Posts Tagged With: Graves parkrun

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.**


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!  🙂


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.

parkrun band.png

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.


*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.


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

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

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

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

The website says succinctly:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volunteers are epic

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

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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.


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!


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

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

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

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

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


Don’t panic!

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

60 theme parkrun

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

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

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

GP6 Geronimo super star

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

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



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

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

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

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

graves control to parkrun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

in reverse theyre off graves parkrun

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

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



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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

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new parkrun double for me… and I’m feeling good! (ish)*

Digested read: we’ve had an icy twixmas parkrun, then new year day double. Hurrah.  Best way to start the year. Shame some people have picked up a mysterious 24 hour bug, but hey ho, job done. Go us!  Happy New Year everyone.  Also, let Smiletastic commence. Isn’t parkrun grand?  Love parkrun.  🙂

*Strictly speaking, I was feeling a bit rough.  But that messes with both the scanning and the opportunity to link to a fine Nina Simone power ballad, so forgive the artistic licence with my edit.  Gotta love Nina


Is it true you are supposed to start the New Year as you mean to go on?  If so, I don’t know whether I have passed or failed in that respect.  I did make it to a parkrun, twice in fact (yay) but I also felt distinctly queasy, sleep deprived and as a consequence loped round the two different courses lard-arsed, and with little vestige of either personal propulsion or personal dignity.  On the plus side, awesome crowd, parkrun buddies old and new, with added Smiletastic Dragonfly vigour for good measure.  Maybe a case of good in parts.

Last time I posted about parkrun it was to reveal all about my ill-judged,  type 2 fun run out with Sophie at Concord on Christmas Day.  By mutual consent, this romp round marked both the beginning and end of our running partnership.  It’s OK, because she has decided she want’s to focus on her skiing – she thinks the photo ops with a backdrop of snow will be more flattering, and likewise I think I’ll have more flattering running photos too, without wrestling with a unicorn the whole way round.  Running with dignity – that would be a great way to start the new year would it not.

It sure as heck wasn’t how I ended it though.  Since Christmas,we’ve had our ‘twixmas run at Sheffield Hallam.  That was something of an experience.  Other parkruns local to Sheffield fell like flies, cancelled due to ice and slidy paths. Hallam gamely decided to brave it, but you know that it’s not going to be a PB run when you see the run director heading out with a shovel at the start don’t you?  I promise you, he wasn’t just heading out for a wild-camping inspired dump.  I know this, because I saw him ice breaking on Rustlings Road,  above and beyond my friend.  Respect to you.

man with shovel

It was something of a slide about,though those in the front of the line up seemed as fearless as ever…

how it started

but I like to think the mud snorkeling and iced pavements added a certain frissance to the occasion.  We had our very own arctic enemas and mud crawls. Who needs tough mudder anyway?

Personally, I didn’t mind at all having to take it really slowly, but maybe with hindsight I’d have bottled it.  You know it’s bad when dogs are being carried round rather than chased after by breathless runners.  Unless our resident photographer inadvertently snapped a 101 Dalmatians inspired dog-knapper at the very moment of the dogduction, must check Sheffield animals lost and found to clarify.

precious cargo

Weirdly, it’s the rise in temperature that made the compressed ice especially treacherous, not so much slush, as a perfect skidway with meltwater pooling on top of the ice. Still, all’s well that ends well.  They counted everyone in, and they counted everyone back, sighs of relief all round. What was not so grand, was discovering that apparently it isn’t running with a unicorn that makes me appear undignified in my gait.  It is the actual act of ‘running’.  The camera never lies, although it does have a very dry sense of humour it seems…

I have to accept I’m not a natural at this.  I don’t know why I keep on going really.  Hope over experience perhaps, or maybe the prospect of post-parkrun brunch?  Probably brunch.

Still, love parkrun. The more parkruns the better.  Hence, given that, as parkrun aficionados all over the world know:

New Year’s Day is the one day of the year where it is possible to walk, jog, run or volunteer at two parkruns on the same day! What better way to start 2018

I remain conscientious about the concept and commitment to parkrun if not always keen on the actual running component of the enterprise.  New Year’s Day promised the possibility of a parkrun double, and as a parkrun partaker, that was too good a chance to miss.  I couldn’t get to parkrun last year, but achieved the parkrun double the year before going to Nostell Priory and Pontefract parkruns and that was fab.  This year, a host of us were planning to go, but inevitably it got a bit complicated, there were those with injuries or hosting obligations on New Year’s Eve that might prove incompatible with undertaking a parkrun shuffle. Then, an added consideration for me at least, was feeling torn between my conflicting desires on the one hand to be constant to my regular parkrun partners and brunching buddies or on the other to take flight and throw my lot in with my new Smiletastic compatriots in our newly formed Dragonfly team. Dropping my longstanding, loyal and unswerving running companions as my head was turned by short-lived glory that might be achieved through association with such swarming irridescent beauties.  Tough call.  Seductive, aren’t they?  You’ve got to admit you’d have your head turned too, surely… and I’m way more suggestible and shallow than you probably are with your principles, stoicism, and fine running technique. Plus, well, it’s Smiletastic, that’s an annual game changer.  All previous alliances, allegiances and agreements are off.  It’s another new dawn, you exist for your team and they for you.  One for all and all for one, and everyone for post run coffee and cake (other foods and beverages are available).

For those of you not in the know, firstly, where have you been?  Secondly, in brief, Smiletastic is an annual team challenge for members of the Smiley Paces.  I did it a couple of years ago, and participation in that helped me to put in the necessary training which got me round the Sheffield Half, in a fashion.  It also was fairly traumatic, it’s a big responsibility pledging runs and knowing if you fail to deliver, you will bring your team down with you!  STRESS!  As with all running related stresses, after the event, trauma morphs almost seamlessly into nostalgia.  That was sooooooooooo fun and not at all pressurised and stress inducing!  No wonder we all worship Smiley Elder for bringing Smiletastic into being.  After a year off when I was in Cambodia, this year when Smiletastic came round it was Bring. It. On!

Better yet. I was in team dragonfly.  Hurrah.  Great, we would be mutually supportive we quickly agreed. This would be fun and about team motivation, and we wouldn’t let it get stressful and none of us were going to be competitive about it.  … mind you, doesn’t hurt to get in the mood, maybe we could pitch for some fun ‘getting in the Smiletastic spirit’ team points early on using the old tea-cosy on the head ruse, that might work?  Failing that the dragonfly trail find has to be a win right?  Loving your work fell flying smiley.

