Did you know it’s year of the rabbit? Hope it’s bouncing along nicely for you so far.
Finally, a new year celebration I can get behind. I speak of course of starting off with a New Year’s Day parkrun, rendezvousing with parkrunning besties in general and EWFM in particular and both being surprised and being the surprise as things took a surprising and unexpected turn in the arrivals area of the destination parkrun.
Do you know where it is yet? To be fair probably, on reflection naming the parkrun in question in the title was probably a rather helpful tell, but hey, you can still humour me with my origin story of how I got to be here/ go there. Oh, and understand my apparent time traveling in my blog posting sequence, assuming you’d even noticed that one. Clue, it was one with lots of bunting, which is ALWAYS the hallmark of a most excellent parkrun.
So the thing is, whilst I don’t want to be more boring than necessary over my ongoing health challenges, they do have a massive impact on what I can and cant do. I have to manage pain 100% of the time, and associated fatigue. I am waaaaaaaaaaaay better than I was in that I can do most things for a short period, but then there is always a consequence. I got a huge confidence boost from doing a long drive on Christmas Day and had a brilliant parkrun experience at Roberts Park parkrun despite the camelid related confusion, but then it totally wiped me out for the next couple of weeks. I have to make a judgement call about what it’s worth taking the hit for, and what is best avoided. Throw into the mix though off the scale parkrun-related FOMO (fear of missing out) and petulant self-pitying solitary tantrum even if only in my head, and sometimes it’s a tough call. I try not to think too far ahead because then I start to panic. I have no idea how I’m going to secure a reliable income again as I don’t have the stamina for conventional work, and sometimes I’m scared about how much my body seems to have given out on me. I also have waves of paranoia as I know I look fine, so that makes me wonder if it is in fact in my head, so I try to do something over ambitious, like walk up a hill and realise that it is all too real. It remains a huge disappointment to me that apparently life can be unfair, I mean honestly, who knew? I’m sure when I was little I was told when I was a grown up I’d be able to do whatever I liked all day every day, well, it seems that either this isn’t entirely true or/and I’m not yet a grown up. The latter I can most definitely attest to, I used to think I’d be a grown up when I had my own sofa, and then maybe my own garden, I have accomplished those life goals, and they are both excellent in their own way, but turns out, such acquisitions do not imbue grown-up status. What’s more, increasingly I’m discovering that other people who I thought might be grown ups aren’t either, it’s just that some are better at hiding it than others. I feel sorry for those who believe that to communicate their grown-upness they can’t play anymore. parkrun is a brilliant playground for those of us who either wish to release our inner child or have never entrapped it. This is all a way of saying that rubbish as my health is, I do feel I really want to grab the bits of joy where I can, and deal with the fall out subsequently. I’m not sure how viable a lifestyle choice this is long term, but it was an excellent call to kick off the new year.
Oh, and just so you know, one consequence of doing stuff and then physically, emotionally and mentally crashing is not only that you faceplant on the sofa you thought might imbue with grown up status for so long you awake you don’t know where or who you are and have the imprint of a creased cushion on your face, but also that I can’t even manage to get this blog written. Textured cushions might look stylish but applique soft furnishings squashed against your face are unhelpful in aiding a radiant complexion and as for the damp hair/ applique cushion combo, well, let’s just say it’s a look not everyone can carry off. Best thing to do if interrupted and answering the door is to just style it out and or take a walking stick to the door so the caller just things you are a generic mad old lady and feels it would be rude to react too obviously let alone pass actual comment. Anyway, this crushing fatigue means I have a back log of posts I meant to do but just couldn’t. I know, what a loss to the parkrun chronicles? I hope to catch up on some. This one for example I’m actually writing up after heading to Sheffield Castle parkrun the following week, but due to the cleverness of the publication feature on word press, I can make it appear this was published on actual 1st January 2023. I do this not to make you believe I can travel in time, but because it means my posts are in the correct chronological order, but I do appreciate this may blow your mind dear reader.
