Posts Tagged With: motivation

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:

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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.

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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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

jacob leeks mogg

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’…

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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.

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🙂

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?

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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.

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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!

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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 Sainsburys I pass on the way home.  Oh well…  eek.

Day before angstiness was well under way.   Things brightened up a bit when I dug out my hydration vest to get my kit ready.  There are water stations on the way round, but I knew I’d probably need more.  This route actually goes past shops during some of the recovery sections so in theory at least, you could nip into the co-op for a bottle of water en route if desperate, but best to go equipped I feel.  Anyway, good news, my slatternly habits are such that I still had an almost full reservoir of water in my running vest, and what’s more, one in which I had previously dissolved electrolytes for the Hathersage Hurtle.  Turned out, didn’t need as much fluid then as I thought.  I had been meaning to empty that out and sterilise it all for ages, but on this occasion, result!  I know it’s probably not the most hygienic thing in the world to keep the water thing filled and lying about for weeks on end, but my need for electrolytes outweighed any risk of near instant death by sepsis from being infected by my own germs.  Hurrah!  Anyway, clearly I’ve survived to tell the tale, so good to know, eh?

Just a matter of digging out my running top.  Erm.  Oh dear.  This was a problem too.  The thing is we have some new Smiley Paces kit.  Now, hear me out, I love my smiley paces buddies, and the ethos of this super friendly club crammed with awesome Sheffield women, however, the kit is not my friend.  The old kit was unforgiving to say the least, and so I was pretty excited when there was a prospect of ordering new kit, in a new design with a clean slate.  I ordered, it duly came.  Now granted, it looks epic on some, the new graphic design is fab, but the actual cut of the shirt.  It’s a no from me.  It only seems to suit a particular body shape which I do not share.  It’s best suited to a coat hanger, but failing that an athletic frame.  My frame is only athletic in the sense that a space hopper might be described as athletic, i.e. not really very athletic at all.

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I ordered a size big enough to squeeze over my bust, but when it arrived it just swamped me everywhere else on account of being a mens’ fit.  Well, they call it ‘unisex’ but clearly this is bollocks – and I use that term advisedly, because ‘unisex’ always means designed for men.   I might as well run in a toupee teepee.  This garment doesn’t just belong on a coat hanger, but on a coat hanger popped on a rail hundreds of feet in the air.  Not being one to see the glass as always half-empty, I will say this.  Up until the point of trying it on I had thought my self-esteem had already hit rock bottom, but it seems I must have been feeling positively cheery, since the devastating effect of seeing my reflection in the glass whilst wearing this item suggested that in fact I hadn’t, there was still a fair old distance to fall.  I was beyond crushed, it made me never want to leave the house in daylight hours again, and no, I’m not posting a photo of me wearing it even for comedic effect.  It’s too humiliating.  It has been cast to the back of the wardrobe on the floor, never to see daylight again, unless I inadvertently ingest enough growth hormones through my diet to grow an extra three foot in height.  This is unlikely, as I’m vegetarian, so generally avoid ingesting growth hormone in my food.  The problem was, what to wear instead?

I dug out my original smiley vest, but this has endless variants of my name on it, as I personalised it for the London Marathon.  That’s a good top tip actually, if you have your name on your shirt, you get more shout outs from the crowd and it helps keep you going.  I don’t regret that, but such a highly personalised top seems a bit OTT to wear at a local run.  It just would feel a bit egotistical to head out on the RSR with my name front and back, and a bit misplaced given the speed with which I’d be progressing round the course.  Aaargh.  It felt bad, but I honestly didn’t want to be seen in public wearing either garb, so instead reached for my parkrun volunteering tee.  It’s the most forgiving of the running tops I own, and pleasingly, colour co-ordinates with my inov8 parkclaw trail shoes, which I love.  That would have to be the way to go, it seems my loyalty to my running club has some limits.  If only I were an international sporting icon – or indeed some other sort of celebrity, I could have my own kit custom made for my body shape and it would look and feel fab.u.lous.  Here’s hoping that I come to inhabit such a parallel universe comes to pass before the next time I venture out in public for a running event.  Not in time for this year’s RSR alas.

I felt sad not to have a Smiley Vest that I felt confident enough to wear in public, but hey ho, maybe it would be as well to go under the radar given my current fitness levels.  Wouldn’t want to bring the name of the club into disrepute after all, not so much with the requirement to run fast, it’s an inclusive group, speed isn’t everything, it’s more that if you have ‘Smiley Paces’ emblazoned across your front, there is something of an obligation to smile throughout any event when out and about.  Wearing a smile and wearing that new Smiley vest are mutually exclusive.  You can’t force a smile when you are blinking back hot tears of humiliation because what’s been seen in the mirror cannot be unseen. Also, I’d be out and about for rather a long time potentially, that’s quite an endurance test for smiling throughout, even if the smile came easily to begin with …  Maybe I could wear the top and distract people by, oh I don’t know carrying a giant carrot around with me for the duration?  That makes other people smile apparently, thereby potentially removing the obligation for me to do so.  It was a thought…  Mind you, timings a bit tight for making one overnight, that papier mache would too long to dry, and I have no orange paint either, still, there’s always next year.  It’s not Ken Livingston by the way, though possibly his doppelganger.

melbourne carrot man

I wonder how they did the leaves.  Do you think they are actual palm fronds, or made of plastic?  Hard to tell.  Will have to nip across to Melbourne and ask him in person sometime.  He is known for carrying a carrot with him by the way, it’s his thing. Maybe like our John ‘the man with the pram’ Burkhill with the green wig or Tony tending the War Memorial in Endcliffe park.  A known character, part of the landscape, with a particular USP.  We have running icons in Sheffield too.  Pirate Flag man anyone?  All Sheffielders know who I mean!  Spotted at the bottom of the Meersbrook Park hill by me today, but sure he will have popped up all over.  Always worth keeping an eye out for him on Sheffield runs – not that he’s especially hard to spot to be fair, but just so you know to be on the alert.  It’s like the notion of Sheffield flat – man brandishing his enormous jolly roger in the woods, no worries – it’s a Sheffield thing, you’ll work it all out in time!