Then there is always the fancy dress dimension to be considered, but no spoilers regarding that today.  Patience dear reader, patience, that time will come…

The Smiletastic rules pronounced that individual points would be available to those who rock up at parkrun. Hurrah. That’s me in, twice, it being a New Year’s Day double there for the taking. Then, we see that if we can get more than 50% of our 13 strong team along to a timed run (such as parkrun) then there are more points to be had.  Well.  I mean, no pressure, but ‘just out of interest, who’s thinking of rocking up on New Year’s Day’.  Our Facebook exchanges were hilarious.  Artistry of expression, as we all tried soooooooooooo very hard to be mutually respectful of each others circumstances and decisions whilst desperately, desperately trying not to reveal that every one of us was furtively counting up the takers to date on our fingers to see if it might be doable.   Such was the swell of enthusiasm for the endeavour some of the ‘sorry, but categorically can’t make it‘ dragonflies were soon flitting back with a ‘but I have terrible fear of missing out, so maybe…‘. Anyway, dear reader, the upshot was, come New Year’s Day, we were all on the cusp of witnessing a miracle akin to that of dragonfly larvae emerging en masse from a pond and revealing their wings, were we to witness a similar magnificent display of dragonflies altogether for the New Year’s Day parkrun Double?



It nearly didn’t happen though. I was out on new year’s eve, by no means a given for me.  My body is generally speaking a temple, albeit one for people who worship somewhat spherically inclined deities that have recently been dragged backwards through a hedge.  Even so, I can tell within a microgram when I have reached capacity for alcohol and need to cease drinking and withdraw from social situations.  On reaching this point about 11.30, I was ready to sneak away from the festivities but was caught in the act, persuaded to stay on, toast in the new year, less sleep, more alcohol, face-plant into a trifle (that was well worth staying up for) and to see the new year in with a ferocious display of fireworks.  When one went off a bit too close for comfort I learned about myself that in adversity I will try to save myself before others.  Oh dear.  I may be a horrible human being, but at least I am self-aware…  Anyway, it was a lovely new year’s eve celebration with fine hosts and fabulous folk all around, but it was not compatible with idealised double parkrun preparations.  I knew I’d be dehydrated, so drank loads before I went to bed, and then had to get up loads in the night so I wondered why I’d bothered to go to bed at all.

Sleep deprived, managing somehow to sport simultaneously an uncomfortably full bladder and a raging thirst, I staggered down to the rendezvous point where a group of us had pledged to meet and go together to the first parkrun of the day.  As I dragged my weary carcass down the empty streets, I saw a couple of people, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, cheerily jogging along. ‘What are they doing, are they crazy?’ I thought, a bit too loudly for comfort – where did that headache come from, who is it who’s shouting?  Before it occurred to me that in a way I was about to do the same, but with considerably less bounce, well boob bounce possibly, but spiritual bounce not so much.  It is an interesting (to me anyway, you can be bored if you like) concept, that parkrun has become so much a habit, that I actually no longer associate it with running at all.  It is just that when parkrunday comes around, I go and do it.  No thinking, no negotiation, it is just a case of ‘make it so’.  This is the great glory of parkrun  – and indeed Smiletastic, on days when I wouldn’t normally entertain the idea of running anywhere or for any distance at all I find I’m almost doing so by accident.  It is a wonderful thing.  Shame that I’d obviously eaten something that disagreed with me yesterday, no other explanation for my constantly shifting consciousness. Thank goodness I wasn’t doing the driving!

Astonishingly, four of us did make the rendezvous as planned!  We piled into the car, and off we went to Graves.  We expected to find the place heaving, but it seems on New Year’s Day parkrunners work on just-in-time principles.  Apart from the core team of hi-viz heroes who were out setting up the course whilst revelers from the night before were probably still making their way home.  Kudos to you guys, your efforts were and are appreciated.  🙂  (Nothing like an emoticon to make someone feel valued apparently, so that’s good).

NYD graves team

We sorted parking, and then some opted to sit in the car, I went in search of a loo.  Disaster, they were shut.  It would probably be unseemly to report that there was a fair exodus of wandering runners who all seemingly had dropped something in the bushes just before the run, and that something was possibly their pants.  Don’t know why, desperate times call for desperate measures though.

Soon, there was quite a gang assembled.  I found that, much like when I tried to save myself when the rogue firework went off, I was quite happy to ditch my loyal parkrunning buddies and lift providers at the first sniff of a dragonfly.  Found one, found more.  Then there was frenetic counting, would we make the 50% requirement.  … not that we cared, because it was all fun, but ooooh, so teasingly close.  We half-heartedly greeted others whilst distracted by our search for insect companions.  We achieved one selfie, of the dragonfly team, only one of the people within it isn’t, no matter, we can always photoshop on the missing fellow dragonflies later on, so that’s fine.

graves parkrun dragonflies

Then there was a call to gather and the Run Director’s briefing.

graves RD song line briefing

Impressively, the poet laureate for Graves had composed something for just this occasion.  You really should read the Graves parkrun report of the morning, because it contains not only pictures AND the note that this was a record-breaking start to the year with an attendance of 374 parkrun/jog/walkers AND an original poem to mark the occasion of the New Year but also the fabulous statistical insight that ‘of those taking part at Graves this morning, 131 then headed to Poolsbrook and a further 50 to Hillsborough’.  Hurrah, I do like a good parkrun stat.  I wonder how they number crunched that one.

These were pleasures yet to come.  I just know that when the shout went off to start, we went off.  It was a bit of a slow shuffle to be fair, a fact for which I was enormously grateful.  I pootled round.  Graves parkrun is actually my favourite of the Sheffield courses, because of the varied terrain, the scenic nature, the farm animals, but today it was a slog. Who lengthened the hill?  Even so, there were some – indeed many – highlights en route.  Specifically:

  • WAtching regal smiley pause to take a photo of the donkey on lap one and a goat on lap two, because if it isn’t instagrammed it never happened, apparently. That’s what she said, I still think she was angling for a lift from the donkey when I rumbled her, but I suppose we’ll never know now.
  • Spotting some fabulous junior parkrunners who instead of running were donned in over-sized hi-viz with matching over-sized smiles and proffering a succession of high fives. That was my favourite bit
  • REalising at some point that we had made the count re dragonflies
  • Seeing so many great people out and about, parkrun is a huge community of joy, because the double parkrun options locally are a bit limited, it seemed everyone had congregated at Graves today.  ’twas truly a wondrous sight to behold.
  • Finishing, without actually asphyxiating on the way round
  • Realising, once again, that you always have a parkrun within you somewhere, even if in your heart you’d rather be under the duvet still

On completion, people vanished pretty rapidly. Some speedy runners were aiming to do their double at 10.00 a.m. at Hillsborough – ambitious!  They had an express checkout for barcode scanning. No really, they did!  We more leisurely doublers, were headed to Poolsbrook.

