Posts Tagged With: parkrun tourism

Making it Massive! Moving it at Monsal Trail parkrun

I do concede that to the untrained eye we might not appear to be doing a massive amount of actual moving around in the banner pic, but that’s just a quirk of when the picture was taken. We were moving it for an honest, 5km for starters, because that’s the parkrun route, and it was definitely parkrun ‘Monsal Maaaaaaahoooossive’ as yoof speak would phrase it, apparently, so all good. This I have been told by a reliable but confidential source, and who am to disagree with that pronouncement?

Join me for the Monsal Massive low down as my most recent parkrun fix.

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Monsal Trail parkrun this week – but I’m thinking you might have guessed that already? If so, well done. Have you also guessed that I’ve lifted many photos from other parkrunners again? My camera isn’t really doing the job these days, but I’m coming round to the view that just as I increasingly have my own personal escort at the back of parkrun events, so too, it is handy to have at least one dedicated official photographer around to document these adventures. Life is definitely easier if you have staff attending you I find. I’m really hoping for a personal chef and a personal trainer to rock up some time soon too, but it takes time to find the right people. parkrun day was sorted though, staffing wise, so that was good. Thanks to my tail walking companions and multi-tasking photographers both.

Another week, another parkrun, another week of ouchery.

Is it boring that I keep going on about my ailments? It must be. I’m so over it myself. Yet, I feel this context is helpful in terms of making sense of my current parkrun adventures, I can’t talk about my parkruns without reference to how my health impacts on how they go. It seems that I have entered that demographic that not only spontaneously makes noises when getting up and sitting down, but also has to do a mental physical assessment check each day on waking. It’s very tedious. Pain is lonely. Also annoying. Very annoying indeed.

The big medical adventure last week, was having someone inject steroids into my big toe joint. FYI this hurts just as much as you think it might, the numbing ointments and local anaesthetics doing little to make the procedure any more bearable. Well, I mean, obviously they must help, but OMG I’m not putting my body through that again. Apparently my big toe joint is a bit small, tight and arthritic so the person administering the injection had to have a bit of a jab around to get it in (they don’t just guess by the way, they do have an x-ray up on a screen to refer to as they plunge about with the needles) and maybe because I’m on blood thinners I got quite a bit of bruising and swelling and – of course – a rare but not that rare reaction – which cased my whole toe joint to flare up for 36 hours afterwards. It was beyond excruciating, I may have railed at the world, screamed into a void, sworn never to put my body through anything like that again and honestly, were I not vegetarian I’d have gnawed my own leg off to stop the pain. I was back to not being able to cover the foot with a sheet let alone get shoes and socks on. However, it did then ‘suddenly’ improve, so parkrun became a possibility again – well parkwalk at least. However, it all feels a bit tentative on the tootsies, you can surely grasp why it might. It’s hard to know if there has been any improvement as a result of the shot, or I just feel a bit better purely in contrast to the agony immediately post the jab. Oh well. Just goes to show pain is relative, and you have to try these things sometimes, even if only to rule things out,. The medical treatment equivalent of kissing a lot of frogs before you meet you actual love. Hmm, I’ve probably gone as far as I can with that analogy. I’ve subsequently seen a physio who said that you need to not do anything too much for a couple of weeks at least to allow things to settle as the procedure is basically a trauma to the foot, albeit for long term gain, so perhaps it’s unsurprising this turned out to be a particularly painful parkrun. Oh well, hindsight eh? Has a lot to answer for.

Where to go though? I was originally thinking Rushcliffe parkrun, but long story short (an unusual statement from me I know, and probably not even true) headed to Bakewell Monsal Trail parkrun instead. In essence, this is because I’d have the experienced, friendly and photogenic tail walking team from last parkrun day at Chevin Forest as my personal escort. A bit like having my own personal staff to carry me around, only they do this only figuratively, not literally, not having access to a parkrun endorsed sedan chair being part of the challenge. I do get that recruiting volunteers is a struggle these days, and even the most modest of sedan chairs needs quite a team to lift it aloft for the whole distance. I would happily forgo the extra folk with the fans at this time of year if that helped at all, but it’s still a bit labour intensive for the average parkrun. Reminder dear reader, if any is needed, that every parkrun appreciates volunteers, step up if and when you can.

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I’ve said a bath chair would do, but they ain’t biting. I don’t know why, buggies are fine at parkruns after all. Did you know that sedan chairs are also called palanquins? No me neither, I thought that was a perilously endangered trafficked animal. Every day a school day!

Whilst we are engaged in edutainment, I learned a brilliant new thing this week! I always thought the way to a builder’s heart was through biscuits, decent coffee and builders/Yorkshire tea, but guess what? Actually, don’t bother even trying, I don’t think you will be able to. The real way to their heart is though processed cheese triangles! I know! Who knew? Well, all of us now, obvs, but I felt it was in everyone’s interest to share the scoop. Such serendipity. Could be a game changer! You’re welcome.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I made the call to head to Bakewell Monsal Trail parkrun. Having made that call, it then materialised there would be other With Me Now pod listeners too, including Team Burrelli freshly sporting 250 tees following shared milestone celebrations last weekend. Wait there’s more – 50% of the tail walking team would be celebrating their fiftieth different parkrun location making her an absolute cow, which is tremendous news. There’d be an outfit for that for sure. Yep, I’d go there. Hurrah. Also, just a hop from Sheffield, so less ‘stupid o’clock alarm setting’ and more ‘just another 5 mins in bed’ before having to surface and face the day.

There was even talk of additional deferred fancy dress making an appearance this week – we have the outstanding pirate costume in need of an outing after all, as well as potentially an inflatable cow to be donned. In the event, the pirate got marooned en route to the parkrun (now that is a long and painful story) and the cow thought the better of fancy dress that some might thing a bit too jolly for a period of mooing mourning, which is understandable, though a bit of a shame too. Pirates in particular are having a terrible time at the moment, on account of the Queen’s Funeral coinciding with International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I’m thinking they won’t be conducting the ceremony observing that tradition, such a loss.

A weird juxtaposition of dates you’ll agree.

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Oh well. This further deferment will simply serve to build anticipatory excitement even further. Eventually the moment shall come when all those pent up fancy dress outfits shall surge forth from their bottle neck in one great tsunami of OTT costume couture choices at some future event, people will gather from near and far; high fives will be swapped; jumping in the air shall be the order of the day; photographers will flash their cameras; barcodes will be brought and scanned – there may even be cake – and it will be glorious. FACT. And it’ll probably be at York parkrun on 15th October 2022 if you’re interested.

Also, just so you know, lack of fancy dress, didn’t mean nobody dressed fancy. Au contraire! Check out the shoes and socks options flaunted on the trail today. Some excellent buffery and yellow heart accessorising too, and that custom Brooks t-shirt is The Best!

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That t-shirt! What’s more, it was an actual freebie! I’m so jealous. There are hoodies as well apparently. Wowsers. Brooks are one of the parkrun sponsors now, and attend various events unannounced, where you can test run their shoes and they also give out the odd freebie to random finishers. I’m not sure what this parkrunner had done to merit this honour, but to be fair, she’s appropriately delighted by it. I would be too. I genuinely like Brooks stuff, I got some freebie sunglasses from them at an event way back and they are absolutely brilliant, wore them for the London marathon back in 2018 and many times since and they are good as new. I’m totally stalking the Brooks Facebook pages now, in hope of the slightest of hints as to where they may descend next. I’m shameless #brooksrunninguk @brooksrunninguk #parkrunhappy choose me!

Hmmm, they are toying with us though. Playing hard to get – it seems we will have to not only stalk their social media pages, but also harness our psychic powers to find them. Oh well. I love my parkrun apricot too 🙂 and I have patience. My time will come.

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Never mind, where was I? Oh yes ouchy feet and parkrun touristing, I’ll get there in the end.

It wasn’t too early a start, and the drive over in early morning sunshine gave gorgeous light across the dying back heather. Expansive views to lift the soul. It was all going splendidly, until I came across an unexpected road closure and had to do a grand detour. I arrived at Hassop Station carpark after 8.30 and it was already really busy. There is a very limited amount of free parking, but I’d forgotten about those spots and was too late for it anyway. There seemed to be a field open over the road where many parkrunners had parked up, but I wasn’t sure if you had to pay for that, and didn’t want to add in the extra distance, so I coughed up the £3.50 for three hours parking. I don’t begrudge parking fees generally, but that does seem steep when you are probably going to use the cafe as well. This wasn’t a cheap morning. I’d hoped to be earlier as I was going to offer to be the tail walker having heard my original buddy no couldn’t make it due to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and rubbish garages relating to newly purchased cars. My logic was, I am sooooo slow everyone ends up waiting for me anyway, so I might as well be that person at the back, and then I wouldn’t have the agony of someone else trying to jostle me onwards at a pace more that I could muster. It’s so awkward when others try to jolly you along. I was counting on the other tail walker repeating her outstanding service last week and being content shouting support to other parkrunners and getting creative with the photos as we went. Yep, that’d work.

Except I was too late for that, tail walker sub was already in place. Which is good in a way, since it shows how parkrunners are happy to step up to cover for one another when things aren’t going to plan. I’d just be limping round at the back as usual then, with my personal escort.

The first thing to remember about Monsal Trail parkrun is that it’s actually Bakewell parkrun. Well, maybe not any more strictly speaking, but it definitely used to be, and now it isn’t, but the pop up banner is very much still saying Bakewell, so that’s confusing if you are touristing and are on an alphabet completing schedule and have lost track of what country, county or rural paradise you are in. Do you follow? People still call it Bakewell although really it’s not, it’s more Hassop, and Monsal Trail is more accurate still. Like Endcliffe is still known as Sheffield Hallam and Knavesmire parkrun is still known as York. Oh wait, hang on…. Whatever, the point is, it will play havoc with future Facebook memories, but for now, you have to improvise with the pop up banner that’s to hand, and that’s what happened. Those posed photos have to be taken, just as if it ain’t on Strava it didn’t happen, how can you be sure that any given parkrun wasn’t but a dream unless you have the pop up pic to proof it? Ooh, I wish we could have actual pop up photos, the way we used to have pop up books in the olden days. I suppose in the future we will, and they’ll be holograms. For now we have to make do with jpeg files, but fortunately they are lovely. We spent a while trying to get the making it massive moves nailed. It would help if I understood the whole concept a bit more, but I reckon I blagged it pretty well in the circumstances. What massively cool dudes we are. Hurrah.

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Foreground is official photographer, soon to be official cow and experienced escort, centre is me with White Ted on this occasion – and that’s the sub tail walker all smiles and raring to go. We are quite lucky to have her in the UK at present as she’s a world parkrun tourist prone to seeking out new adventures all over the place. Catch her if you can. Oh, and I’m crouching down in a futile attempt to stop my stomach from blocking out the sun, I’m not that short. I mean, I am quite short, but I can see over the pop up sign without standing on tip toe despite what the photo suggests.

The id explanations are just in case you are curious, but there won’t be a test or anything, so you don’t have to concentrate too hard on who’s who, in fact it’s probably better if you don’t. Just keep calm and carry on. We know each other purely through parkrun in general and the With Me Now podcasts and live streams of parkrun lockdown in particular, which is pretty remarkable really. I don’t think I’d know anyone at all if it weren’t for parkrun and the people who live in my laptop. Oh and the quarantine quiz too of course – more of which later, possibly. Depends if I remember. I have an EWFM* too, obviously, but that’s in an entirely separate category of gloriousness all of its own. Obvs.

Yay, for jolly planned meet ups of With Me Now tourists, and a selfie of the party at the back posse pre parkrun . I’m assuming it’s expensive to replace the pop up sign, and actually, I have a vague feeling that there might be a pause on new ones anyway because of the need to change the sponsorship names. I think that might be why we still have the Bakewell parkrun sign. The other – perhaps more obvious explanation – is that what with the hiatus in parkruns and a change in the event team, no-one has been able to pass down the necessary knowledge of how to fold up the sign. Hence, there it sits, in perpetuity, unless and until some gifted travelling passing parkrunner shares their secrets and normal order with respect to the tidying away of things is restored. The main thing is DON’T PANIC! Well, I mean panic about many things, heaven knows there’s enough catastrophes kicking off in the world – just not about that. Save your panic for scenarios like the planet burning and forgetting your barcode. It’s all about perspective.

So in all seriousness, this is one of the parkruns that during lockdown was re-routed and renamed but kept it’s event counter ticking. The start and finish remain in the same place, but the route is now an out and back in the opposite direction. I’m in the position of having previously completed this parkrun when it was still Bakewell parkrun, but it morphed into Monsal Trail parkrun on my stats, which wasn’t a problem but did mean my profile suggested I’d completed a route I actually hadn’t, only now I have, so problem solved. Be happy for me. I am generally in the mood for touristing as I’ve been so unable to do anything for years, but this is a new route on a familiar course so didn’t feel too much like a repeat.

Oh and I feel I should say more about our companion cow. Look! Here she is.

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Last week a Jill in the Box but this week a complete cow or just half a Cowell depending on how you calculate these things. The Cowell is a Running Challenges Chrome Extension thing by the way. Specifically, to join the Cowell club you need to Run at 100+ different parkrun locations anywhere in the world. Named after the first parkrunners to complete it. A quarter cowell is available at 25, half at 50, and three-quarter at 75. Those who have completed their fiftieth different parkrun venue can claim cow status, and this is what happened here. For my tail walking photography compatriot. One day, in years hence, she may get this virtual sticker added to her profile. A fine reward for many years of touristing i think we can all agree.