Would it be good to travel in time though? If you could only go in one direction which way would you choose? I suppose if you went backwards you could leave stuff for the future and if you could take something back with you, that might be cool, not sure what it would be though. In a way we are all travellers in time anyway, it’s just that we all travel forwards. Ready or not, the future is coming, here it is – ooh, too quick, you missed it, it’s the past now. Try again! Oh no, too late again. Sigh, it’s a bit overwhelming and elusive this timey wimey thing if your pause to think about it. The seconds rush by don’t they? This is why it’s important to do some stuff even when it’s hard. I’ve essentially lost the best part of two years being ill, and more if you add on the pandemic, so I need to crack on. But where to? You might have guessed by now to be fair, but bear with… brace yourself for the big reveal.
My logic went like this. Many of my parkrun friends in general and my bestie EWFM in particular were to descend on Millennium Country parkrun. This was a change in plan as originally they were going to go somewhere entirely out of reach darn south, and that would have been too far for me to manage to drive. However, their plans changed due to covid things I think so they opted instead to go to Millennium Country slightly at the last minute – couple of days before anyway. I’d never heard of this parkrun, and didn’t even know there was a country called Millennium, though on reflection, didn’t Robbie Williams sing the National Anthem for that at one point? Anyway, turns out it is in fact somewhere called Marston Moretaine, and if you are none the wiser, that’s actually basically Bedford. Bedford isn’t exactly adjacent to Sheffield, but it’s a lot more manageable than Brighton or wherever it was they were originally heading. I did some mulling. A great deal of it in fact. According to Google maps that would be about a 2 1/2 drive which is pushing the limits of what I can manage, but then on the plus side there is generally speaking only one New Year’s Day a year, and I was buoyed with a degree of confidence from the Christmas Day foray where there was absolutely no traffic, that changes things a lot. It was doable, although I knew it would knock me out. I’d get to see not only my bestie but also visiting parkrunners from Germany, they of the Quarantine Quiz and exceptional fancy dress fame. The quarantine quiz grew out of lockdown and is where pub quiz meets parkrun meets international community meets astonishingly creative fancy dress meets brilliant quiz questioning meets 3D printing and they all meet patient and expert production. Quite an elaborate Venn diagram to be fair. There will be another quarantine quiz coming along in due course if you’d care to subscribe to Nigel’s YouTube channel, and I rather suggest you do. As for fancy dress reference, well just looksie you here:
I rest my case. Surely a club we all want to be part of? And guess what? We can! #livingthebesparkrunlife
So it was I ended up with the makings of a plan to head out to Millennium Country parkrun which is at Marston Moretaine which, pleasingly, it turns out is an actual real place and not a madey up one. I know! Extraordinary.
I was still a little hesitant as to whether or not I’d make it on the day. For this reason, I didn’t go public with my choices, but did do a bit of preparatory ground work. Specifically, suggesting to my lovely EWFM that we should both wear matching outfits on our respective New Year’s Day parkruns so we could recreate a magical moment from lockdown. Hang on, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Oh dear, this is a bit of a long story, but I’ll try to cut to the chase. Essentially, we’d planned to go and do Malmo parkrun in Sweden and even booked flights, and then lockdown happened so we couldn’t go. In a bit of teamworking genius, my EWFM sent me a DIY Swedish parkrun kit so we could each do a Malmo inspired parkrun on the day we should have gone, she in London, me in Sheffield and then using her astonishing photoshop skills, she created an image which made it look like we were high fiving each other in real life. It was a good fun challenge and very bonding. She even made a mini selfie frame, which is actually way more effective for taking selfies than the full size ones which are ubiquitous at parkruns. Do you remember the solitary lockdown running challenges? Street names to spell out your name or a parkrun name or postbox bingo? I learned so much about street furnishings in lockdown, I will never confuse a stink pipe for a conventional lamp post again. Did you know there’s an actual one just up the road from me, and it features on a runningink greetings card too, glorious! My actual stink pipe, isn’t that grand! The photo is one from twitter and it notes ‘Sewer Gas Destructor Gas Lamp, Brincliffe Edge Road. There were 84 installed in Sheffield between 1915 & 1935. Only 2 remain in working order’. See, more interesting than you expected.