Thank you fine people of Graves parkrun for your hospitality, your poetry and your fine organisation and winning smiles and ways as always.

Farewells were said, and off we went again. Not exactly in convoy. As in, not in convoy at all, it was a bit of a rural magical mystery tour to get to Poolsbrook parkrun I was just passively parasitic, I left it to other with GPS and initiative to get us there.  I only pitched in when I saw the sign for the country park, which I concede was probably a bit of a case of ‘too little too late‘ not sure they’ll buy ‘it’s the thought that counts’.

As we neared the entrance, I realised for the first time that Pools Brook is actually two words not one. Didn’t notice that when I was last here for the inaugural Poolsbrook parkrun (which was good actually, though now I understand new events try to discourage people from attending inaugurals so they have a chance to bed in first. Good point, well made.  Respect that people.)

pools brook country park

The place was heaving, and cars were being turned back from the park, so we ducked into a sort of industrial park alongside where there was space to park on the side roads.  It was freezing, and we were still quite early.  We sat for a bit, until i saw a carload of dragonflies rock up, and that, and my need for a precautionary pee, were enough for me to head up to the start.  As at Graves parkrun, the core team had been hard at work early on to make the magic happen at 10.30.  Thanks everyone 🙂  (See what I did again there with that smiley emoticon – they’ll be beside themselves with thrilledness!).

There were lots more new and familiar faces.  An enormous queue for the loos, and – a considerable boon – a sort of cafe area where an urn and biscuits was set up for post-run refreshments in return for donations. Also, a working radiator and a store cupboard where you could leave your bags. All extremely well organised, although I was slightly worried that the drop in temperature as we entered the store-room was indicative of entering some one-way anomaly into a strange, sub-zero parallel universe, but I made it out OK.  After a bit, it was announced the run start would be delayed by about 15 minutes, presumably to accommodate people who were having to park up further away and walk in.  Never ones to waste an opportunity, we put some serious work into getting into the dragonfly team spirit.  I think we did ok.  See how we’ve near enough perfected those double wings there.  I know, impressive!  I’ve only just realised that one of our number somehow lost a hand in the melee.  It was so cold I don’t think she noticed, as she never mentioned it at the time. Oh well, it was all for a good cause.

poolsbrook dragonfly

Eventually we had to venture outside, and I remembered a bit belatedly the start was slightly further away from the finish so we needed to allow time to get there. Still, plenty of time for another group dragonfly shot. We are getting better at this.   Still a learning curve, but we’ll get there…

poolsbrook dragonflies

A quick trot down to the start. Brrrrr.  Best and only option was to dive into the midst of the throng and, penguin-like, hope to benefit from the heat of huddling up with others. It’s lucky that all parkrunners are lovely and mostly accepting of such behaviours.

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We were a fair old gang!  A record Poolsbrook parkrun turnout, they put a Facebook post up declaring ‘WOW! A massive new attendance record with 473 finishers!! Last year we ‘only’ had 289!’  It felt big!  I couldn’t hear much of the briefing, but got the general idea. Milestones, thank the volunteers.  Three laps, counting to three is harder than you think by the way. They do put up kilometer markers, but that’s only helpful once you get the hang of them, to begin with they felt a bit random as I slowly registered I can’t possibly have done 4km already, I’m still on my first lap etc.  We were quite a sight though, storming round, and round, and round again…

GP poolsbrook parkrun dash

Hard to imagine, but I think I was even slower for this than at Graves, it was flat but quite congested, and frankly I just wanted it to end. It was a jolly crowd on the whole.  I did regret not hearing the end of the conversation between two runners where one said ‘so basically the kids row deteriorated into an international incident‘ and the other said ‘what did you do?’ and the first said ‘left them to it.’  I have a feeling that wasn’t the expected response.  I think it probably didn’t end there….  The marshals were all unfailingly lovely, I did try to splutter out thanks to each and everyone. I’ve since though read about another parkrunner at a different run (can’t remember where though, and it might have been on Christmas day now I come to think of it) who ran the whole parkrun with a box of chocolates, which he handed out to each and every marshal on the way round. That’s impressive!  Maybe next year, if I’m not having to use my hands to keep my unicorn under control.   I wasn’t so cheery about my proximity to the pimped up buggy that blared tinny tunes out throughout.  Kylie should be so lucky indeed, I didn’t feel it myself.  I gritted my teeth, reminding myself of the need to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way, whilst lamenting my inability to outrun this assault on my senses…

Round and round the lake I ran.  It was quite social, or potentially so, my ability to run and talk was pretty much eroded.  I was relieved when I knew I could finally take the right hand path up the finish funnel.  Yay!  It wasn’t quite as empty as this as I approached it, but it was just as much a vision of loveliness as this early morning photo suggests!

poolsbrook finish

A bit of a queue for scanning, but that was fine, as an opportunity to mill and mingle. Then into the coffee area where a donation secured coffee and a choice of biscuits or mince pies.  Loads on offer, very impressive.  I wasn’t sure if dragonflies eat, so I checked.  Not only are the nymphs impressive predators within a pond (I knew that already) but so are the adults.  Veracious carnivores they will happily eat other winged insects according to the British Dragonfly Society.  This meant we could still tap our inner dragonflies and eat with a clear conscience, but we’d have to make some adjustment in dietary expectations to take account of veganuary, obviously.  That’s OK, we weren’t real dragonflies, only channeling them.  In case you weren’t sure….  By the way, veganuary seems particularly high profile this year – even got an article about going vegan for runners in Runners World this week.  It’s increasingly becoming ‘a thing’.

Refreshments quaffed, we were homeward bound. Some had ambitious plans for further activity.  Personally I favoured a power nap – once I’d safely submitted my ‘tell Sue’ Smiletastic forms and could sleep easy in my bed.  Well, had to be done…

Poolsbrook parkrun not only delivered up a fine event and coped with the unexpected influx of tourists from near and far, they also wrote an event report with fine pictures and stats. Read it here and be amazed, Poolsbrook parkrun news – records smashed!.  Thank you fine people of Poolsbrook, both for the warmth of your welcome and polish of your logistics.

Just for the record, there were a fair few parkrun people on the move this morning.  I have no idea how, but someone, somewhere, created this fabulous offering showing parkrunners migration paths across East Derbyshire on New Year’s Day.  I know!  You didn’t know you’d be interested in a pictorial representation of statistical information, but suddenly you are.  It’s a splendid thing.  Now if only someone could do that for South Yorkshire as well, just imagine the joy they would bring…

east midlands parkrun double migrations

Also, according to the parkrun UK Facebook page:

18,393 parkrunners completed a New Year’s Day double by walking, jogging or running around two UK parkrun events on 1 January 2018…

That’s 33% of all those who completed a UK parkrun on the day!