It seems 2022 is actually her year of fifty things – fiftieth birthday (I know, doesn’t look a day over 21, it’s a miracle); fiftieth occasion of her home parkrun at Chevin Forest and fiftieth different parkrn event. Does that make her 150 then, if she’s done all the things? I’m not sure, but it’s splendid anyway, and worthy of celebration. No wonder she was jumping for joy all over the place. As previously reference, she was supposed to be wearing an inflatable cow, because that’s pretty much compulsory for marking your 50th, but well, you know, period of mourning and all that, the inflatable cow will just have to wait for York.

The jumping about thing was set to continue though, because of course any parkrun has parkrunners jumping for joy, and to be fair there was something of a jump off occurring at intervals. High jinx all round one might say. Since we had a Jack outa the box giving our Jill outa the box a run for her money!

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Did you spot the 250 tee in the blur of bouncing? Hopefully yes you did. Jumpage is understandable but can make it hard to see the finer details of individual outfits, but I reckon that 250 top is pretty distinctive. Green team, dream team. Just so you know, that’s it being worn on it’s first ever outing after being achieved just last parkrun weekend at Burnage parkrun, alongside another person’s 250 volunteering milestone. More specifically their other/better half. Nice bit of carefully planned parkrun milestone synchronicity there. It’s taken a lot of organisation to nail that particular celebration, but oh so worth it! Check out the cake, that’s just outstanding. Apparently it tasted amazing too, not just an Instagramable option but a dietary delight! Oh and they had milestone capes too, which should be compulsory really, at all events, but aren’t quite yet. Capers with capes are so much fun!

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All things were being celebrated here. This had also been planned as a fancy dress option, with the 250th parkrun being completed in a particularly fine Mr Zippy outfit (no reason, do you need a reason?) but again, restraint was exercised in respect of donning the fancy dress. And then in a hat trick of missed fancy dress opportunities, my pirate buddy was thinking maybe pirate today, but then didn’t make it due to a series of unfortunate events, specifically relating to mechanical misadventures en route, meaning she ended up at Brierley Forest parkrun which is very much lovely and all, but not the intended destination.

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And the consequence was that there was no pirate and no Mr Zippy last week and no Cow this week. A lack of fancy dress might be a cause of disappointment but…

DON’T PANIC!

There is a plan. All these missed fancy dress outings will be reconvened on the same date at some parkrun in the future. There will be an explosion of fancy dress at the next midi gathering where missed opportunities will be made good. Not that this lot need much of an excuse to get the fancy dress on, but they can share their joy in donning it en masse and properly mark the milestones and arbitrary achievements that have had but muted recognition where they’ve fallen during these 10 days. Might be all the better for having a backlog of celebrations to mark all at once. A positive scrum of joyfulness. You think they’ve jumped high and dressed to the peak of fabulousness already? Pah! You ain’t seen nothing yet!

First though, back to today!

I arrived parked up, joined the queue for the loo which wasn’t too long and definitely not 5 miles, and no live tracking you just had to take your chances.

I did, and then was rewarded for this by bumping into a world tourist With-Me-Nower in the scrum of exiting it. How exciting! Turns out, they were everywhere today. Outside the loos; in the café; at the start on the parkrun; volunteering – all over the shop.

I made my way to the start area and we started to find one another. It was VERY EXCITING. People I actually knew, people I knew by their high ranking status as parkrun ambassador for example – there seem to be loads of them out and about at the moment we get one or two at Sheffield Olympic Legacy park junior parkrun most weeks- people I knew through Facebook but not through real life, and by reputation for example as uber tourists. It was great, and unexpected. There is actually a whole sequence of photos of ever growing numbers being gathered together for a group shot as new people we ‘knew’ kept appearing out of the crow, and we still didn’t manage to get everyone in to the one shot, nothing like. Well it is a bit like herding cats I suppose. Here’s a grand stab at the bulk of us though. Impressive isn’t it, remembering these were not all planned meet ups either, it’s just the parkrun community’s network keeps on reaching out and ever more connections are made, so every parkrun can feel like a reunion at times. It’s good like that 🙂 You are truly never alone at a parkrun. Unless you turn up as the only one who hadn’t twigged it had been cancelled, that can be discombobulating, but mostly, never.

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We busied ourselves doing the parkrun friends equivalent of dogs sniffing each others bottoms until we were summoned for the first timers’ welcome. According to the results there were 7 first time everers and an astounding 96 tourists, so that’s nearly 50% of the field of 203 participants. This is a tourist destination it has to be acknowledged, and it isn’t really that near a local population which I think contributes to the difficulty it sometimes has in getting enough volunteers. Fortunately, it’s not a complicated route so not too heavy on the number of marshals required, but it’s still hard for teams to manage at times. We were grateful for the warm and friendly welcome. We were reminded very much of the need to respect other users. It’s a busy path with cyclists, horses, walkers all availing themselves of the lovely route. That’s why it was also important to keep the trail free at the start, and remember to keep to the left of the path out and back to minimise the possibility of collisions, and also to facilitate more effective high fiving as you pass each other in a contraflow at some stage en route. He didn’t actually say that, but I’m sure it was implied…

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The Run Director’s briefing came next. Quite quickly in fact. I still have never quite got over the astonishment of having pre parkrun chatting interrupted by having to actually commence the parkrun. The poor RD had a cold, but gamefully stood atop her steps to brief us and send us on our way. I felt for her though, she definitely sounded a bit rough, and it was a nippy morning, beautiful yes, but nippy. Thank you lovely RD for turning out despite feeling rough, and thank you even more to you and all the high vis heroes for making all the parkrunners so very welcome, right to the end of the pack.

As is usual now, I took some photos at the start, then slotted in at the back of the field with my bouncy parkrunning friends. There might have been a bit of a jump off going on at one point, all in apparent jest, but I see a future rematch pending. I so wish I had a proper camera at times like this, they were awesome. Flying through the air like acrobats on acid. Cirque de Soleil has nothing on a pair of over-excited parkrunners soaring high. Never has leaping for joy been more literal or more inspiration to behold.

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But where were we going? Don’t worry dear reader, I can explain! Shall I wait for you to get a pen to make some notes, or will you just take a screen shot for later? It’s no problem I can pause for a bit…

Welcome back, ready? Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

The route is basically out and back. If you don’t believe me, here is the Monsal Trail parkrun route blah de blah from the website

Course Description

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

https://www.parkrun.org.uk/monsaltrail/course/

and the picture looks like this:

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Erm, that’s all you can say. You run away from the timers for 2/12 km when you are met by a wall of marshals. Well, two and their dog Nigel on this occasion, and a rather sweetly positioned cone to trot round, or skid round, or handbrake turn around as the mood takes you, and then you run right back the way you came. I belief it is fractionally downhill on the out and uphill on the way back, but honestly, not so you notice, this is properly flat. Hilariously though, if you run it in the other direction as the Bakewell parkrun used to, Strava doesn’t understand the concept of tunnels so will think you’ve done some epic and speedy ascents. That is, gone up and down those hills, rather than straight through the middle, this is excellent for boosting your bragging rights if you don’t let the truth get in the way of a good running narrative.

It’s compact gravel, and the only issues are really making sure you are respectful to other participants as you parkrun out and back.

Almost instantly the main bulk of parkrunners streamed out of sight, and we were but a few at the back. My two tail walking companions and 50% of the newly anointed green team who’d opted to walk and talk which was jolly sporting of him. I did feel initially some pressure to get a move on, which was challenging, but we did settle in to a more manageable pace.

On a serious note, I’m finding parkrun pretty tough at the minute. I think because I look fine (bit podgy obviously, but I mean ‘able bodied) and indeed opted for walking poles rather than crutches precisely so I’d blend in a bit more, people over-estimate my capabilities and I seem to constantly have people cajooling me to get a move on and that feels really shaming. I totally get it’s unintended, but it’s crushing every time. I can’t ‘get going’ I need to pause, and sometimes I’m in a lot of pain. Feeling embarrassed because I’m holding everyone up is an extra pressure and at times I feel like bailing or opting out entirely. Even with supportive parkrun compatriots I feel quite vulnerable. My fear is that once I give up on parkrun, I won’t be able to go back at all, and that thought makes me sad. It can be a mixed bag walking at parkrun and I really hope that next month’s parkwalk initiative normalises this a bit more because speaking personally, I think that’s very much needed. I worry about being a burden to individuals and teams, of course I do, the official parkrun line of ‘walkers always welcome’ doesn’t always reflect what happens on the ground. I try to go to different parkruns so I don’t make the same team have to wait for me each week, and I have always made a point of volunteering regularly to ‘give back’ a bit as well, but that doesn’t quieten the voices in my head that are constantly making me feel inadequate and that I don’t have the right to be there. Every parkrun I go to is a battle lately, and I’m conscious it doesn’t take much to push me into despair. I guess partly because every parkrun I hope will be a bit better, that I’ll make some progress and although I have made progress if you look back over a whole year, I’m very far away from where I was before and it feels unfair, which is jolly surprising, because usually life is 100% fair is it not? (Spoiler alert, it’s not) I know I’m lucky compared to many, and I am still there at the moment, however insecure I may feel about it. Hanging on by my fingertips. One foot in front of another. Sometimes blinking back the tears, but not bailed yet.

It was a bit of a wobbly start, but once we were underway on a lovely crisp sunny morning, things were looking up. Just because it’s a straightforward out and back though, doesn’t mean you can’t have parkrun adventuring along the way. Au contraire!

It’s jolly pretty for one thing, the route has lovely trees creating an avenue along it, then there are open vistas where you get great views, and if you have your wits about you you might spot the rare Bakewell born and bred long necked sheep – oh wait, what’s that you say? Really? Shame alpacas adjacent to the path. There was a little wren, busying herself popping in and out of the gaps of a moss covered stone wall. There was a very junior marshal – taking it all in. All very lovely.

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So the scenery was lovely, as well as the the company, but we had other adventures too. Specifically, on this occasion there was a mass group of walkers taking part in a Fund raising 26 km trek for the charity Together for short lives – Helping families caring for a seriously ill child make the most of every moment together. It was pretty chilled by the time we at the back met up with them, but earlier may have been a bit of a challenge. Like those early gladiator sort of films, where thousands of extras were brought in to stage battles, running at one another and mingling as each fought to pass the other. Not that that would happen here though, because we’d all been briefed to give way, and parkrunners are polite obvs. Think more parting of the sea rather than riotous bunfight. Or gentle ordered contraflow, I’m sure it was negotiated with grace. They were an eclectic and jolly group of walkers, it was quite early in their walk I think, so they had a long way to go, but my what a lovely day they picked for it.

One warning though, this is not a route for arachnophobes, which, presumably erroneously, was not explicitly mentioned in the briefing. Fortunately, the spider people running round today were being shepherded by lovely With Me Now crew to keep us all safe. It’s so lovely when parkrunners look out for one another in this way. They even gave us a reassuring wave of acknowledgement as they breezed by, letting us know the whole situation was all under control. Phew. There were 23 personal bests today though, which seems a pretty high percentage of the field of 203 so maybe the spidery presence just made everyone else run just that much faster. Apart from me. I’m very much just walking still. Besides, I like to get my money’s worth at an event.

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One of the super fun things about an out and back course is that if you are a slower parkrun participant you see all the faster parkrunners as they come back, and if you are a faster parkrunner, you see all the slower participants as they are going out! Everyone wins. It made for a highly sociable and people spotting parkrun. Hurrah.

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What made it even more fun, was being part of a very vocal party at the back offering up bespoke motivational cheering at every opportunity. Our tail walking cow has an enormous amount of experience at this and was in fine voice. But better yet, we had some Welsh language cheering from the stand in tail walker, always a boon. Not that we restricted ourselves to cheering only those we knew, anyone was fair game, potentially whether partaking in parkrun or not, we were happy to be sharing the parkrun love! All of us at the back got on board with parkrun appropriate whooping. It’s not called the party at the back for nothing! When it works, walking at parkrun is therapeutic indeed.

and that works at junior parkrun too. This recently shared anecdote made me properly cry, because it’s just SO LOVELY!

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Tony Kenyon
I have told this story a number of times because to me it is what parkrun is all about. One week we had just one child at the junior parkrun where I’m now part of the core team. I was tailwalker. They didn’t want to take part by themselves. So I convinced them to walk with me. They only agreed if every volunteer walked with us. So we all took a leisurely 2km walk.
That same child now regularly runs, seeing a PB after PB, getting faster each week. Those who walk today may run tomorrow. Or they may not. We should embrace them all.

See comments section of https://www.facebook.com/parkrunUK/videos/1367426970452602/

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I properly cried. Snot and everything. It’s peak parkrun practice in my view. It also very neatly illustrates why for parkwalk to be successful next month, solidarity from plenty of walkers is needed. Consider walking one of your regular parkruns instead of running and experience the event quite differently. That junior parkrun intuitively knew that walking together was the way to go. How right they were.

Back to us. Eventually we made it out to the full extent of the 2.5 km and to the turn around point – that’s Nigel in the middle, supervising. Barkrunner par excellence! Not one parkrunner overshot the route turnaround point, so he did just grand.

We weren’t having a stand off, we were just having a parkrunny chat. Getting our Chat’s Worth at the parkrun nearest to Chatsworth was apt indeed.

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Cone negotiated safely, and we were coming home again. It was very quiet for the return leg, the charity walkers and other parkrunners having long since passed this way. But we could take in the scenes, and have companionable chats and so all was good.

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Finally, almost exactly on the hour, we were back to the start, which handily is also the finish. Where diligent marshals were still waiting and standing by to swing into time keeping and barcode scanning business on our return.

