Posts Tagged With: New Years Day Double

Nailing Northwich parkrun, double done! parkrun yay!

Digested read:  Did New Year’s Day Double today, staring at Delamere parkrun and then topping it off here at Northwich parkrun.  Very welcoming gathering, thanks for having me.  The End.


Undigested read:

If you want to linger, I can oblige.  Hereafter follows the unexpurgated version of my Northwich parkrun immersive experience.  Enjoy or not as you wish, but remember if you choose to read on, you do so at your own risk, and so are guilty at the very least of contributory negligence if you reach the end and regret the minutes of your life you can never now recover.  Harsh, but true.

Right then, as long as we are clear, I’ll press on.

New Year’s Day Double for parkrun.  Are you with me so far?  This is the special parkrun dispensation which means for one day only, you can run not one, but TWO parkruns on the same day, and have them recorded.  Subject to logistics and parkruns available in your area. I know, fabulous!  Great start to the decade.  Or not, depending on whether or not you think the decade ended at midnight on 31  Dec 2019 or will end on 31 Dec 2020.  I opt for the former, though concede the logic of the later if you are interested at all.

So, I’d already spent a morning at Delamere parkrun before heading over to Northwich.  You can read my account of Delamere parkrun on New Year’s Day too here if you like.  Doing a parkrun double has become something of a tradition for me. This is the fourth year I’ve done it, though I did miss a year when working overseas – never been more homesick.  However, it was a first for me to go quite so far afield from my home base of Sheffield.  Apologies, but I’d never even really heard of Northwich parkrun before, it just popped up as an option when I was perusing New Year’s Day doable Double challenges based on my speed, and preference for off road and one lap courses.  Delamere parkrun seemed a great option, and they seemed to have teamed up with Northwich so rude not to combine the two really.

I did do a bit of research in advance, not over much, just enough to satisfy myself that there would be a reasonable amount of parking as I expected to be one of the later arrivals there.  Also I did have a quick gander at the official parkrun website where I discovered the blah de blah on the Northwich parkrun describes the course thus:

Course Description
The course explores the hidden Northwich Woodland whilst following the River Weaver. There is a mixture of both path and trail ground consisting of a small loop and a larger loop with views of Neumanns Flashes. The course ends near Old Marbury Road giving a short warm down walk back to the car park.

Fair does.  Didn’t altogether enlighten me, but as long as it isn’t 5 laps of a cross country field it’ll be grand.

There are no toilets on the course, however the nearest toilets are located at Asda Barons Quay approximately 200 metres away.

Whoa, hang on, what horror is this?  Fortunately, forewarned is forearmed, I can attend to that prior to arrival.  Hopefully.

And it looks like this:

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which is basically very confusing.  Still, no worries, I’ll just do what I always do and follow everyone else.  And yes, that probably does mean I’d follow a gang of parkrunners pretty much anywhere, including over the edge of a cliff, because I am trusting of other parkrunners.  Also, to be fair, I’m quite slow, so even if such a strategy was ill-advised, trundling along at the back I’d land softly on the pile of previously landed strewn parkrunners, so it’d be fine.  It usually is all alright in the end in my experience, particularly if you take the view that if it isn’t fine, then it can’t be the end.  I find this logic helpful!  You can adopt it too if you like.  You’re welcome. 🙂

So I completed my parkrun at the delectable Delamere, and joined the convoy of cars making their way over to Northwich.  Ira can report that along the way, I spotted little hardy gaggles of parkrunners sprinting between the two venues.  Impressive, and no, they weren’t in need of a lift, they were doing it for fun and deliberately.  Hard though it may be to comprehend, I remind myself that I found the whole concept of parkrun mysterious and incomprehensible before I became a participant, and now I understand the intoxicating buzz of  parkrun day and the importance of respecting everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  Also, if I had the speed I can see the appeal of doing longer distances, it’s just not really a viable option for me, unless I ran between two different parkruns on two consecutive weeks perhaps – which might actually be a great way to do a UK run trip now I come to think of it.  One day maybe, one day.

Passing previously referenced parkrunners gave me confidence that I should be in time for the start of Northwich parkrun. I had told myself that in the worst case scenario I’d do a freedom run if I couldn’t catch up with the tail walker, and that would be ‘fine’, but in my heart of hearts I know if I hadn’t been able to finish and get a time I’d have inwardly sobbed buckets and outwardly adopted a pained expression of matyrdom whilst fighting back hot bitter tears railing at the awfulness of my plight.  Hoping now this wouldn’t be necessary, I followed the post code given on their info page – CW9 5LQ which was to take me to the Cumberland car park adjacent to the parkrun venue which is Carey Park.

Can’t lie, the approach to Northwich parkrun does suffer a bit by direct comparison to Delamere parkrun.  You are no longer amidst misty forest scapes, but in an urban sprawl, picking your way through a labyrinth of concrete superstores and rather more mini roundabouts than you might think strictly necessary.  However, on the plus side, lots of car parks.  Lots of spaces.  I was delighted when I spotted a queue of parkrunners waiting to get the car parking tickets and just pulled up and parked immediately alongside them.  I set about silently congratulating myself for my extraordinary deductive skills that would have pleased Jessica Fletcher and Miss Marple alike – did you know Jessica Fletcher is a parkrun tourist by the way?  She has a cow cowl, plus she’s jogging in the opening sequence, in fact she’s often out jogging, quite a committed runner I’d say…  Not sure which parkruns these pictures are at, but they could be American ones.

Unfortunately, my marvelling at my own genius and self congratulatory mood was short lived, as the awful consequences of the queue became apparent.  Now, car parking here was cheap – only a £1 for a whole day, that’s good. There was ample parking too.  Also good.  Not good, only one of four ticket machines was working, and they were the most ridiculously officious, complicated, non-intuitive machines to operate.  Every single parkrunner had to learn how to use it.  You had to put in your registration number, which not everyone knew off hand, so that was quite stressful, and if you were paying by card, you also had to input a pin number for that, and it too ages and ages.  Probably a minute for each person in the queue, and although I’d arrived at 10.15 for a 10.30 start, and you could almost see the start from where we were, it wasn’t looking good.  It was also the most depressingly fly-tipped and littered car park I’d ever seen*.  Not the best first impression.  I’d rather have paid double or even triple the amount, and them use the money to maintain the place. It was really sad…

*update*  I’ve been advised this was not typical, but an informal camp of some sort popped up in the car park over new year, so don’t be deterred dear reader, it may well be pristine when you appear!

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On the plus side, this is England and we do love a queue.  Also, parkrunners are very good at staying in order in queues on account of all the practise we have staying in order in the finish funnel. What’s more, it was long enough to make new friends and consider strategies.  Some bailed entirely, going with the ‘surely no-one will ticket us on New Year’s Day’ philosophy.  Bold I feel.  Speaking as someone who has been ticketed at a parkrun despite having a valid ticket because it wasn’t clearly enough displayed I presume no leniency or leeway with car park attendants.  Someone else who’d been stung with a £100 or possibly 100 euro fine in I think Denmark, for not knowing how to set his parking meter correctly during a 7 minute supermarket stop was like me more cautious.  His track record was pretty poor – he’d apparently also been stung for buying a ticket from a machine which issued a ticket which actually said ‘this ticket machine is out of order’ and so was fined despite not realising that’s what it said.  He’s not like Dracula, he can’t absorb the language of a new country by drinking the blood of its population even if that was either the parkrun way or a socially acceptable thing to do.  Don’t you think the new BBC Dracula adaptation is super scary by the way?  Can’t wait for the next episode, though I will be sure to have a couple of cushions handy to hide behind on stand by…  Funny and appropriately camp too, love it!


Spare non-driving parkrunners were despatched to check other ticket machines really weren’t working.  They weren’t, but at least sending them off and waiting for them to come and report back broke the tedium by providing some enrichment for us queuers.  Some of the faster parkrunners sent slower one’s off ahead on the basis they’d be more likely to catch up the tail if required.  I started off relaxed about the whole thing, but weirdly got increasingly stressed the closer I got to the front of the queue.  I was also near paralysed by performance anxiety when it came to operating the ticket machine.  Oh the pressure to get it right speedily first time!  It was worse than having someone watch me parallel park!  Fortunately dear reader, my fellow parkrunners were a compassionate and supportive lot, talking me through it and reassuring me it would all be fine.

I got my ticket, and it was on the dashboard at 10.29.  Phew.  I sprinted across to the start, through the distinctive iron gates with the torn apart ladybird, over the bridge with the strange industrial pipework and joined the back of the parkrun crowd wondering vaguely if that person hanging around might be… no, probably not.

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I was still wearing my fleece.  I contemplated leaving it in the car, but then someone said that there was a trolley at the start where you could dump stuff, and it got wheeled to the finish which was some distance away.  It was heaving with people, I couldn’t find any trolley.  I’d missed the first timers’ briefing, but not the main one.  Phew.  I felt very lucky to have made it by the skin of my teeth.  You know what, also, I didn’t need a precautionary pee. Whether this was because I’d already sweated out excess fluid at Delamere, or because I was running late it just hadn’t occurred to me I don’t know.  Either way, I was just relieved not to need relieving.  Phew.  I think a lot of it is psychological for me…  Sorry, you probably didn’t need to know that.  Some of you will be interested though, for women of a certain age it’s an exceedingly common topic of parkrun conversation and a top priority in planning tourism!  For future reference though, with that many shops around, as long as you were in time I’m sure you’d find a pee point somewhere.

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It had a very friendly feel.  There were lots of familiar faces from Delamere just less than an hour before.  I asked a marshal about the trolley, and she confirmed it was around somewhere, but she couldn’t leave her spot as she was designated dog poo monitor, and was standing guard over a very impressive mound of faecal matter.  Apparently, they normally have bags for this purpose, but she couldn’t find them, so she’d taken on the role with good grace.  That dear reader is above and beyond, and should surely merit it’s very own running challenges virtual badge were it not for the fact that such an emblem might be seen as in poor taste.   Maybe it falls within the category of ‘other’ but that hardly seems adequate recognition.  Hi vis hero, I thank you!

Not since Frickley Country parkrun have I been at a parkrun with so much dog poo around the start area.  It seems a risk for parkruns that are near the entrance points for parks and near to car parking spaces.  My new year’s resolution to be non-judgemental and just delightful to everyone was already creaking under the pressure to offer good will to people who fly tip and people who let their dogs crap everywhere.  Fortunately, the prospect of a parkrun always raises the spirits.  Just mind where you put your feet if you are going.

The Run Director gave an enthusiastic briefing.  Asking for a cheer from those who’d already run a parkrun today, and another from those who’d run between the two!  There was a surprisingly loud cheer from the latter group, you’d have thought they’d have been all out of spare breath for cheering with after all that running around.

