Posts Tagged With: parkrun tourism

Another place for parkrun tourism? Fun and frolics at Crosby parkrun

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Crosby, sun, sea sand, what’s not to like?

Undigested read:

Crosby parkrun is on a beach!  How cool is that.  The best thing about running on a beach in the sunshine is that you get sand in your shoes so when you come home the memory comes with you.  Nice.  Very exciting.  So exciting in fact, that for some it can be overwhelming it seems.   Fair enough, we all need to know our limits.

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Before I get stuck in though, I feel compelled to offer up a bit of a warning.  Just to let you know that this is an arching tale, and has a forlorn bit early on, but then everything perks up and all ends happily – mostly.  So don’t be sad.  Life is too short. Without the lows, you wouldn’t get the full benefit of the highs.  Imagine a seesaw horizontal.  That’s right.  Pointless!  Safe and predictable perhaps, but entirely devoid of joy.  In fact, basically a plank.  Where’s the fun in that? Whereas if you embrace the potential of a see-saw you can have this much fun! Only in colour! Quite.

So I was enticed to Crosby parkrun to join a fellow parkrunner who was doing his 100th different parkrun.  That’s quite some touristing, and a good excuse for me to try a new parkrun.  Leaving aside the fact I nearly went to Corby parkrun – which I’m sure is lovely but lacks a coastline – Crosby appealed a lot because it’s by the sea, you get to see those iron men statue things and I get a ‘c’ for my pirates challenge , by going to an actual sea parkrun for one of the seven seas. (Pirates! – Run seven Cs and an R – say it out loud).  Hurrah.  Those Running Challenges have a lot to answer for, but what can I say, I blooming love it, chasing down virtual badges works for me!  The respectable face of sticker charts for grown ups.  I’m a long way off nabbing this yet, but one run closer for getting to Crosby…

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Living in Sheffield as I do, at a push, I could maybe have got up early and driven in the morning, but I loathe driving at the best of times and hate being late, it’s a weird drive too, unpredictable for timings.  I decided I’d go the whole hog and book a night’s B&B in Crosby and make a mini-break of it.  This is crossing into new parkrun tourism territory, booking a B&B purely to do a parkrun could smack of the extreme to the uninitiated.  Admittedly, last year I did go to Hasenheide parkrun with the pathologically friendly Tralee parkrunner (wave) but that was a bit different, because it was a full on jam-packed sight seeing trip to Berlin to boot.  It’s easier to exp lain why you are spending the weekend in Berlin to an acquaintance as opposed to Crosby.  No offence meant to Crosby there, but I think it would have to concede it’s not an obvious ‘go to’ location topping everyone’s parkrun bucket list – though maybe it will be from now on, once my account of the place goes viral.

There wasn’t an embarrassment of riches accommodation wise, but I plumped for Burbo Bank B&B, near the beach and just a mile from Crosby Leisure centre where the parkrun starts.  Looked OK.  I headed off from Sheffield on Friday afternoon, surrendering my route planning to the idiosyncracies of my satnav.  Not sure we have really evolved that much with satnav.  In the olden days, when I use one of those mahoosive AA road maps, I’d have worked out a much more sensible route.  This trip took me such a circuitous way it made Somerdale Pavilion parkrun look like a straight out and back course by comparison!  You know the one I mean – it’s the the curly-wurly one right – now that is a parkrun destination on my to do list for sure.

I somehow went to Glossop, did a massive loop round – I thought to bypass Glossop and then ended up back there again just a hundred yards down the road.  It was a grim drive, I was indeed wondering what possessed me to embark on such a road trip.  It took 3 hours ish, and was joyless.  The entire journey was accompanied by news updates re resignation of Theresa May and speculation about the blood bath to come.  And you thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse… No wonder life seemed grim by the time I got to Waterloo/Crosby.

I found the B&B, an impressive looking faded grandeur huge Victorian building from the outside with a ‘for sale’ sign outside.  It was imposing rather than welcoming judging by the exterior.  However, the welcome was warm.  Inside wasn’t faded grandeur, but recently refurbished grandeur.  Original tiles on the floor, not one, but two chandeliers gracing the hall entrance, as well as the picture of the Mona Lisa.  Not the actual Mona Lisa I think, but then again, I’ve never studied art history particularly, so I’m not really in any position to authenticate the image one way or the other.

I was led up to my room. There followed the most extensive health and safety briefing I have ever undergone.  I have had less thorough inductions when starting new jobs.  There was the caution to make sure I used the anti-slip mat in the shower.  Actually, that’s sensible, did I ever tell you about the time I was doing a course in Hastings and one of my house mates broke her arm falling over in the shower?  No?  Are you sure, it was the same course at the end of which I broke my knee? Not in the shower, but on the beach.  Long story.  We were an accident prone cohort.  Just shows, you have to take care.  Did you know umbrellas can cause terrible accidents on beaches too – even fatal ones, they can function like torpedoes when the wind is right apparently.  In 2016, Lottie Michelle Belk was killed when an errant parasol pierced her torso while she was on holiday in Virginia Beach according to the BBC website, so it must be true!

It was lucky there were no umbrellas in the B&B that I had to contend with, or the safety briefing would still be going on now.  The other hazard was the stairs down to my room, I had to be instructed to carefully pull aside a drape, ensure the light was on ‘actually, don’t worry about that, I’ll put it on now for you just in case‘ and then look ahead before negotiating the steps. If I got up in the night, no need to panic, another light would come on to help me guide my way to the bathroom.  Phew.  I had no idea staying over somewhere was so potentially risky.  Oh well, feel the fear and do it anyway as the saying goes.  Get me and my dare devil impromptu parkrun B&Bs!  Joking aside, it was a friendly and immaculately clean place, so I was happy.  Dumped my stuff and went for a wander down to the seaside.

It wasn’t a long walk to the beach. If you don’t know Crosby beach, it’s a massive expanse of seemingly flat sand, and relatively featureless apart from the wind farm or docks on the horizon.  I walked through a marine park area to get there, which was relatively deserted, apart from gulls jockeying for position on a beam like parkrunners on the line up at the start of Sheffield Hallam parkrun.

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I followed the sign out to the iron men, across what seemed to me to be quite a bleak landscape.  It was still light, but the temperature had cooled, and as there was no-one around it seemed desolate.

I’d been ridiculously excited about seeing the sea, and Antony Gormley’s iron figures, staring out on the horizon.  However, now I was there, I felt weird.  I walked out across the sand to one of the figures.  They are remarkable, and I really like the installation of the figures in the space the picture below is not my photo, but captures it well (taken it uk_anotherplace_1997_008from Antony Gormley’s website)

I stood with one of the figures for a while, and looked where he was looking, out to sea, and suddenly I felt weirdly emotional.  It was like this wave of profound loneliness came over me, the place seemed so desolate, the figures so separated from each other, immobile and consumed with a longing for what lay over the horizon that they couldn’t see let alone ever reach.  This chasm of emptiness engulfed us.  Everything seemed pointless, this excursion, human life on earth, planning for the future, any previous positivity vaporised as I was consumed in existential angst.  I think sometimes others can smell loneliness, and they back off from it as they would from a creature diseased for fear of contagion, and this is what is left.  Every figure on this beach ultimately companionless, isolated and cast out.  It didn’t matter there were other figures also gazing out, they couldn’t connect with one another or see each other, it just seemed so desperately, desperately sad.   I hadn’t expected to get that flood of emotion, it caught me unawares.  Like a punch to the solar plexus.  Feeling helpless that there is such loneliness and sadness in this world that leaves many of us unreachable, and maybe all of us feel both sides of that at various times throughout our lives, not knowing how  to reach out to others and /or unable to be reached ourselves.  How bloody depressing.  What is the point, really.  What is the point.

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I shivered a bit, and decided I didn’t want to pursue those thoughts right there right then.  I stepped back from the sink hole that was trying to suck me down to oblivion. I had a conscious reality check.  I remembered, another running buddy telling me how she experienced the amazing Phlegm exhibition The Mausoleum of the Giants in Sheffield a few weeks back.  I went and found it magnificent, uplifting, perhaps poignant, but mainly remarkable and a testament to human imagination and creativity .  I felt positive about my interactions with others in the queue and watching how people interacted with the exhibits was unqualified joy.  She for her part found it unbearably sad.  Who can say whether such artworks bring these emotions out in us or we bring the emotion with us to them.  Different day, different dynamic, maybe a different mood.  I’ll leave you to ponder that teaser as I share some images of the giants.  They made my heart sing.  I can see why they might not produce that effect in others, but they did me.  The iron men, not so much…

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My heart wasn’t singing on Friday night though.  I went to a rather grim tapas bar and had a lime juice and soda which came with a plastic straw, so then I felt like I’d personally practically held down an endangered turtle and killed it with a straw up the nostril and into its brain.  Still, at least such straws are a rarity these days.  Though it is weird, how we can all get outraged by plastic straws and rightly so, single use plastic is for the most part indefensible – yet the majority of plastic that ends up in the sea is apparently from fishing tackle and far more destructive and damaging, not to mention creatures getting caught up in nets etc, we seem able to blank out that reality.  Gawd life is depressing sometimes.  It was going to take a great deal of parkrun lurve to shift my mood.

Back to the B&B, early, ate all the free biscuits in the room and had the complementary hot chocolate.  Went through every cupboard and drawer, no rich pickings here, not so much as a Gideon bible let alone a moth-eared Reader’s Digest, but always good to have a rummage just in case.  And that was that, Friday night in Crosby.  Whoop a doo.

Then it was morning.

Headache.

No enthusiasm

Oh well, I’m here now.  I trundled down for breakfast.  I seemed to be the only guest, I was offered a cooked one, which was tempting, but contra-indicated pre parkrun, even at my leisurely pace.  I went with coffee and cereal and got a few anecdotes from the proprietor about her experiences of B&B hosting.  Incredibly friendly woman, even if she was a bit incredulous about the purpose of my visit ‘so you’ve come all this way just for the race‘ I resisted the urge to say ‘it’s not a race it’s a run’ because I felt that such pedantry would get in the way of getting acquainted.  Instead I asked her if she’d had other parkrunners come to stay.  Loads apparently, and I’m not surprised to hear this, it was a good choice.  I was even offered the option of coming back later to use the shower, but I declined, I think she might have even have done a later breakfast potentially, but I opted to just check out and head to parkrun.

It was a short jaunt to Crosby Leisure Centre, which looks like a space ship imagined from the 60s.  Maybe it actually is one, the beach would definitely offer up a suitable landing spot for a wayward UFO, and repurposing it would be the way to go if it was subsequently left abandoned.

There was loads of parking, all free, and toilets available, and, best of all, some cow buffs visible as I espied my parkrun tourist buddies.  My mood lifted, I bounced across the car park and down to the sand to join them, because it was pre-parkrun play time.   Catch ups to be had, photos to be posed for, stories to share.

The parkrun team were assembling:

The finish line was up:

I joined my tourist friends on the sand.  An extra boon was presence of mini greyhounds with their non-parkrunning attendant.  Fun times.

A great many photos had to be taken of the iron man in all possible guises and variations of the assembled company.  We posed separately, we posed together.  We took photos of other tourists.  We met some women also from Sheffield Hallam parkrun (wave) what were the chances!  Actually, quite high, this was the parkrun before the Liverpool Rock n Roll marathon (or half) the next day, so loads of tourists.  It was quite a party, and good to find out where everyone was from, and why we’d all come a gathering.  I think the iron men were cheered by being the centre of adoring attention, maybe hanging around on this beach wasn’t so bad after all, the parkrun lurve was working it’s magic.

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One thing though, those figures, they aren’t androgynous as you may have previously thought, closer inspection revealed they are definitely male.  No idea where they keep their barcodes.

I got temporary custody of Bully, the touristing cow, a great, if short-lived, honour.  Classy photo bombing action at the rear.  I reckon she’s had training in this, she never lets an opportunity pass her by.  Respect, I learned from the best today.  I had a good old go at trying to photobomb a group pic that was aiming for the run report, but don’t know if I made the edit just yet…  time will tell.

vbc my new friend

After a bit, I suddenly realised I was cutting it fine for my precautionary pee and made a swift exit from the beach just as my Sheffield Hallam compatriots had started to strike up a conversation. Fearing they’d think I was rude (which for the record I can be, but wasn’t being on this occasion) I explained my need for speed, and they were most understanding.  Didn’t want them to think I’d just made friends to get them to take photos and then dumped them as soon as their services were no longer required.  My buddies went for a warm up run.  I think that was what they were doing, it may have been just that I’d broken eye contact and they saw their chance to make a bid for freedom.  After using the facilities, which are unisex by the way – I scared a couple of men who thought they were in the wrong place.  Maybe I’m just scary…. I left my bag with other people’s clobber piled in a heap by the pavilion.  A volunteer explained it is ‘at your own risk’ but volunteers graciously magically move it to the finish line for you. This is indeed service above and beyond, I was definitely game for taking advantage of that!  Thank you fine Crosby parkrun peeps.  Excellent service, I’ll be adding some extra stars for that on the TripAdvisor review later.

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As I came back, a marshal waved me over ‘do you want to be in the photo?’  What photo?  Someone had been proactive enough to get a shot of all the tourists around – well probably not all, but a fair old net of them. I scampered over to be in the team pic.  Here we are, aren’t we all lovely!  And what a lovely marshal to co-ordinate it! And who is that waving and bobbing around so effectively in the back?  Loving your work there, loving your work.

There was still time to play with other parkrun toys. Specifically, the parkrun selfie frame.  This one had been customised by being tacked onto a proper wooden board with some nice silver holding knobs too.  This parkrun had some top personalised gear.  Do look out for Erik later on.

The sun was shining, the view astonishing, the mood buoyant.  Eventually, a call went up to head to the beach for the run director’s briefing.  And we all descended en masse onto the beach, and walking towards the sea, looking tiny on that wide horizon, like newly hatched turtles heading horizonwards.  I don’t know if that’s actually a word, but I feel it should be, so let’s just agree that it is now.  Thank you.

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They like their kit at this parkrun.  Huge speakers were set up, one looked like it had its own legs, it probably did – oh unless it was SpongeBob rocking up for his first parkrun wearing bondage gear? That’s possible…. The RD was appropriately miked and ready to rock’n’roll.

I was rather hoping he would burst into song in keeping with the legendary musical icons that have come from Liverpool, or at least in tribute to the rock’n’roll half marathon the next day.  He didn’t, maybe he was saving his voice.  Bet they could do some mean karaoke with that kit if the mood should ever seize them.

We had a good briefing though, volunteers thanked, a special shout out for tourists doing their 300th run, a special mention for my buddy on his 100th run – partly for tenacity in coming back again, after his last attempt to do Crosby was thwarted by inclement weather and cancelled at the very last minute for fear of runners being swept out to sea.  There was a birthday – ooh, and another one. ‘Good luck for the marathon tomorrow!’  Mutters of panic.  ‘What, oh, it’s a half marathon’ palpable relief moved through the crowd who’d feared a double dose of running fun might be more than they  could cope with, let alone had intentionally signed up for!  Shout out for tourists.  From everywhere basically.  Oh and ‘if anyone needs the defibrillator, that’s in the cafe‘, that’s all well and good, but I did rather get the impression, you’d be expected to go fetch it yourself, but I could have misunderstood, and anyway, whilst seemingly unconventional in approach, each parkrun has its own idiosyncrasies, and as a guest I think ours is not to reason why.  It wasn’t clear to me if they have a given procedure in the event of an umbrella breaking free and making its way down the beach like and exocet missile, but maybe that’s why one of the marshals had binoculars and could be seen constantly scanning the horizon.  No need to alarm everyone about what might happen, as long as the proper precautionary procedures are in place.

That’s it then’, he said ‘where do we go‘- oh yes.  I always forget this too, but people like to know the route before hand, I think the novel element of surprise can work quite well too.

So you probably want to know the course blah de blah?  Well, according to the Crosby parkrun website the course is described thus:

The course starts adjacent to Crosby Leisure Centre and runs along grass with views of the Mersey Estuary on the left. After a left turn onto the promenade the course has views of Anthony Gormley’s Iron Men on the right. Towards the end of the course it turns right onto the beach giving runners the opportunity to run near to the iconic Iron Men before running back to Crosby Leisure Centre for the finish line.

Only, they must have different courses according to the tide, because that isn’t quite the route we took, though near enough, takes in the same sights, but we started on beach and finished on grass.  Almost like this course backwards.  Not us running backwards, but the course in reverse.

The official route looks like this:

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but you know what, it’s one to take your time on so you can enjoy the views and not be frustrated at being thwarted by deep sand, so just follow the crowd.  Incidentally, I think Antony Gormley‘s iron men are just parkrun tourists, who got there a bit early and were hanging around waiting for the start.  A little shy about approaching others until they were properly confident they were in the right place, as opposed to just another place.  Perhaps that’s why they looked lonely and with longing out to sea, waiting for the parkrun boat to come in, that is all.