At what point do we become an official movement I wonder.  I mean movement is integral to the initiative is it not, maybe we are already?

I think in the circumstances, the final word should go to our founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, who did us a 2017 review which you can read here.  But you know what, he also sent my mum a Christmas card to acknowledge her sterling support of Bushy parkrunners week in week out, and that’s even more exciting.  To be fair, it was another parkrunner who set that particular train in motion, but to a fine end.  Love parkrun, not just because of Mr S-H, but all the other lovely parkrunners who sent personal messages with their own parkrun stories!  Thank you all.

So that’s it.  New year’s day double done.  Thank you everyone, everywhere, who helped make it so!

Including my mum, that’s Elisabeth with an ‘s’ by the way – who was out cheering at Bushy parkrun on New Year’s Day too!

mum new years day


Happy parkrunning into 2018.  It will bring new runs, and new adventures aplenty I’m sure.  Hurrah!  Go us. Just #dfyb.

Happy new Year y’all!

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

The Grave Business of Returning to Running

Me and running?  It’s complicated.

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

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

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

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

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

dont you just love it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

guard of honour at the finish line

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

grave business of running

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

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

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

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

love parkrun

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

lily the wonderdog

Sweet dreams y’all.

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

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

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

****yep, that was too.

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

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

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

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

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

accessible parkrun

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

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

fourth birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little stoke playground charges

Steve Green Genius

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

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

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

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

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

KT fancy dress arrivals

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

KT assembly and jelly beans with Dr Smiley

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

bananas are great for runners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KT The Hat

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

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

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

GP off

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

KT on the run with roger

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

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

KT barcode on the run

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

KT on the run

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

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

KT gladiators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rose gardne cafe

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

KT the prize giving

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

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

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

KT go lily

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

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


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

everyones a winner

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

KT new routes

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

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

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

always free

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

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

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

The Grave business of Running in the Rain

running in rain

Only 50%?  We were robbed, we had to practically swim round parkrun today!  I think the phrase ‘inclement weather’ doesn’t entirely cover it.  The elements for this Saturday morning were not benign, and I got a good deal wetter than I’d have liked.

So, what happened today was, a new destination for Smileys on Tour. Continuing in our brilliant plan to gain the maximum score for our Fighting Feathers Smiletastic Team (the challenge within our running club for different teams to get points for various running goals from January – March) this morning we were once again parkrun tourists, and today it was Destination Graves.

I’ve done Graves Parkrun before, it is one of my favourites, so I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to go back there.  There is a killer hill, but also some fairly impressive compensatory benefits such as you get to run past highland coos, and it is a noticeably friendly (and funny) team which run it.  (Funny ha ha as opposed to funny peculiar, but to be fair I dare say both dimensions are true now I come to think about it.)  They have a particularly lively, encouraging and inclusive Graves parkrun Facebook page, from which I appropriated the opening image for this post, always a good sign.  As if those weren’t delights enough, on a good day, you will also get to see Lily the whippet, regular readers will know her as she has appeared in this blog before, in Halloween garb, and on an outing for Christmas Day.  I do love a good Lily The Whippet sighting on a parkrun.

I do not however like rain.  It was truly dismal today, however, my commitment to the team, or at least my fear of being the weakest link by which the whole team breaks, meant I did still head out today.  I was not impressed.  This is the view as I sat in the car, trying to muster the courage to step outside, to join up with Cheetah buddy, who was doing the actual driving bit to take us en masse over to Graves.  Would you have wanted to venture out… truthfully now?


I did get out, albeit somewhat hurrumphily, and joined Cheetah buddy and another fellow Smiley and we headed off in her car, which immediately steamed up as the rain pelted down on the windscreen.  We scooped up one other Smiley on the way. She is in a rival team (The Old Birds) but we don’t mind giving her a lift as frankly, judging by their performance to date they are no threat to we Fighting Feathers.  We could afford to be magnanimous in facilitating her gaining a bonus point through completing a timed run too.   Also, she was originally going to cycle anyway, so I suppose we have to concede sharing transport was not a deciding factor in getting her there… though I maintain it would have been today, given the ceaseless rain.

We were a bit on the tight side for time, but made it to the carpark in gloomy skies.  There was a huge (well, longer than expected) queue of about five people waiting in line to pay for parking.  I gather that a particularly zealous carparking official was out and about at 9.30 a.m., slapping tickets on cars last Saturday, so only the swiftest of runners would have made it round and out before being got. To be fair, it is only 40p per hour, so hardly a bank-breaking sum to fork out.  I paid 80p, to factor in my lard-arse running speeds.  Better safe than sorry. Getting a parking ticket was way harder than you might imagine, the machine kept spitting out my proffered coins, eventually another nice parkrunner gave me some change in a compassionate act, possibly partly prompted by frustration at how long it was taking me to fathom out how to get the darned thing to work.  I was all flustered and embarrassed (my perpetual state today) so didn’t really thank him properly – sorry about that….  Thanks, if you are reading, it was appreciated!  I even took a picture of the queue to convey atmosphere, and it was so darned dark, my flash went off, and it still looks like the middle of the night.  My, it can be grim up north at times, I will accept the nesh label, it wasn’t the best of days to be out and about at 9.00 a.m. on a Saturday morning.  It wasn’t only the people present feeling this.  As I was waiting to pay, I saw a rather nice fawn coloured dog (that looked very like Lewis if you are a regular reader) so possibly a labradoodle, anyway, he was trotting alongside his owner, but then espied someone in a 4 by 4 getting out of their vehicle.  He immediately gambolled over, and after a show of friendly greeting, made a super impressive attempt to climb in the car. It was quite funny to watch, his human companion had to exert considerable powers of pleading and shouting to entice him away.  You can’t blame the dog to be honest, it was really grim, and that car interior looked spacious and warm – possibly even seat heating available for a dog to curl up and use…


Ticket duly paid and displayed, we mustered towards the start.  Many puddles were in evidence, and there was a thick mist smothering the landscape.  It was pretty atmospheric … in a graveyard scene in a horror film sort of way, but there were still plenty of game parkrunners in evidence.  You just can’t keep a good (or even mediocre in my case) parkrunner down!

