Posts Tagged With: Ormskirk parkrun

Battling the Bluster round Bakewell, milestones aplenty at Bakewell parkrun

Digested read: I was a blow in at Bakewell parkrun today.  Hurrah.  It was very nice, thank you for asking. There were lots of milestones and therefore running plus cake. What’s not to like?  #loveparkrun

Undigested read:

Well Erik was irksome.

There were overnight gusts and gales forecast, but I was still quite aghast at just how many parkruns were cancelled the night before and on parkrun morning evening.  Still, not worth messing with Erik, you aren’t going to come off best.  Trees were down all over the place and wayward branches cracking and falling at will, tossed over parkrun courses everywhere, of course there were cancellations.  I don’t know why I was so surprised, since I can further report that my own weather analysis included being woken up in my attic bedroom in the small hours by what sounded like a wind-themed Armageddon going on outside.  That was dramatic.  Once I’d surrendered to the fact that any more slumber would be impossible with all that commotion going on outside and got up to go to the loo and look out the window, I bore witness to my wheelie bins tossed around the garden. Oh ok then, Storm Erik meant business.  Even so, there were really a lot of parkrun cancellations.  Sad for some, especially as snow and ice caused many to be called off last week too.

At least one parkrun was cancelled because of polar bears on the course, that’s right actual polar bears.  FACT.   It was Bradford parkrun, I like them, they have initiative.  They worked hard to keep the event on, even attempting to coral the polar bears into being marshals apparently, but it didn’t work out.  It’s important to remember being a hi-vis hero is a voluntary role, once mammals are compelled to do it, it just doesn’t happen in the same joyful way.    Good effort though, I’m going to try to visit you soon I think… might wait for the polar bears and low flying squirrels to move on by though.

bradford parkrun polar bears

I got lucky though.  Last week I was at Bushy parkrun which went ahead just fine – more than fine absolutely fabulous in fact – and this week, I had already planned to go to Bakewell parkrun, milestones a-plenty being marked there, so celebrations, Smiley comrades, Vegan friends oh yes and celebratory cake.  Would that be on?  Hmmm.  *Spoiler alert* yes it was!  I got lucky two parkruns on the trot. Hooray!

The cancellation list is sad, but also entertaining for how core teams choose to record their reasons for cancellations. Alongside the ‘usual’ gusts, flooding, trees obscuring the course, today Bradford parkrun reported, accurately I’m sure based on my own observations, as follows:

Bradford parkrun: Apocalypse in the park, low flying squirrels

It’s a shame they had to cancel, but I’m sure it will be a huge consolation to them all that I have chuckled at their cancellation entries on the parkrun cancellations listings.  Bradford parkrun communications officer, your talents are noted and appreciated, by me at least.

Some impressive cancellation photos doing the rounds though – check out Somerdale Pavilion parkrun course conditions, less parkrun more aquaplaning.  Didn’t happen though, can’t blame them.

Somerdale pavilion parkrun cancellation

Astonishingly, Haigh Woodland parkun went ahead despite a few hurdling/trip hazards!

haigh woodland parkrun trip hazards

Ormskirk parkrun published and shared its cancellation protocol for RDs to refer to in the event of high winds.  Most public spirited, and most enlightening too.

Ormskirk cancellation protocol

But back to Bakewell.  That was expecting to go ahead, but had to get there first though.  Oh my, they weren’t lying when they said on the news it was gusty out!  Fortunately it was mild outside my house, but whoa, hang on a minute, I could barely stand up.  I had a literal wobble in the wind, and then a metaphorical one as I wondered if it would be safe to drive.  I decided to start off and see, I’m quite high up, so if there was a problem it would be obvious and I could abandon my trip.  Off I went.  So many branches down everywhere, but the car chugged along fine as we headed out of Sheffield, once we got towards Longshaw though and the roads were more exposed it was like driving through the end of the world.  No wonder they shut the car parks at Longshaw first thing.  There was loads of debris was being tossed around and I could feel the car being buffeted about as I drove with incredible caution towards Froggart.  Fortunately, the cars behind me were being similarly careful and keeping a respectful distance, but I don’t think I’ve ever been blown around so much in a car, wouldn’t have wanted to be doing that in a high sided vehicle.

Easy run out, and I managed to park up in the free section of the Hassop station car park, coincidentally right by Smiley Selfie queen who’d rocked up for some parkrun tourism and to mark the milestones of friends various too.   I got out of the car for long enough to say hello, and establish it was blooming freezing there, and wet, with little shards of rain bearing down on me. That wasn’t expected. I’d only put my running jacket in as an afterthought.  I got back in the car for a bit, and then got out again for pre-parkrun precautionary pee and general hello saying – which took a while as a fair few familiar faces were rocking up as the start time approached.