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What does this image capture if not parkrunners on the horizon?  I rest my case.

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Because, you know what, the iron men were an integral part of the course.   Honorary marshals, kitted out in high – vis and in at least one case, a helmet too.  Some were paired up with human marshals, just to buddy up and make things companionable, a small spirited stand against loneliness, hurrah!

So on ‘go’ or whatever it was, awf we all went.

It was running on sand.  Fairly compact sand at this point, but it is quite hard running on sand. It’s a lovely romantic idea, and feels nice, but it you don’t seem to go anywhere, it’s like the wet sand here and dry sand later act like Kryptonite draining the energy from your legs so you think you are running, you are certainly trying to move your legs in the required manner,  but not actually moving forward in any noticeable way.  Weird.

I was distracted as always, by the sea views, and the colourful vision of loveliness of runners streaming ahead.  You run out, past various iron men, some of whom have names,  I think the one at the turn around is Brenda, but I can’t be sure.

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until you get to the furthest one, where you turn around and run back the way you came

This means that if you are in the fun factory that is the slower half of the field, you get to see the faster runners flying back up the beach towards you, which is social.

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By the time I’d made the turn around the front runners were streaming back up off the beach.  In the distance you could make out the leisure centre.  I took the opportunity to snap some marshals as I passed them again on the way back.  Most were ready for their close up.  I like that one marshal has binoculars, they miss no tricks here.  Towards the back of the pack were some smartly clad parkrunners in matching kit, power-walking, I think stretching their legs the day before the half-marathon, but never got the chance to ask them.

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You leave the beach through deep powdery sand, that personally I think must be unrunnable, though I’ll bet some of the speed merchants sprinted over it, or just bounded across in one gargantuan seemingly effortless stride.  Then you are on the tarmac promenade.  I say tarmac, and it is, but sand has blown across in parts, so it’s a slightly unpredictable surface.

So if you look ahead you see parkrunners, if you look back you see parkrunners, if you look to the left you see iron men and sea and sand, and if you look to the right you see dunes, maybe marshals, and as you get further on, you see the front runners doubling back again through the grassy bit behind the sand dunes and back to the finish.

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Here are some runners heading homewards:

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I know they aren’t the best photos every, but I am showing willing, plus it’s harder than you think to take pics mid run and from a distance.  Will give you a bit of ‘mood music’ as to what it was like though.  Hot in the sun by the way, though I imagine a sea fret and a strong wind could change the ambience of this route pretty spectacularly creating ‘memorable’ if not actual endurable enjoyable running conditions as the sand and salt whipped up around you.

As well as the runners, there were teleporting marshals everywhere.  You’d see one on the way out on the concrete promenade, and then by the time you’d come back again on the grass higher up there they’d be again!  Must have teleported, or maybe this parkrun has a particularly high proportion of identical twins on its volunteer roster, and they are all in the habit of dressing in matching outfits.  I favour teleportation.  They clearly have the technology, they must do.  It all makes sense doesn’t it, the space ship, the lost alien humanoids staring out to see, and the ability of both kit and marshals to translocate when your back is turned without you seeing how.  It is the only logical explanation,

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See?  Definitely same person more than one location.

Then again, not all marshals did this, so that would favour the twin theory.  All marshals did however demonstrate excellent support, superb directional pointing and clapping skills, for which I would like to thank them.  Bravo to all of you for turning out and volunteering. You are superstars.

After the turn around at the coastguard station, you have a bit more tarmac and you go through a car parky bit where you get to meet Erik.  Erik the awesome.

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In fact, closer inspection reveals this to be Erik 1, so that could mean there is an Erik 2, even an Erik 3.  All equally epic. This is what all parkruns need, equipment chariots with if not actual personalities (though I like to believe they have those too) then at the very least customised designs and personalised number plates.  And I thought the X space ship at Wakefield Thornes parkrun for May the Fourth was the apex of bespoke carriage making.  I knew nothing back then, I am older and wiser now….  Still cool though:

WTP finish space ship

More being waved on by

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and then you really are on the homeward stretch.  It is basically grass, but there are quite a few rabbit holes, or just holes in general as the soft sand gives way quite quickly.  I’d been stopping and starting a fair old bit, what with taking pictures and chatting to marshals, and trying to nab photos of my tourist buddies running back the other way.  I tried to run for a bit, and then realised to my horror, my running pace was barely keeping up with the walkers right ahead of me.  Oh dear, I really do need to get back with the programme if I’m ever to actually run a whole 5k continuously ever again.

Then ‘suddenly’ the finish is in view, and the warm embrace of other parkrunners welcoming you back is made manifest with whoops and cheers.  I don’t know if it was partly because there were so many tourists and a lot of walkers at the rear saving their legs for the half the next day, but there was still a lot of support at the finish by the time I came in.  Also, they seemed to be using mobile phones for timing and scanning, I’m not sure if that was exclusively, but they have definitely embraced the parkrun app here, and it seemed to be working smoothly.  As I’m one of the very few people left in the world yet to own a smart phone, I’m still a bit suspicious of the technology, but no problems were made manifest today.  So I’ll keep an open mind.  I don’t think a defibrillator should be an app, but who knows what future AI technology is capable of. Thinking about it, if they’ve succeeded with the teleporting, I think they’ve established their credentials innovation wise.    And actually, thinking about it,  that might not even be twins, maybe they’ve also sussed effective cloning, to avoid any last minute panic in terms of filling vacant volunteering slots.  Respect Crosby parkrun, you have thought of everything!

A few people were still coming in, and oh look, the selfie sign again!  An open invitation for some more experimentation there:

Reunited with my teleported belongings, time for coffee and run debrief.

Couple of points in summary. This is quite an unexpectedly tough parkrun, because turns out, running in soft sand is really hard, even with practically zero elevation.   Still, let’s keep it all in perspective, it’s hard, but not hard hard, not like running the Great Wall of China Marathon hard for example – although granted I’ve not actually done that one myself yet, so it may be I’ve  just swallowed the hype! Perhaps, I’m just a wuss, I know I’m nesh, but talk of a course ‘Containing more than 20,000 unrelenting stone steps, many vary in height from a few centimeters to over 40 cm in height, with many of the original sections little more than rubble, and no less than 30 km of running‘ makes me a tad nervous.  Can’t knock it for firming the calves and thighs though if you did decide to take it on…

It would be good as your home run as you get so much variation in terrain over the course, plus a sprint section along the promenade if the mood took you.  Not good for hills though.

In the cafe, it was fairly small, but social.  Cow cowl themed cup cakes were brought out to mark 300 runs.  We spared a thought for absent friends. One friend in particular, you were missed, get well soon, you know who you are.  You are not only Troy’s side kick, but a parkrunner in your own right.  See you out and about soon.  We thought of you a lot.  cheery wave is coming right at you from here right now!

and a disturbing yet compelling personal buff donned to mark the 100th different run. I think I’ll just leave that out there for you to draw your own conclusions.  Sometimes, just because you can do something, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should…

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More games, my fellow tourister cleverly appropriated someone’s camera to add some little surprises for him whilst his back was turned, thus gaining the exquisite extra of having him photobomb his own stolen camera shots. Hurrah!  I just love making my own entertainment sometimes!  This parkrun tourist clearly has talent and form in this respect, I can learn much from her opportunism and wit!  Such rituals are all part of the post parkrun faffing – parkfaff if you will, a mandatory part of parkrun tourism in particular.

The cafe was too rammed to be conducive to sitting in, so we went back out for final beach explorations and photo ops.  It was a quite different place, suffused with parkrun joy on a Saturday morning.  Another Place indeed.

didn't we have fun folks

There was alas, one down side to this whole excursion.  Like I said, it mostly ended well, but, the thing is, if you will run on a beach you get sand in your shoes, and in your knickers, so the memory lingers, often trapped in orifices for longer than you might ideally wish for.  Swings and roundabouts eh?

Still, if you don’t fancy a beach, and can handle crowds, there’s a new scenic one in Nepal that’s attracting a lot of attention and is as far away from the sea as you can get at 8,848 m (29,029 ft), doesn’t appeal to me, but each to their own.

everest queue from bbc website

Meantime, there’s always a parkrun near you.  Don’t be lonely, find a parkrun friend.

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So thank you lovely Crosby parkrun people for your warm welcome to your lovely venue.  It was a super friendly and efficient team, and you laid on sunshine for us, impressive.  Also, lots of post parkrun cake.  I forgot to say, someone offered me my pick from a Tupperware container of iced buns at one point, and I asked naively what the occasion was only to be met with a nonplussed expression of incomprehension.  Then, after a pause ‘we need a reason?  But this is parkrun, there is always cake’.  Well said my friend, that’s the parkrun spirit right there!  Thank you fellow tourists familiar faces and new ones too, and thank you non parkrunning fellow travellers, grand to meet you.

I’m sure our parkrunning paths will cross and intersect again sometime, somewhere, but til then, happy parkrunning.

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though, and forward for new ones in time too, once there are some just so you know.  That’s amazing when you think about it, you’ll be able to travel in time.  Cool.  You won’t be able to alter the past as is always the way, but you can splash about in parkruns past with abandon.  You’re most welcome.

🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

That’s parkrun to a ‘T’! – Totally Terrific Touristing, Tearing round Temple Newsam parkrun

Digested read:  parkrun tourism took me to Temple Newsam parkrun today.  It was very nice, thank you for asking.

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Undigested read:

you have chosen this option?  Well, I take it you don’t have anything else planned for a bit then?  Read on at your own risk, personally I’d get a cup of tea first, and maybe even have a little snackette to help provide the necessary fuel for the marathon that follows.  You need to keep hydrated and fuelled to sustain yourself for the long haul, all distance runners can attest to that.

Back to the topic in hand.  Firstly, sorry, did I say ‘tearing‘ round Temple Newsam parkrun in the title sequence just above? FYI, that was just a bit of artistic licence on my part, for alliterative purposes.  ‘Trotting’ round is alliterative too I suppose, but sounded a bit prim and not strictly accurate as really I was pootling round to be honest.  Pootling, as in ‘to pootle’.  Now, whilst that might indeed have been more representative of my actual pace, I think we can all agree that to use this word would have totally ruined the alliterative sequence I was going for with my title wordking, by failing to begin with the obligatory ‘t’, so, whilst it might have been nearer the mark, ‘pootling’ just didn’t make the cut.  What are you going to do about it? Sue me?  Good luck with that…  Surely everyone knows you can’t let absolute truth get in the way of a good story, where would be the fun in that…. it is not deceit, it is just strategic artistry, on this occasion necessary, an instance perhaps of the ends justifying the means.

Right, having got that out of the way, let’s get back to the events of the parkrun in question… Where was I, oh yes, heading off to Temple Newsam parkrun, I’m embracing parkrun tourism for the summer months.  Partly simply so I can run where I can be anonymous and hence feel no pressure to run at any particular pace or style.  You’ll find all sorts of runners at parkruns everywhere.

Another motivating factor is to take advantage of the more clement weather to go further afield and take in some new parkrun destinations, and what’s more, on this occasion, to bagsy a ‘t’ for my running challenges alphabet.  (Run a parkrun beginning with each letter of the English alphabet apart from x because that’s not possible).   I’m a long, long way off from getting this, but it helps decide on where to go if I have in mind a particular objective, so where’s the harm in that.  That’s me – goal driven!  (Ahem).  Amazing what lengths people will go to for a virtual badge.  I was trying to explain the concept of the running challenges badges to someone the other day, and the best analogy I could come up with was ‘think a sticker chart, but for grown-ups’ because that is essentially what it is. One day, if I look at my parkrun profile on chrome, I’ll get to see this alongside my other volunteering and running achievements, and it will make my heart soar:

runner-alphabeteer

but only if I fork out for a trip to Poland to nab a Z at some point – (Zielona Góra), so could be waiting a while yet!  Also, in case you are wondering, you don’t have to get an ‘x’ as such because there aren’t any, though you can be creative and bagsy say an Exeter Riverside parkrun should you wish to do so.  You know what, I think an actual sticker chart would be excellent too.  Star charts and sticker charts weren’t a thing in my day, so I feel I’ve missed out.  Would be fabulous.

As you know dear reader, I’m Sheffield based, and this parkrun is a good hour away from me, and honestly, not one that had particularly been on my radar until I started to seek out a drive-able T from my home.  I did a bit of half-hearted googling.   I discovered that Temple Newsam parkrun is another one that has got its own parkrun profile on the official parkrun UK website.  Splendid!  It has a severe looking house there, it would be a nightmare cleaning all those windows, but I presume if you live in a pile like that you either have staff to come and do for you, or you’d be willing to sacrifice any urchins left over from scampering up chimney breasts to scale the walls and polish your glass.  Actually, that’s a stupid thing to say, you’d do it the other way round wouldn’t you, or you’d get soot on your windows, and that would be terrible.  Windows first, and any survivors from that could do the chimneys afterwards.  I don’t think soot is good for cleaning windows, just as charcoal is rubbish for teeth whitening. Handy, if unsurprising, to know.  Here’s the pic from the parkrun profile article, quite a pile eh?:

parkrun profile Temple Newsam parkrun

The profile also refers to an undulating course.  Those will be the uphill flat stretches that are ubiquitous in these parts!  They need hold no fear for me!

The Temple Newsam parkrun website gives useful info, satnav postcode and pronounces free parking up until 10.00, which is handy, but if that means a 10 a.m. departure, wouldn’t allow me enough time for the all important post run coffee options which are also on site.  I couldn’t find out what the parking cost would be, but figureded I’d fathom that later.  It seemed to suggest one of the car parks Home Farm, stays free, but I’d set off prepared with lots of change as always.  I did once get a parking fine at a parkrun, which was particularly devastating as I’d bought a car parking ticket, but it got blown of the dashboard as I shut the door, and was hiding out in the foot well of the car.  I was able to get a refund eventually, but it was a trauma I’d rather not repeat.  I don’t begrudge paying for parking at parkrun, I take the view that this may persuade venues to carry on hosting it, but it’s indeed a boon when the fee is waived and helpful when costs are transparent.

This morning dawned.  Oooh gawd, what was I thinking when I set the alarm for stupid o-clock.  I was not in the mood for bounding out of bed and embracing the day.  However, conscientious if not keen, I unpeeled myself from my slumber, and fortified with Yorkshire tea and porridge (not served together, the tea was in a mug and the porridge in a bowl separately) I headed off.  It was a gorgeous morning.  The drive was OK, apart from, my satnav tormenting me with it’s annoying new policy of operating to just-in-time principles in relation to turn notifications.  This basically means it only suggests turning as you sail through the intersections concerned.  A consequence of this was that I missed the first turning to Temple Newsam completely and ended up overshooting it for some way, then turning into a random Lidl in a panic when the satnav suddenly shouted at me to ‘TURN LEFT’.  This would have been completely OK, except that, when I tried to exit, the Lidl lights were stuck on red and I was too chicken to just shoot them onto the fast moving carriageway ahead.  In the end, I bailed, and, with a queue of traffic just did a u-turn back into the  car park so it was someone else’s problem, and watched all those cars that had been waiting behind me just shoot the red light, with fearless confidence.  Maybe the lights there never work?  Eventually I did the same, emboldened because they all survived to tell the tale, and also reasoning I couldn’t spend the rest of my life in a Lidl carpark. Whilst Lidl has many bargains, albeit somewhat random ones, it’s not where I’d choose to end my days.  I am getting a bit paranoid now though, last week at Wakefield Thornes parkrun I couldn’t find my way out of the female toilets, and this week I found myself trapped in a Lidl car park.  I mean, I’m not really working my way up the food chain very effectively am I?  Oh well.  I’ll have to claim credit for ‘working towards‘ escapology excellence in a formative sense, and hope I do better come the summative assessment that will no doubt await me in due course.  How I will know when I’ve achieved escapology excellence I’m not sure – perhaps I’ll have to fight my way out of a wet paper bag or something.  That would probably be OK.  We shall see.

I’d allowed plenty of time to get to Temple Newsam, but it’s as well I did, as with the diversions, it took longer than expected.  Also, and this is weird.  My ears kept popping, like they do when you fly in an aeroplane (not sure what else you’d be flying in, but just to be clear).  I felt like they needed clearing, but I also know you the official advice is not to put anything smaller than your elbow into your ears for fear of damaging them.  I take the point, but I’ve always felt that the advice is a bit stupid.  Surely it would be profoundly unwise to shove anything bigger than your elbow in your ear as well?