For those who like the Graves parkrun course outline official blah de blah, it reads as follows:

A 2 lap course which starts in the middle of the path that connects the car park (beside the animal farm, off Hemsworth Road) to the Rose Garden Café. From the start run down to the Rose Garden cafe, then turn down towards the Lakes. Run between the 2 lakes and turn right along the far side of the west lake. The route then tracks across open park to the Meadowhead entrance. It turns left around the back of the house in the park. It follows the south park perimeter track, and turns up towards the Manor house (Norten Hall) – watch out for the Highland Cattle! A rough track then takes you back down to the lakes. Follow the nearside of the east lake towards the animal farm. Take the track up through the farm, and back towards the start.

Personally, I never bother with noting the course route, I just follow blindly and hope it is indeed a parkrunner ahead of me and not someone running an ultra-marathon instead.  Perhaps unusually, the Run Director’s briefing didn’t particularly give an outline of the course today, beyond what I think it is fair to call a ‘tongue in cheek’ reference of  ‘welcome to the flattest parkrun available – bag that PB‘ or something along those lines.   (See note above about killer hill, methinks he was being somewhat ironic.)  The briefing though, despite the rain, was most cheery, and definitely the best one I’ve been to.  Funny and informative, and covering a lot of potentially dull stuff with wit and clarity that was a real treat.

So I learned a lot from the Run Briefing.  It was delivered with a rousing, upbeat, banter, culminating with a whoop and a cheer, as well as applause for the volunteers that would put the congregation of a Billy Graham rally to shame!  Rules were clarified so, for example, we learned that although the rules state ‘only one dog’ for parkrun, it doesn’t only mean one dog for the entire event, only one per person, so that was handy to know.  I actually think that even if the rule was only one canine for each parkrun caper it would have gone to Lily without too much of a dogfight, but I was glad we didn’t have to put this to the test.   The ‘being within reach’ of an adult if under 11 rule was also re-stated (seems to bother a lot of people this one, and I don’t know why, doesn’t seem so unreasonable to me), but with the advisory point that you could make a point of selecting an adult with an especially long reach – say Mr Tickle, presumably… I didn’t spot Mr Tickle in evidence, but he might just be a very fast runner and/or it was the first time this possibility had been pointed out to me, so maybe no-one else had thought to invite him along previously.  Worth keeping an eye out for next week.  He would be easy to spot because of his distinctive blue bowler hat.


There was the bit about respecting the park, again the vaguery of this rule was addressed head on.  We were explicitly told this meant no duck-kicking and no tree felling either.  Presumably Amey are not a company that sponsors parkrun, as they (through a contract with Sheffield City Council) have been doing a great deal of gratuitous, harmful and unnecessary tree-felling on the streets of Sheffield of late.  (If you want to help support the group action to Save Sheffield’s Trees this, you could look at the link).  Similarly the one about ‘respecting other users’ means no shoving, and ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way’ has the tacit tag line – ‘however bizarre or unexpected that might be’.  I do like this non-judgemental and inclusive approach.  It is what makes parkrun great, and allows for fancy dress options too.  What’s not to like?  There was an attempt to flush out any anniversary runners, but they were lying low, there were none in evidence.  There was however, a huge welcome to any parkrun first timers with a wry observation that ‘they’d picked the weather for it‘.  Well I guess any first timers would have had a memorable run, if not exactly a baptism of fire, more trial by water to be honest. A 26 minute pacer outed themselves.  That’s an impressive time, I didn’t see them again, lost in the mists very soon after take off…

parkrun rules november 2015

The ‘have fun directive’ was especially mentioned, and runners were warmly encouraged to vocally acknowledge volunteers on the run round and most especially as you passed the finish funnel at the half way point.  It was all very joyful.  Run briefing over, we all traipsed back up the path to the start.  It seems the Run Director had used a different bench than usual to stand on to give his briefing.  Sort of epitomises just what an anarchic spirit he was.  I felt a lot jollier than I had before as I made my way through the crowds to the rear of the gathered crowds at the start.

In the gaggle at the start we spotted our Clucky Duck spy all over again.  In fact, of the five Smiletastic teams, at least three were represented (- correction, on checking the results I think all five had someone there!).  The Duck spy pointed out our mutual presence sort of cancelled each other out (if every team gets a point for having a person or people at this particular parkrun, then there isn’t any real benefit in anyone doing it, we might as well not have run at all).  Hah, as if we’d fall for that thinly disguised attempt to keep us all having a lie in next week whilst the Clucky Ducks are out all over South Yorkshire bagging parkruns!  Nice try.  Dastardly Duck…  Lucky we had already been warned about the no duck-kicking rule, also, I do have a soft spot for ducks, so important to let things go.

dastardly duck

So soon enough we were sploshing off.  It was exceedingly wet.  I didn’t mind it as much as I thought.  It was actually a relief to get going as it was pretty cold, you head off straight down a hill, it’s a tarmac path, but there were impressive lake-like puddles everywhere.  I have a feeling last time I went to Graves it was for a New Year’s Day run where I turned up festooned in fairy lights, only to find they’d had to cancel because of ice.  We (I was their with Cheetah Buddy and her Sprinting Spouse) ended up doing a ‘Freedom Run’ which was completely terrifying.  The paths weren’t just an ice rink, but a vertiginous one. Seeing all that running and standing water today, I’m not surprised they do have to cancel from time to time… though not today, hurrah!

I like the route, even in the rain and fog-like visibility, it’s a gorgeous location, with lots to gaze at. It is a two-lap course, so that means sometimes you can see the line of runners spreading out in front of you (unless you are very fast, in which case I suppose they are all running in your wake).  Each lap is a sort of figure of eight, so you also get runners coming towards you at one point, which is slightly disorientating, but fun.    Last time I was there, there was one off-roady bit, with a very muddy path, but this has now been tarmaced over, so all the surfaces were good – I ran in trail shoes, but I think road shoes would be OK too for the most part.  The volunteers on the way round were armed with beaming smiles, huge umbrellas and cheery responses each time  I called out ‘thank you Marshal‘ as I passed.  At least one said every time ‘It’s my pleasure‘ which was a very nice sentiment for her to express, but I think she may have been telling a bit of a white lie to be polite if I’m honest with you.  It must have been freezing standing there in the pouring rain, you can clap all you like, but it will only keep you warm up to a point!