Selfie time:

My expression on the left is because I’m cold by the way, not because that’s my intended running strategy to supplement the support offered by my current sports bra. Yep, still sporting the Juno.  I do like it more than any of my other sports bras, but I’m sure there must be one out there that is as comfortable and offers sufficient support.  My expression on the right is because it was taken within the warm confines of the roasty toasty cafe – which is open pre parkrun for comfort breaks and probably coffee too, if you don’t fancy hanging out in the wind and rain on the Monsal trail yourself of a Saturday morning (hard to imagine many would fall into that category though, with all the parkrun love being bandied around 🙂 ).

We were lucky, Bakewell was most definitely going ahead.  Hooray!  There were plenty of last-minute cancellations elsewhere, which is understandable – that happened at Graves junior parkrun once, had to cancel at about 8.50 because a branch fell down on the course just as the runners were arriving.  Not worth the risk. However, the element of surprise cancellations did seem to trigger plenty of micro-adventures around the country as parkrun plans were scratched and back up plans implemented. Some social heroics though, parkrun tourists heading to Graves this morning staying in a nearby Airbnb arrived at 8.40 to find it cancelled, but were scooped up and deposited at Castle by friendly Sheffield parkrun locals. Trust is a funny thing isn’t it, of course you’d assume an abduction by a fellow parkrunner to be benign, just a new adventure #loveparkrun!  Well done parkrun explorers.

parkrun tourist team work

Back to Bakewell.  We were assembled, parkrun was on.  Yay!

For your information Whangarei parkrun in New Zealand went ahead too, although they had ‘nice weather for ducks’ it was their 160th event, and loads of them were wearing shorts out and about on the parkrun course too, so draw your own conclusions about how they define inclement weather.  I have a soft spot for this parkrun though, because they have in the rather brilliantly, and showing initiative as well as dedication, run an extra parkrun at a time to coincide with it being run in the UK. Whangarei parkrun ran an unofficial parkrun at 9pm New Zealand time to mark international parkrun day in October 2017.  Everyone needs to be reminded of/ know about that!  So hello nice Whangarei people and high fives to your high vis heroes!  Happy Third Birthday Whangarei parkrun for next Saturday 16th Feb 2019, I’m sure you’ll party on with parkrun style!

whangarei volunteers

So Bakewell parkrun was going ahead.  That was good, obvs.  But the weather, aaaargh.  How did it get to be so cold and wet when it was all mild in Sheffield when I poked my arm out the upstairs window to do the temperature check first thing?  Me and Smiley Selfie Queen and her escort ventured to the start line.  Where we greeted by the sight of a cheery run director, wearing shorts!  What was that about?  I didn’t know whether to be impressed of horrified, in truth, I was both.  He said he is doing XC tomorrow so trying to acclimatize, fair do’s, but seemed high risk to me.  I went through a similar mental battle deciding when to leave the sanctuary of the Hassop Station cafe, head out into the cold early by way of transition, or hang on in there ’til the last moment. Tough call.

Here is the cosy interior of the Hassop Station cafe viewed from outside (thank you Denise Burden for sharing your photos, from which I’ve borrowed freely):

DB hassop cafe

and here is the cheery run director, sporting his above the knee number in the service of XC acclimatization.  I respect his position on this matter, but will not emulate.  Just to be clear.

shorts seriously shorts

The cheery run director did the first timers’ briefing.  I think we can all agree the body language in the photo from the briefees, betrays that it was most decidedly nippy out, whatever the misleadingly bright sky overhead may deceive you into believing.  Mind you, a lot of these people are sporting shorts, running briefs if you like, maybe that’s why it was called the first timers’ briefing?:

DP run briefing

I wasn’t a first timer, so went for a power walk up and down the Monsal Trail a little way to keep warm and check out the wind conditions.  To be fair, the RD did assure us that he’d sorted out the wind to guarantee it would be behind us all the way out and then helpfully reverse and be pushing us from behind all the way back too or we’d get a full refund.  It is true there was wind all around us, but not noticeably helping progress, more like whipping us up into a swirling vortex of arctic blasts.  Oh well, at least it made parkrun a micro adventure all over again, so that’s good, and the seals felt quite at home in the freezing conditions.  Smiletastic challenge people, if you don’t know, best not to ask, just enjoy speculating as to why else was this synchronised seal basking necessary post parkrun.  Has to be a Smiley Paces winter running challenge really doesn’t it?  Even if this photo isn’t really capturing the running part of the challenge, it’s getting the collective team effort bit… for better or worse!  Their likeness to actual basking seals is uncanny!  The Smiley Paces people are in the picture on the left… oh, or is it the one on the right?  One or the other though, just for clarity…

Oh hang on, you might want to know about the course.  So the Bakewell parkrun course blah de blah, describes the course as follows:

Out and back course on the Monsal Trail. Start and finish are in the same place by Hassop Station

Which is basically all you can really say about it!

It looks like this:

You really aren’t going to get lost on this course unless you set off facing the wrong way.  I just couldn’t comment as to whether or not that’s ever happened. I  have myself started a parkrun facing the wrong way before now, so it’s not inconceivable, though it may not be on record, those people could still be running now for all I know.   …. Assuming you do head off in the right direction, then cheery marshals spin you round at the turn around the point 2.5 km up the repurposed railway path.  So that’s good.  Fret not.  This parkrun has it all. Coffee and loos pre-start, easily navigable flat course, and parking.  Some free if you get there early.  What else do you need to know?  Friendly marshals and parkrun love in abundance are givens, surely?

Where was I.  Oh yes, power walk, meeting and greeting of various people as they assembled for their fiftieth runs,

not a day over 49

two hundredth run and every possible variant forward and aft of those.  At first I thought this parkrun was going to be thinly attended, but of course people were lurking in warm corners or in their cars and emerged on a just in time basis, like the most finely tuned and responsive of logistic firms, to hear the pre-run briefing

and sprint off at ‘go’!

DB start line

OK. So that picture was obviously before they set off.  Plenty of bare legs though, no wonder they are jostling to be in the front, want this pesky parkrun in the cold over and done with as soon as possible so they can get back in the warm I’m sure.  The next photos do show some parkrunners, properly underway, charging through one of the fab tunnels that adorn the Monsal trail.  I love tunnel running, but been through that already (see what I did there?  Gawd I’m hilarious sometimes, love a good pun, and so what if I laugh at my own jokes, at least someone is thereby entertained).

I started in the middle of the pack as I think it is only sporting to give other runners a target to overtake, and most did take the bait to be fair.  Oh well, lucky I don’t do parkrun to get a pb.  It isn’t the widest of paths, so it was a little crowded at the get go, but it’s all very good-natured, and you soon spread out.  It was social, I liked eavesdropping on odds and ends of conversations, and this was my favourite pooch for today, in case you are interested.

DP cute dog

it headed out at a fair old lick, despite only having erm, well let’s be honest, short legs.  Whizzed by me with abandon. Then, seconds later, stopped a la Paula Radcliffe for an emergency poo, unlike Paula, this pooch had an attendant on hand to poo pick, so that was good, and then it trotted on again, by the time it got to the turn around point it seemed to be slightly regretting the early turn of speed, and had a strategic walk for a bit before picking up the pace again.  I empathised more than I probably should, I mean, I have short legs, and have also been known to regret heading off too fast … though I didn’t need a poo stop, my toileting habits having been impeccably timed for parkrun purposes, thank you for your interest!

I’m a slow runner I know, but one advantage of doing an out and back route, is you get to enjoy the spectacle of speedy runners charging home and to high-five and cheer your mates as they pass you by in the opposite direction, so I try to see this as a good thing rather than a mind game. Depends on your mood obviously.  Today, Bakewell parkrun had a photographer to capture people on the way back, right near the finish, so here are some of those who I got to exchange greetings with as they hurried homewards.

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So the vegan runners celebrating their fiftieths (and not looking a day over 49 as they did so) were amongst those charging round with abandon. Looks like they might have fallen for that old gag about ‘it’s a two lap course’ though, as one at least of them passed me again as I was coming in and they were heading out again.  That guy on the left with his hand over his mouth – see him?  He’s definitely in on the joke, think he’s trying to suppress a chortle there for sure!

DP fell for the its two laps gag

She still finished her 10km in the time it took me to do 5km apparently. Oh well, I don’t mind, those vegans had splendid cake.  So splendid, that I had to fight hard the urge just to face plant into once it came within my reach.  And you should have seen their bat-themed napkins. Epic!  If only I’d had my camera with me I’d have taken a photo…

Anyway, I trotted along, I was so far back it was quite spread out, and running along the trail was quite meditative.  Although it was cold in the wind, the rain stopped, and shhh, don’t tell, but I actually got too hot running, I think it helps that my jacket is pretty wind proof.  I got a bit put off the Monsal Trail because I ran it endlessly for marathon training last year (no need to splutter out your tea, I didn’t say I ran it fast, only that I did it, not impossibly apparently, unlikely yes, but not actually impossible for me to do the London marathon it seems) .  It was quite nice to be back on it today, the surface is so level you can run very rhythmically, and it’s been a while since I’ve had such an even and consistent run.  Maybe I need to start bringing it back into my training, just to get the continuous running in without bailing every time there is any elevation – which is basically all the time in Sheffield.  Even so, quite nice to see the finish, and supportive friends to cheer me in.

DP end in sight

Job done, barcode scanned, thanks said.  Celebratory parkrun milestone biscuit eaten. I actually ate mine before photographing it, but here is someone else’s biscuit, who showed more restraint and had the foresight to capture a snap of it first!  And a tray made earlier. Nice!

Impressive aren’t they?

Next stop, fleece retrieval from car, and cafe.  There I got a parkrun breakfast for a fiver. This is pretty good value, a granary or white bap with sausage/ veggie sausage and optional egg plus a filter coffee or tea.  In the circumstances we can perhaps overlook that their sign proclaims Park Run breakfast offer … who is going to pluck up the courage to tell them #aowalc – All one word, all lower case?  You go right ahead, I’ll be just behind you, holding your bap.  You’re welcome.

I was a bit torn because there were just too many people to socialise with.  I played my hand strategically, joining the bicentenary celebrants first as I munched down my veggie sausage bap, and then adjourning in time for the vegan half century shenanigans.  They were so buoyed up by success they were contemplating undertaking a duathlon next, but I don’t honestly think they’ve properly understood the rules. I mean having a pacer is one thing, but I’m not sure a rickshaw would make it under the radar.  I didn’t say anything, didn’t want to take away from their celebrations:

duathlon next

Obviously I did a bit of nonchalant circling around the offerings feigning indifference to begin with until I saw my chance…

great vegan bake off

Well, I didn’t want to seem over keen, and it was only fair to let the vegang have fist dibs!  Didn’t take long for me to make my move though.  I undertook some fairly lightweight expert photography duties to capture the speedy seals as above, which you have to concede I did with considerable excellence, so maybe that was some sort of exchange.  Hospitable lot the vegan runners though… I think their generosity was unconditional.  It is true though, on reflection, it does rather look as if that small child is just carrying out a citizen’s arrest on all those seals and putting them in handcuffs.  Not sure what the implications of that are exactly… best move on.

Plus, I think they had seriously over catered!  It was basically like their very own vegan bake off.  Seriously sweet delights on offer.  Yum!  Thank you bakers, very impressive, very impressive indeed.  I had the Victoria sponge.  No, not all of it, but a hefty chunk.  An excellent choice.

So all in all, a very fine, and celebratory parkrun morning.  The fifty celebrants were rightly chuffed by their milestone, and as I said to them, assuming bicentennial woman now ceases parkrunning henceforth, in a little over three years, as long as they don’t miss a week, they’ll have caught up with her too!  Very impressive. Well done all.

It was hard to tear myself away from the bonhomie and squishy chairs, but inevitably that time came when we needed to all go our separate ways.  Quick shout out for the cafe’s outside area though, it has an undercover space with sofas and play houses and all sorts, just right for bringing your own cake and pop up party!

DP squishy chairs

Special thanks to the Bakewell parkrun hi-vis heroes who made it so.  You are awesome.  It was a blast at Bakewell, the arctic blast bit wasn’t the best but the fun blast was epic.  Thank you!

Time to go home, but it was a very jolly parkrun morning, and a bonus that we’d landed on one that went ahead.  The gusts died down, the sun came out, and I was rewarded with clear and spectacular views, and no scary being blown off the road fright moments on the drive home.  I do like happy endings.

Hope you made your parkrun too.  🙂

Happy parkrunning wherever you go, just #dfyb


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.  Bit of a time vampire, if you do, you might be stuck on the sofa for a while, ‘just researching options’.  Hmm.

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Best laid plans… long run thwarted but feeling the running lurve, besides, tomorrow is another day and we runners, well we can do anything!

Digested read: fairly mundane running reflections, didn’t manage to get out for my run today, that’s all really. Still some running related ponderings though, supplements, running fatigue, Big Running Weekend, subjective stuff, maybe just best to skip this post and instead just scroll down to the end to see the best parkrun fancy dress photo ever.  Personally I think historical re-enactment themes have hitherto been under represented at parkruns across the UK.  Time for change people.  Time for change!

Today was supposed to be my long run, 18 miles, and I was all set up and ready – if not exactly raring – to go.  Water bottles filled, route mapped (to be fair, that wasn’t too complicated, as I was planning on just heading out to the Monsal trail again); naked bars stowed, porridge consumed, and then my entire day just got hijacked.  My free day to head out and run in a teasing gap between a stretch of seemingly endless torrential rain and the threat of snow to come later in the week disappeared over the horizon.  It was really frustrating.  In  case you think I was just looking for an excuse (and to be fair, sometimes I am) this was not the case today.  I had a major leak last night, the fourth since I’ve moved in to my new home.  The apocalyptic weather was without mercy.

storm cloud

However, despite my initial despair, virtual if not actual sun was shining on me, and the good news is that not only was I able to get in touch with the builder, but his representative on earth appeared, tooled up to fix it.  Trust me, you don’t stand up a builder ever.  FACT.  Unfortunately, every silver lining has its cloud, and the presence of said builder involved a certain amount of being in and hanging around.  Then more people were doing landscaping work out the back, which was more accurately an homage to hysterical historical re-enactment of life in the trenches.  Never seen so much mud and water, and not in a good way. Bogs when you want the fun of scampering through them on the hills is one thing, but trench-foot inducing crumbling pits swallowing up any mortal who dared to brave them is another thing altogether.  Also, my car got blocked in by skips and vans and although I could have got them moved, it would have interrupted multiple building projects as by coincidence neighbours up and down the street are also having building work done. It seems the recent snow and epic amounts of rain have tested the housing structures nearby to breaking point, remedial work all round.