I mean you wouldn’t try to shove an elephant down one would you?  OK, that’s a stupid example, there aren’t many accessible elephants to hand in the UK, let’s choose something more relateable, like, oh, I don’t know – pool balls!  There’s an urban myth about them isn’t there?  Anyway, case in point, just because you can get three pool balls in your mouth for example (and apparently only a trained professional can do this, which is odd, because I didn’t know that the ability to put three pool balls in your mouth was a potential career path for anybody until two seconds ago), it doesn’t follow you’d be able to get them in your ear(s) even with outside assistance.

Daily Mail pool balls

By the time I’d contemplated all of this, my ears had cleared – maybe I was just acclimatising to the higher altitude of my destination.

I arrived at the estate through a back entrance.  It was another remarkable arrival, in that you approach through some fairly unremarkable urban sprawl and then ‘suddenly’ you turn a corner and are in amongst extraordinary greenery.  It was a very impressive approach.  Also, a slightly perplexing one, as the way I came in wasn’t all that clearly signed, and there was a random one-way/roundabout thing slightly off set that really confused me.  Then again, it doesn’t take much.  I found the car park nearest the house, fine, but then stared in confusion at the notice board.  I couldn’t fathom what or how to pay.  There was a charge for the car park, but the machine was out of order, and I knew I might not have to pay until after 10.00. but the charge seemed to be for the day not per hour.  Ooh, the dilemma!  Fortunately, at that point a parkrun hero appeared and told me it was fine before 10.00 and yes, this was the right place to park and he waved me towards the house where I’d find the start.  Phew, crisis averted, I parked up, after just one short circuit of the car park trying to secure the perfect parking spot.  There seemed to be loads of parking, certainly at that time anyway.

The car park was actually in amongst trees and in a bit of a dip, so when I walked up and in the direction of the house I was in for a treat.  This is a really spectacular setting.  It’s not wild and glorious like say Lyme park parkrun, but it is stunning.  You feel like you are walking through the set of a period drama feature film indeed you probably are, this venue must have been used for a squillion of film locations over the years.  Whether you presume yourself to be from upstairs or downstairs within the house probably depends on you current levels of self-esteem.  Can’t fail to appreciate it either way, surely?  Not that you should appreciate and accept the crushing inequalities of an antiquated class system of course, only that it really is a very nice view indeed, that’s what I’m encouraging you to appreciate.   It helped that the sun was shining and the  vesta beyond verdant following the much needed rain of the past couple of days.  However, it has a ‘wow’ factor for sure.  There’s Temple Newsam House itself, which was extraordinary.   The museum website tells us:

Built in 1518, Temple Newsam House is a Tudor-Jacobean country mansion with grounds landscaped by Capability Brown. Following extensive restoration over 40 interiors now display one of the most important collections of fine and decorative arts in Britain which were designated as being of pre-eminent importance in 1997 – the first country house to be recognised in this way. It is a treasure house of outstanding collections including furniture, ceramics, textiles, silver and wallpaper. The collections also show how the house was used as a family home, which was once birthplace to Lord Darnley, notorious husband of Mary Queen of Scots.

Try not to confuse Capability Brown with Calamity Jane, though it’s easy to do, the syllable patterns of the two names just screaming inside your head to be transposed with one another…. Just from the outside you can see it’s not only enormous, but no expense spared.  Huge doorways, and wording all along the parapet of the mansion.  Whether or not it might be to your taste, you can’t not be impressed by it.

I’d have settled for the stable block – now a nice cafe, with a shop, and cobblestones and yep, well serviced loos.  All that a parkrunner requires laid out before you, if this was your home run, you’d want for nothing. Even an amphitheatre, that’s two weeks running I’ve seen them, albeit this one wasn’t actually on the course like the one at Wakefield Thornes parkrun last week.

and if buildings aren’t your thing, well, never has a view been more worthy of the epithet ‘vista’ been more aptly applied.  It was like a fantasy landscape.  A sculptured open space stretching out in front of you, with the eye led up hills and along tree lines.  Pretty amazing.  Quite manicured I’d say, and immaculate.  Wow indeed.  Also, fairly impossible to capture on film.  Best you check it out for yourself and treat this just as a teaser…

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First things first, precautionary pee.  All very straightforward this week, didn’t get lost or trapped or anything, and then time for an explore.  There were some hi-vis heroes who seemed already to have everything set up.  I asked again about the parking, and they explained as long as you arrive before 10.00  you don’t have to pay anything, which was a huge relief as it meant there’d be time for post run coffee.  They also told me there is a parkrun breakfast special (only they don’t call it that, it’s between 9.00 and 10.30 Sat and Sun only offer as I discovered later) of a sausage sandwich and a coffee for £3.  Now that is a breakfast bargain in anyone’s book, surely.  Yes they had a veggie option too.  Phew, I could relax now.  Mind you, I’m not surprised those pigs are now ‘rare’ they are bound to be scarce if they keep insisting on slaughtering them and popping them in baps aren’t they now?

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Exploring, I checked out the views, and watched people gather as is the parkrun way.  Although the course set up here was fairly minimalist, they do take the pre-parkrun event day course inspection very seriously here, I was in time to see a JCB despatched to go check all was in order and flatten any obstacles pre run.  Definitely actions worthy of that chrome extension badge!  I wonder who has to store that bit of parkrun equipment though?  And I thought the wheelie bin for Graves junior was a bit cumbersome at times.

The course finish funnel was set out with cones, and motivational chalking.  I did like that.  Core team definitely making an effort to finesse the details there.  Plus, good to appreciate this pre-run as no doubt mid my sprint finish later on my eyes would be so fixed on the horizon up ahead and I’d be travelling with such speed, there’d be a danger of missing it altogether. That would indeed be an unforgivable omission, inadvertent or otherwise.  I’m not entirely sure if the guy in the pic is doing dynamic stretching or going for the ministry of silly walks accreditation, but either way, that’s an impressive up swing range of movement being demonstrated there.  Well done indeed!

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There was a fine parkrun flag in evidence, and a single stake, bedecked with trainer laces of possibly runners that never made it, or possibly runners that did.  In the former case the laces would stand as a memorial in perpetuity, in the latter they may have been added over time, like climbers add those  Tibetan prayer flags at various stages on the way up Everest.   Here at Temple Newsam I suspect there is less need to step over dead bodies and discarded oxygen tanks to get to your final destination I presumed, well, I hadn’t done the run yet.  I think the stake was called Albert, or possibly Alfred, but I couldn’t really get an explanation why.  It wasn’t Archie, that was a different news story all together.  That’s OK, I think it’s good to have some mysteries in life.  I like the idea of all the stories those laces could tell, miles run, places been, adventures shared.  Nice.

Hang on, nearly forgot, in case you are interested, the official course blah de blah pn the Temple Newsam parkrun website states:

Course Description
This is a 2 lap course. Starting at the benches near farm, at the start keep on the path towards the house then a right and left turn through the orchard towards the pathway down towards motorway,then turn left and following the gravel path into Charcoal Wood before turning left to complete the first of the two laps. Toward the end of the second lap runners turn right at the bottom of the hill following the path alongside the ponds before turning left to finish which is located by the lower set of benches from the start.

and it looks like this:

it looks like a sort of mis-shapen heart.  Maybe that is a consequence of tackling those ‘undulations’  I would find out soon enough.  The elevation was 255 ft according to my Strava, so that must be true.  Felt like more to be honest, but that’s partly because of the business with the hill surprise.

I ambled about, took some pics, tried to spot any other tourists.  Admired the kit boxes and the sunshine laid on especially for the parkrun occasion.

After a bit, a call went up for the first timers’ briefing, and I joined a merry throng who gathered together for the course low down.  I don’t think there was anyone at the briefing who was absolutely brand new to parkrun, which is a shame in a way as this would be an epic one with which to kick off your parkrun journey.  Friendly welcome, main thing is that it’s a two lap course, and you do start off up a steepish hill and past the house but you don’t have to do the hill twice.  Good oh.  There’s also a corresponding downhill section after the Pegasus trail (the what?) and that is actually more hazardous potentially.

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More milling and spilling, then the official run briefing.  Again, a friendly welcome, congratulations to milestone runners, some exchange of banter between regulars.  Milestone tabards were a feature here.  I do like a milestone tabard – they have milestone capes at some parkruns I gather, and  Leamington parkrunners get to rock milestone tabards too, I seem to recall.  Whatever manifestation it takes, I think it’s a nice touch, parkrunners sporting their milestone triumphs with appropriate pride!

The run briefing included a(n), to me cryptic, alert to look out for the surprise on the way round.  A surprise!  How exciting, but if not a regular how would I know what the surprise was?  Everything is a surprise if you are new.  Even things that aren’t inherently surprising still catch me unawares – like when they say ‘go’ or ‘off’ at the start of either parkrun or a an actual race and everyone starts running.  I seem to have amnesiac tendencies there, always forgetting there is an implicit expectation that at least some of those present will head off at a run and you too might reasonably be expected to be inclined to do the same.  I’m always astonished when the call goes up and everyone lunges off at a sprint… I was hoping it might be some sort of mythical creature – I’d seen signs for Fantastical Beasts on the way in, and someone had already mentioned Pegasus. If not an actual dragon, then maybe an animatronics one, either would be pretty cool.  How exciting!

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Failing that, my money was on something along the lines of a full brass band jumping out from behind the shrubbery like a Brassed Off flash mob. I’d seen photos of the Azaleas in full bloom on the official Temple Newsam parkrun Facebook page earlier – I thought they were rhododendrons to be honest, but apparently not.  We can all agree they were spectacular though, and definitely expansive enough to conceal a brass band, tubas, trombones, music stands and all… thinking about it, that was the most likely happening, and let’s be honest, there’s surely hardly a parkrun in the land that wouldn’t be improved by the addition of a brass band flash mob. Well maybe not improved inasmuch as all parkruns are perfect anyway, but it might just be the cherry on the already lavishly ices parkrun cake.  Couldn’t wait!

Azalea shot

Whilst I was distracted by such thoughts, ‘suddenly’ the shout went up for awf, and off indeed everyone went. Straight up that hill. Some with more of a spring in their step than others.  It was impressive sight, all those colourful runners streaming off ahead, lit by the bright sunshine and framed by the mighty house.

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So you scoot round the side of the house, and then it is down hill, and there is this avenue of hedging, which you find out at the end is the Pegasus path. Well, there’s  a huge tombstone like pillar with a sign on it, which is something of a clue.  It would have been better if Pegasus himself was there wearing a high-vis and giving high-fives, but he was away today, busy elsewhere I suppose.  I imagine spring would be the busy season for mythical winged divine stallions, shame, but you can’t guarantee these things will always be there at a particular parkrun.  All run by volunteers remember.  There’s a main route through the centre, but also some narrow side paths which some canny runners whizzed through, it’s not a short cut as such, but could operate as an overtaking lane perhaps.

Some of the shots were taken on the second lap – not too many people left running alongside me by that point, I’d like to think it was because I’d shot ahead, leaving them for dust, but we all know that isn’t strictly true. Who cares anyway?  parkrun is after all, a run not a race!  Impressive hedging don’t you think?

There is then a steeper descent, nothing too challenging, but it is a surprise after the steep uphill so I guess it would be easy to shoot off too fast and then it’s hard to control your pace and I wouldn’t fancy that in the ice.  Tree’s provided picturesque shade.  Basically, parkrun loveliness as far as the eye could see.  I wonder if Calamity Jane Capability Brown had a premonition about parkrun when he created his spaces?  The landscape certainly invites you to move through it and explore.

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It looked like someone had taken a tumble here, as there was a cluster of parkrunners surrounding a stricken fellow runner, offering reassurance and support.  I asked if help was needed, but it really wasn’t so I jogged on.

Towards the bottom of the hill you reach a junction and the potential for bikes as it looked like cycle paths crossed.  No worries, a cheery marshal was on hand to support, directionally point, motivate and no doubt act as bike/ runner mediator too should the need arise.  No surprises there.

So, you hook left, and through a gate, and then gentle roll on a compact path, along a fence line and again, I liked this bit.  You could see the runners in a line ahead, also reminiscent of prayer flags, all colourful and fluttering by.  Each on their own personal parkrun voyage of joy, discovery or exorcising demons.  That’s one of the things I love about parkrun it is very individual for each runner, but the act of taking part collectively, being in the same space feels to me to be both quite nurturing and powerful.  #loveparkrun See them go!  Cattle to the right, landscaping to the left.  Trees and greenery everywhere, nice.

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On this section, the parkrunner who’d done the briefings, and had also paused to help the fallen runner earlier on (that makes it sounds terminal!  I’m sure it wasn’t quite that bad, though it may be she returned to the start rather than ran on!) passed me.  Shouting encouragement as she did so.  This parkrun certainly had a nice friendly feel to it, quite a coup to have it as your home run methinks.

At the end of this long straightish, basically flat section, there was another friendly hi-viz hero to keep you on track, and prevent you going straight on and running to infinity and beyond, nice in theory, but not really sustainable in practise.

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Bit further on, and there’s another marshal, by a lake, and by some directional signage – presumably put there to prevent him from having to point in two different directions at once, which would add to rather than diminish confusion amongst runners.  This was welcome, but, no offence, not particularly surprising.

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Onwards, from here, on the first lap you do head on up a hill.  It is a gentle slope, barely discernable on the pictures, but it does rather build, more than you might expect.  You have been warned.  Looking back towards the marshal I’d just passed, you could see the faster runners who’d near enough lapped me, taking the lap 2 option towards the finish.

As you lumber up the hill, or sprint enthusiastically if you have been conscientious about doing your hill reps in training, you pass the finish.  I paused for long enough to see some of the runners coming in and capture the finish funnel team working their magic.

and then onward and upward.  Hang on a minute.  Upwards?  Weren’t we told very explicitly that you only did the hill once?  Oh gawd.  Maybe this was the surprise.  I’m definitely being required to do this steep bit for the second time this morning if I want to legitimately complete the parkrun, and to be fair, the briefer never said it was a pleasant surprise that we should be looking out for.  Oh well, bring it on.

Up the hill and past the house and through the Pegasus highway, and down through the tree lined path and past the marshal guarding the bike tunnels and keeping the underpass trolls at bay too no doubt.  All underpasses have trolls do they not?  Fact.  Thinking about it, maybe those things I took to be tree supports are actually markers for individual burials for those not agile enough to avoid the trolls on earlier runs?  Through the invitingly open gate and along the paths again.  It was quite meditative running, I was on my own for much of it, but you couldn’t get lost, and I liked being able to soak it all in, without comparing myself to other runners.  It was most fine.

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And then, like buses, it seems surprises don’t come when you are looking for them, but then three all turn up together unexpectedly, taking you completely unawares.  Who knew?

Surprise one:

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The lakeside marshal had acquired a dog!  This has happened to me before at a parkrun, when a marshal transforms their appearance between laps, conjuring delight and confusion in equal measure amongst those participants who chose to indulge in ‘spot the difference’. Happened at Conkers parkrun too – there a quick change expert marshal switches signs mid-run.  Very impressive.

Surprise two:

Oh right.  Of course, they meant that you don’t run up the entire hill twice, you skip the first two thirds of it second time round by turning off to the right on the second lap.  Still feel my confusion was understandable, but it was nice that my parkrun world was beginning to make sense again.

Surprise three:

It wasn’t his dog, he’d acquired it from a runner, I expect they were very surprised that that happened.  I concede this is a bit of a stretch surprise-wise, as it’s rather individualised, but you will understand the ‘three buses all at once’ analogy is ruined if I couldn’t complete the trio.  Bear with dear reader, bear with.

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I scampered off in the direction of the more manicured gardens, but not before I’d given a backward look and wave to runner behind me. He was very fast using poles, not so much nordic walking as nordic running – if that’s a thing.  I keep thinking I should try that properly I mean.  I did once, and it definitely redistributes your weight, but I didn’t find it intuitive, need to practice.  This gent was a great advert for them, fairly sprinting along.  I was going to try to catch him afterwards to ask him about them but the moment passed.  I just caught sight of him striding off into the distance once he’d finished, and didn’t have the necessary turn of speed to pursue him.  Also, that would have been a bit stalkerish methinks, so best not!

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Nearly done now. Couple of delays en route, first off, there was a moment of panic when I thought I was going to be swept up in what seemed to be some sort of Boot Camp as they were doing a high intensity exercise that had them darting across the parkrun route. This picture makes it all look like they are relaxing and chilled, they are not.  They are collapsed with exhaustion path side.  Impressive.

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Onwards, and the next distraction was the rhododendrons, which it turns out, are really difficult to photograph, especially if you are doing this when you are trying not to get too far off piste of your current parkrun.  The planting was really impressive, and the blooms in full expansive glory.  Honestly, I’ve always been a bit sniffy about rhododendrons as over-rated and a potential invasive pest species, but here, in the landscaped context and presumably expertly pruned to perfection they were really spectacular.  No wonder so many people were by now out and about clutching cameras and stalking the shrubbery in search of the perfect flower shot.

