchens for the quote, written in in the introduction to his 1999 article “Why Americans Are Not Taught History”, which I’ve lifted for here).  Where is my moral compass set if I start deleting photos because that version of what happened sits uncomfortably me.   What about my responsibilities as a guardian of the truth?  As someone who likes to document things, my travels in Cambodia and Vietnam as well as my running scared adventures, this messes with my head.  Living in the world as we would like it be, as opposed to the world as it is, requires each of us to take responsibility, and that must surely include a respect for truth and, another thing, not messing with the space/ time continuum and so inadvertently altering the course of history.  Whoa.  Scary times.  And I didn’t think it was possible for the world to feel any more frightening a space to inhabit than it does right now.

You see my problem.  How to document a morning at parkrun, where each of the 286 runners and umpteen volunteers and supporters will have a different version of ‘the truth’.  No wonder I have writer’s block.  And what about the pictures, should they stay or should they go?  It’s been a tough call.  Is it a personal or shared responsibility to be a chronicler of history.  Is there any such thing as objective truth anyway?***

Back to basics.

Graves parkrun is definitely one of my favourite runs, not even just of the Sheffield ones, but more widely too.  Sheffield Hallam parkrun is strictly speaking my home run, but it has got quite crowded and lacks highland cows.  I’ve been doing a fair bit of touristing of late and so fancied staying closer to home this week.  Also, a friend was doing her 25th Volunteering stint there, it would be good to support that.  I’ve been quite poorly, no idea what, but hurrah for the NHS and their probing and scanning and imaging apparatus as well as fab straff.  Upshot was, I wasn’t really up to running a parkrun, but figured I ought to be able to walk it… hopefully – what’s more fate decreed there was a gap in the tailwalking role on the volunteer roster.  It was meant to be!  I’m wanting to get to 50 parkruns this year if I can,  (gold badge for running challenges to add to my bronze and silver and so complete the virtual set) and so don’t want to miss any.  I have missed two this year so far, despite attending a parkrun on all saturdays to date.  One was cancelled a bit last minute,  and I was too witless to check prior to arriving there and then it was too late to go elsewhere.  Oh well, it happens, I feel for the event teams who only cancel in desperation.  On the other occassion I was watching at Bushy parkrun with my celebrity mum, at her very own Elisabeth’s corner, it’s quite an experience.  She, as you know dear reader is officially parkrun Royalty.  More Queen Elisabeth of parkrun than even these two Queen Elizabeth parkruns.  Wish I’d thought to make a load of fridge magnets years ago.  Cool plan though by the QEs.  parkrun kudos to them!  Let’s just agree there are three Queen Eliz/sabeths in the parkrun chronicles.  Loving the waving across the world initiative though, and I’ve always believed fancy dress at parkrun (or indeed in life) to be a boon.  Anyways, check out their international parkrun friendship story, and see how geographical miles can be vanquished by a parkrun wave across the waves.  No really, check it out 🙂   Queen Elizabeth parkrun (Horndean, UK) and Queen Elizabeth Casino parkrun (Australia) united.

where was I?  Oh yes, so the upshot was I missed, not really missed, but not recorded on the Running Challenges stats, two this year, so reaching 50 feels quite tight.  The Running Challenges chrome extension is fab, and weirdly compelling, with somewhat addictive potential.  It shouldn’t be the be all and end all of parkrun, but it is a fun tool for choosing where to go next….

This time though, Graves parkrun.  And then MORE GOOD NEWS (it was so meant to be) the Tring Travellers would be honoring Graves parkrun with their presence.  Oh good.  Catch up time.  parkrun and the vagaries of the internet bringing random people together.  Not quite as impressive as the link from Australia to the UK, but jolly impressive and pleasing all the same!

