Posts Tagged With: parkrun code

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

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

Undigested read:

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

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

First some research.

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

super cool york facebook image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bingo not

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

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

Course Description

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

and it looks like this: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

international rescue whangerei parkrun

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

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

More milling and chilling…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There was a cute dog jogging along

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

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

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

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

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

All round again…

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

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

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

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Caught them!

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

jacob leeks mogg

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

Of course I took some more pictures:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good oh.

🙂

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

Checking out the sea at Clifton parkrun.

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Clifton parkrun, Nottingham.  Sixth of the seven seas.  Result.

Undigested read:

I was contemplating going to Clifton parkrun anyway, it’s not too far away from Sheffield, and will nab me a sixth of my seven needed cs for the much coveted pirates badge.  I hadn’t particularly prioritised coming here, but was given a timely nudge by a recent parkrun blog post on alphabeteering challenges.  They featured Clifton parkrun as their possible ‘c’ to seize (c what I did there?  I know, genius!)  They pointed out:

Clifton parkrun in Nottingham is definitely one for you to ‘C’ – see what we did there? Clifton is a relative newcomer to the parkrun family having launched in January 2018 and involves two laps of the playing fields, followed by one shorter lap.

It’s already proved popular with the local community; in just seven months, almost 1,000 different women, men, girls and boys have had their barcodes scanned at Clifton!

Fair do’s.  I’ll go there then.  Never sure where / whether to put the apostrophe in fair do’s, I mean you can’t write it ‘does’ because that’s the wrong word entirely, whether as a plural of rabbits or referring to third person singular present of ‘do’. Nightmare, hope the grammar police are having a day off…

The other important factor about Clifton parkrun is that it is in Clifton Park Nottingham, not Clifton Park, Rotherham, although it wouldn’t be a disaster to go there by accident as they do in fact have a very nice parkrun there, but it’s Rotherham parkrun, so it wouldn’t be a ‘c’ (disappointing potentially for budding pirates) but would be a potential ‘r’ (cheering for budding pirates currently without an arrrrrrrrrrrrrrr).   Such is the yin and yan of parkrun life.  In fact, Rotherham parkrun may well have been where I got my arrrrrrr, now I come to think of it, although I have a feeling I wasn’t particularly chasing running challenges back then.  Those were simpler times perhaps, though I wouldn’t change a thing…  Or did I get it at Rother Valley parkrun?  Can’t remember and can’t be bothered to check the chronology.  Rotherham parkrun has better coffee and a museum on site though, and fits the Clifton park link best, so let’s go with that for the purposes of the narrative.   Sometimes you shouldn’t let absolute truth get in the way of a good story, or even, as in this case, a fairly mediocre one.  Where’s the harm after all?  There’s also Clifton Park in Bristol, but that doesn’t have a parkrun as far as I can tell so no point at all in a parkrunner to rocking up there for 9.00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, that way disappointment lies.

You may think I’m banging on about all these many and varied Clifton locations at boring length simply stating the obvious, i.e. check out your parkrun destination prior to departure, but confusion can occur dear reader, although the truly dedicated will ride this out.  Did you not hear about the parkrun volunteer, Ian Guest,  who

had intended to help at a run in Clifton Park, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, on Saturday morning.  But on Friday evening he realised he had signed up for the run in Clifton, Nottingham, 37 miles (60km) away.  Despite his error – and thoughts of backing out – he made it to the race after an early morning bike ride to his local train station.

So there you have it, Ian Guest, parkrun hero, though you have to hope not a travel planner adviser by profession.  He got his 15 minutes of fame and immortality in the parkrun annals of history, so not an altogether bad outcome there.  High five to him all the same.  Respect!  #loveparkrun #parkrunhero

I don’t really know how hashtags work to be honest, but that seems fair… 🙂

Ian Guest parkrun hero

So, I’d be going to Clifton parkrun, though not by bike.  Best check out what to expect from the course then, now I know where I’m heading.  Well, the Clifton parkrun, Nottingham, official website course blah de blah describes it thus:

Course Description
The start and finish are located behind the pavilion building and are a short walk from the car park. The course follows the perimeter of two Clifton playing fields and alongside Fairham Brook. The route is run mainly on grass and consists of two full anticlockwise laps of the perimeter and a further short lap of part of the large playing field.

Oh crap, ‘mainly on grass’ I shall have to steal myself for that – but on the plus side, an on site coffee option, not seen one of them in the last few weeks.

and the course looks like this – sort of Marge Simpson in profile if you squint a bit and get the angle right.

 

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Can you see, her hair, her head and maybe her shoulders, it’s not an exact science I admit, but have a go.  It’s partly the blue outline I concede.  Still can’t see?  Have you heard of aphantasia ?  No reason, just asking.

Stalking the Clifton parkrun Facebook page in advance, I can’t help but note there is a distinct lack of Hawaiian shirts (not good), but a lot of shout outs for milestones and interesting links posted (good).  Yep, this will be a grand destination.  There are some fab photos of running across a bridge which seems to be shaded by some glorious trees, that’s good, oh, and quite a lot of what looks suspiciously like a sports field.  Hang on, I need to check average times now.  Please let this be one that welcomes slower participants…  OK, just checked, not going to lie, bit worried about this.  It has quite a teeny turn out, between 50-70 each week, and although of course it will be ‘inclusive’ as all parkruns are, there aren’t enough regular participants to make me confident that there’ll be a cohort of others at my pace.  Gulp.  Oh well, I’m committed now.  What is it they say, feel the fear and do it anyway.  As long as there’s an amusing anecdote in it further down the line and access to a post parkrun coffee it’ll be fine.  At least there’ll be less pressure on parking and a shorter queue at the cafe.  …  Eeek.

The day dawned, and off I went.  No offence to Nottingham, but I’m really over the roundabouts now. There are a crazy amount of them en route, and I don’t find it a very nice drive, the road layouts are to me confusing, and there seem to be endless fly overs and re-routing.  I don’t particularly like driving anyway.  I did notice I went down remembrance road at one point, handy reminder for #dfyb (don’t forget your barcode) although it would have been a bit late for me by that point if I had forgotten.  Don’t worry dear reader, I have loads of them, spares in the car, in various bags, my back pack and I wear the wrist band anyway.  I have yet to experience the catastrophe of forgetting it, but I daresay it wil happen one day.  When it does, I’ll have to pretend to make light of it, after all, you can still participate without it, but inside a little bit of me would die.  Brave face outside, heartbroken within.  I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s true, why else are there all those parkrun themed memes?

Precisely.

Anyway, I was ok in that respect, and following my satnav nicely.  The annoying satnav voice confidently announced I’d reached my destination in due course.  Oh.

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Unfortunately I clearly had not.  I drove on a bit though, and big relief, just a little further on, a humungous parkrun banner adorned Clifton Park.  Phew, I was in the right place.  All good!

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The sign was not only reassuring, because it meant I was in the right place, but it is welcoming too.  It has the strap line walk/ jog/ run.  Inclusive.

The sun was out, the park deserted, I went to explore.

The most immediately striking unexpected thing at this parkrun, was the presence of poultry.  No really.  I arrived, parked up, and then it was a case of ‘oooh, what strange sound is this?’  A rooster, sorry, that’s American isn’t it?  Of course I mean a cockerel.  How cool is that, definitely the calming morning sounds of hens waking up and scratching about.  Further investigation revealed, or at least strongly suggested, the park is adjacent to some allotments, hence hens.  I do like hens.  I think that’s quite a fine USP for a parkrun location.  Not as classy as having a parkrun peacock I suppose, I bet there’s a parkrun somewhere that has one, though admit I don’t know where for sure. There is a parkrun in Australia that has it’s own emu, Fluffy, Nambour parkrun.  On reflection, I think an emu would be better than a peacock.  Don’t get me wrong, peacocks look amazing, but they are scavengers.  I spent some time working overseas, and have never quite got over the shock and repulsion of seeing a group of peacocks – what is the collective noun for them – oooh, found it an ostentation of peacocks (great choice of collective noun)  scavenging and squabbling over the putrefying carcass of a long dead donkey, picking maggots out of it’s liquefying eye sockets.  Couldn’t see them in quite the same light thereafter, even if I do fully appreciate that is a useful ecological function!  Shudder, the very thought makes me heave.  Lets have a lovely picture of fluffy obliging with a parkrun pic pose instead – personally I wouldn’t stand quite that close to him/her, but not my call!  I’d certainly be stopping to take pictures of Fluffy en route though, mind you, I have been known to stop and take photos of almost anything on parkrun routes, if the mood takes me.

A morning cluck of awakening hens, punctuated with a cock crow on arrival was a new and pleasing parkrun experience for me.  Of course, one must always be prepared for the unexpected at parkrun.  Not as unexpected as inadvertently landing on a shark whilst out surfing say – which has happened, but things that aren’t quite the norm based on your previous parkrun experiences.  Having said that, I have seen a volunteer eaten by a shark at Graves junior parkrun so it could happen again elsewhere I suppose…  Mr Blobby was scarier though, and more unexpected another time.  About the shark thing though, I thought the guy was just leading the warm up at juniors, but on reflection, I wonder if he was actually trying to escape.  Maybe with the benefit of hindsight we should have assisted.  Oh well.  Life and learn. You can also be swallowed by hippos apparently. That’s happened too.  Be careful out there.

I love that all parkruns are the same but different, and have twists on familiar themes.  For example, did you know that Bedworth parkrun had a guest artist at their parkrun this week, who did sketches in real time (a bit like a court reporter artist but without the suspicion around criminal intent with respect to those attending) and got a photographer’s credit from Bedworth parkrun for doing so.  Her pictures are epic!  Love these, so wish I could do something like that.

Anyway, I may be going a tad off topic here, back to Clifton parkrun, Nottingham.  As well as the pleasing (and soothing) presence of hens, there was ample free parking, and an old-style municipal pavilion. Actually, not old style, but actually from the olden days of my more extreme youth.  Any number of similarly designed building would have popped up at playing fields back in the day.  I couldn’t decide if this made me nostalgic or induced trauma, hard to tell the difference sometimes.  The building was old but well maintained and excellent facilities.  I can report bicycle parking, loos, and an abundance of instructional signs inside and out.  This covered how to open doors, what not to do – they really don’t like ball games here, even on the tennis courts apparently which seems harsh.  There was also a warning about not over-staying or you’d be locked in the park overnight.  I was hoping very much my parkrun time would be fast enough to avoid that, but you if not, I wouldn’t be able to claim I hadn’t been warned about this eventuality in advance!

There was an excellent flower display with fine container planting in abundance.  This appeared to be a lovingly maintained outdoor and indoor space.    That was good, less good was the sight of this: 

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Yes, yes, I know it looks lovely, but it is also very definitely an expanse of sports field.  I couldn’t really grasp the run route from the course descriptor, but it did sound like you’d be running round more than once.  I suddenly felt really anxious.  There wasn’t anyone about – I was early of course – but the complete absence of anyone else suggested a small cohort of parkrunners and therefore the impossibility of getting lost in a throng.    It’s an interesting one, really huge parkruns can be over-crowded, noisy, over-whelming and a bit shovey at times, but you can be anonymous in a crowd, enjoy a mass buzz of collective enthusiasm and embrace the shared experience.  Smaller ones are often friendlier and more intimate, and generally quieter literally so less overwhelming, but you can’t just disappear into a mass of other runners.  For the first time, seeing the field, and realising ‘no-one will ever know’ I did consider bailing.  I’m not feeling great about my ‘running’ at the moment, and didn’t want to feel under pressure to be faster than I can comfortably manage.  I know this shouldn’t happen at parkrun, but it can, being a tail-walker is an art not all pull off.  The vast majority do, but as with my lamentable experiences of cross country, I’ve had appalling experiences with sweepers on organised runs (though not parkrun) which left me feeling completely crushed and humiliated and which the memories of which have never really gone away.  PE teachers and judgemental others have a lot to answer for in terms of turning plenty of people off exercise in general and running in particular.  The vitriol poured on slower runners at some organised events that should know better – fat-shaming at this year’s London Marathon for starters, is very real and heart breaking really.  That’s another reason to love parkrun, it  seeks to be inclusive for all, but unfortunately, it takes more than a few parkruns – or well over 200 in my case, to erase those negative voices that tell you you have no right to be there.  You aren’t the right shape, the right speed or have the right attitude to take up space at an activity based event.  And to be fair, the actual voices that have expressed directly to me that ‘there shouldn’t be walkers at parkrun’ even if that isn’t the official line.  Gulp, to run or not to run.

aaaargh

Well, I’m here now, it’ll still be a ‘c’ and I’ve always been conscientious if not keen.  And there is always the parkrun code – respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  It’ll be fine, probably, and even if it isn’t fine, there’s already been the calming cluck of hens by way of consolation and there may yet be an amusing anecdote in it afterwards.  Anyhow, type 2 fun is till fun right?  Just kicks in later on.  All good 🙂UK 5k parkrun Code (With Dogs) JPG

So I made my way into the pavilion for my precautionary pee.  I couldn’t initially find the loos, there was an enormous sign directing me to them, but as it was back lit by bright early morning sunshine it was in silhouette so I couldn’t see it.  A nice parkrunner not only pointed the way, but led me to them, that’s good service isn’t it.  I felt better already and was soon relieved in every sense.

There was an area set up for post parkrun tea and coffee, and volunteers were assembling.  Outside the pavilion signs were going up and parkrun paraphernalia coming out in force.  I went to explore.  I tried to get some nice unposed photos of volunteers setting up, but am conscious I make it look like I’ve taken surreptitious photos of dodgy looking characters hanging around behind the back of a hedge somewhere, near the bins.  Spoiler alert, sometimes the camera does lie.

I wandered out in the general direction of what must be the course.  Some signs were already in place, and did little to dispel my sense of confusion, though on the plus side, I was confident it would probably make sense when you were actually under way.  I found the sweet little bridge I’d seen on earlier Facebook pages, and there were some lovely mature trees around it’s true.  The grounds were immaculate, no litter, no dog poo, bright early morning sun illuminated the space, and there was a slight nip in the air and the hint of a smell of autumn, fallen leaves, that kind of thing.

There was also the dinkiest finish funnel I’ve ever seen:

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For the purposes of comparison, take a look at this pic of the finish funnel at Bushy parkrun the same weekend.  Admittedly in use, rather than standing empty in eager anticipation of the parkrunners coming through.  It’s not an entirely fair juxtaposition, but of interest I hope, like I said, parkrunning at a huge parkrun of 1400 plus is a very different proposition to one of just around 70, each have to be experienced I think to get the full parkrun picture:

31 aug 2019 finish funnel

Clifton parkrun, Nottingham, also has it’s own variation on the Nazcan lines by the way, or possibly low-budget crop circles.  Good though, shows initiative, and but a short evolution from here to the Long Man of Wilmington further down the line. Nice.  Be sure to look out for how it’s developed when you go visit as I’m sure you will one day.