Eventually, I was freed up to go out, but by that time it was mid afternoon, and for me (don’t laugh superior runners) I felt it was realistically too late for me to fit in a really long run.  I considered doing a shorter one, maybe the half marathon route, but then I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough left in the engine to do my proper planned one tomorrow.  I feel so clueless, maybe it would have been good to do another longish run, but then again, the whole point of my running goals for this week is to try to go slow and steady but consistently, and I’d like to start the run feeling OK not broken.  Tomorrow looks like it’s the only other weather window where I can rearrange things so I can get out for a decent length of time.  I’ll have to, or I’ll end up doing my long run in the dark, rain or snow, none of these options appeal to me.

Much as it goes against the grain, I’m trying to put a positive spin on this interruption. I have been feeling absolutely dreadful for nearly a week – ever since my miserable long run down in London.  Just exhausted, weak, sore throat, no energy blah de blah.   Today for the first time I’m feeling a bit brighter. I genuinely don’t know if this is because I have in fact been ill with a low-level virus and now I’m better, if it just takes me a long time to recover from my long runs or if it is a placebo effect because I have dear reader, caved in and started taking an iron supplement.  Whatever the reason, I’m  hugely relieved and actively looking forward to heading out on a run without having to fight back the impulse to cry through sheer fatigue.  One positive I have hung on to though, even when feeling really, really rough, is that at no stage have I felt like pulling out of London.  I most definitely want to get there, it isn’t a case of not being committed, more the mind and heart are willing but the body is weak.  I wouldn’t mind having been so exhausted if I looked like this when fatigued, but unfortunately I don’t.  Not to worry, maybe I will after running the London Marathon, because that is the inference in the Daily Mirror article it is used to illustrate.  Now that would be a win…


Oh, re the supplement, I’ve only been taking it a couple of days, so I don’t believe it can possibly have made a difference already, but I suppose if I have been really depleted that might be so.  For your information – I know how you are probably hanging on my every word for top tips on nutrition as I’m such a running role model in these parts – I’ve gone for Floradix.  It was eye-wateringly expensive, I actually wonder if the shock at the price tag basically reboots your metabolic rate, and any temporary boost in perceived energy levels has nothing to do with the intrinsic contents of the bottle at all, but rather is just your body implementing fright and flight mode.  Frankly, I don’t care how it works, whatever it takes.


I’ve gone for a liquid iron supplement because at last weekend’s Accelerate Big Running Weekend I learnt, amongst other things, that liquid iron is easier to absorb and less likely to cause digestive issues. Also, that it’s apparently very common for long distance runners (yes, like me) or people in general who are upping their running regimes, to become depleted in iron, and as I’m a vegetarian who does far too much meal planning by gazing in the fridge to see what’s lurking at the back and not enough actual working out a balanced food diary a week ahead, I know I more than likely am not following an ideal diet.  Maybe now I’m doing significantly increased mileage by my reference terms I just can’t get away with it any more.  It will be genuinely interesting to see if I do notice a difference over the coming weeks.

Would you like to know about the Big Running Weekend?  If you don’t already know about it, you’ll be really annoyed because you’re too late now, you’ve missed it.  Oh well, hopefully it will come round again same time next year.   Or maybe it will be more like Brigadoon, and only appear once  Basically, this was a sort of weekend festival of running, organised by a local to Sheffield independent running shop Accelerate, and held at the rather fine venue of the Woodland Centre in Ecclesall Woods.  For but a tenner, you got a fetching wrist band, just like at a proper festival, which allowed access all areas for the duration of the event.  There were loads of things to dip in and out of: guided runs; running shoes to try on; talks and films; a whole weekend trail school (there was an extra charge for that) led runs; Q&A sessions.   Really though, and this is a complement not a criticism, the absolutely best bit was being able to hang out with running buddies and talk about running related things with like-minded people who not only don’t back away when you try to talk to them about blisters, trainer grip or running technique but actively engage with you and offer useful tips!  Amazing.  Plus there were other helpful things like pizza (vegan options available); coffee and cake.

big running weekend

More specifically, there were guided runs deliberately at night, they weren’t just running in the dark because they couldn’t find their way home.  There were woodrun drills, which are actually useful and not only a means of manipulating others for the personal amusement of the running coaches (though clearly that is a pleasing additional benefit) and much inter-disciplinary networking fuelled by caffeine and cake.  Hurrah!  Great photos too, actually – hang on, I’ll go nick a few, so you can also enjoy them. Thanks nice people at Accelerate in general and Ben Lumley photography in particular.  Some of these photos are really crying out for a caption competition, but that’s not in my remit.  Create your own dear reader, create your own.

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As previously reference, my energy levels have been non-existent of late, so I wasn’t up for any of the runs, I barely dragged my weary carcass around Bakewell parkrun on Saturday morning, but I did get along to some of the talks, and you know what they were great!  Not just engaging, but inspirational too.

I went on the Saturday night, pizza first, then into the woodlands meeting room which was roasty toasty warm and all invitingly lit up with fairy lights and a room full of both familiar faces from the Sheffield running community (yes there is) and friends you haven’t made yet.  All good.

As is often the case, I’d rolled up with little idea of who the speakers were going to be, I enjoy the element of surprise, the pleasure of a lucky dip.  Anyway, I have to admit I didn’t know either of the speakers before, but now I am going to stalk them both.  First up was Damian Hall:

Damian Hall
7pm, Saturday 10th March 2018, Sycamore Suite (Main Building).

Fresh from his win at the multi day Ice-Ultra  and author of the book, ‘A Year on the Run’, Damian takes centre stage.

Damo is an outdoor journalist and ultra runner.  Like Ben, he too has represented Great Britain and last finished 1st Vet at the infamous Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc. He has also placed on the Spine Race and holds the odd long distance running record.
As to his talk, Damian describes it as, “A midlife-crisis, a toilet and the power sob : what running long distances has taught me about life, the universe and everything”.

He looks like this:

What to say about his talk? I don’t know it’s hard to summarise because it wasn’t so much the anecdotes about the races impressive as they were; the self-deprecating humour at the photos of him running in with ecstatic happy children at the climax of the UTMB where he sheepishly pointed out his wife pushing a buggy behind and the time it took for his children to revert to calling him poo-head; nor the amazing photos of the roads less travelled he’d run across, nor even the extraordinary lengths – literally – he’d run.  I honestly think it was the positivity, the idea you won’t know you limits if you never try to find them.

dh and kids

and, best of all these three key take-away points that spoke as if directly to me:

  • Ultra running is as much an eating competition as a running one, you need to fuel loads. (Tick).
  • No-one can run that far, so you are better of training by going on a hiking holiday and carrying a pack and doing lots of walking (result, I don’t even have to carry a pack because my own supplies of adipose layers provide my own bespoke weight belt at all times).  (Tick).
  • ‘We all know that we could cover 100 miles if we really had to, if our children’s lives depend upon it say, or the house is burning down’ (I guess that would depend how much you like your children or house, but I take the general point) so of course a marathon should be doable for pretty much anyone, if your mind is focused enough on doing it. He used the analogy of how people can often put on a sprint finish when they see the finish line even if one hundred metres before they thought them self to be well and truly spent.  It should be doable, if you want to.  (Tick).
  • You don’t necessarily need to do crazy mileage in training, what you do need is hours on your feet to build endurance without risking injury – walking is your friend (tick).  For ultra runs you can’t possibly run a 100 mile plus ‘long run’ each week, so cannier regimes are needed.  Excellent news.

The second speaker was Geoff Cox.  He looks like this:

big run running legend

What a legend!  In his sixtieth year, he set himself the challenge of running three named Lake District fell running rounds, Bob Graham, Joss Naylor lakeland challenge and the Gerry Charnley Round, which I’d not heard of before but links three youth hostels so is doable over three days with comfy night stops for the less adventurous explorers out there.  Don’t tell anyone, but I might be a little bit in love with Geoff, he seemed to have just decided to do it and so he did. That is remarkable enough – though it wasn’t from a base of nothing, he’d done football and things before.  However, the real tour de force was how he described what being out on the fells meant to him. After he’d completed this challenge, he tried to process all his thoughts by writing it down.  However, he found he just couldn’t, not in prose, so he just wrote it as a poem.  A love poem to the land in a way, and this got picked up and made into a film, and it’s just joyful.  It reminded me of all that draws me to the hills.  However badly I run, when my little legs have taken me up through the heather and on to the peaks, and I can finally look across the landscape opening up before me and feel the wind rush through me and everything falls into perspective.  The earth solid beneath me, the elements wild around me, yep, this is worth it, you don’t have to run well to reap these rewards, just put one foot in front of another and look about you.  He gave only a brief introduction and then let his film, Trailpike, speak for itself, and it did.  The Trailpike film is here, it’s amazing, go on, have a look, it’s only 11 minutes of your life.  I don’t know what was more inspiring, the physical challenge, or the way he suddenly, and unexpectedly embraced poetry as a vehicle to communicate what the running challenges meant to him. What’s more, in case you are worried, it isn’t cringy poetry of the ‘oh bless’ type, it’s genuinely using language in a way that I think transports you to that parallel world of the long and lonely trails.  Epic.  Oh and did I mention that he found out recently he’d been running a while with a busted carotid artery, the man is a medical marvel!  Wonder if he remembered to mention that on his disclaimer prior to taking part in the woodrun drills earlier…

geoff cox

I say, ‘lonely’ trails, but for the record, all the speakers had teams around them, the camaraderie of the fells and mountains being a recurring theme. As Damo said (well, everyone else seems to call him that, why shouldn’t I feign a personal connection now we’ve been in the same room together for over 60 minutes) ‘there are people I know from running that would do anything for me and me for them, we might not know the names of each others partners or children, but if asked to be on a stormy mountain side in the snow at 2 in the morning with coffee and cake for each other, we’d be there in a heartbeat‘.  I paraphrase, but I think we all get the gist.  He also spoke of hallucinations brought about by sleep deprivation, but they seemed largely benign.. flying lanterns anyone?

Then, even though you might have thought the room was so jam-packed with good will, mutual supportive appreciation and all round huggyness that it could stand no more, extra feel good fell factor was generated by showing the Nicky Spinks film of her extraordinary Double Bob Graham triumph.  I thought I’d seen this account of how on 15 May 2016, Spinks completed a double Bob Graham Round in 45 hours 30 minutes, beating the previous record set by Roger Baumeister in 1979 by more than an hour.  He was from Sheffield by the way.  Turns out I hadn’t.  It’s such a feel good film.  Again, there is the triumph over adversity theme as it interweaves the story of her cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment and recovery.  It is most certainly a tale of individual tenacity, but again the outpouring of support from her crew, family and friends and indeed Joss Naylor himself.

Nicky Spinks is extraordinary.  I’ve sort of met her, in that I gave her my £1.50 for the Truncerace where she was collecting entry money the DAY AFTER her double Bob Graham success.  I was too star struck to say anything other than ‘thank you’, as she told me my number, but I still felt the aura of her presence.  The main thing from her film though, was an observation she made early on.  She’d been half thinking of maybe doing the double Bob Graham, and not really ‘come out’ and told anyone of her idea.  She seemed to be saying that absolutely critical to her success was that when she did, she told Joss Naylor I think, and he basically said ‘of course you must!  You can absolutely do this!‘  and so she did!

After the film when we doing some mingling and chatting – much as after any run, only on this occasion without having run anywhere first, we pondered this point in particular.  My running buddies and I agreed that a large part of us achieving our running goals, admittedly more modest ones, but even so – was seeing that when we tested the idea on other better/ more experienced runners they didn’t laugh in our faces, they just said ‘why not?’  We are but fragile creatures, but give us a shove in the right direction, thrust us upwards, and we might yet fly!  I remember mooting the idea of doing the 12.12 to the guys at Frontrunner, and they were so supportive, I was astonished, and you know what, the Dig Deep is my new favourite event now, so there you go.  I don’t know about track running at all, but in terms of the off-road runners hereabouts, there is very much a give it a go attitude and plenty of really talented people around who are generous in sharing their insights and expertise.  Sort of restores your faith in human nature really, and there is a sense of some shared values too, an appreciation of the wonders of the natural world laid out before us, and maybe some basic humility that goes along with the territory for off road runners, who amongst us has not done a face plant in a bog, got lost in heather or cried with gratitude when a marshal has freely given of a hug when most needed.  Even the mighty Damo is an advocate of the power cry after all, we are all vulnerable out on them there hills.

So talking of generous sharing of expertise, I went back for more on Sunday afternoon.  I mean, obviously I went to marshal at Graves Junior parkrun first, because there is no greater feel good factory in the whole of Sheffield:

and then it was back to the woods for the women’s Q&A session.  A wide circle and a simple to and fro contemplative, supportive dissemination of running wisdom from some formidable but approachable women athletes, all local.  How fabulous is that.  Answer, pretty fabulous, but it would have been grand to give each of these women an individual platform to share their stories too.  The event brought us a panel comprising:

  • Jen Scotney: Jen has recently completed the Spine Challenger coming 3rd lady in a distance of over 100 miles — non stop! This is not even the longest run she is planning this year. Jen, is a vegan runner and happy to answer questions on her running nutrition too.
  • Laura Inglis: Accelerate Performance Centre coach. Laura has coached beginners to high performance club athlete’s and through determination and continued learning is making rapid progress as a coach. She is also an ultra runner and last year won the Ladybower 50.
  • Margo Duncan: Wood Run leader and family GP who is a very experienced runner. Having turned her attention to triathlon she has since competed for GB within her age group. She also has a wealthy of experience at trail and road racing.
  • Debbie Smith: Climber, turned Adventure Racer turned ultra distance mountain biker and then runner. Few will know that Debs has won every UK Adventure Racing title and was consistently in the top 3 for 24Hr mountain biking. In turning her attention to Ultra running she has completed the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc, taking a top 10 spot in her age category. In Mountain Marathons, such as the OMM she has also been a regular winner or podium finisher.