Hydration ready?  Tick.  Kit ready?  Tick.  Legs ready?  Well, as Mr Loaf says, two out of three ain’t bad.

And you know what was even better?  Whilst I was getting myself ready, the kandoo team were getting the park ready.  So exciting.  This was the night before the morning after.

RSR night before

Looking good, quite a logistical operation. It’s a well oiled team that pull it all together, but even so, must be a relief for the organisers to get to this point. Yay!

So to bed, and slept appallingly and woke up stupidly early.  Oh well.  I was up and about by 5.00 I didn’t need to be, but was awake anyway, and didn’t want to risk dropping off again.  Anyway, pre-race prep rituals won’t do themselves.  Learning the trick of smothering your feet with Vaseline to avoid blisters was a game changer for me, but there is an art to the application so you avoid greasing your entire living space with oily hand and foot prints.  Anti chafing precautions also necessary, and much pinning and repinning of my race number to ensure compatibility with my running vest.  All takes time.  I was in the 8.35 wave, and headed out to walk to Endcliffe about 7.00.  It was a gorgeous day pending, and I felt surprisingly cheery heading on down.  There was a bit of a breeze and sunshine pending, but that was OK, I had my hat, and my tomtom feebie sunglasses, plus the day had dawned, I was going, all good.

The park looked lovely as I approached, all dressed up for a party and swathed in early morning light.  Plenty of route signs along the way too.  It seemed to me that they’d gone to town with directional arrows this year, there seemed to be loads of them, also chalk markings on the road at critical junctions.  Inevitably someone will miss a sign along the way, but hard to see how.

Queen Vic was overseeing everything as always.  I wonder how many different runners, walkers, joggers and doggers she’s seen using this park over the years.  Bit late to start counting now.  It was quiet, but building.  Volunteers were congregating, the bag drop and number and timer stations getting into gear.  Exciting!

and here are some way better official pics capturing the behind the scenes vibe:

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I dumped my bag in the bag drop, got my dibber, and began a scout of the grounds.  I was struck by the sight of the ambulance bike, corralled behind crowd control safety barriers.  I wasn’t sure if it was being secured in this way to protect it from us or we from it.  I commented as much to a fellow runner who had also noticed it.  ‘I’m not surprised it’s shut up, imagine all the great drugs in that lot!‘  Whilst this is potentially a good point well made, and it says much about my lack of imagination that this had never occurred to me, it just shows what a law-abiding lot we good folk of Sheffield are that no-one would dare desecrate the sanctity of such a boundary, oh no, that barrier would be unhurdled and whatever lay within the enclosure was safe as safe could be.  Even though I bet there was at the very least some highly desirable compeed plasters and more than a token foil blanket there for the taking but for those formidable barriers!

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I was extremely flattered to be greeted by name by first the event director and then the dibber distributor, ‘my they must only use super-recognisers to staff the laptops here, I had no idea so many of them lived in Sheffield‘ I thought to myself… before remembering that my number had my name on it.  Oh well.  The novelty didn’t wear thin though, loads of marshals throughout the day shouted support by name to every runner.  Impressive!  It’s nice, it makes you feel like you matter in that moment, however fleetingly, it also meant that in honesty I might as well have worn my old Smiley vest, but hey ho, too late now.

The marshals were being briefed and kitted out with the equipment for their various stations.  Looked like everyone got a set of ski poles as a precautionary measure.  Fair does, you do get pockets of micro-climate in Sheffield, Graves park especially is notorious for being in snow whilst everywhere else enjoys balmy climes and you never know what will face you as you emerge at the top of Ringinglow, it pays to be prepared.

Managed to make contact with one Marshal who is such a regular at this event she has her own nominated spot in Nether Edge.  My how pleased I’d be to make it to her later on in the day.  Also spotted a fellow Smiley – who was rocking the new look with confidence and panache, we paired up for precautionary pee (no queue there yet) and to pose.  We were desperately trying to get snapped by the official photographer, being extra smiley and trying to look casually enthusiastic and photogenic, or at least photo-interesting.  Epic fail, couldn’t get his attention at all.  Had fun trying.  I have form on this actually, decades ago, one long hot summer me and a next door neighbour decided to try to get in as many pictures in the local paper as we could by turning up at church fetes in huge hats or doing hilarious placards at local demonstrations.  That was also an epic fail, not a single picture, not one, but we did also have fun trying then too.  It’s a cheap and harmless hobby – as long as you don’t take things too far and put kittens up trees and dogs in lakes just so as you can rescue them, which is a version of Munchhausen’s I suppose and not to be recommended.  Today, we made do with our own selfies.  Aren’t we lovely?

and my wonderwear ambassador and Hallam parkrun buddy too.  And it wasn’t even 8.00 a.m.  The people are coming!