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Time was moving on apace, and there still weren’t very many people around.  I went towards the few who were.  Fair play to this parkrun.  Of all the parkruns I’ve been to, and it’s not hundreds, but it is a fair few 40+ this is the most proactively friendly I’ve been to.  People approached me to say hello as I was an unknown face.  It was a little like Sheffield Castle parkrun in that respect, and that is also a smallish community based parkrun.  I suppose the good thing about smaller parkruns is they get to know their regulars, and by extension, can spot newbies and welcome them personally if they wish to do so.  I started to feel better.  Someone explained the course, acknowledging it is flat, but the grass is currently on the long side so it might be that be tougher than usual/ expected.  One of the hi-vis wearers said she’d never actually run the course – because of volunteering always, I said to be fair I wasn’t sure I’d be actually running the course today either.  Someone said I might as well seeing as I was here, and I clarified that I meant I’d be run/walking, but they were all very encouraging and reassuring about that.   No problem.  It was a personalised welcome, and it did feel very friendly, inclusive and non-judgemental.  All these things weighed very much in its favour, though it wasn’t possible to reconfigure the route so it was less reminiscent of school sports days and flashbacks to the cumulative petty humiliations of taking part in those…

The start area was a little bit away from the pavilion, so I headed down to join the gaggle of others. There were a few other tourists, including some from Colwick parkrun, where weirdly, by coincidence, I was only last week – though I suppose it’s not that weird as that’s a Nottingham based parkrun too.  This included a father/son combo, who were writing the run report, plus, I was told, and have no reason to disbelieve it, the youngest ever person to reach the 250 parkrun milestone, impressive.  This parkrun might have but a small turn out, but still could attract parkrun royalty.  This was very fine!

Because they were doing the run report, they also took some photos, I’m in one!  Though it might not be that easy to spot me, I know I’m there though, and that’s the important thing from my perspective, close second to being on Strava to believing a parkrun really happened!  (to the left, behind someone in hi-vis and mid taking a photo myself, though I can’t work out which one).

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It was good to see IKEA bags making an appearance again. They seem to be the go-to receptacle for parkruns who provide storage and/or porterage between start and finish options at many a parkrun.  I’m sure they’d be very pleased.

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There wasn’t a first timers’ briefing as such, but many first timers like me were personally greeted.  There was though a Run Directors briefing which was a breath of fresh air.  It was delivered ‘in the round’ which gave an intimate and inclusive feel to it and was listened to in ….

… you won’t believe this….

a respectful and attentive silence!

I know, a first surely.  There were milestones, welcomes, quick summary of the course basically twice past volunteer ‘mum’ (did he really say mum, I must have misheard that, my mum was at her usual corner at Bushy parkrun) with ‘mum’ on your right, and then once with her to your left. This was a course summary I could retain for the duration of the 5k run.  Result!  It was nice, just felt friendly.

I asked about any overtaking rules, because of me being slow, but it seemed to be common sense.  Hilariously two other first timers (at Clifton, not parkrun per se) seemed to think I’d be overtaking them and said just call out as I pass.  In fact we ended up sort of leap frogging one another en route, and by the end they were my new best friends (I’m waving at you now in case you are looking).  They were much photographed on the way round, but I don’t want to put those pics in just yet, you’ll have to wait with everyone else.

I say complete silence, and that is true, but in the far, far distance, some canicross runners had very excited dogs plunging about with excitement.  From above, it may well have looked like we parkrunners had been corralled by these ferocious hounds.  In fact they were friendly, just exuberant, just as many parkrun participants can be!

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Oh, there isn’t really an overtaking rule, it’s grass, so you should be able to overtake if you want to, just common sense, and that seemed to be true.  I think this could be a fast course for them as like to run fast, though potentially muddy in winter, you’d need to pick the right time of year for short grass and hard ground.

And ‘go!’

Off we went.  A shortish scamper down to the first corner, and you do indeed turn right in the direction a marshal is helpfully pointing you in.

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Granted, she doesn’t appear to be pointing in this actual pic, but she was for the most part, I must have distracted her with my paparazzi impulses.

Round the corner, and you emerge from darkness, onto another playing field, this one with goal posts, and already the field of runners is thinning out, so you can see faster parkrunners on the far side, sprinting in the opposite direction.  The grass wasn’t too long really, it was fine, there was one nice bit where I actually got to kick through some autumn leaves which I’ve not done in ages – well, for about a year to be specific, made me think I must get out and find myself a woodland run sometime soon, I just love that evocative smell of leaf mold as fallen leaves become part of their landscape.  I fully recognise this might sound weird to the uninitiated, but to those of us in the know, it’s a giddy aromatic thrill!  Plus, running through leaves is always fun.  Fact.  Here you can see some early shots of my new best friends in action. They didn’t know they were my new best friends at this point, but we did start to chit chat a bit in between leap frogging one another (not literally, disappointingly) as we shifted our positions in relation to one another.  They were even paced, whereas I kept stopping to take photos and then sprinting (cough) on again.  In my head I was sprinting, to the untrained eye it may have seemed a bit less fast, streamlined, elegant and energy efficient than the word ‘sprint’ might imply.

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After a circuit round this smaller field -smaller than the larger one you have yet to run round – you exit alongside a gorgeous willow and over the little bridge.  Lovely!  A duck to the right and you run on a path in the protective shade of a mature tree line with the big field along side.

So you are running round a field, but not on the field as such, so that’s OK.  You can see faster runners ahead and alongside again, and there is a cheery marshal to point you round and prevent you (in the nicest possible way) from making a premature beeline to the finish funnel, don’t worry though, your time will come.

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Look, there are my new best friends again – we are on waving terms by now I think.  And ahead another cheery and cheering marshal.  I made a point of thanking marshals on the first time past, as I’m never sure I’ll still be smiling on my next time through.  Don’t want to sound like your spitting out a sarcastic ‘thanks‘ through gritted teeth, that can rather kill the moment.

Round the field, and before you know it, you are alongside the finish funnel, seen from the back, where marshals are on hand observing, and obliging parkrunners by posing for photos when required.  I think it comes under the ‘any other duties‘ section of the volunteering agreement, tacitly agreed of course, but agreed nevertheless, an understanding…  Aren’t they lovely?

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Rhetorical question, of course they are!

That’s one lap down then, and then I started to be lapped by the faster runners.  All very polite though, no shoving here.

Round all over again, right at the marshal point, and look there are my besties again, ahead of me this time:

And then once again over the little bridge, and this time I emerged in time to see speedier runners coming towards the end of their parkruns.  Smiley, energetic and feeling and sharing the parkrun love.

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and round we go, past the woman guarding the finish funnel again, but still cheering encouragement, it looked like most people had finished by now.

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Round the field, wave at the marshal at the far end still clapping, and paused to take a shot of the finish funnel in action from the back:

Then round and this time you get to turn left at the marshal you pass three times – she’s clapping in this shot, told you she was encouraging every runner every time.  Ye of little faith.

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And finally back to the finish funnel guard marshal.  I nearly had a bit of a panic attack as it looked like she was going to make the runner ahead of me go round again, that would be an extra lap, if she tried that on me, well, I don’t wish to be unpleasant or unreasonable (I am those things entirely by accident) but we might have had a falling out over that.  Dear reader, crisis averted, no extra laps required, she was just making sure no corners were cut and we went the correct side of the cones, that’s fair enough, rules is rules, happy with that.

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And but a short sprint to the finish, and the warm embrace of time keepers, funnel managers, bar scanners and marshals already returned from their spots.  I paused to get a shot of the runner ahead finishing:

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This was possibly a mistake, as when I got my result I found I was but 6 seconds too slow for my last remaining stopwatch bingo time (I still need a 20), oh what might have been eh?  Still, nowt to be done about that, I suppose it will happen when it happens, perhaps never.  If it’s this hard to get a single number between 1-60, it makes you appreciate the impossibility of ever getting lucky on the national lottery say, so it is educational if frustrating to be so thwarted.  It’s been said before but I’ll say it again, parkrun is always most educational, albeit often in quite unexpected ways!

Through the funnel, token received.  A fellow parkrunner offered to take my pic in their frame.  Yay, that was brilliant.  Spoiled only marginally by the fact the photo didn’t take for some reason. I’ve had this before with people using my camera, I think the off button is too near the picture taking one.  There is also the photo of me and Geronimo with Jessica Ennis that never made it, this no-doubt brilliantly framed photo of me all glowing and gorgeous post run, expertly captured within the Clifton parkrun frame is similarly lost to posterity.  Never mind, I know I was there, and it’s the thought that counts.  It’s a training issue and my fault, should have checked.  My best friends also took advantage of the parkrun location frame whilst another parkrunner did the honours.

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Then there was the lingering, parkfaffery of watching other runners finishing behind me (there weren’t many), cheering the tail walkers in (there were many) and having a quick chat with the RD and other hi-vis heroes.

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And then that was it, parkrun over, course take down commenced

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I followed the mown path back to the pavilion, thanking the tailwalkers when some of them at least came into view.  I’m always very grateful to see tailwalkers, especially when it’s a little pair or gang of them as that suggests they are going to walk round and chat and it’s social and chilled.

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I hesitated in the pavilion, partly to admire the tiled mosaics,

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and partly because coffee was calling, but I didn’t really have time, since for the second Saturday on the trot I needed to be back in time for visitors.  Last Saturday I got stood up, was really hoping it wouldn’t happy again.  I decided I couldn’t risk being late, and scoffed a banana in the car park, noting the cheery parkrun flag that I’d missed seeing earlier – they had their own cylindrical hole in which to shove the parkrun flag, excellent, many other parkruns lack such an innovation and the placing of the parkrun flag has tested the patience and ingenuity of many otherwise calm and clever parkrunners, rarely thwarted in achieving their goals in day to day life.  Yet another reason why running can be a great leveller!

And that was finally that.  Time to be waving goodbye to Clifton pakrun, Nottingham, and heading off back to Sheffield.

Oh, and I wasn’t stood up this week, so ego salvaged, phew.  Even had time for a shower before receiving visitors.  All good.

So in conclusion, despite my considerable apprehension about this parkrun, such that were it not for the rather shallow reason that it begins with a ‘c’ I’d have given it a miss, it was in fact a really nice parkrun.  Very, very friendly and welcoming, nice and chilled and one where you would definitely make friends if it were your local.   Small, but perfectly formed, proof positive, it proof were needed, that sometimes the best things come in small packages!

My only regret is that I didn’t have time to linger for a coffee.  I’m still not entirely sold on running round fields but that’s an issue in my hear and not a fair criticism, for them as like that sort of thing, it is the sort of thing they like. Thank you lovely parkrunners of Clifton parkrun Nottingham, for welcoming me to your fine parkrun and sorting out some late summer sunshine for the occasion too!  I hope our parkrun paths may cross again in the future, until then, happy parkrunning!  🙂

Oh, and the official run report is here if you want to see another tourist perspective.  It’s an excellent report for many reasons, but particularly because it mentions tourists ‘including from Sheffield‘ and that would be me!   Who doesn’t fall for external validation.  I exist.  I was there.  As I said, excellent!

Meanwhile, back at Bushy parkrun, my mum was getting her usual chorus of good morning cheers.  I got something in my eye watching this, but you’ll probably be fine(ish).  My favourite comment on this post by the way, was from the runner who said he much enjoyed shouting out hello as he runs by, but spent several months calling ‘good morning Mary‘ before someone pointed out to him it is actually Elisabeth.  Excellent.   I love a good self-deprecating but completely relatable anecdote.

So that’s it, parkrun day all over for another week, but don’t worry, it’ll come round again before we know it.

In the meantime, you can, should you wish to do so, read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice.  Choose wisely.  🙂

If you’ve not started parkrun yet, you may be nearly 15 years late, but better late than never, find your local event here; register; print out your barcode and rock up there next parkrunday and your Saturdays will never be the same again…

but in a good way!

Just #dfyb

🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Northallerton parkrun? Who wouldn’t fancy (dress) that!

Digested read: Northallerton parkrun now done and dusted.  It was fancy dress.  Hurrah!

Undigested read:

Not only was it a fancy dress parkrun, there was also a participant going for the fastest continuous line dancing 5k. He did good too if the picture is anything to go by.  Fine grapevine technique being demonstrated right there.   Respect.  Yet another example of how parkrun always bringeth forth unexpected joy.

Np behind you

What with the Morris dancing parkrunners and The Juggling parkrunner too, you never know what the new parkrun day might bring!  I don’t think the linedancing parkrunner has his own Facebook page though, well not yet anyway.

juggling parkrunner royal canal parkrun

Still, I’m running ahead of myself, which doesn’t happen all that often on account of the fact I’m more a slow and steady galumpher than a runner as such, so it almost seems a shame to rein it back in.  Nevertheless, back to basics.  My account of my visit to Northallerton parkrun follows.  Remember dear reader, I’m not concise, so I urge you to exercise caution, time vampire ahead, lots to share.  Continue at your own risk.  Or just scroll through for the photos, I won’t know, won’t care.  That reminds me:

dont know dont care

Genius!

All the decent photos are courtesy of the Northallerton parkrun volunteer photographer team, they were out in force for this event, what with it being their birthday and all.  You could be papped from all angles, ready or not!  Naturally I feel obligated to intersperse their fab shots with my blurry ‘well, it captures the atmosphere/ has comedic value’ ones, so as to make their efforts look even better by comparison. Thank you lovely Northallerton parkrun for taking and sharing on their Facebook page though, appreciated 🙂  Look for the albums for 3rd August 2019 and be amazed.

Now, where was I?

Oh yes, wanting to travel the four corners of the parkrun world.  Well, UK anyhow.  Well, figuratively, if not literally?  What’s that?  What is this ‘four corners’ adventure of which I speak?  Dear Reader, I remind you once again of the running challenges chrome extension, which today brings with it me working towards the compass challenge virtual badge.  Hurrah!

tourism

I’m on a roll with my compass challenge it seems.  By which I mean I accidentally bagged a south when I went to Southwark parkrun over two years ago.  That was definitely before I knew about the running challenges thingamajig, and may even have been before its inception.  I honestly have no idea. then last week went West with Beverley Westwood parkrun and now here I am going for north, that’s two weeks on the trot, nailing my compass points.  Go me!   I was aided and abetted in my execution of this plan by this cool picture courtesy of Richard Gower who did a whole blog post about the compass challenge and put together this map earlier in the year which is an easy way to check out where they all are.  More have since been added, but it’s still a great start.  By which I mean it was for me anyway, and it’s  my post so I’ll generalise if I want to.  Cheers Mr Gower, loving your work!

parkrun+Compass+Club+UK Richard Gower

For me in Sheffield, Northallerton was the obvious choice to bagsy my ‘north’ and get one step nearer to securing that coveted virtual badge.   Mind you, considering I live in the north it’s a fair old way.  Especially if you hate being late and therefore have to leave stupidly early to allow plenty of time for emergencies such as not being able to park, getting lost, being stuck behind a tractor en route etc.  Ok, I’ll check that out.