There is a postscript to this too, which is we did eventually make it to Malmo, with same outfits and selfie frames and do our joint parkrun for real. Though inexplicably, we failed to actually do the same selfie shot, which is bizarre. I’ve just trawled through hundreds of photos and there aren’t really even any of us together, so bit of a photo fail there. Nevertheless, I still thought though this plan of mine was both inspired and plausible. She would easily enough buy into the matching outfits thing, then if I did make it, it would be extra glorious. Worst case scenario we could do our matchy matchy outfits at separate parkruns and recreate the photo, as before and best case scenario SURPRISE! Huge hugs of delight and we could do it for real. Yes, yes, this was a genius plan if I say so myself, which I do! For reference, here are some previous selfie montage creations, to give you the idea. And before you ask, yep, she made that actual mini selfie frame. It is genius isn’t it, she is very talented as well as precious and rare. Special you might say. Well, aren’t we all.
Fingers crossed, Millennium here we come, albeit about 23 years late to the party. Still, better late than never as the saying goes. I was a latecomer to Breaking Bad too, and that was worth the wait albeit it took lockdown to find the time to bellyflop into it. I gather ‘just call Saul’ is even better, but it’s a lot of hours of one’s life to invest at this stage in proceedings. Have you seen the stop motion Pinocchio on Netflix by the way? Unexpectedly dark but rather splendid I thought. Anyway, enough of fantasy binge watching scenarios, back to our parkrun of the day. You must stop distracting me with all these questions or we’ll never get to the first timers’ welcome let alone go through the finish funnel at the end!
Right, where was I, oh yes, the basics.
Bit of the website blah de blah before we carry on – you weren’t in a hurry I hope? It’s actually raining an awful lot here at the moment, so maybe if you don’t want to venture out in inclement weather you’ll be glad of a long parkrun related blog to peruse by way of procrastination. Also, reading is not compulsory, just saying. Where was I? Oh yes, according the Millennium Country parkrun website:
The event takes place at Forest of Marston Vale – The Forest Centre, Millennium Country Park, Station Road, Marston Moretaine, Beds, MK43 0PR
and the course description states:
The start is a few minutes walk from the Forest Centre and is an out and back course. Starting in a south-west direction, follow the path in a clockwise direction till the turn around point and then retrace your steps back. The finish is at the same location as the start. It is important to keep left at all times.
Unfortunately dogs are not allowed at this event.
Facilities: The Forest Centre has indoor toilets near the café and there are children’s play areas available as well as countryside walks. Additionally there is a bike hire facility and free Wifi.
Location of start: The event starts a few minutes walk from the Forest Centre (w3w plotter.goals.kilt).
Getting there by road: From J13 of the M1, follow the A421 towards Bedford/Cambridge and exit at Marston Moretaine.
From the A1, follow the A421 towards Milton Keynes and exit at Marston Moretaine.
From there, you’ll see brown signage for the Forest Centre. At the roundabout, take the exit into Marston Moretaine (Beancroft Road); at next junction turn left and then almost immediately turn right (Station Road). Follow the road for approximately 500m and you’ll see the Forest Centre entrance on the left (Gold Furlong). Take a right on this road, and you’ll be on the driveway to the Forest Centre. The car park is about 600m along. The best SATNAV postcode to use is MK430PR.
Car Parking Fees: There is ample parking at the Forest Centre. £1 for up to an hour, £2 for up to 3 hours. Please pay at the payment machines in the car park. Accepts cash, cards and Pay by Phone app (location: Marston Vale, Bedford Number:800979).
Post Run Coffee: Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in Lakeside Café at the Forest Centre – please come and join us!
and the course looks like this:
So New Year’s Eve happened without me. Usually NYE is just a time for loneliness and existential angst, so it was refreshing to head off to bed early knowing that tmrw would be parkrun day AGAIN! Living the dream for sure. Unfortunately I have had insomnia for years so the early to bed bit doesn’t prevent me from seeing all the small hours. On the plus side, no danger of oversleeping. Also on the plus side, after yesterday’s wetfest at the splendid but on the soggy side Shipley Country parkrun I awoke to silent weather and dark but clear skies. Phew. I left at 5.40 a.m. or something equally stupid o-clock, but I do hate to be late. Weirdly, I was wide awake. I had worried it would be two much to do parkruns on consecutive days, particularly with so much driving, but I think I was still super charged with the adrenalin of eager anticipation and excitement. Hurrah.
