Posts Tagged With: parkrun tourism

Hanging out at Hillsborough parkrun #444

Today was all about hightailing it to Hillsborough parkrun.

Although this is one of my locals as a Sheffielder, to be honest, I’ve only been the once before. I didn’t have a particularly good experience. There was a very competitive local running club there out in force and it was very bargy, as a multi-lapper I got shoved off the paths a few times and came away with quite a negative view of it. However, on reflection that was back in 2016 – almost a year to the day in fact as I actually went 30 Jan 2016 which is a pleasing factoid. Things change over 6 years, I should keep an open mind. Anyways, the incentive to drag my weary carcass there was largely that my new Huddersfield Besties were making the trip for the second Nab A Nelson Number Opportunity in two weeks, as it was to be – and indeed actually was – event number 444. I guess that makes it a NANO and as it was the second one, an actual nanosecond! The last opportunity being Concord parkrun #555 just last week. I know, spookily close together! You wouldn’t want to miss one of them, even though it’s actually very, very easy to do, on account of the fact a nanosecond is actually pretty small, and whizzes by very fast indeed. This nanosecond would not elude us though, oh no indeedy, we’d be there! Love a shared adventure!

Quite a lot of other people had the same idea of Nabbing A Nelson if the turn out was anything to go by. Third highest number of participants to date, and the event coped really well. Next week is their turning ten anniversary, I wonder if that will bring another influx. They have promised cake, that can incentivise some I know… Not too shabby a turn out this time round though at 627 parkrunners completing the course, and a zillion volunteers supporting them, including a photographer who took some fantastic shots, including this one, that’s a great many parkrunners I think you can agree:

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I got in touch to offer my services as a parkwalker as there were none on the roster and I’d be walking anyway, or as a second tailwalker as often two people undertake that role. I got a very gracious response, but it still basically indicated that the event chooses not to have parkwalkers as the three lap nature of the course means there are always other parkrunners around and the tailwalker and marshals can support any walkers during the event. They did not require a second tailwalker. I did find this more than a bit disappointing, as I think the blue high vis is also about making walking at parkrun visible, and turning away volunteers is always a shame if there are unfilled positions. It made me a bit apprehensive about going as I was unsure it would be in fact be welcoming to walkers if they are not accepting the parkwalker role as valid or necessary. Oh well, soon find out.

Back to us though and our shared adventure or ‘Five go wild at Hillsborough parkrun’ as my Huddersfield friend recounts it. A great improvement on the original Enid Blyton offerings, updated and inclusive is the way forward, yay for going wild together.

It was colder than expected heading out first thing. I had to wear my actual thermal base layer, I was quite pleased to have the opportunity to do that to be fair as they are newish and properly lovely and toastie. That was a clothing win, but I had a few fails. Specifically, I forgot my warm hat. Worse still, I remembered it, and then must have somehow dropped it going to the car as it was nowhere to be found on reaching my destination. I also found my watch hadn’t charged up, so I’d have to do a naked parkrun! To be fair, after my initial discombobulation and panic, I rationalised it that as I only walk now there is less fun in tracking progress, and although I crave my elusive last bingo number, knowing your gps time rarely helps as there is often a discrepancy between my run times and parkrun finish times, so even if you are within a whisker, those teasing seconds can be spirited away in the results processing. Sad but true!

I arrived early at Hillsborough park as I wasn’t sure of the parking situation. In fact there were loads of spaces, so many I did that thing of getting really indecisive about which spot to choose for ease of access to park and minimum awkward manoeuvring on departure. You do have to pay for parking but it’s modest, and very handy. FYI as I was leaving, it was getting busier, there was a football match going on and there was a crazy amount of on street parking and I think they were restricting access to the carpark to football officials. It was fine earlier though.

It was a crisp sunny morning, with the early morning sunshine so bright it almost dazzled. There were some slightly dodgy frost bits of path. As I sat in the car I watched some serious running training going on in front of me. There was a group of runners of all ages doing loops of the park in a group, a coach on a bicycle was keeping them together and encouraging them to sprint at the final section of the circuit. It was good watching them, even though I was horrified to think they were doing this INSTEAD of an actual parkrun despite being in the park at just the right time. There were dog walkers, some distant high vis volunteers with signs under their arms heading off into the distance, and a parkrun flag, right at the entrance to the park, hurrah. It’s always a cheery sight.

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I entered the park by the flag and headed off confidently up the modest hill – more of an incline really, towards the play area which is where I remembered the run briefing and start had been located previously. I was impressed by the actual playground monster that looks to gobble up wayward children, and my have accounted for the emptiness of the play area in general.

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The park was a lot lovelier than I remembered. Lovely mature trees;, a great many squirrels; a lively bijou lake with swans, and ducks and geese; the play area; newly tarmaced paths. It was well used too, with lots of comings and goings, and a lot of parkrunners seemingly heading away from the start area to get in a warm up lap before the event got under way. Actually, really a lot of parkrunners now I come to think of it. Pretty much all of them. They must be keen these Hillsborough folk? There must be a new running club challenge or something… Oh hang on. I turned around to look back from whence I’d come and admire the view, and espied the massing of parkrunners right next to the carpark. Oh. How did I miss that? In my defence, as I headed in there can’t have been that many gathered, but there were probably a few. I guess things change in 6 years. Who knew? I made my way back to the start, styling it out by taking photos from afar as I did so. They aren’t the best photos (same old story, annoying camera limitations) but convey the mood quite well I think. Also, it’s actually incredibly thoughtful of me to do these epic fails so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

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and as I walked towards the throng, I spotted the running brooms, hard at work on their latest vlog – always worth a looksie, and then what vision of loveliness was this? None other than my llama loving Huddersfield friend, resplendent in lock down bespoke apricot tee, coming towards me like the golden orb of a rising sun, or something. Hurrah. Wait, there’s more! She was not alone, but had a car full of Nelsoning comrades, hurrah, the more the merrier, also, huge kudos to Huddersfield parkrunners for buddying up for their tourism so effortlessly. I’ve still not really cracked that skill, I tend to tourism on my own and hope to meet kindred spirits on arrival, which is splendid too but in a different way. They were cheery and friendly and obviously we used the opportunity to capture the moment, and share our leggings and ooh, look there’s a pop up banner and all the mandatory selfie things. I say ‘we’ but as ever, I out sourced this element of the occasion to those with long arms, selfie expertise and smart phones. Delegation is a handy skill at times, know your limitations dear reader, it’s best in the long run for all concerned.

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Always good when a plan comes together.

We did our meeting and greeting, and then a call went up from the RD – I think the RD but he wasn’t wearing regulation high vis. I think the kit is changing over from the black and white RD vest to a new unsponsored blue version and for whatever reason they hadn’t got it. Rumour has it, he prefers the old version and wanted to give it one last outing, but then today ended up with neither over confusion of what goes where. Bottom line though, if you have a megaphone at a parkrun event people will obey you, quite frightening really. Anyway, first timers and tourists were encouraged to go over to the tennis courts for the official welcome, and so we did. And we all stood about staring at the volunteer we surrounded. She seemed happy to wait for everyone before starting, always good to be patient. My, she was patient. After a bit, it dawned on both her and the first timers circling around her like sharks that she had no idea why she had become the centre of attention in this way. That would account for her benign yet bewildered look. Turns out, someone else entirely was doing the welcome, and though yes, she was indeed by the tennis courts, there are quite a few of them and she already had a respectable gathering of newbies to Hillsborough whom she was briefing so hadn’t realised that loads of us were in completely the wrong place. No worries, we all traipsed round to join them, and she explained the essentials again. Gathering data about who had travelled the furthest, and milestones along with communicating basics about the course. Three laps, keep left is the gist of it. Can you tell from the photos which was the official briefing and which the decoy one? Also, very cute beagle, and also, how did I miss that helpful sign earlier? Though what happened to parkrun aowalc (all one word, all lower case). I was not having the most observant of days it seems. Slightly worrying, what else have I missed? Not the very cute beagle at least, that’s something.

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Just so you know, if there is one thing cuter than a little beagle, it’s a little beagle meeting up with its beagle buddy a bit later and both beagles being beyond excited at the reunion! Awwww. For those of you who have barkrunning companions this is a very good dpm (dogs per mile) parkrun. Thanks to dumbrunner for introducing me to this helpful metric. I’ve only recently stumbled on the Dumbrunner Facebook page and some of the content is hilarious. Gentle humour, but gets to the truth of running for many of us I feel.

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In case you weren’t there for the briefing, or were there and couldn’t really hear, please find following the official website blah de blah:

Course Description: A separate starting & finishing straight is in the centre of this three lap clockwise course. We start near the gates from Penistone Road to Hillsborough Park ? this is a flat start which takes you on the central park path to the corner by the children’s playground. Turn right and then follow the new paths around the main event square. Make a left turn when you pass the car park and go around the tennis courts and then past the new bike park. A small incline past the duck pond takes you to a bend & past Stephen’s Corner. Follow the path for a second small climb, make a right turn and follow the path over a rise and back down to the children’s playground. At the end of your 3rd lap, fork right and go back down the central park path with the finish near where you started. Please keep to the right-hand side on the finishing straight, following the signage and guidance from marshals as appropriate.

Facilities: Parking: The main car park is charged at 90p per hour. Limited on street parking is available in designated parking bays (either 1 or 2 hours free, depending on the road). Please be considerate to local residents.

If using SATNAV, the nearest postcode is S6 4HD.

Post Run Coffee (shame I didn’t read this before hand to be honest, oh well): Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in one of the following nearby cafes. The cafes around the park aren’t large enough to accommodate everyone but you will find parkrunners in: Costa Coffee, 301-305 Middlewood Road, Hillsborough, S6 1TG – Depot Bakery, Coach House, Hillsborough Park, Sheffield S6 4HD – Riverside Café, Catchbar Lane, Hillsborough, S6 2LX – Jam’s Café, 181 Middlewood Road, S6 4HD – please come and join us!

and it looks like this:

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The park is a decent size, and to be fair, very much nicer than I’d remembered, but it is still a city park, well used and fairly compact. I didn’t need the loo as I went before leaving the house, but I don’t recall seeing any in the park, stop off en route if you are a tourist from afar I think.

Next stop, loose assembly in the start area. It was busy, so even though the RD had a megaphone, we were too spread out to really hear anything very much. There was a bit of chatter, but with that many people it would have been a challenge even without that. I did gather that next week is 10th birthday week so empty tables will be there for people to deposit celebratory cake and treats on. There was a guy taking part who was practising and raising awareness for his world record attempt at running a marathon (London) – dressed as a life guard raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust & the Little Princess Trust. If only I could remember his name. There was also a large group of Hallam Student Nurses, and no doubt many milestones and volunteer thanking as I joined in with enthusiastic clapping at intervals without quite knowing what I was applauding. In some ways this worries me, you can see how people get swept up in rallies and things, fortunately I think I can endorse parkrun ideals for the most part without being led over to the darkside so much as you would notice.

I tried to get some shots of the assembled company. I think the phrase is ‘good in parts’ but I do like the one of the tailwalker surveying the filed of parkrunners from behind if I say so myself. Oh, and is that a With Me Now t-shirt I espy? Missed out on my ‘Dolly or Bev?’ shout out to this parkrunner. Personally I’m more of a sitdown than cooldown fan, but each to their own eh.

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Pleasantries and necessities completed, it was off! It was a busy field, and I was well towards the back, and fairly quickly at the actual back with my Huddersfield companion alongside with her dodgy knees, and the tailwalker just behind. Given how many people there were it was a courteous and sedate charge forth. Lots of cheery thanking the marshals as we past. This parkrun has some excellent signage to help explain things, one of which is a reminder to call a thank you to volunteers which is a lovely touch. I meant to take a photo of it, but clearly didn’t, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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It is a multi-lap course so you do get lapped. There are lots of jolly marshals round and about, and although you do have to squish over to the left at points to allow others to pass it was all pretty good natured. Faster runners shouted encouragement and there was no barginess that I experienced. Phew. It was great to have a twalking (talking and walking) companion. We mainly talked all things parkrun. The pros and cons of discontinuing selfie frames. They have been withdrawn ostensibly because they have the wrong sponsors on them now, but I don’t think they are being replaced. I suppose it’s not that environmentally friendly to keep reprinting them with each new sponsor, and they were never all that robust. I have noticed some parkruns Charlton and University Parks parkrun to name but two, have started making their own bespoke selfie frames. These are great, but not an option for all. I like the idea of characterful unique ones at different venues, but we’ll see. Meanwhile, new dinky pop ups are springing up, literally and figuratively. They are tiny! Check out this image lifted from social media – it really is tiny not far away! Hilarious!

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Probably a lot more practical, but I shall miss the dance display of those who fold up the pop up sign now the smaller format will make that a lot less challenging and therefore potentially less of a spectator sport. And they call this progress! Oh well, we must make way for the new.

My photos on the way round weren’t all that great, but I did my best. I love it when you see streams of other runners ahead of you in the distance, like some extraordinary and colourful train or wildebeest on a massive migration, wildebeest in Lycra obvs, which is a bit alarming, but you get the idea. Point is, parkrunners, as far as the eye can see, streaming over the horizon… and then circling back again. Can you have a murmuration of parkrunners? Nice spectacle anyway.

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Fortunately, there was a proper photographer to take proper photos, they give a good sense of the event I think you can agree. Thank you volunteer photographer, you are the best! Pretty sure there’s a caption contest in there more than once, oh, and spot the lifeguard parkrunner. That float is probably an asset to the health and safety measures on the course what with all that cold open water around the place. Happy to say it wasn’t necessary to deploy it to rescue anyone today #goodtoknow See what I mean about the dpm too? A barkrunner friendly course for sure.

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We thanked the marshals and interacted with some. Stephen wasn’t at Stephen’s corner today, but other lovely volunteers were, so that was good. The high vis heroes were all lovely obvs, and all extraordinarily photogenic as always. You think you’ve found the most striking one, and then the next one appears, even more resplendent in their radiant pink to match their radiant smiles. Yay for volunteers everywhere, for making the parkrun magic happen.

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With it being a multi lap course, we got to pass the finish line more than once. It was good to see the faster runners coming through, less good to find the course blocked by finished runners standing chatting en the route. Fortunately, I had the solidarity of my excellent twalking companion and the tailwalker too, but please, if you have finished your parkrun, keep the course clear, it’s horrible having to push your way through like a portly cat stuck in a cat flap. Humiliating even. It was ok today as I was feeling resilient, but it is the kind of thing that can really make it feel like you don’t have the right to be there as a slower participant. Just sayin.

On a brighter note, check out these sprint finishers, granted, not me, but other people, going for it, love a good sprint finish.

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I do love a good sprint finish, but we two twalkers opted instead for the solidarity of crossing the finish together. Hurrah, very comradely.

Then, much excitement, lots of familiar faces at the finish. I think I don’t know anyone, but I suppose over the years I have got to meet quite a cross section of the Sheffield running community one way or another, and it was excellent to find these two at the finish that I’ve not seen since we volunteered together at the Round Sheffield Run a couple of years ago. Excitingly, no VERY EXCITINGLY they have both entered for this summer, indeed, so has one of the Huddersfield Four, so this is excellent. I do feel more than a pang as I realistically am not going to be doing that, but I am excited that maybe I can volunteer again instead and I’ll know loads of people. They are doing the Saturday (parkrun clash alert) very first wave. What, the very first one? No, that’s the elite wave. The very first wave for people who are not the elite and want to have as much time as possible to get around. That would be my preference too. To be fair, they might even have a whole extra 24 hours as the event happens over two days, but they’d need a head torch and to carry extra provisions for that. Good news though! Those RSR tees are collectables. Check out the runner flaunting his winter edition tee en route today. I totally have running tee envy! Maybe again one day…

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And that was it, all done. We regrouped and pondered. We got an official Hillsborough parkrun portrait, always a win!

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What should we do about post parkrun breakfast. I don’t know this parkrun but I had heard amazing things about the new cafe and reckoned that might be a good option, as we were last to finish I thought queues might have subsided. We faffed about whether we’d got enough time in the carpark, but decided to go check it out. The Huddersfield lot didn’t want to hang around too long and risk a parking ticket.

I say they didn’t want to hang around, but then we got distracted by all the camouflage nets and the adult playground area, and so immediately had to do a lot of not so much hanging, but hilarious if ineffectual dangling and swinging about. It was really good fun, I wasn’t really dressed for it, and my fitness is shocking but such joy. Definitely allow yourself extra time for a post parkrun swingfest if you are coming this way!

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It’s true what they say about the best things in life being free. I’d go further and say the best thing in life is free weekly timed, but you can have both, hurrah!

We finally made it up the hill and into the Depot café which is the newly refurbished Coach House an amazing building in its own right.

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OMG! The food and baked breads looked amazing! The coffee smelt fantastic. Unfortunately, there was an hour wait for food, and even for take away, so we abandoned it. To be fair, the café had possibly been caught out by the extra influx of runners. Also, I now know, that if I’d bothered to read the notes properly in the first place, the café can’t cope with all the runners even on a usual saturday morning, so the core team tend to head off to a nearby Costas. I think I’d still prefer the Depot, but maybe in the summer when waiting is less of an issue. The hedonistic Huddersfielders stocked up on some amazing cheese and chilli or somesuch sourdough loaves as takeaway, and we chomped on that as we returned to the car park. It was sad to say goodbye, but I know our paths will cross again very soon and VERY EXCITINGLY. It was lucky the bread came in a paper back to breath in to calm ourselves ahead of what no doubt lies in store!

As we ambled back to the car, I got the inside info on how their running club came to be named, get this, it was because it was misheard. Was supposed to be Arcade Beers Running Group, but someone heard it as Bears so Bears became the associated animal for the group. Excellent. No need to be scared of bears running in Huddersfield, they seem a cheery and friendly lot. Phew.