So, beginning with online research, also known as lmgtfy – let me google that for you -other search engines are available, and probably more ethical if less convenient.  Incidentally, I don’t mind googling stuff for other people, and think the lmgtfy is not so much passive aggressive as actually rude, however, by referencing it here Ii am able to include the cartoon below, which I think offers an insightful and searing commentary on the limitations of regarding google as the font of all knowledge.  We need to be critical thinkers people?Let-me-Google-that-for-you-LMGTFY_o_50693

But you know what, for checking out your parkrun factoids, Google does just fine, so let me share with you that the Northallerton parkrun page course description blah de blah describes the route thus:

The course is three laps which use the playing fields behind Hambleton Leisure Centre and two footbridges over Brompton Beck. Starting and finishing behind the leisure centre, the course is approximately 900m on tarmac footpath, 1300m on gravel track and 2800m on grass. The course is almost flat with only two small banks (one up / one down), and there are a few narrow sections to navigate which are well signed. The area is open to the public during the event, so expect to meet cyclists and dog walkers during your run.

Yep, that’s three laps.   Give me strength!  Also, that’s a lot of grass.  Should I be panicking about the amount of grass?  Will it be sports field grass, the stuff of school sports day humiliations or lovely running through meadows like a timotei ad sort of grass?  I have a gnawing suspicion ’twill be the former not the latter…

and it looks like this:

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Hmm, not massively appealing to be fair.  However, on the plus side ‘There is ample free car parking at the venue – use the civic centre car park – follow the parkrun parking signs. Satnav postcode is DL6 2UU’.  That’s a boon, however, I could in principle go to Northampton parkrun, that is a bit further away, but their course is but two laps and it has not only toilets but also a defibrillator to entice me over.  What to do.

More research, that may help.

GAME CHANGER – further research unearths a post on the Northallerton parkrun Facebook page that 3rd August is a birthday and what’s more FANCY DRESS! Basically, pop up parkrun party. Yay!  Decision made.  Northampton parkrun will have to wait for another time.

fancy dress parkrun

I know some might think my response shallow, but I can embrace that.  After all, if fancy dress is good enough for PS-H himself then it’s good enough for me.  Just look, Bushy parkrun were celebrating their 800th run today, and it looks like he went as a disembodied head.  Impressive, albeit I concede slightly disturbing. Still, you know what they say, ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.’  Fair do’s.  You take it up with him if you must.

Bushy parkrun slightly scary

And he wasn’t the only representative of parkrun royalty in fancy dress either.  My mum was equipped with Cleopatra apparel.  I don’t know if any photographic evidence of this exists, but in my mind’s eye she will have been splendid, accessorising her usual hi-vis with a spectacular asp head-dress – it’s what all the best marshals will be sporting at a parkrun near you soon.  So much better than putting poultry on your head methinks.  Though I refer you once again to the point above ‘everyone in their own way’.

cleopatra-Egypt13-150x211

Oh hang on, *STOP PRESS* we have pictures.  Blooming love Bushy parkrun folk for furnishing me with these.  Thank you Bushy parkrunners, you are the best!

So where was I?  Oh yes, fancy dress.  What’s not to like?  Apart from clowns, obvs.  I really hope there aren’t any clowns.  Surely parkrunners wouldn’t do that?  That would be taking the idea of ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way’ a step too far.  Everyone knows clowns are scary yes?

There’s a reason why ‘killer clowns’ are a thing you know, and you can be fined for public order offences for dressing up as them.  Quite right too.  Some behaviour is just too anti-social to tolerate.

And on the subject of anti-social behaviour, my regular reader will be interested to know that the burglaries down my street are still continuing by the way.  It’s a bit unsettling, the same people came back to the same house 2 weeks on, presumably targeting the property in anticipation of all the goods having now been replaced. That’s not good is it?  However, I did laugh when another neighbour complained about having a parcel delivery stolen from outside her door.  It was a mail order delivery of kefir from guffawing goat company or something.

chucklinggoat-logo

I’m not surprised the goat is chuckling.  That people drink her fermented milk must give her a right laugh!  Payback time for nicking her milk in the first place.  My point is, that  I’d only ever vaguely heard of kefir when I’ve accidentally listened to The Archers, and didn’t think it either really existed at all, or if it did, that anybody actually really consumed it other than as a fictionalised fad, fetishised by hipster social media influencers.  Whoever and whatever they may be.  It was a genuine surprise to me that it’s a real thing, let alone one that is actually to some desirable.  Although clearly I condemn all such anti-social behaviour, having your kefir stolen doesn’t quite put you in the same category as someone who has been the victim of a life-changing assault.  What’s more, the victim in this case might have the last laugh, as she said that unless stored correctly kefir is basically an unstable compound that can explode spectacularly and messily and presumably honkingly at any moment.  Equally, consumption of said kefir can have catastrophic and explosive consequences for the uninitiated.  Maybe karma will get those thieving bastards yet.  Not quite as good as the guy who booby trapped baited parcels with exploding glitter bombs that would erupt if stolen, but it’s a start.  It’s worth forfeiting 9 minutes of your life to watch his YouTube clip of the glitter/ stink bomb device in action.  Well, I think it is, but maybe my life doesn’t count for much, you might be more busy and important and careful of how you squander your time – which would beg the question of what you are doing reading this then, but I daresay you have your reasons…

23089799-boom-in-pop-art

That would be such poetic justice.  Actually, just a thought, but maybe anyone dressed as a clown at parkrun should be offered a complementary cup of kefir at the finish, that might deter them from a second outing in clownish apparel!  Mind you, that could backfire horribly in every sense.  If there’s one thing scarier than a clown, it’s an exploding enraged one.  Thankfully, I’ll be a guest there, it’s up to the core team how they chose to keep order…  frankly, I’m glad it’s not my responsibility to uphold parkrun regulations – there aren’t many, and at junior parkrun the number one rule is quite simply ‘have fun!’ and it ought to be the rule for 5k parkruns too.  I think it’s a given, which is why it isn’t on the posters, also the lack of a specific reference to ‘don’t wear a clown (or gimp) outfit’ is an omission, but I suppose they believe common sense will prevail. That doesn’t always work, case in point, at our Graves junior parkrun the RD once turned up for the  junior parkrun birthday run in the most terrifying werewolf head mask I’ve ever seen!  I shudder at the very memory!  Still, he hasn’t done it again to be fair.  Sometimes you just have to trust in people to do the right thing.  And/or, recognise everyone has a right to make mistakes now and again.  Next time it might be me or indeed you!  Perish the thought, but could just happen!

Think this offering might have won the internet fancy dress for the day though – even if strictly speaking it’s ineligible what with being an actual puppet at Brighton Pride, but you get my point I’m sure!  Have to concede they made a bit more effort than I did, digging my companion animal out the back of the cupboard for the first time since Christmas.  Oops.

this might win fancy dress internet today

Oh didn’t I say?

I decided to take Geronimo with me, turned out though, last time she had an outing was on Christmas day at Concord parkrun, she still had her Santa hat on when I went to ask her about coming along to Northallerton.  About time she had a run really, and I thougth I’d lost my running mojo, blimey she’s not been out even once in 2019.  No worries, it’ll be fine!  Just a question of putting one foot in front of another, times four – or six, if you include me.  I should have remembered that she’s less of a boon when running than you might think, but we’ve had fun together out and about in the past.  It’ll be nice to have a comeback reunion run with my companion animal of choice.  Whatever happens, we’ll always have London…  sigh.

well always have london

Decision made.  Northallerton parkrun it would be.

Not gonna lie.  Northallerton parkrun is a looooooooooooooong way from Sheffield.  At stupid o’clock I did start to contemplate the wisdom of my ways travelling such a long way for parkrun tourism and the chance to bagsy a ‘north’.  Then again, fancy dress.  Sometimes these decisions are finely weighed.

The day dawned, eventually, and it was lovely.  Too lovely in fact.  Whilst the terror of driving to Westwood nearly scared me off the roads entirely, this time the brilliant orb of early morning sun nearly burned the back of my eyes to dust, despite my sunglasses.  This seemed almost bizarre, following the recent nigh on apocalyptic rain, which has literally washed away some parkrun courses (Lyme park parkrun case in point), left others inches deep in water and poor Whaley Bridge junior parkrun in fear of complete annihilation.  Hard to imagine.  There aren’t many things more important that parkrun on a Saturday or junior parkrun on a Sunday, but in a rare moment of perspective, I’d venture cancelled parkruns are the least of their worries in Whaley Bridge.  Hope it ends well, I really do.

So I’m driving along, squinting into the sun, and periodically, great layers of mist create amazing landscapes as I drive past.  The roads were empty, the wind turbines still, and everywhere seemed verdant and bursting with life.  Reet nice out in fact.

Then, as I neared my destination, ‘I say, this mist is really getting awfully thick.’ I was saying to myself.  I often talk to myself.  This is what can happen if you spend too much time alone.  A bit later ‘hang on a goddarn minute! This isn’t mist any more, this is actual fog!’  It was like I was trying to circle in on Brigadoon or something!  Really hoping I’ve picked the right single day in a hundred year cycle to head out to this parkrun…  Mind you, the seem a joyful lot in Brigadoon, if that is where I’m to be heading, I’m sure they’ll have a parkrun there, if they choose to emerge on a Saturday it would be very rude not to, and they look hospitable enough.  I wonder though it that would make it a 9.30 start as it would count as Scotland, and also presumably not qualify as a North.  Oh well, would still be an unexpected adventure I suppose, and I do like them.

Next thing I know, I’m crawling along through dense fog, trying to work out where the road was, periodically checking my rear view mirror, until I noticed it was almost entirely obscured by a police van.  Cue paranoia.  I’m great at that.  That and getting the munchies, ace at both.

So eventually I arrive, crazily early even by my standards.  There is indeed loads of parking.  Squillions of parking places.  So many in fact, I get confused about which would be the best one to park in, decisions, decisions.  The venue is indeed based around a mahoosive leisure centre. I am in desperate need of a loo, please let it be open, please let it be open.  It was!  Hooray.  I’m in. Behind the reception desk is a disabled loo which I spotted first and then bolted towards in desperation, only temporarily blind sided by my inability to get the lights to come on despite frantically waving my hands about.  Spoiler alert, this is because the lights weren’t motion activated, but there is a switch inside the loo by the door, but you can’t see this, because once the door is shut you are basically enclosed in a panic room in the pitch black.  They are called panic rooms because they induce panic by the way, in case you were wondering.  Relieved in every sense, I could start my exploration of the venue.

So easy to find, loos available nice and early, loads of parking.  What’s this?  Slightly disconcerting outline of a body on the ground, presumably left over from some ‘scene of crime’ shenanigans earlier.  Oh well, best not ask.

I went back to my car, and slowly registered that there was a lot of green green grass around.  It did look very much like proper playing fields.  Gulp.  They were immaculately maintained, but definitely grass of school sports day flash backs, only with fewer imperfections.

There were the beginnings of signs of parkrun life.  A gazebo was going up – I later learned this is an actual parkrun gazebo, which is a glorious innovation from the Northallerton event team.  There was some indication of other runners appearing over the horizon, and other hi-vis clad people were out with flags and cones doing the course set up.  ‘Oh god.  Cones, it’s not going to be an obstacle course as well as sprint events at this school sports day is it?‘ Screamed the voice in my head.  Childhood trauma has much to answer for.

I went for a bit of an explore.  The course was a bit confusing, arrows pointing all over the place, but it seemed to go round the perimeter of a couple of fields, and take in a bridge or two and alongside a waterway.

I have never seen so many poo bins in such a small space, including some that were positively vintage. This seemed to be working as there was no sign of any actual dog poo, which was clearly a boon. I liked the mosaics, particularly the one of the person in a red parkrun milestone tee, hand held aloft ready to make contact with a high five was a particularly nice touch!  I retreated back to my car to watch what was going on.

More people gathered.  More alarmingly, a distinct absence of people in fancy dress.  Wait hang on, someone was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, I know another parkrun is having a Hawaiian shirt day, maybe either he or I have mixed the two events up?  Hang on, nope, I’ve checked, it’s Colwick parkrun having a Hawaiian shirt day, and that’s still a couple of weeks off.   Aloha Colwick parkrun people, loving your look there.  Ahead of the fashion curve I’m sure, but will definitely catch on.

aloha colwick parkrun august 2018

No, he might just be wearing it because it looks fabulous.  Curses.  I eyed Geronimo.  I mean, it seemed a shame to have brought her all this way and not brave it, but then again, standing around awkwardly on the periphery of a new parkrun when you are a visitor can be stress inducing at the best of times.

Mercifully, I eventually saw a couple of others who I was more confident were rocking the fancy dress vibe.  Hurrah!  These people could be my new best friends!  They might not know it yet, but I would seek them out and grind them down.  They’d only have to pretend for half an hour or so it would be fine, better than fine, it would be fun.  Here’s the first!

That’s Berta the dragon not Bernie the dinosaur, just as I am with Geronimo the giraffe not Melman.  Many things were not as they first appeared. This is unicorn not a dog for example.  You’re welcome.

Np not a dog a unicorn

We bonded over our clothing choices.  I confided I’d nearly bottled it but was reassured it was good to make the effort as that would give more people the confidence to do likewise next time.  ‘It’ll be like Jurassic park at your next parkrun birthday‘ I cried out enthusiastically, implying all would be emulating her choice of dinosaur-wear – before realising I’d immediately soured things by falling in to the dragon/ dino confusion trap. Put it down to nerves, and anyway, maybe everyone else would come as dinosaurs next time because dinosaurs are super fun for running in/ with/ away from and parkrunners might not want to copy Berta given that she was too excellent and magical a manifestation ever to be equalled again.  It was explained a lot of thought had gone into that outfit of choice earlier on in the day, it was not at all a case of frantically rummaging in the deepest corners of her child’s bedroom cupboard in just in time desperation and clutching at the nearest fluffy onesie that presented itself.  Not at all like that.  Not at all.

This was my other kindred spirit, but we didn’t get properly acquainted til later on.  Still, best things eh?  She was being busy and important in the way that you can only be when in possession of the giddy might that comes with possession of a clipboard.  With the power of being co event director comes mighty responsibility it seems.