A while back the Graves course changed, I prefer it, it’s probably more challenging, finishing up a steep hill, but very much more picturesque.  I double checked the route.  Last time I tail walked it I was quite far behind the throng – having a lovely time admittedly, as the unadulterated photos from the February day show:

but got a bit confused about where the first loop went and the turnaround spot, didn’t want a repeat of that.  So to be clear, it now looks like this according the the Graves parkrun website course description blah de blah:

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and is described thus:

Course Description
A 2 lap course which starts on the path next to the main car park. From the start, a short flat section leads to a long shallow downhill behind the cafe. A sharp rise gives way to a sweeping descent through the treeline, before emerging at the lakeside and taking on another short hill. The course then loops all the way around the cricket pitch before heading uphill once again between the cow fields, in the direction of the historic Norton Hall. Following a sharp descent, the route splits, on lap one, a circuit of the east lake is undertaken; whereas on lap two, runners take the shorter option between the lakes. The course come back together for a final ascent of the hill towards the cafe, before hitting the finish straight on the ridge line.
Please note Graves parkrun requires that all dogs be kept on a short lead, held in the hand of the runner at all times during the event.

Yeah, don’t worry, just follow everyone else, or the way the marshals are pointing, and you’ll be fine.

I arrived at Graves park early.  As is my way.  Just in case you have inexplicably missed my previous posts about Graves and are checking it out for the first time, there is paid parking from 9.30 – free before.  50p for an hour and £1 for two.  Bargain.  Parking isn’t ample, but sufficient, and as I’m always paranoiacally early, I’ve never had a problem.  There are loos too, outside the Rose Cafe (which I think opens from 9.00 and has superior indoor loos) so precautionary pee or emergency pees are possible without the indignity of having to rush behind a bush.  You need change though – for the car park, not the loos.

Graves park has its own microclimate, so ignore whatever the forecasts say and dress for plague, blizzard, apocalyptic rain, whatever.  Be aware that if you do, there will suddenly be a localised blistering heat wave, or earth scraping wind, it is the Graves Park way.

I may be always early, but my milestone pacing friend was even earlier.  I could see her with a friend, down by the meet up bench where the core team muster early and the parkrunners themselves a little later.  She’s deaf, and so I’d tried to learn the sign for ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’, so as soon as she spotted me I gesticulated in what I hoped was an appropriate way.  I’m not sure how accurate I was, but the sentiment was clear, and also, it’s very pleasing that with sign language you can actually communicate over a greater distance than you can shout.  Excellent.  With her was a signer, who was volunteering for the morning, as lots of this high-vis heroes deaf running friends were also coming from near and far to join the celebrations.  Cool.

A little later, the RD appeared, and hi-vis tabards were distributed.  Roles allocated, Graves parkrun runs like a well-oiled machine these days it seems.  I was pleased to see more familiar faces, it’s worth staying home in Sheffield now and again to catch up with folk.  Also, conspiratorially share secrets.  I know, a teaser, but hang on in there, you’ll find out soon enough.   Congratulations to the junior parkrun co-volunteer still flushed with success (and a few aching muscles) from the Sheffield 10k last weekend.  Yay.  Awesome.  Also a multi-tasker, able to run and smile at the same time.  Surely a skill honed at parkrun?

SW sheffield 10k

So there was milling and chilling and meeting and greeting.  Mountains of cake arrived for the celebrations, parkrunners appeared seemingly from nowhere to congregate around the start.  RD briefing was given, with accompanying signing, I particularly like the ‘jazz hands’ that replace applause to signify thanks.  Awesome.

I didn’t take any photos at this point. I wasn’t planning on doing a post about this parkrun at this point, so didn’t see the point. However, fortuitously others did, here is a shot of the deaf parkrunners from near and far – Huddersfield, Leeds and Wakefield who came to celebrate with their friend and mine.  Also my namesake, we are mutually blessed.  Here they are, either before or after the parkrun, but posing rather brilliantly with both the RD and the all important parkrun sign.  Good job.  Glad someone was concentrating.

Lucy support crew

All in line, and I positioned myself at the back of the pack.  There were a couple of people even further behind which confused me.  Both looked like speedy runners, and had speedy hounds with them, they choose to start at the back and then enter the throng once underway, no point in positioning myself behind them or I’d never see the back of the run again, they’d be overtaking me in an instant!

And soon enough awf!