‘Suddenly’ you emerge from the woodland garden wonderland and the finish funnel is in sight. Yay.  Ubiquitous and friendly marshals cheered me in, and I was spat out the funnel and scanned in record time.  I retrieved my fleece (honestly, superfluous to requirements) that I’d left on the bench alongside the funnel, and went in search of photo ops of some who finished behind me, and the volunteer teams.

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I could see the surprise marshal making his way back, laden with signs, and, in due course, the dog was reunited with its original human companion.  Much tail wagging and yelping ensued, and that was just from the parkrunner.

The only outstanding tasks were then to try for an artistic location shot, so I started wrestling with the selfie board to achieve this:

Featured image Temple Newsam parkrun

The idea I like to think was sound, even if the execution teeters towards the disappointing end of the continuum.  The problem is with my arms, they just aren’t long enough to create quite the desired effect.

No worries, in other news, the surprise marshal came to my aid and captured the obligatory ‘parkrunner tourist in sign’ shot.  Hooray!  Also, thank you.

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It’s good being able to hide behind signage in photographs.  Really, I should aim to be more body confident, but honestly, I think it’s really important to learn to dress appropriately to make the most of your natural body shape.  I was therefore really delighted to find this advice on my Facebook news feed the other day.  That’s ‘what to wear’ sorted in perpetuity!

what to wear bikini

There’s more than enough body-shaming in the world without colluding with it right?  I’m still fuming at the tales from the back of the pack runners at London last month.

You did hear about that right?  (More accurately ‘wrong’).

Shame on London Marathon for the fiasco with the slower runners – still supposedly within the official cut off times – for their appalling treatment of them this year.  Hopefully, the pendulum will swing the other way for next year.  Even with the publicity, they seemed unable to hold their hands up, claiming only ‘a small number of runners were affected’ not the point surely.  I just wonder if they have such a slick pr machine they can get away with anything.  I did London last year and there was no water for more than half the course, and they seemed to be able to gloss over that too.  It was still an extraordinary experience, but a tarnished one, it just didn’t seem fair that those of us who were out the longest, and needed the water most not only didn’t get it, but were told we must have imagined all the empty and deserted water stations en route and having to nip off to the shops mid run to buy water in desperation!  It makes it even more amazing, inspirational and important that parkrun manages mostly to be inclusive, welcoming and encouraging to all.  If you want to feel even more parkrun love, check out the recent Jessica’s parkrun heroes videos on youtube video .  If they don’t make you feel you may have just got something in your eye then you must have a heart of stone!

Hope you took advantage of that link for a nice cathartic cry there, great for clearing the sinuses too, if you are suffering from either an early summer cold or the misery of hay fever.  Proof once again – if proof were needed – that parkrun is beneficial to the health. Hurrah!

Still, let’s keep things positive, we not only have parkrun to feel the running love whatever pace you take it, there are marathons out there that can get it right.  Here is one such story of the  back of the pack runners at Pittsburgh Marathon last week.

Pittsburgh marathon

They got there own super-charged cheer leaders too:

The pair even got their own raucous spectators. Pittsburgh’s Steel City Road Runners Club (SCRRC) hosts a cheer station near the 25 mile marker every year, Daniel Heckert, an SCRRC coach, told Runner’s World. While the group peaked around 30 people earlier that morning when runners were coming thick and fast, Heckert … and a half dozen SCRRC members were still there when the Mazur and Robertson ran by. “The six of us got as loud and as crazy as we could, because we wanted them to feel just as loved as the people who finished in four hours,” Heckert said. “That’s the whole point of what that cheer station is. It doesn’t matter if you’re first or last—the ones in the back of the pack are just as important as the person winning the marathon.”

You can get super-charged cheer leaders and often the same support at a parkrun near you, without having to complete a whole marathon, but kudos to you if you do.

So it was, Temple Newsam parkrun ended,  I said my slightly self-conscious thanks, confirmed with one of the marshals, that most definitely, the sun always shines at this parkrun, and then went to check out the cafe.  Dear reader, there was indeed a bargain breakfast for £3 veggie option.  Coffee wasn’t the best, but at that price, who’s complaining.  parkrun done and dusted, hi-vis back in the bag for next week and coffee and baps respectively quaffed and consumed, it was time to go.

Thank you lovely parkrunners of Temple Newsam, that’s a very fine venue and team you have there.  I got a lovely welcome and what a fantastic course.   I had no idea this place existed until a couple of days ago.  It is for me an unexpected bonus of parkrun tourism that you get to discover the most amazing places.  Hopefully I’ll be back some time soon, not sure when quite, it can be a surprise!  We all like them.  🙂

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For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though, and forward for new ones in time too, once there are some just so you know.  That’s amazing when you think about it, you’ll be able to travel in time.  Cool.  You won’t be able to alter the past as is always the way, but you can splash about in parkruns past with abandon.  You’re most welcome.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Wahey for Welcoming Wakefield Thornes parkrun. May the fourth be with you indeed!

Digested read: parkrun tourism had me wending my way to Wakefield Thornes parkrun today.  Don’t mind letting on that my old dressing gown went down a storm.  Hurrah.

Undigested read:  It’s a long one.  Get comfy or decide against reading on and get a life instead.  Either way, May the fourth be with you!

Special credit to Darren Williams, parkrun official photographer for the day who took some fab photos from which I’ve freely borrowed to enliven this post.  You could even follow him here, on instagram Myviews555 should the mood take you, but don’t go exploring that ’til you’ve finished here first!

Well, today was always going to be either Star Wars Day or, World Naked Gardening Day.

It was touch and go which way’d I’d jump, obviously, but in the end the Jedis had it. Well, you know parkrun is not to be missed or messed with lightly.  I need my parkrun fix to keep tipped towards the saner end of the continuum that takes in the wide spectrum of human existence.  Besides, it’s not only that my garden is overlooked and the temperature distinctly chilly, but also I tend to get contact induced allergic dermatitis if I garden in anything less than one of those forensic clean up boiler suits and over-sized eye guards.  Ideally, I’d garden wearing something like this (yes, of course it’s really me within!) but it really only works effectively if you have minions in abundance, in the manifestation of a whole army of under gardeners who can carry out your orders for you.  Those protective gloves don’t allow for a great deal of dexterity, more like the suits which allow you to mimic the symptoms of arthritis as an awareness raising training experiential training exercise.  Those weighted boots can be a bit challenging too –  so usually I end up having to go with a more light weight disposable option so I can still use my hands, alarmingly high doses of anti-histamine, and (alas) not an under gardener in sight.  Anyway, you can quite see why I won’t be doing any naked gardening any time, any place, soon.  World Naked Gardening Day not withstanding.

garden gear

Is that over-sharing?  Oh well.  Sorry-ish, though to be fair, if that disclosure makes you feel uncomfortable, be prepared for the fact I got waaaaay more inappropriate and disinhibited after parkrun was concluded, so consider yourself officially warned about the potential horrors that await you in this blog post should you choose to read on.  Bottom line, (oh, and it is a bottom that features later too in a pleasing bit of inadvertent blogging symmetry), what with the nip in the air and my propensity to come out in a raging and prolific rash  meant I wouldn’t be a pretty sight in any sense if I decided to embrace the naked gardening theme.  It also meant I would celebrate World Naked Gardening Day by going to Wakefield Thornes parkrun, dressed, and embracing the opportunity for a bit of light fancy dress. Yay!  Always a lure.

It wasn’t a given that I’d end up at Wakefield Thornes parkrun this morning though, I had also flirted with the idea of joining Gainsborough parkrun, as it was their 200th tpday, and they were trying to beat their record attendance – which they did, pleasingly.  However, my early research suggested it didn’t look like they were going down the fancy dress route – missed opportunity methinks, and I couldn’t help noticing their event begins with a G, and I’ve got loads of those, enough I’ve even completed the Stayin’ Alive Running Challenge, so it was perhaps inevitable that the Star Wars potential of Wakefield swayed me.

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Don’t worry, they had a great day apparently at Gainsborough, and beat their attendance record too.  However, it looks like the excitement was all a bit much for their event wheelie bin, which was overcome and collapsed with a fit of the vapours right at the finish line.  I hope its all right now.  I know all events have defibrillators, but I have no idea how useful they are for resuscitating municipal bins….  parkrun people are pretty amazing though, I’m sure they’ll have revived it somehow.  Congratulations parkrunners of Gainsborough!

Gainsborough parkrun

Otherwise, there was a tribute run for Little Stoke parkrun.  Bristol is a bit of a hike from Sheffield, so that was never going to happen, but it’s a nice idea though.  It pleases me that this homage continues.  Apparently, some of the refugees from the original Little Stoke parkrun, which was cancelled after a sorry spat with local councillors, who wanted to charge parkrunners for using the venue, do this each year.  I will resist the temptation to go too far down the worm hole of self-indulgent ranting about how sad and bad it is it had to close, but suffice to say why do some people not get that parkrunners ARE the local community and that’s what the spaces are for?  Of course there might be occasional conflicts of interest, but overall I would have thought a local parkrun revives local cafes, communities and green spaces.  Anyway, as is the tradition, a group returned for a run on the third anniversary of it finishing.  Nice that they continue to do that, though risky for anyone wanting to achieve their 50 parkruns in a year gold badge for their chrome extension running challenges.  They do this every year apparently.  Obviously, it would be much better if they had thought to run it in appropriate Star Wars themed fancy dress, but they still did fine work posing next to the deeply ironic running statue.  Good work parkrun people, good work indeed.  Nice height sequencing too.  All good.

little stoke parkrun tribute

Why Wakefield Thornes parkrun then?  Well why not?  But also, it has a W (good for my alphabet challenge) and is, apparently, my current ‘as the crow flies’ NENDY – Nearest Event Not Done Yet.  But the clincher, of course, was it looked like they were positively encouraging Star Wars themed fancy dress,  this boded well!  Bring it on!

may the fourth be with you

I would have liked to don fancy dress myself, but initially couldn’t see how I’d be able to conjure up anything in time, only making the decision to go there at the last minute – though that wouldn’t prevent me from appreciating the efforts of others.  Well, I say I couldn’t conjure up anything, but then it occurred to me late last night that actually, I do have a black dressing gown of sorts, and I can probably find a cardboard tube… how hard could it be to transform myself into a Jedi knight equipped with such versatile raw materials!

Went for rummage.

Ta da!  I hit the jackpot.  I found some brown parcel paper still in its cellophane wrap.  Obviously, generally I don’t approve of cellophane, single use plastic and all that, but in this instance, mightily practical, it’s basically a tube, only a water proof one, just hte little matter of putting my smiley buff at one end to create a handle and job done.  Definitely looked like a lightsaber!  Yep, swished pleasingly, and I could always enhance it with my own extra sound effects too.  It’s so convincing I probably ought to have a firearms licence for it!  I’ll risk it though, I will only use my Jedi powers for good, so it should be fine.

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I fondly imagined I’d be a shoo in for a prize if there was one for best fancy dress – unless they felt obliged to disqualify me thinking I must have been exploiting contacts within the George Lucas Star Wars franchise to enable me to engineer such convincing props.  I would have liked to have gone as Chewbacca by way of tribute to the recently deceased Peter Mayhew, but that would have been harder to pull off, and anyway, I don’t like to draw undue attention to my excess facial hair, so another time maybe… RIP Chewy, it’s sad.  Is it bad that I’m genuinely wondering which mug shot they’ll use on the order of service for his funeral?  I know which I’d opt for.

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I was at a funeral recently where somebody commented the buffet was so good it was ‘to die for‘.  ‘Well, that’s lucky‘ I said, inappropriately.  I wish I could develop the skill of not just always saying out loud what’s going on in my head, but then again, sometimes if you are handed an open goal you just have to take a shot at it.  It’s like the tale of the scorpion and the frog, some things are just in our nature and really can’t be changed, we give into the impulse even when it is self-destructive and our undoing.  Hey ho. Oh well.  Worse things happen at sea – apparently.  Who really knows?

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep last night so buzzing was I with all that anticipatory excitement…. Still, fancy dress nailed, my next job was to check out the course. Whilst running wise, ignorance is often bliss, this has to be balanced against the ‘forewarned is forearmed’ bit of the equation.  Don’t want to get caught out on any more cross country courses for a while longer yet!  Well, the course blah de blah on the website was dizzying in its comprehensiveness, but also completely bewildering.  I asked for insight from fellow parkrun tourists on one of many Facebook parkrun groups and got an hilariously plausible observation from one:

Suffice to say its the only parkrun I’ve done where I was so disorientated that I had no idea where I’d parked the car!

Fortunately, as a slower runner, I am confident I can just follow everyone else.  That will get me round, but I might need to drop breadcrumbs behind me to help me back to the car park afterwards.  In case you’d like a little looksie the course map looks like this – I presume you just do it all once… :

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and the course blah de blah is described on the Wakefield Thornes parkrun website thus:

The course is contained within the three parks; Clarence, Holmfield and Thornes Parks. The course itself is not entirely flat; the highest point is the top of the hill, just above the Changing rooms, opposite Wakefield College Campus Car Park. The lowest is the southern boundary of the parks which runs parallel to Thornes and Denby Dale Roads.
The start is just above the Changing rooms, almost in the centre of the park, at the top of the main drive which runs to the former Thornes House. Runners will go down the drive then turn left at Stork Lodge Café on towards the Holmfield Arms (Premier Inn Wakefield Central).
Just after the Ticket Pavilion on the cycle track runners double back along the southern boundary back towards Stork Lodge Café Car Park. The adjacent Cark Park will be in use and therefore be aware particularly of moving cars and stick to the marked course. Having passed the lake and aviary you now take in a clockwise circuit of the former Thornes House before joining a cycle track and the main drive to return you to the Changing Rooms.
At the changing rooms you are directed to head back down hill, running with the tree line on your left-hand side and parallel to the main drive. You head straight for the Play Area and join a tarmac path leading towards the miniature railway where you will turn right and run parallel to Lawefield Lane. Head uphill, once again keeping the tree line on your left-hand side, clockwise around the Football pitches and towards Chestnut Lodge. From the Lodge you go east, parallel to Park Ave and then south parallel to Denby Dale Road (A636) and to where it meets Chestnut Walk. You will be directed uphill along Chestnut Walk to complete a clockwise loop of the Clarence Park arena. Just before Chestnut Lodge you will complete a ‘cross country stretch’ across the parkland towards the Changing Rooms.
Turning left, with the College Car park on your right-hand side and then left again you turn back up the main drive towards the start. Runners will go a little way down the drive for a second time towards Stork Lodge Café but turn sharp right on to the red-brick track. You head downhill to the aviary turn left and the finish at the side of the Car Park beyond the lake.

I decided it was best to wilfully ignore the reference to a ‘cross country stretch across parkland’.   I saw no alternative.  I liked the idea of heading towards a miniature railway.  Fondly hoping it would be like the Wallace and Gromit train chase one:

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So it was that today, parkrun day on May the fourth was promising to be especially epic!

I woke early this morning, no surprise there.  I hoiked on my running gear, donned my dressing gown Jedi robe and clutching my lightsaber scrutinised the overall effect in the mirror.  Full length mirrors are not my friend.  It’s not so much that I particularly want to change any one feature of my body, more that I’d like to change the culture in which it is so harshly judged.  Today though, I decided my cow cowl looked silly round my neck, bit yellow, so I swapped the smiley buff on the lightsaber for my tourist buff, way better.  The overall effect was striking!  Bound to get a pb with the super powers with which the Jedi knowledge would endow me!  I am indeed magnificent!

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How exciting.  I’m sure my neighbours didn’t find it at all odd that I appeared to be driving off in the early morning still wearing my night attire.  If they did, they were too polite to mention it, which is the main thing.  Well, not to me directly, maybe to each other, it is the British way.  Anyway, they already think I’m a bit odd, as I keep making any of them who make eye contact with come and look at how my tadpoles are developing. That’s not even a euphemism, I have actual tadpoles in my garden pond and I couldn’t be prouder if I’d spawned them myself!  (Which I didn’t by the way).  There are no scorpions native to the UK (though there is a now naturalised colony of escapees in Kent apparently) so they should be safe from risking their lives by feeling obligated to carry them over water courses once they have fully metamorphosed into frogs.  This is good to know too.  The newts might get them whilst they are still tadpoles of course, but there isn’t an Aesop’s fable based on that subject matter as far as I know.

Where was I?  This happens a lot, you dear reader, distracting me with extra questions.  Oh yes, I remember.  I headed off to Wakefield, using their satnav WF2 8TY.  It was an easy drive out from Sheffield, probably took about 50 minutes, I arrived stupidly early as always.  The satnav takes you past the entrance, but what you are looking for is this:

You drive in, and there is a biggish car park to the left (free parking, yay) and the sports centre stadium to the right, which looks like this:

That’s grand, but what was less grand, was trying to locate evidence of parkrun activity.  Not to worry, I needed to get my pre parkrun precautionary pee in anyway.  Now, dear reader, there was an embarrassment of riches precautionary pee wise here, but also an embarrassment in my ability to correctly utilise them.

Venue one, I headed for the signed ‘public toilets’ which were to the right of the main entrance of the stadium.  The door was unlocked (good) but when I went in, the door slammed behind me and I was in total darkness, it felt like being trapped in a lift, or worse, a metal box styled panic room.  I waved my arms around hopefully, in case it was one of those motion activated lighting systems, but nothing. I even briefly considered trying to negotiate the facilities in the dark, clawing my way round the walls like unwise minor characters do when trapped in pitch black tunnel systems in horror films – but quickly thought the better of it, that would surely end badly.  Makes you think, it must be a bit of a nightmare encountering new facilities if you are visually impaired, the lay out wasn’t at all obvious.  Instead, I decided to brave reception in the stadium centre.  I went to explain about the lack of lighting and ask if I could use their loos instead.  Turns out, there was no light in the ladies loos, because they’d not turned those on yet. However, I was welcome to use their inside facilities.  This is great, an upgrade, they were super friendly too, directing me to the ladies changing rooms.

Despite the lack of topiary lining the way – something to which I’d like to become accustomed after last week’s sojourn to Osterley parkrun – the facilities were pretty good.  Lockers, showers, no queue.  Weird poster though:

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Now, why would you have that in the women’s changing rooms?  Where is the ‘power’ for a woman pictured standing behind a man, what message is that trying to convey?  To be fair, it’s probably not trying to convey anything, they just haven’t given it one iota of thought, but bit of feedback, that’s not a very aspirational or motivational image as far as I’m concerned.  Is that what the marketing department for bodypump power workouts think women aspire to do?   Does that represent ‘power’ in any sense for any woman anywhere?   To be pushed to the back of the class by men, literally on the sidelines of the action but presumably expected to be grateful as they can from there swoon at the biceps of the man in the foreground.  Only young, fit, white people do bodypump apparently.  So depressing.  Oh well, praise be for the inclusivity of parkrun, but it’s no wonder so many are turned off exercise with promotional materials like that to contend with in the women’s changing rooms ffs!  I wouldn’t have been so wound up if it wasn’t in the female changing rooms, is that the best they can come up with.  I despair!   Still, at least it didn’t say ‘girls’ on the door, that I really hate, don’t get me started on that…  Thankfully, the staff, who are the real gate keepers to these facilities, were fantastically friendly and welcoming.  It was an extraordinary poster though, it felt like going back in time.

I used to like body combat too – ooh the stories I could tell you about that.  The time our steroid fuelled instructor lost his temper so much he threw all his kit on the floor and stormed out was as nothing to his more general propensity to stand directly in front of you demanding that you tried to punch him in the face. It was quite cathartic and hilarious at the time, but does seem somewhat dysfunctional and unhealthy in retrospect.  On reflection, I think he may have had some ‘issues’.  He was always just on the cusp of an explosive meltdown.  And thinking about it, the acne, the disproportionate muscle size, the volatility and constant loss of control, hmmm, maybe not all was well.  It’s amazing what you can see but not notice if you aren’t expecting to see it.  Tell, me honestly, if you have ever done body combat, did your instructor set up any exercises with the spiel ‘so visualise someone you really hate, I mean really h.a.t.e. HATE, now grab their head, and smash it down on you knee, and KEEP. ON. SMASHING. IT!’  I’m thinking probably not.  Did add a certain frisson of excitement to the class though, not condoning it obviously, but what larks eh, what larks.  I’ve honestly never been fitter in my life.

Enough of these distractions – I did what was necessary, exited and …. found myself in a completely unknown world.  What the?  How was this possible.  Instead of being back in reception I was now alongside some sort of indoor sports court, with that distinctive musty smell of several thousand sweaty kits left to mature there over many years.  A perplexing parallel universe, what sorcery was this?  Had I teleported?  Had I been abducted?  Could I really not navigate my way out of the female changing rooms?  Spoiler alert, seems I really couldn’t navigate my way out of the female changing rooms…. twice.  I think it’s because that blooming poster left me feeling so disempowered.  It’s the only plausible explanation.  Nobody is that lacking in life skills and lives beyond a half century surely?

Is this the confusion Mr Benn used to experience exiting the changing rooms in the fancy dress shop I wonder?  You know, he’d put on the costume of choice, and next thing he knew, he’d be living that reality in a parallel universe the other side of the changing room door.  Mind you, I think he chose the costumes, so there was an element of at the very least contributory negligence in where he ended up, even if there was an element of surprise because he wasn’t quite sure exactly what destinations and adventures the donned outfits might lead too.

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I checked my outfit anxiously, in case I found I was donned in hockey kit or something equally fear inducing, but it was OK, I was still just me.  What had happened though?  I was completely confused.  The worst of it is the changing rooms aren’t even particularly vast.  I went back in… and came out again, same thing.   Well, logically it would be, I’d used the same door.  I know I don’t have an especially advanced sense of direction, but this was a new low.  I actually had to methodically search the changing rooms to locate the original door I’d come in through, like I was doing a bespoke challenge in the crystal maze. Well how was I supposed to know it had two entrances/exits front and back and notice it even when they were hidden round corners?  Stupid changing rooms.   I freely concede based on this evidence I might not be anyone’s companion of choice in a post-apocalypse survival situation, but then again, if you were being followed and needed to shake off a tail, I’m your woman.  If I can’t predict where I’m going or follow any particular mapping logic, no-one would be able to track me were I on the run.  Also, I have perfected the act of smashing heads on my knee, in theory…  but actually, I don’t really want to survive any Apocalypse if it’s all the same to you, so I wont be putting that into practice unless the provocation is really extreme.  Shouting at a volunteer marshal when it’s you who has forgotten your barcode might push me over the edge, that, and dropping litter oh and fly tipping would definitely do it, but for the most part I’m placid and more inclined to go with passive aggressive retrospective tutting. You have been warned.  Jedi super powers are no substitute for a printed barcode either apparently 🙂  Thanks Tim Michael.  Good to know, in case May the Fourth should fall on a Saturday again!

Tim michael parkrun cartoon

Mind you, didn’t bode well for finding the start of Wakefield Thornes parkrun, let alone navigating the course.  Bread crumbs weren’t going to cut mustard for finding my way back here, I wish I’d thought to bring along a few kilometres of string with me instead.

which way now

I eventually composed myself sufficiently to manage to exit the way I’d come in, and affected nonchalance as I strode authoritatively (faking it to make it) past reception once again waving thanks as I did so.  I was inwardly cringing, my inner voice screaming at me ‘they know you know, they’ve probably been watching you perplexed on CCTV‘  They hadn’t though.   They were nice and helpful and even if they had noticed, it was objectively hilarious to have had not one, but two trapped in the toilet block interior experiences within minutes of one another.  I have form on this.  I once got trapped in some toilets at my local railway station as a 14 year old.  I was there for almost an hour and resorted to hanging from a grill in the cubical screaming to the outside world that I needed rescuing.  That wasn’t a good day… enough of these negative thoughts, today was going to be epic!  I’m sure that I wouldn’t have got so lost if they’d had topiary to line the entrances though, you need landmarks to find your way home ask any bee.

Oh well, next challenge, find the start.  There were teasing signs of parkrun paraphernalia placement in the proximity but no hi-viz heroes in sight.  Where were they hiding?

Bit thin on Jedi knights too, but seeing as I’d made the effort, I tried not to let that deter me from sticking with the programme as planned.  My dressing gown and parcel paper tube lightsaber were coming with me, appropriate or not!  After all, doesn’t the parkrun code stipulate you should respect the right of parkrunners to participate in their own way.  What could be more natural than striding to the start of parkrun clutching a roll of brown parcel paper wearing a dressing gown.  No-one will even notice.

I accosted someone to ask for directions, but she turned out to be another tourist, so we agreed to try and locate the start  together.  I retrieved my robe and lightsaber from the car and then we were directed by other runners, the start area is basically straight ahead, up a hill and along a solid tarmac path.  It’s a fair old walk from the Thornes Park Stadium to the start, you need to allow maybe 10 minutes or so, though we did actually pass another, nearer car park en route, so that could be another option.  Looked like more loos there too, don’t know how likely you would be to get lost in those though, didn’t want to risk finding out.

As we summited the brow of the hill, a load of colourful parkrunners came into view.  I love this bit, when it’s all new and familiar at the same time.  Lots of people in little groups, chatting with one another, stretching, catching up.

It was then I spotted someone else in fancy dress.  You know that feeling when you thought you’d made a bit of an effort managing to improvise something and you suddenly come to appreciate what really making an effort looks like?  Well, respect to this team with their own space craft!  It was AWESOME.  Such a show stealer, barely noticed yoda in the background.  Serious respect though.  It was fully functional too – you should have seen the speed at which it covered the ground.  A.Maz.Ing.

Only thing, wasn’t quite sure of how this would work health and safety wise?  It was a well run parkrun though so they must have done some sort of a risk assessment about what would happen if runners were caught in the fire stream of the jet engines as the ship rocketed ahead.   Anyway, small price to pay, there are loads of parkrunners now, and sacrifices sometimes have to made for the greater good, perhaps a bit of a cull now and again to keep the numbers manageable is no bad thing.  Plus, you don’t really argue with someone operating one of those, not if you expect to live to tell the tale!

Other particularly fine star wars day tributes included this canine caperer who was called SOLO.  How apt is that.  I’m not entirely sure if he was procured especially for this occasion, but I like to think so.

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Then there was a pleasing scattering of others who’d got into the spirit.  Star wars vests, some loud speakers were wheeled out, blasting out the Star Wars theme tune  – quite a party atmosphere.  A few Jedi knights jousted and chased about in mock fights, the atmosphere was building well!  One thing though, my it was chilly in that wind.  It was a fair old arctic blast laying into us at the top of the start hill.  Glad I’d got my dressing gown with me as a bit of a wind break.  You know, I might start wearing a dressing gown to all my parkruns in future.  Now I understand the thinking by the tough mudder tent cape thing dry robe thingamajigs, they must be super roasty toasty within, I’m surprised those thrill seekers haven’t thought to keep them on on the way round, it would be a much more comfy experience tackling the arctic enema from within one of those creations surely?

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Some people of course had gone the extra mile, I know parkrun tattoos are a thing now but I’m impressed people got extra themed ones just for today, I conceded my own efforts were positively pitiful by comparison, but hey ho, showed willing.  Check these out though, definitely raising the bar!

If you are going to go to all that effort, it’s good to know you can preserve tattoos after your death.  What could be a more treasured memento for your bereaved loved ones than your skinned hide displayed in a frame on the living room wall in perpetuity?*  That’s my gag reflex nicely triggered, each to their own though.  For those as like that sort of thing, it’s the sort of thing that they would like.

There was still a bit of time for milling about and I tried to get some shots.  My camera is playing up, maybe I’ve got some moisture in the lens, it’s disappointing as it’s a new camera but it just doesn’t take great shots, I wouldn’t buy it again.  It’s a Fuji compact tough one though, so it’s pretty much unbreakable, which is good.  Never mind, you’ll get a sense of the atmosphere, and if you want better quality images you’ll have to go and check it out for yourself!  Or, to be fair, you could browse the album of epic shots taken by the volunteer photographer at Wakefield Thornes parkrun today, Darren Williams’s ‘May the fourth be with you’ album.   They are quite brilliant and really capture the occasion, thank you Mr Photographer.  So whichever option takes your fancy really.  The volunteer team suddenly appeared as if from nowhere, and runners congregated in the start funnel.

Next stop, first timers’ briefing.  Fair few of us, some relatively local – Barnsley for one, but also, someone from Ottawa!  How impressive is that.  Hope they had a good time, then again how could they not!   So, the main point to register here, is that the first timers briefer had the best briefs ever!  Some star wars themed ones hoiked over his running tights.  I’m presuming they were donned especially for the occasion, but of course it might be that he wears then every week, and why wouldn’t you?  They were splendid!  It was a good welcome, ‘a long way to go, in a parkrun far away‘ and we were advised that yep, basically the course is really complicated, but don’t sweat it (well, you might sweat through the excursion of running, but not because of the potential of going wrong) as they’ve never (knowingly) lost anyone yet, so just go with the crowd.  Fair enough, that works for me.  I asked about etiquette for overtaking – this is a keep left course, and once underway you realise that’s actually really important, because there are a fair few sections where runners are going in both directions on the paths, keeps you on your toes though!

Where was I?  What next.  Oh yes, run directors briefing.  She stood her ground atop the hill and against the elements.  It was a lovely friendly welcome.  Milestones were acknowledged; London marathon runners congratulated; donations for Wakefield junior parkrun requested; London marathon medal held aloft; volunteers thanked – congratulations to Lily on the occasion of her 25th volunteering  … and to conclude, a rousing chorus of happy birthday, I think to Tom. Yay.  It was a really good atmosphere, this would be great for your local parkrun I think, it had a good vibe.  They had a signer too, which reminded me this is the local for a fellow parkrunner I met doing some tourism together with another mutual friend at Doncaster parkrun.  What a small parkrun world eh?  That was absolutely ages ago, back in Autumn 2018 I think, how time flies?  

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Eventually, briefing concluded and the shout went up to ‘go’ and for a bit nothing happened, as I was quite far back and it is quite congested in the start.  The path has sloping sides, so you don’t really want to deviate from it too much.  This never bothers me as I’m happy to pootle along at the back, but if you were going for a time it would make sense to position yourself nearer to the front.

Off we went, and lawks a lordy, I have no idea how to describe the route.  It’s a bit of a blur.  You do drop down the hill on a tarmac path, and apart from being a bit crowded that was fine.   There was the official photographer in situ, Darren Williams, and he took some epic action shots, though not of me, probably a blessing, but check these out, I’ve chosen those who have gone for the Star Wars themes, inexplicably it seems more men have Star War t-shirts and lightsabers than women.  How bizarre?  Some joyful runners all around though, yay!

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At the bottom of the path, there is a right angle turn, and some temporary fencing through which you could just about make out the runners ahead already cornered

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a hard-working marshal shouted out ‘good morning runners‘ and ‘keep left‘ as we all stampeded down towards her.  The warning was timely.  You really did need to keep left, as very soon, faster runners were storming back along the same path, you do a weird sort of out and back. Also, for future reference, this really ought to have been an audience/ parkrunner participation chant.  Bit like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, regulars now how to interact appropriately.  Too late I heard a responding chant of ‘good morning’ and an echo of ‘keep left’, I did say thank you though, and I’ll know for next time.

The returning runners came at a fair old lick, and I quite liked being able to see them in action, storming round.  You can see how you enter a more formal bit of park here.  The route actually takes you through three different parks apparently, but I got completely confused about which was which and where I was.  Definitely best to just live in the moment for this one!

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However, it’s no wonder my times never get any faster, because, at the end of this section, there’s a little turn around triangle, where you get great views of many of the other runners.  It’s good fun, highly social.  I saw my friend Solo again for example, and Yoda, and the woman with the 100 balloon.  Plus I got a glimpse of the tail walker – who appeared to be carrying round a bag of shopping with her, which is completely understandable.  One slight issue with this course is that as the start and finish are in quite different places there isn’t really anywhere to leave your stuff, so if you did get your groceries pre run, you’d have little choice but to lug them round with you.  Worth keeping in mind if that is your pre-parkrun thing.

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So, back the way we came, past cheering and cheery marshals,

and then we went past a lake (nobody fell in) and through some wooded bits, and then was that the aviary?  It must have been the aviary.  A fieldy bit, wait, what are those graves of parkrunners that didn’t make it?  What’s that about? Past a secret garden (which wasn’t altogether secret on account of the fact it had a sign directing you to its entrance) and braced ourselves as we clambered back up the hill past the track into gusting winds, and then by the skate board park – glancing to admire the jumps going on there – and past the marshal

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and then what cruel trick is this?  No, not straight ahead, following the runners you can see clearly directly back in front of you, but sharp right, back up the hill, round a tree and back to where you came from and then you get to run ahead.  The route is hilarious.  Good luck if you tried this as a freedom run, free of marshals and any sense of logical direction at all! I enjoyed the seeming randomness of it all, it keeps it interesting, though I wonder if the sharp turns and literal u-turns might slow down faster runners.  Excellent directional pointing from the marshals though, I would have been literally lost without you all!

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All very entertaining.  Didn’t see the train though, but did get to see more runners coming back the other way.

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Whilst I may have missed the train, there were plenty of other unexpected sights to behold.  An actual amphitheatre, if you fancied doing a bit of spontaneous oratory on the way round – which of us hasn’t felt that itch on a parkrun before, but until now, been unable to scratch it?  There was also a fair ground and some fairly spectacular old fountain features to name but a few:

All scattered between bits of green, wooded loveliness, with sunshine overhead and bluebells alongside.  Not at all bad as venues go, not bad at all.

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There is a lot of backtracking on this course.  So it was, that somehow I found myself going back up the hill to the start point, and the inevitable, if somewhat dispiriting sight of other runners who’d already finished, walking back to their cars, or to the main stadium entrance at least.  Most offered up smiles or words of encouragement, and the big plus is, you basically get a down hill finish, always a boon.  Also, I liked to pretend that actually, I had more stamina, because I was still running (sort of) whilst they’d had to lapse back into a walk.  I’ll overlook the more obvious conclusion of ‘well of course they are walking, they have finished, whereas you are still out there in the parkrun wilderness, heaving yourself round‘, no need to dwell on inconvenient truths and spoil the parkrun love.

and finally, the finish funnel, the other side of a tree in full blossom.  Where you could whoop through the tunnel and be scooped up by hi-viz heroes in all their loveliness.

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I took some photos of the parkrunners who came in behind me.

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It’s harder than you think taking photos of runners.  Here are the volunteer photographers shots, they are intrinsically epic obviously, but will be thrown into even sharper relief and generate even louder oohs and aahs when they are seen in contrast to my own humble offerings.  No, don’t patronise me, the camera never lies.  The truth is self-evident, and welcome too, these are fabulous shots from Darren Williams again –  they really capture the occasion. Hurrah!

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Good to see the tailwalker made it back with her shopping ok, and was welcomed in by the team.

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Whilst waiting for her arrival, I got chatting to the friendly Star Wars brief wearing guy who did the first timers’ briefing.  That’s not why is called that though, whilst people who do the first timers’ briefing are super heroes, it’s not an actual requirement that you wear your pants outside your leggings to deliver it.  Turns out he was not just one of the core team, but the event director so that was really interesting, hearing a bit about how the course was chosen. Also, emboldened by our chit chat, I was able to proposition him for a decent bottom shot. Well, those briefs needed documenting, and he acquiesced, so that’s not completely inappropriate is it?  Borderline maybe, but just shows, sometimes brazening things out is the way to go.  Plus, he did say people are always asking for shots of it, so maybe he’s a bit desensitised to that?   Anyway, here you go, the money shot of a brazenly briefed bottom:

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Then I left the team being busy and important, doing course stand down and results processing and all of the bells and whistles behind the scenes that keeps the parkrun show on the road at venues worldwide:

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and set about finding my way home.

Erm, well, it wont be a total surprise to you to learn that I probably didn’t go back via the most direct route, but I did have a lovely time.  I checked out the gravestones – they weren’t for parkrunners, unless those parkrunners were either canicross ones or an actual mouse.  Really a mouse?  Probably another companion animal known as Mouse I’m guessing, but short of digging it up who can say?  Can’t believe I didn’t get a shot of the headstone saying ‘My Mouse’ but you can go and find it for yourself.  It must have been a HUGE mouse as it was the biggest headstone.  I wonder if it was acquired in the same way people naively take on micropigs.  ‘Yes, yes, of course it’s a mouse‘, the ‘mouse’ seller said, handing over a cute infant capybara encircled in a pod of comfycosy nest material.  That would make a terrible pet, did you know they are highly social and typically live in groups of around 20 and are from South America?  Well you do now.  Main thing is, they are big, relatively speaking, weighing up to 66 kg which may not mean anything to you if like me you grew up with imperial measurements, but is clearly a great deal heavier than your average mouse.  It would explain things I think.

I then continued my explorations, and contemplated the various bits of sporting equipment built into the landscape.  I like that the park has these wooden exercise stations, but again was perplexed that the images were all white men, surely there is more unisex signage available these days, it’s like women are invisible in the sports signage here, so bizarre.  Who are the firms that come up with these signs.  Mind you, didn’t fancy having a go at what looked like a DIY crucifixion station, that seems a) extreme and b) unlikely to be beneficial to health.  Hang on, maybe they really are serious about culling the park users here!  It does make you wonder.

I took a detour into the secret garden, there were loads of cool things within, an actual dragon, some medieval masonry and some ace views.  Nice.  All the more so for being unexpected.  The only problem is, I now want a full size dragon in my garden, and what with that and my new taste in topiary I’m not sure my horticultural budget is going to be entirely in line with my horticultural aspirations.  It’s a worry, that, and the fact I have no idea what I’m doing in the garden most of the time.

Then I came back a rather circuitous route,

but you know what, there was an unexpected bonus in that because look what I found.  No, not that annoying man again, but this rock:

That’s right.  A rock!  Not just any old rock, but a rock with spots on it and a sign of ‘hope’.  How fantastic is that. This was a Love on the rocks Wakefield rock and I have taken it away to rehide in Sheffield, probably Graves park somewhere at Graves junior parkrun tomorrow.  I like the optimism of the painted rocks thing.  It brings hope indeed!

Just a question of skirting round the skatepark:

and left wondering about what is it with trainers on a wire?  The world is full of mystery and wonder.

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There you go then, Wakefield Thornes parkrun done and dusted.  This was a treat, I really enjoyed the course, though it is erm, let’s go with idiosyncratic.  Super friendly, good facilities.  I’m not sure about the post-run coffee options, I get the impression people scatter a bit as there was no obvious cafe in the parks themselves.  On the website they say encouragingly

Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in the Holmfield Arms – please come and join us!

and I don’t doubt the invitation is sincere, though I’m not sure where that is and whether it was walkable from the finish, I presume so.  I didn’t ask, as I needed to get back to Sheffield, I’ll save that pleasure for another time.  So yep, would definitely recommend, and certainly encourage you to wear fancy dress whether it’s a specified fancy dress occasion or not, I’m sure you’d be made more than welcome.

Can’t be quite so confident how you’ll be received as naked gardeners, but they seem a tolerant and inclusive bunch, so why not.  Anyway, what’s the point of having a secret garden on the course if you can’t disport yourself with abandon as you wish?  These fine people may not be doing a great deal of actual gardening, but they are having a lot of actual fun.

I see plenty of parallels with my parkrun experiences.  To the untrained eye, I may seem not to be doing an awful lot of actual running, but it’s all glorious all the same.  Also, I often run in the buff.  My cow cowl buff, or my Smiley paces buff, or my woodrun buff, lots of buff running.

So thank you once again parkrunners in general and Wakefield Thornes parkrunners in particular for laying on a splendid and forceful (see what I did there) event.  Thanks too to Darren Williams as volunteer photographer, for taking fab pics on little sleep I gather, and capturing the parkrun magic.   I hope to be back again for the next in the series in due course.  My Jedi powers didn’t quite kick in to get me to the finish in record time, but at least I got my money’s worth on the way round.  Always a consideration.

🙂

*Please note, this is a rhetorical question, the actual answer to which should be self-evident but in case you are in any doubt is ‘almost anything

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though, and forward for new ones in time too, just so you know.

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

Oooh, Oh-stonishing Osterley parkrun

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Osterley parkrun.  I went in search of an ‘O’ and discovered an ooooooooooh!

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Undigested read:

Well, that was unexpected.

Events have again taken me away from Sheffield and down south again.  I was seeking a different parkrun to take in some tourism at a new venue, done Kingston and Bushy parkrun already.  Bushy parkrun is obviously especially epic, but you know, seen the unicorns and rainbows there a fair few times and felt like I ought to check out some of the other local options this time round.  I was initially contemplating heading out to the Old Dear Deer Park parkrun, because that sounded lovely and is relatively near to where I am staying.  However, and I hope this doesn’t sound too ungracious, when I read the blurb for it on their parkrun page I was put off by fear of having to drive through Kingston on a Saturday morning to get there. I’m a scaredy cat what with the sheer volume of traffic and the mysterious hieroglyphics of its one-way systems – though I do have a particular soft spot for the falling phone boxes sculpture.  Always loved that.  You know the one I mean?  You don’t?  That’s terrible, you’ve missed out, let me google that for your…. here you are:

 

Love it!  I’d rather have functional phone boxes, but if we can’t any more I’m glad they’ve been preserved thus.  In the olden days when we used slide rules at school, had to endure the test card waiting for the TV to come on I always used to carry a 2d coin with me in case you needed to phone for help, and dear reader, it doesn’t seem all that long ago I had to use the red phone box on the corner to phone the fire brigade when my next door neighbour’s flat caught fire!  I know, I’m a living, breathing oral history project just waiting to be discovered…  anyway, you’ve distracted me, begging to know about the telephone boxes, where was I? Oh yes, debating parkrun options.

The other off-putting aspect of the Old Deer Park parkrun  was that further investigation of the route left me horrified to find it is basically three loops on grass that looks suspiciously like playing fields.  I’m still traumatised by having to run round a field at the start of Penistone parkrun last weekend, and it feels a bit too soon to subject myself to the twin trauma of humiliating flashbacks to both school sports days and my more recent misguided foray into cross country running.  (Ask yourself not ‘how hard can it be?’ but ‘honestly, why would you?’). I’m sure the Old Deer Park parkrun is delightful, and I will do it, but not for me this time round, too close in time to other XC type running scenarios. Hmm, what to do?  The thing is, when I stumbled on it on the events list, I was swayed a bit by the handiness of it starting with the letter ‘O’.  I’ve got the game-changing running challenges chrome extension thingymajig, and so I know I lack this for my parkrun alphabet.  Actually, I lack loads of letters, I’ve got hardly any, but I do know that the O s are hard to come by.  Hence, whilst I’m only half-halfheartedly pursuing that particular challenge – to complete a parkrun beginning with each letter of the alphabet apart from X because that isn’t currently an option –  the prospect of securing an ‘O’ was definitely appealing.  Hmm, so how to weigh up the pro of getting an ‘O’ against the con of reliving the humiliation of a cross country run?

The solution was to find another ‘O’ parkrun in striking distance, and so it was I came across Osterley parkrun.  Never heard of it, but it was only about 12 miles away from where I am staying, didn’t require going through Kingston traffic so why not.  My decision was made.  Some classy photos too on their Facebook page too hmm, looking grand.

Oh hang on, you probably want to know about the course blah de blah.  According to the Osterley parkrun website the course is described thus:

This is a 2 lap course on firm paths which starts and finishes in front of the mansion house.

Oh.  Concise certainly.   Somewhat minimalist, but not sounding too much like a cross country course.  Accurate too, now I’ve done it, but it really doesn’t quite convey the totality of the Osterley parkrun immersion experience.  Nor do the maps of the route, though they offer up a few teasers I suppose.  Proximity to the M4 isn’t an obvious selling point perhaps, but there’s a fair bit of green and blue boding well…

 

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I’d find out soon enough.

After the heat wave of last weekend, it was distinctly chilly, blustery and wet on rising this Saturday.  I left ridiculously early in case of hitting London traffic, and driving down cherry tree lined roads had my windscreen ferociously battered by blossom brought down by the winds.  I’ve never previously thought of cherry blossom as potentially endangering life, but it was unrelenting, a veritable pink-out of petals impeding my vision.  I’ve not had such an unexpected alarming blossom related experience since the eighties, when I was helping a friend move house and accidentally moved her set of five foot paper hyacinths into the wrong house.  I so wish I had a photo of them, they were magnificent, but this was the olden days when to take a photo you had to use film that came in a roll of 12 pictures and you had to take it to the chemist to be developed so really, just never took any.   It was an honest mistake, could have happened to anyone after all, what household doesn’t have to transport five foot paper hyacinths that are a prop from an Ibsen* play every time they move house?  The thing is, seeing as how you are asking.  I’d gone on ahead so I could stuff my car (an 850cc mini called the Jolly Titanic – not got a photo of her either) as much as possible, and she was going to walk on round behind me.

When I got to the house, the front door was open, and I could hear the other tenants moving about so I just moved everything into the hallway whilst I was waiting for her, imagining how pleased she’d be at how I’d cracked on.  … then she arrived.  It was the wrong house.  Her new house was next door.  Now, consider if you will what etiquette is required here.  It’s one thing to be caught accidentally moving stuff into a house, but more problematic exiting a house carrying boxes.   Should we alert the residents to what had happened?  Well, the answer to that is probably yes, but obviously we were too mortified to do this, so just carried everything out as quickly and silently as possible, leaving them none the wiser.  I still would have liked to have left one of the giant hyacinths behind just to imagine their reaction when they discovered it, mysteriously appeared in their hallway.  The weird thing is (yes, there was only one weird thing about this anecdote in fact) was that I must have been pretty noisy bringing stuff in, and nobody in the house came to investigate.  Strange but true.  The lesson in this story is that even blossoms can cause trauma in particular circumstances, which is perhaps why a phobia of flowers isn’t as irrational as you might at first think.  There’s a word for that by the way, in case you are putting together a pub quiz or anything – anthophobiaYou’re welcome. See if you can drop that into a conversation at some point today.  By the way, since googling this, my laptop has been over run with pop ups of where to buy flowers in full blossom RIGHT NOW – that’s not great if you were googling because you really were phobic is it.  Stressful sort of phobia, hard to avoid methinks…

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Anyway, if you keep distracting me, I’ll never get to tell you all about Osterley parkrun.  Suffice to say, I made it through though, we Sheffielders are tough!  Besides, lots of unexpected delights accompanied my journey. Generally, radio 4, this always delights me (apart from just a minute, religious broadcasting, and, usually, the cloying smugness of ‘thought for the day’ but you know what,?  Learn from me dear reader and cast aside your prejudices, because today en route to utterly o-stonishing Osterley parkrun I listened to Thought for the day, and – get this – parkrun got a mention!  Martin Wroe – writer and journalist contextualised his ponderings speculating on those getting ready for the London Marathon on Sunday by mentioning the 170 thousand people across Britain getting ready to take part in parkrun right now, of which I was one!  He too ‘came out’ as a parkrunner, describing the sense of achievement on completing his first one, quietly proud and slightly bewildered – how did this happen?  A sentiment I can most certainly relate to.  How exciting.  parkrun is mainstream now, and I think this is for the greater good.  I may be chugging solo to a new parkrun, but I’m one in a 170,000 all doing the same thing.  Isn’t that amazing!

Satnav TW7 4RD, Jersey Road, took me through urban territory, and below alarmingly low flight paths as mahoosive planes came in to land at Heathrow. Well, I like to think these were all planned landings at the nearest airport, and not wayward joy-piloted Boeing 747s attempting to avoid detection by flying low enough to go under the radar.  They looked close enough to touch.  I was alarmed.  Eventually, I arrived at a relatively grand entrance, surrounded by an old red brick wall.  Nice.

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FYI, the satnav wanted me to turn right here, but I threw caution to the wind and went straight on through.  It’s impressive, not quite as impressive as the entrance to Lyme Park parkrun, but pretty good.  I do like a drive way with acres of horse-filled paddocks on either side, and with mature trees a-plenty to provide an avenue of shade.  I was so early, there wasn’t any evidence of other parkrunners, but the venue was epic and plenty of time to locate the start.

Ooooh, this is looking really very nice, very nice indeed.

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The drive also had savage inverted speed bumps.  See those innocent looking cobble stripes? They are in fact sunken pits that will rattle you car to its core.  Treat with disrespect at your peril.  Don’t look down.  One wannabe parkrunner did just that a few weeks back, and he’s still trying to make his way back up by the look of things…

 

I arrived super early, of course, and parked up in the National Trust car park.  Oooh, National Trust, that’s good.  Even more surprised this parkrun had previously evaded my parkrun radar.  You don’t have to pay for parking if you display your barcode apparently, but to be fair, there was no-one at the car park booth to take payment, so I think you’d possibly be OK without, but I didn’t risk it. I always have a squillion spare barcodes about my person and conveyance to parkrun too, for just such eventualities.

It was cold, but I was early enough to head off to explore.  Found a handy sign:

 

Headed off towards the house, bravely side-stepping the posse of pigeons.  I like birds, but these seemed vaguely sinister, they had an air of entitlement, which I wasn’t about to test.  They weren’t giving ground to anyone.  Later I saw the bird that had perhaps inspired them to hold their territory, and I concede freely, they’d learned from the best.  Indistinguishable from one another those avian cousins.  It’s all about attitude at the end of the day.  Believe you are indomitable and a winner, and command all you survey, and it shall be so!  Well, so the theory goes and the photographic evidence suggests it can help you up to a point.

 

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It was exciting approaching the start of the run.  It was good going to an unknown venue with zero expectations, as everything was like a grand reveal.  First off, the lake, blooming epic!

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There was a teasing glimpse of the house the other side.  Huge mature trees of gorgeous spreading branches graced the beautifully landscaped space.  Even the ducks were upmarket, some stunning mandolin Mandorin ducks were strutting their funky stuff.

 

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In amongst the lilies were the first ducklings I’ve seen this year.  Super cute.  Now generally, as I don’t have children myself, I try to never pass comment on the parenting skills of others, but the mallard mum had got out onto the edge of the lake, leaving her youngsters squawking a foot beneath the vertical edge on which she was standing.  I was a bit worried, they had no way of getting out, and I remember seeing ducklings drown in similar circumstances.  I’ll spare you that story as we really do need to crack on… I decided against intervention, they’d have to work it out, as I presume they eventually did.  Disappointing though, I do love a duck, and they have strong protective instincts with respect to their young, but unfortunately, seem not to be blessed with great spatial awareness or problem solving skills.  I empathise.  Cute though.

 

So on and on I went, round the lake, it was distinctly nippy, also wet.  Wasn’t expecting wet.  Eventually, the house came into view and let me tell you this for nothing – Osterley park and house is pretty goddarned amazing!  No wonder it gets used as a film location.  Impressive doesn’t quite do it justice, it was like stumbling across the Bradenburg Gate – never seen so many pillars and steps!  Compare and contrast if you will.  See, practically indistinguishable!

 

I remembered vaguely that the run starts and finishes by the house, and it is quite a rendezvous point.  There wasn’t much sign of parkrun life, but a give away wheelie bin was in evidence, and one or too early birds in high viz commencing the set up.  I felt a bit self-conscious,  I was so early I felt I ought to offer to help set up, but it’s awkward as a tourist because obviously you don’t know the route and there is the potential that you will be more hindrance than help if you rock up unannounced.  Good work though hi-viz heroes!

 

Instead I just asked for directions to the loo. Well, ultimately my need for a precautionary pee took precedence.

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My regular reader will know I put considerable store by pre-parkrun toilet facilities.  You will therefore be mightily relieved (as was I, literally and metaphorically) to hear that I declare the Osterley parkrun precautionary pee facilities to be outstanding.  They didn’t just exist and were open, and had toilet paper and all of that, but check out this as an entrance view:

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and this as an exit view:

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Seriously classy, it is far more landscaped than the entrance to my own front door, and considerably raises the bar for toileting facilities at parkruns elsewhere.  In future, I expect all my ablution areas to be contained with perfectly shaped topiary.  I had no idea what I’d been missing out on up until this point.  It may be true that you don’t miss what you’ve never had, but it is also true that there’s no putting the proverbial cat back in the bag once it’s out.  Mandatory topiary for public toilet blocks has to be the way forward.

The interior looked like this:

 

No, I wasn’t ever going to go for quite that much of an interior in-situ shot, I’m not completely dis-inhibited, not yet anyway.  Don’t you think every home should have a solid gold toilet, no wonder they have recently installed one at Blenheim.  No more bizarre than having five foot hyacinths, in fact the features would complement each other rather well now I come to think about it.

Impressed and relieved, I decided to head back to the car in search of a running jacket.  As I passed the steps a huge gust of wind sent the parkrun kit flying everywhere, it was like a re-enactment of that famous Odessa Steps sequence.  I made an attempt to help with the retrieve, but the high viz heroes were already on it, I’m guessing this may have happened before – not with a pram, but maybe with the instruction folder and parkrun signage…

 

I headed back to the car in search of some extra clothes and money for post run refreshments.  It was nice to have a bit of an explore, find a pony to gaze at and discover a marshal now on car park duty, pointing cars to another lesser used, but equally convenient car park.  I asked if I was ok where I was, at the main one, and that was fine apparently. Oh good.

 

I was back to the house again in time to see the finish funnel being set up – that looked like quite a work out, bending down to put out each and every cone at lightning speed.

 

Soon other parkrunners were beginning to arrive.  The atmosphere was building, parkrun would soon be go!  The steps up to the house provided a great vantage point from which to survey the action.  It was fun people watching, though those steps are pretty vertiginous.  And the hi-viz heroes did look exceptionally busy and important.  I always thought that was a consequence of the high viz (entry level importance) enhanced by the addition of a clip board and peaking when in possession of a loudspeaker.  In fact, it seems the gold standard is met by standing on the top of a humungous flight of steps, that confers absolute authority, it’s why that big bird pictured earlier was clearly not to be messed with.

 

After a bit, there was a gathering for the first timers briefing.  There were a few first time ever at parkrun people.  Wow, their Saturdays will never be the same again, how exciting to be on the cusp of absolute change.  Also some fellow tourists, some donning the cow cowls.  I didn’t wear mine.  Not an absolute oversight, but possibly an over-reaction to last time I wore one down here at Kingston parkrun some weeks back.  A friendly fellow tourist came over to say hello but I’d had a stressful and traumatic few days, and a night entirely devoid of sleep.  Consequently, I was sitting shivering on a bench,  mid snot-producing sob due to emotional overload and exhaustion,  and could hardly speak.  Consequently, I probably came across as quite unfriendly which is not the cow cowl way.  I thought I’d let myself go under the radar more here, just in case, although, with the benefit of hindsight, taking loads of photos is a bit of a giveaway that you are a newbie at a venue, though that stimulated lots of friendly interaction without me becoming inappropriately tearful so that’s good.

Here we are at the first timers’ briefing.  They train up their marshals from youngsters at Osterley – excellent work!

 

then we were all calmly back down the steps in readiness for the start

Battleship 03

Some ambling and milling in anticipation of the Run Director’s briefing:

 

Runners in position, a set of steps appeared for the RD, and the briefing was miked.  Excellent.  I found it hard to judge the numbers, but around 300 were there in fact.  It was all very orderly.  Cheers for milestone runners, good luck wishes to marathon runners for tomorrow, this parkrun has a lovely vibe.  If it was your local, I’m sure you’d get to know people really quickly, it felt friendly, well organised, and sported a good cross section of participants too.  It felt a lot more diverse and inclusive than some of the others I’ve been too.  I don’t know if that’s to do with the catchment area, probably, but it has to be also to do with it having a welcoming ethos I’m sure.

 

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I met a couple of ebullient tourists, who were up for being photographed, so that was nice (wave) this was but a preparatory introduction preceding properly getting acquainted later on.  I can’t talk and run, so rarely befriend new people during a parkrun, though it’s not entirely  unprecedented either. Even so, good to swap friendly greetings and chit chat at the start line, it makes for a more companionable experience all round.

The start seemed to come suddenly.  We were awf.

 

It’s two laps, well marshalled, and it is indeed on tarmac paths, but oh my, the route is lovely!  I’m afraid my photos just don’t do it justice, well, it was quite an overcast day and taking photographs isn’t really my forte, nor is running, nor are most things, I’m hoping I’m a late developer and will stumble on my forte eventually, though time is running out for me to be able to make the most of it should any as yet untapped talent finally make itself known to me…

You pass by mature hedges, get glimpses of impressive cows, through a little bit of woodland, past lake, and pastures, all sorts really!  Inevitably, the first lap was something of a blur as you encounter things for the first time.  It didn’t feel crowded, the running surface was good.  There was a weird moment when you could hear traffic from the motorway on the left hand side, but see rural loveliness if you kept your eyes right – and the backs of departing parkrunners ahead of course, as always.  It does feel like a patch of green rural idyll oasis in the midst of what is basically urban sprawl.   Friendly marshals pointed and clapped and other spectators stood and cheered enthusiastic encouragement too, which was rather fine.  You know what, unusually for me, I’m going to let the pictures do the talking…  There are a lot of pictures, and if each is worth a thousand words, that’s quite a lot of chit chat going on below.

 

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I tried to take a snapshot of every marshal I passed, mixed success perhaps, but let’s try to remember it’s the thought that counts!

 

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Inevitably faster runners lapped me towards the end of the first lap.  Some were super speedy indeed,

 

You pass the finish funnel at the end of the first lap, so I paused to get some pics of the early finishers.  It really is such a spectacular location, it raises the tone of the entire gathering.  It felt more like a pop-up running festival than a conventional parkrun!

 

The second lap, it all thinned out, and I took time to admire the cows – no idea what sort they were, but they looked splendid:

 

I was flagging a bit, I’m just not running regularly at the moment and it does make a difference. Surely the second lap couldn’t be longer than the first?  They hadn’t had time to add anything.  Could have been worse though, might have been running on a treadmill with a dubious distance registering GPS. That was on the news on Saturday as well.  Fitness trackers can add miles to your marathon – up to 10.8 miles apparently, if you are running on a treadmill.  That is astonishing, but then who wants to run on a treadmill anyway? You’d have to be desperate surely.  For me, the entire point of running is to get to new places, the thought of running on the spot, makes me shudder, and can you imagine that, doing, an extra inadvertent and unacknowledged 10.8 miles!  That’s three and a bit extra parkruns – and you wouldn’t even get to brag about it on Strava afterwards presumably. That’s a whole new level of pointlessness.

 

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In a break with my usual conventions, I did get chatting with another super friendly runner and Osterley parkrun regular towards the end of the second lap.  She was really knowledgeable about the history of the house, which I now can’t remember, but was impressive at the time. Somewhat embarrassingly I would suggest, the history of Osterley Park House seems to be covered rather better on Wikipedia than on the National Trust’s own site about Osterley House – maybe I was looking in the wrong place.  Neither account was as informative, personalised and entertaining as this parkrunner’s though, plus she could say which films it has appeared in – interior shots for one of the more recent batman films being but one, because Osterley House has its own batcave entrance.  Hurrah!  The upshot is, if you really want to know the history of this place, look out for this runner and stick with her.

 

We even ended up crossing the line together, what with us now being new best friends and everything.  Thank you lovely fellow parkrunner. Unfortunately, despite saying I’d join her for coffee I lost her, becoming distracted by chatting to other parkrunners and confused by the tearoom logistics, but more of this later.

Still plenty of support for the second lap – including a parkrun tourist who’d already finished coming back to cheer his other half home.

 

I lingered round the finish funnel to cheer in the fun factory at the back, child labour was still in evidence here, dishing out chocolates to finishers in this extra role.  I’m not sure what it comes under on the volunteer rota ‘other’ probably, though surely it’s only a matter of time before all parkruns include ‘sweetmeats dispenser’ as a core role on their rotas.  Always room for innovation as parkrun evolves.  It’ll soon be like having a photographer volunteer role, future parkrunners will be astonished it wasn’t a given from the outset.  Granted, it takes a special sort of parkrunner to take on such a role, so it can’t always be guaranteed, but it is there as a vacuum abhorred by nature and seeking to be filled if someone is sufficiently gifted, willing and able to step forward for the task.  I wonder what the chrome extension running challenges badge for that would be.  Extra splendid and much coveted I’m sure.

 

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I then trotted up the steps again, partly to retrieve my bag – left under the cover of the colonnade whilst running – and partly to try and get some atmospheric, beautifully framed finish shots.  Unfortunately, my dreams were a bit beyond my capabilities. You get the gist though… maybe it will inspire some ‘proper’ photographers to drop by and show us how it’s done!  Honestly, I’m embarrassed by how poorly my photos have come out, it is such a gorgeous location, one of my favourites so far.  Granted, it doesn’t have the wild feel of my preferred locations, but the unexpected country estate splendour of this place cannot be over stated.

 

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Back down the steps and to the finish line, in time to see this amazing couple finish.

 

They are Osterley parkrun regulars and we had a good chat, they shared their considerable running wisdom, and how running with the wheelchair at parkrun lets them share quality time together each week.  We talked about lots of things, what parkrun means to us, and I explained about my mum and Elisabeth’s corner at Bushy parkrun and how emotional I feel about what parkrun does for individuals and communities which goes way, way beyond providing an opportunity to go for a run with your mates.   However, the point I remember most clearly, and indeed cling to, is that the gent sporting the 500 milestone tee and pushing his sporting wife, shared with me that he got his last pb at the age of 72.  I’m a mere stripling at 54, a veritable youngster with almost two decades in hand before I need to worry about never again getting a pb.   This was really encouraging, I’ve barely started, and everyone knows you don’t want to peak too soon.  Much better to build slowly and steadily.  After all, did you know that the oldest female runner in the London marathon, Eileen Noble didn’t start running til her fifties , so I’m well on target for improving my performance and it’s perfectly possible I too will peak with a new and final pb aged 72.  Hurrah!  Good to know, she’s 84 now, and London this year was her 19th marathon.  I’ve done London once, so got years in hand before I knock out my next 18 between now and when I’m 84.  Once again I learn, it is indeed all about attitude!  I can do this.  My future running successes all lie ahead of me, and they may be unexpectedly epic! Tautology or not, good to know.   First though, coffee and cake.

Eileen noble

Lovely as the location was, and exciting as my parkrun progress had been, I was lured away from the chill of the outside by the prospect of coffee.  Now, this was a further conundrum, and explains how I so rudely lost sight of my running buddy.  You see, the thing about this place is that it is a two cafe venue.  Yep.  You read that right, there are not one, but two coffee places, right next to each other.  With the benefit of hindsight, I think that one does more cooked breakfasts and ‘proper’ food, whereas the other specialises in quick coffee and cake.  I went to the latter, because the queue was shorter, and I’d been reunited with the cow cowl wearing tourists from early on so we decided to sup caffeine together.  I couldn’t see my new best friend, so maybe she was in the other place, or maybe she’d been and gone by the time I’d done all my faffing.  Sorry about that though, the conversation that might have been, didn’t mean to be rude…

 

Inside the coffee place, was a counter of delights in which the truly disinhibited might cheerfully have face planted.  I settled for a photo.

 

I say I settled for a photo, but actually I had a latte and a cheese scone.

I joined my new friends for parkrun debrief.  They were experienced tourists with many a tale to tell, so it was most educational and enlightening.  Always good to meet a tourist, especially when I discovered they set up their own parkrun Tourism Journey Facebook page which is another cheery space to swap parkrun tales.   They also took the obligatory parkrun selfie of the three of us, so that’s good.  Not seen it yet, but one day maybe.

*STOP PRESS* – here it is, the selfie pic:
three muses parkrun gorgeousness

I know, pretty special aren’t we?  Individually as well as collectively gorgeous and sharing the parkrun lurve!

We swapped parkrun claims to fame – I milked being related to my mum (obvs) but I think they won for having used the same toilet cubicle at Mr S-H himself during a parkrun ambassadors conference at Warwick.  Not at the same time I hasten to add, and no documentary evidence was provided, but you wouldn’t lie about a thing like that would you?  Surely not.  But think about that for a moment, it means his buttocks have been caressed by the same plastic toilet seat that previously caressed those of parkrun royalty!  I  know.  Amazing the doors parkrun has opened to us.

We also shared enthusiasm for the National Trust.  I never dreamed in my youth there would come a day when I’d aspire to membership of the National Trust, but now I do.  It just goes to show that life doesn’t always take you in the direction you expect, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Recently I discovered a friend of mind got given life time membership of the national trust for her fortieth birthday from a very generous relative, and I actually felt a flicker of jealousy flash before me!  How times change.  One day I’ll get around to joining!

Inevitably, the time came when we had to say our goodbyes and go our separate ways.  It was hard to tear ourselves away but not as hard as it was for this runner to cross the line of the London marathon.   I don’t think it’s an absolute that you shouldn’t laugh at the misfortune of others, surely it’s OK to have a little chortle at this as it ended well and he got extra sponsorship money too.  Well, I say it ended well, but it depends where the story ends. He crossed the finish, and then someone stole his costume later.  That isn’t funny.   Time called on Big Ben costume – mind you, someone is trying to fleece Piers Morgan as a condition of returning it, so that’s a dilemma I don’t generally approve of blackmail, but moral positions aren’t always that clear cut.  Anyways,  let’s not dwell on that, let’s enjoy this again instead:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-48084878

28th-april-2019-london-england-the-2019-virgin-london-news-photo-1140047324-1556617296

and that was that, quietly proud and slightly bewildered at another parkrun done and dusted, it was but a leisurely walk back to the carparks and a parting of our ways… ’til next time only.  There’s always a next time!

 

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In summary then, it was Oooh, Osterley was ostonishingly good.  Thank you lovely parkrunners, organisers, tourists, supporters and all for a lovely welcome at a gorgeous venue.  Very impressive.

Any cons at all then you ask?  Erm, not really, not that I can think of – only that if you have anthophobia, you should probably avoid Osterley parkrun at this time of year and beyond as there was a lot of wisteria in full flower, and I think if it’s well cared for – as was this –  you can get more than one flowering a year. that’s a lot of blossom lurking.  Just so you know 🙂

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Wherever you are heading for your next running fix, have fun, remember all running is awesome, it’s all in the attitude and mindset, not in the actual speed.

running

🙂

Incidentally, parkrun uk did a profile of Osterley parkrun back in March 2018, looks like they had a slightly different finish then and also that on at least one occasion there were dinosaurs on the course.  Splendid and good to know.

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

*may not have been Ibsen – it was a very long time ago, be fair.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Phew what a scorcher! Pounding the Pennine paths at Penistone parkrun.

Digested read:  did Penistone parkrun.  It’s on the Trans Pennine Trail.  Out and back with a XC twist.

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Undigested read:

There isn’t a chrome extension running challenges badge yet for ‘body parts’, but I daresay it is only a matter of time before there is so I thought I might as well get this parkrun in early in eager anticipation of the inevitable. To the immature, that might sound childish, but it isn’t really, it’s just pragmatic.  Also, just so you know, it was also not childish at all to have sniggered at the Facebook post I read online somewhere about someone who’d suggested to a deaf friend that they try Penistone parkrun out next.  However, they couldn’t properly use British Sign Language so were spelling it out a single letter at a time, this led to both much wide-eyed incredulous raising of eyebrows and subsequent mutual guffawing.  Can’t just pretend not to notice the name can we, especially given the idiosyncrasies of my satnav’s pronunciation and diction!

Penistone parkrun is a relatively new kid on the parkrun block, this was only their event number two, but it is, or rather was until just after 9.30 today, my Nearest Event Not Done Yet NENDY, and so I was keen to get over and give it a whirl.  I avoided their inaugural last week, in case they were hoping for a low profile start – parkrun etiquette favours avoiding inaugurals unless they are your new local to avoid overwhelming the event teams and scaring them off!  However, I gather it was absolutely heaving last week, quite a party by all accounts, so word got out somehow.  To be fair, there are some thriving running clubs in the vicinity and of course the lure of The Trunce nearby, so perhaps it is destined to be one of the bigger parkruns. Hurrah!  Lyme park parkrun was pretty fine and dandy too though, just so you know.  They have had a fire at Lyme park since which is terrible news, hope it recovers OK.  All news seems depressing at the moment, although I did hear that hives of bees survived the fire at Notre-Dame, so there is the occasional glimmer of hope in dark times.  Don’t you think the hives look a bit like beach huts though?  No?  Just me then…  not for the first time.

Where was I?  Oh yes, heading to Penistone parkrun as my newly launched NENDY.  It’s an easy run out – well drive in my case – from Sheffield, although I do find the route keeps you on your toes.  The speed limit on the A61 Penistone Road changes with such frequency it’s like participating in a reflex test in the Crystal Maze or doing a pilots proficiency test or something.  You really need to keep your wits about you. Even on the ‘faster’ sections, there are constant ‘warning slow down’ signs to 40 or 35.  This wouldn’t have been quite so bad, except that some bastard car was tail gating me apparently oblivious to the changing speed limits, I was scared it was going to turn into a hatchback version of the film Duel, and I’d miss parkrun.  I know!  Can you imagine?  Unthinkable.

I made it in one piece, it was misty to start, but promising to be a scorchio day.  You drive through some pretty lovely scenery, not spectacular like Winnats Pass perhaps, but pretty nice, farm land and past the intoxicating promise of the turn off to The Trunce.  Finally, I arrived at Penistone Tesco!  Not the most inspiring of locations in and of itself.  I was a bit sheepish about parking up in there, but that’s what the course instructions said.  I read the parking signs with care, but couldn’t see a time limit, and I figured I’d do a shop there post-run anyway.  I also took solace from seeing another parkrunner had got there even earlier and parked up their camper van really close.  If they were that brazen, I could be too!

Officially, there are no toilets at the start of this parkrun, but unofficially, there are some nice ones in Tesco.  I joined the steady stream of parkrunners traipsing through.  How Tesco feel about being unofficial sponsors of the Penistone parkrun event is currently undocumented.+ The proliferation of running tees in general and parkrun tees in particular was a bit of a giveaway as to the origin of this sudden influx of trainer wearing people.  All the best people were hanging out by the loos – I got to bump into Smiley Selfie Queen for the first time in a while, sporting her Sheffield Half tee.  I admit to some runner envy there. It’s a really cool t-shirt, good colour.  I just wasn’t fit enough to make the start line, but definitely feel like I’ve missed out. Yes, there is always next year, but what if the t-shirt is fluorescent yellow or lime green again?  I shudder at the very thought.

+Edit – alas, we do know as of 10 May 2019.  They are now unimpressed and have requested that parkrunners refrain from parking in their carpark or using their loos. It was perhaps only a matter of time before they did so.  I concede they have a point, it is a relatively small tesco after all.  If you use an official pay and display somewhere you can then seek out an independent coffee shop afterwards angst free.  Would recommend 🙂 .

I dumped my dark glasses in the car – not that I didn’t need them, but they are my expensive prescription ones and I was scared of losing them – took time out to cheerily point a fellow parkrunner in what turned out to be completely the wrong direction to get to the start.  Oops. Never saw them again either, hope they made it – and then rejoined Smiley Selfie Queen and her entourage so we could go to the start together.  For future reference, the start is at the back of Tescos and to the right hand side.  Just stand in front of the store, and go to the right, following the signs to the Trans Pennine Trail.

You can’t go wrong really, unless you make the mistake of asking someone like me, nope, scratch that, not like me, actually me.  Don’t think anyone else would have been quite so spectacularly wrong.  In my defence, it’s because I was having some distressing flash backs.  I’d been here before.  For my ill-advised foray into cross country hosted at Penistone, which I think must be an acquired taste, I found it humiliating and traumatic.  NEVER AGAIN.   That event started slightly higher up the field and was indeed accessed by the stairs round the back of Tesco on the left hand side, so my directional advice earlier on may have been delusional and distinctly unhelpful but it wasn’t actually deranged.

Burdened by negative thoughts and replayed humiliations, I was therefore feeling significant apprehension as we wended our way down to the start.  Oh gawd, that blooming field, I remember running round that and being lapped and wanting to die, those sentiments have never featured in the parkrun rule book surely?  Gulp.  Yesterday, was hot, cross bun day, I wasn’t reckoning on being hot and cross today as well!  I was anxious not only about the course, but the rising temperature, I was wearing waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many clothes.  It was good to have some familiar faces around to calm my nerves.

The start was by a skate park, which handily concealed the start flag, however, there was quite a gathering of people so you couldn’t really miss where to go.  There didn’t seem to be anyone wearing hi-vis to start with, but maybe they don them at the last-minute or something, as ‘suddenly’ just before the RD briefing there seemed to be loads, like a flash mob or something.

Whilst waiting for the start some time for a few mandatory selfies, hurrah.  Lucky I had some expert assistance on hand to ensure these were achieved to acceptable quality control standards, thank you Smiley Selfie Queen, you never disappoint!  She has a special tee shirt now you know, though wasn’t wearing it today. I’ll try and find it, just so you know I’m not making that up.  Here you are – this one is at Graves parkrun, another fab one by the way, highland coos en route, can’t go wrong with an offer like that.

Smiley Selfie Queen at Graves

Good to get a random runner who knows how to pose in front of the obligatory signpost too.  This bodes well.

I gazed about, watched people warming up, dumped my fleece

Then I had a genius idea!  I decided to clamber up one of the skate boarding ramps to get some nice aerial views of the starters, looked a picture from up there:

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Genius indeed!  Unfortunately, I then realised it was actually quite a daunting prospect to clamber down the ramp, wet with morning dew and super-slippery.  This is how cats end up stuck up trees.  There was a definite risk of somersaulting down ar*e over t*t, I decided the lesser indignity of going down on my backside was the way to go.  I descended in one piece, edging my way down behind a very small child who was adopting the same strategy.  It takes a toddler to teach us how to interact appropriately with our environmental challenges at times!

Nine o-clock was approaching, and the hi-vis heroes started to materialise

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The RD was looking super-cool, surveying the field from on high. He just materialised up there too, like when they use the teleporter on Star Trek (the original series of course) and just beam people right in.  I don’t know for sure, because I’d run off by that point, but I bet he didn’t have to just slide down the ramp on his arse when the time came for him to get off.  Plus he was holding a clip board, life can bestow on you no greater responsibility and status of importance than that.

Astonishingly, there was silence for the run director’s briefing.  This is really good, but does suggest to me that people were quiet perhaps because they were, like me, newbies, and needed to hear.  This raises the awful possibility, that people who regularly shout talk through run briefings are in fact the parkrun regulars who should really know better!  It infuriates me when people talk through the intros, it’s right up there as on offence along with failing to return library books, just soooooooooooooo anti-social.  Anyway, it was refreshing to see a bit of courtesy extended to the team, who are, after all, relatively new to this although the event ran like a well-oiled machine so if there was any event organisation stress going on, it wasn’t in evidence.

The course was explained, oh ye gods – you do have to start AND FINISH, by running round that blooming field.  Curses.  Then it’s out and back along the trail, trying not to collide with the barriers at various points.  I’ve seen loads of runners run into such obstacles, so that advice was by no means sarcastic, but sincerely meant!  He also said about juniors needing to be with a responsible adult as opposed to any old adult.  Few nervous parkrunners out there on the course on hearing that I shouldn’t wonder.  That bit of information could be a game changer!

Oh, hang on, you probably want to know the course don’t you?  Erm, it’s described on the Penistone parkrun official website blah de blah thus:

Beginning by the skate park the route follows the perimeter of the playing field in an anticlockwise direction and then exits left on to the Trans Pennine Trail heading towards Millhouse Green. It is out and back along the trail turning at the bench immediately before the Millhouse Green Crossing. On return to the park, enter at the Stottercliffe entrance and continue straight ahead once again following the perimeter of the field to the finish at the approach to the swing park. The course is a combination of gravel paths, grass and trail.

and it looks like this:

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I think the parkrun shape is a bit like a bent parkrun directional arrow, but then again, I’ve probably done a few too many junior parkrun set ups.  It’s quite fun coming up with interpretations of the Strava images of parkruns.  There was a thread on just this topic recently.  Hilarious, will try to find the link and borrow from it for your enlightenment and amusement.  Oh in the meantime, have you come across this ‘parkrun shape’ gizmo courtesy of Andrew Chilcraft?  Tells you how many laps each route is.  Fab eh?

Hang on, found it!  ‘If you look at your parky what shape does it make?‘ Rolls up sleeves – so can you make out the sperm; the squirrel pouring water into a pond from a watering can; the cowboy boot; the footprint with missing toes; the gurning one-eyed robot; the mini Australia; the duck eating spaghetti; the one that if you squint looks a bit like a child’s drawing of a house (genius work there – had me fooled) to describe (tortuously) but a few?  What a troubled creative lot parkrunners are!

I dare say, over time, someone will come up with a better interpretation of the Penistone parkrun shape, than ‘bent parkrun flag’, watch this space.  Or better yet, the Peniston parkrun Facebook page, reckon it will be cited there first.

According to my Strava it was 107 foot of elevation – no idea if that is accurate, but might be, might not.  It’s all flat really, apart from the Horrid Hill at the start.

Brief intro from the RD, applause for the volunteers, and then we were off.  Up and round the cross country field, in my case trying to avoid both crying too noticeably or being trampled.  It’s shortish, wettish grass, and up hill.  The only plus side to this start, is that you get to see the sight of the faster runners trailing off in front of you in all their picturesque glory.  It is indeed a sight to behold.

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The smiling marshals dotted along the way offered some solace, but I can’t lie, I wouldn’t relish that as the start of my home parkrun – though I suppose as you got better at it, you would feel great satisfaction in doing so.  Teasingly, you pass through the finish funnel very early on, at least this forewarns you that you will be required to tackle the hill again at the climax of your parkrun.

There is a nice bit of downhill, and then you slalom through the offset barriers to get onto the Trans Pennine Trail itself.  There was so much red and white warning tape, it was like there had a been a major incident there but moments previously.

Joking apart, I can see how you might crash into it what with the forward momentum from sprinting so fast (cough) down hill and being part of a crowd of other runners so you couldn’t quite see what was ahead.  It was very well marshalled, and today, as far as I could tell, their collective vigilance paid off.  Nobody winded themselves – or worse –  running into them, no incident reporting required today!

I felt palpable relief when we got onto the trail.  Even though you are barely underway, I felt less conspicuous somehow, and the flashbacks to getting stuck in tiny tyres in school obstacle course races (true story) abated as I trotted along the path along with everyone else.  It’s basically an out and back course really.  The Trans Pennine Trail was surprisingly picturesque, if you take a moment to look left and right there are some good views from the path.  I took this to the next level, taking several moments to stop and take pictures.  I nearly caused just the one pile up, for which I apologised profusely to a very forgiving fellow runner, but I inspired envy in another ‘I wish I’d thought to bring my camera with me so I’d have an excuse for stopping all the time‘ she lamented.  That’s me rumbled then.

There are some cool bridges to pass under along the way, one had mini bicycles adorning it, I like that.  I liked that a lot.  I wonder how they got to be there.

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One is either a stunt rider, or falling off.  I wonder if it’s like the Bayeux tapestry, or the Game of Thrones tapestry, and is representing actual stories?

Incidentally, did you know an Oxford Don has counted the number of penises in the Bayeux tapestry and it is 93, of which 88 belong to horses and 5 to humans (men for the most part I’m going to presume).  The professor concludes that the tapestry was therefore made by men since:

the evidence points to the embroiderers being male. ‘This is just the sort of thing which will be familiar to anyone who has spent any time in a boys’s school, but seems unlikely to have been the product of a female mind,’ he wrote in a BBC article. Now we know what fragile masculinity looked like in the 11th century.

All sounds very peculiar to me.  That’s his idea of academic rigour is it?  Mind you, we women are all made of sugar and spice and all things nice*, so perhaps he has a point….  However, it just goes to show the perils of using google search engines to search for historical tapestries just after searching for Penistone, computer algorithms eh?  Not inherently smutty perhaps, but reflecting the cultural context in which they operate and everybody is currently googling if not actual porn, then something titillating for the weekend.  Did you know somebody using the search term ‘Dogging in Endcliffe park‘ was directed to my blog.  I wrote a post especially for them, how disappointed they must have been!

I digress, which has never happened before – where was I.  Oh yes – Game of Thrones was a documentary right?  I think I may be the only person in the known universe who hasn’t seen it.  I’m a late adopter for lots of these things.  Shame.  The problem is I stuck with Lost, and it let me down.  Most anti-climactic ending of all time – actually, I bailed before the last series, once I cottoned on to the fact it wasn’t ‘clever’ writers making the plot so confusing, it was writers who hadn’t expected to have their bluff called by writing another series. They also had no idea where the story line(s) were going.  That’s hours and days and weeks of my life I’ll never get back  It’s no wonder I have trust issues these days, I just wont enter relationships with long series anymore, for fear of history repeating itself.  At least with Jessica Fletcher you know where you are, and also, she’s a parkrunner, even got a cow cowl themed neckerchief (stolen observational humour, thank you Bob Jones) – its similarity to my cow cowl buff is unmistakable, must be the American equivalent.  She sports hers with a bit more flamboyant bravado – could catch on.

So off I trotted, feeling waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too hot.  It was fairly crisp first thing, but as soon as the sun peaked out it was tough going for me at least.  I’m not good in heat.  It was a pretty full field here at Penistone parkrun, but it didn’t feel congested, I think the hill and field at the start spreads everyone out quite well.  The instruction is to keep to the right, but obviously you also need to give way to other users of the path, there didn’t seem to be all that many others out and about, a few runners coming cheerily in the opposite direction, but nothing that created a problem as far as I can see.   Though I did eavesdrop a interaction between an adult and junior and I could have sworn it was along the lines of ‘you are supposed to be at arm’s length’ as opposed to ‘within arm’s length’.  Nice twist on a theme there.  I’m better than I used to be around children since I got involved with junior parkrun (which for the record is the best thing in the world ever, FACT), those youngsters are hilarious, fantastic, inspirational and joy-filled – but I can lapse into fearfulness with unknown children as I don’t really know how to interact with them.  There have been many occasions previously when been instructed to keep a child at arm’s length would have been hugely helpful, reassuring and indeed most excellent advice.  … I don’t know for sure that that would extend to practical parenting skills though.  Then again, what do I know?

There was a lovely cross-section of participants.   All ages, all shapes and sizes, some very speedy buggy runners, one at least of whom disappeared over the horizon before I’d run five paces.  A couple of dogs on short leads, tails wagging.  It was an extremely good-natured parkrun, and it felt more established than it is.