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The RD was in desperate need of a pee by the time we got there, a scenario for which I have enormous personal sympathy, and I felt mortified that she’d had to wait for me. Oh well. She was self deprecating about her plight, but it did catapult me back into the mindset of having spoiled the parkrun experience of others. Paranoia is devilishly hard to shift.

There was a bit more picture posing, trying to perfect the shot of the range of t-shirts on show, and also to get our lovely green team to pose appropriately with coquettish over the shoulder glances for maximum impact. Well we were entertained anyway. I never did get the perfect shot, but fortunately have been able to loot this one from elsewhere. Resource gathering skills come in handy at times.

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All done, back lit, we made our way to the Hassop Station Café.

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There is actually a special parkrun deal from a table area outside, with coffee and a variety of bapts/ breadcakes whatever including the double meat sausage and bacon options, veggie and vegan options – though I don’t know what the vegan option was to be fair.

A fellow with me nower and his family had already secured an outside table, so we queued inside (not five miles) and went for the more extensive menu. You just give your table number and order from the counter. The hot beverage situation confused me hugely, doesn’t take much. I asked about this and was told it would be brought out, but some said they’d been asked to collect if from the counter. In fact I think if you only have a drink you wait for it, but maybe if you are having food as well they bring it out. In the event this didn’t work particularly well for me as my flat white never came, although on reflection an unclaimed mug of tea brought out earlier might have been my order processed erroneously. When questioned they claimed it hadn’t been ordered, which was annoying as I’d paid for it, but hadn’t got a receipt, they were game for going through the whole till roll again to prove their point, and in the end my lovely tailwalking companion by passed the whole thing by just just buying me another one, which was kind of her and eminently sensible but somewhat grated in terms of customer service. Top tip, get a receipt. I know I’d paid, because I asked ‘and do I need to wait for my coffee now’ and they said ‘no, we’ll bring it out with your order’ so that’s not me not having ordered it is it? This aside, the food was amazing and the staff accomodating, in that we were able to customise our orders swappoing halloumi cheese for vegan cheese in toasties. These were pricey but came with a rather fine salad, some of which gathered on my top, but worth it. There was also amazing bakewell slices to be had, and an abundance of choice. Yum.

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Some were feeling the cold, but nevertheless, this brave duo braving the warm Bakewell slice or possibly Bakewell pudding with ice cream topping because, well it had to be done. They were worried about it being too cold to enjoy properly, but hard to justify being in Bakewell and not having someone step up to the challenge. In the end they were in it together, but took the safety precaution of getting a hot chocolate to warm themselves up afterwards, the yin and yan of post parkrun cakery I suppose. They are experienced like that. It’s really inspiring when other parkrunners are willing to make these sacrifices on behalf of others, brings a tear to the eye. I can report dear reader, they totally nailed it!

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We were quite an assembly, and there was loads of seating for post parkrun faffing and no pressure to move on beyond how much parking we’d paid for. More photo posing and parkrun story reminiscing ensued. Not too shabby a head count for what had been a pretty much entirely unplanned and arbitrary meet up! With Me Now pod listeners a-gathering.

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Alas though, all good things come to an end, and eventually people needed to disperse. There were hugs exchanged, but not without some discussion of appropriate hugging etiquette, still unsure what we can and can’t do these days, ,and also, you feel like you know people but don’t entirely so what to do? And then I worry about inadvertently thwacking people with my walking poles which is definitely sub optimal. I dodged that social faux pas on this occasion, but not the food down my front awkwardness unfortunately. It was only afterwards that someone helpfully pointed out the splattered tomato bits collected on my decoupage décolletage. Whilst a breast shelf can sometimes be handy for gathering assorted snacks together for later, it’s generally not a good post parkrun look, though pretty common amongst us more rounded runners. Nevertheless, I was glad of the tip off before any non parkrun interactions. Not sure if it saved me from indignity whilst recording the bonus question for the next quarantine quiz? Oh well, I’ve survived indignities enough of late that it will hardly register. I can only hope there was no spinach caught between my teeth either. Well, there won’t be spinach as there wasn’t any in my order, but there could have been rocket.

Others waved off, we hard core trio gathered by the Monsal Trail sign to record an impromptu bonus question for the awesomeness that is the Quarantine Quiz. I know, exciting! But you are just going to have to wait for the next quarantine quiz to showcase our collective genius to judge for yourselves! This is roughly where we positioned ourselves though, in case that teaser helps soften that blow. I know, delayed gratification is very annoying, but you’ve got this! 🙂 It’ll probably be for Quiz 85, in case you are interested, not sure when that will be, but do join the next one if you can. More the merrier. Oh you don’t know what that is? Erm, it’s an interactive, virtual quiz hosted by a German parkrun team –

RDs from Neckarufer parkrun, it is bilingual, featuring parkrunners asking the question and impressive fancy dress, some created by a 3d printer in the possession of an individual with a crazed imagination. It grew out of lockdown, and continues still, bringing an international parkrun community together. Oh, and the questions are sufficiently random there’s no shame in not knowing the answers, and in fact, being the tail walker (lowest scorer) is a particularly highly prized badge of honour too, and so it should be. Tail Walkers are the best! The literal translation of the German is ‘Final Accompaniement’ which I think is splendid.

Thank you Schlussbegleitung! You are The Best! In any language.

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And that was that. Time to depart. Others were heading off to Chatsworth which has THE MOST AMAZING EXHIBITION on at the moment, based around the burning man festival. I’d love to have gone, but too much walking for one day alas. I’ve enjoyed seeing the photos on line though. It’s worth checking them out. ‘Radical Horizons: The Art of Burning Man‘ That horse can gallop and fly! I know, impressive.

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As we departed, a parkrunner passed us his face etched with a look of absolute ecstasy. Rubbing his tummy he just uttered the words ‘sausage and bacon sandwich’ as he gazed skyward in bliss and rapture. Apparently it had been beyond exquisite. It had to be acknowledged, that even as two vegetarians and one vegan you could not acknowledge that exuded joy. A fine café indeed. Oh, apart from my coffee that never came – mouth watering vegan options also available.

So to conclude, the fine bits of today were very fine indeed at this parkrun, but there were a couple of wobbles for me personally. I need a walking at parkrun win where I can just ‘be’ without feeling slow shamed or a burden. Yep, it might be on me how I interpret things sometimes, but it’s also a reaction to cumulative interactions that leave people potentially sensitised to throw away remarks that reveal a deeper truth. One comment might not hit home, several at the same event can shade otherwise positive parkrun experiences. Fingers crossed for parkwalk in October. Hopefully as well as bringing more walkers to parkrun, it might raise awareness amongst teams about what creates a welcoming environment and what does not, unintentionally or otherwise. Just as I’ve learned so much from the deaf and hard of hearing takeover in Sheffield. Needs aren’t always obvious, but when known, sometimes they are really easy to accommodate where there is the will to do so. Still love parkrun, still grateful to my parkrun friends and although, yes, sometimes it’s complicated, it’s still worth it for me.

Are you still here? Aw, thanks for sticking with me 🙂 I know it’s a long haul at times but it is appreciated. Shared experiences can be bonding after all. Oh, and another thing, here is the link to the Monsal Trail parkrun event 152 run report in case of interest. And results for the record too.

For now, that’s all folks, time to pack it all away until next parkrun day.

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The End.

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But before I go, can we just have one more random adorable parkrun thing please? It is a lovely one I promise…

Yes we can. Check out this BEST EVER parkrun report. Hand written and fully illustrated. Love it! Thank you Great Yarmouth North Beach parkrun for sharing.

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I know. Cuteness overload, sigh #loveparkrun

Also – POST FAIL – how did I not spot the opportunity for Bakewell Tart punnage. The shame will never leave me!

*Erst While Flat Mate. Yes, I know it ought to be erstwhile flatmate, but I have my reasons.

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

Carefree Cavorting at Cheery Chevin Forest parkrun – where the wild things are!

Had a wild old time here!

A fine, fun, forest foray indeed! What’s not to like?

There is a reason why forest bathing has become quite the thing. Basically, it’s lovely, calms the soul, soothes the spirit and puts all in context. Add in a parkrun to the mix and it takes forest bathing to a whole new level of awesome. This was truly a parkrun of all the things. Acrobatic tail walkers; celebrity parkrun authors*; huge trees; forest trails; smiley marshals acing directional pointing; astonishing views; brilliant wood sculptures; chariot racing opportunities; warm welcome (probably axiomatic to state that) and a post parkrun café that I could happily take up permanent residence in. Who doesn’t get hugely excited at seeing halloumi on a menu? I’m jumping ahead though, but soooooooooooooooooo many things to share, where to start?

Choosing Chevin.

Hmm, where to parkrun. Always a dilemma, so many to choose from, but not all are accessible to me these days.

Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed a definite nip in the air on some mornings, and the days are getting shorter. Once the clocks change it’s going to be less appealing and less practical to venture too far afield for parkrun tourism. I am therefore trying to pick off some of the reachable but far away parkruns before the clocks change. I also have to factor in my bloomin’ uselessness at forward motion at the moment. It’s so frustrating. Chevin Forest is reachable from Sheffield and oh look! A friendly name I recognise as tailwalker. Two of them in fact. Phew, that takes the pressure off. I was advised it’s a ‘proper’ trail surface, mud in winter, but it looked doable and with my sticks it would be a good test of what I can and can’t do. I’m treading (literally) that fine line between trying to do a bit more to find my limits, without actually coming to grief in the process. parkruns are perfect for this when they welcome walkers as it’s a safe and supportive environment to try to increase my mobility without ending up having to call mountain rescue because I’ve toppled into a ditch up the top of kinder scout. This would be sub optimal for a number of reasons, not least that you probably can’t get a mobile signal up there, so I’d have to just lie in a star shape and hope the circling of vultures overhead would eventually attract attention. parkrun doesn’t require vultures to alert others to your needs, instead it anticipates them with Cheery Chevin Marshals (other alliterated parkrun marshals are available see Cavorting Castle Marshals; Marvellous Millhouses Marshals; Enchanting Endcliffe Marshals; Iridescent Isobel Marshals etc) to see you safely out and back.

What’s more, said tailwalkers will be pirating it! Yep, you read that right. Having already done their aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, this would be the seventh of their seven seas. It’s a Running Challenges thing – only 8 parkruns and you too can get a virtual sticker AND to dress up as a pirate (inflatable parrot optional but hugely hoped for) on your final parkrun in the set. Yep, pirate party at the back sounded just the thing, and lacking full functioning limbs would be a boon in such a gathering. Captain Hook and Long John Silver anyone? Though there were also fearless, fierce and female pirates past too, who hung onto their limbs. Not that we should be glorifying pillaging, obvs, but who doesn’t enjoy having a nice new badge for their virtual sticker chart?

Precisely.

That’d do.

Then the Queen died. Suddenly uncertainty about what might happen. In fact a great many parkruns did opt to cancel, some because it was out of their hands – the National Trust cancelled all on their properties, other event teams felt it was the right thing for them to cancel too. Personally I was grateful for the parkrun announcement that let event teams make their own call locally. I did not want to lose my opportunity to access a parkrun somewhere, I’ve been denied too many of late.

Much hitting the refresh button to see what this might mean for Chevin Forest, and checking the parkrun cancellation page I wish I’d taken a screen shot of it now, as it was interesting to see which way event teams made the call. Fortunately for me, Chevin Forest parkrun made the call to go ahead. Now I had only to stress about getting there and where to park etc.

Right, so the Chevin Forest parkrun website blah de blah says:

Getting there by road
The nearest postcode to the start/finish is LS21 3DD, East Chevin Road.

We recommend parking at Surprise View cark park, opposite the Royalty pub on York Gate (LS21 3DG), and walking to the start along the path which runs across the top of the valley and down, crossing East Chevin Road, to the Danefield side of the Chevin. It’s a pleasant 15-20 minute walk although unsuitable for buggies as there are width restrictions. There are three car parks on East Chevin Road itself. Please DO NOT park in the small car park directly next to the finish line, you will be asked to move unless you have mobility difficulties or a buggy. Alternatively there are several car parks in Otley, allow time to walk up the Chevin to the start. Please DO NOT park along the road, this can cause visibility obstructions and is regularly patrolled by the police, who issue fines.

https://www.parkrun.org.uk/chevinforest/course/

Hmm, was a bit discombobulated. I can now negotiate a parkrun, but didn’t think I’d be able to do the extra 20 minute out and back especially if it was a bit bushwhacking territory. I wouldn’t be able to carry a machete and my walking poles, and not sure what the etiquette would be for leaving a machete unattended as I set off for my parkrun. Then again, am I considered immobile enough not to be turned away at the car park. Would there be some sort of hierarchy of needs you’d have to satisfy to get a parking space or would it be on trust. I felt I needed to be near the start, but maybe not as much as some others might need that. In the end, I just did my usual of setting off at stupid o’clock and having done some google-based research, which has all but replaced any actual primary research these days, established that it looks like there are a couple of carparks nearby.

On arrival, hurrah! There is a diddy carpark right next to the start, but a second, upper carpark which is about 100 metres away. It’s not huge, but certainly enough for a fair few vehicles and if you arrive early enough space was fine. I was amongst the first couple to park. I’m finding though a minor frustration of early arrival at some of these carparks creates enormous confusion for me about where you are supposed to park. It would really help if there were some demarked parking spaces as I’m sure you’d accommodate loads more vehicles that way, still I was fine, so that was good.

It was also exciting already! I was a bit daunted by the steepness of the hills – I drove down one to the nearest supermarket to use their loos before returning. I was wondering if this was such a great idea. The trees were gorgeous, and it was lovely to be in such fantastic scenery, but ringing in my ears was the words of Ambassador Z from Millhouses who had warned me this was a trail parkrun course. I feel I need to test myself, but don’t want to come a cropper either. Aargh.