It was a fairly sedate start from the rear.  There were a couple of people who looked like they were walking companionably so I left a bit of space.  Tailwalking is an art rather than a science.  I know from being at the back of many organised events I actually find it quite stressful if a sweeper is right on my tail, so err on the side of the respectful distance unless it looks like someone is happy for company or on their own.  I resolved I’d wait a bit and then see if they wanted me alongside once they’d settled in.  In fact, I was so distracted by interacting with marshals and other park users and taking photos and trying to manage my own pain that I didn’t really catch up with them until we were nearly at the end of the first lap.  I hadn’t factored that in. You’d think I’d know better, one of my most challenging volunteering positions ever was as tailwalker at junior parkrun.  It’s a two lap course, and some junior participants inevitably drop out after one. That’s completely fine, but it does mean you have to do a mad sprint to catch up with the rest of the pack once the others have retired.  I’ve run faster doing that then I ever have on an actual run, and learned from bitter experience one should always wear a sports bra when tail walking, the walking moniker is not always strictly accurate!

So off I went, you start off down a hill and through the trees, the timers and RD were marching towards the finish funnel, the event temporarily out of their hands now parkrunners were go!

It was nice at the back.  Contemplative.  The hound dogs various quickly raced by, as predicted.  Also faster than a speeding bullet you’ll agree…

Quite soon, you are at the base of the hill, and friendly marshals are on hand to direct, encourage and assist.  I hadn’t entirely registered it at this, but a full circuit of the course revealed that every marshal had some sort of assistant or prop, or, as in this case, a pint-sized supervisor to keep order.  The supervisor in this location took the opportunity to alert me to the presence of a loose dog, that was being searched for by a concerned owner.  No sooner had she passed this information to me, a man and his re-acquired dog, now back on a lead – reappeared.  His dog had just wanted to join in all the parkrun fun it seems, but was thwarted in doing so because that wasn’t on his human companions agenda for the day.  You can’t really blame the dog in such circumstances, why wouldn’t it want to join in, parkrun is indeed a lot of fun.  In the circumstances I think it showed considerable restraint returning to its human at all.

Thank you first marshals of the morning.  Loving your work.

Ooh, with the canine interruption, I was a bit far back, sprinting on, oops, that’s up a hill then, quite a steep one, sprinting contraindicated.  Then at the top of the hill, good news, another smiling marshal, this one equipped with a canine assistant, equipped with their own high-vis.

Obviously I had to say hello.  Particularly as I’d been lucky enough to meet this particular hound earlier, being given temporary custody and control whilst the accompanying human was donning high vis.   I can therefore report as absolute fact, that this dog has the softest ears ever.  So greeting were enthusiastically exchanged, and then oops, lost the back of the pack again, so quick sprint(ish) and round towards the lake area.

and oh good, up the hill, and another marshal to stop you veering off too soon.  Another marshal, another hound.  This one also in high-vis.  Hopefully parkrun branded canine hi-vis will follow in due course we agreed.  Me and the human handler, not me and the dog.  Don’t be ridiculous, I can’t talk dog.   Like I said, you have to have an assistant, supervisor, dog, child or prop to marshal on this course.  I’m not sure how this is enforced exactly, but perhaps it’s just a general understanding, with occasional dispensations depending on your particular circumstances?

Had to stop for a bit to say hello, obvs, but strode onwards and upwards to the high point marshal.  He had the good fortune of a tree to shelter under, though you’d be pretty exposed up there in the wind.  What’s this?  No dog?  No child?  Like I said, there must be the occasional dispensation.  Fair dos.

My camera can’t cope with parkrun high-vis so just getting that excuse in while I can, but the thing is, you can’t change history, it’s dangerous to do so.  Tamper at your peril.  That’s what I’ve learned since.

Trit trot off to the right and a lovely expansive view down the hill, towards the huge wrought iron gated entrance at the far end of the park.  I say far end, I suppose strictly speaking that would depend on which end you typically approach and enter Graves park from, but I’m going with the ‘far end’ because this blog post is all about me and how I see everything.  Sorry about that.****  I seemed to have fallen even further back, not as agile as I’d hoped, I hate being injured/ poorly.  Did you know that stopping exercise (e.g. running) for as little as two days can contribute to low mood/ depression.  I can believe it.  What’s more, this is more pronounced in women.  Interesting.

