Posts Tagged With: motivation

Bringing the Highland Fling to Frosty Tring, parkrun tourism on St Andrew’s Day. Parkfun at Tring Kilted parkrun

Digested read: it was St Andrew’s Day, and it was parkrun day, the Venn diagram intersection therefore took me to Tring parkrun where they were having a themed, ‘bring a giraffe to parkrun day’.  It was very nice indeed, thank you for asking. Frosty terrain but warm welcome.  Also tea-cakes.

Undigested read:

It’s a long one, brace yourself…

Well, that was splendid.  It’s the simplicity of parkrun which is particularly awesome.  You get to rock up at the most spectacular of locations and be part of pop-up random wonderfulness in an infinite variety of manifestations. But today it was all about a kilted flashmob taking over the winter wonderland of Tring Park all in the name of St Andrew.  Dear reader, I give you Tring parkrun.  Epic.

Granted, I had a bit of insider info that gave me the nod that this was happening, but honestly, if you didn’t make it this year, then next year it could be you – there’s always room for a few more.  Go awn, you know you want to!

Yes please to this:

Tring Kilted parkrun.  Yes it is a thing.  Has been for half a decade now, my, you are late to the party.  You’ll be telling me you don’t know about Dulwich parkrun’s special day either at this rate!*  The exact origins are somewhat mysterious to me, but essentially one of the Run Directors at Tring is Scottish, so when St Andrew’s Day came around (not sure if that was with or without an apostrophe at the time) he suggested a kilted parkrun was the appropriate response.  Of course it was.  So the good parkrunning people of Tring took this directive to their hearts and thus the tradition of Tring Kilted parkrun began.  It is a fine thing, pretty much on a par with Burns night or Hogmanay in Scotland I understand – really and truly though, you have to go and find out for yourself.   This is what philosophers mean when they say travel broadens the mind.  Do your own primary research dear reader, don’t take my word for it.  Apart from anything else, it might well be a lot quicker for you to wait a while and head off to the next available Tring kilted parkrun than to spend the next few weeks and months wading through this blog post.  Each to their own though, and you have been warned.  It’s now contributory negligence on your part if you choose to read on and succumb to the time vampire that is a parkrun themed blog post.  All parkrunners have been there, photo albums are even worse.  Hours and hours dissecting every shot, blurred or otherwise, to relive parkrun adventures after the event.  Sigh, parkrun, the event that just keeps on giving eh…

Now, the pedants amongst you might be fretting at the missing apostrophe, is it St Andrews Day really or should it not be St Andrew’s Day?  Well, the thing is dear reader, this has become a moot point, as the Apostrophe Protection Society is no more.  This is obviously sad, and yet pleasingly, the person who I think practically single handedly fought the good fight, John Richards, resigned from his self-appointed post at the age of 96.  Here he is.  Looking at a very large apostrophe on his computer screen, in case you are the sort of philistine who isn’t even sure what an apostrophe looks like.  Might be your last chance to see one …

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Whilst I have no intention of still working, or indeed even being alive at 96, if I was founder of an apostrophe preservation society then I can think no better high on which to leave than when the numerals for your age look like back to back apostrophes!  Anyway, sad as this is, it does mean you can add or ignore apostrophes with gay abandon.  That battle has been lost.  On balance, I think it pains me, or as I shall be compelled to write in future ‘pain’s me’.  Oh the horror.

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However you choose to express it, the wrong way or indeed what I like to think of as the right way, Saint Andrew’s Day is the feast day of Saint Andrew. It is celebrated on 30 November according to not only Tring parkrun but also wikipedia, so at least we have consensus there. Saint Andrew’s Day is Scotland’s official national day. Did you know it is also a national holiday in Romania?  No, me neither.  Just think, that means if they had parkrun in Romania, then they could potentially have an extra parkrun today – oh only it’s Saturday anyway this year, so maybe that would be a bit of a waste.  I’m sure they have other celebratory days available to choose from if needs must.

Anyway, point is, I have contacts, I have insider info, I have an invite, I shall be there.  parkrun tourism is calling me….  Been wanting to go to Tring for ages, I mean the name is splendid for a start, and I hear they have a better class of parkrunners there.  Nice parkland location too, Tring it on!

It’s easy to over complicate things when choosing a parkrun destination.  Many of us started out innocently enough, venturing away from our home runs only when cancellations forced us to forage for parkrun opportunities elsewhere.  Next came the realisation that e.g. for me, within Sheffield, there were a fair few in reach, and it would be cool to do them all.  Has to be acknowledged though, that the gateway drug to more strategic travel for many of us is the running challenges chrome extension.  Suddenly the opportunity to get virtual badges that only you can see drives a compulsion to seek out parkruns to complete the alphabet (only you can’t because there isn’t an X and you have to go overseas for a Z and also loads of parkruns are going to be changing their names soon anyway…. oops.)  Not gonna lie, that was enough motivation for me to seek to complete, amongst others,  both my pirates and Stayin’ Alive challenges.  Yes, shallow, I know.  But look how fab they are, most decorative – and a correctly placed apostrophe, what’s not to like?

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Even so, the compulsion to complete challenges can become mildly toxic so it was good this weekend to take things back to basics.  The decision to go to Tring parkrun was simplicity distilled to its most basic form.  All I did was start a running blog about 5 years ago and include a post about my experiences of running the Sheffield Half Marathon (my first one) laying it as bait for a Tring parkrunner to stumble across when preparing to run it for myself.  Then there was just the little matter of securing a ballot place for the London marathon, but having to defer for a year, so that the year I did do it, was the same year as same Tring parkrunner also got lucky with the London Marathon ballot.  Unbeknownst to me, said Tring parkrunner would continue to read my blog because we were both training for our first marathon, and it was London.  She’s actually a reet good runner, whereas I’m, erm, what’s the word?  Oh yes, ‘not’.  Then the weather had to make it the hottest ever London Marathon, so that the night before facing London I was having a complete meltdown in my hotel room and did a looooooooooooooooong moany blog post about my angstiness.  The husband of said marathon runner would read my blog post, and then comment on it to share with me that his lovely wife – Tring runner previously referred to – was similarly stressed by unanticipated heat wave following months of training in ice and snow.  From that heartfelt message we bonded for all eternity, and it was basically from thereon in a foregone conclusion I’d be at Tring parkrun one day.  We both did London, we met up at some Sheffield parkruns, as you do, and then one auspicious day, I got the kilted parkrun nod.  The info this was happening, the offer of accomodation, and even assistance in scottish tartan beret making.  It was meant to be.  Like I said, parkrun tourism is just so simple when you strip it back to basics.  From the moment I hit ‘publish’ on my blog post button about the Sheffield Half marathon in 2016, fate directed my path so it would culminate in being part of Tring kilted parkrun on 30 November 2019.  Dear reader, this is how fate works.  You can’t fight it, you have to surrender to it sometimes, and embrace the adventures that henceforth unfold… submit to the inevitable and sometimes your life is the richer for it.

So that’s the backstory, in summary, three years blogging, a couple of Sheffield half marathons and two different parkrunners getting lucky with the ballot for the London Marathon leading to  mutual internet stalkery and becoming new best friends.  Simples.  What could possibly go wrong?  Of course, you could skip some of those stages and just rock up at a new parkrun of your choice anytime, but where’s the fun in that?  And there might not be kilts.  I rest my case.

Now what of the actual run?

Well, according to the Tring parkrun website blah de blah:

Course Description
The winter course is an out and back route on grass and dirt trails. Runners are asked to run on the left. Starting in the valley on the north side of the park next to the A41, the course heads into the NE corner of the grassy part of the park. Passing through a marshalled gate, shortly after turn right and climb a steep leafy path to the obelisk. Turn left here and carry on up to the Summer House where the path loops 180 degrees right to the top of the ridge. Follow this path south-west for 1.5 kilometres until the turnaround point just before Hastoe Lane and then returning along the same route. The finish is 200m beyond the start point. Trail shoes are recommended in winter.

and it looks like this:

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Yeah, whatever, sure it’ll be lovely, now on to think about fancy dress?  Kilted parkrun.  I take it that just means broad Scottish theme – or does it?  I wonder, does that mean deferential and respectful embracing of Scottish culture, or does it mean carb loading with a deep fried mars bar (ingredients mars bar, batter, hot spitting fat) the night before and putting irn bru in your water bottle?

Full woad as in Braveheart perhaps…  the woad would be easy enough

then again, getting the full flame effect as a backdrop would be a nightmare for the RD doing on the day risk assessments, need to think again…

Oh I don’t know, maybe better to go down the Nessie fancy dress option?

It helps that fortuitously in between me excitedly accepting the invite to go and the date dawning, we all became better informed about the Loch Ness monster FACT which is good to know.  They are  Monster eels apparently.  Clearly a conspiracy to keep people away.  Though to be fair, I’d be happy to see a ginormous eel or indeed a swimming elephant whilst visiting Loch Ness, or even Tring – is there a Loch in Tring?  Didn’t spot one on the course map…. mind you, I really like the thought of elephants in captivity, particularly not in circuses, so it would have to be a wild one to be acceptable as a nessie sighting, and I’m dubious there are indigenous elephants in Scotland – or indeed Tring.  They would trample and scare away the native haggis, and as haggis exist, the elephants can’t.  Fact.  I’m not happy about the midges though.  Lawks a lordy, Scottish midges,  now they are monstrous.  Back to eels, conger eels are potentially absolutely huge though seeing conga eels would be even more fun.  Makes you wonder…

Still, given how contentious it is with Nessie and all, perhaps I should stick with the tartan theme, which is towards the lower end of causing offence with casual racial stereotyping and/or cultural appropriation.  Hoping so.  Will be interesting to see if any other eeks nessie substitutes are present – or even a rubber chicken, that would be cool, that reminds me, I really must add Wyndham Vale parkrun to my to do list.  It’s in Australia, might take me a while to get there, even if I set off now…  Though I’ve already got a ‘W’ from Wakefield Thornes parkrun, that was a fun one – but lacking in rubber chickens now I come to think of it, though excellent on space ships.  What you lost on the fowl front you gained on the force front.  You had to be there really, no you did.  Trust me.

Incidentally, another monster at Loch Ness is this 80 mile ultra marathon, bet that’s amazing, but then it would have to be to brave the midges, they are the real monster resident in Scotland!  Looks blooming gorgeous though… seriously tempted. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do the full 80 – awesome as that would be, you can just do a few marathons instead if you prefer.  Go awn, go awn go awn….

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Anyway, you keep distracting me, we are heading to Tring not Loch Ness, and I’m going with the tartan.  I had a chat with Geronimo – oh, did I not mention she’d be coming too?  Well, we did London together, and so she’s part of our Tring twinning enterprise, it was only right and proper she comes along for the ride.  Also, I understand from my Tring contacts that exotic African creatures have historically had a home at Tring park.  I put her through the washing machine especially, she has never arrived at a parkrun more fragrant or more aptly attired…

geronimo

We talked about improvising with green tights to create a nessie creature, but it was a non- starter.  Geronimo felt that would cramp her running style, and she didn’t want to look stupid in the way that the wearing of green tights can so often result in.  It’s a look not everyone can carry off to be fair.  Upshot was that I came to think the tartan is a simpler and safer bet.  Granted, some may see our wearing of the tartan as lazy and casual racial stereotyping, but I see desperate times calling for desperate measures.  If Brexit happens I’ll be wanting to demonstrate my Scottish credentials as best I can, however tenuously, and surely a robust celebration of St Andrew’s Day will smooth the passage towards gaining Scottish citizenship further down the line.  Sporting some tartan along with happy smiles is sure to swing it should the need arise.  Decisions made.  Hurrah!  It’s all going to be just grand.  A wee adventure for the both of us!

Oh you want to know more about the exotic animals at Tring.  Fair does.  I was keen to find out more too.  Basically, my Tring parkrun contacts informed me that Zebras are ten a penny at Tring.  I can now confirm from personal experience that the parkrun route is carriage friendly, it even has a carriage turning circle at the top of the ridgeway which is most certainly a boon for anyone planning on taking their own zebra carriage for a spin along the paths there.   Look, spoiler alert, this was taken mid parkrun, but it I can’t keep it from you anymore, so exciting to be able to share:

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OK, I will concede it isn’t perhaps immediately obvious this is a turning circle for a zebra carriage, but surely you can see it now you are in the know?

I don’t honestly know if there are specific rules in the parkrun code regarding the inclusion of exotic animals at parkrun events, but for the record, Geronimo was made welcome, as a giraffe respected in her own right.  This was especially pleasing, as I do worry that once she’s spotted in a forthcoming feature film next year people might treat her differently.  Her meteoric rise to inevitable stardom is a foregone conclusion, hence it’s all the more important to treasure these personal memories before she becomes famous and potentially relationships shift.  Here it felt the welcome was authentic and genuine, and equally offered to all incoming parkrun tourists and regulars alike.  You are curious about her stardom?  Well, I can’t say too much about that just yet – confidentiality clauses and all that –  but I will say she could be upstaging big names on a big screen near you come summer 2020, no-one parties like Geronimo under a storm of confetti at a street party in Sheffield.  I’ll say no more…  I think we just all need to apply a bit of common sense, but those confidentiality clauses are a bind.

Clue though:

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Nope, that’s it, nothing more, my lips are sealed…

So back to kilted parkrun day.  As has already been established, Geronimo likes to party, so she came sporting a kilt, and that made her a shoo-in for a VIP welcome.  I daresay other African mammals would also make the cut, but contact the core team via the facebook page in advance if in doubt. This is the usual turn out convention with zebras at Tring – looks like the ‘one dog per runner’ rule is upped to four zebras per participant max here…

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I’m not sure of the ethics of riding an endangered giant tortoise round the route, although the photos would suggest it’s been done before.  Presumably this would have to be recorded as an ‘assisted run’ and only one barcode allowed.  Actually, that’s not true, I am pretty sure of the ethics around this.  It’s a terrible idea, let the poor animals be.

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Depressingly, most of Rothschild’s eclectic menagerie collection ended up being stuffed and displayed.  That makes me sad.  Then again, some of his impulses were around conservation, and much of his collection ended up in museums contributing to research.  It’s complicated.  You can read more about him and his life – including how he got given a museum for a 21st birthday present one year, as can happen apparently… here.  It does however explain the sign about wallabies roaming in Tring, I know wallabies aren’t from Africa, it’s the ‘exotic’ species link I’m making here.

and probably also explains why no-one really batted an eye about a giraffe rocking up at Tring parkrun, though they did like her fine tartan beret, as indeed they should.  It was a gift from the good Tring parkrunners who hosted me too.  Their hospitality was beyond compare…

Speaking of which.  This visitation was not so much ‘parkrun tourism’ as parkrun mini-break.  I set off from Sheffield on Friday afternoon, and arrived at my guests abode late afternoon, in daylight and in time for pre-parkrun faffery.  parkrun is even more fun if you prolong the experience with pre and post parkrun related activities.  In this case, we had to check out the various fancy dress options, experiment with tartan ribbons, and especially pleasingly for me, be the recipient of a fine parkrun tartan beret.  I had been alerted to this development in advance, and it was tailor made using a panda as a model.

parkrun beret modeling

They aren’t from Africa too, and this particular panda isn’t really into parkrun, but was happy to contribute to the success of the occasion by offering up a head to aid beret construction.  That’s one of the many things I love about parkrun, there is scope for everyone to be part of it, even if they aren’t running or even rocking up on the day.  It’s a community bigger even than the impressive Saturday morning attendance stats suggest.  Hang on, I’ll check it out – right, these are the summary stats as of today, 4 December 2019 (yes, that’s after the date of this blog post I know, so shoot me, time travel is possible in the land of blogs, you just post for whatever date, past or future – you don’t seriously think I’d have written all this on Kilted parkrun afternoon, as well as having post-parkrun eggy bread and going through all the photos?  Quite.)

Number of events: 156,628

Number of runners: 2,240,488

Number of runs: 32,284,453

Number of locations: 684

Number of clubs: 6,667

Number of PBs: 5,540,683

Average runs per event: 206.1

Average number of runs per runner: 14.4

Average run time: 00:28:46

Total hours run: 1,767 Years 233 Days 16 Hrs 33 Min 28 Secs

Total distance run: 161,422,265km

Wowsers!

No wonder it’s changed so many lives.  Hurrah that Mr P S-H, got awarded the he RSA Albert Medal this year, it’s given annually for innovation in the fields of creativity, commerce and social improvement.  You can watch the full presentation and his speech here:

but come back and do that later or you’ll never even get to the start line of Tring parkrun, and never find out if it was a Braveheart-esque line up on a big long start line like William Wallace and the massed Scottish armies, or a more sedate trot out as if on a carriage ride pulled by zebras.  However, you can snigger at the childish observation of Danny Norman of With Me Now who boasted that he got to touch Paul S-H’s Prince Albert.  (Chortle).

Hang on, there’s an official press release thingy parkrun Founder wins prestigious award  with a more formal portrait.  And the medal is so very fine, it even comes in it’s own box I see!  Now that’s class!

official photo RSA

Lots  of teeth in the pictures, most impressive.  I admire teeth, and intend to hang on to mine for as long as possible.  Not in a creepy way, if I do lose them I won’t be threading them on to a necklace, but you are unlikely to meet anyone as obsessive about brushing their teeth regularly as I am…  Anyway, stop distracting me with teeth talk, even though it is true that the best Batman and Robin episode ever was the one where Robin had to save himself from falling to his death by hanging on to a rope with his teeth because his hands were tied behind his back, and Batman said in the closing moments ‘and remember Robin, you owe your life to dental hygiene‘  He was so wise…  And ahead of his time too, oral hygiene prevents heart attacks too dear reader.  Actually, this isn’t a complete digression as Batman and Robin were both present at Tring parkrun too – how else do you explain the cape?

Can’t wait for the next With Me Now podcast, it’s going to be epic, even if it might be light on tooth care. Then again they all are, the podcasts, with or without oral hygiene segments, frankly, I could stay in the house til spring now, just listening to the WMN back catalogue and venturing out only to attend actual parkruns in between listening to, and poring over accounts of ones that have already passed…  I have to catch up on Free, Weekly Timed too, being a late adopter there.  In fact, that’s my Christmas Day indulgence sorted.  parkrun podcasts and a sofa post Christmas Day parkrun, and I shall be living in an earthly paradise indeed. Ho ho ho.  That’s lifted my Christmas spirit, can’t wait now.  Not many more sleeps to go…

Anyway, back to arriving at my hosts.  Fancy dress sorted, parkrun tales shared, just the little matter of carbing up nicely the night before.  We had vegetarian haggis with neaps and tatties which was excellent.  And then we had Scottish cranachan recipe courtesy of Mary Berry  fortunately, my host used the pictorial directions in the recipe dividing up the pudding into three portions… it was only the next day she noticed that the quantities were intended to serve 8.  Still, parkrunners like a challenge, we managed to polish of the lot, and very nice it was too!  Delicious in fact.  Great way to set ourselves up for the Scottish delights that would unfold before us on the morrow…

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and so the morrow came, which is actually today – if you believe the post date for this blog, or a few days ago if you are pedantic and want to know in real time what the timelines are.

Bracing.  That was the word.  A deep, picturesque frost – in fact, loads of parkruns in Sheffield and elsewhere were cancelled due to ice, so I got lucky in having already made it safely south.  Hot coffee was quaffed, and last minute parkrun faffing commenced.  My hosts with the most drove me through pretty villages – used as a backdrop for many a midsomer murder episode apparently, and towards Tring.  Now dear reader, Tring parkrun has many excellent attributes, but it is not blessed with conveniently located loos.  My regular reader knows I cannot countenance undertaking a parkrun without a precautionary pee, fortunately my hosts catered for all needs, so it was that we did a Tesco detour en route.  There are loos in the public car park apparently, but the Tesco ones are nicer, and have a handy tampon/ condom machine too.

Precautionary pees completed, off to the parkrun venue.  Apparently there are a couple of different car parks, but I didn’t pay too much attention to this, as I was chauffeur driven.  We arrived nice and early, passing the not at all conspicuously attired parkrun carpark marshal(s) already mustering and in situ extra early to keep parkrunners safe and on track.

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It was cold though, not gonna lie, was glad I’d not gone for the bare-legged kilted option, though kudos to my travelling companions who did.  Brrrrr.  Next challenge, fancy dress sorting.  This is what goes on behind the scenes quite probably at a parkrun near you.  I think the degree of self-sacrifice (baring legs in the cold) and creativity that goes into making the parkrun fancy dress transformations  happen adds to the parkrun magic, but look away now if you don’t want to see the smoke and mirrors lifted…

I think she was helping to put the kilt on… not sure.  You know what, the parkrun code requests that we all respect everyone else’s right to participate in their own way, so let’s do that, and not worry about the particular dressing/undressing car park shenanigans shall we, each to their own.

And that was it. OHMYGAWDTHISISSOEXCITING!  Kilts on? Check.  Barcodes present and correct?  Check.  Laden with shortbread tins of tunnocks teacakes?  Check  Ready for action dear reader,  Bring.  It.  On.

Last minute check round for anything left behind.  What’s that – a pair of gloves, bound to belong to a fellow parkrunner, my contribution was to scoop these up and take them along too.  Truthfully, I wasn’t much practical assistance to the Tring parkrun experience, unless you count enthusiastic and appreciative participant, which I do.  My hosts were doing a great job with their jenga balancing skills being tested by a quantity of tins and flasks of hot coffee, would have undermined their confidence if I’d thought to offer to help… probably.  Almost certainly, that’s why I didn’t risk it.  Anyway, I was too distracted by the stunning location and sights and sounds of the venue to focus on being useful.  And we’d not even left the car park for goodness sake!

In fact, the set up team, who’d been out even earlier, took some amazing photos of the frost-scaped early morning.  Reet nice out as we say up north!

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You leave the car park through a pretty gate, and turn right following the sign to Tring park (a clue for the observant amongst you) and head along the path towards a spectacular curly bridge.  Not hard, and the chances are there’ll be other parkrunners to follow.

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Don’t forget to admire the wildlife murals, they are to an impressive standard.  There was even artwork on the curly bridge, but I didn’t take a photo as I was clinging to the handrail to avoid skidding on the icy steps at the time.  If you are braver, or there is less ice, you could look for longer.

It’s super exciting when you get to the curly bridge, because it’s quite an architectural feature in its own right, but it also opens up the most fantastic views across Tring park and you get the fun spectacle of watching from above as ant sized parkrunners start to congregate.  They weren’t actually ant-sized FYI – well not unless there are some exceptionally large mutant ants in these parts, they just looked tiny because they were far away.  I’ve been through this before.  These are small, these are far away a la Father Ted,  Yes, she is carrying a bottle of irn-bru.  The coffee in flasks story was just a cover…

Rather epic isn’t it.  And VERY EXCITING!

So we trit trotted over the curly bridge, you can tell you are in the right place because of a strategically placed ‘caution runner’ signs.  Always a relief and frisson of excitement as a parkrun tourist when you espy one of those.  We tagged along with the gathering throngs.  It was not only beautiful and atmospheric, but also a lot of fun, as we started to espy other kilted parkrunners striding towards the gathering point.  My pictures make it look a bit bleak, but honestly it wasn’t, it was just lovely, and perfect… if a tad bracing for my liking – and I still had my fleece most definitely on at this juncture.  Pity those sporting naked legs.  I mean, kudos for honouring the kilted spirit but brrrrr.

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There is a pleasing mini optical illusion as you approach the clan gathering point.  You think it’s flat, but actually, the path – which is basically cross country rather than a formal walkway as such – ‘suddenly’ goes down into a dip.  These means even though you feel like you are basically walking on the flat, you unexpectedly (to me, you’ll know so I suppose I’ve potentially ruined the surprise for you now, oops) find yourself at what is the brow of little hill, and unfolding before you in a big reveal was the encampment!   So exciting.

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It’s hard to describe the scene, but I won’t let that stop me, why let a picture be a thousand words when you can type considerably more than that and gift your reader confusion wonderment?

It was like espying an arctic research station, or a first human settlement on some remote planet, or possibly even a festival tent, the first marker of a party tent for those that come.  It was epic!  Look at the early picture of it put up in the dawn light.  I say put up in the dawn light, but it looked quite complicated, they had probably been working on erecting this for many weeks, I doubt the cows hanging around were all that much practical assistance to be fair.  Good job.  This photo is amazing, it captures the Brigadoon like way that Tring parkrun sort of materialises out of the mist.  They do have regular results listed on their official parkrun page though, so I’m pretty sure it appears more often than one day every hundred years (imagine how annoying that would be, particularly if the one day that Tring appeared it was neither a Saturday nor bonus parkrun day. Oh, the horror!).  Still, wouldn’t hurt to check their Tring parkrun Facebook page in advance if you are making a special trip, just to be on the safe side.

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In fact, this domed cathedral was the VIP tent.  It covered a table groaning under the weight of Scottish consumables, and was adorned with flags as well as being awash with good will.  In fact, as you will appreciate, all parkrunners are equally important, so everyone could access all areas, and very nice it was too.  My hosts added to the weighty load of the table, whilst I helpfully lurked and took photos, and wondered at what point I’d have to take off my fleece.  More dedicated sports people warmed up for parkrun with traditional sword dances, as you do.  Impressive.

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People continued to arrive, all smiles and kilts.  Happy parkrunners a-gathering on an auspicious and frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Cèilidh!  I do like it when people make an effort, and I also like it when there are photos to document such dedication that can be endlessly looked at later.  It extends the timeline of joy that parkrun offers up, beyond the Friday night anticipation, the Saturday morning big event into potentially many months of memories and reflection and sometimes laugh ’til you think your knickers will never dry shared recollections.  I wonder why tena haven’t been approached as parkrun sponsors?  Other incontinence product manufacturers are available.  Only a matter of time surely.  I mean, they may not be so necessary if you are wearing a kilt and adhering to tradition in terms of what lies beneath, but pads could be a boon at non-kilted parkruns, particularly for those who lack strength with their pelvic floors.

There may have been a certain amount of posing, and those swords were most certainly a boon for creative play.  Every parkrun should have photo props methinks.  Game changer!

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I say I took photos, and indeed I did, but I also foraged for some subsequently, and so many of the better shots are not attributable to me, but to the Tring parkrun official photographers, for which many thanks.   They were fab.  All high vis heroes are.  Obvs.

Where was I? Oh yes, mingling at the start.  Another innovation at Tring, is that they lay out a huge blue tarpaulin on which you can leave all your stuff.  I feel they missed a bit of an opportunity to transform it into the Scottish flag the St Andrew’s Cross through the simple effort of tippexing a white saltire onto it, but maybe they didn’t have enough time after spending ages putting up the VIP tent.  The idea is that this keeps your stuff together and dry.  Hang on, I’ll find a pic:

Hurrah!  It’s the usual ‘leave at your own risk’ system, but you’d have to be a bold thief to take on the collective might of the ferocious-looking battle-ready broadsword- brandishing core team left behind at the pod to keep order whilst parkrunners did their thing.  Well, they were gathered around the finish funnel area nearby in their high-vis vests, which amounts to the same thing.

I still had the pair of gloves I’d picked up from the car park so tossed them in the middle of the tarpaulin where hopefully their rightful owners would discover them.  I mean surely only parkrunners would be roving round the carpark at this ungodly hour, carelessly dropping their gloves for others to find.  I did ask half heartedly around for glove droppers, and tried to discreetly look for gloveless hands turning blue with cold amongst those gathering in the hope of using my Miss Marple skills to find the person who had suffered this loss, but my efforts came to nothing.  …  Oops, hope there isn’t some poor random dog walker even now checking round their car puzzling about where on earth else they could have dropped their favourite woollen gloves on their sojourn to Tring park…  Oh the angst.  You have no idea!  At least the gloves were getting their own micro adventure I suppose, but at what cost.

What next?  First timers’ briefing I think.   There was a fair few of us from near and far.  Some who like me, had been wooed over by the prospect of kilts as well as the intrinsic glory of Tring.  Wave to the Poolsbrook traveller, who I didn’t meet on the day but found out we were fellow travellers from the north after the event.  Hello, next time maybe?

There were even a few first time everers!  What a one to choose for your debut.  I like to think they will have gone away believing kilts to be not just de rigueur at Tring, but actually compulsory at parkruns everywhere.  People came from near and far, with and without kiltery, which just goes to show, if you build it they will come!

The briefing was welcoming and succinct, something about a hill, and the route was described, and the ridgeway, and things to look out for.  Hills don’t particularly phase me, not because I’m fast, but quite the opposite, I’m really slow, and hills legitimise me walking, so all good.

Then there was a little bit of anticipatory waiting.

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At some point I availed myself of the thistle on the cheek temporary tattooing service, so that was good …  Actually, can we just pause for a moment to appreciate the magnitude of that particular offering.  Someone had the initiative, foresight and creativity to bring along with them a thistle stencil and a sponge preloaded with face paint or indelible ink, I forget which – purely for the purposes of helping fellow parkruns really rock the Scottish themes.  That’s awesome.  For this great public service fellow parkrunner – and your most excellent plumed hat, I thank you.  He got about 40+ marked up pre-parkrun I understand, and you can see his handiwork captured in some of the photos.  Grand is it not?  You might have to squint a bit to see them, but trust me, there are there, twice in one case, check it out!

He probably would have got more, but his efforts were interrupted as we were corralled for the mass walk to the start, which was just a little way on, up a slope.  The walk was lovely.  It was fun as a collective activity, and also fun because there were coos along the way.  Coo marshals shooed them to one side.

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The cows were calm, photogenic and placid. Unlike Sheffield cows which may be photogenic but need to be given a very wide berth.  Not phased by the parkrunners at all, which was a relief.  I also took a mandatory selfie.  Has to be done.  And I had by this point removed my fleece.  Kill me now.  It was very cold indeed.  I thought my nipples would freeze and fall off, they didn’t on this occasion, but it was touch and go I don’t mind telling you.

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Then we were gathered at the start, where by complete coincidence there was fiddler and an accordian player on hand to provide musical accompaniment to the run.  I mean, honestly, what were the chances of that, and how very fine!

It was apparently the Run Director’s event debut, you couldn’t tell, it all seemed very slick to me, clearly a well oiled team runs this show, or well lubricated by early morning seasonally appropriate Scotch Whisky on this particular occasion at any rate…

We were gathered in a semi-circle for the briefing, cheers for milestones, cheers for volunteers.  To mark the occasion, there was also the official kilt wearing shot, and the kilt lifting one too.  Has to be done.

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and then suddenly, there was the countdown and we were off!

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Up a hill, to the accompaniment of this: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=419351318973065

As usual, I just slotted myself in at the back.  I like to pootle these days, partly dodgy back, partly being unfit anyway but a great deal of liking to take my own time and take in the view.  The view from the back can be glorious, it is often the fun factory of a parkrun, and what’s more, on this particular route, being out and back, you get to see everyone at some point anyway.  Hurrah.

You head off up a fairly gentle incline, and then along a flat bit known locally as cowpat ally.  It was so cold, the ground was pretty much frozen, so no mud bath or slurry pit sliding required today.

Rather you could skip through, and cheerily greet the marshals on the gate in situ to see you safely through into the wood and the first of the proper uphill up to the ridgeway.

Well dear reader, I can report that it is indeed a hill.  Quite  a long one.  It’s picturesque (my signature word of the day forTring parkrun it seems) in the wood, and sheltered too, but it is also quite a long heave ho up the woodland track to the obelisk.  A full kilometer I think, but I didn’t check.  I did have a vague moment of clarity when I recalled my host telling me that when she was trying to get her husband into parkrun she deliberately didn’t take him along to Tring for his first one for fear of putting him off forever.  Hmmm.   Possibly a point.  I paced myself by walking.  Works for me.  As others peeled off ahead, you could see them through the trees.   There was also a lurking photographer at a corner spot, to capture the action.  All details attended to at this parkrun.

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It’s quite hard taking photos in the wood.  The trees are magnificent and tall, and bright sunshine above tried to break through their canopy.  You are heading towards the obelisk.  I do like a landmark on a parkrun, and this one was particularly fine.  It was so high the top was way up in the winter sunshine, so with the dark at the base it took on a near mystical quality.  This spot has its own regular marshal to keep you in order.  He offered smiles and words of encouragement on both the out and back.  Sometimes there is even music from speakers here apparently, though not today.  There is a story about that I gather, but I didn’t get to hear what it was.

From here, you do a zig towards the summer house, and then a zag back upwards to the ridgeway.

Lots of friendly marshals along the way.  Well, maybe not lots, but certainly sufficient, and they all had interactive settings so you could engage with them en route.  You could even pose for photographs with them, or get them to take photos of you and your new best friend you’ve just made at parkrun.  Inexplicably, some parkrunners just sprint round the whole course without stopping to pose for pictures, but perhaps they haven’t yet realised this is a viable option.  Maybe one not absolutely compatible with getting a pb, but then again, I pbed automatically on this route because it was my first time, just putting it out there as a thought.

Once you are on the ridgeway, breaks in the tree line now and again give amazing views, which once again are alas, hard to photograph, but you might get a broad gist from these two – it’s the same site, but with different emphasis on foreground in one and view in the other.  I tried dear reader, I tried:

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As I was having a leisurely event, I paused to try and photograph some runners at the carriage turning spot.  There being a distinct lack of zebra drawn carriages along the way today, there was plenty of room for runners in both directions.

Onwards, and a bit further up was another view point, and the uncontested winner for top trumps cameras in situ too.   Size might not be everything, but sometimes you have to acknowledge it can impress, as with the obelisk, so too with this lens thingamajig.  And you have to concede it is quite something to be able to draw attention away from the eye-catching redhead in full pelt as well as full tartan sprinting by in the foreground.

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Oh look more runners coming by – including mein hosts!  Hurrah!

Though if they are coming back the other way, maybe time to get a wiggle on myself.   It’s reasonably flat and sure footed along the ridgeway, and after a bit, you reach a turn around point, where you are invited to run round, if not the actual marshal, then the cone at this point.  It doesn’t specify how many times you should run round the cone, as many as you like, I was running a bit late, so just did the one, but others may have done more.  One enthusiast apparently overshot the point entirely, and had to be wrestled back by the marshal and spun round to head back to the finish funnel.  They are alert and primed for action at a moment’s notice these marshals.  Quality effort.

Coming back along the ridgeway, you see the views again, better actually, as the light was less whiting out and more illuminating.  Oh look, tailwalkers.  Always a welcome sight, and companionably putting the world to rights as they went along by the look of things.

I noticed more details on the way back.  There are little footpath signs and a Walter’s Wander walk of sorts.  I tried to get a parkrunner bordered by the cut out sigh, but never a parkrunner en route when you need one, maybe you can photoshop yourself in some time later.

And then check out this view – you can even see the finish area and the Rothschild stately home too, if you aren’t so worried about the prospects of getting premature wrinkles you can have a good squint.

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And friendly marshals again.  Still friendly and supportive second time round.  Marshalling in the cold of a crisp winter morning, and greeting all parkrunners with equal enthusiasm takes tenacity, stamina and grace, all were in evidence today, for which I thank them all.

And check out the summer house, spectacularly lit by the sun.  Great place to sit and watch the parkrun whizz by methinks.

and from the summer house, you can see the obelisk ahead, homeward bound now, and some proper downhill coming too, the yin to the yan of the up.

It was quiet by now, and I was nearly caught by surprise by a stealth photographer still en route, but he caught me and Geronimo in full flight.  For the dubious amongst you, and I think there may be a few, surely this shot is absolute proof that running with a Giraffe is not as much of a help on a run as you might think.  The psychological and emotional support of having a companion animal along with me cannot be overstated, but in terms of six legs better than two, maybe not quite so much of an asset as you might imagine!

tp geronimo go

Actually, it might be time for some gratuitous parkrunning action shots, courtesy of the official photographers, a little interlude, before we come to the climactic finish.  Running with a buggy must have been tough.

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So after smiling and waving at the photographer en route, you charge on down the hill, depending on your courage and your faith in your trail shoes, and back out of the wood and into cowpat alley once again.  As I passed through, a runner who’d already finished was coming back the other way, holding refreshments I presume for the marshal(s), who must have been getting cold by now.

The light was beautiful, and the scenery lovely, and my erm, let’s go with ‘sedate’ pace meant I had it pretty much to myself too.

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The pictures don’t really do it justice I’m afraid, but think of them as but a spoiler, something to whet your appetite so you make the effort to go and see for yourself.

After a little while, again the finish funnel comes into view just as you are coming over the brow of the hill.  There is the usual glorious sight of welcoming volunteers, a well staffed finish funnel and a few parkrunners who had stayed behind to cheer the final few through.

What was less usual, but exceedingly glorious, was to be serenaded by the duo who were there from start to finish.  It was a.maz.ing!  Only problem is, I want live music at all my parkrun finishes now.  And not just live, but bespoke, so themed to each and every occasion.  Is that really so very much to hope for?

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Also, and this is a bit weird, it was like entering a different world on the return leg.  Sunshine had melted the frost and the grass was green and the shadows just as atmospheric but the scenery quite transformed somehow.  I had my barcode wristband thingy scanned in record time.  I treated myself to one of the anniversary wristbands, but it’s not had a great success rate scanning, two out of five occasions used it didn’t record for some reason.  No worries today, see, everything about this parkrun was practically perfect in every way!

So that was my parkrun ended, but it wasn’t the end of the fun.  So much still to do.  Specifically, to play with the swords, too good an opportunity to miss, particularly when you’ve come dressed for it especially.  You know, I think that’s one of the most brilliant things about parkrun, yes, yes, we all know it’s good to exercise and be part of a community blah de blah, and I am 100% behind those aspects too, however, maybe for me the bottom line is something about it creating a space where we have permission to play.   Being able to participate in parkrun in your own way includes joyful scampering about.  Where else would it be completely acceptable to mess about with swords in some country park somewhere and be confident that parkrun friends would join in and someone would have the wit to photograph the occasion for posterity – even direct the participants to ensure they captured the perfect shot!  I can’t quite decide which is the perfect one though, so you’ll have to look at the slide show for a whole load of them, and other posing too.  It’ll be fun, it was for us, you can have fun by association, or simply think yourself accursed you were not here, though it was St Andrew’s Day remember, and not St Crispin’s.

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No animals or parkrunners were injured or distressed in the posing for these photos.

Still time to linger, avail ourselves of refreshments, enjoy the view and welcome back the volunteers and tail walkers.

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However, all good things must come to an end.  Eventually everyone was accounted for, as the last of the marshals came in en masse

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Then there was just the little matter of taking down the VIP zone.  That was quite technical, and involved a great many people helping, and me circling around unhelpfully whilst I fretted about the gloves.  Remember them?  Well, they were still on the tarpaulin so not reunited with their rightful owner then.  Oh lawks a lordy, someone, somewhere has probably lost multiple digits from their hands because of me ‘helpfully’ removing them.  Just as I was falling into near despair at this thought, I vocalised my dilemma, only for someone to pipe up ‘oh, they are mine!  It’s OK, I had a spare pair!‘  Phew, it ended happily dear reader.

So too with the tent deconstruction, with some expert supervision, it was dismantled with exemplary teamwork.

I commented to anyone in earshot that this was the sort of high performance practical problem solving that would make me confident that Tring parkrunners are also able to fold up their collapsable start sign and even parkrun flag.  Awkward.  Apparently not.  One amongst our company disclosed they actually have the Tring parkrun start sign very much open on their kitchen floor, steadfastly refusing to be packed away despite having watched youtube tutorials on the theme.  It may even have been the cause of a blip in usual domestic harmony.  Oops.  Assume nothing dear reader, learn from me.  Mind you, those bannery things, they are tough!  Here’s Great Notley parkrun, grappling with the pop up so we don’t have to:

and that was that, everybody started to disperse, and where once there were runners, now there was nothing but footprints and the echo of laughter.  We took away photos and memories.  Some departing were noticeably more laden than others!  Bravo volunteer heroes, above and beyond on so many levels.  Your labours were very much appreciated.  Best kilted parkrun ever!

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Yes, I did notice it looks a little bit like they might be trying to dispose of a body, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.  Even if they are, I’m sure they will have had their reasons.  Talking through the run briefing does really need to be stamped out, I didn’t notice any of that at Tring, and perhaps this is why…

Oh, an in case you are regretting having missed it, you can relive the glory of the run through this actual footage of the kilted parkrun, or possibly the kilted coaches, but it looks broadly similar, so you’ll get the idea.  That’s a fancy dress haggis chasing them down at Tring by the way.  They aren’t real, that would be silly.  Real haggises (haggae?) are much, much smaller, but equally ferocious, and don’t wear fake tartan hat/hair combos, obvs.

kilted coaches haggis

You’re welcome.

Back to the carpark – remembering to check out the lovely wildlife pics again:

Time for a quick pose by the gate – one for the family album surely, or at very least their fridge…

and alas, that was that.  Just the mud on the shoes remaining to prove we’d been there.  I’m not one to bear a grudge, but couldn’t help noticing my toesies were a lot muddier than Geronimo’s.  Still, we’d both had a fab morning out so no cause for complaint.

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So basically, this was indeed the best parkrun ever… until the next one.  That’s the funny thing, it was completely brilliant, but I never fear anticlimax at my next parkrun, because all parkruns are uniquely wonderful. Just as the capacity to love is infinite, so too is the capacity of parkrun to engage and enthrall… worst case scenario is type two fun – only fun retrospectively, but that’s still fun is it not, and parkrun is always parkfun, or your money back!

Also, for me, the awesomeness wasn’t even quite over yet, as it was back to mein hosts for post parkrun eggy bread – which I’ve not had in years and years, and steaming hot coffee, and a de-brief about all the fun we’d had and a sharing of some of the photos too.  Perfect end to a perfect parkrun.  Post parkrun brunches consolidate parkrun fun and parkrun memories.  It was just brilliant.  I felt like I’d been not so much on a mini break, but on an actual holiday, maybe in part because I had.  This might be the way forward for parkrun tourism, groom befriend people over the internet for a period of a few years and then turn up at their houses wanting to stay the night so you can run at their parkrun the next day.  Only moving house will prevent this occurrence from happening again.  Actually, now I come to think of it, there was some mention of a potential move further down the line… no surely not, had to be bluffing, and anyway, just a coincidental mention.

So sadly, the time came where I had to leave.   My hosts cheerily waved me off cheerfully.

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Possibly a little too cheerfully at seeing me go now I come to think of it, but then again they had to crack on with the rest of their busy day.  You can see they are just itching to get on with their spontaneous outburst of Scottish Country dancing, and that shortbread wouldn’t be eating itself now, plus there was scotch to be drunk also.  I think they keep the Drambuie back for bathing in.  It lightens the legs.  No rest for the wicked as the saying goes…  Just another typical parkrun morning, paying homage to their wannabe Scottish heritage.  Honestly, when they aren’t indulging in Scottish themed consumables, they are running up tartan accessories and working on their highland flings.  I know, I’ve been there.  …

celebrating guests departure

So thank you lovely Tring parkrunners all, but especially thank you to my virtual and now actual parkrunning Tring friends, we have officially bonded now, we have shared a kilted parkrun together, this can never be undone, not that we’d want to, because it was brilliant.  Exceeded expectations even, which is saying a great deal as I’ve been excited about it for ages and ages!  🙂

Incidentally, if you would like to triangulate my account of this Tring parkrun with another, then dip into the very fine debut run report for event #276 Highland (Fl)Tring!!!! which you can access here.  Recommended.  Full exposure of Tring parkrun.  There are also a gazillion photos (yes, I think it is an actual number) with albums aplenty included kilted parkrun album part one, Lucy’s perspective (yes, that’s me!)  and the final collection – like I said, really a lot of photos, but you can never have too much of a good parkrun thing.  FACT.  Also, what’s new year for if not for reminiscing about the high points of last one, all those pics could come in handy.

Same time next year anyone?  Or just get in the habit of wearing a kilt anyway, they are surprisingly warm to run in apparently, and handy if you need an al fresco precautionary pee I understand.

So keep on having parkrun fun y’all, here’s to new parkrunning adventures for all of us, wherever they may lead us.

By the way,  you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though, and you might be needing to get on with your life again now.  You are needed in it.

*Oh you want to know about Dulwich parkrun. Well, turns out it may be Dul by name but it is far from Dul by nature (see what I did there, gawd I’m hilarious sometimes, great punning action).  They only do a Eurovision Song contest themed parkrun every year.  That’s my 16 May 2020 parkrun destination sorted – hopefully it won’t be negatively impacted by Brexit.  Do love a parkrun that sets its own traditions. Colwick parkrun has its Hawaiian shirts, Tring parkrun its kilted run and Dulwich parkrun the full European spectrum.  Choose your parkruns wiseley dear reader, and your grand tour will be most enlightening, educational and – best of all – entertaining.  Start making your bespoke bunting now…

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The Spirit of Bushy parkrun. 15th Birthday Brilliance at Bushy parkrun.

Digested read:  I went to Bushy parkrun for their 15th Birthday Bonanza.  It was epic.  There is however a darkside to parkrun I discovered.  But in a good way…

LC the awards

Undigested read:

Well, yes it was ‘epic’ but I’m hardly going to leave my account at that now am I?  Have you not been concentrating on my previous parkrun posts?  Concise isn’t really my thing, but on the plus side, that’s what scroll buttons are for, and you can always just whizz through the photos if you prefer.  On the other hand, if you are up for the account then best to strap yourself in, it’s going to be a long one.  Maybe get some tissues to go with your pot of tea/bottle of neat vodka and/or other assorted victuals, it was after all quite an emotional roller coaster of a day.  A good one, but overwhelming for sure, and reliving it all, might just trigger a purely reflex reaction of general teariness.  Or it might not.  I don’t know, maybe you dear reader have a heart of stone, but keep the tissues handy anyway, just in case a friend needs them, or you are coming down with the first cold of autumn, it would be the right thing to do.

So, where to start?

Well, let’s start with a swirly scene dissolve sequence to signify traveling back in time, because, my perspective on Bushy parkrun’s 15th Birthday (which by happy and fortuitous coincidence just happens to be actual parkrun’s birthday too – what were the chances of that?) started a few weeks prior to the day. 

I got a message.

Not from some weird spirit or voices from the sky, or even from deciphering the imagery in my morning bowl of porridge, rather more prosaic.  An actual message through Facebook.  Not just any old message, but one from the epicentre of parkrun.  One from the Bushy parkrun Event director himself!  So actually, pretty awesome, and way preferable to hearing voices in my humble opinion.  It said, basically,

…  we have a little* prize giving every year on our anniversary, this year it falls on Oct 5th. One of the awards we introduced a few years ago was Spirit of parkrun and we would love to present it to Elisabeth this year … do you think we’d be able to get her across to the start area for the presentation?

For clarification, this Elisabeth. That’s my mum.  I exist in the parkrun world only as ‘Elisabeth’s Daughter’, it is my tenuous claim to fame.

Oh.  My.   Gawd.  This was amazing news.  She’d be beyond ecstatic, and I’ve been wanting to get her to see the start and finish of Bushy parkrun for herself for years.  This would be a great excuse to get her over there and ‘make it so’.  There were a few logistical challenges to work out, but I could go down from Sheffield, and there would be a veritable parkrun army of well wishers on hand to help if needed.  This was going to happen.  It couldn’t be a surprise as I needed to work out the details with mum, but it was going to happen.

I replied with what I hoped was an appropriate level of effusive enthusiasm, both on my behalf and mum’s too.   She was chuffed, delighted, totally up for it.  I could not wait.  How as I going to keep it secret when I was bursting with wanting to share.

‘I’ll have to think about outfits for us both too’ I said

‘Outfits?’

‘Fancy dress outfits, it is going to be fancy dress right?’

‘Erm…’

Not fancy dress then.  Lucky the topic came up, it was only because I made a chance remark about I found out.  It just never occurred to me that it wouldn’t be fancy dress.  I had just assumed it would be because I understood that is the default parkrun party celebratory way. It shows yet again, everyday is a learning opportunity.  Mind you, it would have been hilarious if I’d rocked up with mum and me in complementary themed fancy dress outfits.  Not gonna lie, there’s a teensy bit of me that wishes I hadn’t been disabused of my misunderstanding, it would have been a classic.  And you know what, if we had, it would have been fine.  There’s usually a few people sporting fancy dress at any given parkrun anyway, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t have been us on this particular day.   If junior parkrunners can turn up at parkrun in minion onesies just because they felt like it, why not us too – apart from the fact I don’t have a minion onesie – but otherwise my point still stands.  Still, maybe just as well, finding something to go with her traditional Happy Birthday parkrun sash  might have been a challenge.  I got on with ordering that, and asked her what colour she wanted.  ‘It has to be orange that’s the parkrun colour!’ well apricot technically, but good call.  All those months and years of watching parkrun have not been wasted, she has totally internalised the parkrun palette.  It’s not only the high fives she’s nailed since she became an honorary marshal on the Bushy parkrun course.

kudos to parkrun

The semiotics of parkrun eh?  Someone should write a book on that – or maybe do a podcast.  Perhaps a niche OU sponsored variant special edition of With Me Now – a With Me Know broadcast has a certain ring to it?

Re the keeping it a secret bit, I did try really hard, but I may have sort of accidentally told a couple of very exceptional individuals who weren’t in the Bushy parkrun circle ‘in total and absolute confidence‘ as in ‘this is a secret but not a secret, it’s only ever to be divulged on a strictly need to know basis‘.  You need to understand this was basically a necessity for health and safety purposes, I’d have imploded if I’d had to keep that to myself, and with my brain splattered around the interior of my Sheffield home, and my undiscovered imploded carcass adorning my hallway in a star shape, who’d have taken mum to the start line in Bushy park?  Precisely.  I know, unthinkable!

The excitement continued to build as the countdown continued.  Little teasers appeared on the parkrun uk Facebook page.  The 15th anniversary commemorative barcode flatband, the poster for the first ever Bushy parkrun time trial was dug out from someone or other’s attic and reposted for the digital age.  Also, some uplifting videos reminding us why we do parkrun, not that we all need reminding necessarily, but it’s still nice to hear other people’s stories. 

Whangarei parkrun excelled even themselves by having their very own darkrun by way of celebration. This was run as a freedom run, simultaneously with everyone taking off on the start line of Bushy parkrun at 9.00 a.m..  That was 9.00 p.m. in New Zealand, hence they were in the dark, but a select group darkran/parkran and celebrated with cake and probably fizz as well.  It is the parkrun way!  I really want to go to Whangarei parkrun one day, they positively ooze the parkrun ethos.  Darkruns are catching on over there thanks to them!

sept5 18A small group gathered for Whangarei darkrun and I understand a thoroughly enjoyable event resulted. Denise very kindly provided a celebratory cake. The night was made memorable by a visitor from Hamilton , Joseph Morgan, who ran the course in 16:01 which would be a course record. Of course it being a Freedom Run and an unofficial event it will not take the official title, but nonetheless it is a stunning time and we congratulate Joseph. Incidentally his brother Adam also ran and was not far behind! (Apologies, the picture is badly cropped, but you get the idea!)

sept6 19Whangarei was also the catalyst for a South Island darkrun at Pegasus which was very successful and included a live link with Market Harbororo parkrun in the UK . Quite a day down there with the celebration earlier in the day of the completion of 500 parkruns by Steve Darby, the first time that has been achieved by anyone outside the UK.

It isn’t even the first time they’ve done this, here are the original darkrun crew from 2017.

Whangarei original darkrun

That’s dedication isn’t it.  High Five to Whangarei parkrun!  And to Pegasus parkrun too!  I wonder if there is a Running Challenges badge for nabbing parkruns linked to mythical beasts?  There should be, gap in the market I’d say.  Greytown Trail parkrun had a darkrun too.  Double the parkrun fun all in one day!  Yay.  Like the New Year’s Day double here except only one counts, they are 12 hours apart and one is in the pitch dark and a freedom run, but otherwise identical.  Bound to catch on. Not.

greytown woodside trail parkrun darkrun

Mind you who expected 13 on 2nd October 2014 to become 1838 13 years later?  That’s right dear reader.  Nobody at all.  Can you tell which starting line up is which?  Go on, be brave, take a wild guess…  Maybe New Zealand freedom darkruns of the future will have similarly grown exponentially.  Only a matter of time.

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Anyway, where was I?  Stop distracting me with all these questions about darkrun, fine innovation as that is.  Oh yes, I was indulging in the anticipatory build up to the big day.  My Facebook feed was full of it, mind you it is always full of all things parkrun, no idea what the point of Facebook is otherwise to be honest.

The actual anniversary was 2nd October, though the nearest Saturday/ parkrunday was 5th october, and parkrun UK reminded us of this with some handy stats.

birthday stats

Time ticked by, and eventually, amazingly there was just one more sleep to go.  I had a nightmare drive down from Sheffield, a record 8 hour drive due to the M1 being closed in a couple of sections.  However, you have to think of those who never made it to their destination at all, and I did, so let’s keep perspective eh?  Quick visit to mum, she had her hi-vis all ready, and her birthday sashes too, looking good.  One more sleep.  Not that it was a sleep really because I was SO EXCITED!  And also, had to invest time in excited texts and messages with parkrunners and supporters various to check out who was going to be there for the big celebration.  Turns out, it was basically everyone in the whole wide parkrun world, so I could have saved myself the trouble of contacting people.  Joking apart, it was brilliant to be sharing the anticipatory excitement, and many  of the Bushy parkrun team touched base too, offering support on the day as needed.

And then it was tomorrow!  Which was, in case you haven’t been concentrated, or maybe just skipped ahead parkrun day and Bushy parkrun’s 15th birthday!  Yay!  Let’s get this party started.

Over to pick up mum, and she was pretty much in readiness, with her hair done specially and so it was just a question of gathering up everything bar the kitchen sink ‘just in case’ into the car and – after texting to say we were en route –  off we went round to the carpark near the coffee shack and the Bushy parkrun finish line.  I knew there was a couple of disabled parking bays there, but we went early because it was going to be rammed.  It was about 8.10 a.m. as we were driving along Chestnut avenue, we could see some runners whizzing about – with the benefit of hindsight, I wonder if this was some of the original golden barcode bearing parkrunners, who I gather met and ran the original route, started by Paul S-H himself after he’d given the traditional run briefing apparently.  It was on the With Me Now, special Bushy parkrun Birthday Edition broadcast – more of that later.  There were some humungous stags about, it is the rutting season, and they had to cancel Bushy junior parkrun because of them potentially charging.  The threat is real, but I think even a rutting stag might give way to 1800 plus runners.  This roaring beastie was snapped in Richmond Park.  Respect.

jules cox photo

Photo taken by https://www.instagram.com/julescoxphotography/ following the British Deer Society Code of Conduct: https://bit.ly/2Eqr0EK

You could see from a distance the car park was full, and as we cornered there was a TV van, and hundreds of people purposefully setting up for the occasion.  It was amazing, and we’d not even parked up.  I could feel myself filling up, this was going to be quite an extraordinary day.  The scale of the event takes your breath away. I’ve run at it loads of times over the years, but this day was something else.

exciting!

Mercifully, the disabled space was free, and we pulled up.  Mum was soon safely out of the car and into her wheelchair, sash straightened, hi-vis on,  and into the collective embrace of parkrun.  Honestly, it took seconds for her ‘regulars’ to spot her and come rushing over.  Although mum has got to know people at her corner, obviously there are limits to how long they can talk for as inconveniently they are mid-parkrun and have to press on.  It was just brilliant that many came across for ‘proper’ hellos and yep, the photos started.  I wonder if this is what it is like being in the entourage of a famous celebrity, you are just stunned by the attention, the paparazzi, the fan base.  It’s overwhelming.  Actually scratch that.  What am I saying ‘I wonder if this is what it is like being in the entourage of a famous celebrity’.  No need to wonder dear reader, that is exactly what I was.   And it was great.

I left mum surrounded by well-wishers taking selfies.  I was filling up already and we’d not even left the car park.

and rang the RD who was organising the awards ceremony.  They had two RDs today, one doing run stuff and one doing awards stuff.  The team at Bushy parkrun is amazing.  It’s huge, but still friendly, and the whole event runs like a well-oiled machine.  A well oiled machine fuelled by cake and prosecco and the positive endorphins that fly around the park I think.

I headed to the big birthday balloons, which are mandatory for Bushy parkrun’s birthday as it is a parkrun rule that Paul S-H has to be photographed alongside them. In years to come this may no longer be environmentally acceptable what with the plastic and helium and all, but this impulse was nevertheless indulged today, and, I’ll let you into a secret, quite a few other people embraced the photo opportunity they presented too.  The pictures tell their own story.  Here’s the starter though:

Paul and balloons

Despite getting my contact on the phone, I had a little trouble spotting him because firstly, I was looking in completely the wrong direction, and secondly, he was in disguise not yet wearing a high vis.  However, we made contact, and I got a lovely welcome, and directed to where the awards were to be presented.  It wasn’t too far, and mercifully the rain of the last few seemingly months had stopped.  The compact path was pretty good, I’d been in a panic about whether the wheelchair would be robust enough for it, but all was well.  What I hadn’t factored in was how slow progress would be as it was like doing a royal walkabout wheelabout.  So many well-wishers.

By the time I got back to mum, she had been located by the Bushy parkrun team who were in on the awards and around to help.  Happy reunions, they were awesome, not only because all parkrunners are awesome anyway, and they were great company, but also because they helped make the magic happen by clearing routes, sourcing balloons and selfie-frames and carrying out all those individually small but cumulatively huge and magnificent gestures that made the morning get better and better!  I now realise, my whole life would just run so much more smoothly if I had a couple of attentive and proactive personal assistants to accompany me about my daily business.  It was fantastic!  Thanks team Bushy!

We passed the film crew – it was going live on the BBC apparently, later I had a moment of disappointment at having missed it, but then again, that’s ridiculous as WE WERE THERE ACTUALLY EXPERIENCING IT ALL FIRST HAND which is way better.  Anyway, I was still sulking after the One Show coverage, so annoyed about how negative the guests present were about it afterwards, totally missing the point.  Oh well, let it go, their loss after all.  Poor people not yet inducted into the way of parkrun, their lives must seem strangely pointless without it…  They deserve our pity not our hate.  It must be awful for them.  I’ve moved on already.

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Next challenge, was to make it down the long path, but there were lots of micro-adventures and distractions along the way.  Photo ops and greetings too.  Our Bushy parkrun snatch squad managed to requisition the balloons so we could take pictures in all possible combinations of groupings.  It was hilarious.  You’d be amazed how much fun potential is contained within a couple of balloons.  Awesome.  That was going to be hard to top…. 

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Hard, but not impossible it turns out.  It turns out, that this yellow brick road was studded with ever escalating awesomeness along the way.  I say this, because ‘suddenly’ out of the autumnal mist (I might have made up the bit about the autumn mist, but I like to think it adds atmosphere) not one, not two, but THREE Pauls emerged.  This was amazing, the holy trinity of Pauls.  All of these Pauls are important in different ways.  One founded parkrun, which you might have heard of, one was responsible for posting a picture of when he delivered a Christmas card for mum and she shared with him what parkrun means to her which set in motion many more Christmas cards, and one is another Bushy parkrun stalwart, Bushy junior parkrun instigator who has proactively offered support to mum in practical ways.  The problem is, that up until now, they have never been gathered together in one place.  I don’t know if that’s because like the royals who travel on different planes, they daren’t risk all being taken out simultaneously by a rutting stag or falling tree; or if it is because time and space will invert and collapse if they are all seen at once; or – and I’ve thought about this a lot – if it’s because like Superman and Clark Kent, they are actually all the same person.

superman and alter ego

Well, you do start to wonder.  I’ve invested quite a lot of time and effort trying to explain to my mum who is who (or should that be who is whom?  My grammar fails me), but they’ve all sort of merged into one multi-talented, multi-faceted, interchangeable Paul, and it’s hard to differentiate one from the other.  I mean she knows each individual identity, but as soon as we have any conversation in which I refer to a parkrun Paul, it becomes immediately confusing trying to explain which one I mean.  Similarly when looking at pictures, all Pauls can seem pretty much the same if you only see them one at a time apparently.  In my defence, I mentioned this to the partner of one of the Pauls and they agreed that this was a valid point and they felt the same on occasion, that they seemed interchangeable at times and it does get confusing,  so it isn’t just my mum.  Anyway, today was the day that kept on giving, because they all came, and they all posed, and it was THE BEST THING EVER ALL DAY (until the next best thing ever all day, because like I said before, it just kept getting better).

Here they are a-gathering 

And they did attract a lot of attention:

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and it was so exciting there might have been so over excited and opportunistic photo bombing going on.  I was trying to play it super cool alongside parkrun royalty myself, but not sure I totally nailed it on this occasion:

Despite the mass of people, there was time for some proper conversation too.  This photo is another BEST THING EVER that happened on Bushy parkrun’s birthday.  Thanks Wendy Stokes for the pic.  It is taken from her awesome run report for the Bushy parkrun 15th Birthday event which is a must read too.  Here are two icons of Bushy parkrun sharing words of wisdom.

sharing words of wisdom

It was basically like a ‘Who’s Who’ of Bushy parkrun.  Like I said before EVERYONE was there.  Oh, and then we found the selfie frame. This was just the beginning, gets even more genius later on…  I’m not sure I’d properly inducted mum into the joys of selfie frames at this point, but even though it looks marginally like elder abuse to the ill-informed, all these photo based activities were in fact consensual.

and we continued our slow progress to the area near the start where a table was set up in readiness for the awards.  But more friends emerged from the throng.  This one is my namesake, and, although it’s a bit tricky to pinpoint exactly at what point Elisabeth was first noticed by the Bushy parkrun community, her formal recognition was as a result of this member of the core team, saying very sensibly, well, if she’s there every week anyway it’s high time she had her own hi-vis.  And someone, not sure who, maybe a team, maybe Lucy herself, duly walked down to present her with her very own marshaling tabard many moons ago.  From thereon in she was an honorary marshal for Bushy parkrun.  I remember that day, because when I spoke to mum in the evening afterwards she was so thrilled to have been recognised and welcomed into the parkrun community. It was both a small thing and an enormous thing at the same time.  I might have got something in my eye that evening too.  Honestly, I do like Bushy parkrun, but the allergens there are so powerful they could bring tears to my eyes even over a phone line to Sheffield.  I know, almost unbelievable.  I do have a tendency to be allergic to things, but it’s still quite bad. I think it may be that sadly I’m allergic to unicorn hair or something, there are loads of unicorns in Bushy park, so perhaps it’s that.  Anyway, high time we got a picture of these two together.  The start of the chain reaction that culminated in today. 

One day, I’m going to use my hallway wall to create an incident room time line of the sequence of events that led to the naming of Elisabeth’s corner and the celebrations of today.  Like on Vera, or maybe Sherlock Holmes, the new version with Benolin Cumbersnatch, I like the idea of those hi-tech interactive glass boards to work with.  It’s higher up the food chain than post it notes, though I do like Vera, maybe she could be my consultant…  Also, on reflection, I get quite excited by colourful stationery, and this would be a great pretext for getting a stash of new highlighter pens and novelty post it notes so potentially something like this:

investigation wall

but with more hi-vis, milestone tees, fancy dress, christmas cards, and TpoT orange beanie hats.  A project for another time, you must be on your second pot of tea/ bottle of vodka by now, and we’ve not even made it to the start line yet…

More and more friends emerged, some pre-arranged, some by happy chance.  Many were delighted to see mum at the start, if a bit perplexed as to what the implications for this might be when they got to Elisabeth’s Corner and found her absent.  I was kicking myself for not having thought to put some sort of hi-vis substitute in place for the duration, that could have been hilarious.  What about her parkrun public who count on seeing her at the half-way mark to give them the necessary energy boost to make it round to the end?  Oh well too late now.  Hello best ever photographer for taking fab photos of mum over the years (sorry I don’t have the skills to quite return the favour), hello pioneer parkrunner – congratulations on your 250th milestone and well done for having a balloon – nice to see a fellow Smiley here,  hello everyone! 

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While we were having our micro-adventures trying to get to the start area and the presentations table, others were similarly migrating across the park.  Not least, David Moorcroft, who was to be presenting the awards.  One of my favourite posts from today (of which there are a great many to be fair, often the one I’ve most recently looked at) is this one, of a cheery parkrunner welcoming a newbie to her home parkrun.  ‘Do you run much/ at all?‘  Oops.  Only not oops at all, because she was appropriately welcoming and that makes her a winner to me.  Yay!

do you run much.png

It is amazing, everyone of the 1838 runners plus volunteers and parkrun entourage had their own physical, mental and emotional journey to get to the start.  It can be both the simplest and hardest thing to rock up.  If you listen to the With Me Now parkrun special edition podcast, you might like me, be surprised to hear from others how it took a bit of courage to turn up the first time, and sometimes still does.  But it’s always worth it.  You just start by reaching out and saying hello, or not even that, just turn up and observe from the sidelines if you want, you are still significant and a part of parkrun for doing so.

Anyway, on the subject of ‘oops’ as we went towards the start, mum struck up conversation with David Moorcroft.  She had no idea who he was at this point.  Sorry.  Thought he was very nice and friendly though, which is actually more important and more of a compliment isn’t it.  She was querying why his N was the wrong way round on his tee shirt.  I’ve clearly not kept her up to speed with the merits of the COИTRA brand.  Oops.   A few people were sporting the raspberry tees today by the way, they were really nice.  I’m tempted, but then I’ve just splashed out on my apricot tee…

contra.png

En route I spotted another familiar face – a splendid individual to whom I am still grateful for securing us extra Smiletastic points during a running challenge on account of her dragonfly necklace.  Long story.  Smiletastic can be quite hard to explain… We first met when I was on a running weekend including a track session, Bushy parkrun (obvs) and a recovery run round Richmond park too.  Also, and this is crucial, a meal out, during which she wore said dragonfly necklace, and through some shameless meddling with the points allocation system, nabbed our Smiletastic Dragonfly team some extra points.  Yay.  We even requisitioned it for a photo op, and one of the Pauls took the picture too, proving they can be handy accessories to have around in all sorts of unexpected contexts.  Also, I think it must have been quite a novel experience for him standing the other side of a camera lens, so everyone’s a winner!  I’m actually quite surprised he knew how to operate it at all.  We probably had to direct him… 

We were pointing at the dragonfly brooch.  Don’t be childish.

Anyway, as well as her being intrinsically awesome, and getting us smiletastic points, on this occasion she introduced me to the RD for Colwick parkrun, another of my favourites, who was touristing at Bushy parkrun today.   I went to Colwick parkrun earlier in the year, but this RD was away then for some reason, so it was nice to say hello.  It’s a great run, if you go, you have to wear a Hawaiian shirt, I mean the RD was trying to convince me that’s not strictly true, but trust me on this one.   Love the parkrun network, it reaches everywhere.  Finally, we found ourselves at the front of the presentation audience, my lovely Bushy parkrun assistants having cleared a way through the throngs to secure us prime position.  Having contacts does help.

And then the awards commenced.  The RD did a lovely intro – encouraging us to look at our watches around the 13 minute mark and note where we were and that back in the day David would have been zipping down the finish funnel at just that point.  David Moorcroft added some heartfelt comments too, he was a great choice.  Fortuitously, a friend took a video of the start and some of the early awards, they are also documented in the aforementioned run report, so I’ll resist the temptation to go through it all again here.  Just take it from me that it was all heartwarming, celebrating and sharing the joy of parkrun.  A very special morning indeed.  I freely admit I was quite overcome, but for the record, the photo below, which I’ve included in the interests of transparency and because it meets the comedic element criteria which overrides my default reflex of deleting unflattering photos, is the face I pull when I recognise a parkrun face in the crowd.  In this instance the amazing Waterworks parkrunner who became my best friend when we bonded pre marathon at Southwark parkrun.  She’s not only awesome in her own right, but appreciates the importance of fancy dress on any and all occasions.  Of course it was emotional seeing her, even though I’d known she was coming.  I can’t help having a slightly manic and over-excitable disposition on occasions so I may as well embrace it.  I may look pained and in shock, but it was coming from a happy place.  Just shows how hard it is to read emotions.  No wonder social interactions can be so fraught, it’s a complete minefield.  You can never really tell what someone is thinking, just have to go with your instincts and hope for the best. 

And you can click on the link to see for yourself if you want the full immersive experience.  And let’s face it, why wouldn’t you?  Hope the link works.

So the various awards were dished out to worthy winners all, and it was lovely how the parkrun family came together to celebrate diverse achievements.

But then, the for me BEST BIT OF THE MORNING EVER was coming with the final award.  The RD did an awesome build up, not naming mum but referring to her as ‘this person…. more famous that Paul Sinton-Hewitt‘.  Credit where credit is due, this RD knows how to work a crowd.  He spoke of how she’s at her corner week in week out – ‘but she’s not there today‘ a gasp of horror from the assembled company… to be replaced by a cheer of relief as he added ‘because she’s here at the start!’.  It was just the best noise in the world ever, real affection.  And then when she was presented with her award, the applause went on for ever.  Well, nearly for ever, I mean we still had to stop to have parkrun happen at some point – and then she held her award aloft and a great collective whoop went up.  Best thing in the world ever!  It is- quite a solid chunk of glass with a personalised inscription on it  and has considerable heft, anyone would be delighted.  This moment gave rise to my favourite photo of the morning EVER, until the next picture popped up in my newsfeed obvs.

mum and david moorcroft

But you know what,  you don’t have to take my word for it, you can see if for yourself in the clip below.   The volunteer of the year gets his recognition first, and then it’s the final award of the morning to my mum about one minute in.  Not a dry eye in the park I can tell you.  Those blooming unicorn allergens eh?

It all went off to perfection.  All the award winners were present, the day stayed dry, and now it was time for the run.  As people dispersed snatched a few more hellos, and a little bit of trophy admiring (more of this later).  I took the opportunity to go in with a big hug of emotional gratitude to David Moorcroft, he looked a bit startled.  It was only as I walked away it dawned on me that although I was meaning to just express appreciation for the brilliant way he gave out the awards to everyone including my mum, he would have had no idea at all who I was and what I was doing.  In the circumstances he handled it well, all the same, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise for scaring him and potentially invading his personal space.  The irony is I’m not even all that huggy generally speaking, but something about the whole parkrun/ running vibe that stimulates this impulse in me.  I think it does for others too.  We’re all on hugging terms here… but even so, note to self, maybe check first next time.

and then positioned ourselves in a good spot to watch the start.  It was the first time mum had ever seen this, and what a day to choose.  Some good parkrun citizen had the wit to take a video of the start line.  It went on for ever!  Mind you, even the stills are quite impressive:

AB start

It’s an extraordinary sight to see a whole sea of people moving like a tsunami across the grass and towards the ant hills.  Amazing.  Here is another video clip of the start from a different – more courageous angle some would say

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Wow, a lot of people pile past pretty speedily – and then they are gone, winding their parkrun way out of sight

Bushy parkrun around they go

see them run!

SG parkrun surge

Time to turn about, and make our way to the finish funnel, or more specifically a new, one time only honorary marshal point from where we could cheer the parkrunners in.  Time for a bit more trophy admiring en route though, and a proper chat with parkrun supporter friends who’d come especially to see mum’s prize giving.  That was fantastic, it is wonderful to share such moments.  Mum was really taken with the way running gear adorned the railings round the trees.  Funny the things you notice being there for the first time.  One of the hi-vis heroes sped off as she was in charge of spot prizes for the finish funnel.  I’m not quite sure what the prizes were – a lifetime of free parkruns maybe?  But what she’d done was use the letters that they give out to organise the funnel, to spell out Happy Birthday Bushy parkrun, and whoever got one of the letters appearing in the phrase would get a prize.  Presumably not necessarily in the right order, the turnout was certainly great, but they weren’t expecting that many on the day!  Genius idea.  As someone who has no chance of ever winning a prize on account of my athletic prowess at any organised run, I’m a massive fan of spot prizes!

We found a good spot, and a non-running parkrunner to share it with.  She was doing the Kingston Half Marathon the next day, so tapering ‘us too!’ I said, a bit too forcefully, I think my ploy was well and truly rumbled. 

If you want to experience the actual run, number one option is to come and take part in it.  However, an acceptable position two, is to take a bit of time to watch this brilliant youtube video which basically summarises the whole event.  To be honest, I could have saved us all a great deal of time and bother by just putting this link up in the first place, but where would be the fun in that.  My blog post might be uncomfortably long, but it is a much more effective procrastination tool, so basically you make your choice and you take your chance.  Nevertheless, I offer up Here we are running’s take on the morning.  It omits my mum, but don’t worry, I think it’s fair to say I’ve more than compensated for that oversight, so no hard feelings eh?

I sat and watched this YouTube video with my mum.  She’s never seen the course from a runner’s perspective and was completely rapt.  Recognising parts of the park she used to explore a lot.

So after not very long at all, first the lead bikes came into view.  I don’t know why they have two, I mean it’s sensible to do so, but wouldn’t it be more fun if they whizzed round on a tandem.  Or even a rickshaw – now that would be prime position to have a ride in the back of one of them.

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Right behind the bikes, the front runners, they are insanely fast, and giving it their all.

After the run I was asking mum what her main observations were from the day, there were lots, she’d had a great time, but one comment that made me chuckle was that she said she noticed the runners looked a lot more tired at the end of the run than they did at the half-way mark.    Good point, well made!

She was in fine form cheering and clapping with considerable stamina.

It was lovely to see the reactions of parkrunners.  Not all had heard the briefing so some were concerned that she hadn’t been at her usual spot of Elisabeth’s Corner.  I resisted the temptation to pretend we were still at the halfway point by calling out ‘well done, just one more lap to go!‘ as I think that joke has been done to death and isn’t always as funny as you think when you are actually running.  I have learned this from bitter personal experience.  You have to appreciate the runners who are fleet of foot and speed by, but it’s extra fun if you are cheering and people wave or high five.  My mum was ecstatic when she spotted one of her ‘regulars’ and there are loads of them.  You can’t not feel good giving out high fives and cheers at a marshal point, it’s just the best.  Especially brilliant was seeing happy parkrunners who’d obviously been worried because she’d not been at her usual spot.  Such an outpouring of affection.  People do care about each other, more than we maybe realise, but perhaps we need to give ourselves permission to express it somehow, and that’s what parkrun does.  Allows us to see the best in others and ourselves.  Giving and receiving a high five is quite an art though, some of those parkrunners could take you out with one, I should know, I’ve been almost flattened by the force of a four year old high fiving at full velocity on the course of Graves junior parkrun.  I wonder if RDs do a risk assessment for shoulder dislocations as part of the generic parkrun preparations?  Note to self, must ask.

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In the midst of all this clapping, and cheering and high fiving, we had a visitation from Danny of With Me Now, who – quite rightly – had worked out no account of a visit to Bushy parkrun would be complete without including the infamous Elisabeth.  It was quite a trick to pull off though, interviewing her when every other runner was shouting greetings, and parkrunners were in need of their long awaited high fives to get them through the sprint finish!  In the circumstances he did really well.  And mum showed off both her trophy and birthday sash.  Listening to the audio later, it was really comical and appropriate that the conversation was constantly interrupted by mutually appreciative shouts.  It was great, and another pleasing micro adventure to add to the morning’s tally.  Plus, more photo ops, some classics here, mum has totally nailed selfies now!

Front runners called out breathless greetings, but her ‘regulars’ less focused on a time, stopped for a catch up, and some finished their parkrun first and then came back for a proper talk, to admire her trophy and yes, get a photo too of course.

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And then, much excitement for me as my Waterworks parkrun buddy came into view.  She, like me, has a propensity for collecting new best friends on her parkruns, and did not disappoint today.  This was a parkrunner making the trek from Burgess parkrun I think, with a cohort of others donning Uganda tops because it is Ugandan Independence Day next Saturday.  I so wish I was near enough to Camberwell to join them for that parkrun, I bet it will be epic!***  They clearly have plans for the morning.  Anyways, once they joined us obviously that was more photo opps, and then others joined in, and so the picture party continued…  The Ugandan Runners were the subject of one of the Jessica’s parkrun heroes stories.

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This new temporary Elisabeth’s Corner turned out to be quite a prime spot, but eventually as the runners thinned we tore ourselves away. I generally do like to wait for the tail walkers to come through, but I was also mindful that I wanted mum to experience the cake and prosecco celebrations and see the finish funnel in action too, so time to relocate.  That took time too, as we had to stop to have the trophy admired and catch up with a whole new set of Bushy parkrunners, some of who were now departing.  A few select individuals got to hold the trophy – under supervision –  it has considerable heft, and it is very satisfying to feel the weight of it in your hands. 

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There is a special place in my heart though for this parkrunner:

DSCF6368

He normally runs, and when he does always greets Elisabeth on his way round.  However, today he couldn’t – injured I think – so had gone to her corner to keep her company for the morning.  When he found she wasn’t there, but was at the start, he’d come up to find her (and yes, probably other people too) all of which was of course really welcome.  However, when we got chatting about our parkrunning stories, he confessed he was aware of the original time trial 15 years ago, and could have gone, but it was 9.00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and he just didn’t fancy getting up and over there at that time on what might have been a cold day.  He was very matter of fact about it, but I couldn’t help thinking on his behalf ‘oh, what might have been!’  Just shows people, you never know what opportunities have been lined up for you, you just have to learn to spot them and embrace them so they don’t slip through your grasp.  Look around you RIGHT NOW, there’s probably an opportunity waving at you even in this instant!   Thank you for sharing your story nearly parkrun pioneer!

Finally, we were within reach of the cake and prosecco offer, which was extensive.  Obviously this was a particularly special occasion, but I reckon on any given Saturday there will be cake and prosecco at parkruns everywhere.  It did make for a party though, and such an abundance of offerings.  Little individually wrapped cupcakes, themed homemade cheese biscuits of 1 and 5.   A fresh bottle was duly popped and bubbles flowed, more parkrun friends old and new appeared.

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The trophy was much admired, but it was also carefully inspected by those in the know who were carrying out quality control spot checks.  Apparently, one year all the awards were engraved with ‘Busy parkrun’ instead of ‘Bushy parkrun’, in fairness, it is very busy, so you can understand the mistake, but they didn’t want a recurrence.  This is mum’s reaction to hearing of this past calamity.  Serious business, the administering and supervising of awards production.  This award passed its inspection with flying colours.  Hooray!

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Astonishingly, not enough photos had been taken of the morning yet.  There were still queues of people trying to get the perfect balloon/ parkrunners combo for their social media accounts.  This has to be the most photographed and documented parkrun of all time.

All the fun of the run wasn’t over yet though.  I was worried mum was flagging a bit, and so one of our entourage went in search of coffee.  I got distracted by – I don’t know – spotting another parkrun friend probably, and when I got back, With Me Now were trying to get the perfect shot with a WMN selfie frame.  They were doing ok.  Bit of negotiation and shuffling around secured the backdrop of The parkrun Tree.

but then I had a genius idea if I say so myself.  In my great and unmatched wisdom I proposed we go for a tunnel of selfie frames.  It took a bit of team work, but oh my, this is the best thing ever. In a way it makes it even more fun that you need at least five people to capture this effect!

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and then, someone – my Belfast Buddy in fact – in her great and unmatched (except by me) wisdom suggested that I get in shot too. And the result is this, another of my absolutely definitely favourite pictures of the day.

selfies

Thanks to With Me Now for the picture, which, in their great and unmatched (except by me and my Belfast Buddy) wisdom, they used as the clickbait for their special edition podcast.

What’s the plural for genius?  Genii, yep, probably, we are all that.  Magical presences certainly.

Still time for more mingling.  You know what, I discovered it’s a great boon to hang out with parkrun royalty, I’ll take glory by association.  Loads of people came to say hello and introduce themselves, which was wonderful.  So many parkrun doors thrown open to me because I’m Elisabeth’s daughter!  I explained my origins at Sheffield Hallam parkrun by pointing to my newly personalised apricot tee – though in reality, it would be even better if it just said ‘Elisabeth’s Daughter’ rather than the more prosaic ‘Sheffield Hallam’.  It was noticeable how in many introductions people basically pointed to their boob area to indicate their parkrun of origin, it’s like a sign language for parkrunners.  It works well if you are indeed wearing a bespoke apricot tee, less well if you are just wearing a random running top – people have discovered this to their cost.  Also, on my last parkrun visit, a parkrun core team member who will remain anonymous, lamented how they were so proud of their new apricot tee they got a friend to take a close up of the Bushy parkrun strapline under the parkrun logo.  Let’s just say the resulting photo was not really ‘appropriate’ which might be why prodirect use a photo of a flattened t-shirt for promotional purposes, rather than an extreme close up of a female parkrunner’s assets.

apricot tee

So here are more parkrun people, sharing the Bushy parkrun party.  In possibly the weirdest ever twist of fate, we also met some people walking their dogs, one of whom I was at junior school with and haven’t seen since I left around forty-four years ago, that was bizarre.  With her was the parent of my bestest friend from that time too, see how parkrun brings people together!  I had not expected that.

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Inevitably this account is very much focused on me and my mum, or more accurately my mum and me, but for the record, she wasn’t the only celebrity present.  Here are more, including the parkrunner who has done the most parkruns of anyone on the planet – 741 and counting.  Also, I feel I should have given the deer in the park higher billing, they are amazing at any time of year, but this Saturday the stags in mid rut were particularly impressive.  The deer certainly need to be treated with respect though!  Don’t know if they remembered their barcodes.  Plus a pic of a parkrunner I’m more used to seeing in fancy dress, who was today doing her unofficial milestone 350 run.  Yay!

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At around this point, as if by magic the coffee appeared.  I wasn’t sure how mum would be able to juggle a cup of coffee and a flute of prosecco, but not to worry dear reader, she quaffed her remaining half glass of fizz in one go and freed up her hand for the caffeine fix.  A very fine cup of coffee it was too.

All good things come to an end eventually, but luckily we have not only memories on this occasion, but actual silverware.  Here it is for one last time, with the backdrop of the famous parkrun tree where it all began.

Totally the spirit of parkrun, I’m sure you’ll agree.

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And the morning was nearly over, the last few parkrunners peeling away, the course dismantled, prosecco bottles drained and cake tins emptied.  The Bushy parkrun core team were so attentive and asked if we needed any help getting back, which we didn’t.  I’d felt we were so welcomed and looked after all day, it was a blast.  As we made our way back to the car, the contrast between the scene a few hours earlier and now was extraordinary.  All was quiet and calm and clean, nothing but footprints was left behind** and nothing but photographs were taken away.  A lot of photos though,  No really, a lot.  Think of the biggest number you can imagine, ok, got that?  Is it huge?  Well, I’ve news for you, you are not even close 🙂  What’s more, every picture holds a memory.  A.Maz.Ing.

Another parkrun done and dusted, and added to the annals of parkrun history.  I wonder what the next 15 years will bring?

Even though it’s another whole week before parkrun day comes round again, the good news is you can continue to indulge your parkrun passions by checking out the awesome Bushy parkrun Big Birthday Bash run report (thanks to Wendy Stokes) for Event no 809, 5 October 2019 here

If you prefer your parkrun fix to be delivered by audio, then immerse yourself in the With Me Now podcast link which is here, or you could check it out via the With Me Now Facebook page post if you prefer.

And no doubt there will be a squillion other photos and posts out there on the interweb too, yours for the finding, plus the personal reflections of the 1838 parkrunners and multitude of volunteers, spectators and cheery melee of others who joined the occasion.  Quite something it really was…

So thank you Bushy parkrun for putting on such a show, not just on this special day, but delivering the parkrun magic week in week out.  It was just the best day ever.  Mum loved her trophy, but more than that, she loved meeting and mingling with so many fantastic parkrun friends.  All parkrunners are equally epic, what a wonderful shared adventure it is for all of us.  For me and mum today, entering Bushy park, was like being drawn into a collective supportive parkrun hug.  Best day ever!

Bloody unicorn hair.  Leaking eyes again.

And when you’ve finished reliving Bushy parkrun’s Birthday Bash, you can prolong the parkrun party for longer still 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.  And maybe you have a life.  There is life outside parkrun so I’m told, which might be true, but it’s also true that parkrun is a little microcosm of life as it should be, which is sometimes a great deal preferable to life as it is, though on the plus side, parkrun also perhaps shows us what might be possible, and brings together the positivity that is out there in the world if we are but open to it.

Incidentally, Mr S-H said something – I think on the podcast, about how every week he gets hundreds of emails and messages from people talking about what parkrun means to them, and the funny thing is, that almost none of them mention the actual running!  Rather it is about the community cohesion, the coffee, the coming together, the sharing of adventures, the mutual encouragement, the being outdoors.  The run is the glue that holds it all together, or the catalyst that sets the reaction in motion, but it’s all the things that spin outwards from it that makes parkrun the global phenomenon it has become.  And better yet, anyone can join in, how fabulous is that?  There’s a research report just come out about that wider impact too, volunteering is even more fun than running for some it seems.  So we have the yin and yan of parkrun, it needs the runners and it needs the hi-vis heroes and wider community too.  That’s the open secret.  Yay!

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Even people disappointed by finding out this week they did not get a ballot place in the London Marathon can find solace here.  All welcome.  Volunteers as well remember, the parkrun community has a wide reach.

youre in

#loveparkrun indeed

(No idea how to use hashtags, but that seems about right eh?  🙂 )

*The occasion wasn’t all that ‘little’ to be honest, but I suppose it depends on what you are comparing it too.  Anyway, I’ll let that go.

**actually, one poor runner lost their garmin when it broke somewhere round the start apparently, so that might have been left behind by accident.  That’s a shame, but unusual to be fair.

***Yep it was, check out this video clip courtesy of Ian Feeley who was there, and keep an eye on the Burgess parkrun Facebook page too, as surely more pictures will follow… AND they got a mention in parkrun uk newsletter assante marshal for 16 October 2019 – well worth a gander

PS to save you the effort of googling it, the ‘Jog On’; podcast referenced in with WMN podcast is Ep 36, Darren Wood – the most parkruns ever.  You’re welcome

PPS Mum, if you are trying to find the podcast it’s here.  CLICK ON THIS LINK FOR THE WITH ME NOW BUSHY PARKRUN SPECIAL EDITION.  It should just start playing by magic.  🙂  It’s like a radio programme, so the screen might go blank.  It’s about an hour long.

Are you still here?  That’s amazing!  Well done.  You get the prize for making it through to the end.  It’s a virtual prize, not an actual one, but you’ll know you did good.  A round of applause from me (I’m clapping you now) and free parkruns for life!  Congratulations.

🙂 x

As a reward here is are some early morning photos in Bushy park, taken this very week, though not by me.

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Quite a special place eh?

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

Yomping York parkrun in the company of (nearly) a world record holder. All coming up roses, well one anyway. Result.

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to York parkrun, that’s York, UK not York USA.  Made new besties and wanna be record breaker for three dimensional plant.  I know!  parkrun is indeed the phenomenon that just keeps on giving!

Undigested read:

Careful now, this could be a long one, might at least want to have a pee first, if not actually settle down with a cuppa.  That observation is advisory only though, you need to use your own skill and judgement to carry out your own health and safety risk assessment.  I’m sure you’re up to it.  Just believe in yourself, and all will be well with the world.

So, as every parkrunner knows, parkrun tourism starts with wondering where to head next.  I’m conscious the nights are drawing in, and my enthusiasm for early morning jaunts to far away parkrun destinations may wane as the season ends. Even so, late summer sunshine was forecast, and I’m vaguely working on my alphabet challenge, I mean it is actually impossible on account of there not being an x anywhere in the world – I mean cross flats and Exeter and similar are all well and good, and marvelous as creative solutions go, but they are not the same.  Then there’s the little matter of the Zeds all being in Poland or Russia or wherever which would be fab, but not going to happen any time soon.  There is a Zeds wholefood shop just down the road from me in fact, they are very nice there, but the shop is fairly cluttered, and I don’t know that they’d welcome having a parkrun within, which is a huge shame as that would be very handy, plus I could get my coconut yoghurt and decent bread afterwards. Oh well.  I’ve not got that many letters to go on this particular running challenge, but as I’ve already picked off all the low-hanging fruit so to speak, those I have still to get are increasingly elusive.  I’m holding out for an E and a J coming my way soon if the new parkrun rumour mill is anything to go by,  Queen Elizabeth is going to be an overnighter somewhere, as is the U, so that’s really leaves just the Y not accounted for.  York then, not even that far from Sheffield, I’m not sure quite why I’ve not been there before.  I’ll go there then.

First some research.

Ooh, well, I very much like their York parkrun Facebook page profile image – very classy and always a boon.

super cool york facebook image

Let’s just make sure it’s the correct York. There is a York in Pennsylvania which may or may not be quite delightful, but does not have it’s own parkrun – well not yet anyway.  These details matter, did you hear about the woman who entered the ‘wrong’ Worcester Half Marathon?  It was on the BBC website so it must be true.

Sheila Pereira booked a place at the Worcester City Half Marathon, thinking it was in her hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts.

But the event was 3,200 miles away in the English city of the same name.

Undeterred, Ms Pereira ran 13.1 miles on her own in the US on the same day as the Worcestershire event.

She has been praised by UK organisers, who are sending her a race finisher’s pack including a participation medal and T-shirt

Here she is after her run, all smiles, post run endorphins and  fresh faced, athletic loveliness:

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Why don’t I look like that after a run?  I am more inclined to rock the leaden, lumpy, purple-faced sweaty, ‘dragged through a hedge backwards’ look.  In fact I may well have cornered the market for it.  I’d settle for looking like that before a run to be fair.  Sadly, I think that aspiration is also destined to remain unfulfilled.  Sigh.  Maybe I just need to get myself a nice running visor, and it will transform me?  Probably not though.

That’s lovely – the organisers giving her a medal and all, but I don’t think it would work in quite the same way for a parkrun.  Not sure they’d add you to the results even if you had your barcode and a Strava record.  Mind you, I’ve not tried, and to be honest, if there was even a fleeting chance they might, I’d consider travelling the other side of the world to do that if it also meant I might be able to secure my outstanding parkrun bingo number at the same time. Well you’d have more control over variables would you not?  I’m on 223 runs now, and have had .20 outstanding for months and months now.  The frustration!  Mind you, I read a post somewhere that said 300 is around the norm. Seriously?  Ever wish you’d never embarked on something… although weirdly, one of the things I like about this challenge is that it’s so arbitrary, it’s just a waiting game, there is no advantage in being able to get yourself to some exotic location or other in order to bagsy it.  Level playing field and all that.  I’m not alone with my running challenges bingo despair though it seems.  Just seen a thread somewhere on the same theme.  Mighty parkrunners have been driven mad by less!  This is bad though – no idea where the original post comes from, but I’m sure it’s true:

bingo not

Anyway, you are distracting me with all these questions about running challenges, back to the decision in hand.   I would go to York parkrun in England, I would bagsy my ‘Y’ and probably not my solitary last outstanding bingo number (which is 20 by the way).  It would be fine.

Let’s check out the course info from their official website, erm, the York parkrun website blah de blah describes the course thus:

Course Description

1.5 laps (approximately) of the tarmac service road around the inside of the racecourse. Very flat, with few turns, making it a very fast course. On course map, start at green pin and head anti-clockwise round service road. Complete 1 full lap, then continue on round approximately another 1/2 lap to red Finish pin

and it looks like this: 

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Cool.  What else.  Whoooooooooooooa!  Wait, what cruel trick is this.  ALERT DEAR READER, ALERT!

Facilities
Please note that there are no toilets or changing facilities at York parkrun.

What!?  What about my compulsory pre parkrun precautionary pee?  How is this going to work, particularly after a long drive.  Uh oh?  This critical detail I remembered, is why I haven’t made it to York parkrun before.

I decided there must be something, there is a holiday inn near the start and I’d pass a garage en route.  As the only other alternative is Yeovil in Somerset, which is so far away it might as well be on the moon, I’d have to improvise if necessary.  You are supposed to do something that scares you every day anyway aren’t you?  The thought of no loos pre parkrun does terrify me, but hey ho, I’ll embrace the challenge.  Helps us to grow if we move out of our comfort zone.  Where there’s a will there’s a way as the saying goes.

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I’d do this dear reader, even if I had to wet my knickers to claim my Y!  It’d be OK, but just in case ‘having a will’ wasn’t enough to find a way, then plan b ensured that as I wasn’t using public transport and I’d have a plastic bag to sit on in my car for the journey home if required, I’d got this covered!  I may not have quite the ferocious tenacity of Lisa Nowak, but working towards it eh? 

So that was decision made.  Time to get excited about the prospect of a new destination.  To add to my frenzy of anticipatory excitement, I also was the recipient of a much coveted apricot tee.  It arrived on the Friday afternoon, all personalised with my home run and everything.  I’ve wanted one for ages, but am on a budget so couldn’t really justify it, but then I decided I wanted something special to wear to grace the 15th birthday celebrations at Bushy parkrun in a couple of weeks time.  What could be more perfect.  It feels lovely to wear, though the fabric is erm, flimsy and a bit, shall we say ‘unforgiving’ any  seam of clothing, any wobbly or undulating flesh, any erect – or even positively subdued – nipple will be highlighted once this garment is donned.  Oh well.  It’s a cheery hue, and makes me feel part of the club.  So yay!  When I finally rediscover my running mojo and sculpt my body into newly muscled contours I’ll be glad of the fabric I’m sure.  Shame that by that time the world will be awash with water due to the ice caps melting and so a) no one will care about what I look like in my official parkrun tee, and b) that extra body fat would have been a real boon to enable me to stay afloat.  It just goes to show one should always be most careful about what one wishes for.

That was Friday then, yesterday in fact, and then today’s the day!  A quick check of the York parkrun Facebook page to make sure that no unexploded ordnance would stop play as at Hogmoor Inclosure parkrun for example.  Not only is that a very dramatic cause for cancellation, it does sound like a made up place too, Hogmoor Inclosure parkrun, hmmm.  Now it’s accelerating to the top of my parkrun to do list.  Hippest parkrun in the UK I imagine (work it out).  No ordnance, all good, off I go.

There was bright late summer sun trying to break through as I headed off through the streets of Sheffield.

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Truly a gift of a day, one that rewards you for early rising, I was quite perky as I set off, then as I went through Sheffield centre, I remembered it was also arrival day for students, hmm, coming back would be interesting.  Oh well, I’d worry about that later.  It was a surprisingly straightforward drive to York, though the morning mist took on fog like density at times, I had my fog lights on as well as my headlights.  I stopped off for petrol and pee (I didn’t ingest the petrol, it was for the car) at a service station just on the outskirts of York, and followed the postcode that took me past the Holiday Inn York racecourse, and to Cherry Lane (YO24 1QF) where there is mention of a small carpark near to the start.  It was a battle of nerves the last bit, you go into seemingly a residential area, and I wasn’t following signs to the racecourse either – perhaps if you do, you end up parking on the Knavesmire Road where I think there is more space, and potentially – by negotiation – loos too.

For your information, hold your nerve.  I thought I’d gone wrong when I saw the drive down to Cherry Lane  car park, it was so narrow, it looked like it might just be pedestrian access and lead to a dead end.  I threw caution to the wind and hesitatingly crawled down there – not literally, but figuratively, I mean I drove down extra slowly.  You emerge from the dense tree lined path to the open expanse of York racecourse bathed in bright early morning sunshine. It looked spectacular, and vast.  There was parking, not much but I was early as always, so parked fine.  I was also sufficiently early I went to retrace my steps to take a pic of the entrance to Cherry Lane so you won’t be scared away, and also inspected the Holiday Inn.  It has to be the nearest accommodation to a parkrun start line ever!  I’m surprised it wasn’t heaving with parkrun tourists, maybe it was.  They had loos on the ground floor, but obviously it would not be appropriate for me to encourage anyone to use them without making a purchase.  Yeah, obviously not.

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So there I was.  Parked up and all ready to go.  The sun was coming out, and burning away the mist.  People seemed to be mustering just a few metres away from where I’d parked.  Back lit by the sunshine.

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I couldn’t see any obvious parkrun hi-vis heroes, but there were obvious parkrunners, and a mighty pilgrimage of people moving in a stream from the grandstand area of the race course.  This was going to be a busy one. They really did look like wildebeest on migration, resolutely moving in a seemingly unbroken ribbon across the landscape, only with fewer being picked off by hungry crocodiles en route – well, as far as I could tell anyway.

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Perhaps a few were lost, but not so many as would make all that much difference to the numbers.  parkrun would go on without them, it’s what they would have wanted I’m sure.  I’d want parkrun to continue without me if I fell en route.  There is at least one parkrun where it went ahead despite one of the volunteers being locked in the loo throughout.  I know this, I referenced it in one of my blog posts, can I find it now though?  Rhetorical question, no I can’t.  Let me know if you unearth it somehow.  Did happen though.  These things do, no point in ruining everyone’s parkrunday.    Maybe not being eaten by crocodiles en route, but sort of similar-ish barriers to participation can crop up unbidden.  I think Cairns parkrun routinely warns runners about crocodiles, but that could be a wind up for tourists – you aren’t going to risk ignoring it though are you?  They also have a Holiday Inn on their course route, so York and Cairns parkrun courses are therefore pretty much indistinguishable.  Did you know two Londoner’s a day call 999 because they are locked in a loo.  Strange but (possibly) true.

*EDIT*  good news dear reader, I’ve remembered.  It was Maureen, she got locked in the loo (by accident) at Whangarei parkrun, but was liberated by an international rescue team afterwards, so all’s well that end’s well eh!  Here they are trying to rescue her, takes a lot of parkrunners apparently…

international rescue whangerei parkrun

One run had a lion on their course.  A stuffed one admittedly (poor thing, but at least it’s usually used for educational pointers not stuck on some trophy hunter’s wall), but no-one told the runners that.  Hilarious!  Good on you iMfolzi Trail Run race organisers, what larks eh, what larks?  Not a parkrun though, sadly… bet there were a load of pbs anyway though!

There were a fair few tourists, you could tell, by the large number of us posing next to suitable landmarks for photos.  This was good though, as it meant I quickly identified my new BFFs for the morning, it’s grand to identify parkrun besties early on.  This was a fabulous fivesome from the brilliantly named Sole Mates (see what they’ve done there), they vacated a placard for me to photograph, after first querying if I’d like a shot of them there too.  Which set up a companionable photo fest for the run round later when we found we were at a similar pace.  They were a hoot actually (cheery wave if you are reading) and I always love seeing proper running club buddies enjoying each others company as much as the run out.  They also took a pic of me, looking pleased in my apricot tee and directionally pointing at the sign so you can tell where I am.    You can see others doing the same from the opposite side.  It’s a well photographed landmark it seems.  You know you’ll do the same if you make it there, has to be done… Some things we do at parkrun are almost reflex actions, instinctive.

More milling and chilling…

and then after a bit, someone in a hi-vis appeared and identified themselves as the first timer briefing person.  A little gaggle of us gathered around her for the briefing.

Key points was that there are some loos, but you have to ask to access them and they are over the grandstand side.  The course is one and a half laps basically, and can get congested at the start so stand clear unless you are going for a time.  Also, and I’ve not seen this before at a parkrun, they had some pacers who were specifically run/walk, one three minute run, one minute walk and one alternating walk one minute, run one minute, plus the compulsory tail walker too.  It seemed to be very genuinely welcoming of couch to 5k people, run/walkers everyone really.  The first timers’ briefing was still finishing off when the official RD briefing started, so we jogged down to join in that.  I noticed some high vis wearers had those flexi/ trug buckets  you use for gardening and mucking out stables, that kind of things – well I do anyway.  I think it was to gather together runners’ belongings so they could be carted from the start to the finish area by a willing volunteer, as they are at opposite sides of the racecourse.  I was actually warm enough to leave my fleece in the car, which is pretty much unprecedented, but it was heating up nicely.  Good to know for future reference.

Missed most of the RD briefing, but it seemed brief and to the point.

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and then it was awf!  Quite a fierce start, I just waited and watched until enough runners had piled past I felt safe to enter the back of the throng.  The path is wide, but there were a lot of participants, so it was congested at the front, the advice to hang back unless you were serious about going for a fast time was spot on.

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Quite a stampede!  It was a lovely sight ahead though, the ribbon of colour stretching round the rails of the racecourse and into the sun.

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It is a picturesque course, but as it’s all sort of laid out in front of you from the outset, there isn’t all that much to say about it.  There are landmarks along the way, the grandstand, the starters pens, poor gee gees, and an inordinate amount of seagulls, which was a bit surreal but made complete sense of the York parkrun Facebook profile pic, it really does say everything you need to know about the parkrun.  In fact, you could save yourself the bother of reading on and just have a good old stare at that pic instead, captures it all perfectly.  Then again, you’ve sort of committed now if you’ve got to this point, the running equivalent of being in blood stepped so far – maybe in bog stepped so deep on a trail run would be the nearest equivalent.  You’re here now, shame to bail now when you’ve already invested so much.

I just joined the throng and loped on round.  It’s a tarmac track, with grass to the side, but sufficiently busy that I found myself running on the grass for a fair old way before it thinned out enough for me to slot into the runners on the path again.  After a bit you turn round and are running towards the grandstand. It was quite exciting being at a racecourse, even though I’m not a fan of racing per se, it was just such an unusual and striking venue.  If you had a decent camera you’d get some amazing pics.

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There was a cute dog jogging along

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As I was running round, I suddenly spotted something weird ahead of me on the track.  No not a lion, but was that maybe a leek?  A fancy dress vegetable of some description away on the horizon for sure.   I wanted to put on enough of a sprint to catch that up and check that out.   And oh look, seagulls!  When not flapping about overhead, they line up and watch.  Loads of them, no idea why quite so many or why they are hanging out here, but it’s clearly a desirable location.

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Plus there were my new best friends coming into view.  Well, I was seeking to take some pictures anyway, might as well have my new besties in the frame – if you look carefully, you will see they are even acknowledging me in public with a cheery wave so clearly our friendship is reciprocated!  Good to know.  Is that a leek though?  Hmmm.

After you pass the grandstand area and the starting pens and the York racecourse posh stand entrance you turn the corner past a temporary tented encampment and there is the finish all set up with an abundance of hi-vis heroes in situ to channel everyone in.

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Belatedly, I noticed there seemed to be some permanent km markers on the route.  They appeared to align to parkrun, though as I didn’t spot all of them I can’t be 100% sure, but I can’t imagine what else they’d be… except that somewhat cryptically, I noticed on the York parkrun Facebook page that there seem to be a number of variant courses – as many as four I think, so it does vary, I don’t know on what basis, you’ll have to rock up yourself and find out.

Round again, back to where you started from.  It had thinned out quite a bit by now.  This parkrun is either ‘relaxed’ or anarchic depending on how you feel about parkrun rules.  I was very much at the back of the pack and the route isn’t really marshalled other than at the finish funnel, otherwise there are pacers and cones to stop you deviating from the fairly obvious route round.  However, I noticed leads came off dogs, and short leads were lengthened on others and at least one child on a bicycle.  It wasn’t so much that this caused any issues for me or other participants, but I did inwardly raise an eyebrow.  Particularly as just when we got back to the start area an older gentleman walking his dog was knocked to the ground by a parkrunners dog.  It was quite a tumble and I saw the aftermath rather than what happened.  The runner concerned stopped and was massively apologetic, though the man that had fallen insisted he was OK and it was his dog coming over that had caused the boisterous doggy greetings that had sent him flying.  It seems basically one or other jumped up and he got knocked over as a result.   I stopped too to see if help was needed, but he said he was OK and didn’t need any. It made me feel very uncomfortable running on.  I mean it was indeed just an accident, but falling over as an adult is no fun at all, and he wasn’t exactly  in his first flush of youth,  he’ll be stiff as anything tomorrow if not worse. It made me a bit nervous about other dogs not on leads and the lack of any marshals in sight.  I admit I’m getting increasingly wary of dogs these days, I don’t care if ‘they are just being friendly’ they do damage if they knock you down.  Still, it seemed a good natured mutually apologetic resolution, thankfully.  Could have been very much worse.  But it wasn’t, so back to happy thoughts and flowers and sunny days and sharing the parkrun love. I’d lost sight of the leek though, that was a shame.

All round again…

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and then finally, back to the finish, and the virtual embrace of the timers and the scanners and all that finish funnel jazz.  Thank you marshals.

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I stopped my watch and it looked like I’d finished with a .21 bingo time, a tantalising one second off my single outstanding bingo number.  I’d have to wait for the results, but it was within touching distance.

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, I then saw my leek man up ahead, striding off into the distance clutching his veg (not a euphemism).  Aaargh, I sprinted harder than I had all morning to go find them.  I wanted to see what that was all about and thought they might want my few pics forwarding onto them too.  After all, we all love a running photo, however poorly framed…

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Caught them!

Turns out, it isn’t a leek, it’s quite obviously a white rose.   Silly me, a leek looks like this, entirely different.  I can’t help wondering if it was disadvantaged by being a leek in an onion class, therefore robbed of first place.

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They filled me in on their project which is fund raising for York against cancer as fastest marathon as a three dimensional plant.  And why not?  What could possibly go wrong?  Exactly.  You can chip in here to Steve Gaughan’s just giving page if you are a white rose fan, and get excited about Guiness World Records, and why wouldn’t you.

Of course I took some more pictures:

Totally epic.  You’d have thought things couldn’t get any better, but dear reader they did!  Because along came my new besties and there followed lots of group shot taking in all possible configurations of leek white rose and new best friends and me and anyone else in the vicinity. You can have a lot of fun doing this apparently.  Running in this costume requires a guide and an ability to withstand significant dehydration, it had to be super hot in there, and probably quite stinky over time too, like the wombles costumes, they got ever ranker over the years so the story goes, not sure any of them ever ran a marathon though.  Jimmy Saville used to hide in them to ogle young girls apparently, and he ran marathons, I don’t know if that counts but it creeps me out and puts me off the wombles quite a bit which is sad in a way… Is nothing sacred?

Never mind, back to kittens and flowers, or parkrunners and a collective appreciation of a perfect white rose at least.  It involved a fair few of us, documenting this auspicious occasion.

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Just think, that means I may have been in the presence of a nearly world record holder.  Proud moment, proud day!  Sigh, I’m quite giddy at the very thought.  Meeting them AND a quintet of new besties all at the same parkrun, that’s quite a morning’s haul.  Go me!  Slow and steady naturally, but going all the same!

I know his official photo in the york press article is marginally better than mine by the way, but you have to concede mine has more atmosphere do you not?  (Rhetorical question).  I think capturing my silhouette pirouetting in the foreground was a stroke of compositional genius, and I don’t care who says that proves only that I’m guilty of either delusional thinking or cognitive dissonance.

So we tore apart from one another and waved each other on our respective ways.  Bye bye lovely parkrun people, I hope our paths cross again on the parkrun tourist circuit, I’m sure they will.

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I really hope he walked all the way home in that…

There is supposed to be a coffee van somewhere, but I presume it must have been the opposite side to where I was parked and honestly I couldn’t be bothered to go and look, although a cup of coffee would have been great.  Instead I wandered back to say goodbye and thanks to the volunteers and soak up the venue one last time.

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I did seek out the RD to mention about the dog incident.  I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do or if I was just interfering, but then I figured if I was RD I’d want to know, and it was a bad fall.  Older people do break things and accidental or otherwise best that such incidents are recorded surely.

I left the volunteers packing up in the autumn sunshine. Thank you hi-vis heroes!

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That was that, parkrun done and dusted for another week. Oh, apart from junior parkrun tomorrow of course, but you know what I mean.  Bye bye parkrun, bye bye York racecourse.

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Oh, and my time came in.  Ending in an .18 seconds.  I was pleased in a way it was two seconds out, just one second would have finished me off.  Also, it just shows how you have to surrender to fate with this one, the chances of getting your watch exactly synched with the time keepers and avoiding the hiccups of funnel duckers or whatever are pretty minuscule.  Maybe I should start to change my mindset, and see if I can be the slowest ever to attain that elusive running bingo challenge!  Now there’s a thought.

For now that’s all though, thank you lovely York parkrun people for putting a fab show on the road, and especially thanks for being my new best friends Sole Mates of Matlock, you are epic. Fine parkrun York, coming up roses indeed, or at the very least one fine white Yorkshire rose, I do hope that’s to be a permanent fixture… speaking of which, good luck Yorkshire Rose, I’ll be on tenterhooks awaiting the outcome of your record attempt.  Exciting times!  I say I’ll be on tenterhooks, but actually I believe in you, it will happen, you’ve got this!

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If you want to prolong your parkrun fix, you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.

Same time next week then?  A venue of your choice for parkrunday.

Good oh.

🙂

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

I-catching tourism as I iccomplished Isabel Trail parkrun – Ay ay, that would be an ‘I’. A-Z challenge I’m coming to get ya!

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Isabel Trail parkrun.  It was very nice thank you for asking.

Undigested read:

That’s me, nothing if not I-catching!  See what I’ve done there, hilarious!

All a bit of a blur, as you can see.  I feel bad for saying so, but before I went to Isabel Trail parkrun to see it for myself I thought that Stafford was basically the middle of nowhere.  Now I see it is au contraire, the centre of everything, it’s all simply a question of how you choose to look at it. I will concede that sometimes the visions of loveliness that were the hi-vis heroes for the day were somewhat blurred, their busy perpetual motion meaning they were at times moving faster than the speed of light to keep the parkrun show on the road, but their cheery animated all round wonderfulness  shines through all the same I’m sure you’ll agree.  Look, aren’t they lovely?

featured image Isabel Trail parkrun

Rhetorical question, yes they are!

But I’m jumping ahead of myself, lets start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start.

start at the very beginning

Oh my gawd, those outfits are classic!  I am so going to make my own version out of repurposed curtains if a singalonga Sound of Music makes it to my neck of the woods anytime soon…  They would work as an alternative to the parkrun hi-vis too I think , certainly distinctive and hard to miss.  By logical extension the RD would have to sport the full Maria outfit, but that’d be OK, it’s not all that different from the distinctive RD outfit sported here anyway, not so much a radical departure from the norm as a welcome upgrade surely?

Practically indistinguishable.  Could catch on.

Right, stop distracting me or we’ll never get this parkrun tale related and I expect you have places to go, people to see, things to do, a life to lead even if I don’t, so let’s crack on shall we.  Agreed?

So, waking up in the small hours, it was still dark.  I lay blinking into the abyss of gloom above me and was overcome with foreboding and existential angst.  This did seem a bit desperate, setting the alarm for stupid o-clock to go to some unknown part of the world blooming miles away, where you wouldn’t know anyone, all on your own, to run a parkrun beginning with ‘i’ to get one stage nearer completing the Alphabet Challenge just to get a coveted – but pointless – virtual (i.e. not even real) running challenges badge…. eventually.  What’s more, any purist will tell you, you can’t even really do a proper alphabet, because there is no parkrun beginning with ‘x’ anywhere in the world – (Cross Flatts parkrun and Exeter Riverside / Exmouth parkruns show willing but aren’t the same) and a ‘z’ requires an excursion to either Poland or Russia.  Russia one sounds more fun to be fair – which would be a great adventure, but is pretty unlikely to occur.  What was I thinking?  The ridiculousness of it all nigh on engulfed me.  Maybe a duvet day would be a better option?

Hmm, dear reader NO IT WOULDN’T.  I did feel low, but when I fired up my laptop to check for any last minute cancellation notices by Isabel Trail parkrun on Facebook, I saw a post from a fellow parkrun tourist, who was already on a train station heading off to their faraway parkrun destination. Yay!  I’m not alone, there is a whole parallel universe of parkrun tourists, emerging from duvets, heading off into the night to board planes, trains and automobiles to join their parkruns of choice.  What’s more, a helpful exchange followed.  She was off to Newcastle, but had already done Isabel Trail, and revealed a handy top tip – the start is not easy to find apparently, but she shared an infographic photo she’d taken on the day to assist me in locating it:

infographic find the start

Ah, ok, the phrase ‘none the wiser’ sprang to mind on seeing this, I’m not gonna lie, didn’t feel fantastically enlightened, looking like a rather indistinct hedge mostly concealed by fog, but hey ho, it’s the thought that counts.  More helpfully, she said that despite having a minor panic about locating the start when she arrived, she was eventually greeted by a pink unicorn.  I’m thinking a pink unicorn would be fairly noticeable.  Also, that is grand to hear, what greater incentive could there possibly be to head out the door and make your speedy way to a parkrun than knowing that it has it’s own resident unicorn.  Other animals are also available there too apparently.  Things were looking up!  There are all sorts of reasons for choosing a particular parkrun on any given day  – since discovering Ross-on-Wye parkrun has individualised signs like this:

ross on wye parkrun sign

it’s shot up my ‘must do’ list, but the prospect of seeing a unicorn, a real one, and a pink one at that, that would be motivation for many a runner surely?

I’ve lifted other comedic sign shots from the UK parkrun tourists page, cheers for sharing people, you make the world a better place!

So I was not alone, after all what is the point of a Saturday morning if not parkrun.  Let the parkrun adventure commence!

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I’d already done a bit of research which I shall share with you.  The Isabel Trail parkrun course blah de blah  on the official parkrun website describes it thus:

The course is an out and back route on a tarmac path along the Isabel Trail. The start and finish is at the end closest to Sainsbury’s

so not overly complicated to be fair.  And it looks like this:

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It seems even if I can’t find the start, I am exceedingly unlikely to get lost on the course, unless I inadvertently take off facing in the wrong direction and there is no marshal on hand to shoo me back the right way again.  That seems pretty unlikely. At least, I hope it’s unlikely.  Running indefinitely might be a boon for the likes of Ellie Pell – who not only has one of the best names ever but just won a 50k ultra trail marathon outright – exposing the race organisers assumption that it would be a male winner.  To be fair, history suggests that has historically been the default, but times there are achanging – women distance runners are coming into their own.  Not me though, I can cover distances, but not at any pace worth making a trophy for.  Point being, if it’s all the same to everyone else, I’d prefer to be facing the right way at the start.  Here’s Ellie though, dual wreathed.  Well done.  I reckon she ought to be wearing at least one of those on her head, but I’ve not been in possession of a similar set of laurels myself before, so what do I know.  Well done though, excellent!

Ellie Pell 50 k winner

There is a bit of a worry re loos, the nearest are in Sainsbury’s 0.5 miles away according to the blah de blah, but there is a lot of pay and display parking.  Forewarned is forearmed, the precautionary pee would happen, just a matter of timing.  It’d be fine, yay!

The dawn began peeking out, and I headed out.  It wasn’t at all a bad drive from Sheffield, though it was rather long, though not as long as the parkrunner I saw recently stating they’d flown to Tasmania, Australia, purely to do a parkrun, returning the same or next day.  I’d struggle to justify that, not least, because to go all that way and not spend time in that amazing place seems criminal.  Even so, I recognise the shifting sands I inhabit, for a long time I didn’t even try the other parkruns in Sheffield because I felt if you couldn’t get to your parkrun on your own two feet, that defeated the object.  I suppose in honesty, for community, it is good to stay local, but to rediscover your running mojo and see the big wide world with serial parkrun micro adventures, parkrun tourism or voluntourism is definitely a seductive option….

One thing about the drive though.  Roundabouts.  I swear I went round every roundabout in the known universe getting to Stafford.  It was insane, there seemed to be not just a proliferation of roundabouts, but of those silly-isles type roundabouts with interconnecting ones as if the road planner was trying to create their own version of crop circles of the Nazca Lines.  Crazy.  On the plus side, towards the end of my journey one had a great big bull on it and another a huge centaur. It wasn’t a real one sadly, but a teaser for the unicorn that might be awaiting me.  Bring it on!

Yeah, yeah, they weren’t the actual roundabout signs, but I was hardly going to lean out and take pictures of the signage whilst trying to negotiate them was I?  I may live life on the knife edge with my dare devil parkrun tourism, but I’m not completely stupid.

So I arrived, the satnav took me to the car which is absolutely mahooooooooooosive.  It is split into short and long stay parking, and sort of morphs into the Sainsbury’s car park.  You can get 2 hours free parking if you spend more than £5 in Sainsbury’s and present the voucher you get with your ticket.  It is also split into flooded and non-flooded sections, which made sense of the negative reviews I’d stumbled across when I was googling Doxey Road Car park.  I never knew people felt sufficiently passionately about car parks to post reviews for them.  It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again, parkrun tourism can be very educational and mind expanding.  I have included some photos of the car park below, in case you aren’t familiar with what a car park might look like.  Also, you can see the parking lines over the humungous mound that spanned two spaces, I would not have been impressed had they been the last remaining spaces, but I couldn’t really have a rant about that in a review post, on account of the fact there were about 500 other spaces to choose from.  I paid £3 for 4 hours parking, which was more than enough, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be staying for post parkrun coffee at this stage.

On the way in, I espied a ‘caution runners’ sign, to the left of the car park entrance, and at the end of a footpath.  This made locating the parkrun pretty easy to be fair.  However, first things first, precautionary pee.  Over a little footbridge and into Sainsbury’s where there is a cafe for post parkrun dining options, and, more importantly, loos for pre-parkrun precautionary pee purposes.  Phew, was in need of them.  As you’d expect these are clean and fit for purpose, but the ladies loos have a mysterious left over bit of space next to the cubicles, like they measured the slots wrong.  It was just odd.  If you go with a friend to this parkrun, you could hide in this space and surprise them either going in or coming out of their cubicle.  Coming out would be fairer, if you jumped them going in, they’d wet themselves.  Also, best to do this if you are female and travelling with a female fellow parkrunner, a male parkrunner secreting themselves in this hidey-hole and jumping out at unsuspecting female relief takers would have a great deal of explaining to do.  And you think forgetting your barcode is the worst thing that could happen at a parkrun….  I don’t know if there is a similar use of space in the gents, didn’t check. The cafe was conveniently sited, but didn’t look all that inviting.  Still, it’s people that make a place, not their environs, so don’t be deterred!

Now I could concentrate on finding the start.  A few other parkrunners had appeared, and although many were tourists, there were sufficient locals, or people who knew where they were going, that you could just follow them.  Head to the end of the trail at the far end of the Sainsbury’s car park, hopefully, they’ll have the sign up as well, but if not, there is an information board about the trail, so head for that, then just follow the path down a couple of hundred yards.  It’s nothing like half a mile, and there is only one path to take so you’d struggle to get lost I think.

I pootled down the track, following others, and soon saw the cheery gang of hi-viz heroes busy about their work.  The RD was sporting an umbrella hat at this point, but disappointingly had removed it by the time I arrived on the scene.  There were a fair few other eyecatching ‘I’ catching tourists already there, and greetings were being exchanged and parkrun tourism tales shared.  There was no unicorn.  That was disappointing, but the warmth of the welcome more than made up for it.

Despite rain on the way down, the sun was shining, the start all set up, the parkrun buzz building up nicely.  A few innovations here of which I particularly approved.  A little pop up tent for keeping bags etc not only safe but dry and free from being peed on by territory marking dogs – or indeed other parkrunners now I come to think of it, though I like to hope think such occurrences are relatively rare, even when lack of toilet facilities necessitates wild wee improvisation.  Bottom line, it was a jolly scene.

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Isn’t that a cheery sight to behold on a Saturday morning.  I don’t know if perhaps it’s partly because it’s a relatively narrow path, so you have no choice but to mingle with other runners, but this was a noticeably friendly parkrun.  Marshals and runners seemed to know each other and, more importantly, be genuinely pleased to see one another.  This also seemed to be a truly inclusive run.  A good cross section of participants of all shapes, sizes, ages with and without buggies, dogs, children etc.  The finish times for this event ranged from 17.26 to 1.06, which I think is excellent, as it shows it is welcoming to and catering for a continuum of parkrunners.  Lately I’ve been very conscious of being a minority bringing up the rear, and although it’s true you can’t be last because of the tail walker and all of that, it is nevertheless reassuring to be part of group of slow and steadies rather than feeling like you are conspicuously slow.  Well, that’s my subjective experience anyway.  It’s just nice to feel a bit invisible.

People gathered, I made some new friends and checked out the start area.  One of my new friends is awaiting her purple tee, and we were agreeing that it is our favourite colour of the milestone tees and turns out it is her favourite colour anyway – her wedding dress was purple even, though she expressed regret that she only got to wear it the once.  Not that she was hoping to remarry, just that by convention it isn’t worn on a regular basis.  I tried to persuade her to give it a parkrun outing, it would fit right in, and be a great stand in whilst waiting for her volunteering t-shirt to arrive.  She didn’t exactly promise to do so, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before she sees the wisdom of such a clothing choice.   If not parkrun, then there’s always the Polish wedding dress run in September each year.  Another good option.  Actually, that might have just been a one off – but why let the truth get in the way of a good story eh?

Can’t see any possible down side, and it would even be a good choice for hiding blackberry stains, so a great option once they come properly into season.  Did I mention the blackberries?

There were indeed plenty of blackberries along the way – in a few weeks’ time you could gorge yourself with them along pretty much the whole route I reckon, powered by foraging.  Nice.  Kinder on the gut than sports gels too.

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It really couldn’t be much more straightforward, you do just literally run out and back along a flat, well surfaced path.  I was a bit worried that the path seemed very narrow, and I wasn’t sure how that would work with other trail users and faster runners coming back the other way.  Still, you have to have faith in the event team, I’m guessing they’d thought of this and done it a fair few times before so not my worry.  Also, I was distracted by the fine backside of the designated tail walker.

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I love the fact that you can ask to photograph someone’s bottom at parkrun and it’s considered not only acceptable but completely understandable.  Other parkrun bottoms have also been captured elsewhere this weekend, and quite right too.  Check out these offering from Chipping Sodbury parkrun apparently they have a selection from which to choose a tail for the day.  Yes, they do wear them all day, not just for the parkrun.  Well, I like to believe so anyway.

I met some voluntourists from Newcastle, at Graves junior parkrun the other day, well today actually, just got back from volunteering there and so even though I’m writing as if this is Saturday, it’s actually tomorrow Sunday now, so I’ve sort of been travelling in time.  Lord only knows when you stumbled across this.  Could be decades later for all I know, that would be really confusing.  I like to think parkrun will now exist in perpetuity so at no point will this be echoing around in cyber space and future generations are pondering ‘what is this strange parkrun phenomenon of which she speaks?’ that would be too depressing….  Anyway, hope that’s not overly confusing.  Bottom line point is, they told me that at their local junior parkrun they also have a selection of tails for the tail walker, and if a junior runner has a birthday on junior parkrun day, they get to select which tail is to be donned.  How brilliant is that?  That’s right, very brilliant indeed!  Now that’s class, right there, may it catch on everywhere.  They even have a dinosaur tail.   That would be really good…  If you can’t have an actual dinosaur, which would clearly be better still, and have the added bonus of motivating everyone to achieve a pb potentially too!  Not that everyone is necessarily after a pb, just being part of it is enough.  Having said that, I have a feeling even I’d put a wiggle on if a dinosaur was chasing me down.

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Anyway, got chatting with another runner about the it being ok to ask to photograph someone’s bottom at parkrun and how much fun the ‘anything goes’ ethos is.  It was pointed out there are other occasions when you can dress up as animals, and have fun too, but they aren’t necessarily quite so family friendly, and it may not be appropriate to take photos either.

Back to Isabel Trail parkrun.  People gathered and chatted and milled and chilled.  After a bit a call went up and a merry cohort trustingly followed the hi-viz wearers round the back of a hedge for the first timers briefing.  Amazingly, there seemed to be no first everers so the briefing was pretty brief.   There was however a focus on where all the tourists had come from, the RD acted as minute taker and the locations just kept on coming, she was going to need a bigger sheet of paper for sure – to coin a phrase!  That reminds me, have you seen the 30 second parody bunny movies?  You could just invest 30 seconds of your life on the Jaws one and take it from there.  Good in parts it’s true, but you are missing out if you don’t have a bit of a rummage around at the options available.  Your call.

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People had come from South Wales, St Helens, Sheffield (erm, well that was me) all over.  The RD dutifully scribed all she could fit on her paper, so everyone could have a shout out at the RD briefing later.  Nice touch.  I presume she had shorthand.

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The briefing was to the point.  A plea not to be a token magpie, and a warning that, although the trail is flat, there is one eroded patch of path which, despite being surrounded by cones, every week someone manages to fall into, we were warned not to be that person!

Back to the path. …. Did I really see a volunteer come striding back with a shovel?  What on earth?

And a few minutes later, all down towards the start, where the RD fought her way through to the starting point clutching a ladder and megaphone, to give the briefing.  Now, I had seen a proliferation of signs earlier imploring for quiet during the run briefing, including some that looked like paddles with which I would have cheerfully whacked the miscreants who talked loudly throughout the whole thing.  I couldn’t see them being deployed though, and it would have been good if they had been.  I really struggled to hear anything, which is a shame, as it was a nice welcome and run briefing.  I vaguely caught milestones being recognised and even birthdays.  It had a lovely community feel.  It enrages me that people won’t just shut up for this, it’s part of what builds a parkrun community, celebrating each others achievements, and noting who has a special day, as well as of course thanking volunteers.  I probably mind disproportionately about this to be fair, but this was such a welcoming parkrun, and it isn’t too much to ask for a bit of quiet during the briefing.  It was like people shouting over the sound system in a noisy pub round me at times.  I felt like as it wasn’t my parkrun so not my role to shush them, but I passively aggressively steamed inwardly, that would show them!  Rant over.  Until next time.

Still, I joined in the clapping when it seemed appropriate, and looking around, it was a jolly and colourful crowd.  And anyway, it was parkrun day, can’t be too pissed off for too long today!  I wonder how the shopping trolley was acquired, quite a boon for moving of stuff.  I’m sure it was legitimate, but even if not, there were alas, plenty for the taking dumped in the watercourses round and about the superstore.  Sad but true.  If they have retrieved it from being dumped, that would be a great public service, though I rather suspect it was willingly offered up by Sainsbury’s.

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So then, after a bit, a surge forwards.  Well, not too much of a surge, as I’d slotted myself in quite far to the back, and it took a while to get going.  I don’t mind that at all, in fact, I find it reassuring as it takes the pressure off and I’m never going for a time, just a positive experience.  However, I guess if you were a faster runner it would make sense to put yourself towards the front if you could.  It was a little bit congested going over the line, but all very good natured, and surprisingly quickly, the field spread out and it really didn’t seem to be an issue with giving way to other park users or taking over the path.

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I dodged to the side now and again to take some shots along the way.  I was trying to get one of every marshal I passed as well, which was made easier by dint of the fact you pass them all at least twice – on the way out, and then again on the way back! Who’d have guessed it.

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Although it’s ‘just’ a trail, the route was surprisingly diverse.  There were wooded bits, and you get to run under a couple of bridges which is a fun thing to do, and over a couple of bridges which is also a fun thing to do.  You can interact with clapping, smiling marshals – they didn’t do a great deal of directional pointing, but to be fair, there wasn’t all that much call for that.  You pass by a cemetery, which I suppose it handy for disposing of runners that are spent before they make it back.  Was that what the shovel was for earlier I wonder?

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They start ’em young as marshals here.  A pint-sized marshal was on hand to dish out high fives to passing runners.  Excellent work there!

And then soon enough, the front runners were flying back, homeward bound.  There was plenty of room for all, and it was fun watching them sprint towards the finish area. One thing which was really nice to see, was the number of returning runners, high fiving their friends who were still heading out.  Like I said, this was a friendly parkrun, I got the impression people knew each other, and were open to meeting new people too.

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The route is a bit unexpected in that you pass some open water bits that feel like full on countryside / rural idyll, and then other parts have a distinctly urban feel, complete with car grave yard – perhaps to complement the human one, and graffiti/ street art/ vandalism, depending on your point of view.  Ever felt like someone was watching you on a run…

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Each marshal and marshal spot seemed to have a particular USP, whether that was due to dress, responsibility, age, high-five deliveries or marshal buddying up system.  This one was responsible for raising bump awareness over a bridge.  It worked, out and back, nice chalkery.

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And don’t these two make a lovely pair?  I reckon they clapped the entire time, even when no runners were in sight.  That’s dedication for you.  Having said that, they have ceased applauding in this photo, but that’s only because I distracted them and put them off their game.  Sorry about that.  As you were.

The marshals along the way were really outstanding.  For different reasons I noticed a couple offering non-judgemental assistance to runners in need.  I’d have no hesitation in recommending this particular parkrun to a newbie runner, it was chilled and supportive and very good natured.  Just seemed a happy place, and we all need them don’t we.  Also, gotta love a parkrun where someone is donning a pink tutu.  Why wouldn’t you?  A pink tutu rocks at any occasion. Fact.  Try it for yourself if you are sceptical.  Go on, rock up at work tomorrow in one (unless it isn’t a working day for you tomorrow, that would be weird) they aren’t that hard to get hold of, or you could make you own out of a repurposed net curtain stained with ribena.  Someone, somewhere near you could provide them I’m sure.  You only have to reach out and ask for help sometimes, and friends and neighbours can make it so.

After a bit, well, more specifically, at the half way point, there is some fine cone positioning and a U-turn with a smiley marshal to ensure you don’t shoot on by and run to infinity and beyond.   Though strictly speaking, you can’t run to infinity in this direction, as this is pretty much the end of the trail and near to a handily positioned ambulance HQ if the overheard conversation between other runners near to me is anything to go by.  It must be a tight turn if you are going at speed, but if you are stopping periodically to line up photos, not so much of an issue.

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All good.  All smiley.  All going according to plan.  I trotted off again, and after a bit got to wave at the tail walkers coming up the path to the half way point in the other direction.  Always time for a high five and a cheery wave.

So homeward bound.  It always seems quicker on the return leg.  I spotted the big coned off hole this time, which I’d somehow missed on the way out, don’t know how.  At least I didn’t ankle turn into it, I wonder who did?  It did look a bit like a newly dug grave though.  Was that what the shovel was for?  Maybe they take talking through the run briefing more seriously than I realised.   Good for them!

Homeward bound, and there was a rather cute dog, with its walker still attached, watching from the side lines, desperate for someone, just one person, to stop and say hello.  I decided to be that one person, it was very pleased indeed that I did so.  It made me feel special in a good way, not something that happens to me all that often at a parkrun.  I must be going soft in my old age, I’m not really a doggy person, but this one seemed to be so genuinely delighted to meet me it melted my icy heart just a little bit…

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Past the last couple of marshals, still all in good voice and good cheer:

Then, there it is, the finish funnel, and the happy scene of welcoming smiling faces to cheer you in.  I wanted to take a picture, and paused to do so, securing  photo of someone photographing me as they did likewise.  We will probably now be caught in this loop for all eternity.  As they seemed up for it, I even did a ‘one, two three JUMP!’ for them, to secure an action shot, but they didn’t twig initially, and so we had to do it all again, when they obliged brilliantly.  A finely choreographed team I’d say.  Wish my camera had been quick enough to properly capture it.

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I wonder why I never seem to get any faster at parkrun.  Honestly, it’s a mystery.

That was me done, through the finish funnel, token secured, token scanned.  Marshals photographed, next few finishers cheered in, busy, busy busy!

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Done and dusted.  Just the little matter of mutual photographing with fellow tourists to get that all important ‘I’ve been framed’ Isabel Trail parkrun shot.

And that was that.  Time to go home.

I decided not to hang around for coffee in Sainsbury’s in favour of heading home, but I get the impression you’d be warmly welcomed if you chose to do so.

Overall then, have to say I was impressed by Isabel Trail parkrun.  I only really went there because of the ‘I’ to be honest.  Shallow, but true.  But it was such a friendly, supportive and welcoming team.  I think if it was your local you’d end up with over a hundred new best friends pretty fast.  They are rightly proud of their run, and it seems a well run event with a healthy pool of volunteers and a genuinely inclusive ethos.  I can’t promise you a unicorn, as that wasn’t my experience, but you do get a centaur en route if you come through Uttoxeter, and with all those mini roundabouts to contend with too, it’s really quite an adventure.  I wish Uttoxeter would start a parkrun, no idea how I’m ever going to get within touching distance of a ‘U’…

centaur uttoxeter

Why not add it to you to-do list, you will be welcomed, and if you are a speed merchant it has the potential to be a pb course as it’s flat and straight, but welcoming of the slow and steadies too.  Definitely a parkrun in the Goldilocks zone, and that’s grand!

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Hmm, maybe we should do an update of this poster for parkrun purposes, the ‘just right’ parkrun?  Oh wait, we have, here it is:

Isabel trail parkrunners in the goldilocks zone

See:  lovely, and practically perfect in every way!

Thank you Isabel Trial parkrunners, volunteer team, participants, spectators and all you were fab.  Hope to grace your trails again someday, but maybe I’ll see some of you out and about on the parkrun tourism trail in the meantime.  Thanks for sharing the parkrun love.  Only one teeny weeny, but heartfelt bit of I hope constructive criticism.  I really would have liked to have seen the pink unicorn, but then again, maybe it adds to the mystery and folklore of the run.  It has been espied in the past, and it may yet be glimpsed again, but only fleetingly, out of the corner of your eye, if you turn to stare, it will be gone again.  Fair enough, I understand, just another bit of parkrun magic mystery.

pink unicorn

🙂

So there you go, that’s that for another parkrun week.  Sigh.  If you are really desperate  you can relive some more 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.

Incidentally, can we have a random shout out for Elliot Line?  He just does great stuff week in, week out, and I don’t think I’ve given him any recognition for a while.  Would that be alright, to give him a shout out?  Oh we can, that’s good. He produces these ace parkrun stats, week in, week out.  I thought I had zero interest in statistics, but guess what?  Turns out I do, these are fun, check out the parkrun stats for this week by way of a taster, go on, go on, you know you want to!

And finally, if you are feeling like a can crushed under the jackboot of all the current inhumanity evident in the world, these might raise a wry smile.

You’re welcome.

 

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

Giving Sheffield the Runaround: Round Sheffield Run 2019

Digested read: Round Sheffield Run came round again.  Did that, got the medal, six out of six.  Yay!

Undigested read:

It’s a long one, but then who wouldn’t want to linger at a location like this?

Lingering location.jpg

Runaround NOW!!  Does anyone else remember that TV show.  No, only me?  Surely someone else is in my demographic.  It was a children’s quiz show, and they all had to run from one end of the studio to another to choose the right answer for some random quiz question and then there was a shout out to ‘runaround NOW!’ from Mike Reid and everyone ran around changing their mind about their answer.  Lots of running around basically, the clue is in the name of the show.  Ring any bells?  There was even a Runaround 1980 techno Christmas special in which an actual robot appeared as co-host.  Life changing AI on our TV screens, once the set had a chance to warm up of course.  You’ll be telling me next you don’t remember that, having to plan ahead and turn the TV on 15 minutes ahead of whatever programme it was.   Oh.  You don’t.  Sigh.  Did you really not even ever experience dispatching a household member to lean out of an upstairs window with a bent coat hanger, trying to improve reception on the aerial whilst you all shouted contradictory instructions at them?  Oh.  How times change.  Trust me dear reader. The past was another country indeed…. we did things differently there.

Hmm, granted, the caged children do in fact seem somewhat dodgy with the benefit of hindsight – anyway, you are completely missing the point.  The point is that come the summer solstice, near as dammit, cometh the hour, whilst the good people of Sweden are busy making their celebratory floral garlands – no really, they are – runners from near and far will be gathering in Endcliffe Park to commence the Round Sheffield Run, or … wait for it… the Sheffield Runaround!  See what I did there?  Because we all get to run-around Sheffield see?  Hilarious, not a laboured anachronistic niche buildup at all, just joyful, seamless expanding on a theme.

I’ll get my coat….

Phew.  That was hard work. It does rather spoil the overall affect if I have to explain it.  You know what, to be honest, if you aren’t experiencing being doubled up with laughter to such a degree that you fear your knickers may never dry RIGHT NOW, best walk away.  No honestly, that’s my humour at its peak, it doesn’t get any better.  For the most part it will get considerably blander.  You can just back away, and we’ll say no more about it.  You’ve not over-invested in reading this account, you can still scroll through a few photos if you want, I shan’t take it personally.  However, if you read on knowing what you know now, that’s contributory negligence, FACT. There isn’t a law firm in the country that will represent you whatever their ads may say to the contrary, so just don’t get drawn in.

Here’s a group sporting Swedish midsummer garlands by the way, just to prove a point.  This post may not amuse you, but you could learn something, nothing useful, but could save you come the compulsory ‘fun’ work quiz at Christmas. Your choice.

Midsummer_Sweden_09

Where was I?  Oh yes, cometh the summer solstice, cometh the Round Sheffield Run.  Not completely synchronised admittedly, which is an important detail, as it would have been a very long wait indeed if you hadn’t double checked the date for this year’s RSR and rocked up on the longest day.  That would have been 10 days early, but you get my drift – and at least that way you’d have been first in the toilet queue.

I lurve the Round Sheffield Run, and have been lucky enough to drag my weary carcass run round it every year so far.  It’s profile has skyrocketed since the year of its debut in 2014, when I’d venture it was just a few hundred from the local area rocking up to check it out.  Now it’s into ballot entry popularity territory and drawing runners from much further afield as a destination event.  Even so,  in my humble opinion it’s remained true to it’s essence of being friendly, inclusive, showcasing the best of Sheffield running and having a festival feel with guaranteed sunshine or your money back* and  it is also a flat one lap route, as in ‘Sheffield flat’ – the marshal at the end of Leg 1 was most conscientious and insistent on this point, alerting runners to the stretch of Sheffield flat just ahead as they approached Forge Dam.  Hilarious for the locals, potentially devastating for the out-of-towners of course, but what’s a bit of collateral damage to them set against the in-joke for them in the know eh?  Besides, all in good humour I’m sure!  You know who you are high-vis hero, but in case of ambiguity, here’s the body-cam footage I took en route.  Can also be seen keeping order at Sheffield Hallam parkrun, so has form on expert regulating of runners.  Hurrah! :

Personally, I really like events that are single lap as well.  It means once you set off you are basically committed aren’t you. You’ve got to make it back for tea at some point, so one foot in front of the other to make it so.  If you prefer the meditative quality of multi-lap offerings, then other options might suit you better.  There’s always the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,100-mile race around a New York block. Yep, you read that right.  Not my bag to be fair, but people do it…  Some claim to have out of body experiences as they do.   Frankly I’m not surprised at all, out of mind might be more apt though…  At least you wouldn’t have to worry about navigation, though lord only knows how you keep count of laps. 5,649 of them you’d have to do.  What would happen if you lost count and had to start again from 1?  It would take a great deal of Zen calm to cope with that eventuality.

I’m not completely uncritical of the RSR though.  Where would be the fun in that?  I’m actually still quite peeved they’ve not taken on board my feedback at all about either increasing the number of unicorns cavorting about the wooded sections or having an archway of rainbows to get you through the finish – despite the latter suggestion clearly being way more reliable than the inflatable archway option (just saying), and probably more environmentally friendly too, now I come to think of it.
whatever it takes

Incidentally, do you think holding up the inflatable finish arch comes under the ‘any other duties’ line on the job description for Event Director?  There are worse unexpected tasks to be fair.  Only the other week I was a supporting artist on a film being made in Sheffield which I shan’t name but which is set in Sheffield and features a drag artist.  Between takes, one of the costume and make-up team was tasked with kneeling at the feet of the lead actor, who was overheating in his phenomenally impressive drag outfit – wig, heels, tights, the whole shebang – frantically flapping away with a paper fan to waft air up the drag artist’s dress in order to try to keep his nether regions suitably cooled.  When you imagine getting your lucky break as a dresser or in the costume department of a feature film I’m guessing this isn’t quite the scenario you’d imagined in your fantasy of a day tending to the stars on set… definitely a key supporting role though, and certainly encompassed by the ‘any other duties’ line, which all we serfs know covers a multitude.

Anyway, undeterred by the silent treatment my quite brilliant suggestions have received to date (I really thought the compulsory fancy dress suggestion would have been enthusiastically embraced at least, it’s inexplicable to me that this hasn’t happened – yet) I’m hopeful that my offering for this year will hit the mark.  Thing is, the after party is all well and good, but having recently discovered the joys of gardening, I feel the post run offering would be massively enhanced if they had a few plant stalls in between the coffee and pizza stalls.  Maybe even a horticultural swap shop, now that would be lovely.  Perfect end to a perfect day.   Just imagine, medal round your neck, pizza in one hand perennials in the other.  Bling and borders covered. Result.  I feel sure pop up plant nurseries are a thing, and if they aren’t, well clearly they should be, and it wouldn’t be the first innovative thing the RSR has brought into being now would it?

Anyway, look you really need to stop distracting me, this account is all over the place.  I want to get this post written up in time for next year’s run at least.  Still, best get the basics out the way.  For the uninitiated – apparently, there are still some of you out there who have yet to savour the delights of this splendid event and have still have no idea what I’m on about – the Round Sheffield Run website blah de blah explains the event thus:

The Round Sheffield Run is the original multi-stage trail running enduro.

​An original, unique, creative and social concept that brings all the best bits of running together into one exciting event.

A superb running journey linking some of the top trails and parkland Sheffield has to offer.

​It would be a tough task to find anywhere in the UK that showcases these kind of trails and scenery within its city limits.

​11 Individually timed Stages each with their own challenge and character make up 20km of racing over the 24.5km route.

The unique format breaks the route down into stages. Each stage being raced, and competitors receiving both results for each stage as well as a combined overall result. Plenty of opportunity for friendly competition!

​Between stages competitors have the opportunity to rest, relax, and regroup with friends (new and old) and refocus before the next stage begins. Competitors can walk or jog between stages. The novel concept creates a supportive and friendly social vibe.

The race format also opens up the course to a wide range of abilities. The support round the course is also something special.

​To top it all off a festival atmosphere at the end with draft ales, tasty food, and great DJ to ensures that everyone can celebrate in style.

Run as an Individual, Pair or even a Team with some top prizes to be won! Including beer!

Fancy yourself as an Elite? This years Elite wave has 250 runners going for top honours! See the entry form for the qualifying criteria.

On the way round, you can eat your body weight in jelly babies or even stop for a latte or ice lolly if the mood takes you if the pics on Facebook are anything to go by, and afterwards join in the big party in the park.

​Astonishingly, some participants choose to forgo the refreshment breaks en route, and actually run the whole thing crazily fast, like a proper race as opposed to a social run, but then again, there is some fine bling for the taking, and if you are sufficiently rapid to get yourself to the front of the queue for the beer tent, why wouldn’t you?  Kudos to those who can.  And, in deference to them as like that sort of thing and are speedy enough to do so, there is an ‘elite wave’ that departs first, so they don’t have to overtake slower runners on the trails as is inevitable if you are a fast runner in one of the following waves.  They have to demonstrate a qualifying time somehow or other.  Not quite sure how, but I think there’s a common sense rather than officious approach taken.

RSR fine trophy

That’s not my trophy by the way, in case you were wondering, though it is my age category for the record, which is why the Runaround reference made sense to me, but I’ve moved on now, I’ll let that go…   I just have to accept dear reader, that you may not even know how to use log books and a slide rule – possibly not even be familiar with colour factor, how you live independently I cannot begin to imagine.

colour factor

So you will have probably sussed by now that I have a huge soft spot for the Round Sheffield Run, I’ve run completed it every year since it started in 2014 and it’s always a joy.  Not even type two fun, but actually type one – in parts anyway –  which given the distance and elevation (1981 ft) is no mean feat!  I managed to enter and even get my preferred wave, the first one of the day!  No, not the elite wave obvs, but the one immediately after, which because you start off early, gives you extra time to get around, and, in my case, disguises my slow progress.  There was some shenanigans with the entry system this year, because of the increasing hype the event attracts. A veritable tsunami of wannabee Sheffield runarounders swamped the site as soon as the entries went live.  This resulted in a crashed site and a hastily introduced semi-ballot system in which I got lucky but others didn’t. There was some flack directed to the organisers which I think unfair. It’s hard when an event becomes so popular that it is over-subscribed, to come up with a universally approved and fair entry system.  However, in reality, as entries open so far in advance, there are always places that come up later on as injury or circumstance means others have to pull out. There is a waiting list that you can join, and you can always secure a ‘free’ place by volunteering to marshal at either the TenTenTen or the RSR in one year – or indeed, getting a friend to do that for you, and blagging their freebie.  Oooh, nice pic on the volunteering info link – am nabbing that – see the views that will unfold before you if you partake of this running banquet through the green spaces of our great city.  Yay, #lovesheffield 🙂  And it really is like that when you get there, there being Meersbrook park.  Stunning views.

panorama rsr

So you enter in, I don’t know, January or something insanely early like that, when you are sat on the sofa fondly imagining yourself having transformed your body into nothing but sinew and muscle by the time the event comes round ‘it’s ages away’ after all, and then you think no more about it.  Until, suddenly it seems it is upon you, and that rigorous training routine you dreamt of, well, in my case at least, spoiler alert – it hadn’t come to pass.  In my defence, I’ve had a particularly shite year, running, however badly, being way down on my list of priorities.  I did consider withdrawing, but then again, it wouldn’t be the first time I’d rocked up to a run woefully unprepared, and I do have the advantage of knowing the route really well.  Also, it is indeed true the event gets you round because of it’s supportive ethos.  It is also true that it is better to rock up under trained but uninjured than over trained and carrying some sort of running related twinging, better runners than me by far have been caught out by less.  This is unfair of course, but true.  As with much of life. But let’s not got too far down that line today.   Today is about positivity and all being well with the world, even if it isn’t at all really, and that’s just the running endorphins kicking in… we have to take what comfort where and when we can.

So I entered, and winter moved into spring, and spring into summer and suddenly the RSR Facebook page is commencing countdown, ooh look here are the t-shirts – here is a teaser of a run stage the week before.

Oops, this was becoming very real suddenly.  Then, after weeks of rain, it became scorchio.  Crappity, crap crap.  Heat is my running nemesis (oh, and hills, and roads, oh and the actually being required to run bits as well, also humidity – that’s even worse possibly –  but mostly heat.)  I am not good in the heat, this does not bode well.  Heat really stymied my London Marathon experience, and I really didn’t fancy doing the Round Sheffield Run under the glare of uninterrupted sunshine.  It didn’t help I got sunburnt on the Friday by accident.  I rocked up to Hallam parkrun on Saturday slathered in sunblock.  Yes, I know proper athletes rest up the day before a big event, but I’ve only really got one gear at the moment, so might as well do parkrun the day before – particularly as I had to go into Frontrunner anyway to make an emergency electrolyte purchase, I’d be near Endcliffe park anyway.  So at parkrun, a couple of things happened. First off, my thickly applied unblock sloughed off as I ran (cough), glooping in a sweaty pool of white stripes congealed in the deeply attractive folds of skin in my neck, giving me the appearance of a new born alien being recently ejected from my egg sac and still dripping afterbirth, or just been doused in ectoplasm or something.  Just to be absolutely clear here, this is not a good look.  Gloop pops up in many different guises, it’s hard to get the adjective that perfectly captures the texture, but you’ll get the general gist I’m sure.  That’s an actual picture of me post parkrun on the right.  Don’t use that look in the nivea sunblock ads now do they?

Some things, only a true friend will tell you, so special kudos to this fab friend, who pointed out this was not the best look, and promised to let me have a go with her non-glooping, but effective S20 the next day.  Wonderwear ambassador, once again I have you to thank for sharing your wisdom!

DSCF2072

Wiping the gloop off my turkey neck as best I could, I went on to Frontrunner in search of electrolytes.  Skip was in charge, effortlessly ignoring me as I went in.  I was thrown initially because they’d moved their display around, but then was informed in response to my enquiry that THERE WERE NO ELECTROLYTES! Well, not the tablets anyway. Oh my gawd, calamity.  This just did not compute.  I stared blinking at the alternative options but I know from bitter experience there is no point in using sports gels or drinks as they trigger my gag reflex more even than framing the tattooed skins of your loved ones for display in the lounge (other room choices are available) after they’ve died.  And trust me, that’s saying something.

Anyway, I used electrolyte tablets for the first time at London in the hottest marathon on record, and I’ve relied on them ever since when the temperature soars. They really do seem to help, they avoid that ‘inquenchable thirst’ sensation, and post run headaches, or have for me anyway.  The thought of doing a hot RSR without them was not the best.  I was annoyed with myself too, because I’d used the last one in my hydration pack for the Hathersage Hurtle, which was ages ago, and I’ve been meaning to nip in and replace them ever since.  Crap. Also, turns out, just blinking vacuously from time to time in between staring in disbelief at the space on the display stand where the electrolyte tablets are supposed to be, doesn’t make them magically appear.  Who knew?  I retreated.  I needed a plan b.  Plan b was maybe get some electrolyte sachets like the ones that are sold for tourists to re-hydrate after getting the runs in a different sense whilst on holiday.  Problem with plan b, was that I couldn’t be bothered to find a proper chemist, and they didn’t have any at the mini