Np taking control

There was someone in a bridal running outfit, but maybe that’s just on trend and not actual fancy dress.  I remember an unfortunate fashion trend when people started wearing their underwear as outfits for the evening – underwear as outerwear in fact.  I found it completely bewildering.  I can recall more than one occasion when I wondered if I should mention to my next door neighbour she seemed to have inadvertently forgotten to finish dressing before heading out of an evening.  I wouldn’t want to be guilty of judging what anyone else is wearing, her body, her business, but then again I’d want someone to have a quiet word with me if I was heading out the front door with only my marks and sparks basics protecting my decency – and protecting me from inclement weather –  before I embarked on a big night out.  It’s such a sensitive topic.  I remember back in the eighties being out at an ‘alternative night’ and spending some time agonising over whether or not another attendee had got her skirt caught in her knickers or making a statement to challenge the tyranny of societal expectations in relation to female fashion.  Spoiler alert, she had actually got her skirt caught in her knickers, though we could agree that the fashion industry is indeed tyrannous.  Around the same time as the outerwear/ underwear malarkey, it was also considered elegant to where a faux satin or silk lacy nightdress.  I say considered elegant, but obviously only those with a narrowly defined aesthetic which was also actually pretty narrow.  For mere mortals like myself it was just another tyranny of the fashion industry.   Now if I could have just worn my brushed cotton pyjamas all the time I’d have embraced it!  And if I’d have got away with a onesie, well, I’d totally be in.  In Cambodia, many of the women wear absolutely gorgeous outfits that we in the west would view as pyjamas, I’d love to be able to do that here.  Found this photo at this website by the way, the random observations about Cambodia resonated with me.  Why 31 I wonder?  That is indeed random…

women-pyjamas-cambodia

Anyway, stop distracting me.  Why are you asking me about Cambodia now?  We’ll be here all day if I don’t crack on.  Where was I?  Oh yes, at Northallerton parkrun and now, finally, I was out of the car and so there was an opportunity for some self-conscious milling and chilling.  I, or more accurately Geronimo, was sporting the cow cowl tourist buff – though I do wish she’d looked in a mirror before stepping out, it was partly inside out which didn’t help.  I didn’t see any others, so it was hard to tell tourists from regulars.  It was also a relatively small parkrun, and so it wasn’t all that easy to approach people somehow.  Perhaps not everyone warms to giraffes either?  Still, there were plenty of distractions, including a enormous cheque from Tesco which was quite fun.  Got to like a giant cheque haven’t you? Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real one of those before, only on TV.  I really hope they have to go and pay it in like that. That would make me so happy!*

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After a bit, it was over for the first timers’ briefing.  There were a fair few of us, and, just for pleasing symmetry, the person doing the first timers’ briefing, was also doing that for the first time!  I know, good isn’t it.  I think it might also have been the RD’s debut appearance too, but I’m less sure about that one. Main thing is, it was friendly and welcoming, but I was none the wiser about the route the course took, only really noting it was three laps, and follow everyone else.

Shortly after the we first timers’ had been inducted we were all shooed over to the start area.  I was acutely aware that this had the look of a fast field of runners.  I know it’s a bit of a generalisation, but it just looked like the majority of runners were towards the more serious end of the spectrum.  More people warming up with drills or stretches as opposed to say comparing fancy dress outfits or checking out the cakes.  I was feeling apprehensive.  I mean, I’ve been final finisher a fair few times, but didn’t relish the extreme visibility of being that as one of very few who were sporting fancy dress.  Yes, I know the tail walker is actually last, but I didn’t want to keep the volunteer team hanging around for too long.  Eek.  Oh well, here now, and it wasn’t like I’d be able to slope off inconspicuously either.  I think the rising fear was exacerbated by the awful present reality I’d be having to run round playing fields, two playing fields to be precise, and each three times.  That’s a lot of replaying of childhood trauma.  I would try not to cry.

So hi-vis heroes went to their marshal spots, whilst we parkrunners headed down the surprisingly steep slope to the gathering ground and the runners briefing.

Np dogs life

The cheque was presented, the system with the gazebo and donations for tea and cake explained, volunteers thanked, there was a big cheer for the hen do party – so it was dressing up outfit rather than fashion being sported there.  Good to know.  This briefing had the most politely behaved dogs ever.  Usually at parkrun briefings any canine companions are barking uncontrollably and bouncing about in eager anticipation like the dogs of hell waiting to be unleashed.  Not so here.  Not so much as a polite whimper, and there were dogs, because I met some later.  A shout out for tourists… I thought I’d made a good effort coming from Sheffield, but there was a woman and child present who’d come from Vietnam, so win for them methinks.  I don’t know that they’d only come that morning though.  I’d have loved to have talked to them as I have fond memories of working in Vietnam, but they were super speedy runners and long gone by the time I came through the finish funnel.  So many stories every individual participant holds within them at parkrun, I wonder what theirs was.

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And then, the shout went up and we all went!  This is what it looked like from a distance for the volunteer parkrun photographers:

and this is what it looked like for me in the midst of all that running around:

and this is what we looked like disappearing over the fields from behind.

Np view from the rear.jpg

and what fine parkrun posteriors are on show.  No exceptions.  Because the bottom line is we are all fabulous at parkrun.  Fact.  Mind you, this beehind is pretty fine too, so I suppose I’d have to concede reluctantly, that parkrunners don’t have the monopoly of brilliant backsides.

beehind

So of we went, and the event kicks off with a sprint round one playing field.  I was worried about how the logistics would work with it being a three lapper – that means over-taking is inevitable, and I’m slow and paranoid about getting in faster runners’ way.   The cornering round the perimeter of the fields did mean you get to see the faster runners ahead, or I suppose, by logical extension, if you are a faster runner you can look back and see the slower ones trailing behind you in a colourful train like a stampeding fan base trying to catch up with you.  Except, I don’t think the faster runners have time to look behind them, that would cost precious seconds, the line dancing parkrunner would have seen though, he would have had to look behind a fair bit to get that grapevine technique correctly executed.

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After the first little field, you go up the ‘hump’ which you descended to listen to get to the start, and past the car park and right round the far side of another bigger playing field.  There was a crowd of volunteers and spectators and a proper cheerleader with shiny pompoms and everything, who I truly like to believe is there every week, but I have been wrong before.  Sorry, the photos are a bit rubbish aren’t they, I’m not completely lacking in insight, but then again, they capture a flavour of what it was like, so here they are anyway, recording the event for posterity.  I take comfort from knowing these won’t be the worst photos cluttering up the interweb, not by a long way, not by a very, very long way indeed.

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The route has cones in place to guide you away from rabbit holes and stop you from cutting corners.  As you come to the end of the perimeter of the second field, a jolly marshal pointed you towards the first of the wooden bridges, where clearly the path narrows:

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In fact, the route meant you spread out a fair bit skirting round the playing fields, so by the time you were at the narrower sections it seemed to be OK.  It wasn’t a huge attendance either, and it seemed a good natured run.  I wasn’t aware of any jostling going on.  There is the potential for bottle necks over the two small bridges, but I think regulars must get themselves sorted before they encounter those, and for those chasing a pb, maybe it’s an added incentive to secure your position before you enter the potential no overtaking zones.

Over the bridge, and then there is a narrowish path but room for over taking with a bit of communication and common sense. It’s only a short stretch, but a picturesque one.  You can make out faster runners heading back up – or is it down – the first playing field the other side of the water way.  After a couple of hundred metres, if that, another jolly marshal (is that tautology, I mean all marshals are jolly here to be fair?) waves you over the second bridge.  I think his role was partly directional pointing, partly cheery clapping and partly troll patrol.  He was excellent on all counts, particularly the latter, as I didn’t see a troll all morning, despite 6 bridge crossings.  Good work.

A little bit of a zig and a zag round some hedges – wave at Charlie canix dog as he passes…

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and you come out by a dog poo bin and the mosaic depiction of the high-fiving 50 milestone tee wearing runner.  Hurray.  An actual hi-viz hero was in situ there to wave you round, and this time I could see runners sprinting back in the opposite direction to me, having already embarked on their second lap. Oh look!  My new best friend was among them!

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Round the corner, and a bit further on there was super friendly canine marshal – well, strictly speaking a unicorn, was a huge distraction because it took something of a shine to Geronimo and I, and because I’m quite shallow, that was flattering and necessitated a stop and bit of interaction on each loop.  Oh, and the marshal with the unicorn was also jolly and friendly by the way, but I was rather assuming by now you’d have taken that as a given…

You carry on along the  tarmac path, and continue along a flat section with photographers in situ taking action shots of approaching runners and then shooing you back down the hill to ensure you do the correct number of laps, or cheering you on when  finally you have done all the laps required and are now free to shoot off for your sprint finish three laps done.

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There weren’t a massive amount of marshals out on the course, but those that there were were without exception friendly and encouraging.  I was near the back, and clearly yomping along near to a Northallerton regular.  Every marshal we passed greeted him by name, shouting encouragement.  It felt friendly.

There were almost as many dedicated photographers as marshals out on the course, giving terrific scope for entries to the ‘seen a photographer’ pose contest.  I would say competition for that was fierce, and I won’t presume to pick a winner, but here are a few of my favourites.  Yes you did see the photographer!  We can all tell.  Loving your work.

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So that was lap one down.  Down an alarmingly steep bank for lap two, and off I went again.  This course is definitely overwhelmingly on grass you know, no getting around that – figuratively not literally.  Literally you do have to get around it, three times, or parkrun hasn’t happened.  Tough love I’m afraid, but it is what it is.

Np definitely a field

Still, the hens were having a blast out there I’m sure, inside anyway.  Each to their own.

Np team support.jpg

I found it hard.  I don’t rule out the possibility that I may one day learn to love running on the grass of sports fields, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Then again, there’s hard, and there’s hard.  I do find running round a sports field hard.  So does Geronimo.  But probably it isn’t quite as hard as running from John O’Groats to Land’s End, and a 55 year old woman has just broken the record for that!  Go Sharon Gaytor.  What’s even more mind blowing, is that she plans to go back to work on Monday.  I don’t know what her job is, but I really hope it isn’t open heart surgeon or anything like that, or indeed any job that requires her to stay awake.  Bus driver would be contra-indicated as well methinks, although her clothing should be COИTRA indicated, because apparently she ran a parkrun just before heading out.  Respect.  Not sure it that was immediately before, or if it’s just a rumour, but she is a parkrunner, all the best people of course are – one way or another walk/ run/ lope/ volunteer. We are all heroes.  Hurrah!

_108178685_gayter_fb.1

So maybe it is just a question of mind over matter?

Round I went again.

I was a bit stop start, because of wanting to interact with marshals and take photos, and I’m not fast at the best of times so was constantly dropping right to the back, and then putting on a bit of a sprint to get ahead a bit again.  I hope it wasn’t too annoying.  Less of an issue at one lap courses, but for a three lapper I did worry I might be in the way.  It gave opportunities for some interactions though.  My favourite, well one of them anyway, was the pair that I leapfrogged by for the umpteenth time and one of them called out ‘oh hello there – we’ve seen a fair few of your herd about already this morning!’  Which I thought was genius and hilarious. I could see what they did there!

I tried to explain to some of the marshals that I was actually ‘on fire’ for the third lap, it’s just that I have one of those faces that does turning bright red rather better than looking determinedly but attractively ‘on fire’ as a communicative expression.  Not sure if any of them actually bought that, but hope over experience eh?  Anyway, they were all too polite to argue the point with me mid run which is the main thing.

I heard a few quips along the lines of Geronimo giving me a competitive advantage what with four long legs to help me round.  I protested that it wasn’t giving me quite the edge I’d been hoping for, and another participant pointed out she was always going to come in ahead of me by a neck which was a good point well made.  I tried to interact positively, but on at least one occasion I fear what was meant as a witty if dry retort came across as breathlessly indignant rudeness.  If you were a cheery runner who was on the receiving end of this unintentional rejection, please accept my apologies.  Note to self, what you think are clearly witty retorts lose a lot on delivery if you are sweating buckets and can hardly speak.  Maybe next time just go for a ‘thanks’ and weak smile to acknowledge encouragement instead.  Glad we’ve cleared that up

Round again. Round the field, up over the hump, by the car park, wave at cheery marshal, over the bridge, along the path, it had emptied out a lot by now.  Over the other bridge, zig zag, say hello to unicorn dog, wave at photographers, acknowledge lapping runners, exchange pleasantries with own speed parkrunners, check out other runners toing and froing in all directions, spot photographer and marshal at lap point – don’t suppose there’s any chance?  Nope, down the slippery bank again for round  lap three.  There’s a lot of multi-tasking that goes on at a parkrun.  How people get bored running I have no idea.  And then as I headed off past the car park on my final lap, you could see the cheery gathering of people who’d already finished.  Some parkrunners were heading home as I was still heading out.  Still, that happens to me at most parkruns to be fair, so no change there.

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By the final lap, there seemed to be only a few of us left on the course.  However, the marshals where still there, still clapping, cheering, shouting encouragement and directionally pointing with quite as much enthusiasm as they had at the start.  Much appreciated.  Meanwhile, other runners were coming in, all flying feet with their sprint finishes.  Some great action shots captured some of those moments.  Can you guess who got the Timotei award for great hair from these?  Go on, have a wild stab at it, you might just get lucky!  Some of those runners look positively ecstatic approaching the line, not sure if that’s running endorphins kicking in, or relief at it being all over.  Both probably.

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Finishing the final loop was challenging for me, but fortunately, the fun factory for parkrun is always the back, so it was good natured quality if not quantity left out on the course!  The sun had come out in full force, burning away the earlier mist, and I was super hot, but not in a good way!

Np fun factory at the back

It was a relief to see the lap turning point again and realise that this time I could sprint on ahead.  Yay!  A guard of honour lined the finish funnel, and a friendly cheer went up as I finally made it through at the end.  Hallelujah!

Through the finish, and some lovely fellow parkrunners not only offered to take a finish photo of me and Geronimo (we’d clearly totally nailed it, and such an achievement needed immortalising on camera) but also one went to fetch the Northallerton parkrun picture frame AND made sure I was posed correctly so as not to obscure the venue name.  Now that’s a quality service I’ve not experienced before, and was fun and appreciated since as a lone tourist it can be hard to get those sort of shots.  Honestly, I’ve never been so photographed at a parkrun.  This must be what it’s like for my mum at Bushy parkrun every week!  Quite an experience!  Also, that bike wheel makes it look like I’m wearing an enormous bracelet.  This pleases me.

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That was that. All done and dusted.  I waited for the final finishers, and did some more post parkrun pottering.

Got chatting to my other new best friend.  The one I mentioned earlier, with a clipboard?  Do you remember who I mean now.  Anyway, turns out she was part of the core team, so it was good to get some Northallerton parkrun intel.  For example, it was from her I learned that the gazebo was purchased by parkrun to facilitate these monthly coffee and cake ‘sales’ (actually a donation).  Astonishingly, the huge leisure centre has no cafe within, so that’s why the local event team have come up with the gazebo and fundraising refreshments plan, to encourage parkrunners to linger.  There is a cafe people adjourn to on other days, but it’s a walk back into town to get there, and inevitably not everyone will want to do that, or be able to for that matter.  It was good to talk, and I was made to feel welcome.  I also learned that yep, the turnout is generally not huge, and that other runners who are local also recall school sports days of their youth which may well have actually taken place on those very fields, so I wasn’t alone with that association, for others it was a more literal flashback.  Some may have fonder memories of such times, and a lot of current athletic events and running clubs still use the venue regularly.   Interestingly (well, I thought so) although numbers drop back a bit at winter, there are always those who relish the mud quagmire the fields can become as a peculiarly delightful challenge its own right, and those seeking north will also continue to make the trek of course!  Well, I should know about that.  Also, she shared that she had run parkrun on the morning of her actual wedding day, so I thought that was impressive.  I forgot to ask her if that meant she had to run in her wedding dress or whether or not she’d allowed time to change in between times.  I like to think the former, no need to disabuse me of this delusion 🙂

So photos taken and chit chat over, I made my way to the gazebo for coffee.  They’d run out of polystyrene cups, I should have brought my reusable one with me, don’t know why I didn’t think of it.  Anyway, I had a plastic cup instead, which was functional if not ideal.  Then I got chatting with some other parkrunners, one of whom is dedicated canicrosser and the other of whom is a ‘proper’ triathlete.  So that was interesting, finding out about both of those, and being generally amazed at what they had achieved.  Nice to meet you fellow parkrunners, thanks for the touristing tips too!  Good luck at the championships!