Oh wait, you want to know what the course descriptor is? Hang on, erm….

Course Description

This is two-lap anti-clockwise course with an additional point to point at the finish.

The course starts on Chippendale Ride, where it crosses the stream. Head east for a few metres and then turn right, up a steep hill. Follow this bridleway through Deer Park Wood and Memorial Wood, then continue straight on along the footpath through Quarry Wood (this section can get very muddy) at the end of this path turn left onto the bridleway and go down the hill to the chariot sculpture and gate, then turn left alongside Caley Wood, Keepers Wood and Stag Wood until you reach the first corner again. Loop around for a second time. On completion of the second circuit follow Chippendale Ride back up the hill towards the road to the finish line.

The route is all on trail or forest footpaths and the ground is uneven and often muddy, trail shoes are recommended particularly during autumn and winter or after rain.

Trail shoes, they want trail shoes. Oops. I only have one pair of shoes that my mutant feet can tolerate at the moment, with cut out bits so my foot can sort of levitate above the sore parts, which is basically all of it. I do have trail shoes, but I’d have to carry them, rather than wear them, and call me massively intuitive but – I’m thinking they expect them to be on your feet rather than randomly adorning your person. Oh well, I’ll have my walking poles to assist.

The map of the course looks like this:

It doesn’t entirely help, as basically you can see the route is entirely within trees. Trees usually mean tree routes and forest paths. Aesthetically pleasing, but maybe a little ouchy underfoot. Hmm, trail shoes territory indeedy.

Trees are lovely though aren’t they. They ooze other worldly soothiness. I love them, they just instantly transport you. I love the smell of trees and the sound of trees and all thing tree-like. I love squirrels in trees and the endurance of trees. It makes me sad when trees are under threat. An old tree is a thing of wonder indeed, but even a new sapling, exudes joy and manifests hope for the future. Planting a tree is a mark of optimism surely? Everyone should plant trees if they can, where the habitat is appropriate to do so. Just as everyone should have a water source in their outside space if they have any; wear fancy dress when the opportunity presents itself (not limited to parkrun venues); befriend a frog and a squirrel and experience parkrun as a walker. Just saying.

So I arrived, I parked up. I felt a wave of apprehension. Aargh, difficult terrain, unknown parkrun; new people; what if I didn’t know anyone? What if I did know anyone, and they didn’t know me? What if I did know lots of people and had to interact with them in some way? What if I was too slow? What if I needed the loo again? What if, what if? Maybe I should just get back in the car and drive home again right now, just to by pass all the social awkwardness and embarrassment, it could save everyone a lot of time. Not least at the end as they’d be waiting for me to finish.

As I was processing these thoughts, I found myself walking down towards the lower carpark, and then was greeted by a vision of loveliness incarnate, cartwheeling up in a blast of positive energy and freneticism (is that a word? It is now) the human tornado, core team, regular volunteer co-ordinater and rotational RD (that would account for the energetic spinning) and most importantly of all for today 50% of the tailwalking team; whirling her way up to the carpark to wave down the other tail walker. She greeted me warmly, explaining she was directing one fellow With Me Now podcast listener from the Surprise View Carpark to the start, and another from the upper car park to the lower, so in full-on organisational enabling mode, but still had time for enthusiastic welcoming and waving. It was all going to be fine. Also, this meant I had instant new friends from near and far. Hurrah, and we all found one another too, AND did I mention that as well as being RD; tailwalker (50%); With Me Now listener; parkrun acrobat and all round awesomeness this person is a selfie taking sensation? I didn’t? Well she is, check out the number of her shots I’ve lifted for your edification, enlightenment and enjoyment in this blog post. You’re welcome. With Me Now is a podcast ‘About parkrun passion by passionate parkrunners.’ If you don’t want to soil yourself by clicking onto their Facebook page, you can go straight to the With Me Now podcasts here and You Tube channel here. Go on, you know you want to, even more of a need for it now Free Weekly Timed is no more, not that that was any great loss to be fair, but if you enjoyed that, my, you will be properly MIND BLOWN by With Me Now. There are a log of podding and vlogging parkrunners these days. See also Nicola Runs – these vlogs have been a real tonic of parkrun joy in dark days when I couldn’t get out at all, as well as happier days when can relive parkruns past enjoy parkruns present and look forward to parkruns still to come…

Speaking of which, here we all are, just to get the parkrun party started:

The die was cast. I would be embarking on the forest bathing parkrun. My tailwalkers were in readiness, an entourage assembled, hurrah! I look like I’ve shaved my head. I haven’t. I forgot my buff though, if there’s one thing worse than running in the buff, it’s been caught parkrunning without one. Fortunately, my amiable companions were too polite to mention it.

Delighted as I was to see my tail walking buddies I couldn’t help but clock the absence of any fancy dressery. They had made the call that to avoid giving offence to others today wasn’t the day. It’s true, Fancy Dress in general and Pirate Fancy Dress in particular can go horribly wrong. So perhaps a sensible call. Do you remember the Colin Darch incident?

A former hostage has spoken of the moment he walked into a Women’s Institute meeting to give a talk on international piracy and found the group dressed as pirates. Colin Darch said he was amused that members of Parkham WI in North Devon had donned fancy dress for the occasion.

Darch, a retired sailor from North Devon, has written a book about his experience of being kidnapped by pirates in 2008 and often gives talks on the subject. The 75-year-old said his hosts had been “embarrassed” by the mix-up.

“Since I was released five years ago, I have spoken at a lot of conferences and serious events about the dangers of piracy and how to survive,” he said. “More recently, since writing the book, I have been taking to Rotary groups, Probus clubs and the occasional WI.

“When I arrived there were ladies with blue rinses wearing pirate hats and waving swords around. They had been led to believe it was a talk about piracy through the ages and not something right up to date.

“I think they were worried I might be a bit upset that they were trivialising it, but I thought it was funny. I just laughed and said it was like something from The Pirates of Penzance.

“They were more embarrassed than me and they asked me to judge the best pirate costume. They even bought a few of my books.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/02/colin-darch-piracy-womens-institute

Awkward…

Hilarious though, but definitely awkward.

Anyway, upshot was no fancy dress pirates at this parkrun, though there was a book signing, So that was exciting! More of that later

I remain hopeful that their fancy dress costumes, inflatable parrots and all, will see the light of day at a future parkrun. People do that all the time with their milestone tees after all. You can’t get them until after you’ve completed the event so they are inevitably only donned for the first time in subsequent weeks. I see no issue with doing the same for a pirate challenge outfit. It would be a positive boon to have them randomly rock up in fancy dress at a subsequent unrelated parkrun. After all, it is the parkrun ethos to allow each person to participate in their own way, doubt anyone would bat an eyelid, they might not even notice in the parade of other fancy dress themes; wedding parties; running club tees and wonky emotional support animals. Hardly worth raising an eyebrow for. It isn’t a lost parkrun fancy dress moment, merely a joy postponed, the anticipation will make the donning of the eye patches and companion bird even more exciting in due course.

Where was I? Oh yes, gathering, and then making our way to the start area. It was already distracting. There were wooden carvings already, and lovely inviting woodland pathways, and the buzz of assembling parkrunners, and the colourful collection of high vis heroes gathered in a glade like forest fairies preparing to do their magic under the directional spells of the day’s RD. Our attentive consort, the bouncy RD pointed out trip hazards – to help us to avoid them rather than implore us to make use of them. There are some uneven surfaces and the odd random hole about, which is to be expected on a trail route. It is the lovelier for it. Nature untamed. Photo opps with the pop up sign, with new friends and old. These pictures won’t take themselves!

And then, after a bit, we were called to the first timers’ welcome. We were especially honoured on this occassion to be personally welcomed by Chevin Forest parkrun’s Event Director Debbie. I can’t promise you’d be so blessed, but everyone in the team is equally enthusiastic and welcoming so you’ll never be left either unwelcomed or unenthused at this event. She has two dawgs herself; Winnie n Rosie I believe, so you are assured of a dawg friendly event if that’s important to you. This event is excellent for canines in terms of route and facilities, there is lots of space for parkrunners and barkrunners both.

There were a couple (well three actually) doing their first ever EVER parkrun, and about 35 of us who were touristing from elsewhere. Excitingly, I espied a Fell Foot apricot tee, sported by celebrity author Eileen Jones, who in lockdown, wrote The parkrun book, which has since been out on parkrun book relay all of its own. We’ve been Facebook friends for a while, but never met. I wasn’t expecting to see her out in the wild, so that was a very exciting spot. Turns out she’d been displaced from Fell Foot parkrun due to National Trust properties deciding not to allow parkrun to take place on their land this weekend. Their loss was our gain. Hurrah! I saved the sycophancy and recognition for later though, being attentive to the briefing instead, in between strolling around trying to take atmospheric photos. I don’t know why I bothered really, as mine are almost all universally terrible, and others took much better ones of the same event. Oh well, they do say it’s the thought that counts. I’d like to agree, but sometimes it’s getting the photo that counts for more. A variation on the ‘it it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen’ logic. Anyway, here we are, at the first timers’ welcome being attentive and excited and trying not to roll down the hill and crash into those already assembling at the start.

Check out the trees! See, lovely aren’t they.

After this welcome, there was a scamper down the hill to the start. Those that were able to scamper, scampered, I did my robotic shuffle. The surface was dry and although I can imagine it could get muddy over winter, it really wasn’t bad at all. Though gradients did kick in later.

Next stop the RD briefing. There was a moment when some walkers wanted to come through and the crowd of parkrunners parted to let them pass, all very amenable. The sloping start gives a good view of the Run Director and good acoustics too. So we could all hear the various announcements. I wasn’t quite sure how they’d handle the death of the Queen, but the event went for a one minute’s silence. It was serene and quiet in the woods. It is moving when people collectively gather and share experiences, that is the entire magic of a parkrun really, I mean in honesty there’s nothing to stop anyone, anywhere setting out on a 5k walk, run or jog on their own at any time – maybe standing on a street corner in a high vis timing people as they pass or shouting encouragement might be harder to explain – but it is the doing together and post parkrun faffery that builds the connections. The astonishing thing to me was that the silence was observed by all. It is apparently possible for a group to be quiet all at the same time – a lesson to carry forward to future run briefings perhaps?

Minute’s silence observed, a few more parkrunners than usual in black perhaps, choosing to wear 100 tees over other colours? I think that was probably about right. Those who feel parkrun should not have happened have the option to stay away. For me missing parkrun would be just another deprivation. I was glad that once the acknowledgement was made, it was parkrun very much as usual, but minus pirate fancy dress.

Here we are at the start

and here we are underway!

Off we trotted behind them. I say ‘trotted’ it was more of a laboured amble to be fair. It is alarming how quickly the field disappeared out of sight. Very quickly you are past the time keepers and volunteer team cheering you on your way – possibly even more quickly if you don’t stop for a group photo on your way past, but where would be the fun in that?

and heading off up a fairly steep hill. Not sure if these are the right sequence to be fair, but if you’ve been you’ll know the course anyway, and if you haven’t you won’t know any better will you. A bit of creative licence isn’t a bad thing, I want you to experience Chevin Forest parkrun for yourself unimpeded by accurate spoilers in advance of your visit. You’re welcome 🙂

Good news though, plenty of distractions and interludes en route. There is the sculpture trail which is jolly fun, but also interactive marshals which were even more fun – hard though that is to imagine, and the constant antics of our tailwalking RD to keep us entertained at no extra charge. One day, I’ll get a proper camera so I can capture such moments with the clarity and va-va-voom they merit, for now, you’ll have to make do with these:

I love how the marshal is so used to the antics of our core team member escort, she doesn’t even bother to look around. That ability to get airborne is astounding though, a super power basically. Very impressive show of defying gravity. It was like being accompanied around by a life size jack in the box, except it was a Jill-out-of-the-box, and quite right too. Women should not be stuffed in boxes and restrained. Nobody should to be fair. Also parkrun is inevitably exciting, one can’t help but jump about on such occasions. Try it and see.

As well as defying gravity, we got a guided tour of sites en route. There was the trig point – though they didn’t seem to be at the actual highest point which confused me. There were also viewing points. Chariot racing photo opportunity points. The old tom (?) marshal point with the rather broken and sad hunched carving of a man, even the presence of a cheering parkrun marshal was not enough to lift his flagging heart. I don’t think it is Tom actually, but I can’t remember. I’ll try to find out, or I might just leave it as a mystery, that would be fine too.

I’ve looked, can’t find out, but did find out the sculptures were make by a local called Shane, I don’t think I’ve ever met an actual Shane, still haven’t to be fair, but this is evidence they are out there somewhere in the wild so that’s good. It’s also well worth having a gander at his creative process, the history of the trail and the trees origins. These are not random carvings, they have a story to tell. More importantly they are really fun to encounter and brilliant for posing on, with and adjacent to.

Similarly, our passage through the forest trails was not random either. (Hope you appreciated that seamless segue back on to the parkrun theme). However, nearly a week later, my memories lack actual chronology, and have merged into images of meeting people, and laughing, and posing for photos.

Oh, and there is even one dedicated to parkrun for Run Directors, Event Directors and other local parkrun dignitaries to sit on to survey their view. Isn’t that a lovely gesture? Seemed almost cruel to drag her away, left alone, she would have morphed into the landscape, and no doubt be there still, her spirit urging parkrunners on and causing dachshunds to paws pause and ponder.

I think the elephant may have been my favourite, but so very hard to choose. And anwyway we couldn’t linger, so much to see, places to go, parkrunners to see priorities to discuss.