The absolutely best bit of marshalling though, was most definitely when you go past the half way point (which is also the start and finish).  The route was lined on either side with hi-viz coated volunteers cheering and clapping like you were at the finish of the London Marathon or something.  The BEST BIT was Man With Triangle.  A volunteering role I have not previously encountered – this is the most glorious aspect of parkrun tourism, you learn new things and new ways of doing things!  He furiously bashed his triangle with passion and aplomb as I ran by and it was BRILLIANT.  I did look for triangle man at the end, as I wanted to photograph him, but he had vanished into the mist.  I think no parkrun in future should ever take place without this function having been allocated.  It was really fun!  On an aside, I wonder if there are regular marshals out there who are called Marshal?  There must be.  Would/does it make them jump with paranoia that you know their name if you trot out the ‘thank you marshal‘ phrase as you puff past?  Answers in the comments option below please.  So I didn’t get him, but I did get some of the others, albeit afterwards (one by borrowing from aforementioned Graves parkrun Facebook page – hope I’m forgiven for that):

In absolute terms, my running efforts were thwarted by adversity today.  I’m pretty feeble at the best of times, but events conspired against me to make things even worse than usual.  Because of the rain, on the second lap my shoelaces came undone. I sort of assumed this was because I’d not tied them securely enough, but I can’t very easily because the darned laces are too short for a double bow – there’s not much lace left as I use those little extra holes at the back to secure the shoe at my heel.  In stopping to tie my laces, my bar code band (which has never ever done this before) just slipped off my hand. The rain had drenched me and it, so it was all incredibly well lubricated.  Mercifully a passing runner spotted this and called out to me that I’d dropped it, so although I had to pause it to pick it up, I didn’t fall foul of the ‘No barcode, No time, No exceptions’ rule.  I could have perhaps recovered from this, but then my darned shoelaces came undone again!  Aaargh, they were so wet they wouldn’t stay done up. I was most displeased.  That’s bad though, three complete stops on the way round, I can be embarrassingly slow, but I’m not normally actually stationary at parkrun, I sort of get carried round by the crowd.

The hill wasn’t as bad as I remembered.  And it was lovely to pass sheep, the highland cows, a couple of llamas, and even some donkeys, deer and a pig (that took one look at the outside world, and stayed very much inside).  At the end of the run I went back to snap some shots of the animals nearest to the car park.  They looked cheery enough despite being as comprehensively drenched as we runners that had passed them.  I wonder what they make of us. Whether we are an unwelcome intrusion, or enrichment that livened up an otherwise dull day?  I suppose they must feel like those people who have houses on the route of the Tour de France, pros and cons, depending on how you feel about cycling … or in this case running.  They didn’t look displeased, not to me.

With all the stops, and puddles, and rain, my enthusiasm was waning a bit.  The marshals were fantastic in cheering us round.  I was so cold my nose was running, and I couldn’t honestly tell if it was snot tracing down my face or rivulets of rain, frankly, on reaching the finish I was so relieved I was past caring!  A fellow runner did an amazing sprint finish and overtook me flying by, very impressive turn of speed.   The finish funnel marshals though were still cheering, and as one of the late finishers there was no hanging about in my processing.  It was as efficient as we might wish a conveyor belt at a slaughter house to be. I was processed and spat out in seconds.  Pleasingly, the scanner I happened upon turned out to be one of our own.   Not only a fellow Smiley Paces comrade, but better yet, a Fighting Feather too!  It’s a small world.  She is saving herself for Dewsbury 10k tomorrow.  We have to hope the weather is better for her then than it was out and about today.  Also that her poorly shin is not so very poorly any more, or she will have to hop the whole thing, and there are no bonus points available for that approach, so hardly worth the effort.

As I turned to leave, the runner who’d overtaken me at the finish came up to tell me she’d been using me as a person to follow all the way round, and hoped I didn’t mind that she’d gone shooting past me right at the end. Honestly, not one iota, it happens to me a lot, and occasionally I’ve passed others too, so it’s totally fine, we all participate in our own way.  My view is that if a runner has some extra fuel in the engine at the finish then go for it should be their mantra. Anyway, truthfully I felt a little quiver of pride, legitimately I feel. After all, if what she said was true, and I ‘kept her going’ because she was focused on me, then it’s sort of true that I am therefore ‘an inspiration to other runners’ it may be a technical stretch, but I’ll happily claim that as my own. Yay, get me, and my inspirational running techniques! It was all very mutually supportive and lovely!  I love other runners, I really haven’t had negative experiences with parkrun at all.  It’s a wonderful phenomenon.  We all love each other – especially when it’s all over…

I was last of our car load to make it to the finish.  I then dawdled further as wanted to sneak some animal shots, and ended up cheering on some of the runners who were still finishing off and looking a bit defeated by the final heave ho up hill to the car park to be honest.  At least one was muttering ‘first and only time I’m doing this‘, I’m sure at the finish though she’d be doing the classic retrospective re-write ‘that was great, I’m back next week‘ routine, we’ve all been there I think…  I gave a wave and final thanks to the marshals as I left them, they were still standing in the rain, resolutely there until the last person was home.  Very impressive work by all the volunteers today, I salute you, and really, thanks!

So back into the car, and off in pursuit of breakfast.  (There is a cafe there for future reference, but we had our eyes on an alternative venue to try).  With the change in our usual parkrun venue, there was also a change in eatery options.  We ended up at the Amici and Bici  I quite liked it.  It’s bike-themed and atmospheric, with bunting left over from when Sheffield hosted a stage of the Tour de France (it’s very fine bunting, so worth keeping).   We weren’t over confident about the pink water and tulip combo.  You will have to judge for yourself…  It was cold in there though, and we sat shivering and dripping. Good coffee, and I had a very nice cheese and mushroom omelette thank you for asking. However, it came with a bizarre scattering of grated carrot on it, which did not enhance the overall appearance.  Also they had only white bread. So it was good, but not the best place we’ve been for breakfast.  More of a summer venue, just too cold for sitting around in after a run.

On the plus side, a very unhurried breakfast and wide ranging conversations including (for illustrative not comprehensive information purposes):Radio 4; heroin addiction; fitting of running shoes; whether it is a good idea to grate carrot over a meal; how The Guardian is funded; skiing holidays; funerals; Smiletastic tactics (quite a lot more than was probably healthy); people we know; people we don’t know; funeral readings; speculation on whether or not they’d really used butter for the bread; relative merits of white and brown bread (white is obviously poisonous but can also be legitimately desired as a nostalgic comfort food); difference between Angel Delight and instant whip; fancy dress and Elvis Presley.  Surprised we had time frankly, and that’s not even an exhaustive list!  Pleasingly, a neighbourly cyclist (well he was wearing the gear) also took a group shot of us, so that was a nice memento of our gathering.


So world put to rights (although granted not so effectively that anyone would really notice), we piled back into the car and made our way home.  Damp, cold, but fundamentally smug.  Another parkrun done and dusted ’til same time next week.  It may have been raining on the outside, but it was all sunshine within!


Thank you lovely people at Graves, marshals, runners, volunteers and supporters alike for the warmth of your welcome on the wettest of days.  I won’t leave it so long between visits next time!