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And then time for goodbyes and to wend our ways homeward.

I’m glad I made it back to Hillsborough, it is a lot friendlier and indeed more picturesque than I remembered, and it was lovely to see some familiar faces I’ve not seen in aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaages, as well as a fair few nanoseconders for the consecutive week. It remains a multi-lap course which isn’t for everyone, but they clearly know how to throw a party if their bigging up of their tenth anniversary celebrations next week are anything to go by, so why not give it a whirl and judge for yourself.

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Oh and for triangulation purposes please follow the links for:

Running Brooms Hillsborough parkrun #444 vlog

Hillsborough parkrun Facebook page report for event 444 of on the News Pages Report #444 Third Busiest One

Thanks for sticking with me, but it’s finished now. You can properly head off.

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or if you can’t quite bare to tear yourself away from parkrun then you could always keep on going and browse through all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  

Bye then, hopefully see you at a parkrun near you again sometime soon.

🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coming together at Comely Concord parkrun #555

You never regret a parkrun ever. FACT.

I’m so happy I made it out on this lovely sparkling morning, and was reunited with lovely sparkling parkrun people and the joy of winter sunshine. Hurrah! It was reyt good. And the thing is, it nearly didn’t happen, and if it hadn’t, that would have been properly sad. Still, all’s well eh?

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You’d think I’d know this by now, but it was a very close call for me as whether or not I’d be parkrunning today, to parkwalk or not to parkwalk, that was very much the question. Yesterday I had a complete tantrum-throwing pity party. It was a fairly ineffectual tantrum as I was on my own, and much like the tree that falls in the forest unseen, it’s quite hard to have a tantrum without an audience, but I did my best. I have been in excruciating pain of late, and it really compromises what I can do. Objectively, I’m more mobile than I was a year ago, and it was always going to be a tough week after adventuring so far afield last Saturday for lovely Trentham Gardens parkrun, I am learning I can do stuff up to a point but adventures have consequences. I had been recovering ok from my excursion to Stoke last week, but then I had a stumble over a kerb, both literally and figuratively, and it seems to have set me back quite a bit. I’m back to not being able to put weight through my foot, and that sets off my other symptoms and it’s all just completely crap. I try to be positive, but living with pain is not just disabling but exhausting. I dealt with this like a proper grown up by crying a lot, not bothering to get dressed or shower all day and ate most of a fresh loaf of bread and butter, which didn’t particularly help, and in fact probably made things worse, but comfort eating is my coping strategy, inadequate as it is, and be fair, there are worse things to self medicate with than fresh bread, it’s just I can’t get hold of them. Anyway, that Sainsbury’s walnut cob is pretty spectacular.

Then it was parkrun eve. Ice was all around. I’m nervous about ice at the best of times, and I wasn’t sure how my foot would hold up to driving, I do have an automatic, but even so. I clearly wouldn’t be going far afield. Lots of parkruns were being cancelled because of ice, and it was unclear what would happen locally. Hmmm. I did some parkrun related research. Oh look, Concord is having its event number 555. In case you aren’t aware dear reader, this is one of the 5k running challenges event numbers for something called the Nelson Index. I don’t even have the 5k running challenges app because I don’t have a smart phone, and labour under the delusion it’s not a challenge I’m particularly bothered about. But then again, a rare Nelson on my doorstep? Rude not to go. Oh, and the Nelson challenge is basically involves completing runs at events where the event number is a multiple of 111′ I don’t know how many you need to complete the challenge – there’s only ever been one 888 at Bushy parkrun so it would be harsh if you had to have all of them. It’s called the Nelson either because the ‘slang term “Nelson” applied to team or individual scores of 111 or multiples of. It has been ascribed to referring to Nelson’s 3 major naval victories (won, won, won) or more popularly to him being injured in battle from a musket ball shot in his right arm, resulting in surgical emergencies and him then apparently only having one eye, one leg and one arm. 111. The problem with that story is that there isn’t proof that he lost a leg, only that he lost an arm and his eyesight in one eye!’ Who knows, anyway, Nelson it is. And it seems that much as I don’t really care about such challenges, actually I clearly do, because the prospect of one on my doorstep was an irresistible lure. Worth not only getting up and dressed for, but maybe putting an actual bra on too. Oh giddy days! I mean, it would be ouchy, but probably doable if I just walked on the heel and side of my foot and used my stick. I have a wood pigeon that visits daily that only seems to be able to use one of its legs, and that gets on with stuff. It is also inelegant getting around, but hey, it’s still doing its pigeon thing admirably. I would channel my inner wood pigeon. Yeah, yeah they have a tendency to crash land into trees and fly into windows and things, but mostly they get up again. I’ll be that, but with less window crashing, hopefully.

But then there was ice! Ice, ice everywhere. Would it be dancing on ice, or would it be a cancellation casualty of the weather? Concord tends to keep radio silence. For whatever reason they don’t fill in the volunteer roster in advance, and the social media channels are generally quite, though splutter into life for big events like Christmas Day. This is a parkrun I’ve done a couple of Christmas Days (2018 and with a unicorn in 2017) and odd other occasions to meet up with friends. I’m not aware of it cancelling often at all, but it’s always a risk at this time of year. Having said that, looked like Hillsborough parkrun was very confident about going ahead, they had volunteer course gritters tooled up and ready to tackle the icier patches en route before the event. I decided I would venture to Concord and if it was cancelled I could always just go for a walk there on my own, people do take exercise on a Saturday morning even without a parkrun apparently, worth a try, or alternatively, if time allowed, head back to Hillsborough. Yep, that would be a plan. Always good to have a plan. A plan and a cup of tea is even better though. Speaking of which, I might just check out the status of my kettle, probably about time to check it’s still serviceable. A cup of tea solves everything after all. Apart from murder mystery dramas, but that’s a minor detail. A cup of tea definitely makes everything better, which is splendid.

Great cup of tea. Thanks for asking. Now, where was I?

Oh yes, up early, COLD and frosty morning. I peered out. Hmm, everything looked white, but it was sort of dry white. I noticed a car drive up my road and park up apparently without incident so decided I’d give it a whirl. I had real time communication with a fellow parkrunner who was heading darn sarf for the Running Show at Birmingham. He had to negotiate freezing fog which sounded horrific, but did make it to Babbs Mill parkrun so all’s well. Yeah, I should be grand just heading over to the other side of Sheffield.

First though, scrape the car, took a while. But success and on my way. The drive turned out to be fine. No traffic and not really any challenging conditions particularly either. It was blooming freezing, below freezing in fact, but dry cold so I didn’t encounter any ice. I still wasn’t sure if Concord would be able to go ahead, locally Millhouses and Rother Valley had both cancelled. Endcliffe was keen to go ahead and potentially welcome their 250,000 finisher, which is pretty cool to be fair.

As I approached the Concord Leisure Centre I was hugely cheered by the site of distant cow bobble hats, and glimpses of fluorescent Lycra flashing around. Ooh, this was looking most promising. If the event had cancelled I’d expect to see disappointed tourists driving away in search of another parkrun, this was looking more like game on. Better yet, as I pulled into the carpark, familiar faces. Yay, the Sheffield Olympic park junior parkrun volunteers were represented in force. It was just lovely to see friendly faces. I had no idea in advance if I would see anyone I knew, but hurrah, so many people from parkruns past had gravitated here. It seems a great many of us who ‘don’t really do the challenges’ had collectively done a ‘but oh look!’ and here we were! What’s more, for those of us who don’t really do challenges, it seems Hillsborough parkrun is on for event number 444 next week, well, basically rude not to.

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Hello lovely parkrun people!

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Parked up, delighted by familiar faces and ecstatic to see this parkrun was very much going ahead, I wended my way to the start area. Oh wow, it’s true my foot was very ouchy and legs very wobbly but oh I’d forgotten how lovely the setting for Concord parkrun can be. With bright winter sunshine piercing the frosty air it looked absolutely stunning. Christmas card perfect. There was a great buzz of people arriving, and I was quite giddy with seeing all these people I hadn’t seen for ages and ages and ages. One I hadn’t seen for at least a fortnight, and I was quite pleased I’d resisted the temptation of wearing her gifted new llama leggings (which are genuinely AMAZING) today. I’d thought about putting them on because they are lovely and soft and warm and colourful, but decided against as I am supposed to be saving them for a collective tourist jaunt in a few weeks time when we will have matchy matchy outfits. It would have been embarrassing to have been caught breaking ranks early, however great the temptation, but it was indeed splendid to have the unexpected joy of another reunion AND we’ll probably get to do it all again at Hillsborough parkrun next week! parkrun keeps on giving!

First stop the pop up sign, and choreographing photos. I do love a parkrun pop up sign, it’s sort of the parkrun equivalent of the water coolers so ubiquitous in Americans’ offices or the queue for the loo in a British one. It was where everybody hung out, and greetings were exchanged, new friends made and old friends became reacquainted with one another, hurrah! We all took turns photographing each other, and some photo bombing probably occurred, but that’s fun too! Mandatory photos taken and posed for by all. There were some 71 first timers at Concord today, and the number of finishers at 182 was more than double their usual average number of finishers which is 75.1. Nelson brought some, cancellation brought others and happenstance and a sunny day more still. Good to see people posing with a bit of energy and enthusiasm, it saddens me when people stand there rigid and solemn faced like they have to stay immobile for a Victorian pinhole camera or something. Couldn’t help noticing a fair few were posing the other side of the sign for the also obligatory, or at the very least irresistible for some, (s)Tart photos. #simplepleasures

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The park looked gorgeous, but the bright sunshine made it hard to really capture it. Still, I thought I’d show willing and snapped some shots of gathering parkrunners and lovely trees and winter sunshine. If you squint a bit and use your imagination, you’ll get the general ambience of it all ok I think.

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I don’t think there was a first timers’ welcome as such, but then I was wandering about trying – and failing – to take the perfect photo. However, after a little bit, the RD gathered us all together for a lovely welcome and briefing. Acknowledging the event number, giving a cheer of acknowledgement to Rose who had a balloon for her arbitrary 200th parkrun. We were reminded to stay safe, and advised there were some extra marshals out and about to keep an eye on things.

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Good news for me, two parkwalkers, and a cheery tailwalker too. The field of runners quickly disappeared over the horizon, with the pale blue parkwalkers following on behind. Me and the tail were quite significantly further back. I felt a bit bad really as I was definitely struggling and maybe shouldn’t have attempted the parkrun, but then again I was here now. It hurt. It hurt a lot. But I’m so glad I went. The tailwalker was very patient and we spent a great deal of time sharing running stories and trying to work out how we knew each other. Must have seen each other at a parkrun somewhere, most puzzling…

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The park looked lovely, the frost coating everything like sparkly fairy dust. There was a bright mist which gave everything a magical, mysterious hue. It also seemed exceptional calm, quiet and peaceful. I’m not sure if it really was quieter than normal, but there didn’t seem to be many people around.

As we walked around we met some lovely marshals, some of whom you pass more than once. One of whom had his very own corner apparently, but has resisted the impulse to have a special flag erected in the spot, or to have a plaque or at very least get the corner named after him. The issue is that were this to happen, he would feel unable to ever be absent again. Fair point, it’s still his corner, and referred to as such, the bench dedication or whatever can come later. All the marshals were in good spirits despite the cold. One was definitely dancing about, my tailwalking companion reckoned it was to keep warm, but maybe she just likes to dance like no-one is watching, parkrun can bring that out in people.

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The way the course is set up, you do get lapped as a slower participant, but there are also two sections where you get to see other runners coming charging towards you. This is less scary and more fun than you might imagine. If you get lucky you might even see someone you know, but even if you don’t it’s just nice to pass one another and get the sense of being part of a group event. Runners in the mist look even more athletic and lovely than they normally do. Silhouetted against the winter sun they were almost other worldly.

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I struggled a bit when we were being overtaken as we had to move to the side of the path and the camber wasn’t great for my foot, but I hobbled onwards. All participants were courteous and encouraging. It’s a two lap course, so we passed the finish funnel as some were coming in at the end of their parkruns.

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For the second lap we had the route to ourselves, me and the tailwalker. There were very few other people about, apart from aforementioned good natured marshals. The space was stunning. I have never really taken the time to appreciate this route, coming for Christmas Day doing the parkrun and disappearing off typically. It was quite a privilege to take time walking it.

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so we walked and talked and oohed and aahed. We were slightly discombobulated by a breathless runner in search of his wife. He’d finished his parkrun and returned on the course to meet her but met up with us as the tail of the event without having found her. I hope by now they are safely reunited. We hadn’t seen her, I don’t think we saw another soul.

Then we were at the finish!

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and it was as I had my token scanned, I recognised a fellow regular volunteer from Sheffield Olympic Legacy park junior parkrun, and then me and the tailwalker had a ‘duh’ moment and realised it was there we must have met before! Small parkrun world and all that.

And that was that, parkrun concluded. I’m so glad I went. Physically it took its toll, my foot does feel like it’s been crushed by a mallet and my body like it’s been hit by a truck, but mentally I feel lighter, which is especially novel after polishing off all those carbs yesterday. I didn’t stay for breakfast as needed to get home and rest up, but for the record there are good facilities in the leisure centre with loos and cafe and good companions too no doubt.

Another lovely parkrun, with a bonus challenge as well as happy accidents of parkrun paths crossing. A grand day out indeed.

If the mood takes you, 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.  Reading is not compulsory.

Otherwise, same time next week? parkrun near you? Stay warm and safe til then if you can.

🙂

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

Amoozing times at Trentham Gardens parkrun!

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I feel all squidgy and nice inside thinking about this particular parkrun. It was just such a perfect parkrun day. The kind of experience you just wish you could bottle and keep with you to sniff – or indeed snort – in times of need. Such an inoculation of joy was received by all I bet we were still bouncy at the memory of it long after we had completely dried out – which for the record was a very, very long time indeed. Just the slightest whiff from that bottle and the most down cast of spirits would surely be revived. Lo! Even to hear the very phrase ‘do you remember that cowol time we had at Trentham?’ whispering through time and space as a half life memory will be enough to send positive ripples through the universe for generations and all will be well with the world. Good to know.

To be fair, though a bottle of the spirit of this parkrun day would be nice, some of us can go even better. For I left this parkrun not only with giddying, hilarious and positive memories, but an actual pocket hug to carry with me. I know! Amoozing! More of this later. Suffice to say this was truly a parkrun with ALL THE THINGS!

OK, but where to start. Erm, so much to say, so little structure in my head about how to get it out there. Oh well, let’s just dive in and see where we end up eh?

Through parkrun people get to know one another, that’s not really news, it’s a pleasing and almost inevitable consequence of communities coming together each week to run, walk, jog, volunteer, twalk (walk and talk) in their local spaces. That’s splendid, obvs. However, one unexpected consequence of lockdown was that the parkrun community for some moved online. Community cohesion not just survived, but flourished due to parkrun passionistas various connecting through things like the Quarantine Quiz (still happening if you want to virtually rock up) and of course the With Me Now (unofficial parkrun) podcast not only continuing its weekly broadcast but adding in Facebook lives, parkrunpedia, pictionary all sorts. There is a deep irony, that because no-one could go out anywhere, where you were located didn’t really matter, so new parkrun friendships sprung up from all over the place. All over the uk, and internationally too, particularly to Germany what with the quarantine quiz and all. Roll forward, parkrun returned (hurrah) and now we could all meet up again, there was renewed enthusiasm to meet up with friends old and new. Friends we hadn’t yet met even! parkrun tourism has always been a thing, but now it has taken on a more erm, collective focus. Individuals who are celebrating parkrun related achievements share their destinations and people rock up from near and far to join in the fun. It’s grand! It has always been possible to rock up at a new event and be welcomed by a parkrun team, but this sense of belonging is magnified when you can rock up at a new event and see a swarm of familiar faces up for a parkrun party. It’s pretty extraordinary. So it was, that when one of our number announced they’d be doing their Cowell run (100 unique parkrun destinations completed) on the 14th January at Trentham Gardens parkrun, with fancy dress, parkrun people and probably quality vegan cupcakes, it wasn’t the hardest decision of all time to want to get along there.

As usual, tediously, I was worried about the drive down as it was a long one. I’m working out that counter-intuitively perhaps, it works better for me if I have one full on long day rather than two consecutive demanding ones. If I go the night before then I’m shattered by the drive so parkrun can be a bit too far out of my comfort zone even walking it as I now do. On the other hand, going on the day means heading out in the dark, but if I can make it through the morning and then just faceplant on the sofa comatose for the next few days that can be more achievable. The other angst inducing consideration, was that there was an ominous clash of dates, with a Scunthorpe meet up mooted by northern parkrun buddies. I never have a social calendar so squished that I have commitments coincide so it was sod’s law on steroids that I was faced with this dilemma. Fortunately, the parkrun fairies worked their magic, happy chance brought a mini meet up at Sheffield Castle parkrun last week, and then actual fairies oversaw the Trentham Gardens parkrun gathering. Hurrah. All’s well that ends well indeed!

Honestly, I didn’t particularly research Trentham Gardens parkrun in advance, just focused on where it was and how to get there. I didn’t even properly register it was a one lap course, though I do like those. I just clocked a load of people I knew would be gathering for a special parkrunner’s graduation from being ‘just’ a cow to being a full on Cowell and that was good enough for me. Sheep like, I’d endeavour to be there. However, you dear reader are very much wiser, and perhaps will appreciate some of the usual website blah de blah, so let’s start with that:

According to the Trentham Gardens parkrun website:

The event takes place at Trentham Gardens, Trentham Estate, Stone Road, Trentham, Stoke-On-Trent, ST4 8JG.

and the course is described thus:

Course Description – A one lap route that circumnavigates Trentham Lake and takes you through the famous Italian Gardens on the Trentham Estate. The course is accessed via a footbridge close to Trentham Garden Centre. Please do not use the main entrance for Trentham Gardens (in the centre of the shopping village).