That’s quite a lot of running expertise in anyone’s estimation!

q and a panel

Again it’s hard to pick highlights because so much got covered in such encouraging terms.  Two of this epic panel are vegan runners, which is encouraging, it rather exposes the tedious lie about not being able to have proper nutrition on a plant-based diet.  I’m only vegetarian (vegan-curious) and have felt under pressure from some quarters to re-evaluate that.  Not negotiable by the way…  The mood was supportive.   The discussion moved through nutrition; cross training; hormones; impact of menstruation on running (not much research, but nobody fancied doing an ultra with a period even if some evidence suggests you might be stronger then – maybe mooncups are the way to go – woman’s hour had a great feature on these a while back by the way); goal setting; ‘fitting it all in’; supplements; fatigue; female running idols (Jasmin Paris came up amongst others, not least for her capacity to run at a high level, throughout her pregnancy)  – anything and everything really.

The panel shared memorable moments, and again, the sense that goals can motivate you, and if you want that goal enough you can make time to prepare for them. Having said that, there was perspective here too, ‘it’s not open heart surgery, you are just putting one foot in front of another so just try it’.  Enjoy it, was a theme.  Anecdotes about hallucinations were quite graphic, but not necessarily unpleasant, almost a boon you might think!  I learned that greater love hath no one for their running partner than offering up their own dry sleeve in lieu of a hanky when all the runner’s clothing and tissues are too saturated to offer service.   I’m not really sold on triathlon though, call me lightweight by all means (that would be a first to be fair) but I don’t want people swimming over me and elbowing me in the face before I have to ride and then run for a very long way!

Favourite moment. Question from an awesome veteran runner who moves amongst us within the smiley pack  ‘I’d like to do some of these challenges, but how do you get a team, what about the logistics, how to make it happen?  Who can support me, how can I learn by supporting others?‘  and this triggered a collective communal outpouring of the running equivalent of ‘I am Spartacus‘ as each person in the room rose as one and volunteered to support any such venture.  The running hive will make it so, you have only to believe and it can happen.  I felt quite emotional.  Together anything is indeed possible, this can happen.  Just name the day and bring it on!


These women all had innate talent for sure, but they also oozed constructive support, it made me believe that whilst not exactly anything is possible, we most certainly won’t know our limits if we don’t try, and really why not try?  With a bit of common sense and commitment we can probably achieve more than we think, especially if we utilise the support and expertise that surrounds us.  I suppose maybe I just needed to be reminded of what I said about myself, some years ago when I started keeping this blog.  I made then, and make now, no claim to be a ‘proper runner’ I hardly run at all, what’s more, if anything my running has got worse since I started, but ultimately, for me running has never been important because I can be good at it, rather it is important because I can learn to enjoy doing it badly.  It has linked me to some extraordinary, awesome and amazing people and taken me to unexpected places and on unexpected adventures, and anything else is frankly a bonus.

So you see, it was all lovely.

The afternoon ended with a warm glow of optimism and appreciation for all things runners and running related.  This weekend was timely for me, I’ve had a rubbish couple of weeks.  The enthusiasm and practical positivity of those around the run HQ brought a bit of perspective to things.  Running is supposed to be fun, challenges are best when self-selected and can help you stretch and grow they offer the chance to succeed not fear of failure.  With regards to this London Marathon malarkey, I don’t know if I can do it, but I do know there is nothing to be lost by giving it my best shot. Yep, training hasn’t gone how I hoped, but this is the first – possibly only – attempt, I’m bound to make mistakes.  The fact I’m making loads merely demonstrates how resourceful and experimental I am.  My goal remains to get around, and that should be completely realistic, if I can get to the start uninjured, I do believe I can get to the end, and whatever happens it’ll be an adventure, what more could I wish for.  I will be one of the lucky ones for even being able to embark on this adventure.  Hurrah!  Everything’s grand.

So cheers Accelerate. I know it took a team of people working really hard to pull this off, but for what it’s worth, i thought it was an informative, enjoyable and inclusive event.  A running tonic on my doorstep. How blessed am I.  🙂

Oh, you want to know what the best parkrun fancy dress photo ever is?  It’s from Ormskirk parkrun, in honour of International Women’s Day, a re-enactment of Emily Wilding Davison’s  protest at the Epsom Derby in 1913.  The verisimilitude is uncanny.

I find this effort heartening.  The timing of this homage to past protest seems especially apt as university staff have just voted to continue in their own strike action centred around pensions entitlement today.  The power of protest can deliver, but sometimes you do have to fight for what you believe in.

That fight might of course be in your head.  Running is in the mind, believe you can, and you will.

between the ears

That’s what I’m hoping for anyway.

A lot of hoping.  I might have to do a bit of training too though, just to be on the safe side.

Fingers crossed for a long run triumph tomorrow.  Think of me!  🙂

Over and out.


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