It was a pleasingly easy drive. Driving is way more fun when there is zero traffic. The few cars that were around were being super cautious and considerate. I think we were all in fear of other drivers being over the limit as people crept along slowly and keeping their distance. If there were any drunk drivers to come, for now they must have been sleeping it off, honestly it was fine.
I arrived really early, but then confusingly my satnav took me to a cul de sac. I don’t have a mobile phone and hadn’t got a map so I was a bit stumped. I’d been expecting obvious brown signs but there were none to be found. I drove round in circles for a bit, until just as I was parked up gazing down what was clearly a footpath, a parkrun volunteer on a bike appeared, clutching signage. He directed me the road route to get to the park, so I knew I was in the vicinity, somehow though I got even more turned around and confused. I accosted a further two random people before finally getting back on track where there were indeed brown signs aplenty to send me the right way. It had been 40 mins or so of faffing within just a couple of miles of the venue. I think my satnav is out of date probably and once I’d gone off track I suppose I’d moved out of range of the signs which presupposed you’d be coming inwards on a logical trajectory. Sometimes though, it’s good to be different. If we all always stayed on the beaten track, we’d never discover anything new would we?
I was relieved to pull into the carpark, hurrah.
Hang on though, who is that I see in a gaggle in the carpark, only my EWFM and she’s with a gang, but I didn’t want to be seen yet, I needed a precautionary pee and then to tap on her shoulder and surprise her from behind, might do so by brandishing a wonky! That would work. I did a loop of the carpark driving right past them but evading recognition as they were busy with international meet and greets. Is this is what it is like being an elite spy I wonder? Dodging and diving and making yourself invisible in an instant. I pulled into an empty space entirely incognito, except…
‘Hello!’ OMG, what was this? Literally, beside my car, as if they had been saving the space for me were my Terrific Tring parkrunning buddies.
How was this possible? Well dear reader, it turned out that literally yesterday, they made the impulse decision to come to Millennium Country parkrun too, it was a complete, but joyful, coincidence. As for getting pretty much adjacent parking spaces that was just extraordinary. I was a bit overwhelmed and a bit confused, because now I was super excited to see them, but not wishing to blow my cover I speedily explained my plan, and the hiding and the surprise as we had a group hug. Over their shoulders I saw one of my EWFM group distinctly clock me and wave, I did a sort of panicked wave back and then avoided eye contact hoping they’d not say anything to my bestie as she was busy with hellos in a different group and I was ‘obviously’ about to come join them. I sorted parking (easy, bargain £2 for three hours and you can pay by card and get a receipt as I did, or on the app – you do need to remember your number plate know, which always throws me into deep panic. It is both a test of memory and of eyesight with those teensy and illogical keyboard numbers). Then, as the loos were open I ducked and dived a roundabout route to join the queue. I was amazed and delighted in equal measure that there was a loo open on New Year’s Day, there was only one, but the queue was short, I was out of my EWFM sightlines, so was confident I could remain undiscovered until I was ready for my big reveal. This day was turning out just topping!
Then, just as the door of the loo started to open and I was next in line, my bestie danced towards me open armed. OMG. I had been spotted, but her reaction was just brilliant. I cannot think of any individual I’d rather see to kick of the year than my bestie and no group better than my parkrunning buddies great and glorious from near and far to share it with. We were both quite emotional, and had a big hug. However, for the record, I wasn’t so emotional that I didn’t need to tear myself away to avail myself of the facilities before returning to hugging and whooping and excitedly being reunited and all the things.
We shared stories of planning and of the surprise and my hiding.
Turns out I hid quite well, and even evaded discovery. The person who first spotted me and waved cheerily had commented to my EWFM that I’d arrived, only to be kindly but authoritatively corrected. It was not possible that I had been seen as I wasn’t coming, au contraire we had agreed an elaborate matchy matchy plan to achieve remote high fiving shots, she was if not actually imagining things then much mistaken. The really extraordinary thing about this first instance is that this person had made eye contact and we’d exchanged waves of recognition, yet she was so convinced by my EWFM definitive denial that this was possible she had entirely believed her. It is alarming how easily any one of us can succumb to gaslighting, although in this instance clearly hilarious, it is also somewhat shocking. Oh, and just in case you are thinking it had been an uncertain sighting on her part, we did all join in at Charlton parkrun and for London Marathon supporting not to mention numerous parkrun meetings, and I do have sticks and an emotional support bear so quite hard not to spot. I am not really a candidate for Where’s Wally to be honest. My EWFM clearly has a naturally commanding air, it is fortunate she is a force for good in the world, as she can clearly make anyone believe anything. Marvellous. Good to have a talent. Then again, I had clearly persuaded her I was elsewhere with such conviction she would have not truck with any other narrative. I am not in a position to cast nasturtiums, you should just be grateful we are both benign, but good to know we could recruit our own cult of trusting followers should the need ever arise. With the curve balls that have come my way, I’ve come to appreciate more than ever it’s good to have a back up plan.
So how had I been discovered? Well best laid plans and all that. It seems in conveying my story to my Tring comrades I’d skipped over the bit about still being in hiding. They had strolled over to join the merry throng of reunited parkrunners and expressed delight at all the unexpected meetings, and what with me bing there and all. Now my EWFM may have commanding authority and know her own mind and all, but she is not stupid. Faced with not one, but two seemingly positive sightings she steeled her laser gaze and looked around. Where would be a more obvious place to find me than in the queue for the loo, thus my cover was blown, but the reunion was just as joyful and possibly eve more funny.
I joined the party of German and British parkrunners from near and far. it was just brilliant to feel part of the gang and the best start to the new Year. Maybe 2023 is going to be a better year, it can’t be worse surely? Mind you I thought that about Brexit, then Trump, then Covid, then Ukraine, then recession etc etc, but we may as well believe in improving times just over the horizon, and I am in a better condition than this time last year, not financially but physically and mentally definitely, it’s a start. Jam tomorrow for sure.
On the subject of a start, we made our way to the start line.
Well, what can I say dear reader, it was magnificent. There was a jolly ‘Happy New Year’ flag and actual bunting, pop up signs, smiling volunteers and an enthusiastic welcome from the core team. I didn’t know where to look, so many people I wanted to talk to, so many photos I wanted to take, my camera though, wasn’t coping well. It was all so exciting. There was a kilted man – not sure if that is an every day thing or a New Year’s Day thing, I’m going with every day, because that pleases me, and seems apt as Tring is forever associated with St Andrew’s Day and tartan runners for me. There was an ace RD and a first time welcomer who said something about a toenail on the route that I didn’t really understand. Some shivered, I was roasty toasty as a walker. The RD welcomed people from different areas and was impressed to hear there were tourists from as far away as Germany. This isn’t a particularly huge parkrun, their average attendance is 134 and although they obviously do get their fair share of first timers, I’m not sure it’s a massive tourist destination parkrun. That’s a shame as it was lovely.
It is basically an out and back course, and there was a parkwalker and afew other walkers as well as a tailwalker. We agreed that everyone would do their run as it was nippy and some were going for a time, and then if anyone was inclined to come back and join me that would be fine and dandy but not essential. It was just lovely to know there’d still be people for me at the end.
The sun was strong and the course going generally good, though it was the absolute manifestation of the standard parkrun descriptor which warns for every single parkrun that ‘The course is run entirely on trail paths. Some sections of the course may accumulate mud, leaves and puddles after rain’. This was a route where some sections had indeed accumulated mud, leaves and puddles which were very slippery indeed, I was glad of my stick to stay upright, but generally a good solid course.
I was on my own initially towards the back but just behind the parkwalker and ahead of the tailwalker, in that sort of twilight zone. I kept scampering ahead as didn’t want to be too slow, but it did become too much after a bit. It was my fourth parkrun in 8 days and what with the driving it was a painful if joyful walk round. The pictures don’t do the route justice. It is through tree lined paths, and although this is maybe not the best time of year to be doing it, there were catkins emerging and some fine mistletoe silhouetted in great orbs against the bare branches of their host trees. I did my usual of trying to photograph the marshals as I passed them. I slipped further and further back.
Yes, I know, camera issues, yet I can’t quite allow myself to give up taking photos. Hope over experience I suppose, it gives the gist.