And all too soon, that was that.

parkrun people dispersed.  The gazebo was taken down, arrows and cones dematerialised, and Northallerton parkrun disappeared without a trace.  I’m fairly confident it will be back again for business next Saturday rather than you needing to wait a whole other hundred years for a showing, but do keep an eye on the parkrun cancellation page as well as the Northallerton parkrun news page and Northallerton parkrun Facebook page just to be on the safe side.

You’re welcome.

So me and Geronimo, now soon to be homeward bound.

Thank you Northallerton parkrun for the warm welcome, for giving me the opportunity to take Geronimo for a welcome yomp round too.  Thanks especially to the marshals, photographers and event team for pulling it all together, cheering me round and giving up time to take photos, set up, and do all the other smoke and mirrors magic that keeps the parkrun show on the road each week. Thanks too to fellow parkrunners for companionable chatting, words of support and sharing the parkrun joy.  Sorry if I got in your way with my erratic pathfinding – as a first timer it was hard to know which way to move out of the way on the course as it turns around so much!  Special thanks to fellow fancy dress sporters and good luck to the bridal party too.  New adventures await.

Oh, and – can’t believe I nearly forgot!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

happy birthday

So where next for parkrun tourism I wonder?  I’d love a trip to one of the seaside ones, but they aren’t on my agenda as yet, and they are a bit of a performance to get to.  Maybe combined with a weekend away?  I’d have to go off season though, expensive in the summer holidays.  Incidentally, if, like me, you were struggling to find an alphabetical list of parkruns, one way to get this is to look at the parkrun pages for the official course records.  Handy top tip there, can’t remember where I stumbled across that.  Would love to think it was all my own idea, but it definitely wasn’t.  I genuinely don’t know where I’ll be next Saturday, it will be a surprise.  Wherever I end up I’m sure it will be splendid!  Hope you have happy parkrunning adventures too, whether that’s home or away.

where next

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 have places to go, people to see and/or a life to live, so I’ll understand if you leave it for now.  🙂

Whatever adventures are awaiting you, parkrun related or otherwise, step out and embrace them.  Be happy, be brave, be yourself.  They start with a single step, how hard can it be?

every adventure

🙂

*Yes, I do know, but I can dream!

 

 

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

Conquering Conkers parkrun and sailing the cees in an ongoing quest to save penguins

Digested read:  parkrun tourism took me to Conkers parkrun this morning.  It was great, one of my favourite events to date!

Undigestible Unabridged Read:  (also time vampire, recommend wine and comfy chair, read on at your own risk)

It’s been in the diary since last year this one. Me and Smiley Selfie Queen, co-ordinating our diaries and finding a mutual window for the 19th January 2019 months ago.  Crazy really.  I can’t even remember why we picked Conkers parkrun specifically, except it has a reputation for being lovely, it will help contribute to my pirate challenge (seven cees and an R as in aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarr) see what they’ve done there?

Did you know there were lots of women pirates as well by the way.  Maybe not lots, but here are eight female pirates you should maybe know about if you want to excel in pub quizzes and feel a bit smug about your pc general knowledge too.

woman pirate

Conkers parkrun is sort of within range of Sheffield, by which I mean, it’s actually quite a long way, but doable in the interests of parkrun tourism.   We are running out of nearer options that one or other of us hasn’t already done.   I don’t mind the distance in terms of early departure as I have lost the ability to sleep entirely, but do mind in terms of what if it’s icy or still dark on departure.  Plus there is all the inevitable angst about how long it will take to get there.  Unknown territory.   Oh well.  It will be an adventure we thought.  Me and Smiley Selfie Queen have form going on adventures together, it’ll be fine….    Conkers parkrun it would be.

Except, that the night before DISASTER, snow falling from the sky, messages popping up everywhere on Facebook pages for local parkruns basically doing the Facebook equivalent of sucking in air through your teeth and saying ‘looking doubtful’.  Me and Smiley Selfie Queen independently contacted the Conkers team to check out the lie of the land their end.  I was being confused about a note saying to everyone ‘remember we are starting at the Discovery Centre, not the usual Waterside’ and giving a new postcode so I had a momentary doubt about what to put in the satnav.  She posted on their Facebook page for weather check.  Well, dear reader, have to say, both of us got almost instantaneous and friendly responses. How impressive is that. The event team/ social media communications manager are on fire in terms of their reflexes. I learned that yep,

you will always get an answer. We are currently operating from a different car park but they are connected by a tunnel. If you are going to join us in the cafe use the 6GA one. Otherwise it doesn’t matter.   It will be chilly here tomorrow but no rain expected. Safe journey from up north.
Roger x

and she learned that it might be nippy in the morning, but no snow or ice was expected:

will we make it

How kind and awesome is Roger to soothe our worries last thing on a Friday night!  (Rhetorical question, clearly very kind and awesome, and more of this later).

This was reassuring, but blinking out through a gap in the shutters the night before the morning after it wasn’t looking good.  It might be the case that Kilian Jornet can skip up Mount Everest twice in a week with nothing but a 2 litre bottle of water ten energy gels and some mittens but I’m not venturing outside my house if it’s icy.  I’m near the top of a seriously steep hill, it can’t be done.  Kilean Jornet is clearly some sort of enchanted sprite that’s taken on mortal form.  Dual ascent of Everest is taking hill reps a bit far in anyone’s training plan surely, even for an ultra?

181210163124-kilian-jornet-everest-training-summits-of-my-life-super-169

Fretful that Sheffield weather might yet mean our target parkrun trip might not happen, I treated myself to a night nurse capsule to get some slumber and resigned myself to the hands of fate que sera sera as Doris Day would coin it.  Isn’t she marvellous?

after all, you can’t risk death on the roads just in the name of parkrun tourism… actually though, I said that line out loud to my tourist buddy after the event in an ‘I’m glad the weather was OK as ultimately, can’t really justify going to a parkrun as an essential trip if it really was a white out‘ and she definitely hesitated and couldn’t bring herself to speak agreement out loud.  What’s more, she may have a point… it’s so hard doing the right thing sometimes.

Anyways, woke up at stupid o-clock, peered out the window and …. hurrah!  Although there was snow on my car, the road was clear, and closer investigation reassured me that the road was ice-free and snow could be just wooshed aside and we were on!  As I said in a message to Smiley Selfie Queen pre 6.00 a.m. it is testament to her parkrun commitment that she replied immediately, can’t remember saying what exactly, but it was along the lines of ‘yay!’  So all good.

It was dark and cold though.  Seriously dark.   I was relieved that my satnav was operational, the weather was in our favour and off I chugged on empty roads until I was parked up outside my Smiley buddy’s house at stupid o-clock.  The lights were on, so that was good.  We left bang on our estimated departure time.  For the record, left mine at 7.00 a.m. and hers at 7.15.  It was an easy run, using the postcode DE12 6GA though the traffic was slooooooooooooooooow, and I was extra cautious.  There had been an earlier quite nasty looking accident leading to speed restrictions on the M1 and I’m cautious anyway.  Lots of other vehicles had proper snow coverings, so we got off quite lightly.

I didn’t get lost, but I did get confused at a couple of almost intersecting mini roundabouts almost on arrival.  Weird layout. The only confusing thing, directionally, is that the Conkers Park, where the magic of parkrun happens (I know, a happy coincidence that the parkrun’s chosen name is the same as that of the actual park – what were the chances? (rhetorical again) – must be mahoosive, because there were loads of signs to the park pointing in different directions depending on which bit or activity you were heading off too. So if you are touristing, check out the map and satnav to avoid parking up the other end of it.  It was easy to find though.

On arrival, just after 8.35 ish, we were greeted by an enormous car park with ample free parking. There was a huge centre with loos and you could spot the hi-vis heroes gathered together in an appropriately  penguiny huddle (more of this later) at the far end of the car park.  This boded well.   I love a parkrun with easy access to facilities for a precautionary pee, and good parking if touristing.  Top marks for Conkers parkrun and its host venue Conkers park for seriously ace facilities.

I say easy access, but actually, it wasn’t as easy as you might think.  We made our way to the Discovery Centre, pausing for the obligatory location-based photo ops …

and then stood blinking with incomprehension outside the door to the centre.  It had a sign on it saying ‘automatic doors’ but nothing happened.  We kept trying to activate the trigger by walking towards it at different angles.  Other parkrunners appeared behind us, and joined the non-plussed attempts to gain entry.  I’m not sure who it was who had the bright idea of just pushing the door to get in. It opened inwards without resistance!  That was embarrassing.  Top tip for other visitors who might come in our wake. Just because it says ‘automatic’ on the outside, doesn’t mean you can’t get in by just opening the door in the old-fashioned manual way using a handle and a bit of shove inwards.  Good to know. Humiliating it took us quite so long to work out!

Possibly even a bit more embarrassing that we then did a reconstruction of this incident in order to document it for this very blog post, causing a small queue of bewildered fellow parkrunners left wondering why it was exactly we needed to take a picture of one of us failing to get through a door.  Sometimes though, I think a little mystery in life is a good thing, we didn’t take the time to explain ourselves.   After all, the lovely other people were all fellow parkrunners, all signed up to the code to ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way‘.  Phew.

parkrun code

Once inside, I can report fabulous loos, lots of them.  However, in the interests of transparency I must report that one unlucky occupant was caught unawares due to a malfunctioning lock – not by me but in an adjacent cubicle – so just a quick heads up to check you are properly secured before settling in for whatever business you require pre- run.  Also, the doors in the Discovery Centre are hilariously tall.  I felt like Alice in Wonderland mid-shrink.  They tower over you.  I thought this sufficiently odd that it required a photo to indicate scale.  Having subsequently come to see just how tall the hi-vis hero doing the parkrun first timers’ briefing was, I wonder if the height is by way of being accommodating to all users.  It’s a thought.

Smiley Selfie Queen doesn’t always stand like that, by the way, her pose was on account of the Penguin Challenge…  She’d come tooled up for business.

So, about the penguins then.  Long story short, my Smiley Paces running club is once again doing a Smiletastic challenge, splitting members into teams to take on various running activities and challenges to help motivate them to get out and run during the long dark winter months.  This year the teams are walruses, seals, penguins and reindeer.  I’m not taking part this year, but lots of my running buddies wisely are.  This week’s challenge, is to do something to mark Penguin Awareness Day, which is actually tomorrow (at time of writing) 20th January 2019.

happy penguin awareness day

Hence my buddy, who is a seal (not an actual seal, but in team seal obvs) was on a quest to do something running related that would help raise necessary awareness of the plight of penguins. Clearly, once alerted to this great cause, I was on board to help as best I could.  Hence we had along with us penguin companions as emotional support animals, and a mission to raise awareness as best we could to all and any present by whatever legal means we could.  First off though, we needed to carb up.  You can’t take on a mission like this without a bit of pre-run sustenance, so we’d p.. p… p… picked up some penguin biscuits to fortify us for the adventures ahead:

We had ample time to faff about and wonder what to wear, and then dumped unneeded stuff back in the car before heading to the hi-vis cluster.  This was a busy parkrun.  A very busy parkrun.  A very, very busy parkrun.  But you know what, it managed to be incredibly user-friendly and welcoming as well, which is no mean feat.

We made our way to the hi-vis mob, where there was a welcome sign for new parkrunners from various GP surgeries- there has been a recent drive to get new parkrun/walkers along and I think today was their launch. It’s a practice parkrun initiative, of which Conkers parkrun is apparently one. This doesn’t mean you have to practice before you can go there or indeed any other parkrun au contraire, it means GP practices in the area are proactively trying to get their staff and patients to come along and give it a go.  Splendid!  Lots of smiley faces too. Also splendid.  I do like a well-judged emoticon.

dscf6899

There was a token table set out in anticipation of finishing runners handing back hundreds of tokens.  Although, actually it may have been an unofficial swingers system or some sort of roulette/ bingo system, as at intervals people had left keys on certain numbers.  Sometimes best not to ask.  Good system though.  For sorting tokens I mean, not for arranging swingers parties.  They also are in possession of a yellow wheelie bin, the existence of such a thing of which I was previously unaware, and an item which now I covet.  Shallow, but true.  Also, I know in my heart of hearts it wouldn’t make me happy even if I got one, it would just be the gateway acquisition that made me long for ever more ostentatious waste disposal/ storage solutions.  It is pretty cool though isn’t it? It didn’t give me quite the elevated heart rate I experience on entering a really fine stationery shop, but I had a momentary flutter I must concede.  No defibrillator needed on this occasion, but lucky they have one thereabouts if they are going to shamelessly flaunt their yellow bin every week

We weren’t quite sure at what point to enlist others in the penguin awareness raising challenge. We went to the first timers briefing, which was helpful welcome and course description.   It was organised so after that bit for tourists, he did a more details intro for first time ever at parkrun, which was all very reassuring, mentioning tail walker and it’s OK to run/walk/jog whatever you like.  He seemed friendly and approachable and important looking, what with his authoritative air and placard holding technique. He’d do.  Smiley Selfie Queen made the approach, well, it was her challenge after all, and I’m happy to report dear reader, that it took very little persuasion to get him on board with penguin related posing. Result!

penguin power

As Smiley Selfie Queen remarked afterwards, that’s one of the many completely brilliant things about parkrun, you can rock up wearing penguin pictures and ask to be photographed with people eating penguin biscuits, or indeed posing as penguins, and that’s quite acceptable. Expected even.  Today at Conkers parkrun, there was a guy wearing half a suit of armour, and we didn’t even comment on it particularly… though I regret not getting a photo now, obviously, but then again, it’s only just occurred to me that yes, that is slightly unusual, even for parkrun.

Edit – don’t panic dear reader, the official Conkers run report writer was on it, and I’ve stolen the photo from them. Thank you!  See, these Conkers people, they pay attention to detail.  Epic.

knight in half a suit of armour

More usual are milestone runs and pre-wedding parties and superheroes, but really anything goes.  There were some of those two of course, and we had to get more of ourselves, because to be frank, what’s the point of travelling with Smiley Selfie Queen if you don’t make full use of her photographic talents?

From this gathering point, we followed the crowds through a tunnel (reminiscent of Bakewell parkrun) and alongside a mini railway line, over a level crossing (which had automatic gates again, they like them at Conkers apparently, and to the back of the start funnel which stretched seemingly for miles ahead of us (only not really).

Point of information, if we’d parked up at the other car park, which I think is waterside it is very literally the other side of the tunnel, so you end up in the same place though I think as a newbie, the assembly point was very much more visible at the Discovery Centre side, plus that’s nearer the cafe and loos, an important consideration in route planning methinks.