The start/finish of the 5k route is inside the Trentham Gardens estate but all participants must exit the Gardens at the end of parkrun. Access is granted by the Trentham Estate for the purpose of the event.

Facilities – The shopping village and garden centre offers a vast array of eateries and shops. The main entrance to Trentham Gardens is located in the centre of the village – charges apply for entry to the Gardens.

For those parkrunners travelling a distance, there is a Premier Inn on the site.

Location of start – The event starts in Trentham Gardens.

Free parking is available on the Trentham Estate car park. We would request that you park on the main car park (to the left of the main entrance) and not the car park next to Trentham Garden Centre if possible. It is about a 5 minute walk from the main car park to the start.

Post Run Coffee – Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee at The Rotisserie in Trentham Shopping Village – please come and join us!

and the course looks like this:

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Good to know. Also good to know, the parkrunner at the epicentre of this gathering was on track for this to be her 100th unique parkrun destination. The first parkrunner to achieve this feat was Cowell, so following in his footsteps has become known as achieving a Cowell, and so she’d be wearing Cow fancy dress for the first half of the name, and two L plates for the ells at the end. Clever she be! What I didn’t know at this stage, was there would also be a fine fellow parkrunning participant achieving her fiftieth unique parkrun so her half Cowell and therefore her cow, so moorvelously there would be extra bonus bovines in attendance. Various of their acolytes would also be in attendance, wearing parts of cows (maybe horns, or ears or monochrome outfits) or, as in my case, living the bovine dream with my inherently bovine demeanour and appearance. I decided to properly commit, by offering my services as a tail walker in advance. There was a gap and this looked like a fine way to relive the joy of the forest bathing gang that gathered at Chevin Forest parkrun last year. Yes, this was going to be grand. Hurrah! Oh, and I have a postcode to head to, all good.

The morning dawned. Dark and damp, very damp, a lot of rain to be fair. Sub optimal quantities of water falling from the sky. I left at stupid o-clock because I was up early anyway (occasionally insomnia delivers a benefit) and I wanted to have an unhurried drive. The drive from Sheffield was basically ok, I took it steady and there was only the one near death experience coming off the motorway when a lorry overtook me on the slip road just as we entered an enormous amount of standing water. Think less puddle and more lake. Or more accurately a great deal more puddle leading to essentially the biggest inland lake in the entire universe EVER (probably). I got such a tsunami of water over my vehicle that my windscreen wipers were rendered useless, I had zero visibility and it was properly terrifying. But I emerged into visibility unscathed and the surge of adrenalin certainly kept me hyper vigilant and alert for the rest of the drive.

I did my usual trick of missing the turning so had to go beyond and head on back. I’d printed out all the directions so knew to park on the left hand side in the main car park. There was LOADS of parking. Excitingly, I also passed a Premier Inn on the way in. Overnighters staying here prior to the parkrun could basically topple out of bed and onto the parkrun course. Well nearly they could. It’s not quite as close as the B&B at the start line of Buxton’s Pavilion Gardens parkrun, but hardly an arduous trek to the course either navigationally or by distance. It would have been fun to overnight there but it wasn’t essential for me and out of budget at the minute too to be fair. The choice of where to park was somewhat overwhelming.

I hadn’t done my research, or I’d have known to expect a full on retail centre and formal gardens with an entrance foyer and admission charges. I now know, if I’d read the blah de blah properly, that you are not supposed to go to the main entrance. I hadn’t so headed to the main entrance, to find it shut until 8.30 a.m. local regular dog walkers were queueing up in a good natured gathering waiting for it to open. I availed myself of some nearby loos, which mercifully were open, and then returned to find the entrance area opened. I limped in to the foyer, gesturing my parkrun wrist band, and was directed round to a side entrance near to the garden centre which is where I should have gone in the first place. This is opened especially for parkrunners to access the grounds prior to opening, and guarded by two parkrunners when I arrived, presumably one who always lies, and one who always tells the truth, but I can’t be sure, as I didn’t actually ask them, but was rather just waved through the very impressive double set of hugely high iron railings that were either side of a little bridge over a water course.

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Oh wow, this was going to be proper lovely. Though more than a bit wet.

Exciting though!

I followed the parkrunners ahead to the gathering point, and reported for duty. A very friendly RD welcomed me, and there was already a quite a gathering. Oh look, cows! Also mud. Extra slippery mud. The comedic slapstick started almost instantly, as people tried to take refuge under a nearby tree but needed to negotiate a mud slide to do so. Despite hollers of ‘be careful’ and ‘watch out it’s really slip… oh’ there were a few skidders and skaters and at least one full on backslide resulting in a mud covering worthy of a high-end, comprehensive full-body mud-spa beauty treatment, only with less lovely healing minerals and more grassy gritty bits. None the worse for that I’m sure. Quite a bit colder than the thermal mud wrap offerings though, and definitely no fluffy towels , but then again no actual injuries either, so all good. The only bruising was to personal pride, but dignity wasn’t big on the personal attributes of many of the participants today if the fancy dress efforts were anything to go by.

The volunteer team did their necessaries, lamenting the no-show of the weather marshal as cloud cover exploded into torrential rain. The parkrun fairies normally do better than this. Oh well.

The mandatory photo taking began early. Group shots, and then the more observant amongst us having our heads turned by what turned out to be just the first of many Trentham fairies. Ooh, this parkrun venue is really quite something! Oh, and we need costume shots, and vista shots, and selfie shots, and group shots and ooh another group shot because we missed some people out, and volunteer shots. Enough shots for a full covid vaccination programme for a small city at the very least I reckon. Here are but some of the many offerings. By the way, I’ve borrowed photos freely from all over the place and can’t honestly remember what came from where any more, so thanks to those I’ve lifted from, thanks for those whose images I’ve shared, thanks for those who have posed in pics and thanks for all who were there whether captured on film or not.

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After quite a prolonged period greeting each other in what must be the parkrun equivalent of dogs sniffing each other’s bottoms, we were distracted by the call out for the first timers’ welcome. Dear reader, I can report this was particularly excellent. Welcoming, informative, witty and shout out for the milestone parkrunners even if there was begrudging acknowledgement they might be ‘rather hard to spot!’. Joking, obvs. There were a few first time everers which was especially impressive. This is an amazing venue, but honestly, the weather was not conducive for making a parkrun debut for any but the most dedicated of first timers. I salute them all.

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The course was explained, a one lapper, but with a cattle grid. Uh oh. Our cow companions hadn’t entirely thought this through. But wait, it would be fine, kindly high vis marshals had laid across the grids sacrificing themselves so others may cross. Or if not actually them, then their high vis tabards, and if not the actual high vis tabards then maybe they’d got some proper cattle grid boarding to do the job for them. We’d fathom it out between us, and if not, I’m pretty sure it’s in the ‘any other duties’ section of the parkrun marshal job description that they will carry cows over cattle grids to help them negotiate when required, just as they will lift parkrunners aloft and trot over bridges to help them avoid trolls where needed. They are a helpful and self-sacrificing lot high vis marshals. They are the best.

We dispersed, and just as we did so, I was approached by a group with dogs, also arriving for their first ever parkrun but who’d missed the briefing. I did my best to explain the basics, which are basically follow along and ‘have fun!’. I learned the importance of communicating this only real parkrun rule from watching Mr junior parkrun himself, Paul Graham doing his junior parkrun briefings, and it really does distil down everything you need to know most succinctly. They went off to join the throng and then then there was a lovely RD briefing. Such a lovely parkrun, it seemed like even the heavens had brightened somewhat. Briefing completed, and we were awf.

It was quite a sedate awf to be fair. It was wet around the edges of the tarmac path, very wet, and with over 500 parkrunners a busy start area. As far as I could tell all were pretty patient and polite, why would you want to hurry round such a glorious course. Me and the cattle and the parkwalkers held back to enjoy the sight of the parkrunners peeling off, and then slotted in the rear.

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and then we were on our way, for a fantabulous jaunt round Trentham Gardens.

Can we just have a little parkrunpedia interlude for Trentham Gardens please. I had never even heard of them, but once again parkrun adventuring took me to a location I might never have otherwise discovered, and it was properly amazing!

Trentham Estate ‘Trentham is a special place. 725 acres of spectacular natural beauty and home to award-winning Gardens, glorious ancient Woodland, a unique outdoor shopping village, events galore and so much more. From the tranquillity of the garden and wildlife walks to the wonder of the Monkey Forest and the thrill of Treetop Adventures, there really is something for everyone at Trentham.

Having completed the parkrun I can confirm it is definitely a special place AND an area of spectacular natural beauty. We might not have seen absolutely everything, but the single lap certainly takes in a mighty portion of its wonders.

‘At the heart of Trentham Gardens is the spectacular, mile-long, Capability Brown-designed Trentham Lake. Studded with small islands the Lake is alive with the sights and sounds of a wonderful array of wildlife. The circular lakeside walk takes in views of the River Trent, ancient wildflower meadows and woodlands, through the cascading weir and along atmospheric nature trails. There is so much to explore and be inspired by, including the bold and dramatic naturalistic planting design; ‘modern meadows’ by Nigel Dunnett creator of the acclaimed plantings at the Olympic Park, London. Created for successional seasonal interest and environmental suitability’

Usually, it’s £10.50 admission for an adult in winter, or £13 summer prices, but as a parkrunner you can come in for free, do the parkrun and then exit by 10.30. This is an absolute bargain, as you not only see a lot of the estate, you also see it pretty much deserted apart from other parkrunners. Oh and Trentham Garden fairies, but both fellow parkrunners and Trentham Fairies are most delightful companions. I have to say though, I was sufficiently impressed by it all to think it would be well worth the entrance ticket price, there is much to see, do and appreciate. A happy place. Changing through the seasons too, I think you can get loyalty passes too if you are a local. Certainly there seemed to be a lot of regular dog walkers making the most of the place as we parkrunners assembled. There were a few raised eyebrows at the fancy dress, but all was good natured, the main reaction being laughter and a desire to take a selfie, it was companionable space sharing. Hurrah!

At the rear we were, the fun party at the back, and boy did we have fun. So much adventuring. The course is gorgeous. As a one lapper the bulk of the field weaved out of sight pretty early on, but that just meant we had a sense of having the whole place to ourselves to explore and it was amazing. The skies cleared and we gazed in wonder at the unfolding marvels, of which there were many.

As tailwalker it was my job to be the last finisher, and there was a fellow tailwalker to take on 50% of this responsibilitiy and a parkwalker too. We also had a bouncing tree hugger who is 99% border collie on speed, so that, along with the rather independent cow was quite a lot to try to keep in order. The thing is there were a lot of exceedingly magnificent trees, ALL of which needed to be fully appreciated, oohed and aahed over and/or hugged; and a great many distractions in the form of things to be photographed; spring flowers to be appreciated; fairies to be whooped over; marshals to be thanked; water birds to be identified; benches to be sat upon; mini tractors to be ridden; selfies to be taken; cattle grids to be negotiated; dogs to be petted; other park users to be chatted to. So many things to do at a parkrun! It’s a wonder we ever finished at all!

I honestly can’t quite remember the sequence in which marvels were revealed to us, so here are some highlights, in no particular order:

Heading out:

Whilst it is true that most of the field disappeared over the horizon pretty speedily, we party pack at the back quickly set about making our own entertainment. Not that parkrun isn’t adequate entertainment all on its own, but there is definitely added value in have twalking companions. We headed off by a lake side, and very quickly came across a dinky little miniature train track, and some coppery wavey things that were intriguing if somewhat inscrutable. Then there were trees to dally round and endless photos to take to capture the essence of the occasion.

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My personal favourite photo (which granted, does change quite a lot, I’m either indecisive or fickle or quite possibly both) is the one that makes us look like an ill thought through new band launch. Still, nothing wrong with a left field rock band offering. Nobody saw Gangnam style coming, and I am confident we have a greater diversity of appeal than that, excellent as it was. We do exude fun and know how to make our own entertainment, so all good. ‘The Bovine Beauties’ perhaps or ‘Cool with the Coos’? ‘The Merry Moon Jumpers’? ‘The Feisty Friesian Foursome’? Well, ok, we need to work on our name, and quite possibly our music content too, but everyone has to start somewhere, these are details don’t knock it. We are surely insta ready, and that is the important thing.

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Lovely as the route was, it was not without its challenges! Fortunately, cheery marshals were on hand to help us navigate the most testing of trails. Case in point. The forge! A proper water way, with a little bridge to one side. We wanted to forge the water course but having been explicitly instructed not to, behaved tolerably well. We did stop though to ooh and aah at the water cascading down the steps, to chit chat with the marshal and to examine the elfin figure which I thought looked somewhat Gollum-like or possibly Dobby the house elfesque. Nice punting skills though. The cow may have strayed back into the water, but did use the little bridge first. Phew.

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Spring flowers:

Our merry way took us to all sorts of delights. Venturing darn sarth from oop norf I was astonished at the flowers. Highlights included snowdrops, cyclamen, witch hazel, daphne, catkins, moss and the amazing sculptural dandelion clocks and metallic flowers. I abandoned any attempt at photographing en route today, out sourcing this to my energetic, photogenic and photographically talented parkrun companions. Good call I think you can agree:

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The witch hazel grove was especially wondrous. The parkrun route takes you right through an area of tall trees underplanted with a mass of brightly flowering witch hazel with the waft of a particularly fragrant single daphne tree cocooning us in it’s heady aroma. This route through the gardens is amazing, what’s more, it would be amazing in different ways at different times of the year and different times of day, I don’t think you’d ever get bored. We saw loads, but missed loads too, and those who actually ran round the parkrun, well, what were they thinking? They’d have properly missed out on so many excellent, exceptional and extraordinary things! Fortunately, they can come back and do it all again another Saturday if they wish, and I hope they will!

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Trees – so many magnificent trees!

Trees to hug, trees to gaze at, trees to sniff around and quite possibly pee up (if you are a dog or direly desperate) trees sufficient for mini forest bathing and maxi green wild swimming. Trees are brilliant though aren’t they. Granted, it wasn’t possible to hug each and every one, but maybe you could over time if you went back every week. Some of the trees had trunks so vast it would take a whole field of parkrunners to encircle them. Trees are the best. These trees you could not look on or up without being both calmed and awed. They brought perspective to the universe which was much needed and very nice to behold.

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There was even a tree sculptured into a family of otters, which was extra lovely because apparently the gardens are very popular with actual otters. If there is one thing lovelier than a sculpture of otters it has to be the prospect of actual otters being somewhere in the vicinity. The sculpture is diving otters apparently and was made from a cedar tree by Andy Burgess. Rewilding is important to the gardens, and I have it on blog authority that they plan to introduce beavers. BEAVERS! That is properly exciting.

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Plans have been submitted to house up to four Eurasian Beavers from Spring 2023 – In a bid to help re-introduce the species, Trentham is working alongside ecologist, reintroduction specialist and author, Derek Gow, who founded the Derek Gow Consultancy formed of a team of specialists in conservations, surveys, breeding and mitigation. The project is also being supported by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, The Beaver Trust, The Environment Agency and The Canal & River Trust.

Beavers are often referred to as ‘ecosystem engineers’ and their role in combating climate change is increasingly being recognised, as they make changes to their habitats, such as coppicing trees and shrub species, damming smaller water courses, and digging ‘beaver canal’ systems. These activities create diverse and dynamic wetlands – helping to connect floodplains with their watercourses once again. In turn, these wetlands can bring enormous benefits to other species, such as otters, water shrews, water voles, birds, invertebrates and breeding fish, as well as sequestering carbon.

In order to contain the beaver population and satisfy the controls required to try and save the species, while supporting the local agricultural community, Trentham has submitted plans for an enclosure around the perimeter of the lake and wider Gardens to keep the beavers safe and prevent them from escaping.

Alastair Budd, Senior Director of Trentham, comments: “Beavers are one of the most important species in our habitats and we want to help visitors to understand why this once extinct UK native should be back in the English countryside helping to restore our ecosystems and mitigate the impact of climate change.

OMG that’s so exciting. Beavers, beavering.

Even in this briefest of encounters with the grounds my heart nearly exploded with joy at all the wildlife habitats and sympathetic landscaping. A place of wonder indeed. Just look! Oh, and there were beetle sculptures too, love a giant stag beetle. My eyes were popping out my head there was just so much to see!

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This was just going to be grand! Off with a parkrun purpose. What larks eh, what larks!

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Fairies, so many fairies!

As we wended our way around, we were supervised by a flight of fairies guiding our way. They were everywhere. Some delegate, some fair(l)y feisty, some downright contortionists but all a delight, and many we attempted to emulate, with varying degrees of success. Not being rude, but not sure the cow has entirely the most favourable of physiques for re-enacting the gossamer winged poses, but straight As for effort, obvs. Do you know what gossamer is by the way? I just looked it up, and although used generally to signify light wispy fabrics, it’s actually the silken threads made by spiders. Isn’t that amazing? Rhetorical question, yes it is! Gossamer is a word I’m going to try to use more often, that and petrichor, though it smells not so much of wet earth round here as end of times flooding but even so. Some words and lovely and evocative. Some are not. Gusset for example? Does nothing for me beyond generating shudders. I think this is in part because tights are so poorly designed a drooping gusset is a traumatising thing, thank goodness for snag tights which I’ve only just discovered, game changer. You do realise if Superman had been able to access those, he wouldn’t have had to wear his pants on the outside of his tights. It would have changed history, or his story at least. Anyway, enough of my underwear fails, on to the fairy shots. Fairy good they are too! I don’t know if fairies have to worry about knickers particularly, or tights. #livingthedream

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As we followed the route and met up with marshals along the way like characters in the Pilgrim’s Progress or Chicken Licken if you prefer, it dawned on us this was a one loop course so we might as well gather up the course direction arrows as we passed by. It was a further enrichment activity for us. Joyously, we also seemed to gather marshals at various points too, so in a more the merrier sort of band we sashayed on around.

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The cows did a fair bit of cavorting, and one at least even some somewhat coquettish posing on the woodland chaise. In her defence, it’s quite hard to walk on by such a seductive item without laying out on it and declaring ‘paint me like your French vache’ anyone would have done the same, a great many probably have before.

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It is hilarious when you stop to think what goes on at the back of a parkrun. It is worth checking out the tiktok link for a parkruncam view. Penguincam has nothing on us. I think one of the many best things ever about parkrun, is that it gives you permission to play and play we did, whether that was hiding in the magic mushrooms despite there really not being very mush room at all, or checking out the mini tractors, or tree hugging or statue posing or just generally screaming with shared hilarity we had such a blast. Then we had to photograph the running duck and the robin and the sheep, so many distractions. Robins appear when loved ones are near, so that was extra special. I’m sure it wasn’t just hungry and opportunistic on the off chance. parkrun really is so very much more than a run in a park, it may have always have been about the coffee, but I think it is also very much about the shared experience of liberating your inner child. Everyone should have one! Were they sheep though, or were they cattle, not smol, but far far away?

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The next serious obstacle to negotiate, was the actual cattle grid. A friendly marshal was on hand to help negotiate this challenge. We had to keep to the left, and could use the pre laid covers to help cross the grid without incident. There was though a kissing gate which clearly also needed to be explored and experimented with. In fact, you traverse the cattle grid, and then loop round and come back over it all over again. Double the excitement!

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As if this wasn’t giddying enough, we were also joined at some point on this circuit by a bicycling marshal on the Trentham Gardens parkrun official bike. Isn’t that special and splendid, and what a cool role. I think officially he was a course sweeper, but I prefer to think of him as our personal outrider for the final section of the course. It was nice to have cheery company along for the ride. Well, he was riding and we were parkrun pootling but all good. Though there were fine hares to be seen, it isn’t the only way to approach a parkrun it seems, though hares are cool too! Look at this one.

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More Formally:

Juxtaposed with the managed wild areas were more formal gardens, Italian ones I think. This just gave another whole area to explore and discover, and came towards the end of the parkrun route.

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We paused to take in a fine statue with a figure holding a detached head aloft, I thought this was to serve as a firm warning for wannabe funnel duckers as they were nearing the finish, but turns out, it was a statue of Perseus with the head of medusa. Further more, accordingtogooglesoitmustbetrue ‘Sculptor: Benvenuto Cellini. This is a true copy of an original 16th century statue by the Italian master Benvenuto Cellini. The Trentham Estate’s statue of “Perseus with the head of Medusa” was made on the order of the 2nd Duke of Sutherland around 1840. It is the only copy of Cellini’s masterpiece, and demonstrates like no other work in this country the 19th century’s fascination with the Florentine High Renaissance‘. I liked our idea better, but either way, we took the opportunity to do our own re-enactment with uncanny realism if slightly more outer garments. Well it was somewhat nippy out, even though we dodged a lot of rain. I don’t know if it’s practical for us to embark on a career change as living statues or indeed historical re-enactment professionals, but the seed of an idea was certainly planted. Why not endeavour to re-wild our own lives with the same vigour we long to rewild our natural habitats? Quite so. I rest my case.

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and as if we hadn’t already had an embarrassment of riches, other parkrunners who had now concluded their runs came back to join us, so our guard of honour gathered strength and hard though it is to imagine, the atmosphere got even more intoxicatingly glorious, parkrun people are The Best. The weather was beginning to break, but the marshals remained cheery outwardly irrespective of degree of damp and cold that was penetrating them at this point.

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‘Suddenly’ we rounded the corner and there ahead, somewhat rain soaked, but still smiling, was a fully set up and serviced finish funnel. Hurrah! We enjoyed the same finish as everyone else, tunnel up, marshals in situ, hurrah!

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They really had been waiting til the cows came home, and that’s grand!

And our compatriots had saved us celebratory cake. I managed to consume half of one before being distracted resulting in the calamity of having a cupcake down emergency. But it worked in my favour in that I was given a reissue so it ended up being a 1 1/2 cupcake scenario instead of none. All’s well that ends well as the saying goes. parkrun cake is a serious business, no wonder Trentham Gardens parkrun very smartly arranged for a cake marshal on this occasion, a beautifully accessorised one at that. Which parkrun doesn’t need – or at least want – a waterproof cake carrier. Versatile bit of kit too by the look of things! Red Ted is also in need of some post parkrun ablutions, but all in good time, I’m sure he’ll scrub up well when the time comes.

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Even after all that, they managed to persuade us to pose – with some reluctance obvs, what with being so camera shy and all – for a group shot, well it would have been rude not to!

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Incidentally, as well as being a parkrun with all the things, it is also possibly one of the most comprehensively documented parkruns in history – and that includes Bushy parkrun birthday celebrations past and still to come! So much so this blog post is quite possibly entirely redundant, but then I’ve never let that stop me recording my thoughts before so why stop now?* Also, triangulation is a thing right? Always important to see things from different angles just to make sure all the accounts hold up. Spoiler alert, they do!

Case in point, a brilliant run report, that somehow distilled down all that loveliness into an excellent summary that exudes the loveliness of the day.

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And then we have the tiktok of the event which actually really and truly made me laugh out loud. I’d never really seen the point of tiktok before, having only recently come to first trust an now embrace electric blankets but now I believe I may be a convert! Check this out, and if it doesn’t make you smile at the very least, well you have a heart of stone and I pity you. Yes, in a really patronising and insincere way too!

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Finally, parkrun concluded, we were escorted off the grounds and through two lots of gates that were carefully locked behind us

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and to the rotisserie. This is the cafe of choice for the volunteer team and we were warmly invited to join them. The good news about this cafe is that it does do veggie and vegan options and has a huge back room where we did a parkrun takeover and basically had a pop up parkrun party. The staff and venue took all this in their stride. The less good news is that you have to run the proverbial gauntlet of roasting chicken carcasses to get there and it did smell of cooked meat which was a bit overwhelming. Even so though, a great choice and we had a fund time catching up with one another, sharing parkrun tales and planning new adventures. The core team head scratched over the results, and there was much jocular hilarity with some excellent post parkrun parkfaffery. We excelled even ourselves in our fun times.

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It was just lovely, practically perfect in every way. It was a parkrun punt to head out so far, but it was worth it. A little inoculation of joy to carry us through the week ahead, and affirming to meet people in real life when for such a long time they were just people who in lockdown lived in my laptop. It’s scary meeting people sometimes, but it turns out, most of them are lovely, and parkrun people are the loveliest of all. And as for the craic at the back of the pack. Best of all things. Thank you tail walkers, parkwalkers cow companions, walking and talking companions all. We did good!

But wait! There’s more.

As if it hadn’t been glorious enough what with having a parkrun, and adventures, and wildlife, an statues, and playing statues, and meeting friends, and fancy dress and all the things, as well as memories and pictures to take away I got an actual hug to keep with me! Two of our number, the cow and the tree hugger if you must know, had in a very literal labour of love, constructed some little yellow and gold hearts, each placed in a little bag of loveliness along with a mini pack of love hearts and on the back of the golden heart a hand written note ‘Always with me now, pocket hug’. Isn’t that just perfection. Because we can all have a wobble and having a hug in your pocket to squeeze in times of need is reassuring beyond your wildest imaginings. I may even laminate mine, to give it a little extra durability. It was the perfect end to the perfect parkrun morning. Sigh. Honestly though, what did we do for our physical and mental health and how did we connect with new people across the land before parkrun. I have no idea.

But now we can, and we do, and I wish you may always have if not a pocket hug of your very own, then at least a positive parkrun memory of your own or this virtual hug from me (extra covid compliant of course) to help you push on through. The world can seem a scary and lonely place at times, but we can still carve out pockets of kindness and there are more good people in the world than not. Also, we live in a land where we can still have parkrun play and over familiar squirrels and dance in the rain. So hope persists. Hang on in there.

There are surely enough yellow hearts and golden hugs for all. Purple hearts are something altogether different, best just say no to them in tablet form to be honest, the parkrun high is better altogether.. Mooving experience that it is.

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Oh, and if this hasn’t made you feel all lovely at the thought of parkrun, check out this parkrunner who has become the first woman to complete 24 parkruns in 24 hours. She knows a good thing when she finds it and can’t get enough of it down under it seems. Yay for Holly Ranson! Bet she still managed to complete her parkrun challenge in less time than it will take you to read this. Sorry about that. But like I said, Trentham Gardens parkrun has all the things!

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As always, I feel I should mention, you can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Also, you might just like to lean back in a comfy chair, close your eyes, and dreamily recall your happiest parkrun moments.  Bet there are loads.

Thanks though for keeping me company during my reflections from today. You’re The Best. May you always have a hug in your pocket to squeeze for comfort when in times of need, even if it is a virtual one. Thank you cow and cowell celebrants for bringing us all together, was great for us all to be with parkrun people in the here and now. Yay for my EWFM too, we are on a parkrun togetherness roll. #livingtheparkrundream

Still here? I won’t lie, I’m astonished! Thanks though.

Be happy. 🙂

**Clarifications and corrections**

Just one teensy tiny point of clarification. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about, nothing at all, but in the interests of full and fair disclosure, I feel there is one little thing I should mention. To one side of the course is a MOOSIVE, seriously mahoosive fence, with razor wire, and probably high voltage cabling etc. It’s slightly tucked to one side, and the distracting delights that abound may mean you pass by it without properly noticing it. However, once seen, it cannot be unseen. I think it is because as part of their rewilding initiative Trentham Gardens are doing a full on Jurassic Park kind of thing behind those fences. I’m sure it’s absolutely nothing to worry about, I mean, what could possibly go wrong, but felt a quick heads up was only fair. No wonder our otherwise energetic explorer is peering round this particular tree with a certain degree of tree-pedation. Probably fine though. Really…

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Isn’t it just great when nature finds a way!

*Rhetorical question, please don’t feel the need to enlighten me.

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

SURPRISE! Ups and downs and round and rounds in the rain at Sheffield Castle parkrun

It is a fact universally acknowledged that a parkrunner in possession of a barcode is always in search of a parkrun. Further more, such a person will never regret a parkrun. Sometimes you may think you will, in the small dark hours of a dismal winter day blinking up at the ceiling from under the fragile warmth of a tightly clutched duvet, but actually, nope, even the most inclement of conditions bestow bragging rights, and the most perilous of journeys can provide payback in terms of future anecdotes. It is always worth stepping out for a parkrun adventure. What is comedy but tragedy plus time after all. However, some parkruns you don’t regret even more than others. Sheffield Castle parkrun is one such event. It is an ostensibly modest offering, small by many parkrun standards, with an average number of finishers each week of around 60. It is an erm, let’s go with ‘unpromising’ at first glance Sheffield location, and has definite ‘Sheffield flat’ sections that give the course the illusion of being almost entirely uphill. In fact scrap that, it isn’t an illusion, it actually is entirely uphill. Think Escher painting with the endless upwards staircases and you’ll get the general idea. However, those of us who have experienced the event at its Manor Park location know of its secret delights. Dear reader, you should know that The Manor Fields park has burst forth phoenix like

“From one of the most rundown bits of wasteland in the city to one of the city’s most attractive parks, this place is a gem for wildlife and humans alike. It has to be one of the best designed wildlife parklands in the country and should be a shining example for all” (Andrew Stringer, 2019).

It still suffers from that reputation in the minds of some. It had more than its fair share of fly tipping, burnt out vehicles, dog crap and yes, actual dead bodies over the years, as opposed to apocryphal ones. Yet now, if you just make the effort to trot along you’ll be greeted by possibly the most genuinely community focused of the Sheffield parkruns. The reclaimed land has been lovingly seeded to create amazing wild flower meadows in the summer months. Nature themed sculptures abound, and careful landscaping has created water habitats in abundance. It is the most fantastic space. Sheffield Castle parkrun is too often over looked. It’s proper lovely, always welcoming, always full of interest, and with stalwart volunteers that are such regulars at their spots it is almost as if they have merged with the landscape, if not actually grown out of it. Check out these photos lifted from the Manor Fields Park Facebook page:

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See! Reyt nice – though granted these pics seems to have been taken on an altogether sunnier occasion…

Despite all this insider knowledge about the giddy delights of the venue that awaited, I cannot tell a lie, the deluge of rain that fell from the sky like a giant sized ice-bucket challenge first thing in the morning did not imbue me with enthusiasm at setting out.

My EWFM bestie was up in Sheffield for the weekend. Today would make for a hat trick of consecutive parkrun rendezvous which is no mean feat given she is in London and I’m in Sheffield or ‘up north’ as my southern reader might have it. We’d been debating taking the opportunity to do some tourism a little further afield, I’ve done all the Sheffield parkruns many times now, about from Hillsborough for some reason. Too many laps and a bit bargy when I went though it has a great reputation and now a fab cafe too, so I really should go back. Anyway, for various reasons we decided to stay local. I’m always happy to go back to Castle and it’s been a while, and it would be a new to her parkrun. Everyone’s a winner. Watching the rain beating on the windows with such force they were like shards thrust horizontally at the panes by angry demons* we were grateful for our life choices. I would not have fancied a long road trip aquaplaning across the country to an unknown destination many miles away. I was even for once quite relieved to be a parkwalker. I have to fight back tears of frustration quite often at my restricted mobility these days, and parkrun days are all too often the most painful reminder of what I can’t do, that and the Round Sheffield Run which I also missed out on this weekend. Today though, I was quite pleased to be able to legitimately rock up to the event in a full length rain coat, hat and multiple warm layers. It was surely going to be a wet one. Even so, parkrun day, to parkrun we should head, and so we did. Taking a photo of us just before we set off to share with other parkrunners heading off in the dark on their parkrun journeys. I pity them, missing out on Sheffield Castle parkrun, but dare say they enjoyed their own respective parkruns in their own way…

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We drove across Sheffield, it isn’t that far, but I went some weird route because I couldn’t quite visualise the best way to get there and so let the satnav take us on a magical mystery tour instead. It did not disappoint. Negotiating the tram tracks on the way (I have never quite got used to sharing the roads with trams, it makes me nervous) we got to Manor Fields Park nice and early, nabbing one of the last few parking spaces in the modest car park.

Oh, I have written about Sheffield Castle parkrun before, but just in case you are late to the party, here is the Sheffield Castle parkrun website blah de blah:

The event takes place at Manor Fields Park ,City Road, Sheffield, S2.

Course Description: The course consists of three laps of Manor Fields park in an anti-clockwise direction. The Start/finish line is situated at the entrance to the park from the car park adjacent to York House, City Road. From the start head east following the tarmac path which descends gently and then takes a more north easterly direction. Take a right fork climbing gently on a curved path towards the Queen Mary Road entrance to the park keeping the houses to your right. Adjacent to the Queen Mary Road park entrance take a left turn following the tarmac path north east towards the children’s playground. Immediately prior to the playground, at the cross roads, turn left and take the gentle descent north westerly. Continue along the tarmac path following it north keeping rocks to your right and over the discreet, level bridge. Take the next available right and continue along the tarmac path in a generally northerly direction as it ascends ever more steeply towards the Raynald Road exit from the park. Follow the tarmac path left and north west as it descends steeply towards the Manor Park Crescent park entrance keeping within the park boundaries following the path as it bends left passed the entrance heading south in a steady climb. Stick to the main tarmac path as it bends south westerly and commences its steady climb past the cemetery entrance on the right back to the start/finish line. Complete three laps of the course for the 5km of the Sheffield Castle parkrun.

Location of start: The run starts at the entrance to Manor Fields Park, City Road (next to Premier Supermarket). The start line is visible from main road.

Getting there by public transport
Bus: From Sheffield Interchange City Centre 120 platform A, bus stops at entrance to park, City Road (Spring Lane).

Train: From Sheffield City Centre, Tram stops opposite park entrance on Spring Lane. Walk on to City Road to entrance to park.

Getting there on foot: The Park entrance can be accessed from City Road S2 1GF and is situated 2 miles from the City Centre.
Getting there by road: Sheffield Park Square Roundabout via Duke Street (B6070) then follow on to City Road (A6135) Manor Fields Park. The Car park entrance is just on left after Premier Supermarket. Car Parking Free.

Post Run Coffee: Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in York House – please come and join us!

and the course looks like this:

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but don’t let the picture fool you. It only looks flat because it’s a 2D image, the 3D reality is most definitely erm, let’s go with ‘undulating’. Fun for sure, but definitely a hump or two on the way around, a veritable caravan of camels worth, and bactrian camels at that! Mind you, personally I do like a camelid, under-rated and rather magnificent creatures in my world. Much like wart hogs. They are glorious beyond words.

It was definitely still raining on arrival. Even the wonkies didn’t want to get out of the car. To be fair, I’m not entirely sure my precious and rare parkrunning buddy did either, though she was putting a brave face on it at this juncture.

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We did a bit of sitting steaming in the car, reflecting on our life and parkrun choices, peering through the rainy car windows to see marshals wrestling with parkrun flags and cones as they set the course areas up, Then I suddenly remembered as I was a volunteer parkwalker, I probably ought to brave the outside and let the Run Director know I was there. Also, there was the inevitable issue of facilitating a precautionary pee. The good news is that Sheffield Castle has a loo right near the start/finish area, the bad news is that it is just the one, so inevitably there is a bit of a queue. Time to move. The wonkies – made of repurposed high vis in case you haven’t been concentrating and havent worked it out, for the most part decided to stay put, but Charley and Red Ted committed to getting out and about. Admittedly, Red Ted is strapped to my walking pole, as a sort of emotional support wonky. I had never really reflected on this particularly until a child at junior parkrun asked me why he was tied up in that way and I felt suddenly exposed in some act of vile coercion and cruelty. I couldn’t come up with an adequate explanation. One of the many unexpected challenges of volunteering at a junior event I suppose.

As we exited the car another car breezed in, we espied frantically waving shadows inside and reciprocated with frantic enthusiastic waves back before quizzing each other ‘Who was that?’. ‘No idea!’. We had only managed to clock the UK parkrun tourists Facebook page buff between us, and were each hoping the other had made a positive id through the grey rain and seemingly darkened windscreen. Oh well, we’d find out.

And so we did!

SURPRISE. And OMG what a FANTASTIC surprise. A contingent from Huddersfield parkrun, although inexplicably not all decked out in Super Mario fancy dress. We’d first met I think back in August at their 500th parkrun event which had been an amazing and welcoming occasion. That is an astonishing course, there are moments en route where if you look around it really does seem like parkrunners are going in all possible different directions and on all possible levels – over bridges and through tunnels below. You really should check it out if you haven’t already done so.

Through the rain, and brandishing AMAZING giraffe leggings and scrunchie for a synchronised tourism occasion still to come was a familiar face, hurrah! It is always brilliant to turn up at a parkrun and unexpectedly see a familiar face, but what was extra brilliant and bizarre about this particular reunion is that we had literally been liaising a couple of days before about rendezvousing at Scunthorpe parkrun next week. That is tricky for me because I’d already committed (health permitting) to join another parkrunning friend for their Cowell run (100 different events). I felt bad though, as we tried to go to Scunthorpe before Christmas but snow and ice made heading out too scary for me. I was feeling guilty and like I was being a bit flaky. This was especially depressing as I really want to go to Scunthorpe. Partly because who doesn’t like a parkrun by the seaside, and partly because, shallow and childish as it is, I do feel the urge to add Scunthorpe and Clitheroe Castle parkrun and indeed Sloughbottom parkrun to my Penistone parkrun result and achieve my personal Infantile Sniggering at Saucy Words challenge, I’m not sure what the virtual badge for that one looks like, perhaps best not to over think it. A chortling smiley face emoji perhaps? That would be family friendly and tasteful. The acceptable face of collapsing in giggles at hidden ‘rude’ words within parkrun names perhaps.

Anyway, the enormous irony of us actually being in Sheffield instead, today was hilarious, brilliant and perfection personified, or parkrunnerfied more accurately. I couldn’t have been more astonished if they’d all burst out of a gigantic super Mario themed cake to the accompaniment of a full size steel band and a troupe of acrobats. It was magnificent! They had the advantage on me having checked out the volunteer roster, but were also tail walking. The intention was we’d be joined by others, but they had car issues en route and ended up doing Hillsborough instead, so near and yet so far. Still, we could be whooping and amazed and excitable with enough demonstrative passion for all of us! A fantastic surprise. #lovetheparkruncommunity We managed a rendezvous and I know longer have to split myself in two across two far away parkruns in order to avoid missing out on or putting out fellow parkrunners, hurrah! It may have been raining on the outside, but it was all sunshine on the inside.

Quick pee, scamper to collect the blue high vis – it is massively the most flattering of the high vis options in my opinion, and then to the pop up banner, that was more blown down and saturated then popped up and perky and some photo options. Selfies and wonkies all needed to be captured on film. That’s me pointing with my surprised face, and that is surprise visitor looking pleased with themselves for being so surprising, and why wouldn’t she be? So much joy! Also, aren’t are hats splendid!

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The photo shoot required a certain amount of acrobatics and indeed contortion as unless held upright with some force the pop up sign did a kamikaze-esque collapse. Then wonky Charley did a faceplant as soon as left unattended, so there was much ducking behind signs and posing with signs and all sorts. It got very jolly in fact. I do love making my own entertainment, and was perfectly accessorised for such adventuring what with having both Huddersfield companions and my precious and rare EWFM which in case you haven’t been concentrating is sort of like a BFF but waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better, more enduring and more complex. A very good thing indeed, and very much for life not just for Christmas, much like parkrun. Are you following?

Anyway, we ended up directing a number of photoshoots of other parkrunners seeking a pic with the pop up. Initially they stood dripping and bedraggled like muddied survivors from a disaster moving, but with a bit of encouragement played up for the camera beautifully and provided much jolly pre-parkrun entertainment, hurrah! Making your own fun is highly recommended, it is always pleasing just how up for it other parkrunners are if you just set the playfulness in motion. I say up for it, maybe they were just particularly suggestable and have traipsed home full of regret that they didn’t nab their usual rigidly upright, solemn faced behind the pop up photo. Oh well, there is always next week I suppose. I like our photos, though somehow, we failed to get one of me and EWFM in all the confusion and merriment. Never mind, we have our memories and got one the next day at junior parkrun so all was not lost.

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With all the pre parkrun faffage, it seemed that really quickly we were called together for the Run Director’s briefing. There were the usual shout outs for tourists – there were a few, but mainly from Yorkshire although obviously my bestie from Londonshire was also present and correct if a little damp around the edges. Thanks to the volunteers. There was a full roster today which was good to see, but possibly largely on account of people resting their legs before the iconic Round Sheffield Run tomorrow. One person had a number up for grabs, and I endeavoured to get it for my lodger, however it didn’t work out as I was walking and the parkrunner concerned had long gone by the time I got back. Maybe just as well as I’m not entirely sure if it would have been possible to do name changes at this late stage. Darned shame though.

All too soon, we were sent on our merry and puddlestrewn way. I didn’t have my camera with me and to be fair it wasn’t really photo weather, people were understandably loathe to risk their phones in such conditions. However, you can take my word for it that it is a really brilliant route. I love that the inclines mean you see the runners streaming away from you, and the twisty turny paths and open landscape mean you get great views of others ahead. The three lap bit means you get lapped as a slower participant, but that’s jolly too, a good opportunity to make new friends and share greetings as you pass one another.

There was another parkwalker which was good to see, they were power walking so a bit ahead of me and the two tail walkers. We had a little party at the back with walking and jeffing parkrunners. Both were regulars. We ended up having the familiar conversation about why is Sheffield Castle parkrun called Sheffield Castle parkrun when there doesn’t appear to be any castle as such. I sort of know this but couldn’t entirely remember the details. It is confusing, because this park, together with what is now Norfolk park was all once part of a deer park, and as I recall there was a fortified looking hunting lodge as part of the estate which was known locally as The Castle, even though it wasn’t an actual castle though it was where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner for ages and ages. To add to my confused history, there was a real proper Castle in Sheffield at one point, which is now long gone, but referenced as Castlegate in Sheffield City Centre. Oh, and actually, there was a dig a few years back which found some stuff of interest apparently, but the Castle reference for Manor Fields has a different origin, i.e. the turret house from Sheffield Manor Lodge:

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Hang on, let’s just Wikipedia Sheffield Manor Lodge shall we? Might save some time:

Mary, Queen of Scots, was held prisoner by the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury at both Sheffield Manor Lodge and Sheffield Castle (her ghost is said by some to haunt the Turret House building). Wolsey’s Tower was built to accommodate Cardinal Wolsey, who then died after travelling on to Leicester.

Mary came to England in 1568 after her defeat at the battle of Langside seeking the support of the Catholic nobility. Mary’s freedom was restricted after her cousin Elizabeth was advised of the threat that Mary posed to her own crown.

She was handed over to the custody of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury on 4 February 1569. Talbot had armed guards watching her constantly, however she was still able, with the help of the Duke of Norfolk and others of the Catholic nobility, to plot against Elizabeth. Several times Mary had to be moved to places of greater safety and stricter control.

On 28 November 1570 she was taken to the Earl of Shrewsbury’s castle at Tutbury, where, apart from a few breaks at Chatsworth and Buxton, and more regular visits to Sheffield and the Manor House, she remained for 14 years.

So now we all know. I shall make it my business to immediately half commit this to memory in the spirit of passing on partial truths in perpetuity, so next time someone asks me I can sound much more authoritative and confident, that would make a pleasing change.

I did sort of know most of this history, albeit it had got a bit mangled since I last looked it all up. What I did not know until it was pointed out to me today, is that there is a particular point on the course where you can see the silhouette of the turret towers on the distant horizon. This means you actually get three shots at spotting them, more if you include partial views. I think this is pretty cool, and also another boon of walking and talking – twalking – because it creates the time and space to have things shown and explain to you, hurrah! This is in addition to putting the world to rights, comparing parkrun stories and being excited about tomorrow’s Round Sheffield Run winter edition and sing the praises of this amazing event. Definitely best race ever, it is a race not a run, unlike parkrun, but in many ways retains a parkrun ethos being inclusive and social and altogether brilliant. A parkrun on steroids with a medal at the end, where you can eat your bodyweight in jelly babies on the way round. Coffee and pizza at the end and loads of photos of happy smiley people having the best time outside together. Just sayin… might not be free, or weekly, but it is timed and it is awesome. Even volunteering for it is a joy, much like junior parkrun, though takes a bit longer, might want to bring your own chair. You can tell this marshal is a parkrun ambassador, got lucky with his position adjacent to toilets in Bishops House where the volunteers provided hot tea. He had to bring his own chair and snacks though, and it is a long time to be out there cheering and clapping I know. Looks like he’s nailed it though, has sussed sitting about is way easier than running round in the mud, however lovely the route!

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Back to Sheffield Castle parkrun though, it was just lovely. The weather may not have been the best – though Warrington parkrun had it worse for sure

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and I can’t resist these pics of runners in action elsewhere too – check out The Holmfirth Photographer at the TNT and the puddle of doom at Temple Newsam 10 on Sunday. Fortunately running in the rain just makes you more hardcore.

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But walking round with lovely parkrun buddies is The Best. Plus, we got to appreciate the various sculptures in the space, and to thank the somewhat sodden but irrepressibly cheery marshals as we passed them. One had come with an umbrella which was not holding up well to the challenge, but still beaming at the self-imposed hilarity of the situation. Yay for the marshals, they are The Best. And yay for the naming of the radish leaves sculpture, it may not have actually been called this previously, but it is now. You heard it here first dear reader:

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So we walked and talked and put the world to rights, and laughed and shared stories and made new friends and rekindled old friendships. My EWFM bestie came to join us after completing her parkrun to walk us in. She was delighted with her number 69 finish place, I don’t know why in particular, but she was definitely chuckling inwardly more than grown ups are generally expected to do, but exactly the amount besties should, so all good.

The rain fell as we headed up the final hill past the cemetery, the last lap was pretty much just a couple of walkers and the tail, but none the worse for that. Unsurprisingly, by the time we came to the finish funnel, most other parkrunners had dispersed, but cheery hardcore finish funnel and scanners and timers were all very much in situ and hugely appreciated by all of us walkers. They were even still smiling. The RD was busy in the house token sorting, so I waved goodbyes to the stalwart volunteers who were busying themselves with final course set down and waved goodbye to my Huddersfield friends – the two of them who had run also circled back to join us again. I thought this was solidarity, but it may have been that they didn’t have the car keys which would allow them to get themselves to a place of dry safety as their driver was my tailwalking buddy. Still, we made a jolly troupe heading to the finish.

And then, suddenly, everyone dispersed. It is magical how people come together for parkrun and then vanish into the mist afterwards as if we were never there. Leaving nothing but footprints and taking nothing but memories, and maybe photos, and in this case, large amounts of rainwater soaked into clothing, but that was all!

If you like to see accounts triangulated, you can see the full results from today here and see the write up of the event below. Hurrah!

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So that was all properly lovely, even if my last outstanding bingo number still eludes me. Oh the frustration.

The best bit though, we can do it all again next Saturday, and for me and my EWFM bestie we could do it again tomorrow, at junior parkrun. We went to Sheffield Olympic Legacy junior parkrun on the Sunday, all tooled up with wonkies and had the best of times. I like to pretend the wonkies are primarily to give joy to junior parkrunners, but they have taken on characters all of their own and their joy radiates outwards far beyond juniors. Even so, it was fun to have them back in their natural habitat and en masse too. One of the frogs and one of the cats got carried round by two sisters taking part. I love it when that happens and the wonkies get a proper work out. The little things eh?

It didn’t even rain! I know, what are the chances? #loveparkrun #especiallylovejunior parkrun

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There we go, another parkrun weekend done and dusted. Thank you Sheffield Castle parkrun for being awesome always, small but perfectly formed, thank you lovely EWFM for being my parkrun bestie, and thank you Huddersfield parkrunners for the amazing surprise and thank you everyone who keeps the parkrun community alive and thank you RSR for being the best running event ever (apart from parkrun obvs) hopefully I’ll find a way to join you again at some point in the future. Yay to all in the Sheffield running community who make it so!

Same time next week people? Go awn, you know you want to!

Incidentally, you can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Also, you might just like to lean back in a comfy chair, close your eyes, and dreamily recall your happiest parkrun moments.  Bet there are loads.

*well, like I imagine shards thrust horizontally by angry demons would seem to be, not having actually experienced this personally to date

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy New Year! Magical Meetings at Marston Moretaine Millennium Country parkrun.

Did you know it’s year of the rabbit? Hope it’s bouncing along nicely for you so far.

Finally, a new year celebration I can get behind. I speak of course of starting off with a New Year’s Day parkrun, rendezvousing with parkrunning besties in general and EWFM in particular and both being surprised and being the surprise as things took a surprising and unexpected turn in the arrivals area of the destination parkrun.

MASSIVELY EXCITING!

Do you know where it is yet? To be fair probably, on reflection naming the parkrun in question in the title was probably a rather helpful tell, but hey, you can still humour me with my origin story of how I got to be here/ go there. Oh, and understand my apparent time traveling in my blog posting sequence, assuming you’d even noticed that one. Clue, it was one with lots of bunting, which is ALWAYS the hallmark of a most excellent parkrun.

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So the thing is, whilst I don’t want to be more boring than necessary over my ongoing health challenges, they do have a massive impact on what I can and cant do. I have to manage pain 100% of the time, and associated fatigue. I am waaaaaaaaaaaay better than I was in that I can do most things for a short period, but then there is always a consequence. I got a huge confidence boost from doing a long drive on Christmas Day and had a brilliant parkrun experience at Roberts Park parkrun despite the camelid related confusion, but then it totally wiped me out for the next couple of weeks. I have to make a judgement call about what it’s worth taking the hit for, and what is best avoided. Throw into the mix though off the scale parkrun-related FOMO (fear of missing out) and petulant self-pitying solitary tantrum even if only in my head, and sometimes it’s a tough call. I try not to think too far ahead because then I start to panic. I have no idea how I’m going to secure a reliable income again as I don’t have the stamina for conventional work, and sometimes I’m scared about how much my body seems to have given out on me. I also have waves of paranoia as I know I look fine, so that makes me wonder if it is in fact in my head, so I try to do something over ambitious, like walk up a hill and realise that it is all too real. It remains a huge disappointment to me that apparently life can be unfair, I mean honestly, who knew? I’m sure when I was little I was told when I was a grown up I’d be able to do whatever I liked all day every day, well, it seems that either this isn’t entirely true or/and I’m not yet a grown up. The latter I can most definitely attest to, I used to think I’d be a grown up when I had my own sofa, and then maybe my own garden, I have accomplished those life goals, and they are both excellent in their own way, but turns out, such acquisitions do not imbue grown-up status. What’s more, increasingly I’m discovering that other people who I thought might be grown ups aren’t either, it’s just that some are better at hiding it than others. I feel sorry for those who believe that to communicate their grown-upness they can’t play anymore. parkrun is a brilliant playground for those of us who either wish to release our inner child or have never entrapped it. This is all a way of saying that rubbish as my health is, I do feel I really want to grab the bits of joy where I can, and deal with the fall out subsequently. I’m not sure how viable a lifestyle choice this is long term, but it was an excellent call to kick off the new year.

Oh, and just so you know, one consequence of doing stuff and then physically, emotionally and mentally crashing is not only that you faceplant on the sofa you thought might imbue with grown up status for so long you awake you don’t know where or who you are and have the imprint of a creased cushion on your face, but also that I can’t even manage to get this blog written. Textured cushions might look stylish but applique soft furnishings squashed against your face are unhelpful in aiding a radiant complexion and as for the damp hair/ applique cushion combo, well, let’s just say it’s a look not everyone can carry off. Best thing to do if interrupted and answering the door is to just style it out and or take a walking stick to the door so the caller just things you are a generic mad old lady and feels it would be rude to react too obviously let alone pass actual comment. Anyway, this crushing fatigue means I have a back log of posts I meant to do but just couldn’t. I know, what a loss to the parkrun chronicles? I hope to catch up on some. This one for example I’m actually writing up after heading to Sheffield Castle parkrun the following week, but due to the cleverness of the publication feature on word press, I can make it appear this was published on actual 1st January 2023. I do this not to make you believe I can travel in time, but because it means my posts are in the correct chronological order, but I do appreciate this may blow your mind dear reader.

Would it be good to travel in time though? If you could only go in one direction which way would you choose? I suppose if you went backwards you could leave stuff for the future and if you could take something back with you, that might be cool, not sure what it would be though. In a way we are all travellers in time anyway, it’s just that we all travel forwards. Ready or not, the future is coming, here it is – ooh, too quick, you missed it, it’s the past now. Try again! Oh no, too late again. Sigh, it’s a bit overwhelming and elusive this timey wimey thing if your pause to think about it. The seconds rush by don’t they? This is why it’s important to do some stuff even when it’s hard. I’ve essentially lost the best part of two years being ill, and more if you add on the pandemic, so I need to crack on. But where to? You might have guessed by now to be fair, but bear with… brace yourself for the big reveal.

My logic went like this. Many of my parkrun friends in general and my bestie EWFM in particular were to descend on Millennium Country parkrun. This was a change in plan as originally they were going to go somewhere entirely out of reach darn south, and that would have been too far for me to manage to drive. However, their plans changed due to covid things I think so they opted instead to go to Millennium Country slightly at the last minute – couple of days before anyway. I’d never heard of this parkrun, and didn’t even know there was a country called Millennium, though on reflection, didn’t Robbie Williams sing the National Anthem for that at one point? Anyway, turns out it is in fact somewhere called Marston Moretaine, and if you are none the wiser, that’s actually basically Bedford. Bedford isn’t exactly adjacent to Sheffield, but it’s a lot more manageable than Brighton or wherever it was they were originally heading. I did some mulling. A great deal of it in fact. According to Google maps that would be about a 2 1/2 drive which is pushing the limits of what I can manage, but then on the plus side there is generally speaking only one New Year’s Day a year, and I was buoyed with a degree of confidence from the Christmas Day foray where there was absolutely no traffic, that changes things a lot. It was doable, although I knew it would knock me out. I’d get to see not only my bestie but also visiting parkrunners from Germany, they of the Quarantine Quiz and exceptional fancy dress fame. The quarantine quiz grew out of lockdown and is where pub quiz meets parkrun meets international community meets astonishingly creative fancy dress meets brilliant quiz questioning meets 3D printing and they all meet patient and expert production. Quite an elaborate Venn diagram to be fair. There will be another quarantine quiz coming along in due course if you’d care to subscribe to Nigel’s YouTube channel, and I rather suggest you do. As for fancy dress reference, well just looksie you here:

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I rest my case. Surely a club we all want to be part of? And guess what? We can! #livingthebesparkrunlife

So it was I ended up with the makings of a plan to head out to Millennium Country parkrun which is at Marston Moretaine which, pleasingly, it turns out is an actual real place and not a madey up one. I know! Extraordinary.

I was still a little hesitant as to whether or not I’d make it on the day. For this reason, I didn’t go public with my choices, but did do a bit of preparatory ground work. Specifically, suggesting to my lovely EWFM that we should both wear matching outfits on our respective New Year’s Day parkruns so we could recreate a magical moment from lockdown. Hang on, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Oh dear, this is a bit of a long story, but I’ll try to cut to the chase. Essentially, we’d planned to go and do Malmo parkrun in Sweden and even booked flights, and then lockdown happened so we couldn’t go. In a bit of teamworking genius, my EWFM sent me a DIY Swedish parkrun kit so we could each do a Malmo inspired parkrun on the day we should have gone, she in London, me in Sheffield and then using her astonishing photoshop skills, she created an image which made it look like we were high fiving each other in real life. It was a good fun challenge and very bonding. She even made a mini selfie frame, which is actually way more effective for taking selfies than the full size ones which are ubiquitous at parkruns. Do you remember the solitary lockdown running challenges? Street names to spell out your name or a parkrun name or postbox bingo? I learned so much about street furnishings in lockdown, I will never confuse a stink pipe for a conventional lamp post again. Did you know there’s an actual one just up the road from me, and it features on a runningink greetings card too, glorious! My actual stink pipe, isn’t that grand! The photo is one from twitter and it notes ‘Sewer Gas Destructor Gas Lamp, Brincliffe Edge Road. There were 84 installed in Sheffield between 1915 & 1935. Only 2 remain in working order’. See, more interesting than you expected.

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There is a postscript to this too, which is we did eventually make it to Malmo, with same outfits and selfie frames and do our joint parkrun for real. Though inexplicably, we failed to actually do the same selfie shot, which is bizarre. I’ve just trawled through hundreds of photos and there aren’t really even any of us together, so bit of a photo fail there. Nevertheless, I still thought though this plan of mine was both inspired and plausible. She would easily enough buy into the matching outfits thing, then if I did make it, it would be extra glorious. Worst case scenario we could do our matchy matchy outfits at separate parkruns and recreate the photo, as before and best case scenario SURPRISE! Huge hugs of delight and we could do it for real. Yes, yes, this was a genius plan if I say so myself, which I do! For reference, here are some previous selfie montage creations, to give you the idea. And before you ask, yep, she made that actual mini selfie frame. It is genius isn’t it, she is very talented as well as precious and rare. Special you might say. Well, aren’t we all.

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Fingers crossed, Millennium here we come, albeit about 23 years late to the party. Still, better late than never as the saying goes. I was a latecomer to Breaking Bad too, and that was worth the wait albeit it took lockdown to find the time to bellyflop into it. I gather ‘just call Saul’ is even better, but it’s a lot of hours of one’s life to invest at this stage in proceedings. Have you seen the stop motion Pinocchio on Netflix by the way? Unexpectedly dark but rather splendid I thought. Anyway, enough of fantasy binge watching scenarios, back to our parkrun of the day. You must stop distracting me with all these questions or we’ll never get to the first timers’ welcome let alone go through the finish funnel at the end!

Right, where was I, oh yes, the basics.

Bit of the website blah de blah before we carry on – you weren’t in a hurry I hope? It’s actually raining an awful lot here at the moment, so maybe if you don’t want to venture out in inclement weather you’ll be glad of a long parkrun related blog to peruse by way of procrastination. Also, reading is not compulsory, just saying. Where was I? Oh yes, according the Millennium Country parkrun website:

The event takes place at Forest of Marston Vale – The Forest Centre, Millennium Country Park, Station Road, Marston Moretaine, Beds, MK43 0PR

and the course description states:

Course Description
The start is a few minutes walk from the Forest Centre and is an out and back course. Starting in a south-west direction, follow the path in a clockwise direction till the turn around point and then retrace your steps back. The finish is at the same location as the start. It is important to keep left at all times.

Unfortunately dogs are not allowed at this event.

Facilities: The Forest Centre has indoor toilets near the café and there are children’s play areas available as well as countryside walks. Additionally there is a bike hire facility and free Wifi.

Getting There
Location of start: The event starts a few minutes walk from the Forest Centre (w3w plotter.goals.kilt).

Getting there by road: From J13 of the M1, follow the A421 towards Bedford/Cambridge and exit at Marston Moretaine.
From the A1, follow the A421 towards Milton Keynes and exit at Marston Moretaine.

From there, you’ll see brown signage for the Forest Centre. At the roundabout, take the exit into Marston Moretaine (Beancroft Road); at next junction turn left and then almost immediately turn right (Station Road). Follow the road for approximately 500m and you’ll see the Forest Centre entrance on the left (Gold Furlong). Take a right on this road, and you’ll be on the driveway to the Forest Centre. The car park is about 600m along. The best SATNAV postcode to use is MK430PR.

Car Parking Fees: There is ample parking at the Forest Centre. £1 for up to an hour, £2 for up to 3 hours. Please pay at the payment machines in the car park. Accepts cash, cards and Pay by Phone app (location: Marston Vale, Bedford Number:800979).
Post Run Coffee: Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in Lakeside Café at the Forest Centre – please come and join us!

and the course looks like this:

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So New Year’s Eve happened without me. Usually NYE is just a time for loneliness and existential angst, so it was refreshing to head off to bed early knowing that tmrw would be parkrun day AGAIN! Living the dream for sure. Unfortunately I have had insomnia for years so the early to bed bit doesn’t prevent me from seeing all the small hours. On the plus side, no danger of oversleeping. Also on the plus side, after yesterday’s wetfest at the splendid but on the soggy side Shipley Country parkrun I awoke to silent weather and dark but clear skies. Phew. I left at 5.40 a.m. or something equally stupid o-clock, but I do hate to be late. Weirdly, I was wide awake. I had worried it would be two much to do parkruns on consecutive days, particularly with so much driving, but I think I was still super charged with the adrenalin of eager anticipation and excitement. Hurrah.

It was a pleasingly easy drive. Driving is way more fun when there is zero traffic. The few cars that were around were being super cautious and considerate. I think we were all in fear of other drivers being over the limit as people crept along slowly and keeping their distance. If there were any drunk drivers to come, for now they must have been sleeping it off, honestly it was fine.

I arrived really early, but then confusingly my satnav took me to a cul de sac. I don’t have a mobile phone and hadn’t got a map so I was a bit stumped. I’d been expecting obvious brown signs but there were none to be found. I drove round in circles for a bit, until just as I was parked up gazing down what was clearly a footpath, a parkrun volunteer on a bike appeared, clutching signage. He directed me the road route to get to the park, so I knew I was in the vicinity, somehow though I got even more turned around and confused. I accosted a further two random people before finally getting back on track where there were indeed brown signs aplenty to send me the right way. It had been 40 mins or so of faffing within just a couple of miles of the venue. I think my satnav is out of date probably and once I’d gone off track I suppose I’d moved out of range of the signs which presupposed you’d be coming inwards on a logical trajectory. Sometimes though, it’s good to be different. If we all always stayed on the beaten track, we’d never discover anything new would we?

I was relieved to pull into the carpark, hurrah.

Hang on though, who is that I see in a gaggle in the carpark, only my EWFM and she’s with a gang, but I didn’t want to be seen yet, I needed a precautionary pee and then to tap on her shoulder and surprise her from behind, might do so by brandishing a wonky! That would work. I did a loop of the carpark driving right past them but evading recognition as they were busy with international meet and greets. Is this is what it is like being an elite spy I wonder? Dodging and diving and making yourself invisible in an instant. I pulled into an empty space entirely incognito, except…

‘Hello!’ OMG, what was this? Literally, beside my car, as if they had been saving the space for me were my Terrific Tring parkrunning buddies.

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How was this possible? Well dear reader, it turned out that literally yesterday, they made the impulse decision to come to Millennium Country parkrun too, it was a complete, but joyful, coincidence. As for getting pretty much adjacent parking spaces that was just extraordinary. I was a bit overwhelmed and a bit confused, because now I was super excited to see them, but not wishing to blow my cover I speedily explained my plan, and the hiding and the surprise as we had a group hug. Over their shoulders I saw one of my EWFM group distinctly clock me and wave, I did a sort of panicked wave back and then avoided eye contact hoping they’d not say anything to my bestie as she was busy with hellos in a different group and I was ‘obviously’ about to come join them. I sorted parking (easy, bargain £2 for three hours and you can pay by card and get a receipt as I did, or on the app – you do need to remember your number plate know, which always throws me into deep panic. It is both a test of memory and of eyesight with those teensy and illogical keyboard numbers). Then, as the loos were open I ducked and dived a roundabout route to join the queue. I was amazed and delighted in equal measure that there was a loo open on New Year’s Day, there was only one, but the queue was short, I was out of my EWFM sightlines, so was confident I could remain undiscovered until I was ready for my big reveal. This day was turning out just topping!

Then, just as the door of the loo started to open and I was next in line, my bestie danced towards me open armed. OMG. I had been spotted, but her reaction was just brilliant. I cannot think of any individual I’d rather see to kick of the year than my bestie and no group better than my parkrunning buddies great and glorious from near and far to share it with. We were both quite emotional, and had a big hug. However, for the record, I wasn’t so emotional that I didn’t need to tear myself away to avail myself of the facilities before returning to hugging and whooping and excitedly being reunited and all the things.

We shared stories of planning and of the surprise and my hiding.

Turns out I hid quite well, and even evaded discovery. The person who first spotted me and waved cheerily had commented to my EWFM that I’d arrived, only to be kindly but authoritatively corrected. It was not possible that I had been seen as I wasn’t coming, au contraire we had agreed an elaborate matchy matchy plan to achieve remote high fiving shots, she was if not actually imagining things then much mistaken. The really extraordinary thing about this first instance is that this person had made eye contact and we’d exchanged waves of recognition, yet she was so convinced by my EWFM definitive denial that this was possible she had entirely believed her. It is alarming how easily any one of us can succumb to gaslighting, although in this instance clearly hilarious, it is also somewhat shocking. Oh, and just in case you are thinking it had been an uncertain sighting on her part, we did all join in at Charlton parkrun and for London Marathon supporting not to mention numerous parkrun meetings, and I do have sticks and an emotional support bear so quite hard not to spot. I am not really a candidate for Where’s Wally to be honest. My EWFM clearly has a naturally commanding air, it is fortunate she is a force for good in the world, as she can clearly make anyone believe anything. Marvellous. Good to have a talent. Then again, I had clearly persuaded her I was elsewhere with such conviction she would have not truck with any other narrative. I am not in a position to cast nasturtiums, you should just be grateful we are both benign, but good to know we could recruit our own cult of trusting followers should the need ever arise. With the curve balls that have come my way, I’ve come to appreciate more than ever it’s good to have a back up plan.

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So how had I been discovered? Well best laid plans and all that. It seems in conveying my story to my Tring comrades I’d skipped over the bit about still being in hiding. They had strolled over to join the merry throng of reunited parkrunners and expressed delight at all the unexpected meetings, and what with me bing there and all. Now my EWFM may have commanding authority and know her own mind and all, but she is not stupid. Faced with not one, but two seemingly positive sightings she steeled her laser gaze and looked around. Where would be a more obvious place to find me than in the queue for the loo, thus my cover was blown, but the reunion was just as joyful and possibly eve more funny.

I joined the party of German and British parkrunners from near and far. it was just brilliant to feel part of the gang and the best start to the new Year. Maybe 2023 is going to be a better year, it can’t be worse surely? Mind you I thought that about Brexit, then Trump, then Covid, then Ukraine, then recession etc etc, but we may as well believe in improving times just over the horizon, and I am in a better condition than this time last year, not financially but physically and mentally definitely, it’s a start. Jam tomorrow for sure.

On the subject of a start, we made our way to the start line.

Well, what can I say dear reader, it was magnificent. There was a jolly ‘Happy New Year’ flag and actual bunting, pop up signs, smiling volunteers and an enthusiastic welcome from the core team. I didn’t know where to look, so many people I wanted to talk to, so many photos I wanted to take, my camera though, wasn’t coping well. It was all so exciting. There was a kilted man – not sure if that is an every day thing or a New Year’s Day thing, I’m going with every day, because that pleases me, and seems apt as Tring is forever associated with St Andrew’s Day and tartan runners for me. There was an ace RD and a first time welcomer who said something about a toenail on the route that I didn’t really understand. Some shivered, I was roasty toasty as a walker. The RD welcomed people from different areas and was impressed to hear there were tourists from as far away as Germany. This isn’t a particularly huge parkrun, their average attendance is 134 and although they obviously do get their fair share of first timers, I’m not sure it’s a massive tourist destination parkrun. That’s a shame as it was lovely.

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It is basically an out and back course, and there was a parkwalker and afew other walkers as well as a tailwalker. We agreed that everyone would do their run as it was nippy and some were going for a time, and then if anyone was inclined to come back and join me that would be fine and dandy but not essential. It was just lovely to know there’d still be people for me at the end.

The sun was strong and the course going generally good, though it was the absolute manifestation of the standard parkrun descriptor which warns for every single parkrun that ‘The course is run entirely on trail paths. Some sections of the course may accumulate mud, leaves and puddles after rain’. This was a route where some sections had indeed accumulated mud, leaves and puddles which were very slippery indeed, I was glad of my stick to stay upright, but generally a good solid course.

I was on my own initially towards the back but just behind the parkwalker and ahead of the tailwalker, in that sort of twilight zone. I kept scampering ahead as didn’t want to be too slow, but it did become too much after a bit. It was my fourth parkrun in 8 days and what with the driving it was a painful if joyful walk round. The pictures don’t do the route justice. It is through tree lined paths, and although this is maybe not the best time of year to be doing it, there were catkins emerging and some fine mistletoe silhouetted in great orbs against the bare branches of their host trees. I did my usual of trying to photograph the marshals as I passed them. I slipped further and further back.

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Yes, I know, camera issues, yet I can’t quite allow myself to give up taking photos. Hope over experience I suppose, it gives the gist.

I ended up dropping back and into companionable step with the tailwalker who was properly lovely. Excellent company, an impassioned volunteer and a great ambassador for the event. She seems to be one of those people who crack on and get stuck in to anything and everything, she was also wearing the most excellent of hats, made for her by a friend. I had somewhat hat envy, though mainly I was pleased for her, she might be getting a blanket made too! I asked about the toenail thing, ‘that’s because it looks like a toenail’ she explained. I was none the wiser. Still, as previously stated, always good to have an air of mystery about thing.

As we reached the turn around point, standing down marshals joined us like a personal entourage or guard of honour, and other parkrunning friends who had finished came back to join us. That was lovely. One offered vegan sweet treats, others took splendid selfies, some brought anecdotes, all brought joy. I was happy in the moment which is a rare thing. Swelling with pride that so far this year I’d have parkrun EVERY DAY, not too shabby an achievement we can all agree. I was also just so relieved to have actually made it, and heartened by the warm welcome from fellow quizzers, the buoyed up by the brilliant surprise extra of the Tring contingent and touched by the enthusiasm exuded by my EWFM. All was good in the world. Better still, from hereonin I get to use other people’s superior photos!

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I was pretty slow finishing, the last week has taken it out of me, but it was worth it. The tailwalker was great company, and I was glad we got some pics together en route, and then it was to the finish and so it ended. Another parkrun done.

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The volunteer team set about being busy with the results, but as the final finisher, and tourists to boot, we were photographed as destined for stardom. Just when you think it couldn’t get any better, me and my EWFM were parkrun famous on the Millennium Country parkrun Facebook page, always a win at the start of the year! I think they may have thought we were the German contingent, but I’ll take that. Afterall, it was but one of many confusing and unexpected happenings for the day.

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More group shots, more hugs, more amazement at such a joyful get together. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and you know what, I think it was the same for the others too. Oh, and we also had to do a gazillion high fiving shots, because that was the whole point of the matchy matchy, I think we did good. Nice photobombing too, respect for the double face slapper invisibly achieved there, sometimes you just have to make your own opportunities to seize your five minutes of fame don’t you.

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Then what? Well, then time to disperse. We thanked the team. On a normal parkrunday they all gather at the cafe, and there is a parkrunners discount too I think, but obviously it was shut today. Others were going in search of vegan breakfasts, but obviously there was uncertainty about whether anywhere would actually be open, and they were heading down south. I was flagging and know my limits. Conscious of the long drive home, but also knowing I’d be meeting my EWFM again in Sheffield just next week, at Sheffield Castle parkrun no less, it was a little easier to tear myself away. It had been a grand outing. I couldn’t believe how lucky I got with all the people there. I have spent a lot of time feeling I’m missing out on things parkrun wise, but the important point is to feel part of it when you are there, we can’t all get to everything. Even PSH himself will never get to see all the parkruns on the planet, they just keep on multiplying.

Time to go home, but a grand start to the year. Thank you Millennium Country parkrun for being so welcoming and than you talking and walking (twalking) companion tailwalker you were the best. Hope you get your blanket in due course. Thank you lovely EWFM for looking genuinely please rather than horrified at my surprise arrival. Thank you lovely Tring parkrunners for saving me a parking space as if you’d planned and choreographed the whole thing, that was extra impressive and sooooooooooooo surprising. Thank you fellow Charltoner and London Marathon supporter for clocking me and waving a welcome early on even if you were subsequently persuaded I was but a cypher conjured in your mind. Thank you quarantine quizzers for coming across all the way from Germany to join the gang and for sharing your 3d talents. Thank you photo bomber, and photo takers and each and everyone who was there. Didn’t we have a lovely time? Rhetorical question, yes we did! Turns out, New Year can be quite fun after all, I honestly had no idea.

Oh, and then did I mention there was another selfie frame on the way out. The parkrun location that just keeps on giving! Oh happy days.

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Same again next parkrunday? And here’s to many more even bigger parkrun meetups where we can rabbit on at each other and bounce about with enthusiasm. Leaping into the year ahead has to be the way to go.

Hopping so. (See what I did there? Genius).

Thanks for sticking with me for the ride 🙂

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Incidentally, you can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Also, you might just like to lean back in a comfy chair, close your eyes, and dreamily recall your happiest parkrun moments.  Bet there are loads.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Shipley Country parkrun – making a splash on the parkrun map!

Another parkrun day, another destination. It’s not been the best of years for me parkrun wise, but I suddenly realised I can get my 3/4 Cowell done this weekend if I moved out of my comfort zone and braved a but of tourism. Although strictly speaking a parkrun tomorrow on New Year’s Day is in 2023, because it’s all this one weekend, it feels like I’ll nail it this year.

Yesterday, in some quite ingenious procrastination activities, I set about doing some parkrun research, trying to fathom which parkruns I haven’t yet done are in realistic driving distance from Sheffield. This is basically a bottomless pit of distraction as each unique parkrun can take you down its own wormhole of parkrunpedia factoids and individual loveliness or character at the very least. I need never tackle an unpleasant activity again now I have landed on the perfect vehicle for endless procrastination. You might find it handy too.

I can report this research was both interesting and faffy in equal measure. Throwing up loads of venues that had inexplicably dropped off my radar, and generating a very long parkrun ‘to do’ list, that didn’t even include the destination parkruns like Bere Island and Somerdale Pavilion. Various parkrunning buddies of mine have taken to filling in whole spreadsheets of forward plans and I begin to see the attraction. Sometimes these shared documents float by my eyelines and up until now I’d only ever considered them as having value as a stalking activity. You get to see where other people are rocking up and can either stalk them or not and often they have done all the lengthy background research so you are guaranteed maybe a fancy dress display team, a particularly scenic venue or at the very least a milestone celebration with associated cake. That reminds me, did you see the lovely animation of the Charlie Mackesy book ‘The boy the mole the fox and the horse’ over Christmas. It’s just so perfect. Check it out on iplayer or at very least get yourself a copy of the book from world of books or whatever.

Anyway, I’m now thinking creating your own parkrun spreadsheet may in fact have merit, as it seems there are relatively near parkruns that are most worthy of visiting that I’ve yet to get too. In amongst the rediscovered parkrun treasures was Shipley Country parkrun. I don’t know quite why I’ve not already been, it’s relatively near and easy to get to from Sheffield, and from a cursory look at the website blah de blah seems to have all the things, parking etc. Hang on, I’ll prove it:

The official website blah de blah declares:

The event takes place at Shipley Country Park, Slack Lane, Heanor, Derbyshire, DE75 7GX and describes the course and facilities thus:

Course Description – The course is run on a mixture of tarmac, trail and gravel paths. The route starts on the main path between the Visitors Centre and the events field, near the childrens adventure playground. From here the route heads down onto Coppice Hill Bridleway. Participants veer right and then at the end of the bridleway, turn right onto Bell Lane. After approximately 200 metres turn right on to a footpath. The footpath passes Meadow Farm and heads back to the back of the Visitors Centre. Participants take a short path back on to the main path, and head down towards Osbornes Pond. At Osbornes Pond, take a right turn and take a short sharp gravel path up the hill. Participants follow this path and veer right, following the path all the way back round past the Visitors Centre and will again follow the path down to Osbornes Pond, take the right hand path up the short sharp gravel hill again. Follow this path back round towards the Visitors Centre, where the finish funnel will be at the events field.


Facilities – The Country Park has good facilities including a visitors centre (including gift shop, exhibition and display area of leaflets), baby changing facilities, toilets, first aid room, wildlife garden, Ramblers Café, Derby Lodge Tearoom, a number of childrens adventure play facilities, dedicated disabled parking, cycle pathways, bridlepathways, nature trail.

Location of start – The event starts on the main path between the Visitors Centre and the events field, near the childrens adventure playground.

Getting there by road – The main entrance to the country park is well signposted from Derby Road (A608) and from the motorway M1, junction 26. The park can also be accessed via Mapperley Village.

There are two car parks available at Shipley Country Park. The main car park has space for 216 vehicles and entrance is accessed via Slack Lane, Heanor, DE75 7GX. This car park is located within the country park and has 16 dedicated disabled parking spaces. You can also park at Mapperley Reservoir car park- accessed through Mapperley Village on Shipley Lane. Please note all car parks operate a pay and display facility; payments can be made by cash or card.

Post Run Coffee – Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in Ramblers Café, Nr Visitors Centre, Shipley Country Park. Show your parkrun barcode for special offers – please come and join us!

and it looks like this:

I did a bit of a results check and saw a full rota – though some people doing multiple tasks, and a friendly facebook page which is always a good sign of a proactive event team. Plus, lovely photo AND they give the what three words for the visitors’ centre which are apparently qualify.grumbles.stylists a trio that pleased me somehow. Grumbles and Stylists in particular sound like they might be reindeers that didn’t quite make the cut. Nice picture too

Why wouldn’t you want to rock up at a parkrun venue that looks as lovely as that? Precisely. No reason at all. Game on.

I didn’t sleep much the night before, like Lady Macbeth (though not for the same reasons I hasten to add) I seem to have completely lost the ability to sleep which is really annoying. On the plus side, wide awake in plenty of time for a leisurely drive over. The weather was pretty dire going across, standing water on the roads was a bit scary, I slowed right down, but others were less cautious so there was a lot of spray and the possibility of aquaplaning at any point. I wondered what the course would be like. In fact, the jolly volunteers had already posted a Facebook teaser:

Well, the course descriptors do always warn courses ‘may accumulate mud, leaves and puddles after rain‘ so fair dos.

It was easy to find the venue from the postcode, and there are brown signs to the park too, which give you confidence since there is one turn off where you seem to be going through a very residential area before you emerge at the country park. I passed both a BP garage and a Tesco nearby but didn’t stop for my usual precautionary pee as I figured it likely there would be facilities on arrival and I like to live dangerously sometimes. Taking risks adds a certain frisson to events sometimes. They say you should do something that scares you every day to keep you feeling alive. I mean, this comes with the rider of exercising a certain amount of discretion, so talking to someone new say would work but jumping into a piranha filled river would be more sub-optimal, but whatever works for you. How can we know our limits unless we test them after all? Quite.

There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, What if you fly?” as the great Erin Hanson puts it.

So I arrived pretty early, and headed in to the first car park. In fact, I could have gone on just a little further and there is one even nearer the start right by the visitors’ centre, but I was fine where I was. I pulled up partly because I’d seen what looked like an Easter Island Statue and wanted to go check it out, but investigation showed it as a bouldering stone I think. Squidging over slidey grass to check it out I did have a moment of angst I might have over-faced myself. Although my mobility is improved my balance can be off if my leg starts doing weird numby, tingling, dead leg things and the surface was more suited for body slides than picking round a parkrun. Much mud, and much standing water. Quite a lot of water still falling out the sky – no wonder the wonkies opted to stay in the car, just Red Ted game enough to accompany me on this occassion.

On the other hand, exciting old mining bits and bobs, open spaces, and the building anticipation of a parkrun event as I could see trainer clad folk gravitating towards the visitors’ centre. I followed them, and what great joy, there were loos and they were open! There is also a café – you could see inside that prepping was going on for the later onslaught though it wasn’t open before parkrun I think. There was loads of seating, some nice features like water bowls for dogs (though any self respecting dog would have found itself a puddle today I reckon, though it is the thought that counts) a bear (quite bijous, not to scale methinks, mosaics, all sorts really. There were signs to various activities and trails, including an Elf trail, oh and I passed a mounting block in one of the carparks so horse riders also welcome on certain paths. Lots to do at Shipley Country Park in their 700 acres, play equipment, nature walks all the things, but only one thing for me today, parkrun!

I sploshed my way towards the area where volunteers were congregating. They were in a tight circle like a rugby scrum or a team motivational chat. All busy about their preparations, there was a good atmosphere. One thing they did which I really like is that they all lined up for a high vis heroes photo together before scattering to their various posts. I really like it when volunteer teams do this at a parkrun, I think it helps build the community and it’s just really nice to acknowledge that without the volunteers the event wouldn’t happen. My favourite parkruns are those where the volunteers get a chance to know each other. At Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun, where I regularly rock up, they always walk all the volunteers en masse to their marshal pints so you can walk and talk and familiarise yourself with the course and the other volunteers as you head round. It makes it really friendly and social. I think the group photo is another variant on getting a gang together and a brilliant way to connect with each other. They shared the photo of them from the front, meanwhile I was taking the shot from the back – tis for you dear reader to decide which is their best side. I have ever so slightly photobombed their picture in the doing, but not so as you’d really notice, just like a ghost on their photo. Which reminds me, I feel a need to apologise for my pics, my camera is slowly dying on me, but I can’t bring myself to actually part with it, and anyway, rubbish photos have comedic value at least, plus, you get more of a sense of the penetrating wetness of the event at times. Perhaps we can tactfully agree that this adds atmosphere, if not actual clarity, to proceedings 🙂

I had a little wander about and a wonder about the general slipperyness of it all. Setting foot on the grass was properly hazardous, but although there was standing water on the compacted gravel path, that was fine if you didn’t mind the ankle deep sloshiness of accumulated puddles. You shouldn’t really as it is an actual fact, that running in rain over head or through water under foot just makes you a way more hardcore runner, so now you know.

This parkrun had a great atmosphere, people greeted and welcomed each other, it just felt extremely – almost pathologically – friendly and very well organised.

There was a jolly and informative first timers’ welcome. At this four parkrunners identified themselves as first time everers which was jolly exciting, although in fact I think the results suggested there were seven. What a day to pick! It was a lovely venue for sure, but a brave choice given the prevailing weather conditions that can fairly be described as ‘inclement’.

The briefing was thorough. We were told to basically keep going to the right as if you veer leftwards you’ll probably end up lost. There were of course marshals aplenty though to stop you going wrong. We were advised there would be a muddy bit through trees, and there was a normally hilarious as well as helpful quip about remembering to skirt around the lake, but if you ended up with wet feet you’d know you’d gone too far. Didn’t entirely help on this occasion, but the sentiment was apt. The RD stood by and diligently wrote down the names of any tourists’ home parkruns and any milestones and things, that was good. Not gonna lie though, that notepad looked like it would be papier-mâché before he made it to join the timers at the start line. Still, I do value an optimistic outlook. It’s amazing where self belief can take you. Absolute first timers were scooped up for an extra bit of explanation about barcodes and all, and the rest of us shuffled about wondering if the rain would pass. I was glad I was wearing my actual raincoat, which I’d wondered if would be over the top. Another parkrunning tourist was in a plastic poncho thing, which to be honest was a fab idea. Add to cart at the next small hours accidental shopping foray I reckon.

Next was the actual run briefing. The RD risked life and limb clambering up on a bench to address the assembled active wear clad parkrunners. Huge respect for the RD who did that classic of just waiting for everyone to be quiet. And it worked! I find it so stressful when people talk through run briefings, it’s just rude, and if you are new to an event then there’s stuff you need to hear – particularly on a day like today when the weather might impact on participation. He did so with good humour but authority too, there was a little bit of distant chit chat, but for the most part people were respectful. Hurrah. Nicely played. Milestones were shouted out, newbies welcomed, tourists acknowledged. I wanted to locate the tourists from Beeston parkrun as that is one of the friendliest events I’ve ever been to, but to be fair this event was pretty darned friendly too – though no parkrun is ever going to ace the Beeston parkrun Boathouse café, there’s only room for one Tony in the parkrun universe.

After the briefing, a little amble up the hill to the start area, and once everyone had gathered, off we went. Amazingly, just as the parkrun started it seemed to clear up a little, and even reached the point of actual dryness after the first half hour or so. Well, dry over head, under foot was a different matter all together.

Helpfully, although it was exceedingly wet, the actual path surface was hard and fine, apart from a couple of brief sections under trees where leaves had accumulated. Also helpfully, this seemed to be a genuinely walker friendly parkrun. There were two parkwalkers as well as the tail walker to be final finisher. There were a couple of intrepid nordic walkers, some jeffers walk/jogging the route, and others companionable walking and talking or twalking as I like to think of it. I made an effort to walk a bit more purposefully than for a while. I’m quite down about how little I can still do. I just remember last Christmas imagining a year ahead that I’d be running and mobile again, and I’m just not, and it’s crap. I have raged at the world over this quite a lot, although disappointingly it doesn’t seem to help much. I miss being properly part of parkrun, just being able to show up and take part without being an outlier or worrying about holding people up or creating paper work from toppling over somewhere. Praise be for the Walking at parkrun Facebook page and parkwalk initiatives for normalising walking to some extent… honestly, my experiences have been mixed as a walker, it’s always chancing it to go somewhere new. Today however, I needn’t have worried, this particular parkrun was very walker friendly and I had a genuinely good time, the erm ‘ambient moisture’ just making everything all the more memorable. I was very glad of my stick though, and just wish I could fit into my trail shoes again as I think they’d have been what we experienced parkrunners call a ‘boon’ to my performance!

I did a sort of awkward shuffle in between walking. And stopped at intervals to try to photograph the marshals. Each was a vision of loveliness of course, with every new marshal seemingly even more photogenic than the one I’d just passed, impossible though that might seem to be. They were all quite up for being photographed and so it’s a shame my camera can never do justice to their outstanding directional pointing, exceptional clappery and – at one spot in particular – full on karaoke and dance based supporting. Oh, and there was a marshal hiding in the woods too to scoop people up in case they skidded to such an extent they failed to take the intended corner and needed assistance being extricated from the pooled water that awaited the unwary. Attention to detail you see, that’s what makes a good parkrun truly great!

The course is described as ‘undulating’ but it’s pretty flat, there is one hill that you do twice that was a bit of a heave ho, but nothing too scary. Also, the way the course works, even though you do one bit twice, the faster participants are long gone by the time I got there so there wasn’t much of an issue with overtaking that I was aware of. I got passed a couple of times but it was all friendly and not particularly congested as far as I could tell.

You do a first biiiiiiiiiiiiig loop, and then a little one, and as you emerge from that you come by the finish funnel, which was being enthusiastically supervised by proactive and cheery marshals, There was such a good atmosphere as you rocked on by. I paused to get a couple of photos to capture a sense of the action. I mean, you’ll have to use your imagination to some degree because, well, not the best camera at the best of times, and in my possession, it’s not the best of times either. Still, maybe the pics will be a teaser to get you down to join the fun.

and off again for the mini loop, by this time I’d fallen into companionable stride with the two parkwalkers who were excellent company, sharing stories of upsideydown parkruns in Australia and being cajoled into starting parkrun by running club evangelists. I love hearing people’s parkrun stories. We all have our own origin tales. I gather there is a really successful junior parkrun here too, and they even held one on Christmas Day for them, figuring that the next time junior parkrun day coincides with Christmas day will be so many decades hence this might be their only ever opportunity to do a Christmas day parkrun. Good point, well made. I queried why they’d both had multiple parkrun volunteer roles, wondering if maybe they struggle to get volunteers, but apparently not, it’s just that volunteering is super fun. Which of course it is! It’s like opening a packet of Pringles (other savoury snacks are available) once you are on the volunteer rota you might as well bagsy all the spots you can because it’s rewarding. As my walking buddies were saying at the end of the day parkrun is all about community, the people you meet, the connections you make. Inclusivity and the joy of seeing others achieve goals is just The Best Thing EVER! I’d not really thought about it, but as one of them said, they put off going to parkrun for ages because they didn’t know anyone, which is totally the wrong way round, get stuck in, and you’ll soon know lots of people at your local parkrun. The beauty of doing an activity rather than blinking at one another in the awkward silence of other possible contexts is that you have something to do, and you can build up the levels of interactions as you feel comfortable with them. parkrun is just so brilliant.

It was with my new besties we shuffled past a well behaved gee gee, and then once again came across karaoke marshal, I think karaoke should be mandatory at parkruns where possible. It was lovely as well, that the parkwalkers greeted everyone they passed by name. Like I said, seems to be a very genuine community here. Hurrah! Yay for the instant party marshal spot though.

round again, puffing up the hill. I am so unfit. Wobbly leg is only part of the challenge. Then ‘suddenly’ back to the finish/ start. Past the blue cone, clicked in a barcode scanned, hurrah, and still no rain.

Safely scanned, I took a couple more shots of my new besties, and the final finishers who had been walking round but did an impressive sprint finish. At about this time the heaens properly opened in comedic torrential rain. I had no idea that it was possible there was so much water still left in the sky! It was properly hilarious.

Huge respect for the RD who made the most of the opportunity to do some full on puddle jumping. This is why we have puddles at parkrun, to play in! Fabulous. I think there should be a video of this doing the rounds somewhere, but you can make do with this still for now, it sort of encapsulates the whole parkrun today I reckon. Joyful, but ridiculously wet! I imagine the video will go viral in due course, I for one will be monitoring the Shipley Country parkfun Facebook page.

I thought it had started raining, but then water just fell out of the sky like a water tank exploding, it was beyond hilarious, you just had to go with it. Not gonna lie though, I was very pleased of my mac and even with it, was wet through to my knickers from water sploshing upwards, worth it though!

The high vis heroes were busy doing final course close down stuff, so I said my thanks and farewell and squelched away. It had been a good morning. I was invited to join the café conversations, but was too wet to stay and needed to get back, but I slightly regretted this as it was such a friendly group of runners. I chatted briefly to some in the café who were engaged in some good humoured banter around the risks of being allowed out without their carers. I think it was banter. I think it was carers. Might have been minders. One of them seems to have dodged death on innumerable occasions and still got a small scrap metal yard worth of medals to his name. Though with all those medical emergencies and falling over I was quite surprised he was to be trusted with a hot beverage. It was properly lovely though, I got a real sense of a community that comes together for a parkrun party week in week out and frankly probably doesn’t feel the need to trouble themselves with other parkruns because they are living the dream here. Having said that, a local running club does weekly tourism together, with members ndicating where they are bound so others can join in if they wish. Isn’t that lovely? Rhetorical question deear reader, because yes it is!

As we were chatting a great procession of marshals marched forward, carrying the pop up sign aloft, possibly because they needed to leave it somewhere to dry, though we all know that’s just a cover story for the fact that probably nobody has ever been able to fold it up again since the day it first landed at their event. It happens.

It was like they were parting the Red Sea as they processed by, parkrun paraphernalia carried aloft and carefully stored away til next week.

and that was that, suddenly time to splish home, aquaplaning the highways.

This was a great parkrun to finish the year with though, thank you lovely Shipley Country parkrun, you are the best, a memorable morning for sure. Yay you!

Categories: parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmas! Roberts Park parkrun, delivering all you could possibly dream of for Christmas :)

This parkrun was properly amazing! It’s been circling round my peripheral vision ever since I learned that the genius behind the Walking at parkrun Facebook page – set up to both normalise walking at parkrun and make it visible – has Roberts Park parkrun as his home parkrun. Hurrah, I was confident of a walker friendly parkrun, and better yet, it was sort of equidistant from where me and my fine EWFM better-late-than-never-to parkrun buddy would find ourselves on Christmas Day. I mean, what could be more perfect! It’s what all parkrunners dream of for Christmas, a Christmas Day parkrun, to have a walker friendly one would be quite a boon and as for having my EWFM there, well, that set off virtual pyrotechnics and confetti cannons in my minds eye as I could imagine nothing could possibly add to the magic of the parkrun event.

Dear reader…

I cannot tell a lie

I was wrong.

This was Christmas Actual Day parkrun dear reader, and yet it had all the things. I’m talking llamas, an actual cannon (though teeny tiny disappointment that it wasn’t spewing confetti on this occasion, probably saving it for their New Year’s Party) an open toilet for a precautionary pee and an OPEN café – not to mention a veritable fascination of fine Santa hats, the jolliest volunteers you can possibly imagine, admirable fancy dress, even sunshine, and that’s without mentioning it is a parkrun with its very own snicket! No really! You don’t find them every day. Somerdale pavilion parkrun may have its Curly Wurly and Bushy parkrun its unicorns (yes it does, don’t mock until you’ve been and seen for yourself, there are rainbows lining the finish funnel as well) but I reckon a snicket might also be a unique offering, and let me tell you for free it does not disappoint! It being Christmas there were also slightly unnerving Santas and hilarious hounds, my favourite of which was called Dave. I do love a dog with a good solid name! Though the dogs who had taken the time to accessorise their look with tinsel were very much appreciated too.

Let’s step back a bit though, and go through the basic blah de blahs.

According to the Roberts Park parkrun website:

The event takes place at Roberts Park, Higher Coach Road, Baildon, West Yorkshire, BD17 7LU. See Course page for more details.

Course Description: The start line is on the main promenade, close to the lodge. The course then begins by heading along the full length of the promenade, before doing a 180′ turn and returning along the promenade in the opposite direction. Two right turns at the end of the promenade will then take you alongside the cricket pitch and café. A right turn just before the cricket pavilion will then take you out onto the nature trail. Follow the nature trail til the far end passing either side of the staircase, where a hairpin turn will take you back in the opposite direction, along the bottom of the houses. Then cross over the short grass section past the goalposts, and turn left up the snicket. Follow the signs through the snicket, and then follow the path around the top of the park. A right turn will then bring you back out onto the promenade. That is your first lap completed. Complete a second lap, but this time a right turn three quarters of the way along the path after the snicket will take you to the finish line.

and it looks like this:


Facilities: There are public toilets in the park located next to the Half Moon Café. These open at 7:30. There are also toilets in the Half Moon Café. These open at 8am.

Location of start: The event starts on the main promenade, close to the lodge.

Getting there by road: The best postcode for the park is BD17 7LU.

The park is in an unusual position in that it is perfectly accessible from two different sides. The main car parks are off Coach Road. There is a small car park directly outside the Coach Road entrance, and a larger one off Higher Coach Road, just before Titus Salt School. Both of these car parks are free to use. On the other side of the park you can park in the Exhibition Road car park and walk down, however, there may be a charge to park at this location

Post Run Coffee: Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee at Half Moon Café in Roberts Park – please come and join us!

Well, that all sounded jolly welcoming of course, but what with it being Christmas, who knew what might befall us facilities wise? Would we be crossing our legs and reaching for incontinent pants or sprinting off into any hint of greenery that promised to cover our decency at least to a minimal degree? Spoiler alert, NO! Because this is the parkrun with ALL THE THINGS. Honestly, it’s one of my all time favourites, which is good to know as parkrun is for life not just for Christmas, and I feel really confident if you go along to this event on any parkrun day of the year you’ll have the most excellent of times too!

I’ve been a bit tardy with my blog posting of late, so this will be – by my standards – a somewhat truncated version of all that is lovely about this event, but the good news is there were lots of pictures courtesy of Alien Aerial photography, I don’t think he was an alien or indeed airborne as such but the photos are excellent nevertheless. I’ve lifted loads. I mean just check out these two collages for starters:

I know. Feels like you were there already. And it really was just that magical, with a purple dinosaur and everything. Even a bespoke Merry Christmas selfie frame! This really was the parkrun that kept on giving.

Christmas Day morning began dark though. Allegedly the days are getting lighter but not so you’d really notice. I was up and out paranoically early, as is the parkrun tourists way. Much as I enjoy seeing different events, I’m not over keen on driving in the dark to unknown destinations, but you know what dear reader, practically no traffic at all. It was a really easy drive over from Sheffield, for which I was grateful, as there were some crazy roundabout configurations and super highway roads that I would have found intimidating to have to jostle for position on. As I approached the general environs of the event I began to suffer from slightly panicked bladder. Well, good news, I happened on an open BP garage a couple of miles out and thankfully took the opportunity to powder my nose. Honestly, the gift of a loo for a pre parkrun precautionary pee is the ultimate gift, honestly, it felt like Christmas, and, coincidentally, it actually was!

Bladder needs catered for, and being but a few minutes from the event I could relax into the morning, hurrah! A little further on, and I found the first set of carparking around a little mini roundabout thingy, and near the playground, I opted to go on a bit more though because I wasn’t sure where I was in relation to the start. Good news, as I followed the road ahead, I captured glimpses of unmistakeable parkrun paraphernalia proclaiming a course set up in progress to my left hand side. Then, just opposite one of the entrances to the park a half moon of parking places with just a couple of vehicles parked up already. I saw some trainer clad people wending their way over to the park. Hurrah! Arrived and parked up and only 8.20. I just had time to send a couple of ‘Have a tolerable Christmas’ type texts before getting one myself from my rendezvousing precious and rare parkrun buddy. She had also arrived and was at the other carpark. She joined me minutes later and we could have a proper festive hug and it was brilliant. Maybe parkrun tourist rendezvousing can be our new Christmas tradition. We have done a number of parkruns together now but this is only the second time we’ve just met up with each other at a new to both of us parkrun destination, and it was just maaaaaaaaagical! The first time was at another relative nearby parkrun Bradford, which was splendid also. A great part of the world for parkrun adventuring it seems.

After festive bouncing and greetings, into the park.

Oh wow! My parkrun buddy was in need of facilities. I didn’t want to pee on her snow, but didn’t see how she could possibly get lucky on Christmas Day of all days when everything was bound to be shut. We made our way into Roberts park. It was immediately amazing! A hubbub of festively adorned volunteers were busying themselves with parkrun preparations, there was a bandstandy thing, a cannon, statues, so many photos needing to be taken! My camera has resigned from taking serviceable photos, so it was fortunate that I was able to outsource photo taking to my parkrunning companion. However, she was unable to concentrate until she’d done the necessaries, and so we asked around for a loo, and lo, there was one! And it was open! Oh my! What’s more, it had been opened by the café which was also open! This I did not expect.

There was the traditional queue for the loo, but that’s fine, as you get the chance to chat to other parkrunning regulars and tourists. The loo was fine but had a slightly alarming door with a sort of open grill on it, so even though you could lock it and enthrone yourself safely tucked around the corner, it did feel a little like you might have your proverbial wares on display. The greenery tucked around the openings seeming unlikely to be sufficient to preserve one’s dignity. However, worry not, it may be a discombobulating architectural feature, but it has been thought through rather than left see-through.

‘Ablutions’ attended to, we could focus on getting the photographic record of the occasion, but where to start. With llamas obviously.

You can tell they are llamas because of the banana ears. Alpacas have much daintier, smaller ones. I had no idea why there were llamas in abundance, checking out Wikipedia later I learned many things about Roberts Park, including that:

The park was designed and laid out by William Gay (1814–1893) for Sir Titus Salt (1803–1876)[3][5][6][7] and was opened on 25 July 1871 by Sir Titus,[8] although conceived of as early as 1850.[9] The park was named Saltaire Park but was known informally as The People’s Park, and Salt’s Park.[3][7] The development included a widening and deepening of the River Aire for boating and swimming purposes, and for the construction of a boathouse on the southern bank of the river.[5] In the centre of the park is a semi-circular pavilion designed by architects Lockwood and Mawson, constructed in 1870.[5][7]

In 1891 the park was purchased by Sir James Roberts (1848–1935). In 1903 to commemorate the fifty years Salts Mill had been operating and the centenary of his birth, a bronze statue of Sir Titus Salt was erected by the main promenade. The statue was by Francis Derwent Wood R.A. (1871–1926) of Chelsea for (Sir) James Roberts [2][5]

Not overly helpful then. However, subsequent googling in the twixtmas period tells me they are to recognise the contribution of animals to the textile industry, so actually are supposed to be alpacas, but honestly that’s not what alpacas look like in my opinion. Llamas have straighter backs than the more rounded alpaca and the coats hang a bit differently too. Actually, the bronze back on the standing one is a tad curvy but the ears are just wrong I tell you, wrong and the sitting one has a straight back. They are probably supposed to be alpacas as they are more obvious animal to get fibre from (it’s not called wool) but clearly whoever was very good at making bronzes was less hot on camelid identification. The people of Saltaire are probably lucky not to have had a camel bronze instead, that would have been way more expensive apart from anything else, would have needed a lot more bronze. Hang on, let me equip you with the tools to apply your own critique and then I can continue with the important parkrun business of the day …

Differences between alpacas and llamas

Anyway, we did the obligatory photos with the camelids. Then it was on to the big statue number:

that so looks like a llama too. Allaming how misidentified these camelids can be. Not the one with a blue tail, that’s an erstwhile flatmate or EWFM for convenience. The tail is optional, the stripy socks a given. Obvs. The llama is squished into the base of the statue along with a mohair goat somewhere I think. Good point for a cheer marshal though, must be fab views of the parkrunners from up there.

Next stop the cannon, and then to the bespoke Christmas selfie frame. We weaved our way about, feeling ever more festive as others gathered around. And we spotted Mr Walking at parkrun himself who was busy with organisational things but promised a selfie op later one. All was splendid!

There was such a lovely festive feel to this parkrun. Cheery good will oozed out like mutant ectoplasm from the epicentre of the core team. There were Christmas goodies and fancy dress. A call went up for the first timers’ welcome. This turned out to be a double act as two volunteers were up for doing it and embraced doing it together rather than having one step down. It was a great welcome – interactive – THREE times through the snicket! We learn we are doing the winter course so three laps rather than two. It was all very clear and very jolly and full of seasonal goodwill. We besport ourselves with seasonally appropriate frolicking and fossicking and what to wear faffery before joining the start area for the Run Director’s briefing.

We were both walking today, talking and walking which is basically twalking. My EWFM is able to run, but I (still) can’t, I hold out hope I may again one day, but with each passing month it seems less likely. This is why it was so brilliant to be at a parkrun where parkwalking was explicitly mentioned and we were made most welcome. The RD did a most festive briefing, but not gonna lie, slotted in towards the back as we were I couldn’t really hear it. There was also a very excited dog barking there enthusiastic anticipation from about a mile away. Their mortified human companion was gamely trying to minimise the impact of this at the briefing but to little avail. It didn’t matter, this is also a very dog friendly parkrun and many happy hounds hung around the back eager for off. Including the aforementioned Dave. For our part, we two clapped along where audience participation seemed appropriate and hoped we weren’t clapping anything dubious. I’m sure it was all benign and lovely, milestones, birthdays thanking the volunteers – who were a most picturesque lot.

and then suddenly we were off! A mass of parkrunners companionably setting forth, a purple dinosaur and a festive present among the fancy dress, some especially awesome grinches in evidence, and – and I really liked this touch – various participants wearing milestone tabards so we knew who to cheer especially loudly as they passed.

The route is sort of out and back briefly and then you thread around various paths. The toing and froing aspect means you get lots of chances to see other runners and encourage them. It was really lovely. I cannot stress enough what a strong community feel this parkrun has, every marshal greeted parkrunners and were thanked and greeted in return, and it seemed people really knew each other too. parkrun perfection 🙂

The only slightly alarming thing was how quickly the faster parkrunners were whizzing back towards us, but hey ho, it was a no pressure parkrun as the tailwalkers were far behind and their were other parkwalkers too. Off we went to the first turn around enjoying the sight of parkrunners coming back towards us:

At the turn around pint there was a very cheery Santa marshal and some deeply disturbing (to me) Santa effigies, I’ve never been very good with dolls or ventriloquists dummies, it was lucky I had my brave EWFM to act as a human buffer zone and to embolden me.

Phew. Safely negotiated, it was back to where we started from and beyond.

It is a lovely course. It reminded me somewhat of Huddersfield parkrun super-mario course because there are so many bits where you can see all the other parkrunners snaking off in all directions like decorative festive bunting. Splendid. After a bit of a meander through the more formal gardens, you head off into the nature reserve area. Normally you head out quite a way for the two lap summer course, but because of mud this is cut short at this time of year. You are instead headed up a minor hill past some molehills. These were to me symbolic of how a positive parkrun experience can make mountains into molehills and here mountainous cares were tossed aside as little modest mole mounds from which you could skip away, all cares forgotten. Hurrah!

At the top of this little incline was an actual snicket! It had its very own sign, and a hidden marshal at the end of it, making it basically an en route santa’s grotto, so that was lovely too. You aren’t supposed to overtake in this section, and it is tight, at the very end room for one only to squeeze through. All were pretty considerate going through here, one over enthusiastic junior weaved in and out but it was all fine. Again hurrah.

Best bit though, was taking a moment to look backwards at all the parkrunners en route, about their parkrunning business. Super fun! Be sure to click through the pics!

Once you are through the snicket and have left your troubles behind, you go back into the park and marshals cheer and directionally point you with aplomb. This marshal was extra aplomby, as she had to send people in different directions depending on which of the three laps they were on. It’s actually really hard work holding both your arms out at shoulder height to point in opposite ways for that length of time, and as for pulling off such a feat whilst cheerily supporting is nigh on super human. Yay for ace supporting and directional pointing. You made sure all made it safely round!

And round we went again. Even though we were right at the back of the pack, it felt chilled and friendly and fine. We could espy the tail walkers even further back, and as we passed through the start / finish area enjoy the buzz of people having Christmas Day catch ups. We even espied an actual Robin we’d noticed on arrival. I do think having your name on your running coat should be encouraged, but it was especially magnificent to see a seasonally appropriate one. Bark runners were settling into their pace and all was well in the parkrun universe.