Postscript:  Graves parkrun are also most diligent in producing a weekly newsletter, you can read the Graves parkrun report for 6 February 2016, complete with fab extra photos (in focus this time) by following the link.  Enjoy.



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

Perishing Parkrun

Shackleton weather this week at Parkrun.  That is, arctic conditions, those rising to the weekly challenge of the 5km jog out, would not just be running in the wet carrying a barcode and wearing deely-boppers (optional).  Instead, they (that is I) would be navigating the ice, dragging negative thoughts round the route with them/me (what was I thinking? why am here?  Will I ever feel my hands or feet again?), definitely a test of tenacity to turn up at this week’s Parkrun….

shackleton ice photo

 Wet is one thing, snow and ice quite another.  My relationship with snow is complex but perhaps familiar.  Yes, yes, it is very inconvenient and cold and all of that, but the first snow of winter is completely brilliant.   The possibilities for sledging and snow angels, and the sheer breath-taking loveliness of it all  means at first you forget  about the no public transport and ample chilblains aspects of it all.  Well, I do anyway.  Being in an attic flat with insufficient insulation meant it was absolutely freezing on Friday night.  True, the temperature had plummeted anyway, plus I’d just come back from a trip to London for a couple of weeks, so returning to Sheffield I did indeed find as a soft southerner that it is a bit grim up North just now –  (temperature wise, not local temperaments).  And, it happened that snow was forecast, and snow came!

I was so cold in the night I couldn’t really sleep, and in the small hours detected that change in sound that can only mean one thing, SNOW!  That was enough to get me out from under the duvet, first trying to peer through my Velux windows and excitedly realising I couldn’t see anything because they were completely obscured by snow.  This meant I had to resort to opening blinds and looking out properly onto the snow-scape outside.  Not an entirely poetic sight, as mainly from my bedroom window I can see a car park, but the cars were most definitely covered in a good couple of inches of snow, and the garden at the back (yep, I had to check out every possible window view in the house) was more working towards winter wonderland status with trees having a good covering and grassy areas obscured with a blanket of snow.  I was so excited.  This completely put paid to any further sleep, and I spent the rest of the night, blinking, getting up periodically to look out of the window and check that the snow was still there, whilst listening to Radio 4  Extra.

By morning, some of the snow had disappeared, though I can’t fathom why as there was an icy blast that made it feel way below freezing.  I was quite taken with the idea of running in freshly fallen snow, but in the cold (literal and metaphorical) light of day, Parkrun was seeming a bit less appealing if I’m really honest.  It was very icy, and nippy even by northern standards.  Maybe not enough for wearing a coat on a night out, but cold enough to remark on it whilst waiting at the bus-stop say.

People often say to me ‘what possesses you to run?‘  I tell myself this is  because they are in awe of my obvious commitment to the pursuit of athletic endeavours.  If their intonation has a slight tang of incredulity, it is surely that they are incredulous at my tenacity, not at all that they are incredulous that I bother to venture out at all given my physical limitations which are many and manifest. Running motivation is different for all of us, so I can only speak personally.  On this particular day it was largely on the basis that  the worse the weather, the greater the bragging rights post run, so the misery of running in the cold and wet is cancelled out by the joy of going on and on about it later on. This though, alas, is only partially true.  Because you can’t win a bragging contest with other runners who are out there running too anyway, and you can’t win a bragging war with non runners, because they just think you are stupid for going out in the first place.  What you can do though is generate a healthy glow, burn some extra calories and enjoy breakfast more than is entirely decent.  Plus, a handy motivational picture on the Graves Parkrun facebook page reminds us that –

its only cold if you are standing still

‘It’s only cold if you’re standing still.’  This is sort of true, but little comfort to the volunteers, who for all I know are still standing in their fluorescent jackets immortalised in ice around the route at Sheffield Hallam because even extreme commitment to clapping runners en route wouldn’t do much to keep the cold at bay.  Maybe as the winter finally draws in, we need motivational posters for the volunteers specifically as much as the runners.  There’d be no Parkrun without them after all…

Venturing out of the house, it’s a lot harder to get about than I’d imagined.  Black ice, thick ice, icy ice.  I nearly went arse over tit (and not in a glamorous way) just going down the front steps.  My route to the park takes me down a really steep hill.  It didn’t look too bad, but was adrenalin inducing treacherous to negotiate.  Quite quickly I was skidding out of control, and for quite a distance.  It was that thing of being too scared to try and stop the skid, because I thought I’d end up falling backwards and cracking my head open.  In my third skid, I built up such momentum that I saw my life flash before me.   I ended up bending my knees and adopting a sort of skiing posture.  (Well, what I think might be a ski posture but I’ve never been skiing so who knows?  I have though met a fortune teller who told me I’d meet a ski instructor one day who will take me to Switzerland and teach me for free, so I’m rather hanging on for that.  I’ve been waiting a quarter of a century so far, so I’m hoping it will happen quite soon now.)  In fact, this change in posture, just created extra acceleration, and in desperation I did a sort of slalom into the stone wall of one of the front gardens that I was otherwise whizzing past en route.  The good news was  that this did bring me to a halt. The bad news was that in grabbing the top of the wall it began to crumble under my weight, and then I realised the house owner was watching me from her car.  She was very nice actually, asking me if I was alright as I sheepishly tried to nonchalantly re-erect her garden wall.  It is just as hard as you might think to reassemble a stone wall without drawing attention to yourself and the damage you have caused to it, especially when you have just that moment been witnessed crashing into it.   I made the rest of the way down the hill clinging to the walls at the side of the way down.

I did start to wonder if Parkrun would be cancelled, but figured that if so, the worst that might happen in that event would be breakfast, but without the running first bit, which would be OK.  Actually, that’s not entirely true, the worst thing would be being made to run it anyway, but without it ‘counting’ towards milestone T-shirt. This happened last New Year’s day.  I headed off to Graves Parkrun, in fancy dress, and it was cancelled due to ice.  My over keen friends insisted on running it anyway, and because I never really got the hang of being assertive, and I don’t like to miss out, I traipsed round too, it was terrifying ice and hills, not a great combination … but then again, strangely pleasing at the end. It seems when it comes to my motivation for running, it is sort of complicated and hard to explain.   I do think though that there is one line that is not to be crossed.  I have recently become acquainted with a new running buddy who has floated the idea of possibly coming and doing Parkrun but without doing the breakfast bit afterwards.  This is surely a precedent not to be set.  I’m letting it go at the minute, because she’s new, but it may yet have to be tackled, we shall see…  That would be the absolutely worse scenario.  Run in ice, unofficially so no time, and then NO BREAKFAST either.  Disaster.