I scampered onwards. Couple of cool things, I saw a bright green parakeet flap across the cricket pitch.  I’ve noticed them before squawking away in the trees down near the bottom entrance of the animal farm, but they do seem to be spreading out more.  I’m quite blasé about parakeets as  I’m from the south where they are naturalised almost to the extent of grey squirrels.  You see great flocks of them at Bushy parkrun in amongst the red deer and unicorns.  I don’t have too much of a problem with that, as those are managed landscapes anyway, but I’m a bit worried if they are making their way up north, they are certainly spectacular, but must negatively impact on native British wildlife for sure.  Oh well.  The other fun thing, was that you can see the faster runners storming round the far side of the cricket pitches in a colourful ribbon of milestone tees, race shirts and bravely close fitting lycra.  You can’t tell this from the photo I concede, but maybe if you squint and use your imagination.

You’ll need to use your imagination a bit more than that.

Can’t change history after all…

Eventually I was at the gate, where the marshal was accompanied by the required pooch.  Not gonna lie, this dog was actually rather cute.  It was just SO EXCITED to see me.  Well, admittedly, to see absolutely anyone passing by, and desperate for a bit of hello.  I’m shallow, so any animate being (or even inanimate object in truth) that shows delight at seeing me will absolutely melt my heart.  It’s horrifying to think how easy I would be to manipulate, just a small crumb of attention and you’ll have my undying loyalty.

So then here I was delayed by exchange of greetings, and also by a park user who I thought for a moment was going to complain about parkrun but actually was just very curious about what it was all about.  So I paused to explain a bit about the event and the ethos and encouraged her to think about maybe joining in herself some time. I’m not sure if she will, but she seemed positive about the whole parkrun vibe, so that’s a win.

Off again, past the cricket storage area.  Nice mural there I think, and a brief flat section alongside an overflowing ditch – that rain has really transformed the landscape, before the next heave ho up hill

It was just before the hill that I started to be lapped by the front runners.  They were a courteous as well as speedy lot.   Some managed to shout out encouragement as the whizzed on by.  I like that you get to see the faster runners on multi-lap courses.   Some of them are amazing to watch.  A few make it look effortless, but some demonstrate that I maybe could try a bit harder myself, as they are giving it everything, whereas I tend to veer on the side of caution keeping much in reserve just in case.  Just in case of what I’m not entirely sure – just in case they make me do another lap say?  Unlikely if I really think about it.

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I did a great job of photographing the litter bin didn’t I?  Good to know I can get something in focus, even if it’s just park furniture.

Onwards and upwards.  At the top of the hill, another cheery marshal but one inexplicably without a dog or other assistant.  Maybe it’s not a requirement for ones situated under trees?  She was in fine form clapping parkrunners with enthusiasm.  Clapping is a tricky one, based on my experience, once you start clapping parkrunners you feel obligated to continue until everyone has passed for fear of demoralising those most in need by stopping just as they come into range.  However, it’s way more strenuous than you might think, you have to pace yourself or it’s an exhausting work out that will leave you unable to move your arms again for the whole of the following week at least. This is tricky, as not all employers are impressed by a self-certified sick note giving cause of incapacity and inability to present at work as clapping related repetitive stress injury.  It’s like breaking a little toe or getting flu, only those of us who’ve experienced the real thing can truly empathise appropriately.  Just saying though, excellent work.  Maybe that’s why no dog come to think of it. Holding a lead whilst trying to clap would be really tough.

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From here, you turn off and run along the pathway with the iron railings, from where you can see and appreciate the highland cattle, you are heading now in the direction of the aptly named cowpoo corner.

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and there is another cheery and cheering marshal, acknowledging the parkrunners as they fly by.

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Looks like she didn’t get the dog memo either.  Maybe it isn’t a thing after all…

Now it’s round the corner and really steep downhill bit.  The ground was quite wet still, and honestly, I’m a bit of a scaredy cat going down such vertiginous slopes, but if you are brave or foolhardy and feel the urge, you can build up an astonishing amount of momentum going down this slope.  Just be careful though, sharp right on lap one at the bottom.  These front runners could go for it though, as lap two they’d be going straight on, and all that forward thrust would help drive them up the steep heart attack hill haul the other side.