I was quite taken aback at how busy it was.  It felt a bit like arriving at an organised event. They like their signs here. I do too.  Volunteers held up huge brightly coloured signs with different anticipated run times to encourage people to organise themselves into appropriate speed groups. It was friendly, and not intimidating.  You go out and back along the same mile at the start and finish, so some parkrunners left bags on railings or hung from trees where they’d be in sight of finish funnel volunteers.  It was cold and grey and started to rain freezing, fat globules of water, but the atmosphere was warm and welcoming.  People spotted we were a bit confused and helped us know where to leave stuff.  We also very quickly enlisted participants to take part in penguin posing, always a win, thank you good people of Conkers parkrun, you are fabulous ambassadors for parkrun in general and Conkers parkrun in particular and I’m sure the penguins are very grateful too!

The starting area is in a dip, there are embankments on either side and a humongous ditch perfectly sited for inattentive parkrunners to tumble in to.  Also, the bank was quite good for posing as a penguin in the background of a selfie shot.

penguin pose

The track was hard compacted path, with some surface mud, but definitely OK for buggies.  It was fun milling around.

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but the best bit was when I had the genius idea of clambering up on the muddy hillside of the embankment to try to get some shots of the whole snake of starters.  I was spotted and people all waved en masse as I clicked away.  It was hilarious, I felt I was recording an epic moment of history, which in a way I was, because parkrun is always epic, and for some this would have been their first brush with it.  How there lives will change from hereon-in.  Unfortunately, my camera can’t really cope with this kind of sweeping panoramic shot, also it’s broken,  I’m trying to ignore this fact, but it keeps jamming, or not working or creating a blank picture, this injects an element of surprise into any photo taken.  The pictures aren’t that good therefore, but they are still memories, and maybe some people will enjoy playing ‘Where’s Wally?’ and trying to spot themselves in them, so I’ll post them all anyway, and that’s hours of your life you’ll never get back dear reader, if you should choose to peruse and pore over them all…

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Now might be a good time to mention the course.  Increasingly I find the running component almost incidental to the parkrun fun package, but I daresay purists will want to know more.  I didn’t know anything about the course before hand, the Conkers parkrun course blah de blah is, pretty minimalist to be fair:

The route is best described as an out and back loop but it is very scenic and takes in the Ashby Woulds and Donisthorpe Woodlands trail paths with a small section running adjacent to the Ashby Canal.

Location of start – The course starts and finishes just beyond the train track crossing at Conkers Waterside.  Address: CONKERS Waterside, Bath Yard, Bath Lane (B5003), Moira, Swadlincote, Derbyshire DE12 6BA

There is a very nice parkrun profile all about Conkers parkrun on the official parkrun pages.  Most impressive.

and it looks like this:

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So hard to get lost, but will have to witness faster runners thundering home whilst still heading out potentially.  Not necessarily a bad thing, who knows, some may even be up for a high-five…

The map of the route makes it look a little on the ho-hum border line dull side, but it really wasn’t, it was fab!

I’m not going to lie, the start was very congested, and when the cry went up for ‘awf’ or ‘go’ or whatever it was, absolutely nothing happened, and then there was a slow trudge forward.  You can’t overtake for the first few hundred metres because there is a huge bank towering over you to the left hand side and a deep ditch to the right. There was also the RD standing atop of, well I’m not sure what exactly, but he basically shouted ‘you can run from here’ as you passed him, and indeed you could.  The route is on good terrain and for speedier runners could potentially be a fast one, but you’d need to position yourself toward the front. I’m happiest pootling, so didn’t worry me.

You head out, you really can’t go wrong, there aren’t any alternative options.  You just follow the path, there are trees on either side, there’s a tunnelly bit, then you emerge onto more open ground where you can see runners ahead snaking round, it was really lovely, though astonishing just how far ahead some were.

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Towards the top of this hill, where the route bent round, there was a full on paparazzi squad with the most enormous telephoto lenses I’ve ever seen, all set up on tripods.  I presume this was part of the practice parkrun rather than we were all photo-bombing a twitcher who’d seen an extremely rare rainbow unicorn stork on a wayward migration stop or something and was trying to frame the perfect shot before we all came storming through, but I didn’t actually stop to ask so can’t be sure.

EDIT and update:  just seen on the Conkers parkrun Facebook page that the man with the impressive lens was a certain Darren Cresswell. Ensconced with his camera equipment at the top of the first slope,  Darren was taking photographs and some footage for the National Forest for a future article about National Forest activities in the Winter, and what better than a Conkers parkrun.   So now we know. And here are some of his shots by way of illustration.  Somewhat better than my own offerings I concede, I can be gracious like that…

The route then went through some trees and we all yomped on puddle jumping when necessary.

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After a bit, we were rewarded with the first of the sign-bearers. These were cheery, helpful sign brandishers, not doom-laden bad-omen mongerers warning us to beware the ides of march or anything like that.  The first sign was advising us to keep to the side of the cones, now remember this  man, because he does something really unexpected later on.

dscf6978

And it was indeed good advice to keep to the right of the cones, because very soon, the front runner was storming back.  Impressive.  It’s about a mile out, then you do the looping the loop bit by some water, and then you rejoin the trail for a mile back in.

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There is a sort of three-way junction point where runners coming back emerge and slower runners are still heading out.  Fortuitously, another friendly marshal is sited there to keep an eye on proceedings and ensure all runs smoothly.  Loving your work hi-vis hero, good job!

STOP PRESS EDIT:  So, bit of insider info for you hear dear reader, you are rewarded for being a later arrival at this post with an added morsel of information.  I have it on the considerable authority of a former core member of the Conkers team that, and I quote:

each of the major points on course has a name, as per tshirt we did years ago (attached). The ‘three-way’ point as you call it is ‘Stephen’s Gate’, but as your photos show there is no longer a gate, and I’m very rarely there, having been on the Core team for five years I shuffled across to the new (at the time) Rosliston – very much as friendly and welcoming as Conkers!

Now, clearly it’s a bold claim about Rosliston, and I shall be sure to add it to my ‘to do’ list of parkruns so I can go check that out for myself, but in the meantime, we can all benefit from this photo of the T-shirt map, and be enlightened.  Hurrah!  I feel much better informed now!  Thank you fellow parkrunner, for coming forward so graciously!

conquered conkered conkers

Shortly after this, you run on a bit, and the… and this is really excellent… there was another sign, warning you that you were about to encounter cheeky hill!  This is genius dear reader, informative, but also entertaining and motivating, very considerate hosts these Conkers parkrun people.

So you go up the Cheeky Hill, which I can confirm is a bit deceptive, as it isn’t that long, well not by Sheffield standards, and not even all that steep (Strava said the elevation on this route was 38m) but it was puff inducing for me anyway, and although many gamely hoiked themselves up, there were a few wise power walkers who were no doubt saving themselves for a sprint finish. What about me?  Well, I had to stop and document the course didn’t I, so that necessitated a stop start strategy, which I like to think of as a sort of hybrid between hill training and interval training and ethnographic research.

At the top, there is another marshal, to congratulate you on your efforts, and direct you round.  Again, some exemplary sign sporting in evidence here, they must train them. It’s actually quite hard, and quite a responsibility to brandish a sign for any length of time.  I know, I’ve been on loads of demonstrations.

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Then there was a watery bit alongside, and an al fresco pee point, judging from the person or person(s) unknown who took a little detour into the woods…  Also ducks, and dear reader, if you have been loyal to me over the years you will know that these have a soft spot in my heart. Gotta luvva duck.

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You then see another cheery marshal – lawks a lordy then were everywhere on this route, to stop you heading off to infinity and beyond and send you back en route, and, just in case you are flagging at this point, there is yet another genius sign pointing out you are lapping everyone on the sofa, as indeed we were.  They were very much into their motivational signage here.  Well judged lovely Conker parkrun people, well judged indeedy.  I thank you.

Then, to me unexpectedly quickly, ‘suddenly’ you were back round at the three-way meeting point and about to be heading homeward.  Recognise this cheery hi-vis hero?

You may well do… but the next volunteer marshal along was more challenging!  More challenging because?  Because, dear reader, he’d metamorphosed into a completely new incarnation, and was brandishing a different sign entirely! Wow, that’s upping the placard bearing stakes.  Has to do a quick change at a critical point in the parkrun pantomime of runners.  Genius.  I spotted what he’d done though. What I don’t know, and didn’t establish, is if I’d run back later to retrace my steps whether the sign would have been changed again.  I like to think so.  He probably had a whole stash of purple placards there, ready to brandish as appropriate on any or all occasions.  Sorry, out of focus, this is my camera in its death throes for sure, there is a fair amount of operator error I know, but not to the extent in evidence today…

dscf7039

The surprises weren’t over though, oh no. If you could but resist the temptation to nip into the open cafe and carry on

you’d get to my favourite sign of the morning.  You are awesome!  It proclaimed. And yes we are!  I paused to take a photo and demanded a high-five – it was very uplifting. At this point on the course, other runners who’d already finished had come back up to cheer in fellow runners still out there, it was all extremely friendly and supportive.  I genuinely got the impression that if this was your local parkrun you could get involved and meet people really quickly if that’s what you wanted to do.  It was a great event.

and then, seemingly we were nearing the finish, through the tunnel and the end was in sight!

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Smiley Selfie Queen, long since finished, was there to cheer me in, as were a load of friendly and feisty hi viz heroes. They were like a well oiled machine, moving me through the funnel, anyone would think they’d done this before. Fantastic experience!

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but you know what, that wasn’t even the end of the excitement. Oh no, there were further climaxes to come!

We were still on a quest to do more for penguins, because whatever you do is never enough what with their habitats so threatened and all.  Then we were distracted by the sight of a parkrun bell!  Now, I have seen these before, but usually the ringing of these is reserved for those who have achieved PBs (or believe they have) and I haven’t for many years, and indeed expect to PB approximately never again.  I therefore reluctantly concede that bell ringing at parkrun was alas to be an activity that did not include me. Well, dear reader, Conkers parkrun is most liberal in its offer to ring their bell.  You can to it for a PB if you wish, but also for being a tourist, or being at your first parkrun, or for being happy, or pretty much for being whatever!  How very inclusive, and how very inspired. Surely we could ring the bell for penguin awareness, it would be most apt. However, much as a run on strava never happened, and a barcodeless parkrun disappears into the void of invisibility, a parkrun bell rung without being captured in a photo similarly never came into being. We’d need to interact.  Well, I haven’t quite got enough effusive words to communicate what happened next.  Long story short (not that short to be fair, I don’t really do concise, which may come as a surprise, or may not, depending on how good you are at skim reading…), we made a brilliant discovery!  Casting around for someone to act as official photographer, we settled on someone who asked directly ‘what’s with the penguin’ well, clearly this was just the shoo in we needed, we were able to give a brief lecture on the importance of raising awareness about penguins and it being part of a running  club challenge and all, and many further brilliant things tumbled forth.  It was a positive embarrassment of riches. First off, turned out, this was the fine person who’d replied so promptly to our enquiries the day before. Then, he submitted agreed to be videoed by way of evidence of our penguin awareness activities (though I don’t know how to upload the video here so you’ll just have to take my word for it and make do with this rather inadequate screen grab)

penguin awareness with event director

and best of all, revealed at the end that his son actually, my gawd, I can’t believe this really happens SPONSORS AN ACTUAL PENGUIN, and what’s more, hard to believe I know HIS SON WAS THE RUN DIRECTOR OF TODAY’S EVENT!  What were the chances – clearly photos were needed:

and what’s more (yes there is more) his penguin is called Pedro, which is an excellent name for a penguin and his dad, who we’d just been talking to, is Event Director for the whole shebang.  Basically dear reader we were hobnobbing with the elite of Conkers parkrun, and I would say it’s not beyond the realm of possibility penguin awareness day might yet get a mention in the Conkers parkrun run report for today.  Fingers crossed.  All in all, one of the happiest parkrun days of my entire life, and there have been many!

He even agreed to get us a few decent bell ringing snaps, and executed them amazingly.  We played it cool with the ding dongs, but I think the perceptive reader will spot we were secretly pretty goddarned chuffed!

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All in all, we had an amazing time.

UPDATE: Seems the event director was today completing his 300th run, so I hope he got to have a good ding dong with the bell once we’d vacated it, and I’m sure his hi-vis comrades would have carried him aloft to the Discovery Centre for celebratory coffee afterwards, but we missed that display of celebration unfortunately, preoccupied as we were with our own adventures.

Bell ringing done, we crossed to the other side of the tracks, espying an unexpected train as we did so

and then you walk down the path, under the tunnel, back to the gathering place, where a squad of hi-vis scanners formed a guard of honour to greet you and scan your barcode.  I’m quite surprised that they don’t lose a lot of tokens between the end and the scanners, but then again, they were quite a visible if not formidable presence blocking the exit route, so perhaps hard to dodge.

Also, despite their barcode scanning efficiency, they weren’t agin doing some penguin posing for the cause, so another good result there. Thank you accommodating barcode scanning team.  You make a fabulous penguin colony you really do.  Which is a good thing to be, and you huddle beautifully, which is an excellent way to keep warm in inclement weather, so well done all of you!

penguin posed

So we passed on by the token table, which incidentally subsequently teleported to the cafe where everyone could take a turn at the token sorting, a little like doing a large communal jigsaw each week.

and we went to the cafe for post run pee and then re-hydration with coffee (me) and hot chocolate (Smiley Selfie Queen).  I can report it was good coffee, and there were also jugs of water on hand too.  Only negative comment was that they use disposable cups and I regretted not having my reuseable one with me.  Oh well. The culture is changing. We had a post penguin parkrun debrief and felt happy.

penguin refreshments

So that was that, job done.

A grand day out indeed!

Thank you Conkers parkrun, it was a lovely, memorable, welcoming and hilarious at times morning.  You will have a special place in our tourism hearts and hope to be back soon.

Be sure to wish Pedro a happy penguin awareness day from we two Smilies.

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.

Happy parkrunning until next time!

🙂

penguin_1f427

PS  Thank you lovely Conkers parkrun people for the comments on my blog after you shared it on your Facebook page.  I am hugely grateful to anyone who stops by to read my posts, and elated if you comment too. However, there is a special place in my heart for the penguin puns and penguin emojis and penguin wit and wisdom many of you took the trouble to include in your feedback.  No wonder the penguins in Conkers park are dancing!

dancing penguins

Categories: parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sheffield Hallam parkrun 421, the Run Report that never was.

Digested read:  one of my intended projects for 2019 was to have a stab at producing a run report.  I have been gifted an amazing excel pivot widget thingamajig courtesy of the fine folk of Graves parkrun in general and Stephen Gilmer in particular.  Who knew what sorcery could be executed with parkrun results stats thanks to such a tool.  I never thought I’d spontaneously bow down in worship at the potential of a spreadsheet, but really, up til now I’ve never lived, Excel wise.  Now, well life feels different somehow.  A whole new world of possibilities. Smiley Elder, I finally understand!