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I found out later that the gold baton was passed on at this parkrun too.  Strictly speaking the Leeds Building Society Golden Baton Relay has finished, but it’s fun it is carrying on unofficially I think. It had come all the way from Denmark apparently.   It’s the Big Community Relay thingamajig.  I’ve also seen one when I was at Cusworth Hall parkrun, I wonder how long they’ll carry on travelling for.  There were a few…

baton passing

Because I’d only just made it in time, and I couldn’t find the trolley, the call for off went up as I was still in my fleece.  I suppose I could have taken it off and tied it round my waist, but you know what, I was a bit chilled what with having worked up a sweat during round one at Delamere, so decided to run in it. This would never have been permitted at my home run, as I have parkrunning ‘friends’ who are dedicated to ensuring I remove excess clothing prior to a run.  However, they’ll never find out I reasoned, so off I trotted.

I say ‘off I trotted’ but the start was very congested.  I put myself right at the back, and it was a big turn out.  The path has fencing or hedging on either side, and although it’s not exactly narrow, it isn’t really ideal for almost 500 parkrunners heading off at the same time.  Again, you couldn’t overtake, and just had to go with the flow, which pleases me.  It was nice to watch the colourful thread of runners ahead, like bunting, following the curve of the fence line and heading on up a little hill.  I hadn’t really got my head around the route at all, so it was all going to be a surprise.  Good oh.

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As before, I settled into a bit of a stop start pace, running for a bit, stopping to take some pictures and then running off again, and it became clear there were some others at a similar pace, some of whom I’d already met.  It turned out to be quite an unexpectedly social morning. The marshals were, naturally, all excellent, and many were in the company of a canine assistant or more probably superviser.

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Scenery and terrain wise, this parkrun was maybe a bit more coy in revealing its treasures than its near neighbour of Delamore.  Obviously at this time of year the vegetation has died right back, and it was a gloomy day.  However, a lot of love has gone into creating this space.  There are waterways, and hedgerows, and sheep grazing.  Rushes and grassland providing lots of habitat for invertebrates, and industrial features like iron bridges providing an added dimension of interest. It’s probably more obviously picturesque in spring, but lots to enjoy today, even a grey day.  I really liked the details of ironwork on bridges, depicting birds and insects.  You also get quite a mix of terrain, some undulations, some mud – always a hit – and lots to look at.  Not least other parkrunners.  There is also a more industrial backdrop, with factories and the shopping mall surrounding the green oasis of the park.  It gives the place a very distinct character I think, and is a space to be treasured.

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The marshals all seemed in good spirits, and were appropriately encouraging.  Turns out some of these marshals were voice activated too, just like the ones at Delamer, they livened up noticeably when spoken to.  I murmured to one something about it being an ‘unexpectedly lovely venue’ and then wondered if that sounded a bit rude.  Oh well, I can apologise later.  They were all also exceptionally photogenic, I think it’s because they radiate parkrun positivity, always a good look to be rocking!  There was also a very nice robin, but I don’t know if it is always at the same spot.  Might be though, they are very territorial after all…

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Check out the bridges though.  Lots, each unique in its own way.

You could say the same of the marshals, though I didn’t specifically ask them about their iron workings, nice hats though:

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There was one slightly unexpected road bit, it’s very short, but you go out and then turn around a cone – they have blue cones here, not seen them before – and come straight back.  Pleasingly, this meant you get to pass other parkrunners, so that’s quite social.  Also, and I apologise, because I know you shouldn’t really have favourites, if you have your wits about you, you’ll espy the best marshal hat of the morning.  I doubt the other marshals will begrudge this, though there were other worthy contenders in evidence, I think this one wins by a whisker because it is so context appropriate, and more practical than an actual plastic cone on the head, don’t you agree?  All headgear sported though was very much appreciated by me at least, I do like a good hat.

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As is my way, I had absolutely no idea where I was until I spotted a familiar marshal coming round again and deduced I was homeward bound.  I also spotted a fellow tourist, who I recognised from some vague parkrun somewhere else who was running counter to the rest of us doing a warm down I think.  Hoped so, wouldn’t have wanted to be told I’d been running the wrong way for the whole previous 4.9k or whatever!

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The end again appears suddenly, round a corner.  I was amongst the last home, but can report it was a cheery and enthusiastic welcome from accomplished marshals keeping order at the end.  Fine hats here too. In fact, I’m sure I’ve seen that orange and white stripy bobble hat* somewhere before…  loving the jester one as well.

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I thanked the timers and said how much I’d enjoyed the run, because I had and she said ‘what really?’  I said.  ‘Yes’. And she said ‘because someone else just said they had, and when I said really?  They said ‘no’.’ I said ‘well, how very rude!’ because it is.  Though it might be they were referring to the act of running after a night before rather than the parkrun venue I suppose.  I know though I feel quite defensive of my own home parkrun, I recognise it has its foibles and its failings, but its still my home run and where it (for me at least) all began.  Anyway, this was a fine parkrun.  It was super friendly and enthusiastic, well organised and coped with extraordinary numbers.  In fact, this was a record breaking parkrun I gather.

It’s becoming  a bit of a habit for me of late to collect record breaking runs, I was at Bushy parkrun for their record Christmas Day attendance of 2545.  That was pretty cool, hobnobbing with parkrun royalty.  Paul and JOanne were lucky to hang out with me as I’m daughter of Elisabeth of Elisabeth’s corner fame, just so you know…

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then this second record breaking performance was 474 runners, smashing their previous record attendance by four!  Wow, that’s basically the beatles, or ABBA, or maybe even Little Mix, though to be fair the only celebrity I spotted today was Imran Ali (it’s a Parkrun Discussion Facebook Group thing, I’m not a member, bit toxic for me at times, but I am a hypocrite stalker of it, so not gonna lie, know who he is).  For those not in the know, I’d say basically parkrun Selfie King.  Fact.  Undisputed.

Mind you, all parkrunners are winners, so place was heaving with excellence to be fair.  Northwich even beat Delamere parkrun’s attendance (on the day) for the first time ever, but it would be rude and churlish to draw attention to that now wouldn’t it?

Np panorama shot

Where was I?  I got distracted, just as I was getting to the finish.  So I’m at the finish, and I got to linger and chat to my newly acquired parkrun friends from the morning.  One of ‘With me now‘  world tourist fame, so that’s good, and a fine selfie gift too, of which I am a beneficiary here:

Liz world tourist and me

but posed with other friends too for good measure – and did the obligatory selfie frame thing with some directorial input this time and hence more success than earlier!  Look carefully, and you will see jester hatted man in the back of the frame.  I choose to believe he is doing a classy bit of photo bombing there, and not just frantically waving at a friend. Loving your work!

The tailwalker came in, here demonstrating the newly requisitioned emergency barcodes issued too.  Like I said, a record breaking run!

Northwich tailwalker

And then that was that, time to go home.  It was a fair old walk back to the carpark, not miles and miles by any means, but far enough I was exceedingly glad of my fleece.  This is another parkrun that has attention to detail, and they’d put some arrow signs in to direct you back to the carpark and town centre.

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Bye bye for now Northwich parkrun, it’s been grand, thanks for a fabulous finish to a double dose of parkrun fun.  You were awesome.  Most hospitable, I’m so happy I chose you!

I’m also rather hoping given my effusive comments, you won’t mind that I’ve lifted some of your fine photos from your Facebook page?  Thanks in anticipation, you parkrun folks are the best EVER!

NP pic

So there we go.  Sadly, the best things come to an end.  On the plus side, not many sleeps til it’s parkrun day all over again, so mustn’t grumble eh?  parkrunday, that day formerly known as Saturday, sigh.  And if you really can’t be without parkrun til then, you can always top up with some parkrun related podcasts.  I’ve only recently discovered these, have you?

Check out: independent parkrun-based podcast “With Me Now” with parkrun Veterans and uber-tourists Danny Norman and Nicola Forwood, or there is always the official parkrun podcast “Free Weekly Timed“, with Vassos Alexander and Helen Williams.  Both are a great way to keep up to date with what is going on in the wider parkrun world, and extend the parkrun joy beyond a Saturday morning.  Or, if you are in reflective mood, you could peruse Paul’s review of the 2019 parkrun year.  Why not.

Before I go though, can I just finish with some pleasing parkrun UK stats trawling which inform us that:


Around the world, 101 parkrunners completed a parkrun on New Year’s Day in a time of 20:20 ⏱️

This pleases me.  Well done all.  If one of those runners had been me, not only would I have entered a parallel universe where I could run sub 21 let alone sub 35, I’d also have secured my last remaining parkrun Bingo number.  I’ve been after it for nearly a year now, possibly longer.  I have learned I do not possess a zen like countenance.  Then again, you should be careful what you wish for, once I do finally get it, it will probably feel something of an anti-climax.  Such is often the way…

By the way,  you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though, and you might be needing to get on with washing your hair or laying out your parkrun kit for Saturday or whatever, your time, your priorities.

That’s all folks.

I wish you happy parkrunning and other adventures in 2020.  Be kind to yourself.


Oh, and at risk of repeating myself to my regular reader, but not wanting my one off visitor to miss out, I learn from the most amazing creation and stats cruncher that I was one of 203 who made that particular double. Check it out for yourself on this fab stats New Year’s Day Double tracker.  Go on, treat yourself, have a browse.   Bit of a time vampire, but soooooooooooooo worth it!

google doubles

I don’t know too much about where this originated from but found this credit:

A map showing the parkrun ‘doubles’ that people managed on New Year’s Day 2020. The map is based on parkrun results, so may include errors where e.g. names have been manually entered. Unticking the Events layer makes the doubles more easy to see. Huge thanks to Ian Rutson for providing the base data. Please share freely!

And ‘with me now‘ say ‘Thanks to Charlie Pearce for creating the visualisation and Ian Rutson for supplying the data’ which is good enough for me!

– whatever wizardry created it though, respect!  There’s even an international one from Australia to Canada!  Hope some carbon offsetting went on…

Here’s to parkrunning adventures anew for 2020!


They are a thing apparently a recent Northwich parkrun Facebook post states that:

We have received many comments on our “cone hats” and many of you may be wondering what it’s all about 🤷🏼‍♀️

One of our Run Directors, John, came up with the fantastic idea to raise funds for the North West Air Ambulance Charity following the support they provided when we sadly said goodbye to Terry out on our course last year.

To date, by either producing or providing kits to make the hats, John and the Northwich parkrun volunteers have managed to donate £232.50!

A fantastic idea in Terry’s memory!

So now we know.  Nice hats, nice gesture.

northwich cone hats



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

Delightful Dalliances at Delamere parkrun. Kicking of the NYDD parkrun challenge for 2020

Digested read: Early start and off to Delamere parkrun for my first of two parkruns for New Year’s Day.  It was very nice thank you for asking, and a most excellent way to start a new decade.


Undigested read:

You want more?  Or maybe you just don’t want to face all those labours you’d been putting off doing until after the festive season had concluded, satisfactorily or otherwise.  Well, if you want quantity rather than quality, to assist you in your procrastination feel free to settle down with a hot beverage of your choosing and relive the parkrun adventures offered up by Delamere parkrun, kicking off 2020 in style.

You probably already know all about the parkrun New Year’s Day Double offerings.  In case inexplicably you do not, perhaps because very excitingly you are new to parkrun and have all those parkrunning related adventures still to unfold before you like a great red carpet of joy if you just choose to step on it, let me enlighten you.  Basically, parkrun 5k takes place on a Saturday.  However, each country that hosts parkrun is allowed one ‘special’ extra day – in the UK it’s Christmas Day, when they can put on an extra run because it’s a fabulously fun thing to do.  Better still, on New Year’s Day only, parkruns can not only put on an extra run, but it is the one day in the whole year when parkrunners can – if they wish and local logistics allow – take part in two parkruns and have them both recorded. This creates the dizzying possibility of parkrunners galavanting around en masse in local parkrun migrations.  I’ve done it a few times now, and it’s really good fun.  Stay local and you’ll meet all your local parkrun buddies, go further afield and you get a snapshot of other parkrun communities.

To aid and abet in the planning for New Year’s Day are various fabulous gizmos.  On a purely practical level, there is the official parkrun Christmas Compendium, listing all declared extra parkrun events with their timings, complete with explanatory text as follows:

This page shows events who have declared that they’re staging an extra event on Christmas Day and/or New Year’s Day. Please see the event’s own news page for more details. Note that some events choose to operate New Year events at a different times from usual. A red cross means that the team has declared that an event will not take place. A blank box means that the team has not yet decided whether an event will take place.  On Christmas Day you can register one result. On New Year’s Day we allow the option to register up to two results.

And that’s great, as a starting point.  However, the game changing gizmo I planned my 2020 exploits with is one which uses some technological wizardry to help you work out what’s possible for you, based on your estimated running time and location of origin on the morning. Check it out here – it even covers other parkrun countries.  It’s a fun adventure, whether you do one or two, nice way to start off 2020.  Initially, my plan was to stay local, and then it dawned on me that if I was game for an early start, there was nothing really stopping me from venturing further afield.  Roads would be clear, and I am a nobby no-mates who wasn’t planning on seeing in the new year anyway.  I pored over this tool for ages and ages.  Far longer than anyone other than a fellow parkrunner would deem reasonable.  I am a slow parkrunner so needed generous timings, and also parkrun number two needed to have good parking options in order that I avoided pre-parkrun panic.  One lappers and scenic locations preferred.  Not grass please, and not too much tarmac.  And as I’d be setting off too early to see any ‘on the day’ notifications, parkruns that wouldn’t be too susceptible to last minute cancellations.   I know, demanding aren’t I.  Amazingly, I managed to whittle down options to Delectable Delamere parkrun, followed by Notable Northwich parkrun.  They both looked lovely, and what’s more, were working together to facilitate doing both.  Yep, also Delamere is in a wooded area, and that sounds lovely.

For those of you who like to know this sort of thing, according to the official Delamere parkrun website, the course is described thus:

Course Description
The course starts from just past Old Pale car park, which is on the left a hundred yards past Linmere Visitor Centre. Coming out of the car park and turning left you will see the parkrun start just before a path branches off to the right. Heading down this path you will then turn right up a short hill at marker post 65. Crossing the train line and bearing left you will then turn right at marker post 66. At marker point 62 you will go straight ahead and then, upon reaching marker post 61, you will turn left onto the lakeside path. Keeping Blakemere on your right-hand side you will be treated to stunning views of the lake as you complete one full lap before re-tracing your steps back to the start.

Oh.  Not really any the wiser.  No worries, never stopped me from taking part in a parkrun before.  There’ll be friendly marshals, there’ll be other people who have thought to do parkrun to start the year too.  I can follow them. It’ll be fine, what’s the worst?

The worst that can happen apart from forgetting your barcode, is finding the toilets shut. Oh hang on, they will be according to the Delamere parkrun facebook page.  All very informative and welcoming and encouraging of double doers, but nope, no loos.  Hopefully there will be at least one tree in case of emergencies.  Oops.  Al fresco it may have to be…  Or is it al dente?  I get them confused.  Anyway, the course looks like this:

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Ok, just basically, try not to fall in the lake I’m guessing.  Yep, it’ll be grand.

So, I set my alarm for stupid o’clock, and lo, it rang out, and despite having felt like I’d passed another night awake throughout with insomnia, it seems I was jolted awake  as it from the slumber of the dead wondering where I was and what was going on!  No matter, it was extra parkrun TWICE day, so I soon recovered.  Coffee, dressed, and out the door, in darkness.  The streets were pretty deserted, just a few party-goers heading home, from Sheffield to Cheshire involves going over the Snake Pass.  I was a bit of a scaredy cat about this, as you get crazy drivers there and blind bits where you feel like you are going over the edge of the world up top.  Fortunately, it was an incident free drive, and by the time I started seeing signs to Delamere Forest I was feeling VERY excited by the scenery.  It had a tolkienesque feel to it, mysterious, misty woods, with early morning light creating shadows, and a strange expanse of other – worldly lake.  I could feel my inner smugness quotient rising pleasingly.  I had chosen well.

I headed for the postcode for the Old Pale Car Park – which is just past the Linmere Visitor Centre and used the postcode CW8 2JD on sat nav to get there.  Which worked.  Hurrah.  Yes I did have to stop twice on the way for precautionary pee purposes.  Once in a 24 hour garage, and once in a layby.  Don’t judge.  

The car park was due to be open at 8.00 a.m. but when I arrived a bit after that, alarmingly it was very much shut.  The only reassurance was that there were already a couple of cars hovering around, each containing within one or more parkrun tourists looking similarly angsty.  We emerged from our respective vehicles wondering what to do, and feeling thwarted, also unsure, because everything had looked so very shut the whole way in, and there didn’t look to be much in the way of other options anywhere near – plus where was the core team?  Yep, we were early, but often event teams are earlier still, had we got it wrong somehow?  One had come straight from a night shift and planned to go on to Crewe afterwards, we’d all come in search of a parkrun double. Good news was that we bonded over our shared uncertainty, and gleaned reassurance from each other, we were in the right place, and the Facebook page had declared the car parks would be open, so we just had to keep the faith.  This we did, and were rewarded by the giddy sight of a ranger bearing keys.  Not all heroes wear capes.  Dear reader, we were IN!

The next challenge, was working out the most efficient way to park in a space with no marked parking bays.  None of us were local, and none of us quite sure how to position ourselves.  It’s hard being a parkrun tourist.  I can’t help thinking that they’d fit quite a few more cars in if they had marked bays, it was all a bit random.  Oh well.  I got a spot near to the exit ready for a speedy (ahem) get away.  I knew you had to pay for parking and it was listed as £2 but that’s just for an hour, if you are an early bird arrival and like me a slower participant, be prepared to pay £4 for 3 hours.  I don’t begrudge it actually, fair enough if you are using the facilities, but good to know in advance.  My new parkrun best friend, the one with whom I shared angst both over whether the car park would be open and then how to park in it once it was – then spoke for majority of us by saying out loud what many would be thinking ‘and now for the other great per-parkrun challenge – toilets.’  Yep, they were shut.  However, whilst I’m not advocating wild peeing per se, lets just say there were a lot of trees in darkness, with soft forgiving pine needles deep littered around them.  I think some may have chosen to avail themselves of such forest attributes.  Top tip though, leave a biodegradable breadcrumb trail behind you if you are planning on going too deep within, pretty impenetrable in places that forest.

The parkrun start is literally, just by the carpark.  Volunteers started parking up past the ‘no entry’ signs, and have little volunteer passes to put on their cars to allow them to do so.  The pop up sign, duly popped up, and there were some lovely little local touches like.  Ikea bags (other large reuseable bags from other stores are probably available, but the IKEA ones are fairly ubiquitous); a little sign for the first timers briefing, a sign for different finish times to assemble, and a ‘dog start’ sign too.  Bit of feedback, there should maybe have been a ‘dog tired’ one too, but not visible on this occasion.  My favourite thing though – which is a tough call to be fair – was the lovingly hung up selfie frame, with its own hook from which it could be carefully hung.  No being flung carelessly in the mud for this reinforced frame.

Of course I took advantage of the selfie frame!  Rude not too, when they’d gone to all that trouble.  Shame my head obscures the name of the parkrun, but on the plus side, I’ll be able to reuse the snap when I go to other parkruns and don’t avail myself of the selfie frame ops.  Every cloud eh, every cloud.

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Despite the early start, and long drive I was really excited to be at Delamere.  It had a really friendly feel.  It was extremely well organised, and despite the huge turn out (though nothing like as huge as their Christmas Day field of 720) it felt relaxed, so whatever frantic paddling was going on was beneath the surface.  The location is spectacular, and the attention to detail impressive.  On a ‘normal’ parkrun day, there’d be good facilities too, with a whole visitors centre with I imagine toilets with actual toilet paper and a cafe too – I think it did open around 10 to be fair, but I wasn’t planning on lingering today at least.

I joined the milling and chilling, and oh look, someone in a 50 sash.  What’s more this was my parkrun buddy from the carpark.  Hurrah, what a great way to do your milestone run, even if you were wishing you’d got more than one safety pin to keep your sash in situ.


A colourful gathering congregated and grew…

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In a bit, a megaphone gave a call out for first timers.  I’ll be honest, I don’t think every single first timer present bothered attending, but a few of us did.  It was a friendly and swift briefing for tourists.  Basically, the route was described with the summary advice of ‘keep the water to your right, if it’s not on your right, you have a problem’.  Fair does.  Then, the solitary identified first time everer, was given a one to one on how it all worked.  They had a route map to show people too. I’ve seen these at a few parkruns now, I think they are helpful.  My takeaways from the briefing were follow everyone else, there are no marshals on the 3k (approx) loop round the lake so keep an eye out for each other, defibrillator is in the visitors centre  and try not to fall in.   I think that covers it.  Oh, and the paths are pretty wide, so as long as you are realistic about how you place yourself in the starting line up, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about overtaking.  It’s effectively a one-lap course.  My favourite!

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Dogs started assembling at the Dog Start, which was fun, not all did, so I’m not sure how much this is enforced, but basically dogs start at the back here.  A few looked to have canicross type gear, and they seemed a well behaved lot, keeping their companion humans on appropriately lengthed leashes.


I love the colours as people assemble.  The high-vis team formed a sort of guard of honour at the front. The Run Briefing covered the usual milestones, thanks to volunteers, and then we sort of walked forward a bit to get to the starting line.

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Incidentally, did you know that some other parkruns have formed their own New Year’s Day traditions?  Nope, me neither.  Well, case in point, Colwick parkrun, which is a most excellent parkrun to visit by the way, not least because they always wear Hawaiian shirtsstart their New Year’s Day Run with a parkrun communal handshake.  How brilliant is that?  Rhetorical question, very brilliant indeed!  Click on the link above for a video clip of the whole parkrun field shaking hands with one another.   Aw, would melt the hardest of hearts I’m sure…

Colwick handshake

Anyway, back to Delamere parkrun.  The start here was a bit peculiar, or at least to me unfamiliar, we all started trundling forward, and then I heard a vague ‘go’ but nothing really happened, we just continued our onward shuffle.  I don’t mind about times at all, that’s not what parkrun is about for me, and when I’m touristing I like to jump to one side and take pictures along the way, but I think if you were a speedy runner you’d do well to position yourself further forward, or even as an average runner, pay attention to where you are in the start funnel or you could be a bit boxed in. Those of us who were boxed in though, got to make new friends with others along the way, which is much more fun than sprinting off in glorious isolation in my parkrun world at least!  Plus I got to find out which of the runners at my sort of speed were also hoping for a double.  That was reassuring. I was determined not to take stupid risks getting to parkrun two, but wasn’t wholly convinced it would be doable at my speed, given the distance between the two, but others in the know seemed confident all would be well.  Again hurrah!

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Nice though isn’t it?  The paths are good, despite the forest location.  A bit muddy in places and I suppose it would class as off road, but a good firm surface and there were buggy runners taking park.  In fact, as we headed off, to our side, I saw some canine assisted runners, and an intrepid off-road buggy pusher fair sprinting on an alternative track, overtaking most parkrunners with ease.  Impressive.  I’m not sure if that was an official dog and buggy route, or just an unofficial overtaking lane for those in the know.   Good work though people.  Almost too fast to be captured on camera!  They almost look like they are absconding from the law here, maybe they were?  Where better to hide than in the plain sight of a mass parkrun start, and then use the confusion of the off to disappear over the horizon and into the cover of the woods.  Makes perfect sense when you come to think about it.


Those of us not absconding from the law, continued along the paths, it’s not a completely flat course, but the inclines were fairly forgiving.  Cheery marshals pointed the way.  And my, how photogenic and enthusiastic they all were.  Voice activated too, if you greeted them with a ‘happy new year’ or whatever, they’d become extra animated.  I’ve noticed that many marshals seem to have this interactive feature, and it’s great fun.  They respond to positive stimuli like ‘thank you marshal’ or being offered chocolate, mince pies or a high five.  It was nice to see them all thriving in their natural habitat here at Delamere, glossy coated, lively and smiling.

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On we went, over a bridge with I think a 28 ton limit, which seems huge for a forest path – maybe it’s so logging vehicles can get through.  It was a fairly steady pace at the back, and nice for me not to be running out of sight of everyone else for a change.  Prior to my recent re-education, I’d go so far as to say that often it’s just me and the tumbleweed plodding round at the back – meaning to reference a place deserted, like in westerns.  I think of it as the filmic shorthand for silence or stillness, e.g. as the hero rides into an apparently deserted frontier town.  However, I learn from The Guardian that actually, tumbleweed can be almost smothering by way of company, not indicative of glorious isolation at all.  Check out these truckers overwhelmed by tumbleweed in Washington State.  I know, who knew?  Not me, until now.  This is a catastrophe, I’ll either have to speed up so I can parkrun as part of the pack, find parkruns with a bigger field so there are more at my pace or, worst of all, come up with another analogy.  Oh the pressure!


My regular reader will know I can’t talk and run, so I don’t really like officially running with others as it’s too stressful, but I like the companionable element of running in the company of kindly disposed and friendly others, albeit we lope alongside one another in silence.  Delamere parkrun delivered in bucket loads, it was a companionable and friendly yomping ground indeed.  Thank you fellow parkrunners all.

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Along the way there were a couple of other forest users, who were seemingly enjoying the spectacle of lots of runners.  One quipped at me that he had assumed I’d be wanting to take his photo when I whipped out my camera to get a shot of a hidden gruffalo  – presumably also on a parkrun tour from Sherwood Pines – so I took that as an invitation to do so.  Hello cheery fellow forest goers.  They were doing a walk in reverse, and pleasingly, I saw them again on the way back.  It’s good when there are positive interactions with non parkrunners at a venue, it feels more of a sustainable community event that way. The gruffalo picture didn’t come out very well unfortunately, but maybe it just didn’t want to be photographed today.

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Onwards we went, more marshals.  A lot of marshals here had a companion canine.  This is Lola, she’s not very old and she was absolutely desperate to join the parkrunners, and completely bemused as to what she and her companion human were doing standing still.  She was very sweet though, as was the marshal too of course, but only Lola gave an affection lick to my hand and a look of longing to join me as I departed onwards…

After running through the woods, you eventually find yourself peeling off to run round the lake, or more accurately ‘mere’ I suppose, though I’m not entirely sure what the difference is.  Hang on, let me google that for you.  Ok so according to bald hiker:

Technically a mere is a lake that is really shallow in relation to its size (breadth). … The word mere comes from Old English ‘mere‘ which meant lake or ‘sea’ in Old Saxon, a broad term for a body of water. Time and many many generations and language differences can make it all more confusing

Ok, that’ll do.   Anyway, soon found myself jogging alongside the lake.  The early morning sunshine was hitting the water and it looked really spectacular.  Sometimes sun broke through and hitting the bracken under the trees turned it almost copper in colour.  Simply stunning.  The mere has really unusual ecology.  By which I mean I hadn’t seen anything like it before. It has a strange mystical look, all moss and submerged trees, you can imagine elves and goblins and trolls and shrek and hobbits and allsorts going about their business here.  It is like a setting for a film, and a very special place indeed.  My internet research subsequently tells me that Cheshire Wildlife Trust are working at conserving the area and protecting its fragile and very specialised ecology.  Good for them.


It was a real privilege to be in the space and yet another example of how parkrun tourism gets you to see areas of the country you might not otherwise think to visit.  My photos won’t do it justice, but you may be sufficiently frustrated by how rubbish they are that you are spurned to go and visit for yourself.  Don’t worry, the loos will more than likely be open when you go and the location just as lovely.  Taking part in a parkrun as part of your visit is not even mandatory, although it is of course highly recommended.

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Somewhere along this section I made a new parkrun friend, just as we were going under the Go Ape rope works, which are alarmingly high up.  She was explaining about the origins of the flooded forests, which made a bit more sense of the mysterious habitat.  Always good to have a well informed local parkrunner on hand to give you the local low down.  Thank you new best friend parkrunner!  Hope you like the photo!  Looking fabulous.


There were one or two spent runners limping homewards in the opposite direction.  Not sure if they’d fallen, or just thought the better or running. I  did ask if they needed help, but they were walking wounded, calling it a day.  That’s got to have been disappointing.  Still, there is always another parkrun but a few sleeps away, not worth getting injured for.

‘Suddenly’ I was back round to Lola.  Completed disorientated.  I have learned I have a terrible sense of direction.  I had no idea we’d finished the circuit.

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Around this point though, I started to notice a mysterious phenomenon at work.  parkrunners coming in the opposite direction.  What strange sorcery was this?  I was pretty confident I was going the right way.  Then it dawned on me, these were parkrunners already finished, who were now embarking on running to their second parkrun. Respect.  They were going at a fair old lick, and probably needed to, it was a fair distance to Northwich and I think Crewe was the other possible, though I have no idea where that was in relation to where we were.  My bad.

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You retrace the path you headed out on, though it looks completely different coming back the other way for some reason.  The finish seemed to come ‘suddenly’ I think it might be because it’s ever so slightly further up the track than the start and also you go over a little hump in the path just before it so you there is an optical illusion whereby the lovely finish funnel team materialise as if by magic.  Aren’t they lovely!


Through the funnel, quick glance behind to see who’s there:


Not bad eh?

I was a bit distracted by the view, and almost forgot to pick up a token!  Can you imagine.  The horror.  I shudder at the very thought.  Fortunately, the event team have apparently run a parkrun before, so I was issued with my finish token, and went on down the funnel to the security gang of four who were ready to corral wannabee funnel duckers and scan you on exit.  There would be no messing with this lot, and they were super friendly too, just calm authority oozing outward so you know what you are dealing with. This seems fair!

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And that was that.  Just the little matter of thanking the RD and the marshals, and then onward bound for event number two.

By the way, Delamere parkrun produced their own run report for the day if you like to triangulate your parkrun info by checking more than one data source.  You can access it here Delamere parkrun #342, Jan 1st 2020

It was hard to tear myself away in some ways.  This was honestly one of my favourite parkruns to date.  And no, I don’t feel too disloyal saying that, as all parkruns are practically perfect in their own way, and although some do spark particular affection, it doesn’t mean I love any of the others any the less, it’s just your capacity for parkrun love keeps on growing.  The more you discover the greater it is.  It would be fab if it was your local, very nice indeed…  Then again, even though the cafe at the visitors’ centre was now open I think – or near as dammit – the lure of another parkrun was stronger.  I was soon on my way.  Carefully.  Max speed of 15 mph in the park, and there were plenty of people around, you don’t want to end a lovely parkrun morning by squishing anyone.  No need.  I could see others trekking to retrieve their cars and was wondering who I might meet at venue two.


So where next?  Oh yes, I remember, Northwich.  Bring. It. On!  There was even a handy route planner provided on their Facebook page to facilitate movement.  In fact, although I did use satnav, pretty much the entire parkrun population seemed to be travelling in convoy between the events, so I knew I was in good company.  Hurrah!

New Years Dble route finder

And, for your information, some people actually ran between the two.  No really, I passed them en route and nearly stopped to offer a lift before I realised by their cheery wave to the car in front that they were doing this evidently on purpose!  Blimey.  Respect.  Even if there is a bit of a short cut, and you are faster through the first parkrun than me, that’s still quite a lot of running to kick off the year.  Well done super parkrunners.  Awesome.  I would say inspirational, but I’m not sure that’s quite true, not planning on emulating that for next year, though seriously impressed.

So that was 50% of my parkrun adventures concluded.  Exciting eh?

Thank you lovely parkrunners of Delamere for the warm welcome and fine facilitation at your spectacular venue.  Special thanks to the volunteers who made it so.  It seemed to run like clockwork from my point of view, and super friendly.  I really hope to make it back some day.  Til then, happy parkrunning adventures for 2020 and beyond!


Oh, and if you want to know how I got on at Northwich parkrun, you can read all about it here.

I was one of 203 who made that particular double, according to this fab stats New Year’s Day Double tracker.  Go on, treat yourself, have a browse.

google doubles

I don’t know too much about where this originated from but found this credit:

A map showing the parkrun ‘doubles’ that people managed on New Year’s Day 2020. The map is based on parkrun results, so may include errors where e.g. names have been manually entered. Unticking the Events layer makes the doubles more easy to see. Huge thanks to Ian Rutson for providing the base data. Please share freely!

And ‘with me now‘ say ‘Thanks to Charlie Pearce for creating the visualisation and Ian Rutson for supplying the data’ which is good enough for me!

– whatever wizardry created it though, respect!  There’s even an international one from Australia to Canada!  Hope some carbon offsetting went on…

By the way,  you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though, and you might be needing to get on with the next decade of your life now, it’s amazing how quickly time flies, it’ll be another decade done in the blinking of an eye!

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

Extra, Extra, bonus parkrun day times two! NYDD Poolsbrook parkrun 2019

Digested read:  Extra extra parkrun day, went to Poolsbrook parkrun for parkfun two.  The sun shone and all now right with the world. Hurrah!

Unabridged read:

Loads of us there, no really, absolutely loads!  Thanks Kevin Bird for sharing this picture on the Poolsbrook parkrun Facebook page.  Epic!   And that’s not even everyone, not by a long shot, more trailing to left and right of this shot you know, you should have been there.  Perhaps you even were?

kb still they come

Honestly, I was in a bit of a New Year’s Day grump en route to Poolsbrook this morning.  Two reasons.  First reason, two unaccompanied children at the first run of the day at Graves parkrun, looking increasingly worried about not knowing where their parent/ designated adult was meant I had to ditch my run and walk with them for a while – as did at least another half a dozen other concerned runners at various points, they were only about 6 for goodness sake. I was not impressed, particularly as when their parent was finally identified he shouted at me for apparently ‘not understanding‘ instead of maybe saying ‘thanks for giving up your run to make sure my small children were safe.’  They may have been all smiles once reunited with their parents but there were quivering lower lips and clearly upset on the way round.  A particular shame to have a bad experience as Graves parkrun is in many ways my favourite venue. Fab volunteers, friendly fellow parkrunners and I love the new course too, was expecting a feel good high after starting the new year there   …  Anyway, it meant I was even slower than usual finishing, discombobulated, wearing my grumpy knickers and wondering if it was even worth trying to get to Poolsbrook at this stage as I might now be too late and miss the start there.  Fortunately, I decided even if I did arrive too late, I could still plod round for a ‘freedom run’.  Had to be worth a try.  My other, possibly even greater concern, was that I had lost a banana in my car.  This dear reader has far more potentially catastrophic consequences.  I’d had the foresight to chuck it in to provide mid-run carbs to keep me going sans breakfast for run two of the morning.  Whilst it seems I can run (slowly) just fine without extra sustenance, the thought of having a slowly rotting banana lurking somewhere in my car is a cause for real concern.  I might not be able to find it now, but one warm day – and the interior of cars can heat up pretty darned quick – and that banana will become not only easy to locate but no doubt leave a lingering memory for many moons to come.  Curses.  Maybe I should have stayed in bed after all.

Chuntering away to myself I headed over to Staveley.  Not chundering, I had a most abstemious new year FYI, not a drink passed my lips.  Oh, maybe a gin and tonic early on, but that was it. What did I do instead?  Well, actually, and atypically, an early evening panto trip, well, I couldn’t let my American visitors come to the UK at panto time and not inflict introduce them to this uniquely British bizarre theatre tradition.  I did forewarn them about the Dame and the audience participation ‘Oh yes I did!’ but forgot to mention the casual extreme racial stereotyping and absence of plot.  Ooops.  Apart from the former, oh, and the ritual traumatising of children on stage – which I had to explain was another British institution (telling a four-year old she should have made more of an effort with her outfit for starters did cause me to simultaneously put my head in my hands and laugh out loud) – the Manor Operatic Panto was pretty goddarned impressive.  A flying carpet scene was the best ever, and that’s without making allowances for this being an amateur show.

manor operatic 2018 panto aladdin

Still, don’t bother me with all these questions about New Year’s Eve and panto!  You are distracting me. Where was I?  Oh yes, grumpily en route to Poolsbrook Country Park.  Praise be for sat nav, this got me there safely, by what route I could not now tell.  It was indeed tight, but as I pulled into sight of the venue there was a queue of cars waiting to come in, and an efficient and good-natured volunteer on car direction duty, warning us that the car park was full, and even the adjacent industrial estates so to the verges it was.

I don’t honestly know if they delayed the start or not, possibly by a bit, but it was extremely well-managed, particularly given the unprecedented numbers.  I gather even the tail walker from Graves parkrun made it in time, so that’s a well oiled machine indeed, on both counts.  Kudos to the tail walker, and kudos to the Poolsbrook heroes.  The volunteer team here were completely amazing.  All smiles and cheerful waving even though some of them had less glamorous hi-vis roles being relegated to far-flung corners of the park to manage the cars descending on the venue with the intensity of space debris being sucked into a black hole.  Though I maintain from personal experience that directing traffic is still preferable to being dog poo bin monitor at Sheffield Hallam parkrun – well, that’s in my humble opinion anyway.

Here are some from their Facebook team photo. Aren’t they a delight to behold?  One other thing they did here at Poolsbrook which was quite marvellous, was put up a placard which had a photo of many of the volunteers who’ve turned out to support the event over the previous year, along with a selection of runners.  Don’t know what criteria was used to make the final cut as all parkrunners are awesome, fact.  Look, I’ve now been gifted a copy of it, gotta love a photo montage, or might it even be a collage?  Not decoupage though, although that would be a fab innovation for this time next year:

volunteer thanks collage poolsbrook

What a great idea! This was (the majority of?) the New Year’s Day offering.  Note in particular the excellent tinselled hat appendages and the fine kilt-sporting.  Most apt for the season.  One of their number had even joined the pre-run briefing at Graves to advise on logistics at Poolsbrook for any NYDD seekers.  All in the planning people, all in the planning…

PP hi vis heroes

Anyways, I parked on a verge near to the starting area, and after a further failed rummage around in the car in search of my misplaced banana, headed off to the gathering area near the main building and where the finish funnel is.  I saw a few familiar faces from running in general and earlier in the day at Graves in particular.  More remarkable were the many I missed, possibly due to the enormity of the crowd, or possibly due to the fact they saw me first.  Hard to be sure.  I forgot my camera, which I regret as Poolsbrook offered up some fab photo ops, so I’ll be trawling t’internet and Facebook for pics to cull.  Otherwise, you’ll just have to use your imaginations.

It’s been a while since I was at Poolsbrook, so in case you are rusty too, here is the course blah de blah from the Poolsbrook parkrun event page:

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

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

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


and the course looks like this:

Poolsbrook route

In a nutshell, keep to the left to allow faster runners to pass, or to the right if you are such a faster runner, and do three and a bit laps on the flat course.  If you end up on grass or in water you have veered off course in one direction or the other.  I’d say it was pretty difficult to get lost on this course – indeed the RD claimed they’d lost no-one yet –  though to be fair, if someone was so lost they’d sunk to the bottom of the lake complete with their barcode I’m not sure how you’d ever know.  So really I think they should say ‘to the best of our knowledge we’ve lost no-one yet‘.  I might message the event team with that feedback later, I’m sure they’d thank me for interrupting their winterval festivities with such an important observation.

I arrived at the finish tunnel just in time to see a couple of familiar faces, dump my fleece and scarf on a bench near to the finish funnel, and join the  migration to the start.  En route, I spotted scooby do from Graves earlier, and finally twigged he is actually working as the guide dog for a visually impaired runner, fundraising for, erm, actually I can’t remember, but bet some photos will go up at some point and I’ll maybe borrow one of those.  Amongst those assembling were Regal Smiley and others of the Tilly household.  I didn’t spot Tilly, but my eyes widened as Regal Smiley produced the most enormous plastic bags I’ve ever seen, think bin liners, and I couldn’t disguise my horror at my immediate thought that these were bespoke poo bags and Tilly was suffering from a serious and explosive digestive disorder. Don’t dear reader, the error was mine, the bags were for coat storage purposes.   They came prepared this family.  No wonder I gaze on at them as super human role models from afar.  Tilly was having a day off.  Well someone had to stay home and watch out for squirrels coming up the drive. Those pesky rodents won’t bark at themselves!


It was nippy, but the sun was beginning to peek out.  HOW EXCITING!  I’m not a regular here, but you could tell this was a huge turn out as we gathered in the start. The paths are wide and generous, but even with good-natured parkrunners trying to give way, it was quite a squeeze to get into position.  Some runners with buggies, had to manoeuvre their way to the back by passing them almost aloft, but it was all fine and friendly.  A little glimpse of what travelling by tube in the London rush-hour could be like if all your fellow passengers were parkrunners and inclined to co-operate with one another rather than will you to vanish from their mind if not their sight.  I was camera-less, but thankfully Smiley selfie queen was in position and on form, for which I thank her!  Other acquisitions have also been made from random Facebook findings. If it’s your photo and you object to my using it please let me know and I’ll unhappily delete, because that’s fair enough.  But you know, it’s a compliment that I like your pictures really isn’t it Al Dalton, and it’s all to share the parkrun love. Plus only me and you will most likely ever see this post unless you choose to share it, so it could just be our little secret, and that might be kind of fun yes?

Or no 😦 ?

Just me having fun then? Story of my life…


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See how the sun has come out and how happy we all are.  Astonishing given that some had already run 5k this morning and others were nursing hangovers, full on ones, not even the creeping ones yet to kick in!

Oh, and thanks to Andy co Event Director for and oftentimes RD at Poolsbrook who was the teleporting Poolsbrook presence at Graves earlier on and who has also gifted some fab atmospheric shots.  Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Poolsbrook?  (Rhetorical question, of course we all did!)

The run briefing was personal and all round excellent. The usual welcome and thanks.  Claps for those who had already run today, cheers for those who hadn’t the loudest cheer for the I think solitary person who identified themselves as a first time ever at parkrun runner.  How exciting is that!  He had a good-natured dog with him and was standing in front of me. Another runner made two abortive attempts to say hello to the dog, both of which resulted in a lot of animated barking, not aggressive, but not impressed either.  It was as if the poor parkrunner was the opposite of a dog whisperer, more a canine agitator, it was sad really. Like when people desperately like cats, and by seeking to engage with them make cats run away or hiss.  Sad but true.

We were told of not one, not two, but three visually impaired runners on course. One with scooby-doo on a fund-raiser, another, with an actual dog, aiming to do six parkruns in I think 15 days, but I’d need to check.  Here is a fab picture of him lifted from their Christmas Day Poolsbrook run report

Chris and dog christmas day parkrun

I’m always somewhat in awe of visually impaired runners, it must take a lot of trust to run with a guide even if there’s no-one else around, but today it was heaving as well, different level of courage altogether.  Coincidentally, there was a great article from the perspective of a VI runner on the parkrun newsletter today (yep, time travel again) hang on, I’ll find it, it’s inspirational stuff.  Check out Kelly Barton’s story on this link of GP stories. You’re welcome.

After a most jolly briefing, with happy birthdays and milestones all acknowledged alongside practicalities the call went up for 3 2 1 go!  And absolutely nothing happened.  Is it bad I was a tad relieved?  No chance of a speedy one today.  Pleasingly I found myself alongside a fellow Smilie, and we shared with each other our insights that this start would rather scupper our plans for a run at pace, so might as well just treat it as miles on the legs rather than a tempo run, I nodded furiously, not entirely sure what this meant other than it being a free pass for taking it easy and providing some sort of race-craft justification for doing so. Hurrah!   We trotted along companionably, until inevitably she was chaffing at the proverbial bit to speed up and needed to chase down her offspring who was in danger of disappearing into the swell.  For the record, I think it was his idea to do the New Year’s Day Double, which is impressive indeed for a junior runner.  Hurrah!  Also, just because it pleases me, turns out I was also right behind them in the panto audience too, if only they’d believed me and looked round they might have spotted me.

As we headed out, we passed one hi vis hero who had secured the sweet spot for volunteering purposes. Seated on a bench he shouted out warnings to runners to avoid them colliding with it.  Sort of like the foghorn on a lighthouse keeping ships away from treacherous rocks.  Excellent.  Only a post involving custody of  a clipboard could possibly be more high status I would have thought…

From the back, the circular route meant I could see the runners ahead streaming round the lake, and quite a sight it was too!  I don’t know how to share videos I’m afraid, but check out this link from Melissa Swann of the start of Poolsbrook parkrun on New Year’s Day 2019 oh hang on, it might even work – impressive eh?

Off I trotted, hard not to feel cheery with the sun shining, flat course and cheerful ambience.  I’m not the greatest fan of multi-lap routes, but this was somehow doesn’t seem too bad.  It goes quickly and there is much of interest.  Though I’m always a bit wary of goose-shit bridge.  It is a well-known FACT – or at very least a Lucy Fact (i.e. one which I believe to be true and choose therefore to cite as an absolute truth until proven otherwise) which for the purposes of this blog amounts to the same thing – that goose poo is the slipperiest substance known to humankind.  No really it is.  And those geese get everywhere.  Fortunately there are marshals on hand on either side of the bridge to point and clap and cheer and, when the occasion requires it, to wrangle the geese.  I don’t know why the chrome extension volunteering roles don’t list ‘goose wrangler’ amongst the options, because to be honest that is one of the potentially scariest roles.  Maybe they don’t want badge-hunters going for glory and putting themselves in harm’s way.  Geese can be vicious you know, and need to be treated with respect.  And yes I do speak from personal experience, I’ve had more than one run in with an aggressive goose and they are one of very few creatures on this earth I actively dislike as a consequence.  My shins have never been the same again after being savaged by the beating wings of a goose that sought to see me off its land. There is a reason they are used for guarding property you know. At least an aggressive dog can be pacified or distracted by food.  Geese have no such vulnerabilities.     Oh anyway, here’s Smilie selfie queen, capturing the goose action so I didn’t have to. Thanks again.


I survived the geese and their deposits on the bridge, and onward  I went.  It was good for my confidence to do a completely flat parkrun for a change.  Lately I’ve struggled to run up hills at Graves and even Concord parkruns which both have some undulation, though by no means extreme.  It was nice to just hit a rhythm and stay in it for the duration, even if I was slow.  I thanked the marshals as I went round for the first lap, offering a ‘happy new year’ on the second and a sort of free form  hybrid for the final circuit.  Each hi-viz hero had their own style.  Some excelled at clapping, some at directional pointing, some at apt quippery – the ‘fake it to make it’ comments re ‘pretend to enjoy it’ were helpful toward the start section by the marshal on the pavementy bit.  A special mention for the kilt wearing marshal who boomed out encouragement that could be heard across the lake, and interacted enthusiastically with seemingly every runner as they passed. That’s dedication:

I’m a slow and steady runner, so feel well qualified to testify that those marshals kept up clapping the whole time, for every participant.  It’s no mean feat to clap continuously for that long and cheerily AND throw in some directional pointing as well.  An endurance challenge in its own right.  Thank you all of you for sterling support.

The laps do all merge into one  a bit.  I could see early on in the first lap that a super speedy athlete was storming round on the other side of the lake. The downside with a three-lap course is I get lapped even earlier than usual, but on the plus side it is really astonishing to see those faster runners cruise by.  Most managed to choke out words of encouragement through their rapid breathing as they passed.  It was an extremely well organised and mutually respectful run. The only minor incident I witnessed was when Scooby was guiding his runner and asking for people to give way and another parkrunner wearing headphones just didn’t hear, I sort of chaperoned her to one side and she was fine about it, so all’s well that ends well.  It was a master stroke of irony that the guide dog’s Scooby costume impaired his vision too, so it was hard for him to make out quite what was going on, especially as it was so very crowded at that point it was hard to find a path through.

Astonishingly, nobody mistook me for a faster runner on either of the first two laps and erroneously tried to usher me towards the finish funnel so I had to do all three loops, but at least it meant I got my monies worth for time out on the course.  By the time I did get to the final lap, I mistook the turn off for the finish funnel, which meant what I laughingly refer to as my ‘sprint finish’ was both longer and more uphill than I’d banked on. However, some already finished and now departing friends cheered me in, and then there was a bonus hug and selfie from smiling non-smiley and a new year’s hug from a vegan runner who I stalk for his fab running photos.  Seems we are mutual stalkers in fact so here’s a wave out just for you. I was worried I was keeping him from his V-gang team photo, but he made it as the picture testifies.  Some pretty fab and friendly runners in this line up you know:

V gang out in force

Even though I was slow, there were still plenty of people on the course and busy scanners scanning and people gathering and all good and all smiley.

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I retrieved my fleece and scarf and suddenly felt cold and peckish.  However, good news dear reader, whilst the official cafe was shut, a pop up community cafe was very much open.  Volunteers were constantly refilling an urn of hot water and you could have tea and coffee and help yourself to a smorgasbord of cakery.  I had a coffee, which I slightly over-filled and subsequently spilt onto my feet, which would have been catastrophic but for the intervention of one of the Tilly household who spotted my rookie error in coffee cup handling.  I also had what I think must have been a home-made rock cake and you know what, it was absolutely delicious.  Not had one of those in years, not tasty and fresh like that one.  Retrospectively, I read that parkrunners are encouraged to bring stuff along to share as well, which accounts for the copious amounts of food on offer.  You are encouraged to make a cash donation, and I certainly couldn’t begrudge that, however it was very much up to individuals as to what they chose to leave. It was great, and the money goes on, erm, actually I’m not sure on what exactly, I think on things like new parkrun tokens – a few went walk about today for starters…

After a little lingering, I went out to cheer in the last few runners.  I must look like a pro at the finish these days, as the RD came along and told me they had enough scanners for the last few on the course so I could stand down if I wished. That was confusing, but fathomed satisfactorily after a few moments of mutual incomprehension.

Soon some of the earlier marshals strode into view, carrying their various hi-vis signs like roman soldiers with battle flags.  I suddenly felt cold, really cold so decided it was time to depart.  I thanked random marshals as I left. They really had created a brilliant mood.  I could just make out the final finishers coming round to finish to a welcoming team of supporters.  I do like a happy ending.  🙂

Oh and for stats-geeks, we must once again salute Elliot Line who hot of the press told us in his New Year’s Day update that at least 150 events had attendance records today.  Oh yes they did!

New Years Day 2019 Attendance Stats.

Apologies for another shortened stats summary. Full stats including milestones, records, volunteers and comparisons will resume mid-January.

Biggest parkruns UK: Bushy Park (1156), Southampton (1048), Eastville (941), Milton Keynes (918), Rising Sun (869), Brighton & Hove (826), Chelmsford Central (811), Cardiff (805), Kingsbury Water (792), Hove Promenade (787), Lee-on-the-Solent (777), Sale Water (775), Braunstone (753), Frimley Lodge (741), Huddersfield (735), Conkers (719), Catton (715), Long Eaton (703), Rushmoor (702), Telford (699),

There were at least 150 new attendance records in the UK today!

In the UK there were 332 parkruns and 125375 parkrunners, (fewer unique parkrunners, as many of those will be the same parkrunner twice), plus pending results from Delamere, Barry Island and Shepton Mallet.

Worldwide there were 673 parkruns and 178444 parkrunners, (fewer unique parkrunners, as many of those will be the same parkrunner twice), plus a few pending results.

Poolsbrook included.  Wow, parkrun is indeedy most definitely becoming a thing for allsorts.  In a good way.  Hurrah!

parkstatswangy also had an update on the stats.  Wow!

A record breaking New Year’s Day! An astounding 150 events broke their attendance records and 2 events equalled theirs. This gave an overall U.K. attendance of 126,653, which is only about 8,000 less than the previous Saturday despite there being 239 less events. Five regions actually increased their attendance, with East Midlandsbeing up 17% and Scotland up 11%.

A record among the new recordsHove Promenade saw its record increase the most in absolute numbers, up 344 parkrunners to 787. Perry Hall north of Birmingham saw the biggest percentage increase, more than doubling its record from 223 to 561 (up 152%). Whinlatter Forest in the Lake District saw the biggest increase from its usual (10 week median) attendance, hosting 279 parkrunners when it normally hosts around 43 (up 549%).

The total attendance on New Year’s Daywas 126,653 at 335 events.

Poolsbrook reported on the day with a Facebook post as follows:

Wow, what a morning it was at Poolsbrook parkrun today. A new record of 617 of you took part supported by 30 amazing volunteers. It seems as if our planning to accoodate such a high number of participants paid dividends today 😀

We hope that you all had a great time at Poolsbook today – thank you to everyone who took part and all of you who volunteered

They also did their own fab run report of the day, so you can read the New Year’s Day Poolsbrook parkrun official run report and triangulate that report with mine to help inform you analysis and conclusions about what the morning was really like. 🙂 It’s important to do your own parkrun research if you want to keep on top of this parkfun game!

Oh, and in other good news. I found my banana at home!  See, all good with the world. Yay!  This isn’t the actual banana by the way, wouldn’t want to mislead.  Just have used a stock image of a banana in case you didn’t know or couldn’t recall what I was referring to. You’re most welcome.


I think the previous record was 473, on New Year’s Day 2018, so that’s quite some jump in numbers.  Wow.  I’m impressed they didn’t run out of tokens.

So there you go. New Year’s Day Double done and dusted.  Glad I did it in the end, though had a wobble in the middle there somewhere.  There are some pretty excellent graphics about who went where.  Couldn’t find a Graves/ Poolsbrook link but this one gives the general idea.  Can’t find out where it came from, if I do, I’ll add that credit in some time later.

Yorkshire and Humber NYDD parkruns

So Happy New Year and happy running in general and parkrunning in particular.  Remember it’s not the miles on the legs that count, it’s the smiles in those miles!  #loveparkrun and even if you didn’t get out on New Year’s day, it’s never too late to get to your first or any number parkrun…

happy new year


parkrun, there really is no other way to start your Saturday…

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though. 🙂

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

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

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


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

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

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

man with shovel

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

how it started

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

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

precious cargo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

NYD graves team

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

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

graves parkrun dragonflies

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

graves RD song line briefing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pools brook country park

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

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

poolsbrook dragonfly

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

poolsbrook dragonflies

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

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

GP poolsbrook parkrun dash

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

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

poolsbrook finish

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

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

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

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

east midlands parkrun double migrations

Also, according to the parkrun UK Facebook page:

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

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

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

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

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

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

mum new years day


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

Happy new Year y’all!

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

Double Delights for New Year’s Day – parkrun pleasures multiplied!

This is what we looked like smugly breakfasting at the end of our parkrun double challenge, we were too wretched and disorganised to manage a ‘before’ running shot, you can draw your own conclusions about the extent to which we had positive predispositions prior to parkrun  from that telling omission…


So, for those of you who have been sleeping through the whole parkrun phenomenon, let me explain the basic principles.  This is the one day of the year when parkrunners can clock up not one, but two parkruns on one day.  EVEN THOUGH it isn’t a Saturday!  This is because it is the only day of the year when some parkrun venues lay on an extra event (they being ever so obliging and keen and it being a bank holiday), and uniquely can offer a time other than 9.00 a.m. as the start.  This created the joyful possibility of finding parkruns that are close enough to one another that you can complete one, and make it to the next in time for the later start.  To assist with the calculations for this, someone, somewhere came up with the ingeniously enticing parkrun New Year’s Day 16 double finder .  This meant in advance of today I and other similarly optimistic and misguided runners could fondly imagine bouncing out of bed all bright-eyed and bushy tailed on a crisp, clear, sunny, new year’s morning and tackling two consecutive 5km runs with boundless enthusiasm.  I can confirm that as is often so, the reality of what I felt on waking didn’t entirely conform with the fantasy previously envisaged.  No regrets on completion, some regrets on first waking to be honest, but more of that later.

So we had some collective discussion as to which of the parkrun possibilities would be lucky enough to welcome some Sheffield Hallam tourists to their territories.  An early contender was Clumber Park then Rother Valley, but in the end, following a personal recommendation from someone who’d done it last year, the winner was (drum roll) Pontefract (9.00 a.m.) to be followed by Nostell Priory (10.30 a.m.)  The point being that despite my surprise apparently Pontefract is a lot nearer than you think to Sheffield (I maintain it isn’t really but there you go) and that even allowing for sedate runners such as me, the distance between the two venues is distinctly doable.  8 miles by car, but only 4 miles if you choose to run it cross country instead (of course I didn’t).

So, as is usual for me, but very annoying, I didn’t sleep well, waking dehydrated and feeling rough in the small hours, I couldn’t get back to sleep, though on the plus side it did mean I was up for a coffee at 6.30, without this pre-run caffeine fix I’d never have made it round.  I then got an early morning text to check I was still committed to this collective endeavour (pah, as if I wouldn’t be!).  My cheetah buddy and her loving spouse had again been thwarted on waking as their road had been plunged into a power cut of many hours duration.  So she was stumbling around a darkened house, and in danger of not even managing to make a cup of tea to help them out the house.  (Ignition not working on the gas either, calamity – don’t worry though, she and he are pretty resourceful, and had matches on hand to facilitate the making of hot beverages, as well as head torches to facilitate manoeuvring around their home). I had but to wait in situ on a pavement and my lift came as if by magic hurrah!

It was really cold out, brrrrrr, cars were covered in thick frost and the pavement was decidedly slippy.  The sky was a miserable dank grey, and there was a distinct oppressive doom and gloom feeling to the day.  Not how I’d imagined it at all.  The car that came to scoop me up breezed into view, pre-steamed up windows from the occupants already in confinement.  The driver was a regular running buddy, who had bought her teenage son along.  He is very tall, but as the late addition to the outing, somehow was concertinaed into the extra ‘kiddy seat’ in the boot of the car.  It was a miracle of contortion that he made it in there.  Not a regular parkrunner I can honestly say I’m not sure what possessed him to make his double debut on limited sleep and on ice, but it was good to see him all the same.  My suspicion is that having made a new year’s resolution to do more exercise (though he disputed this) by doing two parkruns straight off, he would effectively have finished his resolution by noon.  That’s a result surely.  Also present cheetah buddy and cycling spouse (also an awesome runner, a quality we exploited later) and a further parkrun regular who I have my eye on as a potential hobbiteer for 2016.   The other female runners are fellow Smiley Paces members, and I felt shamed that I’d not thought to wear my Smiley vest too – partly out of club loyalty, and partly because it was freezing, and it would have been a great excuse to don an extra layer without hearing cheetah buddy’s voice in my head saying ‘step away from the fleece‘.  I long to keep on more clothes than I should when running, she is always right about it being more comfortable to run with fewer layers, but I need her to encourage/ remind me to do so with ridiculous regularity.  She has clearly done a course sometime about how to motivate people, as she is very good at offering vocal positive feedback when I spontaneously (but reluctantly) peel off outer garments prior to a run without prompting. It is also really true, that I am quite literally hearing her voice in my head telling me to do so as I strip.  I can tell she’s proud of me – and her influence on me that has made it so – when this happens.

The journey to Pontefract was on deserted grey roads.  Navigation seemed to be operating somewhat on a ‘just in time’ and ‘need to know basis’, I was quite pleased it wasn’t my responsibility.  I did feel that Pontefract is in fact quite a long way from Sheffield, and had I been driving on my own I would have been in fear of falling off the end of the world at any moment, like those early voyagers, bravely setting sail, even though they believed the world was flat.  Well, almost like that, apart from not being in a boat, not being in the sea, not being made to eat ships biscuits and it actually only taking about 45 minutes or so to get over there, otherwise though, identical.  On the more unexpectedly positive side, I learned that we were at the birthplace (or was it spiritual home) of the haribo, who knew?  (Well, everyone else apparently, but then I’m vegetarian so it is more of academic than practical interest).  I also learned what  a Pontefract cake is, so it was quite an educational morning.



Honestly though, I was less worried about falling off the edge of the earth, and more worried about whether or not I’d get an opportunity for my precautionary pee … particularly because due to a change in routine, it wasn’t so much a precaution today as a necessity. Fortunately, although I was the one to cave in and admit to this requirement, others were all takers for finding some conveniences too.  There was a bit of debate about whether there might be loos at the course, but the consensus wast that it would be too high risk a strategy to go there and find out there weren’t so we instead did a quick detour into the McDonalds on the roundabout just opposite the entrance to the racecourse.  We trooped in en mass.  One of our number worried about the ethics of this – should we feel obligated to buy a coffee or something.  Personally I don’t.  I consider the only benefit the McDonald’s franchise has brought to the world is the provision of clean toilets in unexpected locations, so I am happy to exploit this feature.  This is unlike me as normally I can do the British apologetic guilt thing of saying sorry for being alive or having the temerity to allow my foot to be stamped on even though I am standing still.

Comfort break concluded, we piled back in the car, the driver didn’t speed away without her darling son as we feared she might reversing out of the parking bay, but it was actually forward planning, not abandonment, so no need to involve social services.  And into the venue.  Yay!

pontefract race course

Much excitement, there were loads and loads of cars queuing to get in.  This double parkrun day malarkey has clearly built up some momentum.  We parked up a little way off from the start, and followed the migration to the start, dodging cars at the weirdly confusing roundabout thingamajig that you had to cross to get there.  The first surprise though was the ice.  Just walking to the flags that signified the start it was pretty slippery.  I was very glad of my trail shoes, but even so still a bit nervous about the grip underfoot.  Loads of people were milling about, and there was a good welcoming atmosphere.  Chatted a bit to other runners, whilst trying to hang on to my jacket for as long as possible – though with awful inevitability it was eventually prised away from me.  It was fun spotting other tourists though. I had a bit of vest envy at some folk from Nostell Priory who had specially printed ones saying exactly that ‘Nostell Priory Tourist’ how brilliant is that.  Maybe, incredible as it sounds,  a parkrun tourist tee, personalised with the name of your home run could be an even more desirable as a Christmas gift than a snow flake made of tampon applicators?  Food for thought, certainly.

Thank you Stephen Wong for the photos by the way.  Fabulous capturing of the event.  For those who like to know such details, the usual Pontefract parkrun course is described thus:

the route is … contained within the parkland on the inside of Pontefract Racecourse which at 2 miles long is the largest flat racing circuit in Europe. However, the course itself is not entirely flat; the highest point is by the Grandstand and the lowest in the north east corner by Park Road/railway bridge.

The start is on the track around the inside rail of the racecourse close to the south eastern corner of the boating lake and takes in an anti-clockwise circuit of the lake before returning to the track for a full circuit of the racecourse (clockwise). This is followed by a second circuit of the boating lake, but this time in a clockwise direction. The finish is on the path around the lake, close to the start point.

The bit that I register is that you basically get to run round a race track.  Anyone that has previously encountered prancercise , or ever been a seven year old girl (or boy to be fair, though I suspect that that is less probable), playing horses in a garden somewhere, cannot fail to be wildly excited at the potential for pretending to gallop around a real race course, where actual horses have been.  (Sort of, you are actually on the inside of the railings, but that’s being pedantic).  Today, the ice was such, we did an out and back route rather than the usual looping the loop variant.  The race briefing was friendly, but a bit tricky to make out.  I did get that there was some co-ordination with the Nostell Priory dessert run, (this Pontefract parkrun being either the starter or main course, depending on your eating habits), the essence of which was obey the marshals on arrival at venue two.  Clapping was offered up to volunteers, warnings given about mud and ice, and then ‘aaaaaaaaaaawf’ away we went.

I found the start a bit scary to be honest.  It was narrow and I got a bit boxed in, plus I had a few skids on ice early on, and it never really opened up for me.  However, it was still fun to be going, to have made it out and be underway on part one of the New Year’s Day challenge.  You could tell a fair few, well more than a fair few, were up for the double.  There were some superheroes on hand, always good.  A few canines, some doggedly determined slow and steady runners further back.  All shapes and sizes, which is what I love most about parkrun.  A few buggies, one of which got spectacularly muddied on the way round.  As we approached the turning point it was a bit of a heave up hill, and then the faster runners were crashing back towards us.  This was good to see them in action in all their rippling lycra, but it was hard to have to head off beyond them before returning homeward myself.  I find out and back routes a bit demoralising, but others in my party preferred this.  I suppose it gives certainty, a known destination to aim for and a clear end point in sight throughout.  My problem is that I still in my heart of hearts almost subconsciously can’t see the point of running, so when my eyes can see you are just going to end up back where you started, my brain makes the very rational and compelling point that it would be a great deal easier to just stand still here and wait for everyone else to come back.  Circular routes, whilst a literal manifestation of ‘running round in circles’ bizarrely don’t impact on me this way because you can’t see the end until you come upon it.  Irrational I know, illogical certainly, but true for me all the same.

Honestly, I found it tough, but there were some joyful sights to help us round.  Cheery marshals at the turn around point, grimly determined faces of other runners suggesting I wasn’t alone in struggling a bit, and a particularly welcome high five from a child spectator at just the moment I was flagging most.  It seems it is really true, that such contact  can help you speed up after such encouraging tactics on the way round.  The other thing that helped me pick up a bit of speed, was my slightly too close proximity to a rather loud and phlegmy runner just behind me. For most of the return run I was in constant fear of a mighty gob of spit ending up in my pony tail .  In fact I can report I returned with my hair still both spotless and spitless (though rather windswept), so whoever this unknown runner was, he had a better aim than I gave him credit for at the time.  I should have had more faith.  Actually, I had quite a bit of mud splattering most of the rest of my body parts,  but that’s OK, cleansing even!

pontefract spectator high five

Pontefract delivered up a quality event.  A photographer was even there to capture most of us in action – ready or not.  Go Smilies, and go male relatives of Smilies to, awesome are we all!  In fact, it turned out the photographer was doing his own double shift, as he materialised with his magnificent equipment in evidence at Nostell Priory too.

Inevitably, I was the last of our part to make it back to the finish funnel.  There was a bit of an optical illusion at the end, I’d swear it kept moving away as you approached it.  Still, one bonus of my slothly movement is that the others were there to greet me, and had even had the foresight to reunite me with my jacket.  Yay, so happy!

We waved what I hope were cheery and grateful goodbyes to our Pontefract hosts and it was back in the car to join the convoy of vehicles heading off for part two of the morning’s challenge.  Personally, I think if this double parkrun day phenomenon continues to grow it would be a great innovation to have some sort of magnetic flag with the parkrun logo that you could plonk on the roof of your car to indicate you were part of this running convoy.  Maybe something for tribesports to think about as part of their new sponsorship deal?  I’m just saying.

Sooooo, venue two, Nostell Priory.  We were quite literally in convoy as loads of vehicles were making the same trek.  Shamingly, as we sat in the car steaming up the windows and stationary in the queue waiting to wind our way to the rather gorgeous National Trust property, we spotted little groups of runners.  They had managed to complete the first run, and find both the time and energy to run the 4 miles to the next, and I noticed one woman in red who subsequently stormed home at the Nostell Priory parkrun way towards the lead.  Impressive.  We had some discussion about whether or not these runners would feel justified superiority as they ran past, or might be looking longingly at us roasty toasty in a heated interior.  It was nippy out, but they looked hardcore, probably don’t even feel cold.  Here she is – caught on camera, still giving it her all.

NP run run runner

There were some pretty efficient logistical operations going on when we arrived.  Marshals were directing parkrunners to a different area to park up, and even though we’d grappled around for a spare barcode to display to get free parking, in fact our bedgraggled appearances and lycra adorned bodies were enough to gain admission and recognition for our status as runners.  It seemed crowded, but well organised.  Lots of volunteers and friendly marshals.  Proper loos, with a helpful National Trust staff member even nipping in periodically to check the loo paper supplies had held out.  That’s quality.  Although queueing for the loo was annoying, it was also companionable.  We took the opportunity to snuggle together for bodily warmth and hear details of the course from home run regulars.  Also met the lady in red who’d run from Pontefract, and another runner who was sporting shiny new trainers – first outing of a Christmas present, pretty sure they would have been muddied well and truly by the end of today!

The race briefing was pretty comprehensive and very jolly, though it was cold.  There was recognition of both volunteers and the National Trust for hosting, and usual rules of engagement were given.  Warnings of mud, and something about checking the electric fences for voltage by lobbing a small child at them.  I wasn’t sure if you could use any child of your choosing, or whether you were supposed to have brought your own for this purpose.  In the event I just used the gap in the fence to go through them rather than trying to scale it with my bare hands.  There was also something about not driving off too soon at the end of the run if other parkrunners were still on the circuit because of the risk of running them over.  I know, health and safety gone mad!  There was particular congratulations to a runner on achieving their century, they were punished for this achievement by being made to run with a balloon, I am thinking this is becoming almost as obligatory as running with a barcode  – and if it is, I think I broadly approve of it.  Maybe it should henceforth be incorporated in the code of conduct for parkrun.

NP 100 runner wtih obligatory balloon

After the pre-race briefing, we made our way to the start.  Slightly disconcertingly, I’d swear there was a ‘Birnam wood to Dunsinane’ moment when the flag that designated the start point, and I’d thought was firmly planted in the ground, appeared to magically relocate as we approached it.  It stopped eventually, and we were once again underway.

Oh, hang on details of the Nostell Priory parkrun course blah:

This is a 2 lap course, starting 100m down footpath adjacent to the Stables and Courtyard leading to car park (approx 5 min walk from car park).
Follow path down to wooden gate, bear right up roadway towards church, keeping to your left, turn left to follow roadway towards car park, turn left again and follow pedestrian footpath back up towards Priory House. Follow footpath down towards the wooded copse, turn left along the unmade road then left again after about 200m into a barked footpath alongside lower lake, through the copse to road, turn at junction to return on footpath up (climbing steadily for about 400m) to House then back down and up (about 100m steady climb) towards the Church. Repeat as at start. Retrace steps for second lap but instead of turning left onto unmade road, do a u-turn (clearly marked and marshalled) and return up pedestrian footpath to the Priory House. The finish is at the right hand side of the House and is about 150m away from the Stable block with the nearby entrance to the courtyard for toilets and café.

Main point though is that it was really well marshalled, so you just follow the person in front or the direction someone in a fluorescent jacket is pointing.  No navigation necessary.  I really liked this course.  It was loopy loopy, which we have already established I like, plus glorious views throughout.  I found the terrain more reliable in that there was not so much ice, and I liked that the slightly undulating landscape and doubling back on yourself route meant you could see other runners moving across the landscape. Lovely friendly marshals, and the added bonus of spotting other runners who’d already been at Pontefract.  There were the superheroes again, but also persistent plodders, supporting families and capering canines.  Also spotted were fellow tourists from Sheffield Hallam, pleasing to have the company.  Lots of lovely photos courtesy of volunteer marshals and National Trust car park attendants as well as the aforementioned public spirited Stephen Wong.

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Stand out moments, oh so many, and I’m tired what with all the running around and now all this typing.  Besides which, you’d have to be a pretty dedicated reader to still be sticking with me at this point.  Dedicated, or possibly still sufficiently hungover from last night’s excesses that a bit of mindless reading offers welcome excuse to procrastinate over more worthwhile tasks.  I’ll press on anyway, as I’m trying to build up my endurance for 2016.  I liked the assault on the senses as you went round.  The woodland trail was soft under foot, and the distinct aroma in those parts was not in fact a build up of body odour from people rotting post the first run of the day, but a rural blessing of natural fertiliser I’m sure.  You had a handy church with associated graveyard en route.  Useful for offering up a prayer before hand for the religiously inclined, or for laying to rest those that didn’t quite make it having underestimated the effort of undertaking parkrun on no sleep, no food, dehydration and little training.

The hills weren’t too bad, but they were deceptive, finishing on an upward incline.  I wasn’t keen on being made to do the run of shame passing the actual queue of those who had already finished and were now waiting for their barcodes to be scanned, nor on having to run past the finish and then double back to it again.  I think a discrete screen to hide this sight from slower runners like me would help morale at this point!  On the other hand, lots of clapping from brilliant marshals helped speed us round, and there was an unexpectedly shortened loop at the end, which helped lift spirits just when most needed!

Special mention should go to the woman who must have sprained an ankle or something on the final loop, and was being escorted back to the finish by a volunteer marshal. She was limping stoically, whilst the marshal was cheering her along saying reassuringly ‘it might not be a pb today, but we’ll get you to the finish and you’ll get your time‘ to which the limpee responded in an inspirational display of positive thinking ‘actually, it’s my first time on this course so I’m guaranteed a pb.‘  I know, awesome!  Plus, it sort of embodies the parkrun spirit, not so much commiserations that you have possibly knackered your ankle and shall henceforth walk with a limp for the rest of time, but necessary focus on reassurance that your barcode will be scanned and your run will count.  It’s not just a run, it’s a percentage of a milestone T!

Lots of shots of us tourists in action, we do all (with one notable exception who actually had stopped for a bit of a nap on the way round apparently)  look like the second parkrun of the day was taking its toll, but how smug we felt afterwards!

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As regular readers will know, the real purpose of being a parkrun regular is to be part of a post parkrun breakfast club.  We were a bit worried that there would be uncharacteristic pressure on the cafe to accommodate us afterwards.  Given depleted reserves, sleep deprivation and serious sugar drops this was a truly terrifying prospect.  We thus nominated  our faster runner to head straight to the cafe on completion and get our orders in.  Everything panned out perfectly.  It was nippy waiting in the queue post the finish, but companionable too.  I met both a Nostell Priory regular and a refugee from York parkrun which is completely underwater at present.  Those floods are pretty horrific, puts my complaints about cold hands and feet (oh have I not moaned about that yet?  Take it as a given) into perspective.  Very efficient management of the finish, I was scanned and shot out the processing funnel into the warm embrace of my Sheffield Hallam parkrun companions.  I retrieved my backpack, which I’d stuffed behind a handy iron gateway, and then followed the seductive beckoning of our lead runner to a cosy corner of the cafe where steaming latte and superior scones awaited me.  Even better, once we’d stuffed our faces with this lot, my proffered fiver was declined, both for reimbursing the purchaser of refreshments and for a contribution towards petrol.  I should mention though, that there was some debate about who this really was.  Fleet runner, who had placed the order but – allegedly – is usually without his wallet, or cheetah buddy who often ends up picking up the tab, but on this occasion reunited fleet runner with his own money instead – but only after she’d already footed the bill.   Child of driver, though by far the most photogenic amongst us, had suffered a serious stitch mid run and even had to sit down for a bit before recommencing. (Still made it back ahead of me though, despite apparently having paused for this mid-point nap).  He seemed to recover though, and also had a useful feature of apparently radiating heat which made him a most useful accessory to sit next to after a run.  Is it inappropriate for a 50 year old woman to snuggle up to a teenager for warmth?  I’m hoping not.  I also had a go at putting my hands in fleet runner’s brand new OMM jacket’s pockets, which I know sounds sleazy, but it was in direct response to an invitation, and you wouldn’t believe how lovely and snug it was in there.  Amazing.

So plied with coffee and cake (technically scones for most and a flapjack for one) we were able to play around with posing for selfies, and enjoy all our running endeavours retrospectively. Result.  Warmed and refreshed, back to the car, pausing on the way for compulsory posed photo within handily placed posing frame.  Thank you passing stranger who obliged as our very own David Bailey stand in – no charge either:

Nostell Priory Team Photo

Journey home was mostly uneventful.  Apart from two of my companions remembering that they’d left a visitor slumbering alone in their darkened – and to her unfamiliar – house midst a power cut.  At first they presumed from a status update on facebook she must be alive, but in fact that had been posted 19 hours before so it would be quite possible they’d return to find her lying dead on the stairs or something.  You never can tell.

So fond farewells, protestations of thanks, and back to our respective homes for hot baths and power naps – or in one unfortunate case for a further outing involving a bracing family walk.  Personally, much as I like the great outdoors, I was very happy to leave it to its own devices for the rest of today.

I must publicly thank all of my running buddies for today: our nominated driver; the logistics co-ordinator; the orderer and purchaser of refreshments; the motivator; the radiator.  I have yet to work out what it is I contribute to the fold.  But maybe I can make the others feel good for their charitable acts. Someone has to be the beneficiary of all that outpouring of generosity of spirit, maybe that job is down to me?

Finally, may I say thanks to today’s hosts.  You were fab.  Specifically to the volunteers, who made it all possible, may I too thank you here.  You are awesome, and look fabulous in those purple 25 shirts too!  Thank you for your labour throughout the year, and particularly today, thank you too to all those parkruns who have hosted tourists over the festive yuletide winterval break.  I can do no better than this open letter to parkrun volunteers beautifully expressed.

Talking of beautiful expressions (I know, tenuous link alert) after yesterday’s crafting with tampons feature, I’ve decided to go a bit more high-brow with my referencing for the new year.  Check out Margaret McCartney making the case for the all round medically proven brilliance of parkrun participation.  If you don’t want to read the article yourself (even though it is on the bmj website and would do wonders for your credibility if ever the authorities were to seize your computer for some reason and examine your previous browsing history) it basically says parkrunners gathering are like a pack of yelping dogs.  Recognising the gleeful combination of social interaction and exercise, they  get horribly over-excited the prospect of a communal run.  All true.

So if you have, thanks for sticking with me.

For all us parkrunners out there, bring on tomorrow, it’s officially back to parkrun day.  Yay, we can do it all over again, this time with feeling!

tribesports happy new running year

Categories: 10km, 5km, motivation, parkrun, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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