 The marshals were working this section as a pair.  I wonder if they ever have had to heave ho anyone out of the water who didn’t either turn or brake in time?  I imagine they must have done.

The front runners rushed onwards, but we at the back, hooked right, and I briefly caught up with the walkers, who were happy in their companionable chat.  There was a cheery mood as we headed round the pond.  Pond?  Lake maybe.  Honestly, I’m not entirely sure when one becomes the other.  Round the water anyway, and past the sodden looking sheep and alpaca.

On guard at the farm entrance, a buggy assisted marshal, all smiles in high vis.

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and back down the other side of the lake or pond or water feature, and you are in time to see the front runners tearing up the hill for impressive sprint finishes.

I know, shite photos.  Think of it as another opportunity to use your imagination, and thank your lucky stars I didn’t tamper with time and bring about catastrophic unimagined consequences as a result.

However, you also get to see this awesome volunteer:

100th volunteer

On the one hundredth occasion of her volunteering.  I know, she doesn’t look old enough does she.  This proves, as if proof were needed, that volunteering keeps you young.  Bravo high-vis hero.  Glad to see you are suitable accessorized for the event too, starting the next generation of parkrunners and run directors off nice and early.  Good job.

Round the corner and up the hill towards the cafe.  It was quite a hive of activity here. There was the buzz of the finish funnel in operation, and parkrunners already home and dry were lining the finish area to cheer other participants in.  All very good natured.

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Good fortune rather than good timing meant I was at this point exactly as 50% of the Tring parkrun contingency arrived there too, so a bit of mutual cheering went on before she finished her final glorious lap and I heave hoed round to do it all again.

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The uphill finish is an acquired taste, and I’m not gonna lie, it is a bit hard to tear yourself away from all the post parkrun partying to do the second lap, but on the plus side, if you are a more sedate parkrunner at least you get to see it all now, because it will pretty much all have vanished by the time we’d come round again

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Ding ding, round two.

Marshals stand down as you pass through as tail walker, and a parkrunner who’d just finished came to join me for a while as was asking about whether or not this parkrun would be ok for walking at parkrun as a family member was thinking of coming but hesitant.  Of course it is!  Walking at parkrun is a thing,  It has been for years.  Although I have to be honest, I have heard some negativity expressed towards walkers, that’s not the norm, and it’s not ok, walkers welcome.  There are C25K groups, a dedicated ‘walking at parkrun’ Facebook page  and you can even put ‘walking at parkrun’ as your club name.  Some parkruns have walker meet up points, which is brilliant, and there seems to be a move to have walking groups for specific groups such as the ‘‘5k Your Way: Move Against Cancer.’ initiative

a community-based initiative to encourage those living with and beyond cancer, families, friends and those working in cancer services to walk, jog, run, cheer or volunteer at a local 5k Your Way parkrun event on the last Saturday of every month

Sheffield Hallam parkrun is one of the 5kyourway event hosts, according to their website, so that’s good.

5kyourway.jpg

Not all parkruns proactively do this, but all are open to walkers.  Walking and talking your way around a parkrun is one of the most therapeutic activities you can do on this planet.  FACT.*****  

So that chit chat slowed me, so I had another sprint to catch up.  Jeffing parkrun after all, huff puff.  Before I knew it, that was the second lap nearly done and dusted, and I gathered up a couple of marshals to walk back in with.  It was most jolly and companionable.

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And then we were back on that there hill.  Oh no!  Have to do a final sprint in.  Well, you don’t actually have to of course, everyone has the right to enjoy parkrun in their own way and all that, but it is a shame not to, when the finish is within your grasp and the hi-vis heroes are greeting you like you are elite athletes smashing world records as you head for the line!

I’m in, I’ve done it!  My junior parkrun marshal buddy was on hand to welcome me through and act as official photographer to document this moment of triumph too.  I thank you.  I think that the fact it took a squillion attempts to work out how to use the camera and to switch off the video feature just made the whole occasion all the more memorable.  Anyway, perfect eyesight and technical prowess are over-rated.   Who needs eyesight good enough to see the mould on the ceiling when they are lying in the bath anyway?  Precisely.

Nailed it!  Thank you timers and scanners for making it so!

There was even someone profering sweets at the finish.  Better yet, I still managed to get one of the purple wrapped one.  After I had face planted into the open tin, and was bolting down the  smooth milk chocolate with runny caramel in the middle and that all-important hazelnut at the centre almost before I’d had time to peel back the brightly-coloured wrapper and foil –  I did think to ask what was the occasion. Not that parkruns generally need any particular occasion to break out bubbles, cake and edible delights, but sometimes some flimsy premise or other will be rustled up.  Today it was the giddy collision of both a fortieth birthday and fiftieth milestone. Hooray, definitely worth celebrating.  Thank you generous fellow parkrunner, and congratulations too.

Next task was to strike the set.  The course needed to be dismantled, but you know what, it’s harder than you think to get those stakes up.  There’s a knack to how you twist and my back was not helping.  Further more, in a break with junior parkrun pack-up protocols, here they keep the tape in place on the poles.  I nearly created future mayhem by trying to take it off.  In my defence, this was less a competency issue than a training one.  I’ve not had the training module on course stand down yet, and understand that this involves a competency based checklist and a powerpoint presentation.  Shows though, using initiative can set a dangerous precedent and you shouldn’t meddle with entities you don’t understand.  Why can people never grasp this.  It’s why the B flick disaster movie is the trope that just keeps on giving.  Anyway, disaster was good naturedly averted thanks to a gentle intervention by a more experienced – and fully trained up – volunteer.  Phew.

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I think that’s a British Military Bootcamp going on in the background, not a parkrun haka, but I wasn’t really concentrating so it’s hard to be sure.

Course collapsed and hi-vis surrendered, job done.  Just a matter of gathering up worldly goods – don’t forget your cymbals, or your bike, or your dog…. mutually congratulatory high fives… and then to the Rose Garden Cafe for results processing (events team) coffee quaffing (everyone else).

One very significant advantage of being among the final finishers in general, or tail walker in particular, is that on the whole by the time you reach any particular parkrun cafe, queues will have dispersed.  On this day, things were even better.  My best friends from Tring parkrun had already purchased a hot beverage just for me!  They had also somehow transformed themselves from flushed and sweaty lycra wearing parkrunners into the sort of mufty that ‘normal’ people wear.  It was almost unsettling.  Lovely sight though.  Thank you!  🙂

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I did offer to pay my way, honestly I did, but gave in a bit too quickly, as I realised I could quite do with saving my pound coins for parking for Graves junior parkrun the next day.  I’ll pay another time.  Probably.  I did appreciate it though.  A lot.  See earlier reference above about howa exceedingly grateful I am for any act of kindness, and today I was overwhelmed by parkrun bounty, what with doggy hellos, chocolate and now a steaming latte. Could a parkrun get any better than this?

We sat and chatted and shared parkrun tales and parkrun love.  They are going to do an Italian parkrun soon. Oh. My. Gawd.  Definitely on my wish list.  But then pretty much all parkruns are.  The parkrun world is our oyster indeed.  Whatever that means, and not if you have a shellfish allergy, then you may want another analogy to draw upon.  Point is, any Saturday with a parkrun is a win.  Every parkrunner knows that.

Coffee drunk, my companions had to drive back to Tring, which is a real, not a made up place by the way.  So I waved goodbye to them, and immediately transferred my allegiance to my namesake who was sat amidst her celebrating friends, armed with a glass of something bubbly and surrounded by gargantuan quantities of cakes, piled high.  You could hardly see her.  I mean she is fairly petite I know but even so!

I had to ask what the sign language is for ‘congratulations’ and it’s very jolly but hard to communicate in words.  I duly congratulated her on her 25 volunteering and pacing triumph, and then one of her party signed rather dryly ‘don’t congratulate her, she’s rubbish really‘ which sounds mean but was actually in context hilarious – but what made it especially brilliant is that even though I can’t sign, the meaning was self-evident.  It’s an expressive and rich way to communicate, nuanced and funny, it must be brilliant to be bilingual with BSL, it is innately expressive it seems.  Anyway, good job parkrun tourists, excellent rallying round our parkrunner of the moment and fine celebrating too.

It was time to disperse – just a quick check with the event team and my query about the photos that exploded my brain as I realised I was peering into the jumbled anomaly that represented the fragile boundary between fact and fiction and alternative truths.  Faced with the reality of this responsibility, I could do little other than stagger away reeling.  I can never unhear those words, or shrug off my responsibilities for being a guardian of the truth and a chronicler of history.  So be it.  It’s taken well over a century to understand this, but understand it I do.

That’s why all these photos get included whether flattering or not, it’s what the event team would want.  It’s unethical to try to edit history remember.

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You’re welcome.

but for my friend there was to be no immediate escape.  My camera has certain desirable attributes, being tough for one, but it can’t really cope with taking photos indoors, so I insisted on an outdoor photoshoot, and some nice posing, because shame not to.  I admit, the power goes to my head, but you’ve got to admit, it’s more memorable to have photos like these than the rigidly posed ones yes?  Or is that just me then.

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Oh.  Ok.  Probably good to know.

And that was parkrun concluded.  It might seem sad, but you have to remember it can all happen again tomorrow at junior parkrun and next week parkrun day will come round again on Saturday. What’s more, next Saturday is International parkun Day, 15th birthday of Bushy parkrun, so bring. it. on!  Imagine that, a world without parkrun?  I shudder at the very thought, and I have no idea what I used to do on a weekend, it’s just a void of tumble weed moving through a vacuum – if that’s possible, which I’m not entirely sure it is…

Thank you lovely parkrunners all, from wherever you hail.  And special thank you to the Graves parkrun team for delivering week in week out, you are a mighty force for good indeed.

Very tempted to get one of these to mark the occasion – 15 birthday limited edition barcode.  Rude not to, given all parkrun has done for me.

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So remember dear reader, however sad the world may make you feel sometimes, you are never more than a few sleeps away from a parkrun.  And parkrun will remind you of all that is good in the world, and all will be well.

If you want to prolong your parkrun fix, you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  And this isn’t necessarily a recommendation, just a statement of fact.  Other blogs are available.

Before you go though, a final important message as we head into October.  Please don’t squish spiders.   Some are (almost) vegetarian too.  Who knew?  Bagheera kiplingi to be specific.  Amazing.  Also, rather cute.  See a spider, see a friend.  That’s why we are all wearing spider brooches now

You’re welcome.

🙂

Have a nice day, step out and be the change you wish to see in the world if you can, but at the very least, be careful how and where you go about flapping your wings.

BeTheChange_Gandhi

*though you could have a stab at an educated guess and say never-in-a-million-years, unless the person photographed becomes either infamous or famous in some way, which would be fab.  Maybe I should put a (c) sign on it just in case.  Hope over experience is clearly the way forward.

**probably not to be fair, but who reads this far down the footnotes to seek clarification on a controversial point?  That’s right, no-one.

***no.  Although the world is definitely not flat, so there may be exceptions.

****not really though.

*****Lucy fact, by which I mean I choose to believe this to be true.

 

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

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.

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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

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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:

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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:

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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….

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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.

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

cake

Pretty cool eh?

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

superheroes

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

Then there was the gathering at the misty start line

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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

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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!  🙂

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

Panic?

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!

 

 

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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?

_100652416_easteraprilfool's

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

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

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

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

finish funnel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tralee parkrun team

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

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

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

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

is there a medal

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

motivational bling

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

before

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

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

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

wild garlic

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

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

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

DSCF1899

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

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

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

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

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

strava route

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

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

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

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

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

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

after

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

Just enjoy it.

I finally think I will!  🙂

 

 

 

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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:

cityscape

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:

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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.*

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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.

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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:

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

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

goats eye view at graves 11 2 18

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

finish funnel raring to go 11 2 18

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

finish funnel slide 11 2 18

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

Hurrah!

So that was last week.  This was this:

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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.

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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!

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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!