Traipsed over to get a squirt of S20 sunblock.  I’d got my own on as well, but just wanted to allergy test for the other stuff, as people keep telling me its fab, but it’s expensive if I react to it.  Then, coming back, the queues had suddenly started to appear.  I was glad I’d picked up my number and dibber already.  The queue was immense, and although it was moving relatively quickly, it was daunting to behold.

I say it was daunting, but it was also apparently invisible to some, well, maybe not ‘some’ maybe just one actually.  Who came round the corner, breezed up to the first laptop operative she saw and was all dibbed up before she raised her gaze to see the queue of other runners snaking over the horizon and out of the park.  Oops.  Maybe her route to the park took her along Twentywell Lane and this sign entered her subconscious – it wasn’t deliberate, but it was nifty!  Again, discretion prevents me outing anyone here, this is just a completely random shot of another friendly runner in the vicinity of the start at about that time.  Just so long as we are clear.  Any association arising in your mind as a consequence of the juxtaposition of the billboard signage and the female runner alongside apparently holding a newly acquired dibber is purely coincidental.  Good.

Still a bit of time, so decided to go for second precautionary pee of the morning.  Oh my.  This is a gripe to be fair.  The queue for the loos were beyond your worst imaginings.  There are never enough loos for the RSR, and it is tricky I guess because you need loads all at once and then they aren’t much needed for most of the day once all the runners are on their way, but there weren’t enough.  Good 20 minutes queuing and they got longer all the time, like some alien regenerating snake, the more you lob bits off as people did their bit and exited the queue, twice as much new length would be added at the end.  Is that the Jason and the Argonauts film, the one with the skeletons that replicate the more you cut them up… hang on, just a google moment – nope it wasn’t that – though it is an epic fight scene, I’m thinking of the hydra, cut off one of its heads, and two grow back.  Shudder.  Ray Harryhausen was amazing though, wasn’t he just?  Wow.  The toilet queue was too, but not in a good way.  Maybe more runners than usual turned up on the day, what the weather being great and the RSR becoming a destination run and all, but, more portaloos would be boon for next year.  Might stop some of the alfresco seekers, for whom desperation trumped decency.  And better signage for the urinal portaloos might have sped things up too…

The toilet queue was exactly like that.  No wonder the wait was scary.

I could hear the build up to the start of the red wave – the elites, but they were underway by the time I was wending my way to the start funnel.   This means I missed the panic stricken face of the photographer who nearly got trampled as the runners stampeded through, fortunately, this was captured by one of the (other?) official photographers, hurrah!  Probably one of my favourite pictures from the entire day!  Though, in fairness, I too always feel completely panicked at the start of any race.  ‘What, we have to run now!?!’  I’m invariably astonished, then alarmed to be surrounded by so many runners and then finally swept up by it.  By the way, lots of excellent photos have been made available on Facebook by the RSR team, they politely ask that you consider a donation to Weston Park Cancer Hospital in return for use of the images. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr19

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Spotted a Graves Junior parkrun RD inhaling a banana just before off.   Brave move, these elites eh, they live life on the edge!

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So I scurried to join the pen for the orange start at 8.35.  Announcements came over the speakers, and the shout went up to ‘Runaroouuuuuuuuuund NOW!’ or possibly a count down and then ‘go’, I can’t quite remember, and we all shuffled through to dib out in turn under the archway, and then we were spat through and launched and on our way!

No we hadn’t finished, it’s just that you come through the funnel at the end as well.  This is a consequence of running round in a great big circle.  You finish where you started from.  Clever eh?

One slightly bizarre thing about the event being set off in waves, is that as you you set out, running purposefully up through the park, leisurely arrivees are strolling down to registration, so it feels a bit weird.  Also, some people sprint off, whereas I take a while to get going, so the immediate first emotion for me is not so much a surge of adrenaline as shock and confusion.  Also, because it’s on the parkrun route, it’s like you’ve cheated and skipped the bit at the start, all very surreal.  It’s still uphill though, and a long way to go to get round the whole thing.  However, not too far to the first crossing point and the first dapper dibbing marshal of the day at the road crossing.  Not gonna lie, slightly disappointed not to see our ‘usual’ marshal in situ – another Hallam parkrun RD who has her designated spot at this event.  Not the same without her there, but she had selfishly opted to go fly a helicopter or something instead.  Honestly, the lengths eh?  Never mind, the spot was ably filled with competence, flair and excellently authoritative traffic control skills.  Can’t really argue with that.  Thank you marshal!

Over the road, onwards and upwards.  The field was thinning about, but other runners were coming up behind.  The overtaking had started.  On the plus side, I got to exchange cheery waves with familiar faces, some in a blur of speed as they passed, others pausing for brief sweaty hugs, all with big smiles.  There is something about the RSR that is inherently joyful, right from the off, once you’ve got your precautionary pee out the way of course.  Obviously it’s going to be stressful until you’ve got that bit of body maintenance sorted 🙂

This did sort of set the tone for the day to be fair.  People I knew, or friends I hadn’t yet made, sprinting up behind me, shouting a greeting and then whizzing by, their ever shrinking silhouettes disappearing over the horizon ahead of me.  Still, at least it gave me something to chase eh?  Plus, you get a chit chat opportunity at each dib point. Some people pressed on through, others eeked out each wait for as long as possible, strategically incorporating recovery time into their race day strategy, which is both the point of how the event is set up, and entirely mysterious to me.  The social anthropologists amongst you will notice the culturally significant green and gold bobble hat being sported by the high vis hero.  However, for me, the real interest lies in the fine exemplar of team work.  The Smiley Paces pair are saving precious seconds by having clearly demarked roles, whereby one does the donkey work of dibbing in and out and being responsible for custody of the timing lanyard, whilst the other nails looking triumphant and getting the glory.  Ran like that the whole way round, no mean feat!

Loving your work Smilies, loving your work.

On you go, into the woods, over the next road crossing – ‘thank you marshal’ I have a theory you can spot the parkrunners amongst the throng as they have been conditioned into shouting thanks to anyone in a high vis that they run past even if it’s a worker checking the wiring for a BT phone cabinet.

After the next road crossing, more Smilies!  We get everywhere, and these two in particular are a fab partnership, pathologically smiley, as is the smiley way!  Oh and they’re off again, smilies disappearing into the distance ahead of me, also a smiley staple.  Not running away from me as such, just giving me a lead!

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and somewhere around this stage I think, another Smiley caught me unawares with some action shots – you have to push yourself to get results… thank goodness for the dark glasses, I’m sure no-one will recognise me.

and this was around the end of Stage 1, where I’d been promised a sweaty high-five which I duly claimed.  Great to do a run where you see familiar faces on the way round.  This was the marshal sharing his local knowledge by declaring that ‘flat section ahead – Sheffield flat’ as runners dibbed out and headed towards Forge Dam.   The locals know, the blow ins will find out soon enough.  …. it’s not like they are going to come back down the hill to query it later are they!  Or are they?

Grand to see you my friend, thanks for the gardening tips at parkrun, and the backing for lobbying for the perennial plant stall, I’m quietly confident!

The forge dam cafe was just opening, and there was the opportunity to join another toilet queue if you’d missed out earlier.  Now into the woods. More familiar people whooping on their way past:

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My lack of training gave me a wobble, it’s a lot of uphill.  I doubted myself.  Then, soon I heard familiar chuntering coming up behind.  Yay!  My favourite twosome of the day.  Storming it.

also, it was somewhere around here, I met a Chorlton runner walking back down – I was concerned that this meant one of us at least was going the wrong way – unless he was just doubling back to remonstrate with the marshal about the ‘Sheffield flat’ quip – turns out his knee was crook, so game over for him.  It made me appreciate how lucky I was to be out there and injury free.  I wasn’t ever going to fly round fleet of foot, but I was going to get round, I was confident of that, time to stop fretting about what I can’t achieve and be grateful for what I can.  Poor guy, gutted for him.  Mind you, one remarkable thing about the RSR, which I’m sure is to do with the option to take part in a more relaxed way, is how very few are DNFs.  Less than 10 I’m sure.  No idea about the DNS though.  That may tell another story.

Onwards and upwards.  Doing a rare bit of overtaking of those following the route somewhat over prepared for the run -much like me on the Dig Deep Ultra, where I took absolutely everything with me because I had no idea what to expect. Well, the breeze blocks might have come in handy if I needed to create some steps to stand on to get over a dry stone wall for example.  Oh hang on, they were Duke of Edinburgh Award Schemers – did think the sleeping mat was possibly a bit OTT even if it did have definite appeal…

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And so you emerge from the wood, into the glade with tables laden with jelly babies, bananas and bottles of water, and friendly chit chatting – like you’ve stumbled on some sort of impromptu runners social – which you basically have.  There was plenty of water, and it felt leisurely, they’d put out a lot more sacks to keep the recycling together, but there was a lot of plastic waste.  I wonder if this event will follow recent welcome trends of other running events and try to go plastic free next year.  It ought to be possible, especially with the feed stations being in recovery stages and with the growing awareness of the problem with single use plastic.  I reckon so.

Restored, there is a 15 minute or so walk past the alpaca place and to the top of limb valley.  I always think this event must seem so peculiar to locals, as the road sections all tend to be recovery stages, and that means that in this ‘race’ no-one appears to be doing any actual running.  Worst run ever in that respect!  So called ‘runners’ strolling past chatting to one another and exchanging cheery waves with other participants ahead and behind.

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Stage three.  Limb valley section.  Basically, fab views, firm terrain – corralled away from scary cattle thanks to last year’s crowdfunding initiative – and you get to ‘whoop‘ and ‘wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee‘ all the way down, going as fast as your little legs – or long legs where applicable – will carry you!  Always time to take some pics along the way though, even if they are somewhat pitiful by comparison to the official pics, nevertheless, they capture moments in time and memories too.   And you know what, I actually think this picture, which I took all by myself, is fab.  If anyone knows this runner I’ve got a sequence of her in high resolution she can have if she gets in touch.

The official shots for this stage are fab – some possibly tipped over into not so much joyful but manic, however, that’s understandable in the circumstances.  You can also compare and contrast effortless running style of super speedy smilies v my trundling efforts.  Also, alarmingly, one Smiley has been caught on camera, not smiling and seemingly mid altercation with another runner, note to self – need to carry out an enquiry within my crochet club to check out what really happened there… More importantly, check out that Vegan jumper.  Respect!

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Oh hang on, they’ve just uploaded another album!  It’s great that there are so many pics, but it does take a while to scroll through them all. Oh the excruciating tyrrany of trying to pick out just the best… Lots of late nights for RSR runners the week after the event, poring over photos and reliving it all after a long day at work.  Anyways, picked out a few favourites below.  Please note, the guy apparently playing ‘chief bunny’ which I thought was a game everyone was familiar with – much like the rizla on the head game – but it might have been a shared house thing back in the day.  So I’ll leave that hanging.  Also, kudos to the levitating man, that’s some height you got to there, and then I just really liked the happy runners having a blast in blue.  Nice jump shot too.  That’s another thought actually, really ought to incentivise the giant leaping, spot prize for best photo capturing such athleticism, to be shared between jumper and photographer obvs.  Still think the vegan runner above is winning so far though…

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Wait, another album, album 3 – hope you are making your just giving donations people – and more evidence.   They have to be playing chief bunny, see the guy using both hands, he’s the chief and then those on either side should do one hand up each – the one nearest the chief bunny, and they are so doing it.  I need to seek out a Marple Runner at the next possible opportunity to verity my suspicions, but it’s too much of a coincidence to be otherwise, surely?

Oh, and breaking news, vegan jumper isn’t winning any more, this guy is.  For now…. he’s definitely taking the concept of a sugar rush to new heights, hard to be sure, but he has to have ODed on jelly babies.  Thought he could handle it I daresay, and then this!

RSR jump jump

At some events they have a ‘photographer 100m ahead sign’.  Well, only if they are 100m ahead, it can be changed to say 50m or ’round the corner’ or whatever, depending on context.  That gives runners the opportunity to pretend to be running hard, or to get a run up into a leap, or wipe the snot and sweat off their faces and ensure they have their boobs on an upswing in readiness, or do something equally eye catching, hilarious and camera ready which is harder to achieve when caught unawares.  I like that.  Mind you, these are universally fab pictures from this event, thank you Mr Linacre, it’s astounding to take, literally thousands of shots, and them all to be this good.  I sense a hive of activity on Facebook with people updating their profile picks with RSR run action portraits over the coming days… also a post run tradition.  That and running club caption contests, of which there will be many, the suggestions for some of which it is fortunate will remain forever contained within a closed Facebook group!

Where was I?  Where next?  Oh yes –  then into the woods down towards Whirlow, lovely section, and cool under the trees.  The running conditions were perfect, a cool breeze and bright, but not hot, so lucky, especially after yesterdays scorchio and soul sapping parkrun.  I gather that faster runners might have preferred harder ground, but my arthritic feet appreciated the soft forgiving terrain.  Reet nice out in fact.  Lovely.

and you emerge out the woods:

cross the road, and back into the woods. Ecclesall woods this time.  It was ages before I worked out how this relates to the Ecclesall Woods Discovery Centre.  I love Ecclesall Woods, but I seem to get very disorientated when I’m there.  Totally get why Hansel and Gretel got lost in the woods that time.  Trees are beautiful, but a wood in its entirety can swallow you up quite easily.  In this section I got the most fleeting of glimpses of Smiley Selfie Queen, but she did pause for long enough for a fellow runner to get a shot of us together, just for the record, we occupied the same space at the same time. You get to look longingly across at the miniature train in operation just the other side of the stream, but no time to take advantage of that today alas.  So this is where you emerge onto Abbeydale Road South, and stroll down past the railway station, trying not to think about the steps of doom which await you once you’ve traipsed up Twentywell Lane…

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Twentywell Lane, did have a queue to get into the woods.  I felt a bit for the marshal here, as this is point that requires a lot of proactive traffic management, and to be honest looked like one of the more stressful locations to be based at.  He was doing a fab job though, directing runners and traffic to keep everything moving.  Once we were over the road and into the wood, the steps awaited.  Oh my life, they are killers, that climb, untimed or not, is brutal.  I like this part of the route if I’m running on my own, but it is a tad stressful for the RSR.  I try to give way to faster runners as much as I can, but there are one or two really narrow bits on this path and you can’t step aside without plummeting down a vertiginous slope so it’s a tad stressful.  Having said that, runners were universally courteous, I think enough people now know the route to recognise it is what it is, and with the best will in the world, sometimes slower runners can’t give way and faster runners can’t over take.  All smiles. Well, to each other, they may have been some unseemly cursing about the challenge of the actual terrain!

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Phew, was glad when that section was over.  You emerge onto a road and have to run on by Beauchief golf course.  If you are called Sandra, you get your own signage to help you press on at this critical stage.  Go Sandra indeed, you chose your supporters well!  I don’t know if the idea is they will only have signs for Sandra, as this was a new development for this year, maybe other random names will appear, or maybe she has special dispensation to have her own signage. Will have to rock up next year and find out I suppose.

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The end of stage 5 takes you onto Greenhill Avenue, and more uphill and you go through Chancet Wood.  This stage I always forget about and get confused and think I’m already in Graves park, which you aren’t.  If you are ever lost on a course, and inexplicably see me ahead of you – which is fairly unlikely – don’t follow me, I’ll be lost too.

I was flagging a bit by now, so it was a fabulous surprise to see a Smiley superstar in support mode at the start of the Graves park section.  Hurrah!  Obviously, any Smiley is a fine sight on any and every occasion, but for the record, best thing EVER to happen to me on a run was when she and a fellow Brutelles turned up on the Houndkirk Road to see me towards the end of the Dig Deep Ultra. It was brilliant, so chuffed they’d turned out for me.  You know what, if you are a supporter rather than a runner on occasions, or indeed always, don’t under estimate the impact you have. You are awesome. Support en route can make or break an event.  All adds to the party atmosphere.   Now after that tribute, it’s unfortunate that I don’t have a suitably epic photo to share, but I do have an offering at least. Thank you Doctor Smiley!  Plus, she not only had vegan sweets – which had run out when I got there – but took photos of other smilies, even those who’d apparently got dressed in the dark which would account for them accidentally put on the wrong running vest. AND, she saw a rather cute mouse whilst waiting, which I find worthy of note.   Check out that half of the Smiley pair who is still managing to keep her arms aloft in triumph – she’s kept that up for over 15 km by this point I’d say – bearing in mind she was doing it throughout the recovery stages as well as the timed sections, that’s real dedication for you.  I’d expect nothing less.

Oh and she did a mean selfie shot too, which ought really to be mandatory whenever two or more smilies meet.  Evidence suggests it pretty much is already to be fair, if previous evidence is anything to go by:

Incidentally, it occurs to me, albeit rather belatedly, there is a really good breakdown of each section of the Round Sheffield Run course with nice concise descriptors and thumb nail maps on the event website so you could save yourself some time looking at that.   They also did something clever with Strava, marking the recovery sections in blue, but I can’t work out have to steal that as it’s a webpage, so you’ll have to make do with my Strava map, which looks like this:

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Makes more sense now I expect.  That’s good.  No of course I’m not uploading the version with my times on it!  What kind of a fool do you take me for?  (Rhetorical question, no need for answers on a postcard on this occasion).

Now I’ve found the section summary, I’ll refer to that for help with describing the Graves Park bit, er hem, the blah de blah says:

Stage 7   :  1.4km Graves Park

A gradual ascent through the mature woods of Graves park, this is another stage to take at a steady pace, up and over right across the park popping out at the main car entrance.

It only just occurs to me that the somewhat oblique reference to ‘another stage to take at a steady pace’ acknowledges that this is another bit with a long hard uphill trudge.  I don’t really like this section of the park.  Graves park is lovely, but this route misses out the nice bits like the Highland coos and Rose Garden cafe and sort of sneaks around a rather uncharacteristically dingy section.  Nearly said dinghy section, but I’m thinking of the boating pool at Millhouses.  Early runners in the elite wave, could in principle have seen junior parkrunners if not actually on their run, at the very least enjoying the post run partying.  One RD I met walking back home at the end of the event, said he was just sprinting past the back of the cafe for 10ish and could easily have joined the team in the cafe to help process the results if he’d but thought to do so on the way round.  I was probably still trying to cross Rustlings Road at that point.  Honestly, the elite runners inhabit a parallel universe.  I can’t imagine being that fast, even when I’ve taken advantage of deserted early morning airports to run full speed along travelators (doesn’t everyone), and even that makes me feel super human – these elite runners though, must be emitting sonic booms as they pass.  Well, I presume those booms are from breaking the sound barrier not for the food choices made on breaking their overnight fasts.

Graves park then, bit of a ho hum section for me.  A few people passing me asked if I was alright.  I appreciate their concern, but do wonder what this says about my natural gait, as I was absolutely fine, just choosing to strategically power walk, but I must look perpetually broken.  It reflects well on my fellow participants and the ethos of the event that people checked on me, but perhaps doesn’t reflect so well on my running style.  Not quite moving with the grace of a gazelle traversing the open grasslands of the savanna…. or wherever it is they live.  I’ve had worse.  The day after the London marathon, a next door neighbour rushed across the road to ask if I was alright as she thought I must have been in a car accident or something I was moving so stiffly.  Note to self, maybe other runners use rollers and recovery runs for a reason.

One good thing though, was as you come towards the end of the section, there was a couple of women doing excellent cheer leading.  Dear reader these two were ON FIRE.  Probably used more energy jumping up and down to motivate the participants to ‘just keep on running, it’s only 100 metres, don’t stop now’ then the actual runners did racing round.  No honestly, even the elite wave runners would have burnt up a fraction of the calories.  High five to you my favourite supporters of the day!  Liz is very lucky to have you 🙂 hope you hadn’t exhausted your mine of enthusiasm by the time she came into view.  Thank you for practising your cheering skills on the rest of us, you were awesome!

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As you come out of the park, you can espy an ice cream van parked up on the right hand side, quite hard to resist as you are clocking out ahead of the 15 minute recovery stage.

The temptation was in fact impossible to resist for some, who very sensibly, took time out to swap change for lolly – these two also knew how to roll!  Respect.  I wonder if they had 99s.  Not had one of those in ages.  I boycotted them for a bit once I discovered that they aerate them with air outside vehicle i.e. exhaust fumes (probably an urban myth) and that Margaret Thatcher, in her former life as a chemist, was partially responsible for developing the technique which led to Mr Whippy as we know it .  Probably also spurious, I might be able to eat them now…

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The next bit is

Liason between 7-8

Following the main road on the tarmac path up around 500m to the New Inn Pub, turn left onto road here, following to the start of the next trail.

The walk itself is unremarkable, though when you recce the route, I always think it feels a lot longer than it actually is.  The signage for the Round Sheffield Walk route is easy to miss here, though it was well signed for the RSR.  It’s a social section, I chatted to a few runners, some regulars at the RSR, some first timers, the lolly ladybird and lolly bee pair, and a guy who’d hoped to run as a pair with his wife but she’d had to pull out with dodgy knee or something, so he was going solo. Real shame when that happens, but it’s good that pairs who lose a partner can transfer to singleton status in such circumstances.

Eventually, you turn the corner, and then ahead is the sight of the next feed station. Wow, this was busy.  Excitingly, among the banana worriers was a familiar face from Graves junior parkrun.  Hurrah.  Oh, sorry, they were banana warriors, easy mistake.   Whatever, some nifty knife action, those bananas didn’t stand a chance.  Lots of people congregate here.  I’m sure this run was busier than last year, as I’m a slow runner, so usually by the time I come to feed stations things have calmed down a bit as the majority of participants have been and gone, but this was absolutely heaving.  Huge bags were to gather plastic bottles, though some had bizarrely chucked banana skins in amongst them which was hardly pro-social. It’s good that an attempt was being made to keep everything ripe for recycling, but it was a shock seeing such a mountain of single use plastic.  It’s good we are all more aware of it.  I can’t see that being allowed to happen again next year.  I needed to supplement my supply though, so was as guilty as any in taking a bottle.