Here are some people we met – oh and a dachshund too, that was very cute – not that the people weren’t also cute, but this little fella was cuteness overload and some. Didn’t like the tailwalker scratching the ground though, very bad form apparently, good to know. This is a very dog friendly parkrun by the way. And don’t the dawgies know it? Rhetorical question, yes they do! There were many chilled, excited and generally happy and enthused pooches about. Some as barkrunners, some as Chevin Forest explorers sans parkrun, all were welcomed and accommodated. In the café afterwards too for the record.:

And here is a particularly fine marshal point for parkrunner spotting. In fact there were several – go spoil yourself and take a gander. We did, paused to cheer other parkrunners past; As a double lapper, slower participants will get passed as speedier parkrunners do their second lap, but this is a good opportunity for friend and celebrity spotting, and exchanging mutual cheers so a boon. The path is generally pretty wide so it didn’t cause any congestion as such, though perhaps in winter it might mean you’d need to brave romping through mud to overtake, but that’s a plus surely? You don’t feel like you’ve had a proper parkrun outing if you come home with clean trainers in winter!

Here you go:

I feel I should be more informative about the route. I was too busy gazing about to notice really. You do a sort of outy bit, then go round in a big loop, then go around the big loop again. Marshals cheerily waited for us, and for the second circuit we were just me and the two tail walkers and the remaining marshals really. Some marshals once stood down opted to head back, others carried on round the route to get their steps in and enjoy some quite forest bathing of their own.

As is often the way, we had some good chats at the back, in between our spontaneous partying. Fun stuff and serious stuff too. So topics covered fancy dress highs and lows, the nature of trauma passing down generations – yep, you might be surprised how powerful walk and talk can be in terms of opening up conversations. We also shared stories of parkruns we have known and loved and had quite a lot of talk about walking at parkrun. Next month, October is to be dedicated to parkwalk at parkrun. No it isn’t parkwalt despite the graphics, and I share the slight disappointment that it isn’t parkwaltz either.

Despite the weird graphic, I couldn’t be happier about this. It’s a tricky one. In theory all parkruns welcome walkers, but those of us at the back today have experienced walking at parkrun and as parkrun passionistas don’t wish to be critical of the events we know and love and appreciate the efforts put in by volunteers. Yet it remains the case that experiences of walking at parkrun can be erm, ‘mixed.’ I’ve had awesome tailwalkers see me round and RDs welcome me, and I’ve also been at the parkrun where the tailwalker walked ahead of me the whole time, telling every marshal as she got to them ‘you might as well stand down, this one’s going to be ages’ I was in tears after that one. Then there’s the well-meaning but misguided encouragement to skip bits of the route, cut corners – ‘no thanks, I’ve come for the 5k, but now I’m really thinking you want me to hurry up so you can all go home‘. The dismantled finish funnels. The celebratory cake long since consumed. These might seem small things, but they can be very alienating. Also the message from some that walking is the gateway to the ‘normal’ participation of parkrun by running, not an end and massive achievement in itself.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to run again, perhaps. But for some health conditions only deteriorate. What I do know, is that for a time last year, I didn’t know if I’d ever make it out of my house again, let alone back to a parkrun. Although I’m frustrated at my progress, I can walk now, and although it takes it out of me, I am getting better I think. There are others for whom walking is what only happens on a good day, it’s not the expectation that once you are ‘better’ you will suddenly be able to run. It feels like a guilty secret to admit there are sometimes issues with how walkers experience parkrun. People mean well, but don’t always understand the undermining impact of a throw away remark or casual inference that walking isn’t doing parkrun ‘properly’. ‘It’s called parkRUN‘ is a common refrain. Oh FFS, things can evolve. How would innovation ever occur if we didn’t try to do things differently, let’s not leave improvements to chance, let’s experiment with change. New beginnings are exciting. It’ll be an adventure – be open to its possibilities. It’s going to be grand.

Besides if others walk it doesn’t prevent people from running if they want to participating just as they do now, it simply opens up the event for others, I don’t see why it should be contentious. For me the joy of discovering parkrun has always been finding an environment of runners where as a slow runner I could join in – and then volunteering, well, that’s fab too obvs. Running clubs seemed just to feed my sense of inadequacy, the last straw being when the club vest was only available in a men’s cut up to a size 16. I’ve taken part in runs where ‘no-one is left behind’ and that meant people did wait, only to sprint off again as soon as you are breathlessly in sight, thus I was perpetually on my own, breathless, never getting a chance to recover with my mind battling ever more intrusive thoughts about my own inadequacies. Worst of all those who announce they are injured so feeling really pathetic so they’ll join the slow group, and still sprint ahead seemingly mocking those of us for whom their bad day is unobtainable. parkrun has been my safe place as a runner and now I can’t run at all, walking at parkrun has enabled me to participate up to a point. However, even as an experienced parkrunner, familiar with its ethos and with many scattered parkrun friends I can feel inadequate, apprehensive and lost rocking up at an unknown parkrun as a walker. I’d just so love that to change, to feel confident setting out. It takes courage to step out the door sometimes, and although I try to embrace ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ and I know that only be moving our of our comfort circles can we grow, I just long for a parkrun day to come round again when I didn’t have to pluck up courage to go. It’s the uncertainty about what you might encounter. I’ve pretty much never regretted a parkrun, but I have had mixed experiences and certainly there are some I’d be more likely to recommend to worried walkers coming for their first ever parkrun than others. junior parkrun seems to have nailed this. My local Sheffield Olympic Legacy park junior parkrun is fabulous in its capacity to welcome all comers without pressure or judgement. That’s as participants, volunteers or adult carers taking part alongside their youngsters but with their own fitness goals. The juniors who amble round at the back swinging a favourite rabbit toy by the ears, taking an occasional detour to circle a cone or high five a marshal bring extra joy to the event, it’s not a problem, it’s a total bonus. I think junior parkrun retains an innocence and inclusivity that some of the 5k events have allowed to slip away. There is no cynicism at junior parkrun, for the most part the times really don’t matter, and the important thing, the only really important rule as junior parkrun founder Paul Graham would say, is to ‘have fun!’ A mantra I try to pass on to all first timers I encounter. This emphasis is what needs to be restored to the 5k events. Walkers shouldn’t be a problem to a parkrun, they should be a joy, an asset and in honesty, it could be where the events have maximum impact. I know without being able to walk at parkrun I wouldn’t have had a safe way to increase my distances and experiment with new terrain as I try to recover mobility, I’m hugely grateful for it, but I also see how it has scope to be more welcoming still, and it’s fantastic if that initiative is coming. I can not wait! Bring it on! And if you are a bit dubious, maybe just try to keep an open mind…

https://www.facebook.com/parkrunUK/videos/1367426970452602

For others to be able to access parkrun as a gateway not just to being active, but much more importantly to being connected, to be able to cry with laughter sharing stories with people you’ve only just met. To discover new places; be given permission to play again and parkfaff with the best of them. Or even just to come, do you own thing and go away again, without pressure to interact if you don’t want to, that would be fab too. An exciting new chapter in parkrun, new adventures to unfold, a fresh page turned, it’s going to be great!

The real challenge of being a walker at parkrun is that it’s impossible to be invisible, you are often a minority, and can feel a burden on events. I don’t like thinking I’ll be making a team wait for me in inclement weather. I have done my fair share of volunteering, I know it’s hard in the freezing cold waiting for someone ages behind everyone else. But if the event was packed with more walkers that would be ace, plenty more people to cheer home. I’d just love to do a South African parkrun where I understand walking is almost the norm and numbers are huge so you are never alone at the back of the pack. How extraordinary that would be. To be central to a parkrun event, not an add on.

I really hope that this initiative to encourage walkers will make walking not just acceptable at parkruns, but more of the norm, so I and others like me don’t have to feel self-conscious, inadequate and a burden, but can just rock up and do it. No messaging ahead apologetically to say you’re sorry you’ll be slow, or scanning events’ results histories to see if they are used to slower final finishers. By the way, don’t get annoyed if we seem to be taking even longer because we stop to take photos and chat to marshals on the way round, that’s a coping strategy for pain management – though also a massive boon and enrichment on the way round.

If you are someone who normally whizzes round a parkrun, why not walk one in October? Properly walk it, right at the back, not trying to encourage walkers to run, that might not be realistic or their objective, but just to experience parkrun in a different way. It’s a revelation, much like volunteering, you will see the event very differently.

The irony was, we three at the back, weren’t witches, though we are most definitely wise women and to be fair, not much wrong with being a witch in the sense of having our own agency and power – we were are all comfortable with walking at parkrun, yet we did initially put a bit of pressure on ourselves not to dilly dally too much. No worries though, our tailwalking RD has it sussed, her marshals are used to her, it takes the time it takes. Walkers welcome! Chevin Forest parkrun welcomes walkers indeed.

and we did have a blast at the back:

So even though we were well over the one hour mark, the end seemed to come quickly. I went through the tunnel ahead of my tail walking companions who were like an official entourage. I’ve decided I quite like having them at a parkrun. Loads of stories and laughs to share, someone to navigate and act as official photographer as well as see you home safely. It was a bonding sort of a parkrun adventure, just lovely.

But wait, there’s more!

Yes, yes, that was parkrun done. Through the funnel, avoiding getting my final bingo numbers obvs, timed in, token given and scanned, but then it was celebrity meet up time, because there she was, The parkrun book author, hurrah. ‘How parkrun changed our lives by Eileen Jones‘ Appropriate adulation followed, and was taken in good humour, as all possible permutations of parkrun people and parkrun book and parkrun author were experimented with. Turns out Eileen is a hugger too (ask first), this makes me happy! I miss hugs:

I needed another pee and am slow, so ambled ahead to the café round the corner and associated conveniences. I thought at first the café must have a dress code as some pretty snappy dressers around, but turns out they were for a wedding party in an adjacent converted outbuilding. We got to descend into the old cowshed which was just ridiculously picturesque with lovely worn stone and a beautifully maintained informal cottage garden and loads of seating inside and out. Dog friendly, it that’s important to you and parkrunner friendly too, offering a discount on presentation of your barcode only I forgot about that. The cakes and breakfasts to choose from were amazing. The temptation to just faceplant onto the counter or have one of each was pretty enormous. post parkrun faffery, post parkrun breakfast, forget ‘it was always about the coffee’ this was a full on second – and possibly third breakfast scenario! Dear reader, I bring you the Mistal kitchen

We had such excellent faffing! It might look like we all knew each other but that was not so, it is testament to the bonding power of parkrun that we had connections everywhere. So Red Ted was spotted by someone who knew his creator, and then our author ended up doing some impromptu book signings, and then others of us found connections with parkruns we had in common albeit on different occasions and as if that wasn’t enough there was always the fact we’d just done this splendid one to bond us together. We are all part of one another’s stories now, a proper connection that will endure! It was really affirming and lovely and all memories of early morning starts and pre parkrun apprehension evaporated. The cafe brought out trays laden with steaming coffees and imaginative and beautifully presented breakfast options. I could happily have lived there were it not for my frog and squirrel guardianship responsibilities back home in Sheffield.

After a bit, some people with lives to lead began to disperse, but me and 50% of the tail walking team lingered longer in solidarity with the ‘it was always about the coffee‘ directive, we did move inside, and it might have even been a three coffee morning, I only ever drink coffee on parkrun days, I was buzzing for the journey home.

So morning morphed into afternoon, and then I too had to depart. It had been a fantastic morning. Chevin Forest parkrun is a truly welcoming space, and the forest gorgeous. The views out from the route promise a wider landscape that would be amazing to explore. It was a little overcast, but that made the light perfect for seeing into the distance. If this was your local walking and running playground you’d be blessed indeed. The vegan and vegetarian friendly café was the icing on the cake, a great deal of cake, not cheap, but for a treat pretty fabulous.

Thank you lovely Chevin Forest parkrun people, thank you celebrity parkrun author, thank you fellow parkrunners, thank you lovely tail walkers and brunch companion(s) – thank you all for a healing morning in the forest. Thank you all the high vis heroes who made the magic happen, Chevin Forest parkrun is gorgeous, joyful, spectacular and very wonderful indeed! Bravo!

#loveparkrun #walking at parkrun I’m not sure where next Saturday will take me parkrun wise, but you’ll be a tough act to follow.

How did anyone manage in a pre parkrun world? parkrun is a precious thing indeed. Nurture it.

Oh and if you are interested the full results for Chevin Forest parkrun number 52 are here and rather more interestingly, there is a fab run report from tail walking titan Ali here. Or will be, as soon as it goes live.

*presence not guaranteed, but in other news, every parkrunner is a celebrity in my eyes, all have a story to share and unique intrinsic value of their own.

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

parkrun Nivarna at Normanby Hall?

I’m fearful that what I am about to post may be deemed by some to be only just short of sacrilege in parkrun terms, but I can not tell a lie, Normanby Hall parkrun is truly special. (That’s not the controversial bit). I think it may, for me at least, knock Fountains Abbey off it’s plinth of ‘most spectacular of the region’s parkruns’. (That’s the controversial bit). I mean Fountains Abbey parkrun is not known as Fabbey parkrun for nothing, it’s an astonishing venue, but Normanby Hall parkrun is definitely a new favourite for me. It’s got all the things, and no pressure to finish and depart before the grounds open which knocks the shine off Fabbey parkrun if you are parkrunner who needs an hour to get around.

I’m not even entirely sure how Normanby Hall parkrun came to be on my radar in the first place, though now it is I’m mortified it was missing from my parkrun ‘to do’ map up until yesterday. It just fitted the bill for an accessible sounding parkrun within reasonable reach of Sheffield. I honestly didn’t know much about it before. I know, I know, I’m truly embarrassed by this, but hopefully by being properly open about this history, others can learn from my mistakes and not leave it so long to rock up and discover this gem of a parkrun for themselves.