So I’ve had a stab at a run report, but it’s not made the cut for the official parkrun page, however, as it’s done now, here it is anyway.  A one off special. A rogue run report.  Not so much rebel runner, as rebel reporter.  Go me.  Perhaps it is no co-incidence my finish position was 666 today, the devil in me will out!  You can embrace your inner anarchist by reading on if you dare.  Also, on the plus side, I can put in extra photos now, and indulge my own idiosyncrasies with abandon so every cloud has a silver lining as the saying goes, or is it every silver lining has its cloud?  Oh I forget.

clouds-2

Dear reader, I give you the run report that never was: Sheffield Hallam parkrun # 421 – 05/01/2019

Unabridged version:

Happy New Year!

Welcome back to Sheffield Hallam’s first parkrun of 2019.  It’s a new year, it’s a new dawn but it’s the same glorious parkfun at parkrun.

On a crisp and distinctly nippy morning, 711 parkrunners took to the park to run, walk, jog the 5k parkrun course at Sheffield Hallam’s 421st event.  Thanks to awesome volunteers, the event ran smoothly, inasmuch as nobody fell in the lake (as far as this run report writer is aware) nobody got lost and everybody had fun. Yay!

A special mention to our very own Finlay for his fabulous vocal power in gathering together the first timers for their briefing, which was actually delivered courtesy of Bernie, no artificial aids to voice projection were required there.  We salute you!

the voice finlay

Sandi was in fine form as the first Run Director to kick off the new year, and reminded runners of the few rules we all need to adhere to, to ensure the continuing of this parkrun.  We are a large and mainly cheery crowd, but it is important to avoid problems by following the parkrun code.

parkrun code

Also, Endcliffe park specific rules, keep right within the park, and left on Rustlings road. No running in the road or you will not receive a result, more importantly you might get run over, and jeopardise the future of the event by causing it to be cancelled, and where would be the fun in that?

Here’s a few parkrun resolutions for 2019 borrowed from our friends at Graves:

  1. We shall give way and be nice to other park users (no effing and blinding!)
  2. We will not run on the road under any circumstances
  3. We shall only bring one dog and it will be on a short lead
  4. We will remember our barcodes throughout 2019 – not mentioning anyone’s names…
  5. We will not funnel duck
  6. We will not knick tokens
  7. And lastly you WILL give volunteering a go in 2019 especially if you haven’t done it before!

By the way, re point 3, we are more relaxed at Hallam, you don’t absolutely have to bring a dog with you, parkrunners are allowed to participate without a canine companion.  One looks fun though:

However, re other rule breakers, the volunteer team now have a spade as part of their kit to help dig a hole to dispose of the bodies of miscreants.  I’m pretty sure it’s getting to be standard practice now, by which I mean it’s required kit,  along with a defibrillator for new parkrun set ups.

resized spade

Thanks to those of you who managed to contain yourselves enough to keep quiet during the run briefing, it is appreciated.  It is no mean feat to address 700+ runners, so even if you have heard it all before, please respect other participants and the RD by holding fire on your chit chat for those few minutes.  You may think you are whispering, but trust me you have a booming voice and besides, think how much more interesting your anecdote will be if the hearer has to wait another three minutes to hear its conclusion. The escalating frisson of excitement at delayed gratification will be its own reward!

Thanks to the volunteers

We are very grateful to the volunteers who made this event happen:

Tonia ADAM, Alex ADAM, Anurag AGARWAL, Anuvrat AGARWAL, Ananya AGARWAL, Mohammed AHMED, Lucas BILLINGTON, Ann BREWSTER, Sandi CARMAN, George CARMAN, Rebecca CARMAN, Finlay COOPER, Dave DARWENT, Will DAY, Cecilia DE NARDO, Nicole DONALDSON, Bronwen DOYLE, Fran GRACE, Bernie HARDING, Judy JOHNSON, Paul JOHNSON, Anna KNOWLES, Pamela LEON, George LLOYD-HUGHES, Fran MARSHALL, Annie Anthony MAYS, Jacob MCKEVITT FLACK, Oscar MCKEVITT FLACK, Conor O’BOYLE, Marianne PUMMELL, John RAFFERTY, John ROBERTS, Andy SHEPPARD, Derek SIMPSON, John TOYNE, Chris WALLBRIDGE

Thanks to all the volunteers, especially those who week in, week out, show up, smile and make this event the success it is.  This is not only the most desirable of clubs to join, but it’s an inclusive one too, so don’t be daunted, if you want to join the team of hi-vis heroes, you’ll be more than welcome.  Just send an email to SheffieldHallamhelpers@parkrun.com . You can also opt in to receive regular emails to let you know all about volunteering opportunities.   Simply open a recent parkrun newsletter, results email or volunteer email, click on ‘manage my profile’, then ’email options’, then select the events you’d like to hear from and click ‘save opt-in events list’.   Easy.  You might even get to brandish your own clip board one day!  I know, the sniff of power can make some quite giddy!  Exciting isn’t it. If you can handle a clipboard at parkrun, you can take on the world.

clipboard custody

A few fun stats to get you in the mood.

With special thanks to Graves parkrun in general and Stephen Gilmer in particular for sharing the necessary excel wizardry to make such stats accessible.  The power of the pivot table was previously unknown to me but now?  So much fun!

For example:

Did you know that today we welcomed an amazing 86 people doing their first EVER parkrun!  Welcome to the world of parkrun, hope to see you all back soon.  I hope you all not only enjoyed your parkrun, but took part in the post parkrun tradition of coffee and cake or even brunch with friends old and new.  So a shout out to:

Adam LI Aidan HARRIS Alex HUGGAN
Alistair FLOOD Amy STREET Andrew John MILNES
Andy FREEMAN Andy SCATTERGOOD Ben HOLDEN
Calvin FEAKES Cariad WRIGHT Charlotte GRACE
Christine BAYCROFT Christine GLEW Daniel LONGLEY
Dave LUCK David SIMS Dean WHITTINGSLOW
Diarmuid CREHAN Eleanor HUGGAN Eliah WARD
Emma CHARLES Erin MERCER Esther GRAY
Esther SAMSON Ethan DENNIS Eve RAFFERTY
Faye GOODWORTH Francesca EASTMENT Georgina ROWSE
Graham ORD Hannah KIPPEN Hannah PATON
Heidi REDMOND Helen GRIFFITHS Helen JONES
Jack CHAMBERS Jack LONGLEY Jack OLDFIELD
James WALLACE Jennifer DRAKE Jenny SAWYER
Jeremy TAYLOR Jessica MOHAN Jill SCRIVENS
Joe GAUGHAN John BOREMAN Julian GOSLIGA
Julie SIMS Kate COLLINGWOOD Kate MAHONEY
Kate SALINSKY Laurie NICHOLAS Liz EADE
Louise HEATON Louise LUCK Mark LONGLEY
Matt ADAMS Megan CREHAN Mikey CHARLES
Nadia LAMBERT Nathan TIMMIS Oliver FEAKES
Oliver WOODCOCK Peter MARSHALL Polly NATYNCZUK
Rachel RIPLEY Richard HIBBERT Ruby CLARKE
Ruby JANDU Ruth FEAKES Salil DEENA
Sandy SMITH Sean DAVIES Seren ORD
Shengpeng LI Sophia PARKER Sophie HAYCOCK
Tammy HAGUE Theo FAIRBROTHER Thomas HOWARTH
Tim DENNIS Timothy LATHAM Tony LYELL
Vicky STOREY William FEAKES

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, can we also extend a welcome to the 37 runners who visited Sheffield Hallam parkrun for the first time.  Hope you enjoyed your run and the delights of Endcliffe park.  Did you manage to spot the heron on the way round?  Sometimes you’ll even see a kingfisher if you are lucky, we don’t just have ducks on the ponds here.  Thanks for gracing us with your presence.  Special shout out to the NewZealand visitors, didn’t catch your names, but thanks for coming:

Amy STREET Andrew John MILNES Andy FREEMAN
Calvin FEAKES Charlotte GRACE Christine BAYCROFT
Dave LUCK David SIMS Esther GRAY
Ethan DENNIS Eve RAFFERTY Faye GOODWORTH
Georgina ROWSE Heidi REDMOND Jennifer DRAKE
Jenny SAWYER Jessica MOHAN Jill SCRIVENS
Julian GOSLIGA Julie SIMS Kate COLLINGWOOD
Kate MAHONEY Laurie NICHOLAS Liz EADE
Louise HEATON Louise LUCK Matt ADAMS
Nadia LAMBERT Oliver FEAKES Oliver WOODCOCK
Rachel RIPLEY Ruby CLARKE Ruth FEAKES
Tammy HAGUE Tim DENNIS Tony LYELL
William FEAKES

Everyone who took part was magnificent however, here are some, captured (metaphorically not literally) by our near ever-present photographer genius George Carman.  We thank you.

The photos give many insights as to what goes on at parkrun.  This is the secret of barefoot running – stay airborne!  Impressive indeed, by any standard.

bare foot runner

Some runners even abandoned any pretence of not seeing the event photographer and gave cheery greetings, demonstrating impressive multi-tasking with running and arm waving and even the odd distorted grimace broad smiles of acknowledgement and appreciation as they sped on by.

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It is a run not a race, but in case you are interested, the first, second and third finishers were:

Women:

1 Sarah BURRELL
2 Celia NAYLOR
3 Tammy HAGUE

And men:

1 Thomas Denwood HARRISON
2 David MILLNS
3 Steve CANNING

But let’s have some shout outs for random reasons that please me.  Specifically, on this Sheffield Hallam’s 421st event, the 421st finisher was Colette White.  In 75th position was Mark Ansell. This year is the 75th anniversary of the crash of the B-17 Flying Fortress, known as Mi Amigo, which crashed at Endcliffe Park, Sheffield, in 1944.  Ten were killed, and they are memorialised by the monument behind the EPIC café which has been tended by eye witness Tony Foulds for decades since, he saw the pilot ‘waving’ as the plane came down.  You’ll see him out there several times a week, keeping the spot tended and clean.  Say hello if you do.  Here are some of this morning’s parkrunners, including two actual American visitors with Tony himself at the memorial.

In homage to Tony, a shout out to all the other Tonys at Hallam today: Tony HALL, Tony LYELL and Tony WILLIAMS

You can see Tony’s original story here:

There was also a Jessica Olympian sighting in the park today, so can we have a cheer for her namesake too:  Jessica MOHAN

Bravo to this week’s milestone runners:

Caroline HOPE 50, Candi LAWSON 50 and Yousef EZAYDI 100.

Congratulations all.  We’ll look forward to see you sporting your milestone t-shirts in due course!

Superwomen

Whilst all parkrunners are intrinsically awesome, FACT, can we have a collective gasp of admiration for the two parkrunners who exceeded 80% in the good for age rankings.  For those of you now blinking cluelessly at your screens, all parkrun events use age grading to allow athletes to compare results.  Age grading takes your time and uses the world record time for your sex and age to produce a score (a percentage). This score allows you to compare your personal performance against other people’s performances even though they might be a different age and a different sex to you – the higher the score the better the performance.

Not everyone is seeking to achieve ever higher age gradings, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the following percentages.  Wow!

Dot KESTERTON with an astonishing 93.51 %, and the ever smiling Kate SCOTT with 80.21 %.  To put this in context, at Cardiff parkrun today Charlotte ARTER broke the women’s parkrun world record with a finish in 15:50 for the age category SW25-29 and her age grading was ‘only’ 93.47 %.  Go Dot! Dot was faster than the speed of light, so initially I thought she’d not been captured on film today, but it seems Mr Carman’s shutter fingers were even faster.  Here are each en route, storming it:

Thank you both for giving us all something to chase!

So well done everyone for turning out – what a great start to the year.  Here’s to a great year of parkrun fun for all in 2019.

I think we all deserve a round of applause for being awesome!  Here it is.

clapping conclusion

Rebel Run Report Writer Lucy Marris A448776

 

Also, self indulgent Smiley Paces wowzers moment:

WOWZERS! Three … yes THREE parkrun category records bagged today by the Smileys or friends of …. Hallam; Dot Kesterton 65-69 in a time of 22.21 age grading of 93.51% (😲!), Concord; Nicola Rafferty 55-59 in a time of 22.14 age grading of 81.41% and the legendary Kate Morris at Rother Valley; 50-54 19.32 age grading 89.16% which is also an all time parkrun PB! UP THE OLD BIRDS !!!

Gotta love parkrun!

Til next time

🙂

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. 🙂

 

Categories: parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Ich bin ein Berliner?** Becoming an international athlete courtesy of TpOT and Hasenheide parkrun Berlin :) OMG!

Digested Read:  First foray into international tourism took me to Hasenheide parkrun in Germany.  Might be easier just to think of it as Berlin parkrun.  It was just like a ‘normal’ parkrun but in Germany, and surrounded by the Tralee parkrun family draped in the Irish tricolour!  How brilliant is that!  Who knew?

tpot classic shot

Unabridged account:

The undigested read is kind of complicated.  Sooooooooooooooooo very much I want to say, to be honest, you might find it a bit much to listen to it, but I won’t notice if you want to go off and do something and pop back later when I’ve run out of steam, could be a while though.  You’ve got time to make and drink a cup of tea, walk the dog and defrost the fridge.  If you don’t already have a dog, you’ve probably even got time to research which dog you’d like to adopt, argue with your family and friends about which might be the best fit, visit it, book in a home visit, wait for it to have its vaccinations and finally go and collect it and let it settle in over night before taking it out for the walk,  but it’s up to you.  If it’s cold outside you might be just in the mood for sitting on the sofa, watching TV whilst idly reading a random blog post in between scratching yourself and eating crisps, each to their own.

If I was in a position to re-home a dog, I think I’d currently go with Scamp, I can really relate to having awkwardly shaped hobbit feet and aspiring to achieve sole occupancy of a most capacious looking sofa, I think we’d get on fine.  Might need to organise a two-sofa household, but that’s doable…

SCamp

So this was the weekend when I took my parkrun career to new heights by going international.  Berlin parkrun to be specific.  Hurrah!  There’s more to it than that though, isn’t there always?  It all began way, way back in the mists of time, about this time last year to be fair.  About the time my mum became launched as a parkrun icon.  Hopefully you know about that already, or we really are in for a long one.  Basically, my mum got featured in one of the parkrun uk news posts because at 89 she is a regular fixture on the Bushy parkrun route as she walks across from the care home where she lives to clap and cheer parkrunners every Saturday morning.  One of the regular parkrunners had dropped off a Christmas card for her, and mum was super chuffed to receive it.  She has been made an honorary marshal in recognition of her support, and even has her own hi-viz – I know of only one other marshal to have been honoured in this way.  Quite rightly, her spot on the route has become known as ‘Elisabeth’s Corner’ and is about the half way mark if you are visiting to complete your parkrun pilgrimage and inclined to pause for a selfie.  Anyways, on the back of her becoming a media sensation, Tralee parkrunners, who I now know are inclined to go off en masse for parkrunning related adventures, had already planned a Tralee trip to Bushy parkrun for early in the new year.  Unfortunately, when they went, my mum was poorly, but undeterred, they nipped over to the care home on the off-chance they’d get to see her anyway, and they did!  They showered her with good wishes and gifts. They’d wanted a photo to capture the occasion and set about trying to find someone before my mum interjected with the now legendary words ‘why not just take a quick selfie?’.  And they did – hang on, let me see if I can find it…

selfie tralee

There you go.  Isn’t that just lovely?  From hereon-in a legend was born and new friendships forged. The Tralee team contacted me and kindly sent me the image as well as the anecdote – I don’t honestly know which is more priceless, the photo, or the selfie request.  My mum has indeed come a long way from the first time someone tried to high-five her and she shook their hand instead, she’s a total pro now.  Can do high tens and everything:

mum kudos

Fast forward, and a few Facebook messages and emails later I found I not only had a framed photo of some ‘random’ people I’d never met on the mantelpiece in my living room, but also an invitation to join the TpOTs (that’s Tralee parkrunners On Tour) at a future time, specifically Berlin parkrun, which we all now know and love as Hasenheide parkrun, later in the year.  I thought about this a lot.  I mean, it’s silly really, getting on a plane and flying hundreds of miles to run 5k with a bunch of people you’ve never met… and then I thought, but why wouldn’t I?  How much fun would be had?  And anyway, for all those who think Germany might be a very long way to go ‘just’ to run/walk/jog 5k (unless you live in Germany already I suppose) two points:  Firstly, you are clearly not a parkrunner so will never understand though I hope one day you’ll come join the party and secondly) what is even more peculiar is people who go all the way on holiday to e.g. Germany (other destinations are available) for no reason at all, and therefore miss out on doing a parkrun.  Upshot was, I was in.  Accommodation booked, flight booked, we shall make it so.

