Posts Tagged With: Leamington parkrun

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

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

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

Undigested read:

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

KW off

But my account starts way before that moment.  Obvs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, of course not.

They wouldn’t.

Oh the angst, properly here now…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah Cook bronze oak leaves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And under the tree, more familiar faces, yay!

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

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

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What a fine sight indeed!

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

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

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

and it looks like this:

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

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

the briefing

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

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

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

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

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

Her: no stop

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

Her: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! (Primeval scream)

Me: What’s wrong?

Her: Don’t say that word?

Me: What word?

Her: (meaningfully) that word

Me: what tweak?

her: Stop!

Me: Seriously, the word tweak?

Her: please no

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

Her:  STOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!!! I mean it

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

Her: runs screaming from desk

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

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

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

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

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

Underway!

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

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

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

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

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

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

cafe temptations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

how it should have looked

and so it ended:

so it ends.jpg

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

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

CS and so it ends

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

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

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

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Reet nice out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fine and dandy.  Well done indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

til next time then?

🙂

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

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

parkrun tourism: loping in Leamington

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Leamington. Royal Leamington Spa no less.   A fine and perfectly formed parkrun.  There was friendliness, there was cake, there was the wow factor. A fine example of community parkrunning in action. There was a hill, also nettles.  It rained.  I wrote a bad poem to celebrate the occassion.  Would recommend.  More loos than you can shake a stick at, no zombies.

It bodes well doesn’t it, when you are considering doing a bit of parkrun tourism and you check out the event Facebook page the night before and you see this being flaunted before you:

Leamington parkrun cake

Impressive motivational techniques in action there by Leamington parkrun, clearly they know their runners and what will get them out on a drizzly Saturday morning.  There is FREE CAKE available to those who run round their parkrun route fast enough to get there before it’s gone.  No wonder they have some impressive times on their course. Did you know that according to their newsletter for 15 July 2017 the Age Grade course record is held by Monica WILLIAMSON who recorded 91.76% (19:13) on 28th June 2014 (event number 168).  No?  Me neither, but 91%!  That’s amazing.  Hope she got some cake back at the club house.  I’m in the same age category, but unsurprisingly to those who know me,  that is where our common ground ends in relation to our running performance.  Oh well.

So, back to basics.  Last weekend, I had to go to Leamington anyway for Saturday lunchtime, so, not wanting to miss out on my parkrun, I decided to just get up early and drive from Sheffield in time to do a bit of parkrun tourism at Leamington instead.  Yay!  Although this seemed like a good idea at the time, I’m not going to lie, my enthusiasm waned a bit when my alarm went off at stupid o’clock.  Even so, I dragged my weary carcass out from under my duvet, donned my running gear and headed out into the big wild world for the drive from Sheffield.

I had a couple of anxious moments en route, there was a major diversion that I hadn’t expected and I was worried it’d make me miss the start as I chugged along side roads trying to find my way back to the motorway.  More alarmingly, in a reckless fit of optimism, I was wearing my parkrun 100 t-shirt, and in fact, the weather was looking less than sunny.  Greyer and gloomier by the mile as we approached.

Worry not dear reader, I arrived crazily early.   From a tourist point of view, the venue is easy to find, start with the satnav code and then  follow the brown signs to the leisure centre.   The leisure centre at the moment is undergoing refurbishment, so it is alarmingly like driving into a construction site as you approach, but it’s OK, hold your nerve.  More a cause for concern are the speed bumps on the approach. They look tiny and innocuous but are extraordinarily potent.  I can offer no explanation for this, but however slowly I negotiated over them, it still felt like I’d inadvertently driven over a cliff as my car bounced down the other side.  Fortunately my AA membership is up to date, but take care.

LP respect the speed bumps

As well as being easy to find, there is loads of parking. Almost too much, I couldn’t decide which of the many spaces to opt for.  The advice is to head on to the furthest car park from the main road, which is nearest to the start.  I parked up at the bottom of Observation Hill, next to some hedging and by a bin that had exploded its contents around it.  Not a great first impression, and not an altogether fair one, as generally the place was pretty immaculate.  Maybe it was foxes?  At the top of the hill, which was a pretty steep mound, there was a turret with a beacon, where a flame can be lit on key occasions.  I used to live in Leamington, many moons ago (in dark times, before parkrun was even thought of, imagine that) and I seem to remember it all being lit up for a royal wedding or maybe the millennium celebrations, something like that.  Hang on, I’ll find a better picture, so you can see what I mean. Thanks wikipedia on Newbold Comyn:

So, after peering out of the car for a bit, I went to explore, and to locate the start.  The team was there really early.  They had an impressive 31 volunteers when I was there, I didn’t count, I read it in their run report.  It’s really interesting going to other parkruns, once you get over the initial apprehension of turning up somewhere where you don’t know anyone. It’s familiar, but unfamiliar.  Leamington parkrun go big on signage, which is helpful.  I liked the welcome sign, clear and concise.

It also has quite an impressive hub as they are able to commandeer a football club house for the morning. This means they have innovations such as storage, loos a-plenty.  I mean no queuing – changing rooms even.  It was a revelation, even if following the signs to the ladies loos took me into a weirdly derelict looking place that reminded me of the set for a horror film, echoey passages, lots of doors and no natural light. I also nearly lost my nerve as the ‘ladies’ had a trough urinal in it the size of a respectable swimming pool (though not for that purpose I hope) and I thought I’d made a navigational error.  No, I think it’s just that when the facilities were built, it never occurred to anyone that women would ever need (be allowed) to access this zone.  A battle still being fought by the women in the Ambridge Cricket Club team to this very day.  No complaints from me today though, I have never previously encountered such an abundance of toilets available for use pre run. Top marks to Leamington parkrun there, and a collective sigh of relief and uncrossing of legs by parkrun tourists wannabees everywhere.  If you travel a long way to an unfamiliar parkrun venue it is hugely relevant what such facilities are around.  Come to Leamington y’all, it’s safe, it’s fine, you can have a precautionary pee pre-event as many times as you like with never a queue to contend with.  Watch out for zombies in those scary corridors though, the fact I encountered none on my visit proves nothing:

They also have a whole team running a cafe pre and post run. Tea, coffee, juice, cakes and biscuits were being laid out.  It was ‘free’ but obviously unsustainable if people don’t make a voluntary donation, which most were happy to do.   There was no pressure though, just a discrete Tupperware container on the counter.   That’s an astonishing commitment to parkrun, to offer that week in week out.  I think proceeds from it go back into the event, purchasing a defibrillator (their’s was recently bought, then immediately vandalised which is hugely depressing) and meeting other incidental expenses.

LP defrib

So, once I’d used the amenities, I did some self-conscious hanging around.  People assembled.  Although I turn up to running events on my own all the time in Sheffield I usually see someone I know quite quickly.  It felt strange to be somewhere I didn’t know a soul.  It’s good to be reminded of how that feels, I must make more of an effort to approach any outliers at my next parkrun.  People I approached were friendly, but it does take a bit of courage to make the first approach.  Just as I was feeling a bit lost, a friendly runner came up and commented on my parkrun 100 top.  ‘Wow, have you really done all those?’ she said. I was stunned.  It has never occurred to me that anything I have ever done might be the cause of someone else’s ‘wow’!  And getting the t-shirt, that’s from turning up really.  Even so, I was chuffed, it was a really encouraging and affirming opener, which led to a friendly chat about running, and getting started and the C25K.  She was really welcoming, thank you whoever you were – may work suddenly give you every Saturday morning off so you can crack your 50 speedily!  It comes round faster than you think.  Maybe we are all too hard on ourselves.  Check out this woman from Hartshill Runners who’s my ‘wow of the week‘ which might become a thing actually.  So many inspirational people out there.  We are all potentially – probably even – somebody’s wow!  Worth remembering.

LP the gathering

I found somewhere to dump my bag.  Everyone just leaves things on a couple of tables in the club house.  It’s undercover, and at your own risk, but I’m increasingly relaxed about dumping my worldly goods at the start of parkruns, we do it all the time in Sheffield.   Keys were left in another Tupperware container, I presume that was for safe-keeping rather than to secure entry to a post-parkrun swinging party, though I never actually enquired.

LP swingers group

There was a big map up of the route.  For those of you who like the official blah de blah, the course in minimally described on the Leamington parkrun course page as follows:

The start and finish are at the football pavilion on Newbold Comyn. The course starts by skirting the football pitches, before passing through the gate on to the golf course border path. Then it’s a lap and a bit before turning off to finish at the same point as the start.

I preferred the annotated picture version available on the day:

LP map and annotations

I found some regulars to chat to.  They warned me about their ‘huge hill’  I smiled indulgently, only since moving to Sheffield have I come to appreciate what real hills are, chances are this Leamington hill will be but a gentle undulation I told myself.  Pleasingly, some geniuses somewhere (jegmar, to be specific) have come up with a brilliant parkrun elevation ranking  so I have since been able to check this out.  Worth browsing, the list has many surprises….  There was a noisy first timer’s briefing, and then a full run briefing. This run briefing was impressive. It is the only time I’ve stood as part of a seemingly 100% attentive crowd.  The run director stood on a chair and had a megaphone which helped, there was also  a signer which I’d not seen before, but seems to be increasingly happening which is great.  The parkrunners were respectful which was such a refreshing change from my regular haunt. This is still a biggish run (around 400 or so), but it seems to have evolved a strong sense of both community engagement and individuals feeling a personal connection to, and ownership of the event. Announcements included not only the ‘usual’ welcomes, milestones and thank yous, but also personal welcoming back of people who’d been away; saying goodbye to people who were moving on; feeding back on recent race events.  It was really impressive.  There was a card for people to sign for a fellow parkrunner who’s not well at the moment.  There were many details about how this particular parkrun operates that I’ve not seen before and were really great. A visitors book!  (Though stupidly I forgot to sign it, or more importantly to nose through it and check out who else had). They also have a volunteer rota up for the following week so people could sign then and there; special tabards to be worn ‘I’m running my 100th/ 50th parkrun’ which were also new to me.  It was very impressive.  We were warned of low hanging trees and tall nettles, and uneven ground.  I was a bit unsure what to expect, it all looked pretty manicured from where I was standing.

So after these announcements, we all assembled at the start line, and soon enough we were off.  Cheers Simon Perkin for capturing the thrill of the initial stampede.  Brave man, standing there, I’d have moved to the side a bit more personally.   The comyn is bigger than it seems, and surprisingly scenic. You do one and bit laps, but there was lots to look at.  It did start off on quite manicured surfaces, a football pitch, but the terrain did vary.  Mostly firm tracks.  As you do a sort of out and back, I was confused at first as we’d only just started, but there were signs up saying 400 metres to go really early on. Turns out, it’s just this first/last 500 metres that you run twice.

The hill was more demanding than I’d expected, it was also narrow, I did run up most of it, but eventually hit a bottle neck of walkers, and to be honest, I was quite relieved.  The nettles were indeed high, and the tree branches low.  It could be a challenge for visually impaired runners.  I’m really short, and I still had to do some proverbial ducking and diving.  Once you’ve hoiked up the hill, you get the benefit with a long gentle downward slope. The views are really surprising, you are up higher than expected and at various points you can take in the panorama of farmland or town.  Well you could if you were like me and spent your time gazing around instead of focusing on a PB.

The course had little clusters of marshals. There seemed to be lots of high-fiving children, an initiative I applaud, whole avenues of them awaited the flagging runner.  It is a fact that a high-five gives you renewed energy and determination, so I for one was glad of them.  It is not exploitation of child labour, it is wholesome family fun!

LP team work hi viz high five heroes

The weather pretty much held out for my run, but it started drizzling soon after I’d finished.  You collect your token and then (this was odd to me) you have to walk to the barcode scanners who were sat behind desks near the club house.  I completely get why they do this, it’s definitely more comfy for scanners, and they can work together.  But I can see why some newbies might disappear with their finish tokens unscanned as it wasn’t at all obvious where to go.  It was quite a way from the finish, and because the scanners were sitting rather than standing, they were lost in a crowd of people who’d already finished surrounding them chatting.  I think a helium balloon or flag might be helpful to draw the eye and stop people absconding with tokens intentionally or otherwise.  Smiles all round though.

LP barcode scanners

Next stop, reunited with my bag, and checked out the cafe.

I had a coffee and a custard cream, and popped a couple of quid in the donations tub as I always budget for a post-run snackette, and then went to check out the people still running in. All the guts and glory of parkrun was on view.  The sprint finishers, the ambling round, the family groups, the returning volunteers coming in behind the tail runner.  Good to hear and see marshals and others cheering people back with gusto and often by name too. This is definitely a friendly parkrun. People know each other.  Go Leamington.

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Unfortunately, then just as the post run party was getting underway, the heavens opened.  Some were prepared, smiling through the rain, but others swept into action like a well-oiled machine, tables and chairs were carried into the club house and people dispersed.

Time to go.  I made it back to the car as the torrential rain finally kicked in.  Got soaked.  Oh well, it was fun whilst it lasted.  I sat in the car dripping for a bit.

LP it rained

Heading off though, I noticed some impressive local wildlife lurking on the tarmac.  Using enormous courage and skill I was able to capture it and relocate it to what I hoped was more appropriate habitat.  Like I said, full of surprises Leamington parkrun, you should check it out for yourself!

LP local wildlife

So thanks for your hospitality Leamington, was grand to join you. I have written a fine (er hem) poem to mark the occasion.  Enjoy, or not, as you wish:

The parkrunners’ outing

If you go down to the comyn today, you’re sure of a big surprise

If you go down to the comyn today, better not go in disguise

For every runner that ever there was, will gather there for certain because

Today’s the day Leam runners all have their parkrun.

 

Every runner who’s got a barcode is sure of a treat today

There’s lots of marvellous things to eat and wonderful trails to run

Beneath the trees where nobody sees, they’ll scamper and frolic however  they please

For that’s the way all-comers enjoy their parkrun

 

parkrun time for run/walk joggers

The little volunteers are having a lovely time today

Watch them, high five them with cheers, and see them speed runners on their merry way

 

See them gaily gad about

They love to run and shout

They never have any cares

At the parkrun finish the hi-viz heroes will scan them all safely in

Because they’re tired little parkrunners now

 

So you should go down to the comyn today, and you better not go alone

It’s lovely down at the comyn today, such a waste if you stayed at home

For every runner that ever there was, will gather there for certain because

Today’s the day that parkrunners all have their parkrun

 

Also, there will be cake.

 

Don’t try and speak, I know how it feels when words fail you.

Thank you kind Leamingtonians.  It was fun.  Now go find your inner wow.

 

Oh, and if you are interested, follow this link for all my parkrun related posts, you will need to scroll down for earlier entries.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Pioneering parkrun pilgrims take on Poolsbrook

007 and “M” Stealth parkrun Smiley mission.  Our Smiletastic task was to be up early, navigating the hills, facing the rain, battling the wind – and all because the ladies love to ……….run !!!

Poolsbrook country park

I’M SO EXCITED!  Today, I did something extra special, something I’ve always wanted to do, and something that is even on my bucket list.  This isn’t an actual list, to be fair, but I always know when an item comes up that would be on it if I’d ever got around to writing one.  It’s that feeling I get when an opportunity presents itself that it is for something I’ve longed to do so  much and for so long it actually hurts.   As the day and then appointed hour draws near, the excitement is such I feel I’ll burst.  I sort of enjoy the anticipatory angst – is my dream really about to come true, or will it yet be snatched away at the final hour?  That is what I felt like when I heard that Poolsbrook parkrun was to be launched in Chesterfield.  Finally, a new parkrun taking place commuting distance from Sheffield.  One I could be in on at the start.  I too could join the throng that will be for ever listed as First Timers on the first ever set of results for Poolsbrook parkrun.  I’ve always wanted to get to an inaugural parkrun.   I was always going to get there to join them for their first ever event at Chesterfield (near as dammit) come what may.  I wanted to be one of the Pioneering Poolsbrook parkrun Pilgrims, and reader I WAS!  The inaugural Poolsbrook parkrun was today! How amazing is that?

DSCF9261

So here is what happened.  The run was first mooted ages ago, and I’ve been circling the parkrun pages ever since waiting for news.  Finally, the official announcement came that the run would indeed be happening for the first time at 9.00 a.m. (you probably knew that bit already) on Saturday 2nd April 2016.  A Poolsbrook parkrun Facebook page was duly launched the week before and the countdown began.  They had a suitably inviting cover photo (see above), as well as a succession of ‘getting ready’ photos to reassure their parkrun public that all was progressing well and that they had e.g. the requisite number of colourful helpful signs ready to go. (That three laps direction one was a bit of a worry though):

helpful signs

Even more pleasingly, the organising committee (we love you race director and volunteers whoever you are) had a sense of humour too, coming up with a most acceptable April Fool the day before, which was sufficiently well thought through to be funny, without risking veering over the line in terms of taste (oh dear Preston parkrun – is it true your one involved a bomb on the course?  Seems not everyone found that funny – though Google pranked themselves too so they were not alone – shame, I like a good minion story, who doesn’t?)

poolsbrook pranksters

To be honest, there were quite a few parkrun pranksters out there.  I’m sure I only stumbled across a very few, but if you like a detour en route to the substance of this Poolsbrook premier parkrun commentary, have a peer at these:

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So, back to business.  The day dawned.  Obviously, in this age of Smiletastic, it wasn’t quite so simple, bonus points for timed runs still needed to be claimed.  Serious members of Smiley Paces (Sheffield Women’s Running club) who are registered for Smiletastic need to take this into account.  The most effective strategy being for team members to disperse as far afield as possible. Then again, there was the pull of wanting to do things as Flying Feathers all together for the team as well.  Who want to run on their own if they can have a running buddy to accompany them?  The compromise was just me, and our very own undercover agent 007 would take on this particular parkrun challenge and nab the point for the team between us.  Normally I’m known as hobbit, but as this was a special mission I was anointed ‘M’ as my alias for the day.  (Too complicated to explain, just go with it).   We synchronised our watches, agreed rendezvous hour and allocated tasks.  I was in charge of transportation, my fellow Fighting Feather would check in with Q and sort appropriate turbo assist rocket chargers to get us round.  Such external speed boosters being deemed necessary, as Poolsbrook parkrun hasn’t yet introduced the platinum membership initiative on offer from Tring parkrun.

On waking early, as we had an uncharacteristic commute to our destination, my weather check through the window revealed RAIN.  I was a bit taken aback, this wasn’t what was ordered, and the Poolsbrook team had looked so efficient I thought they’d have had that aspect covered.  Oh well, we are feisty fighting feathers, it would take more than a bit of rain to abort our mission.  I scooped up 007 and satnav took us on a magical mystery tour that ended up at the entrance of Poolsbrook Country Park.  The postcode didn’t work on my satnav by the way, but I was able to use the ‘points of interest‘ option, so that was an exciting test of my problem solving skills.  If you are planning a satnav directed trip maybe check the route in advance just in case.

On arrival, I couldn’t help noticing the entrance looked rather less enticing than on the cover photo of the Poolsbrook parkrun Facebook page.  It’s the way I take them probably, that, and the rain, but compare and contrast my gritty realism in the photos with the charming paradise above and you must concede I have a point:

Even so, I was even more excited when I knew we’d made it to our destination, and there were even super keen runners to be espied who were making their way to the start loping along in the rain.

On a practical note, it was really easy to find – handy brown attraction signs as you get close) and about a half hour from our side of Sheffield.  There was loads of parking… but, even so, this space was almost full when we got there, so I don’t know what happened with the overflow cars of which there must have been some.  Obviously, it could have been that this début event attracted a lot of parkrun tourists like me and Smiley 007, as it settles into a more local event maybe fewer people will drive there if it’s a more local catchment area that becomes the core of the run.  No problem though, and parking was free too (yay!).  It was still raining though (NOOOO!) but there were ducks milling about who seemed to appreciate that, so ill wind etc..  Actually, there was a lot of milling about of waterfowl now I come to think of it.  I wonder if that was part of their pre-run risk assessment?

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Now, apologies if you are a newcomer to my blog and this is too much information, but regular callers will know that I do appreciate the opportunity for a precautionary pee pre parkrun.  So, in case anyone is anxious on my behalf, or indeed on their own, I can report that Poolsbrook parkrun scores full marks for precautionary pee facilities.  Loads of loos, all open, and whilst there was the mandatory queue for the ladies there was also a separate disabled loo and gents as well.  Toilet paper, sinks for hand washing, the full complement of facilities.  Always puts a smile on my face!

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There was much excited milling around.  Very quickly I saw familiar faces.  The odd strider with their fetching and distinctive charity fund raising bobble hats and a familiar chatty friendly face from Sheffield Hallam amongst the throng.  I wrongly attributed her to be a Monday Mobster, but she claims not, I think otherwise – she must be one by association surely?  Hey ho. She too no doubt lured away by the intoxicating prospect of joining an inaugural run.  I ambled about, and spotted an upmarket coffee van at the start/finish line too.  This is a great innovation I’ve not seen before.   Not only coffee on completion, but potentially coffee before hand, and/or for volunteers or spectators on arrival.  I don’t know if this was a one off or not. (Clarification – coffee is to be covered, mobile outlet for now, inside café some weeks down the line)  Decent coffee too.  Yay! Though I went for delayed gratification option, didn’t want to have to off load en route so to speak due to the contributory negligence of having taken on extra liquid immediately prior to departure, so I saved myself for the treat of caffeine on completion.

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I was like an over-excited puppy, I just didn’t know who to greet first, and would probably have been in real danger of wetting myself had it not been for the first rate facilities already alluded to.  I exchanged hellos with the Friendly Face on exodus from Hallam, who had come with a gang of raucous running friends.  I took a photo of them all together. What do you think?

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She claimed them as friends anyway, some of them look a bit cold at first glace, but look again and you wonder if it might not be cold, it might be the expression you pull when being photographed under duress?   I wanted her to lie across the front of them, but she wasn’t keen.  Later on she admitted she’d actually driven over on her own, and not come with them at all (something about being paranoid about being late because of conditioning brought about by having parented a run director herself ya da ya da ya da etc).  I can’t honestly be sure if she knew them all, or had just appropriated them at that moment for self-promotion purposes.  I say it doesn’t matter, if you can photo-bomb a group and look completely at home, then you can claim that group as your friends.  Well done.  Good on yer, I’m going to try that technique myself next time out…

Photo taken, we started checking out our surrounds and as well as being excited by just being there, and by the presence of loos, and by the presence of a mobile coffee outlet I was further excited by the proximity of an outdoor adult gym!  At this point my Friendly Faced running mate from Hallam (not a Monday Mobster) was compelled to point out I do seem to excite quite easily.  I concede this point.  It was quite remarkable that I hadn’t already burst or otherwise exploded just on arrival, this sensory overload was putting me in real peril of going off with a bang!  But really – look – shouldn’t every parkrun have one of these as a warm up area?  I think you have to bring your own golfing umbrella and clipboard though.

There was an absolute first timers’ briefing – it looked like this:

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Aww, I felt quite emotional watching it.  I remember my first ever parkrun, all that apprehension and uncertainty, yet also the beginning of a beautiful relationship – these people had/ have the pleasure of all that still to come!  Nevertheless, for me and 007 this was our first First parkrun, so we found someone to capture our moment of initiation to this club too!

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Oh, I almost forgot, for those of you who like the official course description blah de blah, the Poolsbrook parkrun page describes the course as follows:

Course Description
The course is entirely within Poolsbrook Country Park which was once the site of the former Ireland Colliery, but which has been transformed from dereliction into a popular country park and amenities area. The course is almost entirely on compact wide trails but some sections of the course may accumulate mud, leaves and puddles after rain, so please take care. Dependent on availability, marshals will be at key sections of the course, or signs will be in place.

The course starts about 300m away from the café and consists of three anticlockwise laps of the main lake. The finish is on the grass on the right side of the path, in front of the adult gym facilities.

A couple of points to note:
The course leaves the immediate side of the lake to cross the weir and for about 30m runs on the wide path next to the road. Please keep to the lake side of the path.
If you are being lapped by faster runners please keep to the left side of the course to allow faster runners to overtake on the right.

More milling about, and finally a sort of migration to the start that seemed to be communicated by osmosis.  I’ve stolen some of the ‘official’ photos to report on this part, mine weren’t as good.  I don’t like to think of this as plagiarism, rather I’m honouring the photographers by displaying their work, also, I freely admit they aren’t all mine that follow, so as long as it’s referenced that’s OK too right.  So it seems that most of those that follow are from Andy Morris (thanks Andy) though there were others out there who I may well also borrow freely from if ever their work makes it into the public domain.  Here’s a picture of one of the other ones below, don’t know his name, but documentary proof that many were out there to document this historic occasion.   You know you are sharing a moment of history in the making when the paparazzi are in attendance in plural.  Loving your work, whoever you are, all of you, thanks for turning out.  Oh, and (late addition) I’ve now added in some of Mark Webster’s photos too, so thank you Andy and thank you Mark for sharing so beautifully.  You are AWESOME!

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So the milling about, and the migration to the start, and the official inaugural race briefing looked like this (you can tell who took which photos as mine are basically the out of focus ones, I’d like to pretend I was trying to achieve a soft focus effect, but that is basically untrue):

We took the opportunity for a selfie, obviously, which came out a bit crap (also obviously).  Less obviously, we had even more excitement (I know that seems impossible) as we were joined by two more Smilies making a similar pilgrimage to the start.  One of which was a Smiletastic opponent, but only a Rowdy Rooster, they’ve got no chance to be honest so we didn’t have to pretend to be sporting, we could be genuinely friendly!  It was great to have some other Smilies sporting their vests to join the fun.   Albeit we sported them a bit sheepishly on the whole, under rain coats truth be told…

So finally, after much applauding of the great and the good, the volunteers, the organisers, the local authority who’ve given permission to use the park and so on, we were awf!  I love the first shot here – Steel City Strider with bobble hat on tour, Smiley Paces and the guided runners all in one shot. All the fun of the proverbial fair in one picture, thank you flickr uploading photographer, fab!

start mob

ready for offthe off

So, as always, I was a bit surprised to find myself running but it was fun.  I was taking it very easy because of my poorly calf/ knee, but it was really fun to soak up the atmosphere.  This is a three loop course, so I hadn’t expected to enjoy it as much as I did, but in fact there was loads to look at on the way round.  Waterfowl aforementioned didn’t limit itself to the water.  There were some particularly immoveable geese of some sort just before the bridge at the half-way point on the loop.  As I approached them on the first lap they just ignored us.  Second time passing they looked a bit pissed off, third time round, they took direct action honking (I think that’s what geese do) flapping their wings in an ‘I’m very annoyed now’ display and at least one of them led a protest march onto the path.  Good for them, they were there first after all.

I am however jumping ahead.  You have been forewarned that there are three loops, however, that’s not strictly true.  You also start a few hundred metres back from the eventual finish point, so you have to pass the finish FOUR times.  I had a moment of hopefulness after the first 300 metres, or whatever it was, when I thought that might count as first time round, but apparently not so.  You will know, so avoiding any future disappointment.

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My photos make it all look a bit dismal, but in fact it was very jolly.  Loads of colourful marshals in their high-viz tabards for a start, and runners in fluorescent gear a plenty, it was quite a rainbow of hues out there.  The ‘proper’ photographers did rather better.  Thanks Mark, this next one is yours I think:

Rhapsody of colours MW

 Although three loops aren’t really my thing, an unexpected benefit of this set up was that there was a bench in handy proximity to the finish.  I realised I was going to be too hot going round, and was able to jettison my coat onto the bench after the first lap.  I guess you could strip off ever more layers as you went round, knowing they could be heaped on the bench near the finish in safety several times with four passes available to you.  Like a running version of strip poker if you will, should the mood take you.  I stuck with just the one layer taken off, but in principle at least I guess more dis-inhibited runners could bare as much as they dare en route.  It might even spice things up a bit for other runners in their wake.  Some runners might otherwise be finding the laps a bit relentless.  Some disrobing runner offering up a bit of eye-candy (or presenting a dire warning) might offer up a welcome distraction, just a thought.  Here is a spectator espying the course, a fun one to watch I reckon, because you can see all the drama unfold without having to particularly relocate.  You could even plonk yourself down on a bench and drink coffee as people plod (or sprint) by, possibly even offering unsolicited advice on their running technique each time they pass you.  I’m sure that would go down really well!

surveying the course MW

It was a good surface, tarmac really, and despite the number of runners, it spaced out pretty well, and you could overtake (on the right please) by nipping on to the grass if you did feel penned in.  There seemed to be a good cross section of runners.  Including a blind runner with a guide.  I’ve not seen that in action before and it was VERY impressive, they left me for dust early on.  It is the ultimate in team work watching that display of trust, timing and co-operation.  I wonder how long it takes to build that partnership.

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So, at Poolsbrook parkrun you do most definitely have to run round a lake three times, there is no escaping that, but it looks cool in the photos don’t you think.  These next two are from Poolsbrook parkrun Flickr site too – though not all photos are accessible for some reason, don’t know why.  I might go back later and have another look to see if any more are apt for inclusion in this post, but I’ve got bored of waiting for now.

round the lake we goview from the back

 One of the great joys of parkrun is meeting not only old friends, but new people too.  I also love to eavesdrop and people watch on the way round.  So people who stood out today – the mightily speedy runner who sprinted past and I thought I knew from a previous life, only it wasn’t him.  He looked very surprised when I lurched towards him offering a high five as he walked homewards back along the course after he’d finished and when I was still embarking on my final lap.  He looked even more discombobulated as I aborted my high five attempt looking slightly horrified. Sorry about that nameless pirate runner with the bandana and long hair!  (Mind you, I know one running blogger who confessed to once high fiving a passing cyclist she thought was offering an upward palm for that purpose, only realising as she passed the poor guy was just using a hand signal to turn right – or possibly left, she didn’t say which…)

Pirate man surprised by high five MW

The guy with a black Labrador on a canicross harness, who was running with a dog in one hand and freshly bagged dog poo in the other.  (Well, I assume it was freshly bagged, it isn’t the kind of thing you’d head out the door with like grabbing a water bottle and energy gel is is?)  It was somewhat dispiriting to realise that this must mean he was so much faster than me, he was able to stop and supervise his dog pooing on the way round, then clear it up and recommence running and still be way ahead.  Well done for being a responsible owner.  His dog wasn’t especially appreciative though, as I watched, it dragged him into a ditch alongside the path which was rather deeper than first appearances indicated.  Very wet footed owner was reduced to – well, I was going to say ‘walking’ but ‘sploshing’ would be more accurate!

responsible dog owner MW

At about the half way point I also became increasingly aware of a female runner on my shoulder.  We had a sort of unacknowledged battle with each other.  Every time I slowed a bit she put on a spurt to try and catch me… and I’d realise I was slowing and so speed up again.  I feel we were evenly matched and even kindred spirits – she too removed her rain coat on the way round!  She kept close by right up until the very end when I did a sprint finish (I use the term loosely).  It was nice after we’d both finished to have a chat with her – she’s done loads of inaugural parkruns I was most impressed, and a regular parkrun tourist too. Thank you Peniston Footpath Runner for the external motivation on the way round!

Some other observational details.  On a three-lapped course, you get lapped.  Well, you are more likely to get lapped than on a two-lap course (sometimes) or one lap (never – unless you go in reverse which seems unlikely).  The one advantage of this, is that as I was finishing my second lap (or quite possibly my first, but let’s say second here) I was  lapped by the winning runners going through the finish tunnel.  However, a consequence of this is that there may well be (time will tell) photos of the first finishers which provide the illusion that I was in the lead…  Not a very good illusion apparently, as none of the marshals tried to point me towards the finish funnel, but I can dream.  Incidentally, I felt this was an unusually polite run in the over-taking department.  Whilst parkrun is a run not a race remember, sometimes speedier runners let their competitive spirit rule them and are not always forgiving of slower runners as they pass.  Here, I am delighted to report, camaraderie running was the order of the day.

A special mention should go of course to the small army of marshals who remained smiling supportive and cheerful despite the unrelenting rain!  It makes such a difference to have their support en route, not to mention the fact that parkrun wouldn’t happen anywhere without them.  I did try to thank each one as I passed each time, but have to admit my efforts got a bit more breathless and a bit more strangled sounding with each passing loop!  I had an inward smile for the road based marshal who shouted after me and my acquire running buddy from Penistone ‘just remember to keep the arms and legs moving‘ as we neared the finish.  Good advice, if only it were as easy to implement at that point as it sounds – encouraging shouting nevertheless, I thank you!

Another thing that I noticed plodding round was that they have thoughtfully put km markers at, well funnily enough, at 1km intervals.  This is sort of helpful, but also a bit perplexing.  As it is a multi-lap course, I got a bit confused at points because the first one I saw was on the first lap and it was for 4k, then later on I spotted the 2k etc etc.  However, this is ungenerous of me, because once you get your eye in it’s pretty handy. Well it is for those of us who either don’t have a GPS or similar, or like me have one but have no real grasp of how to use it other than for uploading runs onto Strava after the event for Smiletastic purposes.  Actually,  you might like to see the Strava route – and proof, it ’twere needed that it is indeed incredibly flat.  I reckon for them as who seek it out, this has the potential to be a PB course for sure.

strava route

As I neared the finish, I espied my Hallam parkrun tourist friend just ahead, I admit I used her as a goal to aim for and managed to catch up and overtake, but only just.  I felt a bit mean doing so, but she cheered me on.  For that I thank you Monday Mobster, no wonder everyone wants to be your friend!  She was right behind me anyway.  At the finish tape were my Smiley smiling buddies, cheering me home.  That was so great.  We’d agreed not to run together under the pretext of me being slow, (also grumpy when I run, I can’t talk and run, I just can’t) but really it was so we FFs could spread out amongst the course and keep an eye out for any previously unseen Smiletastic opposition. We got away with it though.  I felt like I’d broken the 4 minute mile or something as I went through the tape!  No finish photo of me, but here are my fellow Smileys romping home.  I don’t know why one of them looks like she’s standing around with her hands on her hips.  Maybe she’d just abandoned all hope of passing the other two at this stage in the game…

Smiley finishers MW

We were able to pose for a photo, then, hilariously (I thought) our fellow Smilies were off to do another 6 miles in the rain – oh the tyranny of the long run!

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Me and 007 instead drank coffee and went to cheer home the other runners still coming in.  Thanks for the caffeine fix my friend, although maybe that’s what got me over-excited all over again and making an exhibition of myself on the adult gym…

We inevitably felt we had a go with the various exercise equipment that looked so inviting as play equipment for adults at the start/finish, and 007 did some very impressive balancing stretches.  We moved into the area of making our entertainment at this point, I can’t help feeling one of us did rather better than the other in securing flattering photos for their scrap book.  I’ll let that go this time, but it has been noted…  And no, I don’t have any idea how to use the equipment properly, I think that’s fairly obvious.

We enjoyed going down to the finish funnel to cheer back the final finisher who romped home with a canine companion…. who was very nearly a funnel ducker (the dog not the runner) but disaster was averted, order was restored to the funnel, and cheers all round in the rain as the finish token was handed over, then handed back for scanning. Run done.  Mission accomplished.  Great job y’all!

So that was that, suddenly all done, and we could head home. We waved cheerily at our fellow Smilies who we could see in the distance were only just heading off on the Trans Pennine Trail which goes through Poolsbrook Country Park  – they didn’t look too keen to be honest.  This is what happens if you pledge a long run, you have to be willing to follow through!

Home with the usual parkrun high, and a lovely warm feeling of appreciation and delight that all seemed to have gone so smoothly for the Poolsbrook parkrun pioneers.  It must be quite nerve wracking to put on an inaugural event, but it seemed to go really well.  The results came through promptly.  Photos were on Flickr and updates on Facebook.  In keeping with parkrun lore and tradition they even had a handful of unknowns (sorry parkrunners, you know the mantra, no barcode, no time, no exceptions #DFYBC) and their first finish token go walkabout. This was no doubt very, very annoying but also probably had an awful inevitability about it too.  Nevertheless, here’s hoping that finish token Missing in Action number 58 has a well developed homing instinct and makes its own way back to the fold in time for next parkrun day.  Fingers crossed eh?  Oh, there was a Poolsbrook inaugural run report too, all jobs covered, and in record time.

So thank you everyone at Poolsbrook, you did an awesome job today.  Thank you whoever got the idea off the ground in the first place, thank you organising committee and run directors for putting in the work to make it happen, thank you marshals and volunteers on the day for the cheery, encouraging and efficient hosting, and thank you fellow runners too for a great morning of parkrun tourism

We’ll meet again, don’t know quite where or when, but I’ll be back, you have been warned.

The over the top Love-In endeth here!

Have a Heart shaped balloon - Copy

 

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

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