The day didn’t start particularly well. I think it’s taken my body a while to recover from last week, and I was in a lot of pain first thing. I long for a day when I wake up pain free, but am coming to the depressing conclusion that that’ll be the day I wake up dead, which is annoying because if you are dead you don’t feel the benefit. I am not debilitated by pain the way I was a few months ago, I can do stuff, but everything hurts. I was hoping to have a stick free parkrun today, going to a new venue where no-one would know me and so no pressure, but was wondering if that was such a good idea. Hmm. It’s hard to know with this new reality how much my fears of falling are founded and how much they are an understandable, but disproportionate anxiety. Hmmm. I decided to take red ted and my stick with me and review when I got there.

In the car, and on our way. Wait, what was this stuff coming out of the sky? Rain? I’d forgotten about rain, it’s been so long since we’ve had any. Oh well, I’d be getting wet, I’d failed to chuck a waterproof in the car though I did have my fleece with me. It is officially meteorological autumn now apparently, and it did seem darker suddenly and even a bit of a nip in the air as I set off. parkrun tourism gets a lot less viable once the bad weather sets in. ‘Winter is coming‘ isn’t only an ominous phrase in Game of Thrones terms, it fills the most dedicated of parkrun tourists with fear and horror at the prospect of cancelled parkruns and missed starts due to ice and snow and dark and stormy nights!

Not here yet though, and in fact, by the time I got to the parkrun location it had not only stopped raining, but it was properly humid and sticky and not even autumnal let alone wintry.

It was an easy drive, me and my sat nav seem to have worked through our forming, storming and norming stages and are borderline performing. We got there without any passive aggressive demands on her part to do a u-turn but without meeting any diversions either.

The directions to the parkrun on the official Normanby Hall parkrun website blah de blah say:

Getting there by road
From Scunthorpe: Follow the B1430 to the north, signposted Burton upon Stather. When you reach Normanby go straight ahead at the mini roundabout and follow the road round to the right, the park main entrance is on your right.
From the Humber Bridge: Follow the A1077 towards Winterton/Scunthorpe. Just before Winterton, turn right towards Thealby/Burton Stather. In Thealby turn left towards Normanby. The park Gate is on your left after about a mile or follow the signs to Normanby Hall Country Park
From the M181: Follow the A1077 towards Winterton. Turn left at the third roundabout onto the B1430 signposted Burton Stather. When you reach Normanby go straight ahead at the mini roundabout and follow the road round to the right, the park main entrance is on your right.

There is plenty of free parking within the Park. For free parking use the overspill car park (signposted) and display a parkrun barcode in the windscreen of the car. PLEASE DO NOT USE ANY ADJOINING ROADS, INCLUDING NORMANBY VILLAGE FOR PARKING

but to be honest, I just used the postcode for Normanby Hall which is DN15 9HU, and then followed the brown attraction signs as I got near. It was very easy to find. On arrival, there is a huge car park, and a big sign directing you to the overflow carpark where parkrunners can have 2 hours free parking if they display a barcode. Why you’d need to park on adjoining roads or Normanby Village I don’t know, there is an abundance of well organised parking right at the parkrun. Having said that though, I initially followed the signs and went right down to the end of the unsurfaced road and ended up at what looked like a campsite, so had to turn around and come back. By this point there were three car park marshals in situ and it seems you actually just go into the big field to the right of the sign, not down the long road. It’s obvious really, it’s just I was very early and attempted to park before a marshal was in place.

Once I was parked up, it was but a short walk across the carpark to the sunflower surrounded toilet block, via a quick detour to check out the Go Ape wooden sculpture. They don’t have actual apes, which is good, because primates in captivity is an abomination, but they do have one of those air rope; zip wire; scary treetop courses. The sign about the go ape course was super scary, apparently three people have fallen off Go Ape courses because of not abiding properly to the safety protocols of securing their harnesses at all time. Well, that’s telling you. Luckily I was there for the parkrun where there is no requirement for safety harnesses. Whilst a face plant is always a possibility, it won’t be from the height of the Hyperion redwood.

Lots of loos, though behind cages, separating the men’s and women’s which was somewhat weird. It was like each toilet block had it’s own distinct exercise yard, I have no idea why. I can report they were very clean, and came complete with not only toilet paper but hot water and liquid soap too. This parkrun venue has nailed the parkrun precautionary pee protocols, always a positive first impression at a new parkrun when it delivers on this front. You can dear reader, travel to this venue with confidence in the personal ablutions and toileting aspects of your adventure. These details matter, well they do to me anyway. And let’s face it, hot water anywhere is going to become a rarity in months to come. We must celebrate both the presence of water and the miracle of it having been heated up for our indulgence whenever and wherever we can. Anyway, bottom line is, that it was sat nav accuracy? Tick. Car parking? Tick. And toilets? Tick. All good. Satisfied at this provision you can free your mind to focus on the other winning aspects of the parkrun.

I still was ambivalent about whether to try the route unaided. I mean if I could joggle and jiggle a bit last week then maybe this week I should ditch my metaphorical training wheels in the form of my stick and parkrun naked – figuratively speaking obvs. Don’t be childish. It’s what’s going on inside your head that made that sound risqué not mine. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Racked with indecision, I wobbled and wound my way back to my car, a friendly marshal asked if I needed any help, I must have been unconsciously sporting my perpetually bewildered look. Still, it was fortuitous, as I took the opportunity to ask about the surface of the route. It was a reassuring account. Sounded not only highly accessible, but, get this, bouncy tarmac in parts! You know that thick rubberised stuff, that is used on surfaces for playgrounds and things. That is very forgiving, only peatland themselves are bouncier, this was going to be fun. I’d ditch the sticks, throw caution to the wind, and make every parkrun count by just seeing how it unfolded, hurrah!

I made my way through to the courtyard, where as I entered I saw the high vis heroes assembling. This parkrun is so well organised and set out. This is where the post parkrun café is with loads of outside seating. As the volunteers gathered, there was a big white board inviting people to sign up to volunteer on subsequent weeks.

There’s an obvious path out of the courtyard, and an impressive array of information boards, including a map of the route. Oh good, I’d not really looked that up before hand. Though I will now, the official Normanby not Normandy Hall parkrun page course description blah de blah says:

Course Description
The route takes you on mainly surfaced paths with two very short lengths of trail path. Some sections of the course may accumulate mud, leaves and puddles after rain, or ice in winter. Dependent on availability, marshals will be at key sections of the course

I think it is fair to describe that as ‘minimalist’. Perhaps the picture will help. The course apparently looks like this:

Is that photo the right way up? To be honest, the picture doesn’t really help much does it. I mean, I suppose that is the map of the route, not just a bit of wet spaghetti randomly dropped onto the map from a great height

Oh well, maybe the map on site will help. Oh good yes, it has different colour codes and marshal points and all sorts, bound to help!

Erm, nope, not really. This is why parkruns have marshals. I decided not to worry my pretty little head with navigational details. One boon of being a walker is that for the most part I’m in touching distance of, if not actually alongside the tail walkers, and there ought to be people within my line of sight at least for the most part, though that isn’t a given these days of course.

You exit the courtyard, where there is the reassuring and exciting sight of the parkrun flag, erected in readiness along with a ‘caution runners’ sign, so you know you are in the right place. Off to the left a bit, down a path and then oh my! Just look at that house. A huge grand building with a Narnia/ Mary Poppins style line of Victorian lamp posts alongside, which cultural reference in meaningful to you depends on your frame of reference. Based on subsequent experience of the park though, I’d say this is a magical Narnia land more than an American imagining of Victorian London, but each to their own. Even more excitingly, people were a-gathering. More specifically parkrun people. You could tell on account of their apricot tops, milestone shirts, running club tees and generally cheery dispositions and extremeley photogenic appearances. The marshals as always being the most photogenic of all, of course.

I didn’t know anything at all about Normanby not Normandy Hall, so I’ve subsequently googled it. Google thought I was looking up Norman Wisdom at first, so that was confusing, but we got there in the end. Apparently ‘Normanby Hall is a stunning Regency mansion, set in an idyllic 300 acre estate in the heart of North Lincolnshire, offering the perfect backdrop to your day out’, all well and good, but not a lot to go on. It is now a venue for all the things from weddings to the Antiques Roadshow. And they also have a marathon especially for hedgehogs coming up soon. I’m a bit dubious about whether that’s a good thing to be fair, don’t they need all their resources to be building up to get them through winter? Still, anything that raises awareness around hedgehogs has to be a good thing. Oh, and actually it’s only a half, so probably ok…

Oh hang on, I’ve found more stuff…

The House and Family
Built in 1825, Normanby Hall Country Park is a Regency mansion designed by Robert Smirke, and is owned by the Sheffield Family, former Dukes of Buckingham, and the original owners of Buckingham Palace.

During the 19th and 20th centuries the Sheffield family resided at Normanby for five months of the year, spending the winter season here pheasant shooting, and entertaining guests over Christmas and the New Year. In the spring, the family would move to London with some of their servants for the ‘coming out season’ and then return to Normanby for a week in June/July en route to their shooting lodge in Scotland where the family would spend the summer.

In 1964 the Sheffield family leased the house and grounds to what was then Scunthorpe Borough Council on a 99 year lease. Since then, the rooms that are open to the public have been furnished in the late Regency style using inventories of the house from 1829 to 1840 as a guide.

Well, that is positively enlightening! Even allowing for the fact that Robert Smirke sounds like a made up person, but then again so does Lord PANIC who we keep hearing from of late. Yes I know it’s actually Pannick, but that spelling is not nearly as entertaining. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story after all. Anyway, it’s sort of an audio joke isn’t it? Don’t need to ruin it by writing it down.

I had no idea that it was once owned by the Sheffield Family, but then again, I didn’t know the hall existed at all 24 hours ago. Blooming second homers though eh, only living there for part of the year. Still, if they hadn’t indulged themselves with landscape gardening a country park then we wouldn’t have a parkrun here so, I’ll let that go. A 99 year lease doesn’t seem very long though, more than half way through. Anyway, enough of this parkrun related edutainment, back to the parkrun in question. Quick, let’s look at some photos to get back in the mood. Where was I? Oh yes, gathering parkrunners. And lovely things, like a photo frame for picture posing, a ‘secret’ walled garden, so many intriguing places inviting you to go off and explore… Then again, exploring parkrun paraphernalia is super fun too! They had a trolley for putting all their things on, dinky token buckets that would double for building sandcastles if you fancied a sojourn to a sandy beach later; and a finish token board, lovingly crafted to keep tokens from escaping into the wild or shuffling out of sequence. The finish funnel was all set up, and volunteers were meeting and greeting one another.

I was starting to feel properly excited. Then the RD took possession of a mike, and it felt like it was the compere at a festival starting the warm up. A big up welcome, and a call out to first timers to gather for the first timers welcome. Which we duly did. It felt like a reasonably big parkrun but there were only 14 first timers of whom an impressive 6 were first time everers. isn’t that exciting, first ever parkrun and they came here. Wowsers, they chose well. I’m not sure if the first time everers actually made the first timers’ welcome, but according to today’s results they all got times so presumably they worked out what to do or came with friends who facilitated their parkrun debut. There were a fair few I noticed in Couch to 5k graduate 2022 t-shirts, but I honestly couldn’t tell if they were recent or long time graduates of that app.

We had a high vis faun as our very own Mr Tumnus to greet us to the parkrun. Would now be a good time to admit I’ve never actually read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, always found those sort of books really heavy going with the unrelatable children and heavy handed religious imagery, but then again, I’ve also not seen Game of Thrones and still feel confident enough to recycle the ‘winter is coming’ meme, so that’s me, living life on the knife edge, taking risks, putting myself out there. Sorry, if as a result the whole thing is nonsensical, but look at him, standing all welcoming under the lamp, it does have a wonderland feel to it I’m sure you’ll agree 🙂 And I’m Lucy after all, so it properly works, who knows what lies beneath those trousers, might be a faun. He did reference deer in the park after all as part of his welcome, maybe that was a clue, carefully planted for those intuitive enough to spot it?

Amongst the wide eyed, bushy tailed and attentive first timers, was an a contingent from Beverley Westwood parkrun, which, as well as having actual cow marshals, is erm ‘undulating’ one of their number boldly declared he was aiming not only to be first finisher but potentially break the course record. Kudos to him, this is a great surface for a fast time, and flat too. however, I do think it is an ambitious aim to try for first finisher if you’ve not done the route before. Our very own Mr Tumnus welcoming marshal gamely tried to explain the route, but honestly. Something about out and back, and round and round and tractor turns and woodland, and watch out for the der, and I just started to hear white noise and made the grateful decision just to follow the person in front. Having now completed the course I can confirm it is genuinely confusing. Sort of like being blind folded and spun round and then pushed out to find others in a game of blind man’s buff only without the blindfold and with more rainbow chimes in the woods.

Briefing done, the RD did some trawling for milestones. There was at least one person with a 50th celebration, the RD being at pains to point out it was their fiftieth parkrun not their fiftieth birthday, the parkrunner in question being actually 21. Fair enough. They had balloons though, so that’s good. Shout out for tourists..

… and then – and this made me SO HAPPY – we were invited to shimmy down to the start. Yes, dear reader, you heard that right. This was a parkrun where you get to shimmy, and are even encouraged to do so, and what’s more dear reader – yest there is more – some people were to be seen executing outstanding shimmying as they made there way to the start. Told you this parkrun gives others a run for their money, there is not enough shimmying as a default when gathering at parkrun starts.