I ended up dropping back and into companionable step with the tailwalker who was properly lovely. Excellent company, an impassioned volunteer and a great ambassador for the event. She seems to be one of those people who crack on and get stuck in to anything and everything, she was also wearing the most excellent of hats, made for her by a friend. I had somewhat hat envy, though mainly I was pleased for her, she might be getting a blanket made too! I asked about the toenail thing, ‘that’s because it looks like a toenail’ she explained. I was none the wiser. Still, as previously stated, always good to have an air of mystery about thing.
As we reached the turn around point, standing down marshals joined us like a personal entourage or guard of honour, and other parkrunning friends who had finished came back to join us. That was lovely. One offered vegan sweet treats, others took splendid selfies, some brought anecdotes, all brought joy. I was happy in the moment which is a rare thing. Swelling with pride that so far this year I’d have parkrun EVERY DAY, not too shabby an achievement we can all agree. I was also just so relieved to have actually made it, and heartened by the warm welcome from fellow quizzers, the buoyed up by the brilliant surprise extra of the Tring contingent and touched by the enthusiasm exuded by my EWFM. All was good in the world. Better still, from hereonin I get to use other people’s superior photos!
I was pretty slow finishing, the last week has taken it out of me, but it was worth it. The tailwalker was great company, and I was glad we got some pics together en route, and then it was to the finish and so it ended. Another parkrun done.
The volunteer team set about being busy with the results, but as the final finisher, and tourists to boot, we were photographed as destined for stardom. Just when you think it couldn’t get any better, me and my EWFM were parkrun famous on the Millennium Country parkrun Facebook page, always a win at the start of the year! I think they may have thought we were the German contingent, but I’ll take that. Afterall, it was but one of many confusing and unexpected happenings for the day.
More group shots, more hugs, more amazement at such a joyful get together. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and you know what, I think it was the same for the others too. Oh, and we also had to do a gazillion high fiving shots, because that was the whole point of the matchy matchy, I think we did good. Nice photobombing too, respect for the double face slapper invisibly achieved there, sometimes you just have to make your own opportunities to seize your five minutes of fame don’t you.
Then what? Well, then time to disperse. We thanked the team. On a normal parkrunday they all gather at the cafe, and there is a parkrunners discount too I think, but obviously it was shut today. Others were going in search of vegan breakfasts, but obviously there was uncertainty about whether anywhere would actually be open, and they were heading down south. I was flagging and know my limits. Conscious of the long drive home, but also knowing I’d be meeting my EWFM again in Sheffield just next week, at Sheffield Castle parkrun no less, it was a little easier to tear myself away. It had been a grand outing. I couldn’t believe how lucky I got with all the people there. I have spent a lot of time feeling I’m missing out on things parkrun wise, but the important point is to feel part of it when you are there, we can’t all get to everything. Even PSH himself will never get to see all the parkruns on the planet, they just keep on multiplying.
Time to go home, but a grand start to the year. Thank you Millennium Country parkrun for being so welcoming and than you talking and walking (twalking) companion tailwalker you were the best. Hope you get your blanket in due course. Thank you lovely EWFM for looking genuinely please rather than horrified at my surprise arrival. Thank you lovely Tring parkrunners for saving me a parking space as if you’d planned and choreographed the whole thing, that was extra impressive and sooooooooooooo surprising. Thank you fellow Charltoner and London Marathon supporter for clocking me and waving a welcome early on even if you were subsequently persuaded I was but a cypher conjured in your mind. Thank you quarantine quizzers for coming across all the way from Germany to join the gang and for sharing your 3d talents. Thank you photo bomber, and photo takers and each and everyone who was there. Didn’t we have a lovely time? Rhetorical question, yes we did! Turns out, New Year can be quite fun after all, I honestly had no idea.
Oh, and then did I mention there was another selfie frame on the way out. The parkrun location that just keeps on giving! Oh happy days.
Same again next parkrunday? And here’s to many more even bigger parkrun meetups where we can rabbit on at each other and bounce about with enthusiasm. Leaping into the year ahead has to be the way to go.
Hopping so. (See what I did there? Genius).
Thanks for sticking with me for the ride 🙂
Incidentally, you can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer by reading all my parkrun related posts here. Or not. It’s up to you. You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though. Also, you might just like to lean back in a comfy chair, close your eyes, and dreamily recall your happiest parkrun moments. Bet there are loads.