Because it took ages to get down to the start, I was quite late on the scene, and quickly joined the huddle of starters.  We were like penguins, in constant motion trying to get in the centre of the throng so others would shield us from the arctic wind.  It is one of those rare occasions when I don’t mind too much about my personal space, hell I’ll cuddle up to anyone when it’s this cold, could be a good opportunity to get to know some of my fellow runners a bit better.


So this is what it looked like basically.  The penguins on the edge are the hardy (or noble and self-sacrificing anyway) volunteer marshals and run-director.  You can see what I mean about how cold they must have got.  Shame.

The pre-run briefing warned of ice en route.  Now, I figured I’d already had  quite enough near death experiences for one day, so I made a really conscious decision, to go for just keeping safe, and see whether I might achieve a PW (personal worst).  I would put myself under no pressure at all, it was quite liberating in a way.  For clarification, you might not think it to watch me run, but slow and steady as I am, I do try… not as hard as others granted, but in my own special way, it was quite nice to just decide to pootle round gazing about  and trying not to skid around to much.

In such a mind set, running became an exercise in mindfulness.  The shout for ‘off’ went and I shuffled out.  The first patch of ice was within the first loop, and I gingerly picked my way through letting most of the field stream ahead of me.  It was good taking in the white hues of ice and frost in the park.  I was a bit unnerved at one point by an unpleasant grunting behind me.  This can happen, noisy breathing runners just at your shoulder can be unsettling.  Well I find it so, I’ve been on the receiving end of a few near miss spitting incidents, and those sounds were suggestive of an early warning  indicator that a trajectory of phlegm could be in the offing.  In the event, it turned out to be a dog hauling round a more hesitant owner.  Generally speaking having a dog is an advantage at Parkrun, but I wouldn’t fancy being dragged headlong over the ice by a hyper excited and super-animated canine in these conditions. However, for future reference, you may be interested to know that at  Graves Parkrun they occasionally auction the opportunity to run with their resident whippet Lily, so that you can achieve a personal best .. presumably as long as your nerve holds being hauled round. Oh, and before you ask, in the picture on the right Lily is in fancy dress for Halloween as a Mummy Dog, it isn’t a case of dog-abuse, no need to get Alan Davies round to check it all out.

It was quite an education going round deliberately slowly  I decided (uncharacteristically) to try to concentrate on improving running stride.  I was listening out for my footfalls, to see how heavily I was landing.  confusingly, it took a while for me to register that there was a runner behind me who was I think deliberately pacing in rhythm with me.  I felt quite honoured, normally it is me parasitizing someone elses pacing.

The words of the foundation running group guru at Smiley Paces are ringing in my ears.  I  try to gain more speed but keep stability by taking really short strides so I can use my weight being forwards to help rotate through my foot and so quicken my pace.  This is counter-intuitive, but it sort of works.  Get me, working on my technique.  If my old PE teacher could see me now…. and gawd help her if I saw her first to be honest, but that’s a petty grudge that’s been carried over decades longer than is probably absolutely healthy….

Going round I realised I’d left on my buff round my neck by accident.  This means  I am running in a scarf essentially.  Actually, it’s quite comfy, but I don’t look hard core or cool donned in it.  ‘How very unexpected’, I hear you exclaim!

Inevitably, I am lapped.  But I am completely mystified as to how these runners have come round quite so quickly  The ice was treacherous enough that I resorted to walking and picking my way over it in places.  They just fly through as if the ground is utterly predictable and firm under foot.  Have they been running in snow shoes?   Surely I’d have noticed, though my observation skills aren’t flawless I have noticed the trees along Rustlings Road bedecked with knitted bunting (an attempt to raise awareness of their imminent risk of being untimely ripped from the earth for reasons that I absolutely cannot fathom).  I notice too that leaf litter fairies have cleared some of path on the outside of the park, but as you turn into it again it has become a slushy slide of autumn leaves churned by runners into an organic orange slick of high risk terrain as you loop back in.  All good practice for off-road trails of the future I suppose.

So finally finished, to my amazement, the zero effort approach has only added a minute to my usual time.  This is perhaps telling. I do have a theory that when the weather is bad there are fewer runners, and those that come are typically more dedicated so fleeter of foot, and that speeds things up.  Even so it is food for thought, I walked longish sections and didn’t even get out of breath, maybe if I made just a bit more effort, I could improve my speed quite significantly… it remains to be seen if I can be bothered to put this theory to the test.

Some companionable chatting at the end of the run. Catching up with fellow Smileys nursing injuries (shin splints, sprains)  Some are wondering if they will have to miss the Percy Pud, which  as regular readers will know is THE Event of the Sheffield Running Christmas Calendar.  To pull out would be terrible, especially after such a scrap to get a slot in the first place!  The fear is that running would worsen existing injuries, true of my Smiley comrades who find it hard to suppress their competitive instincts.  I suggest enforced slowing by dint of wearing elaborate fancy dress.  Something spectacularly unaerodynamic would work for nursing the injured home safely, maybe a Christmas Tree made of foam, or even a papier mache plum pudding would do the trick.  I am not convinced my ideas were treated with the reverence and seriousness they deserved, personally, I think this idea is genius, and would save a lot of taping and ice-packing post run.

We didn’t linger too long.  Four of us go heading off to breakfast we found our favourite café pretty empty.  Unusually , the proprietor is waiting tables, and we take the opportunity to we complain to him about the reduced portion size for mushrooms we have noticed has crept in since they introduced a new menu.  He looks crestfallen, and I feel guilty.  Though it is true.  I’d rather they upped the price and kept the mushroom portion size the same, but it seems it isn’t that simple.  Confusingly, we then go on to order what we always ordered anyway, scrambled eggs on granary bloomer with mushrooms and a latte.  Is there a different breakfast option?  I can’t see the point.  It is delicious, it is still our favourite café.


Buoyed up by breakfast, buzzing with extra endorphins from running in the cold, we discuss future running challenges.  The further away they are in the future, the more inclined I am to imagine they will be doable, because by then I will have metamorphosed from an inadvertent runner to a toned and perfectly tuned running machine.  Hope over experience triumphs again, Lakes Dirty Double? Count me in…  Here is a cheesy quote to prove my current optimism, however misguided, might yet be enough to get me round.  Well, it’s either the optimism, or the large glass of alcohol that also features in the image, that should keep me both dosed up and deluded enough to at least give it a go.


 Seriously though, what’s the worst that could happen?  No doubt I’ll get to find out in due course if my running history to date is anything to go by… we shall all just have to wait and see!  In the meantime, let’s drink to over-optimistic challenges, and find out what we are really capable of.




Categories: 5km, motivation, parkrun, Percy Pud, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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