And so shimmying concluded, parkrun started and awf, a pouring forth of parkrunners excitedly galloping off into the woods. Hurrah!

First loop was indeed into the woods, the path was good, and I could see the bright colourful train of parkrunners streaming ahead. It was an impressive sight. The first loop is relatively short, and as I was heading out and just reaching one of the early marshal points, I was in time to see the faster parkrunners coming back to rejoin our path after doing the first little loop round. I already loved this parkrun, I love that the marshals were super friendly and helpful, I love the venue and I love that you get to see the faster runners and indeed other parkrunners in general as the out and backs within the separate loops (it’s complicated to explain, you have to be there) lends a certain sociability. It was my first and probably only time here, but even so by the time I’d finished the course there were marshals and participants I must have passed and exchanged greetings with half a dozen times, I’m sure regulars must find it easy to get to know one another if they choose to do so – and why wouldn’t you, they all seem lovely!

You head round the loop, going towards some seriously impressive ornamental wrought iron gates. There a seated marshal was in situ to shoo you round the loop, and then you re-emerge at the marshal we’d passed earlier. Spoiler alert – you get to see these marshals again later, more than once, but I didn’t know this at this point. There are also little carvings scattered about, a squirrel that was ENORMOUS and a fox that was not, all very maaaaaaaaaaaagical though, plenty to gawp at and enjoy, those faster runners are missing out as all these lovely forest secrets pass them by in a blur of speed.

back the way we came, and oh look! The finish funnel! You get to run back and forth past this several times too. Again, I like this. Oh, and the surface in the early wooded bit was indeed bouncy tarmac, really inviting. Not had such a buzz since I ran along one of those weird walking travelators – flat ‘escalators’ (which is the opposite of Sheffield Flat, as these assist speedy horizontal rather than vertical progress.) at a deserted airport once. Honestly, I felt super human. Even though I can do barely a joggle and that a jiggly one, I did have a wee scamper on the bouncy bit and can report it feels lovely. Oh that all running routes were as forgiving.

and past the funnel we go and more distracting things to see. Check out this amazing fenced off tree for starters:

I concede my photo doesn’t really do it, but honestly it was ancient, and glorious, with stories to tell I’m sure.

Then another marshal ahead, once again, faster parkrunners were to be seen peeling off in a different direction, but I ploughed on ahead, snapping photos now and again as it was a great sight. Lots of lovely parkrunners doing their thing. I’ve done over 260 parkruns now, and I still find it makes me feel emotional at times when you find yourself at a new parkrun community, where elite runners and just getting rounders can participate in the same event and meet and greet and encourage one another, and in this instance the tail walkers have actual tails too. It’s quite something, I never tire of it.

Plodding onwards, another marshal and more speedy parkrunners. Past some of the Go Ape adventure playground in the sky, and again on a contra flow. The parkrun tourist was in the lead on target for first finisher although whether he’d get the course record was impossible to predict. I got one flying feet pic, so feel vindicated for my point and push efforts en route. Small victory but one to celebrate all the same.

I don’t really know if this was the mid point of the second loop as such, but anyway as I reached the end, the parkrunners ahead of me were looping the loop round a sort of grassy traffic island ahead. I mean it’s not quite the curly wurly of Somerdale Pavilion, but has it’s charm. Whilst the speedy parkrunner were heading back down for the final out past the finish funnel and round back again I got waved down the little side path to the right and into the woods proper. Wooo!

Oh my, the woods. This was my favourite bit! By now I was on my own, I couldn’t see the parkrunners ahead of me, partly because the path was a bit windy at this point, and partly because I’d slowed to a slow walk. Sore poorly legs and feet. I was managing without the stick, but learning how much it does help take some of the weight and that does make walking less painful. The tail walkers were quite far behind, I think they were having a social walk and talk and why not.

The woods were brilliant. It felt like going on a micro adventure of exploration and discovery. You can totally see why children in fairy tales end up leaving the path and getting lost in big woods. I kept being seduced off the path as I espied hidden treasures and curiosities amongst the undergrowth. A little detour wouldn’t hurt surely, I wasn’t going for a time, and as long as the tail walkers weren’t too close behind it wouldn’t delay the finish. I gazed up into cathedral high canapés canopies. Negotiating the parkrun without my sticks meant they didn’t get in the way of checking things out, and the distractions took my mind off my leg which was exploding with pain by this point. But pain is only pain, I didn’t feel like I was going to fall over and lose balance which had been my big fear, so that’s a breakthrough too. I just loved the woodland bit, you could lose yourself in there, having adventures, forest bathing writing your own stories. Perfect. Narnia indeed, but without the clumsy affectations of the book. And with less snow. Though I imagine the route would be gorgeous in deep snow if you could manage to get here for it. Apparently in season you get a confetti of blossom from the cherry trees as you pass on the way to the finish. What a wonderland!

There were huge, specimen trees towering overhead; a secret house; some rainbow chimes; bees in trees; nest boxes; Go Apery so much to see! I think it was here I noticed some parkrun footpath signs, so I guess this is one you could do as a freedom parkrun or (not)parkrun fairly easily. There were little bridges over streams, some rather dried up pools, I hope any amphibians have completed their transition into froglets by now. it was just lovely.

and then I emerged, confused, to where I think I’d been before, but frankly no idea any more. This was a truly perplexing route, I got completely disorientated, not in a bad way, you just put your faith in the marshals and surrender to the experience, but I did feel turned around. I guess if I went back and did it again it would make sense, but I was happy to just enjoy it.

Back out and oh look, a tractor train thing, all ready for the visitors arriving shortly. Like I said, lots to see.

And here was the 21 year old parkrunner on her fiftieth parkrun, all coming back down again as I headed back up to the finish/ start and once again carried on by

Belatedly the course was now beginning to make sense. I put a bit of a wiggle on up past the finish, though I did pause to try to get some shots of parkrunners who’d already finished mingling after their runs. I was acutely aware by the time I made it back again they’d probably all have scattered. In fact, a fair few were there, not just the mass of the volunteer team, but partners and friends of those still en route. Some came back out to join those on the course, and others were doing a cool down lap. I more of a sit down after parkrun type of participant, but each to their own.

I thanked the marshals still in situ, who were starting to feel like old friends. So positive. The RD made a point of encouraging people to thank the marshals as they passed in addition to the usual round of applause gesture at the start. The round of applause is good, but if you are a marshal out on course you don’t feel the benefit do you? Having a load of parkrunners greet you as they pass is way more fun. Today there had been some rejigging of the roster for some reason. Whether that was due to last minute no shows or just not enough volunteers I’m not sure, but either way, the team had rallied round to get the parkrun show on the road – or more accurately country park tracks – and see them home safely. I don’t know how they know everyone is back now I come to think of it, as I wasn’t aware of them counting us all out and counting us all back, but maybe not all the other parkrunners choose to go off piste in the enchanted wood. Even if they did though, I bet they do a sweep, and those tail walkers, probably sniffer dogs now I come to think of it. They looked like a pretty elite canine operation team now I come to think of it. Albeit quietly understated because of being undercover perhaps, but definitely would have found you and saved you from yourself if you found yourself passing through a mist into a parallel world of magic and mystery.

Here is the elite sniffer team for reference:

You have to admit, I may be onto something here.

And here are photos of the other sights as I made my way past the finish and beyond. You do go past the start/finish a great many times on this course, from a variety of angles. It’s like an invisible force keeps pulling you back. So I went past and back up to the turning point, only this time you get to run round the mini roundabout (which is actually angular rather than round, but you still have the smiley marshal with the music sound track – did I mention she had music about her person before? Well she did.) then back down again, past the start/finish again and past the tractor people, who let me take their photo and admire their train, and then turn around and back again. I’m very aware I’m making this sound like some sort of horrendous army running bleep test, but it was all very consensual and lovely and picturesque and supportive and not horrid and mandatory at all. Just in case you were starting to worry.

For the final stretch there was a parkrunner with a 6 week old baby, yep, you heard that right, good to start them young. Actually, in all seriousness, assuming parkrun survives, then I wonder what number of parkruns some of this next generation might yet hit. I didn’t even start parkrunning til I was nearly fifty, she’ll have a half a century of extra time to rack up parkruns. Maybe a 2000 miletone tee wont be all that extraordinary at all. Only about 40 years worth. Very doable. I wonder what colour they’ll go for. Maybe gold sequins – only biodegradable not plastic ones. Of the style that shows new pictures as you run your hand over it. It could be a colourful rainbow as the outer design, but as you stroke your hand across to reverse the sequins, you get an image of Paul and Jo S-H emerging beneath, captured on the occassion of their 500th parkrun. That would be great actually. If only I knew some parkrun ambassadors so I could put a word in. Surely a shoo in. That and an apricot travel mug, no idea why that’s not a thing yet. Is it really only me who is bothered by such an omission?*

We’d sort of being leap frogging one another as I paused to take photos and then jiggled ahead again. I decided that I’d do the previously unimaginable and go for a sprint finish. Everything is relative you have to understand. You might not have noticed any sprinting as such, but power walking feels like flying for me after months of not being able to mobilise at all. Finally, I got to go through the actual finish funnel instead of just endlessly trotting past it. Hurrah. I raised my arms in triumph, and got a lovely welcome from the team who were very much still present. I mean, it is an occupational hazard of volunteering in the finish funnel or time keeping that you have to stay to the bitter end, but the team did so with energy and enthusiasm and even joy. It was grand. I was able to turn around and snap the final finisher, before going to get my finish token and scan and all that business. No queues, another boon of being behind the rest of the pack. Personalised service. I could have the pick of the scanners, which was a tough call, as each was as magnificent as the next! It was like trying to choose a favourite froglet in my wildlife garden, an impossible task. And anyway, why would you want to, each was/is unique and magnificent in their own way.

The tail walkers came in. There was a bit of banter as to whether one of the hounds should get a finish token on account of it being carried some of the way. I expect the person giving out the tokens hadn’t realised this was just the dog being on special manoeuvres. It might have fine olfactory senses, but being a bit more limited on the limb length issue, sometimes has to be raised aloft to aid deployment. It was all laughed off in good humour, you wouldn’t want to blow your cover by making an issue over that. Also, barkrunners don’t get their own barcodes. Just so you know.

A cheery parkrunner who’d also set up the course, was now cone wrangling like a pro and helping with post event close down too. It looked like a lot of the volunteers here took on multiple roles, and it also seemed a friendly and close knit- but not cliquey team. If this was your home parkrun I completely get why you wouldn’t feel the need to bother to try anywhere else.

I thanked the team and made my way to the cafe for some post parkrun coffee. I was quite giddy at the prospect, elated by succeeding at getting round without any mobility aid, I felt a celebration was in order, and also coffee might revive me a bit for the drive home.

The cafe is in a converted stable or carriage block I assume. There were cakes and paninis that sort of thing. It wasn’t great for veggies and I imagine potentially hopeless for vegans. I decided to have a cheese pasty thing, which I’ve not had in many years, but just suddenly fancied. And a coffee. parkrun was/is always about the coffee after all.

DISASTER. No card on me. The nice people at the café were chilled about this and put my pasty on the side whilst I went to retrieve my bank card from the car. To be honest, I might have skipped all that extra walking and not bothered with a coffee if I’d known I’d not got it on me. Still, a boon of this extra mileage, was that I got to overhear the Go Ape people doing their version of the first timers’ welcome. It was hilarious, a lot of emphasis on this being a high risk activity and you might actually DIE in the doing if you didn’t take the safety briefing seriously, and if after you’d had the initial training you weren’t up for doing it on your own then you could bow out, and get a full refund and no questions asked apparently. I preferred the parkrun version to be fair, which was all rather more encouraging and with less mention of imminent death if you failed to abide by parkrun protocols.

Back to the café and they’d kept my order and gave me coffee. The impulse buy pasty was actually really good, dangerously so, crumbling fat filled pastry and hot cheese filling isn’t the healthiest of options, but my it was nice. The coffee though. Oh my hat. Big disappointment. Maybe they forgot to put any actual coffee in it. Insipid. Hot and wet, but entirely devoid of caffeine. I think it was the mismatch of expectations, I’ve had worse post parkrun coffee before, way worse, but this felt like a rather upmarket café, so the machine coffee let the side down. Also, all the drinks came in disposable cups with lids, which I understand makes life easier for the café, but isn’t great. There were recycling containers carefully labelled for the card cups and plastic lids separately but reuse would be so much better. Oh well.

Coffee might have been disappointing, but the farm shop was not. I was able to get a load of fab cards, randomly drawn by someone from Hexham Northumberland, including one of a rather lovely mallard. Regular readers will know how I do luvva duck. So that was good.

And then that was that.

Time to go home.

It was really positive parkrun morning. My only regret, apart from the coffee is not having the time or stamina to make a day of it, this is definitely a venue where you could spend time exploring, and I imagine with the changing seasons every visit would be different. You could even head on to the coast, and we all know how exciting it is to see the sea.

Next time eh.

Oh, are you still here? Thanks for that, I always really appreciate the tail walker coming in right behind. You are a star.

Happy parkrunning ’til next time. Be content dreaming of parkruns pass and parkruns still to come in the meantime. Oh happy thoughts…

Oh, and guess what? Hard to guess, I’ll have to tell you, I wasn’t even the only one documenting the event, it was like there was an international parkrun journalists convention there this weekend. Check out this fab video with extra stats and facts and actual in focus footage from Statsman Runs Normanby Hall parkrun Event 168 – Simply Beautiful – spoiler alert, he liked it too! To be fair, he like me wasn’t really building much in the way of suspenseful outcomes with his choice of title.