I didn’t think about it all that much until a few days before departure.  I was a bit apprehensive, first time as an international athlete, and no idea what to expect, plus there was the burden of packing all that was needed.  Never, ever has it been more important to attend to this:

No automatic alt text available.

I remembered mine, which is a minor miracle as I had to keep unpacking it to make sure I really hadn’t forgotten to pack it, thereby increasing the likelihood of leaving it behind as it was now removed from my case.  In the end I wore it – I have one of those original wrist bands, which are fabulous by the way.  Pricey, but has always scanned.

It’s ages since I’ve left the UK, and I’ve never travelled to Germany before so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I’m always a bit apprehensive arriving in new countries alone, especially towards the end of the day.  I’m by no means an experienced traveller, but generally I try to arrive at new destinations in daylight and at the start of a day as it gives time to sort out any hiccups.   However, I can report that for all practical matters, obviously, the best way to undertake any international parkrun tourism is to get yourself fostered by Tralee parkrun, and just gatecrash their plans.  Worked for me.  They have their systems totally nailed and look out for one another too.

I did have to book my flight independently as I was travelling from Manchester rather than Kerry, but EasyJet were passable, and I got flights that broadly arrived and departed at the same time as their coach load – or more accurately plane load – of travellers was due.  Unfortunately, their flights subsequently changed which meant the expected meet up was no longer a given.  Originally I’d been landing 15 minutes before them, so figured I’d seek them out and follow them to the hotel, now they’d be arriving first.  Curses.  My flight was fine  My pilot was even awake enough not to overshoot the airport by dint of being asleep for example, which is apparently not a given on all aviation travels – check out this article ‘Asleep pilot missed destination in Australia if you don’t believe me and aren’t worried about being made too scared to ever fly anywhere ever again (though that would be better for the environment to be fair.’  I’d only got carry on luggage so it was super speedy emerging from the terminal, and then, as I stepped out into arrivals I saw the best thing ever.  It looked like this:

welcome to Berlin

A customised sign being brandished by a gang of broadly smiling, pathologically friendly and welcoming Tralee parkrunners.  They had made their way to find me and waited to greet me – particularly impressive as we’d arrived at different terminals.  It was the best thing ever!  In my half century of years I’ve only ever once before been met on arrival at an airport and it was wonderful.  I might have got something in my eye, not for the last time this trip either.   They not only had a sign, but the mobile phone displaying my name was playing Lucy themed music!  You can’t get very much more fabulous than that.  I felt quite the celebrity.  Plus, it was brilliant not to have to fathom the transport network and route to the hotel on my own.  Rather I could just parasitise the labours of this dream team, and all would be well.  Although we hadn’t really met before, well not all of them, a satellite mission to Graves junior parkrun and Bakewell earlier in the year had introduced me to some, we just went straight in for the parkrun family hugs.  Well, it would be weird to do otherwise after having shared my front room with at least two of them for nearly a year now.

I exchanged my pre-purchased 72 hour Visit Berlin Welcome pass for a physical ticket and guide book.  A wheeze well worth doing by the way, though make sure if you arrive at Schonefeld Airport you get the Berlin ABC Ticket. A,B and C are the different zones, and our airport was in Zone C.  An absolute bargain though, for duration of our trip, the 72 hour ticket costs €30.90, plus you get a map on arrival and a load of discounts on tourist attractions.  They’d worked out the route to our hotel, I just followed.  Good to know though, there is always time for a photo op, here I am surrounded by my welcoming committee and new best friends forever.  I look somewhat ruffled from my travels, they are glorious and gorgeous, radiating warmth and enthusiasm for the adventure ahead.

The journey to our hotel was very straightforward.  From the airport train station, there was an overground train to Hermanstraße, which took about 26 minutes. Then we changed and got the ‘true’ underground train for 2 stops to Boddinstraße. The hotel was about a 5 minute walk from there.  However, I only know this because I sheep like trotted along behind the person who had the right app on their phone to direct us. Which was fine until his battery went flat, and then fine again when the day was saved by the speedy production of a back up charger.  Tralee parkrunners are prepared for anything. I’d go so far as to say I’d feel safe with them anywhere and would happily follow them to the ends of the earth if they’d let me, though we may have to take it in stages starting with Berlin and with Denmark and Sweden to aspire to in 2020.

Although the main group of 100+ Tralee parkrunners had gone on ahead, we actually caught up with them in the hotel foyer where some were still good-naturedly queuing for their rooms.  They did everything good-naturedly though, so that can be taken as their default demeanour.  So it was I joined the Tralee parkrun crew to the Mercure Hotel near Tempelhof Airport (site of the Berlin air lift).  The hotel had revolving doors.  What more do you need to know?

Oh, and you had haribos in your room which was a nod to running clothes deliveries from wiggle so quite cool, even though I’m vegetarian so they aren’t really my thing, and they had a penchant for serving things in jam jars – humus and soup in the instance above.  What is that about and when will it stop?  I blame hipsters, even though I still don’t know quite what they are.

So, the logistical stuff.  It was great location being a short walk from the parkrun start, and a few hundred yards away from the nearest underground at Boddinstraße Berlin,had revolving doors (always a boon), and a breakfast that had my eyes popping out on stalks with its many and varied possibilities.  Without a parkrun to entice me outside, I could happily have spent all day there just grazing until I burst unceremoniously.  Fantastically quiet in the room too, so I’d recommend that option. It’s not a budget option but not unreasonable either if you book far enough in advance.

I actually arrived on the Thursday night, so Friday was free for exploring Berlin. That should really be another whole story. What I will say is that I did an Insider walking tour for ten euros that was in English,  completely brilliant and a good 5 hours duration.  Berlin is an amazing and fascinating city, albeit it obviously has a bleak and disturbing history.  Made me wish I’d allowed more time, and that I knew my history a bit better.  The underground was really easy to negotiate, but it was bitterly cold.  I can’t resist including a few pics, but I will resist the temptation to tell you all about it in detail.  I know, you can barely contain your disappointment, but you are doing a grand job of disguising it all the same…  I will get to the parkrun stuff eventually.  Think of this delayed gratification as just part of building up the suspense.  It’s going to be so worth it when you get to the climax I promise!*

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There’s just so much I don’t know about Berlin.  Not least why the armadillo has made the little boy cry or why balloons are kept in captivity there.  Still, plenty to discover for another time.  The double cobblestones mark the line of the Berlin wall by the way, that photo wasn’t an accident.  It was a sensory, emotional, cultural, historical and cognitive overload.  My head was spinning by the end, but well worth it, given limited time I’d 100% recommend it to anyone as a first stop to get your bearings and a sense of the city.

Then, finally it was parkrun eve, and in the morning it would be Berlin parkrun day.  Oh.  My.  Gawd!  So exciting.

I woke early.  The view outside my bedroom window was not promising, and it did look even colder than the day before, it being still dark and with an ‘end of the world’ type fog enclosing our glass towered sanctuary.

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Breakfast was from 6.30 and I went and had coffee – an absolute revelation, proper coffee here, not the undrinkable offerings you get at most UK hotels – and a small bowl of porridge.  So hard to resist the temptation to face-plant into the smorgasbord of delights on offer, but I consoled myself with the knowledge I’d have tomorrow too.

We weren’t far from the park, but I had no idea where we were going so made my way down to reception to go with the mass exodus around 8.15.  Oh my, it was so exciting, emerging from the lifts into the foyer of the hotel and to see sights like this:

You just know you are about to embark on a fun morning when you are greeted with the view of a mystery figure in a shamrock morph suit first thing, surrounded by a sea of apricot parkrun shirts.  I was a little shy, because what with the Irish flags and mutual greetings all around it was indeed Tralee parkfunners on tour, this dear reader was quite literally an entire parkrun, decamped to a new destination.  Everyone knew everyone.., apart from me.  I shouldn’t have worried however, not only was everyone intrinsically friendly and open, I had forgotten I was of course a celebrity by association.  My  new best friends introduced me to their fellow parkrunners, explaining ‘you know Elisabeth at Bushy parkrun?  This is her daughter’.  Smiles widened, arms opened to embrace me, faces lit up.  It was amazing.  Is it bad that I’m ever so slightly regretting not having done the whole grumpy cat thing with my  mum and sorting out some souvenir merchandise in advance to have brought with me.  I mean, not to sell, after all, if Mr S-H himself has held back from exploiting parkrun for personal financial gain I’m not about to sell my own mother on the back of it, but I mean to give as gifts in order to ingratiate myself to others, a fine key ring perhaps, or a signed photo would have gone a long way to thank all these lovely people for their warm welcome and including me in this amazing adventure.  It was extraordinary.  How famous is she?  #loveparkrun #loveElisabethscorner

Once we’d formed a loose assembly, on some invisible signal, the migration began and the exodus commenced as we were disgorged through the revolving doors onto the streets of Berlin:

I don’t know if spiderman was particularly attracted by a fellow donner of a morph suit of if he was also just out for parkrun too.  Takes some balls to wear a morph suit I think, but that was OK, our shamrock man had an accompanying juggler to carry some, as you do, so that was all right then.

Hilariously, although it was but a short walk to the park, within seconds half the group was heading off the wrong way up the street and had to be called back into the herd. Actually, after I got to know the area a bit better I think you probably could have done either route, but it was still laugh out loud funny at the time.  The phrase herding cats springs to mind.  Alternatively, think ball bearings scattering across an ice rink and you’ll get the idea.  Still, ball bearings with cohesive instincts, as we did somehow regather, maybe mercury would be a better analogy, breaking apart and them coming together as one mass again once in touching distance from one another.

Anyhows, eventually regathered, we soon came to the park entrance and its associated photo opportunities.  Have you any idea how exciting this moment was?  It was a.maz.ing!  Look, that’s me, by a sign in German in the actual park where the Hasenheide parkrun takes place!

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We wended our way into the park to the assembly point.  What was really extra exciting (and it’s hard to imagine that excitement could continue to build I was on such a high) was as we approached the start we could see what were clearly parkrun signs, but IN GERMAN!

And another thing. These TpOT troupers, Tralee parkrunners On Tour, is that they are absolute pros at this kind of thing.  Not only have they cracked the logistics, they’ve cracked the photo op, coming prepared with a fine flag as well as broad smiles and parkrun tops.  I was permitted the very great honour of posing behind one of the flags, as part of my transition into potentially becoming an honorary TpOT perhaps…  Something in my other eye now, it’s just wonderful to feel part of a gang now and again, a benign one like this anyway, I’m not aspiring to join the masons or anything like that.

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That’s some turn out!  Be impressed, be very impressed.

The park itself was surprisingly large and lots of trees and a welcome green space.  My regular reader will know that usually I put high value on there being somewhere around for a pre parkrun precautionary pee.  On this occasion there was nowhere obvious (though I suppose al fresco options are always a possibility).  Astonishingly I was OK, this could be in part that it was so very cold there was a major incentive to keep everything covered up as much as possible. Nobody would want to brave baring their buttocks in sub arctic conditions.  So I was fine, thank you for asking.

There was milling and chilling – literally and metaphorically, also flag draping and spontaneous juggling.  Remember the parkrun rules everyone, respect each person’s right to participate in their own way.

We found the Run Director and his entourage of volunteers.

The gathering point is an under cover sheltered area with a large mural and some benches which provided a useful dumping ground for bags and even some seating as well as protection in the event of rain.  On a serious note, the park appears nice, but is also something of a gathering spot for drug users and others on the fringes of society, so we were advised that you really mustn’t leave any valuables lying around as there are sadly ‘undesirables’ who might opportunistically take things.  On a cheerier note, there was a photo frame Hasenheide parkrun sign so plenty of opportunities for posing for pictures in all possible combinations of characters.  Excellent.  Some were more experienced at this than others, you could tell the old hands by their more creative displays and configurations with the frame.  I was slightly disappointed that someone corrected another tourist who was holding the sign upside down at one point.  Oh well.

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After much milling and chilling, and mutual photographing…

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eventually the RD called us together for the run welcome. This was excellent, and in both German and English. There were some nice touches, the tourist crowd being so huge, he actually asked if there were any locals running, rather than tourists, and when it came to the briefing it was offered in two groups, one in English and one in German. The German group was but a scattering which was a shame in a way as it needs a local population to be sustainable, but remarkable too.

With their folded arms it makes it look like the parkrunners were a hard to please crowd, but in fact they were just cold. There was a lot of laughing, clapping of volunteers and acknowledgement of running milestones with certificates brought in from Ireland in honour of the occasion.

We were warned about bikes, or more specifically bike riders, who I gather can be well, erm let’s say ‘very focused’ on staying on their paths.  I heard this on my guided walk too, bikes here have super powers and no brakes.  We have been warned.  We were also told to beware of innocent looking lines of leaves, which might be gathered in storm drains, essentially turning them in to tiger traps, or at the very least parkrunner ankle turning traps, which is basically the same thing.  I didn’t notice these anywhere on the course, and then it dawned on me that of course I wouldn’t that’s because the leaves disguise the hazard doh!  It’s amazing I survived the run at all!

For those of you who like the course blah de blah the Hasenheide parkrun website describes the route as follows:

route description

Start and finish are at Café Hasenschänke, near the fairytale playground and the natural theater. The route consists of 2 laps. First, it is 250 m in a westerly direction. At the fork, turn left towards the path that leads around the park.Here, turn right onto the main path, which once passes through the park. After about 1 km you pass a mini-zoo (where, according to Andy, camels can be seen in the summer). In the 2nd round, at kilometer 3, it goes to the right and 200 m up the hill before it goes back to the circular route. At km 4.7, turn right onto the home stretch.

And it looks like this: