Posts Tagged With: Monday mob

There were tadpoles! Parkrun tourists take to the hills at Sheffield Castle parkrun

Digested read:  Community minded, a small but perfectly formed parkrun.  You will get a warm welcome, tadpoles (in season), access to loos and an opportunity to fraternise over a tea urn afterwards.  You will not get a castle.

So, to get the important things out of the way first, it does need to be acknowledged that Sheffield Castle parkrun doesn’t actually have a castle as such on site.  There’s not even an old dried-up moat here.  There is a reason why this is called the Sheffield Castle parkrun.  It’s all to do with there once was a Castle in Sheffield, as far back as 1066 or 1270 depending on how rigorous is your grasp of history and willingness to undertake your own research. I heard it from a fellow parkrunner and then just filled in the gaps on Wikipedia, but it’s a start eh?  Unfortunately, this timeline predates parkrun, so it’s hard to be sure exactly when it all began. However, this original castle wasn’t sited here where Sheffield Castle parkrun takes place. This parkrun actually happens in Manor Fields Park, which was essentially the country retreat linked to the original castle.  It had its own Lodge referred to variously as Manor Lodge or…. and a drum roll please in recognition that I’m finally coming to the point… also known as Manor Castle!  Da da!  See what they’ve done there?   So Manor Castle, was located within what was at one time an enormous deer park, but now there are just pockets of this green space remaining, of which Manor Park Fiels is but one.   I’ve just realised there is a good summary of the history of Manor Fields Park to be found on their website, so just look at that. It’s unexpectedly interesting.  Well, I thought so, but then I’m quite easily entertained.

Manor Fields Park, isn’t huge by any means, and it seems to burst out from unpromisingly urban surroundings.  However, it’s been really lovingly landscaped, and has some unexpectedly fine and interesting sculptures and metal work within.  Look out for the carrot tops.  You get to run past them, but having done so three times (it’s a three lap course) I’m afraid I couldn’t be bothered to skip round a fourth time to photograph them.  Not to worry, you can have the fun of going out to discover that for yourself.  As I couldn’t record its bijou loveliness myself, I’ve nicked, sorry shared, some photos from their website. I don’t think they’ll mind.  🙂

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So, even though to the literal-minded it might be disappointing not to find a castle there, on the plus side, the venue did have a beautifully constructed water feature, and what’s more there were tadpoles in it!  You can’t say that about every parkrun now can you?  I’d rather have some living tadpoles in situ than a dried up moat.  Besides forewarned is forearmed as the saying goes, consider yourself forwarded!  You’re welcome.

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I’m conscious that if I say that one of my favourite things about Sheffield Castle parkrun was that they had tadpoles there,  this may be misconstrued as an overall negative for the event.  But really, it wasn’t, the event was very fine indeed, and having big, fat, healthy tadpoles swimming about in an improvised mini-pond was, for me,  simply the icing on the cake. I’ve not seen tadpoles up close in years, their presence made me very happy.  Whether or not this particular parkrun has to put a volunteer on their rota particularly to tend to the needs of these pre-metamorphosis amphibians I know not.  I do know that all parkruns have their unique variants, maybe this is the stand out one for Castle?  There was a woman in hi-viz in the vicinity post-run, so perhaps it was her role to be keeper of the toads.  I didn’t ask, as she was busy chatting.  I like to think so, but you can’t tell just by looking.

volunteer end

As my regular reader knows, my home parkrun is Sheffield Hallam, but I was in the mood for a bit of impromptu parkrun tourism.  I’m never sure whether just venturing a couple of miles away from your usual turf constitutes proper parkrun tourism, and I have been to Castle parkrun before, but not for well over a year I think, but it was a change anyway.  Turns out, a few of us were in the mood for a refresh.  Three of us from Smiley Paces arrived in the car park shortly before a Monday Mob contingent, also on their summer progresses from Endcliffe Park.  Rother Valley parkrun was cancelled this week, so there may well have been refugees from there too.  One at least was intending to come/  I know this for a fact, because they posted on Facebook asking for confirmation that the course was an entirely flat one.  Someone did provide this reassurance, but I’m not sure it was completely fair. I mean, you might get away with calling it flatish by Sheffield standards, but for non-Sheffielders that wouldn’t wash.  I can report from personal experience that there are at least two hills in there and each is negotiated three times, so that would erm.. Hang on, let me get my calculator – two times three makes, er – SIX!  Six hills to be run up.  Not really flat then?   At best context-free news, at worst fake news indeed!  I wonder if they came and conquered, or came and just got puffed out half way up that second steep hill adjacent to the cemetery.  You have to admit that graveyard is conveniently sited if nothing else.  I thought I’d expire every circuit, though in fact I have survived to tell the tale (at length as always).  Be thankful.

For the record, I think this might be one of the friendliest parkruns ever.  It’s pretty small, so I suppose that makes it easier in some ways, but I’d swear the Run Director greeted every one of us individually as we arrived.  It’s not so much a first timers’ briefing as an individual talk through, complete with a large map for reference, and much pointing out of landmarks along the way.  For this course, there’s not that many marshals on the route itself, so you have to pay attention to the cones and little yellow arrows which the volunteers have laid out in advance, it all works well though.  You really won’t get lost on this one.  Just need to be able to count to three, and even then I reckon the volunteers would help.

I was initially a bit put out that the Race Director directed his remarks, about the current course record of 16.39 minutes, to a young athletic looking male giving it as the time to beat.  When I protested, he hushed me before adding that ‘the female record holder time is 17.26 minutes‘ so I was pacified.  I decided not to go for that today (cough).  After all, I’m really just starting back into my running at the moment, and I wouldn’t want to rock the boat by blasting all the Sheffield Castle parkrun regulars out of the finish tunnel, obviously.  Bad for morale.

It was good to catch up with people at a new venue.  There was a handy wheelie bin where you could deposit your coat for dry safe-keeping whilst on the run.   I think that’s what it was. It may of course have been an impromptu jumble collection/ clothing exchange drop off point.  Perhaps I committed some terrible breach of etiquette by placing my own fleece in it at the start and removing the same one at the end.  Who knows.   The volunteers were all very friendly, pointing out the loos and being generally encouraging.  At the run briefing the race director went through the usual tourists/ first timers/ milestones but then also really urged people to stay afterwards for a tea or coffee.  They ask for an optional donation as they are collecting for a defribulator, but you were encouraged to have one anyway if you had money or not, you can always pay another time, but anyway, it seemed to be really about building a community.  This is a parkrun where if you turned up not knowing anyone I’m really confident someone would approach you and make you feel welcome.

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So here comes my parkrun geek alert.  parkrun have recently produced their first parkrun UK run report 2016  I am keen enough on both parkrun in general and procrastination in particular that I have actually read it.

parkrun UK 2016 Run Report by parkrun cover

In amongst the general overview, something caught my eye.  Now, (and quite honestly, this is a sentence that I never thought I’d think in the privacy of my own head, let alone write down) this was the fact that there is now a new mission statement for parkrun.  Honestly, I couldn’t have told you what the old one was, but knowing it has changed the new one feels apt to me, albeit on the ambitious end of the ‘for the greater public good’ end of the continuum.  Basically, it says this:

In 2016 we redefined our previous mission statement from ‘a parkrun in every community that wants one’ … to ‘a healthier and happier planet’.  A statement that is intentionally ambitious, and represents our desire to instigate change, and pro-actively target areas where parkrun can make a difference…

.I take that as a shift from the focus on getting people who already know they want to be able to run running, towards more of a focus on community enrichment, engagement and involvement.  I wonder if raising the profile of volunteering and getting the message out about it being ok to walk at parkrun is part of that.   It was interesting to read this in the days before coming here to Sheffield Castle parkrun, because this one really does have a community feel.  You can just run and disappear off afterwards if you wanted to, but at this parkrun the socialising aspect is really actively encouraged and embedded. They have  tea urn at the ready!  You don’t want to turn your back on that!  No wonder people kept on coming at the start.

still they come

Parkrun is full of (pleasant) surprises.  However, although they do try to be encouraging, try not to be misled by the parkrun signage on this course.  It’s further from the start to finish line than it appears in the photo.  You have to run round quite a lot between these two signs, it’s not a straight A-B.  Don’t be scared though, you can walk round if you want to, a friendly tail marker is available here.   Or was today at least.

so it ends

So, where was I?  After the run briefing you set off pretty much straight away. It’s not a big parkrun, there were only 68 today, and the highest ever attendance is just 97.   The average is given on the parkrun site as 39.3  I include this statistic because I am fascinated by the concept of a 0.3 runner.  I wonder if that might be me?  Someone dropping out after just the one lap perhaps?   By the way, they are planning birthday celebrations I think the first Saturday in August this year.  Course run in reverse, presumably cake?  One for the diary surely….  On a separate note, as numbers are relatively small, even though it’s a three lap course, faster runners shouldn’t feel boxed in here as by lap two the slower runners will be pretty much spread out, and the whole route is tarmac so lends itself to overtaking.

Honestly, I found the first lap hard.  The first ‘incline’ is in actual fact, a hill.  Definitely.  But then again, when you get to the hill proper, you shift perspective. It is a long haul up the hill alongside the cemetery, but on the plus side the views are really unexpectedly stunning.  I will concede the novelty wore off a bit by third time round, but if you want the challenge of heave-hoing up a hill, the sight of trees in blossom and miscellaneous public sculpture works will offer welcome distraction!  As you summit the top of the killer hill (is it acceptable to use ‘summit’ as a verb in this context?  Apologies to any grammar police out there who may have now spat out their tea in agonies of convulsion at the very idea).  I was saying.. as you summit, the start/ finish area comes into view, and the time-keeper – who on this occasion was also the run director – called out the minutes elapsed for your first lap.  This is helpful and potentially either encouraging or depressing, depending on how you view things.  Again, because numbers of participants are relatively small, it’s not frenetic, so  I guess the timer is able to do this without becoming apoplectic with stress.  All good.

So it was off round again for lap two.  You can see the front runners streaming ahead, which reminds me.  Incidentally, if you are new to parkrun firstly where have you been?  Secondly, don’t worry about getting lost, you can’t.  You just follow.  Even if you are in the lead it’s very obviously sign-posted.  For lap two, in my case, I was reminded that I have not been paying enough attention to training running up hills.    Fortunately, just on my heels was a cheery monday mobster, who – perhaps unwittingly – kept me going.  It isn’t about being competitive, I wasn’t seeking to beat her, it was more a sense of if she can keep on going so can I.  When I felt like slowing, I heard her getting closer, and tried to pick up speed again.  I can’t talk and run, so couldn’t communicate thanks at the time, but it was appreciated.  May I thank you now, Monday Mob Motivators.

MM happy faces

Somewhere on lap two I started being passed by the faster runners, it was OK though.   I tried to breathlessly cheer them on with ‘great running’ or some such vacuous commentary.  For the most part they said something encouraging too as they sped by.  It was extremely good-natured.  It was nice to be at a smaller gathering for a change.  For the record, there was a particularly fabulous marshal at the bottom of the long haul hill, he was just very encouraging.  I spluttered out my ‘thank you marshal‘ as I passed, with increasingly poor diction as the laps took their toll, but he kept up his supporting and encouraging clapping and comments.  It’s a long stint of clapping a parkrun, when you are a solitary marshal out on a course and the runners are all so spread out.

At the end of lap two, the timer was still able somehow to shout out cumulative lap times as well as click in the finishers.  Impressive multi-tasking.  I was slowing.  Oh dear.  By the third lap I was struggling a bit, but I know I can run 5k continuously, so I was determined not to stop. On the course was a small child with a scooter, at the top of the first incline, heading back towards the park community house.  She was proffering high fives, which was really sweet, and surprisingly effective in encouraging me to continue on past the carrot tops sculptures and get me to the bottom of the big hill for the last time.  It is counter-intuitive, but the last lap is the easist one, because the literal as well as metaphorical end is in sight.  Indeed, as I got in sight of the finish tunnel my Smiley Buddies were waiting to cheer me in.  You can’t slack when your running club mates are watching FACT, I even managed a (short) sprint finish, and crossed into the tunnel feeling like the first one home.  Admittedly only because there was such a big gap between me and the person in front, but hey, details.  Still a case of yay, done it.  Phew, that was hard.

Got my finish token and barcode scanned in record time, and then was able to cheer back the final few finishers.  They stormed in.  One of the things I love about parkrun is that everyone’s a champion here!

There was a bit of generic milling about whilst people collected belongings and did some post run stretching and fraternising.  Obviously, we also had to do some mandatory posing for pictures.  Then it was next stop communal tea drinking.  Also a sport associated with parkrun…  and not just any tea, but Yorkshire tea.  Actually, in these parts, I’m not sure there is any other tea available, and quite right too!

There is a little house – York House – which seems to be a community space.  As well as having a loo inside and out for pre run precautionary pees, there is a kitchen space with a big urn, tea and coffee and mugs put out and you can help yourself to a hot drink (or water/ juice) can share running tales with friends old and new or family as you wish.  There is a pot for an optional donation.  The photos show the post-run euphoria captured brilliantly!  Now wasn’t that fun.

Tea/ coffee quaffed, we said our farewells to the great and glorious volunteers.  Thank you Sheffield Castle parkrun people.  We’ll try not to leave it so long next time, and we’ve put your Fourth Birthday Bash in the diary for 5th August  (nearest date to inaugural one on 3 August 2013, so presume that’s right).  Hopefully see you there.  Presume there will be cake?  🙂

and we went in search of post-parkrun breakfast.  Which isn’t compulsory but might as well be.  On this saturday we went to The Forge Bakehouse on Abbeydale Road (we were in a car), which I’d not been to before. It’s got an extraordinary selection of fabulous looking stuff.  Mostly sweet.  Expensive, but very nice.    I had the french toast, which was delicious, but not as expected.  The place was heaving, so we had to sit outside, but that was OK because you can borrow a complimentary grey blanket if you wish. We did wish, it might be the may bank holiday weekend but no-one has told the weather gods it’s time for some warmer days.

So this was my post parkrun fix – probably negating the positive benefits of running but oh my, quite a treat.  Note to self, would have been better without the chocolate sauce as well. Next time I think I’ll try the mexican bean breakfast as a more savoury option.


So Sheffield Castle parkrun. Friendly, unexpectedly scenic, three laps (not keen on that) watch out for them there hills. If you just want to know about parkrun, register here, go to your nearest just remember, as always #DFYB – Don’t forget your barcode!  (Though if you do, you can still run, you just wont get a time, and where’s the fun in that?)


Try it.

The end.

For all my posts about Sheffield Castle parkun see here

For all my parkrun related posts see here

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

Fake it to make it – a record breaking performance at parkrun!

Soooooooo, not sure if I’m exactly back in the zone, but I was back at my home turf of Sheffield Hallam parkrun today.  I have decided to embrace the ‘fake it to make it’ philosophy.  Wrist parkrun barcode donned, fixed grin in place, road shoes heaved on (hybrids still soaked from yesterday) and off out the door with a promptness that might have been misconstrued as enthusiasm unless you were in the know about the erratic nature of my running mojo at present….  I think though that this approach might actually work.  Look a photo of me running and smiling simultaneously!  A first in my running career (I use the term loosely), Mr Carman, I salute you and your skills with the tools of your trade…

Smiling at parkrun faking it and making it

Pleasingly, as I did my last-minute through the window weather check, a rainbow arching across the sky suggested it might not be just torrential rain all morning, and in fact so it turned out.   It was a pale and tastefully under-stated rainbow it is true, but a rainbow nevertheless, and you’ve got to appreciate a rainbow, just as surely as you have to always stop and admire a duck (or is that last one just me?) A bit of light drizzle maybe, but no actual soaking.  If anything a tad on the warm side for running I’d say.


I was ‘punctual’ rather than early today. There was a good swarm of fluorescent jackets as people various had turned out in response to the last-minute Facebook appeal for more volunteers.   People are good like that, they came even though you are only guaranteed a hi-viz jacket and have to bring your own hat.  Some I think are seduced by the power rush you get from having a clipboard, but that’s a responsibility that has to be earned, it’s not a given.  Anyway, thanks volunteers one and all for turning out.

volunteer attire

So, I arrived at the start, dumped my bag by the equipment store wheelie bins and joined the scrum of the start funnel.  Pretty good turn out this week 466, with, what seemed to me, to be an exceptionally large first timer’s briefing.  It seems like a while since I’ve been at Hallam.  I’ve been away, it’s been cancelled a couple of times, I’ve been away, anyway, upshot is it was first time in ages that I’d seen a fair few of my running comrades.  Some were familiar faces others less so.  My first sighting was of a Monday Mobster who disappointingly was not wearing her new green hoody. They have just invested in some rather fine kit.  It was she, not I who referenced the possibility that it made them look like some gnome homage collective, I hesitated a bit too long before denying this, before adding that the gnome referencing is not necessarily a bad thing, and anyway it was more echo of gnome than re-enactment of the same.  They do need to avoid wearing red conical hats with these  though, that would be very high risk.  Oh,  and also avoid fake beards, as long as they follow those simple precautions I think they’ll be OK.

I asked hopefully of the Monday mobster if she was doing Whirlow tomorrow, she wasn’t.  She also offered up the returning comment ‘oh that’s the one that starts up hill isn’t it‘.  Seeing my crestfallen face, she said ‘well, think of it as undulating‘.  I appreciated the sentiment, but she didn’t sound very convincing.  It was worse when she commented that other people doing it would most probably be tapering today, so not likely to see them.  I weakly said my piece about as I only run at one speed anyway, tapering seems a bit pointless for me – though I would be taking it easy on the way round today.  I was beginning to wonder if it was such a good idea though.  I shared my angst.  ‘Oh don’t worry‘ she enthused, encouragingly ‘at least  you’ve made it to the start line, that’s better than many of us, good for you!’ Well, you know that scary phrase ‘tempting fate’?  Well, I suddenly had visions of doing a faceplant in Endcliffe Park and being trampled by the parkrunners behind them – my only consolation being that the speed I go at, there wouldn’t be all that many trailing in my wake to squash me in  a stampede of continuing runners!

Amongst the familiar faces was an unfamiliar but recognisable one.  A former work colleague, I didn’t know he was a parkrunner.  I’d seen him at Endcliffe once before, could be as long as two years ago, he was supporting a friend who was visiting and had wanted to do parkrun.  Turns out that a year or so later this colleague had a go at parkrun himself, and now, some two years on, he was doing his second one.  Still, good to build up slowly when you try new sports isn’t it, don’t want to risk injury eh?

Next in the line-up was regal Smiley, complete with speedy child. They were both wearing waterproof jackets.  Lightweight ones granted, but jackets none the less.  I explained to them about it being a rookie error to wear these, and that it would slow them down as they over-heated.  I’m sure patronising more experienced runners in the start funnel of parkrun is a great way to build popularity and impress other participants with your superior knowledge.  Only joking, obviously.  The Top Tip here really is that by alienating other stronger runners early on, you can end up improving your own performance.  Mortified by your own mistake, you will subsequently be too embarrassed to make eye contact with them, so put on a massive turn of speed in order to avoid them.  Voila, new PB!  Equally, you are doing them a great service too. Likewise they wont want to acknowledge you in public again either, so will access a similarly previously undiscovered gear that can drive them on to running excellence.  Everybody wins!  Yay!

regal smiley and offspring

Starting off happened a bit suddenly, but we were slow across the start line.  Lots of friendly marshals in evidence today.  Even the dog-poo bin had its own allocated staff member to stand by it this saturday.  I found myself running for a bit with Regal Smiley, I couldn’t help but note she had followed my expert advice and her jacket was removed and squished up into a fabric ball,  As we ran on she pointed out another runner who seemed glued to his phone and moving somewhat more erratically in his path through other runners than might be reasonably accounted for by the distribution of people.  ‘He’s doing Pokemon go!‘  I wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or horrified, I hardly know what it is, and have commented previously on the seeming similarity between bladder control product advertising and one of the Pokemon figures:

There followed some discussion about the relative merits of the game, which concluded with Regal Smiley saying she wouldn’t particularly encourage her children to do it before she squished her jacket into a makeshift ball – and with NOT A HINT OF IRONY nor ANY AWARENESS OF HER OWN HYPOCRISY – lobbed it at George, our very own parkrun photographer!  If that wasn’t her own reality version Pokemon go I don’t know what is.   I was shocked, not least, because I’m not sufficiently versed in the various pokemon characters to know which one George was.  Perhaps wiser readers/ parkrunners/ pokemon go players can enlighten me.  For now I’m going with magneton, because the picture looks like it might be some sort of camera thingy, but as I don’t play I apologise in advance if that’s an offensive assumption.  You can take your pick from this chart if you prefer:


Anyway, this whole episode left me aghast.  I was particularly worried as Regal Smiley and our official parkrun photographer were to be hosting an annual BBQ event in the afternoon.  To be honest, I didn’t expect them to be at parkrun today as I thought they’d be at home grating cabbages for coleslaw or shooting squirrels for the BBQ from their back window or whatever.  If this display of target practice was anything to go by, then there was an element of real jeopardy re whether domestic relations would be maintained with sufficient decorum for the event to go ahead at all.  Oh well, I probably get things out of proportion.  To be honest, neither party behaved as if the lobbing of soft spherical items at one another was in any way out of the ordinary, so I think their social event was probably going to be OK, but you never can tell can you.  Each to their own though, each to their own…  Regal Smiley is a very good shot though, and our parkrun photographer had to take evasive action as the projectile arced towards him.  Bet he was really proud of her hand eye co-ordination display there and not in fear of his life at all.

So going round, I saw one Smiley Vest, donned by a Rustling Runners Founder – there were other Smileys, only one in the kit. She is still hard in training for a triathlon overseas in a couple of months time, and breezed by.  I was particularly slow and steady today, and so was lapped by faster runners quite early on.  I found myself alongside another familiar face as I approached the end of the first lap. We contemplated staging a sprint finish together, to make it look like we’d both finished our second lap and were fighting out for the finish line.  It was a nice thought, but the problem with being at your home parkrun is that it wasn’t very likely we’d get away with it.  Still, it was nice to have a chat for a bit, and compare head injury anecdotes as we romped round.  I’m not sure how we got onto mountain rescue, but she it seems had been rescued by helicopter on a skiing holiday after banging her head in a skiing accident.  Apart from the unfortunate necessary pre-requisite of having to badly hurt yourself half way up an inaccessible mountain somewhere, the rescue sounded very James Bond. She was suspended on a wire beneath the helicopter apparently, as it couldn’t land in the narrow path she was in.  How exciting!  Her postcards home would have been rather more interesting than the usual ‘wish you were here‘ level that year!

She too is running tomorrow, but doing the 12.12.  (I wonder what the significance of 12.12 is, it’s such a weird distance).  She was also a bit apprehensive, more about the navigation than anything else.  Once again, I was able to offer up unsolicited advice to help her back on track.  ‘If you get lost, you might end up doing a short-cut‘ I helpfully pointed out.  I was quite proud of my new upbeat positivity in relation to running. This ‘fake it to make it’ strategy might just work!  Thinking about it, it was shortly after this she broke with me as she wanted to stay with her son as it was his first parkrun.  I nodded with understanding, and glanced behind me expecting to see some infant struggling.  Instead there was a towering male, who looked far too old to be her son (or she looked too young to have a  son that age), it’s funny the assumptions you made.  For the record, at the post-parkrun breakfast, I learned of another running tapering term.  Strong fast runners, in order to discipline themself to run more slowly prior to an event, will take with them a human anchor to parkrun the day before.  Hence their strava updates are full of comments along the lines of ‘parkrun prior to ultra with son/ wife anchor’.  It made more sense when explained to me.  I thought they meant sun anchor, which is a harder and more mystical idea to grasp you’ll agree.

Also in the flood of runners passing me was my running buddy who has let me use her Whirlow place.  I felt a bit guilty, if she was doing parkrun faster than me anyway, maybe she should be doing the 10k herself after all.  She was most generous though, saying definitely not up to it.  She nearly wavered a bit when I suggested we split it doing 5k each, and my cheetah buddy (currently injured but volunteering with a clipboard today) suggested the ultimate team effort would be to offer a piggy back.  I nearly choked, and countered that this contribution to our negotiations was at best unhelpful.  She disputed this, pointing out that au contraire, a piggy back would be enormously helpful when trying to run up a steep fell side for example, and I was somewhat flawed. She has a point.  Definitely a point….  I’m still not up for giving a piggy back though – wheelbarrow race, well possibly.  Wait and see.

poorly smiley on good running form

Second loop nailed, I did a minor sprint finish towards the end of the pack.  I caught up with chats with a few people, needed to touch base with the runderwear ambassador for a start – her running seems to be on form at the moment, definitely no chaffing interrupting running action today!  And then there were waves of recognition to other random runners as is always the way.

runderwear ambassador in action - no chaffing here

Quite a few milestones today – I found out too late one runner had completed his 200th run today, that’s pretty darned impressive.  He must have been very fast because  I didn’t see anyone running with 200 balloons attached to them as is traditional.  I hope he went on to eat much cake and then rest on a huge pile of laurels with a smug expression for a bit.  That’s what I’ll do if and when I ever achieve that degree of parkrun awesomeness.  I then went to the end of the park to cheer the absolute final finishers home round the final loop.  Some parent and child pairings I think, who were pleased to have me whooping them from the side-lines, well appeared to be anyway!  It was fun, I enjoy that bit.  It is really inspirational.  There was a look of steely determination on the young runners as they completed their final few hundred metres to the finish.  I must be hormonal, I felt quite tearful watching them, in a good way, but slightly disproportionate.  The same unsettling effect can happen with certain TV commercials if you are particularly unlucky (John Lewis Christmas one or Andrex puppies for example) that emotional manipulation I resent, this slight lump in my throat felt rather more justified and wholesome.  Yay, go them!  Parkrun is great isn’t it, awesome runners, free to enjoy it in whatever way they will.

So that was that, parkrun done, slightly worried I’ll be stiff tomorrow, but at least I didn’t do a face plant and it was good for morale to see some friendly faces again.  Back to Jonty’s for first post parkrun breakfast in ages (not too busy today, friendly service, but those portion sizes keep diminishing) then home for copious cups of tea and strategy planning for tomorrow. Well, maybe not strategy planning if I’m completely honest, but I did put my running kit through the wash which is essential pre-race preparation I’m sure. I may not be speedy going over those hills tomorrow, but at least I shall have aroma de Bold all-in-one, rather than aroma de left-it-too-late-to-wash-my-kit.  You have to do your bit for the public good when out and about running I feel, especially if you are intending to wear your running club vest as a torso compression garment for the duration.  You have to think of the community you are representing at times like these!

Oh hang on, you are probably wondering about the ‘record-breaking’ reference earlier on.  I know, I’m such a tease!  Well, I have exaggerated a little in my heading, but not overly much.  Today was a near record breaking performance for me at parkrun.  It was, dear reader, wait for it, my third most worst performance at parkrun.  That’s a bronze in Olympian terminology for personal worst run since I started.  Surely worth a mention!  I think that conclusively prove you can fake it to make it, just there is not absolutely certainty in which direction in relation to ‘making it’ (towards or away from) that the pendulum will swing.  Still, that’s part of what makes running interesting surely?  The element of the unknown.  Anyway, as we all know, I was tapering, so naturally I could have run faster had I wanted to, I just didn’t feel the urge…  Even without trying, I still got my bronze.  I can do anything!  Hey look – the image on the bronze medal even looks like me, it must have been fate that got me to this point!

The Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medal is pictured during the medal launching ceremony in Rio de Janeiro

The Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medal is pictured during the medal launching ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 14, 2016. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes


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

Monday Mob Muster

This post will be photo free.  There is a very good reason for this.  The Monday Mob are essentially an underground secret society.  They have been around for quite a while, years in fact, lurking in the shadows, furtively whispering messages to one another to agree a rendezvous.  They emerge from winter shadows at the designated time and place, head out for their companionable slow and steady run, and then once again disappear into the mists and trees of Sheffield.   That’s what I’d heard anyway.  A mysterious gathering, other runners would speak of them, but no-one seemed to have actually seen them or run with them.  Like a sort of benign urban myth, you know the kind of thing, a friend of a friend met someone whose neighbour’s hairdresser’s post-person had seen them out running together… once… allegedly.

There was little to go on quite frankly, until, unexpectedly, back at Halloween parkrun at Sheffield Hallam they seemed to quite deliberately out themselves.  Admittedly they were disguised to look as inconspicuous as possible, wearing lime green witches hats, and rattling collection tins in aid of parkrun as they gamely sold cake (good call) to the runners of Sheffield.  To be completely fair, they may not have intended to be publicly identified and outed in this way.  What happened, was that the race director alerted parkrunners to the Monday Mob’s fund raising initiative, and that was that, cat out of the proverbial bag, not going back in not for anyone.  The group now had  a name, and members of the group had recognisable faces.  They were well and truly in the open and in the public domain, ready or not!

cat-out-of-the-bag warning

Clearly, I did make a donation and have some cake (just to be polite) and so put some faces to some at least of this elusive gathering.  They all had big smiles and a welcoming demeanour.  I also recognised at least a couple as regular parkrunners, and more importantly, parkrunners of about my speed and running temperament.  That is, happy with the slow and steady complete rather than compete approach.  Got me thinking.

So it was a couple of weeks ago, having done some shark like circling of those I recognised back at parkrun for a few weeks before,  I approached one of the Monday Mob directly, and asked if they were up for a fresh face.  The person I spoke to was incredibly friendly and welcoming, and immediately gave me her contact details, perhaps it wasn’t going to be quite as hard to infiltrate this group as I’d first imagined, would there be a catch?  Apparently not.  Upshot of all this shenanigans is that tonight, I headed off to join them.  Venturing out in the dark and cold to embrace whatever initiation may await me.  How I levered myself off the sofa I’m not entirely sure, but I’m very glad I did.

I strapped on my TomTom and again by jogging to the rendezvous point in an attempt to up my mileage, was ridiculously early, and had to hang around feeling self-conscious in the dark wearing my builder’s tabard (all reflective stripes and luminous yellow in extra extra large).  Eventually another runner appeared and was really encouraging.  Others emerged from the gloom, and all were so friendly it was like being swamped in a really sincere (but not inappropriate or claustrophobic) hug.  I was made to feel really welcome, it was genuinely lovely.   I’m not sure how many of us there were, maybe 8 or so?   I was a bit worried that by prostituting myself around other running groups in this way I might be being a bit disloyal to Smilies, and come across as flaky and/or disloyal to this new group, but actually at least a couple were also Smilies, and many do parkrun and other stuff too.  The woman I paired up with said on one occasion only a couple of them turned up, and they ended up hooking up at the back of a Frontrunner escorted run which had coincidentally just headed out from their shop.  Wow, Monday nights are positively congested around Hunters’ Bar!

I’m coming to the conclusion that the running community in Sheffield is really a complicated Venn diagram or spirograph of overlapping circles.  Lots of us toy with a variety of groups, and I think maybe it doesn’t matter too much – we can simultaneously embrace multiple identities without developing multiple personality disorders as such.

I will always be primarily a Smiley, but I think there’s room to be a Marshal Mudder at an Endurer Dash; an Accelerator on a Thursday wood run; a Hobbiteer out in the woods with my yomping buddies; a parkrunner on a Saturday; an intermittent Rustling’s Runner (if I ever get fast enough to keep up with them) – so why not a Monday Mobster now and again too?  I guess if I was out their winning national or international races it might be a bit more complex, but I can’t see clubs fighting to retain sole rights to sponsor me.  All good.  One day if I can be bothered I might do an actual Venn diagram of Sheffield running clubs, but I have a feeling it will always be a project for tomorrow, mañana, as the saying goes.

I wanted to join the Monday group because I think the steadier pace will suit me, the Rustling Runners who also head out on a Monday, but a bit later are way too fast for me to keep up without feeling like either my chest will burst or I will cry, possibly both.  Also, although I have significantly upped my running mileage in the last couple of weeks, I haven’t been doing any road running at all, because I don’t like it frankly, but it will do me good to get some miles on the clock on tarmac, how else am I ever to even get to the start of the Sheffield Half?  The Monday Mob do road running at this time of year.  Most importantly, they seem a companionable and friendly group, what’s not to like?

So greetings were exchanged, introductions made.  I couldn’t believe quite how nice and inclusive everyone was, really encouraging and apparently genuinely pleased to have a newcomer join in the fun (though I know from personal experience, that the novelty of having me in the  midst may wear off quite soon, I’ll enjoy the honeymoon period whilst it lasts…)  I found out a bit of history of the group, it started as part of an Active Sheffield (or something) initiative, and that meant led runs for a few months.  Once the funding dried up, the group continued under its own steam, which is a pretty impressive example of sustainability and capacity building of which any public health initiative should be proud.  It was great.  There was a bit of discussion about where to go, and then we headed of towards town (Waitrose to be precise), I never run that route, it was reasonably lit, and we did go at an easy pace, I was able to chat away with my running buddy.  A fellow Smiley I recognised her, but haven’t really spoken  at length before.  It was really nice and companionable.  We swapped tales of how we got into running and why we do it, most bonding, and inspirational too – for me at least.  She is coming back after a pretty major injury, such tenacity to get fit again is very impressive.

It was quite an urban run (though not exactly parkour to be fair, in my head this is sort of the stuff we were doing-ish), and it made a change.  We even went under an underpass at one point and  alongside the dual carriageway before we turned back towards are starting point at the Hunters’ Bar roundabout.  I really enjoyed it, much more than I’d hoped, it was a comfortable pace, atmosphere and welcoming group.  I’m sure I’ll be back.

So I thanked my new Best Friends Forever, and after hugs of farewell and promises to do it all again soon (although not next week as they’ll all be at the pub instead – this group gets better and better)  we dispersed through the park.   They were a little apologetic about this ‘not running’ aspect of their running diary, but personally, I think team bonding, and group nurturing is fantastically important and a very sensible approach to maintaining motivation in my book.  It may take cake to entice a Smiley (or prosecco), the Monday Mob are apparently more hot chocolate/ pub people.  It’s good to do cross training, I think my running Venn diagram will find room for both!

why are you running

We said our proper goodbyes by some of the cars parked in Endcliffe park, and  I set off at a gentle jog to go home.  I didn’t have a head torch, so bottled out of running through the park itself, instead heading off down Rustlings Road.  I found myself at the corner just in time for the rendezvous with the regular Rustlings Runners Monday group.  It was a bit surreal, as they at first assumed I’d come to join them, whereas I was actually all garlanded in smiles because I’d got endorphins flowing post run, and because I knew I would not have to do any more running until tomorrow,  they on the other hand, being stronger runners than me were all garlanded in smiles at the prospect of being just about to embark on a run in the cold and dark right now…  I had been caught red-handed, moonlighting with another group.   Uh oh…  Even so, it was really nice to see them, and we ran together up Rustlings Road where we paused for a quick catch up before they sprinted off up the hills in the darkness and I loped home at a rather more sedate pace.  I am very fond of these running buddies too, but I am not in their league, I was puffed just doing the 1 km or whatever it is,  up Rustlings Road to the corner, though it probably did me good to have to push on a bit.  Definitely at a speed where I could no longer comfortably talk and run though.  There was plenty of time however to identify future running challenges.  Longshaw next weekend is a possible, though clashes with the Smiley off-road, the half-marathon coming up too of course.  Get me and my running calendar insights!   I did my usual thing of being really enthusiastic as post run I feel invincible, it is sometimes hard to recapture this enthusiasm the following morning…

monday mob initiation run

So, this is what I ended up doing despite myself, once again a triumph for my ‘conscientious if not keen’ gene.  I said I’d go, and go I did, and that ended up being a respectable extra 5.6 miles on the mileometer, and my first road run in months.  I don’t really count parkrun, as those footpaths are a bit more forgiving than the pavement slabs of the roadside.  Hooray!  All in all, a very positive Monday Mob initiation.  Also a great end to the day which started catastrophically.  Oh, why was that I hear you say?   Well, I wouldn’t want you to think I’m being a drama queen or attention gaining or anything, but it was pretty dire I can tell you.  I’d woken early, and had a blast of energetic hoovering, washing up and tidying, before settling down at my laptop to do some writing work I’ve been putting off for some time.  To reward myself for my domestic goddess like achievements, I made myself a really perfect cup of coffee.   As I sat down and put the mug down beside me, by some freak of gravity, combined with the ill-judged juxtaposition of my over-full desk tidy to the mug, I somehow knocked not one, but two permanent marker pens.  They sort of catapulted out of the desk tidy in a perfect arc, landing upside down right in my mug of coffee.  I was really, really displeased.  I wish now, I’d had the foresight to take a snap shot of this accident, it was rather newsworthy after all.  However, at the time, I was way too upset.  Not only was my caffeine fix ruined, I had to do quite a lot of both mopping up and pen salvage.  Those permanent marker pens cost more than you think – or would do, if they hadn’t mysteriously found their way back to my house from an unspecified work place some years ago.

My desk tidy is fabulous though, I made it myself hoping to submit it as a ‘top tip’ to Take-a-Break magazine as it’s made out of an old poster tube, decorated with the cover of take-a-break and then sticky backed plastic.  I made a set, one for me, and one for each of my most favourite work colleagues, four in total.  I’ve had mine nigh on 15 years I should think, and it’s still quite as lovely as the day it was created.   I like to imagine my friends/colleagues have similarly treasured theirs for all these years, but then again, I harbour a lot of misjudged fantasies.  Don’t we all?  You know what, I’m going to go and photograph it now to share with you – I won’t do an absolute dramatic reconstruction of the incident itself, but you will get to see the desk tidy, and the ceramic coaster that was the landing point for my  mug.  I fully accept I could probably have done a better risk assessment in advance of this manoeuvre, but I need your support with this, not your contempt.  I did submit this brilliant and practical idea to Take-a-Break as intended by the way, but for some bizarre reason they never snapped it up for their top tips page.  Their loss.


So that’s my running done for another day, thank you Monday Mob for the welcome, I’ll be back, yes indeedy I will!  Now I just have to review the Smiletastic stats, the highlight of my week for the first quarter of the year.  This is living, it really is, here is an upbeat motivational quote to prove it!

dude run run



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

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