I lingered only briefly, then it’s back down the hill.  This isn’t the most picturesque part of the route, but litter wise it was much better than last time I went down.  It was so bad once with litter outside the school gates I actually wrote to the school about it in one of my more pompous moments.  Never heard back.  It’s a bit of break neck section, if you take it fast you gather momentum going down, and it’s hard to stop.  I think it was no coincidence the bike paramedic was stationed in the undergrowth here, it was indeed a likely spot for rich pickings, though there were no discarded blood stained gauzes surrounding him when I passed, then again, he’d have put them in a proper biohazard waste bag probably, it’s not the done thing to leave blooded bandages lying around I imagine.

Oh hang on, the official description doesn’t mention the litter or the risk of injury or death if you take it too fast.

Stage 8   :  1.3km Lees Hall Golf Course

This is an exciting fast, flowing trail down between Lees Hall Golf course, down past the academy playing fields, opening up to some great urban views and then diving round to the left and back up towards Meersbrook

so where I experience fear, others experience ‘exciting’ I can see that actually.   I’m not sure about the views on this route, they really kick in in Meersbrook park.

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so the liaison stage here  is along the road in a straight line for about 500m, (more up hilliness) past the row of shops (a co-op you could nip into if you felt the urge.  I seriously contemplated picking up the bottle of wine I’d need for visitors later before my senses recovered sufficiently for me to realise that was a crazy idea, even if it would mean I wouldn’t have to go back out to the shops later.  Then you join the main road and up to Meersbrook park entrance.  Espying the amazing Bishop’s House as you approach.

This next section, section 9, is the best.  Well, maybe second best, Limb Valley (stage 3) is more picturesque and for me more forgiving terrain, but I love this stage too.  The views are extraordinary.  It’s quite moving seeing the city unfold in front of you – it helped that the skies were clear today, but on any day the horizon is amazing.  This park has a real community feel to it too, so it’s a well supported section, you’ll see friends probably, but failing that people generally out enjoying the day and offering cheers of encouragement too.  It’s down hill – always a boon, and has fond memories of small park BIG RUN too.   It’s just such a cool park, with a chilled vibe, I think it helps that, for me at least, psychologically I feel I’m nearly home now, that’s the bling in the bag near as dammit!

EVEN BETTER today at the entrance to the park were indeed buddies from small park BIG RUN, they were quite possibly still doing 1km loops of the park two weeks later – that’s dedication for you.  Also, pirate flag man.  So exciting.  I could see him waving his flag from the top of the hill, but he started to go round the corner out of sight, I genuinely put on an extra sprint for fear the flag would be all furled up again and out of sight by the time I got to the bottom of the hill. That would be unimaginable, missing the flag, when it was actually in sight, so near and yet so far.  Crisis averted dear reader.  The photos record I made it!  I also got whoops and hugs from my Smiley buddies, and the chance to see other smilies sprint on by as they had embraced more fully than me that this was actually within the timed section, so you shouldn’t really be stopping for a chat within it, though personally I don’t see the harm.  Also, I took some photos, quite pleased with the one with the Valley Hill Runners and the view, it’s just like that, it really is.

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Makes me so grateful that life has brought me to Sheffield, it really is the most extraordinary city to live in.  I felt weirdly emotional looking at that view of the city skyline.  It’s hard to say why, it’s not like I’m personally responsible for it or anything, and strictly speaking, I’m not even a ‘real’ Sheffielder, but I love this city I really do.  Admittedly mainly because it’s so easy to get out of and into the peaks, but I’m sure you know what I mean.  Bloody brilliant place

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Out the park, a very vocal marshal was encouraging every runner by name, which was impressive, if only for his speed reading skills!

You emerge, and it’s a bit of zig zag up towards Nether Edge for the next section.

Liason between 9-10 Out the park across the A61 following the permanent signs, across to Abbeydale rd and Edinburgh Cycles, turn left onto Abbeydale Rd, and then turn right by the mirror shop for the start of the next stage. Marshalls will be in key positions for this slightly tricky liaison.

Apart from the novelty value of seeing your reflection in a mirror, this isn’t the best part of Sheffield, but you know what, it’s grown on me.  Let’s celebrate B&M bargains and LiDL.  Why not appreciate the mural and that community wildflower garden is now blooming, literally as well as figuratively.  More chit chat if you fancy it

The best bit though, for me at least, was seeing my  magical Hallam parkrun buddy in situ.  Again, when I’d visualised myself doing this event, I knew once I got to this fabulous smile and slightly sweaty hug, I was nearly home.  Best hug of the day.  Also a selfie op!

Then the mirror moment: 

and then the bit I always forget, because it feels to me like it should be a recovery stage, down those narrow Nether Edge streets to Brincliffe woods. I find it a killer, more hills, and the heat rising by now.  I always end up walking it, with a slight garumphiness, because it’s hard, and I feel self-conscious and inadequate because I ought to be running but can’t or more accurately won’t.

Stage 10 :  2.2km Brincliffe Edge –  The end is getting close, this urban stage takes you up the road on a gradual climb to Brincliffe edge, keep going up the road and the duck into the woods onto the trail, contouring round, then up and down into Chelsea park, popping out in quiet surburbia on the otherside. A few quiet wide streets to negotiate on the pavement before finishing just before Psalter lane

Fortuitously, I came across a former Smiley and distance walking aficionado, who was also doing some strategic walking at the point, so we marched on together.  It was good to catch up, also I was able to pick her brains about using poles for walking/running, as she’s a fab advert for doing just that, although wasn’t using them today. She had them at the Hathersage Hurtle last year (2018), and was fair speeding round.

We stayed together until we emerged from Brincliffe Edge woods, then I waved her off as she skipped off through Chelsea park, the end in her sights.  Brincliffe Edge is a weird short sharp bit.  It’s nice and flat across the – you think – top of the ridge, and then just as you are settling in to that there’s a sharp right and more steep steps reveal themselves to take you up to Chelsea Park.  I didn’t witness this myself, but saw on Facebook that someone was alongside a non-local at this point – ‘and RSR virgin’ was the phrase used, and that poor soul caught sight of yet another set of steep steps unfolding before them they  just exclaimed ‘oh f$ck off!’ A sentiment other participants may well have shared!

Into the park, down the hill.  This is really near my home patch, although I don’t tend to go into the park that often, because frankly there are more open spaces within reach, but it was nice to jog through, and pleasingly I met one of my neighbours out walking her dog. She was a little bemused as to what exactly I was doing, but then again, so was I.  It possibly didn’t help that I was saying I was doing a trail run, but wasn’t noticeably doing a great deal of running.  I let that go…

You come out of the park, and again it’s still the timed section.  I feel it shouldn’t be, but anyway, that’s just voices in my head I expect.  Talking of which, I suddenly thought I could hear my name being called from the far distance, but I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it, and didn’t want to do that awkward thing of turning round and waving only to realise it was a shout out for someone else entirely.  It carried on.  I stopped.  I gazed about, and then look who sprinted into view:

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Another Hallam parkrun buddy.  Honestly, Sheffield parkrunners were like cockroaches on this run, they just popped up everywhere – only in a good way, obvs.  It was really nice to see a friendly face, and we jogged along and chatted and ended up staying together til the finish.

Past the last of the out of park marshals:

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Through the bright lights of Hunters Bar – trying not to notice the flood of runners who’d already finished and were strolling home adorned with the obligatory post-event metal wear!

And then back into the park for the final stage.  Can we have a moment please to appreciate the marshals at this stage who were particularly hilarious with their motivational banter.  Screaming at us to ‘run!  It’s not far, it’s a sprint finish, go go go!’  All the marshals throughout were epic, each had their own unique style to bring to the event and all are heroes, but this was a fun note to finish on for sure.  No-one was going to get away with nonchalantly strolling by this dibber point, it was do or die, and give it your all!

I therefore did dutifully run past, until I was safely out of view the other side of Queen Vic.  Then I did a bit of a walk to behind the hedge, before bursting out with a sprint finish.  Wasn’t going so fast that I missed waving at my Swiss Smiley friend – well met dear traveller, well met!

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I thought we did a reasonable job with our sprint finish – and thanks to Smiley Selfie Queen for capturing the moment even if it is a bit of a shame you aren’t captured looking into the camera in the front bottom corner of the frame as is usual for a selfie shot.  However, some really know how to tackle that finish or work the crowd.  The event ‘instructions’ state:

Stage 11 :  0.4km Endcliffe Park Finish – A final flourish, starting at the park entrance up onto the park itself where you will join the marked course for the dash for the finish outside Endcliffe park cafe. You will be greeted by fellow competitors, adulation from the crowd and if you wish a cold beer!

and it’s at least partly true.  You can indeed get adulation from the crowd, but it is best if you work it!  Look and learn:

just the little formality of the medal – ooh, and another Graves junior buddy, one big love in, how nice, it was like a personalised medal award ceremony!

Final dib to get results, queue for crisps and banana and water

Thanks to Swiss Smiley for coming to say hello, sorry I was a bit post-run perplexed, was grand to see you!  And that was that.  RSR all done for another year.

Well, all done apart from the partying of course.

I couldn’t linger this time round, you know how it is, places to go, people to see.  However, did get lucky meeting the Monday Mobsters.  … won’t give a spoiler, but ooh, I’m soooooooooooooo excited about next weekend now.  parkrun dreams really can come true!  I’m not giving a spoiler, but I will give a clue, what’s the parkrun dream destination once you’ve already done your parkrun pilgrimage to Bushy parkrun people?  I think we know…

So I said my farewells, and started the long trudge back up the hill to Nether Edge.  Blimey.  The return voyage was made easier once I bumped into the Graves junior RD for some company with him and his pal for the walk back.  Don’t worry dear reader, I did remember to nip into the local supermarket for a bottle of wine – only I accidentally got a large bottle of gin instead, and some pasta.  Perfecto!

That’s that then, for now.  I daresay there will be some edits coming later, and I’ll probably keep finding even better photos, which is the challenge when you keep discovering new ones days or even weeks later.

Thanks once again kandoo team and everyone who took part in or supported another fab RSR experience.  Those of us who are lucky enough to live in Sheffield are even more blessed to have this great event on my doorstep.  If they’d only sort out the horticultural supplies issues for next year, it will remain perfect.

Incidentally, it would seem that for the most part, runners at this year’s RSR got lucky and got round.  It’s been a good few weeks for off road runners.  Did you know  Damian Hall just set a new fastest known time for the Paddy Buckley Round, running over 61 miles – across some of W