But wait, there’s more – Dannii Runs was also vlogging away, she has a fab video too here Normanby Hall parkrun, event 168, 03/09/22. A beautiful NENDY and it seems we were unanimous in finding Normanby Hall parkrun to be really jolly nice. Do like a bit of triangulation to confirm intuitive ethnographic research findings. I think we can all agree this is a parkrun we can recommend with confidence. Put it on your parkrun to do list, you won’t regret it 🙂

*Nope. This one is for you Ambassador Zaheer 🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Sea, Sand, Sun, parkrun and someone doing an actual thing! Celebrations for a 250 milestone at South Shields parkrun.

I do like to be beside the seaside. I really truly do, and it’s been properly aaaaaaaaaaaages since I got to go there. Like everyone I’m skint, so mini breaks aren’t really compatible with my income, and anyway, with my mobility a bit hit and miss long drives and random parkruns are, erm, let’s go with ‘contra-indicated’. Set against this, I feel I’ve missed out on too much in the last few years. I knew that a parkrun friend would be celebrating her 250th parkrun this bank holiday weekend at South Shields parkrun and that’s an official parkrun milestone, big deal as clearly an actual thing. Should I go or shouldn’t I? On the one hand, long drive, expensive trip with an overnight thrown in, and I can’t even run when I get there – oh and social awkwardness, paranoia and angst on unexpected arrival. On the other hand, you get to see the actual sea, and touring is always fun, even when of type two, and 250 parkruns? Well, that’s a lot of running around, it ought to be celebrated. South Shields parkrun has been on my wish list for literally years. What better time to schedule it in my busy parkrunday diary. This parkrunday dairy is not an actual thing and a chart but probably should be. I’ve seen analogue parkrun charts that would look great on any fridge. I’ve so many parkruns on my wish list I’d have to be immortal to get round the all, but no harm in chipping away at the top contenders a bit more proactively, if not now, then when? But the cost, the drive, aaargh, what to do?

Fate then lent a hand as I got a lucky break with two days of extra work. One was a midnight wrap and the next day a 6.00 a.m. call meaning heading off at 4 in the morning to get there, so no sleep to speak of, but a bit of a cash windfall further down the line. Plus I got to play the part of nosy neighbour which I was basically born to do, and partake of some unusually fine onset catering, so a good way to end the week. I would make it so! South Shields parkrun here I’d come!

Only I nearly didn’t. On the Friday before my body went into rebellion. My face swelled up like a blooming asymmetrical chipmunk, only resulting in me looking significantly less adorable, cuddlesome and cute than I imagine chipmunks to be (I realise I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in real life) and significantly more like child’s recreation of a random star wars alien using plasticine, marbles and Picasso inspired placement of facial characteristics. Which, in case it isn’t already abundantly clear to you, is not a good look. Not one you want to leave the house with, plus everything hurt. Honestly, random grapefruit sized swelling. Is that too much information? Well, best abort now if you think so, because more follows, I also developed a huge abscess which sprouted up on my back like I’d been cursed or something. I could have wept. I think I did. It’s not fair, my body just can’t do anything more than potter about it seems. A couple of long days and it’s like my body just shuts down in protest. Everything malfunctions, I just can’t do stuff like I did before. I felt proper poorly. Maybe I should accept fate and just cancel. I was very self conscious too, I looked ridiculous, everything ached, this was sub optimal in the extreme, and although being half a hamster may offer comedic value for the viewer (as in comedy horror genre rather than pure comedy), my first hand experience tells me it’s miserable being the purveyor of such comedy gold. I’d rather be bland and in sound body, abscess free given the choice. No choice had been given however, praise be for the NHS.

Emergency appointment and penicillin script later, I was feeling more positive. I saw the nurse prescriber and it turns out she is a parkrunner too! She went to her first parkrun as part of the GP Practice parkrun initiative I think, although not officially part of the scheme, the practice are trying to encourage people to be more active and we the converted know that parkrun is fab for that. So although ironically her attendance was really aimed at encouraging patients to get involved, she now finds it’s she herself who got hooked in. Hurrah!

Anyway, it meant she sort of got where I was coming from with my tearful presentation and admission that I just wanted to go and do a parkrun, and some magic medicine to make me ok. I knew the infection wouldn’t clear on its own, and with it being a bank holiday weekend was worried about going away at all and most certainly without being seen by a medic first. Talking about mutual parkrun passions was a tonic in itself, and having a prescription gave me confidence the infection was in hand. Besides what’s the worst thing that could happen? People pointing and laughing at me is familiar territory, and what’s a bit of sepsis set against the joy of participating at a parkrun. Small price to pay.

Eventually, I hit the road, only about 8 hours later than planned. I figured as long as I didn’t eat anything the swelling would subside. I’d booked a single night’s accommodation at Athol House on Westoe Road The drive was uneventful, good even, and as I neared my destination I could hear seagulls, and then I felt properly excited. Seagulls mean the seaside don’t they. Or a massive rubbish dump to be fair, or both, but in this instance, it was the sea. Hurrah!

I drove straight past the guest house initially, and it was later than I’d planned when I arrived and initially it all looked a bit dead, the road was quiet and shuttered up at the end of the day, although it was just along from a really spectacular municipal building of some sort with a mahoosive statue of Queen Victoria at its front. It didn’t look promising and my sat nav was annoyed with me again. I’m getting to really resent my sat nav, she’s such a back seat driver. I parked up on a side road – loads of parking, and then took my spotted handkerchief of belongings to the front door. Up some steps and rang the bell.

It was answered by such a nice host! A really warm welcome to immaculate premises, newly refurbished. A room with en suite shower, which I never got to use, a fridge, a TV as big as a, erm, something very big, wardrobe maybe, and a double bed. I was given keys and told that if I got into any trouble at all during my stay, day or night, just to give him a call and he’d come and get me – charge for it, but rescue all the same. It was really nice actually, as a single traveller I do think about my safety in a background noise sort of way, so it’s good when that’s pre-empted. Would totally stay there again. Hopefully will do soon, I ‘need’ to do Jesmond Dene and there are lots of other parkruns around there too, not to mention GNR next year potentially. Oooh, so exciting!

There wasn’t anywhere around obvious to get something to eat, but then again, couldn’t really eat anyway, so I just spent an hour trying to find my mobile phone which I managed to lose on arrival but had actually just chucked onto the bed and thrown my coat on top of it. And so to bed, because the earlier you go to bed on parkrun eve, the sooner parkrun morning comes around. Also, I was shattered.

Then it was morning, and parkrun day! Hurrah. My host was busying himself in the kitchen downstairs and I had coffee – could have had a full cooked breakfast but I never eat before parkrun and then there was the hamster transformation risk factor to take into account. I wonder if what I was experiencing is an insight into what it feels like for werewolves as they enter the early stages of their nightly metamorphosis? Must ask the next werewolf I encounter and swap stories, could be interesting… My host was good company, filling me in on the history of South Shields and its marine engineering links and all sorts really. Very companionable. Seemed a waste to just stay the one night. I could even have come back for a late breakfast I think, but opted instead to head to the seaside ASAP.

It was about a mile away, and an easy drive. The post code I had weirdly took me to the overflow carpark not the Sand dancer pub, but it wasn’t hard to find. There was loads of parking when I went, I suppose it was pretty early still, and there were a few parkrunners mingling about, I couldn’t tell if they were tourists or team at this point, but the apricot tees acted as a beacon so I knew I was in the right place, or alternatively, wasn’t the only parkrun tourist in the wrong one. Oh, and little factoid for you, which I found on the interweb so must be true – ‘People from South Shields are sometimes referred to as Sandancers. This is a colloquial term is presumed to originate from the town’s beach and history with the Arabic peoples dating from a 19th Century music hall act of the same name’. I didn’t notice people dancing on the parkrun route particularly, but I was quite far back, maybe all the locals were sand dancing towards the lead of the parkrun pack?

Oh look, the seaside! It was a massive sandy beach as the tide was quite far out. Breaking waves on the horizon. A tractor thing was harrowing the sand to clean it all up. There were cliffs to the right, a ruined priory to the left, ferries and boats out to see. The sun hitting the sea looked glorious. Me and the wonkies (well I could hardly not take them with me could I now) had to venture down to the sea. I love the sea, I’ve missed it. I’d have liked to have gone for a paddle, but wasn’t sure if I would manage that and didn’t want to get into difficulty before I’d even done the run. I rather regret this now, but I’ll just have to go back. It looked like this though.

Not too shabby eh? Looking lovely in the morning light. Sigh. I do love the peak district and feel like Sheffield is home, but ooh, the sea, just love it. Puts everything into perspective. I’d love to spend more time by the sea. That reminds me, need to find out how to get a Vera gig, that really would be living the dream… Oh, unless it’s a documentary, maybe not so high up my wish list to be featured then. Falling from the clifftop onto the beach mid parkrun under mysterious circumstances, would totally distract from the 250th shebang, and not in the parkrun spirit at all. Apart from anything else, just imagine the paper work.

Back to the actual seaside, and being there. For real. At last.

I was SO EXCITED.

So what was in store:

The South Shields parkrun website course description blah de blah says:

Course Description
The run starts on the sea front promenade outside of the Sanddancer pub. From the start follow the promenade towards the Leas. At the gate at the end of the promenade run directly across the grass and join the coastal path next to the large rock. Follow the scenic coastal path up the Tarmac bank and along the cliff tops all the way to the Minchella & Co ice cream hut at the bottom of Marsden bank. Turn right onto the Coast Rd and trace the route of the last mile of the Great North Run along the pavement. The finish is on the Leas opposite the Bamburgh pub.

Wait, hang on a moment, what’s that you say, you get to do the last mile of the Great North Run. O.M.G. Do you have any idea how devastated I have been to have to pull out of the Great North Run for this year. Unbelievably I got lucky in the ballot, and then, well, what with nearly dying and everything, and being in a wheelchair and all, even walking has been sub-optimal to be fair and training not even an actual thing and eventually reality check got through and I pulled out. Strictly speaking, I’ve deferred but you have to pay again to enter next year, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to run again by then or not. Not gonna lie, might have screamed into the void and shed a few tears, but now I find I can do the good bit for free, just by turning up at a parkrun, what’s more accommodation will be a lot more reasonably priced, and frankly who needs the Red Arrows when you can be flanked by marshals? Quite. This was going to be fabulous. Also, the Red Arrows are a bit crap at the moment aren’t they, only seven instead of the usual nine, hardly worth craning your neck to look up into the sky for. Nope, don’t need the GNR, I’ve got the parkrun. #winningatlife

After a bit of a beach potter, and getting my leggings and wonkies and back pack all covered in sand, back to the car. Off in search of the loos – they were adjacent to a sort of public amphitheatre space, I don’t really know quite what I’d expected from South Shields but it certainly has all the facilities, and lots to look at, even a life guard hut of they type that I thought only existed in Baywatch and a certain genre of American horror films like The Sand. This is yet another thing I love about parkrun touristing, it’s very educational, edutainment at its very best. Oh and just to be clear, despite what you might think from watching the Vera documentaries, South Shields beaches do not have killer sand. Fact. Really confident about that Fact claim. It’s proper lovely out there.

Finally, after much pre-parkrun faffing; and exploration; and precautionary peeing; and getting properly excited when the car park machine attendant helped me out and when I said thank you replied ‘nee bother’ in a proper geordie accent proving this is an actual holiday; and sea gazing; and photo taking; and concrete mural gazing I made it to the parkrun start. People were now a-gathering, and I had the awkward paranoia about how to join in. I wasn’t sure if I’d be recognised out of context, and I hadn’t said I’d be coming, but then I espied some familiar faces, and hurrah, they seemed genuinely pleased to see me, as I was to see them, and it was all lovely and worth while, even without having yet embarked on the actual parkrun, it was all going to be fine! Oh, and what’s more, they have a gorgeous canine barkrunner about their person too! Brilliant. Maybe didn’t catch him at his best angle first off, but it’s the thought that counts

Even though I’d arrived a good hour early, I’d been so caught up in my faffing, it was almost start time. I parked at the start, but the finish is actually somewhere else, a good km away I’d say, and there is a good pub there for post parkrun shenanigans, so if you are visiting it probably makes more sense to park at the finish and then walk down to the start, but hey ho. I was walking anyway, so decided I’d wear my fleece and carry money for afterwards, but it would have been a pain if I’d been planning on a speedy one. It’s not that far, but beyond my limits of activity for the day at the moment to nip back at the end of the parkrun. As it happened, we got a bit of rain anyway, so I wasn’t entirely inappropriately attired. First though, first timers briefing. A small but perfectly formed gathering of first timers listened attentively.

and then it was mustering to the start

Then the actual run briefing from the actual run director and the actual 250th celebrant who was doing BSL interpretation. It’s great that this is becoming so much more routine of late. Or maybe I’m just more aware of it. I host people who work at the Crucible Theatre sometimes. At the moment they are rehearsing for a production of Much Ado by Ramps on the Moon, a company which ensures ‘every performance features the use of integrated creative sign language, audio description and captioning. Ramps On The Moon is the pioneering initiative committed to putting deaf and disabled artists and audiences at the centre of their work.’ One tenet they adhere to, is that for theatre to be regarded as truly ‘accessible’ you should just be able to rock up, without any warning, for any show and be able to engage with it. Not just the one tokenistic BSL signed production on the first Tuesday matinee of alternate months or have to book 6 months ahead for the one touch tour they are offering which require you to turn up three days early for the performance you’ve actually booked to see so you can make sense of what is being described to you on stage. This is interesting to me, it makes sense. There isn’t equality of access when so much forward planning is required. Sometimes adjustments do require forward planning, but sometimes relatively simple things can make all the difference. BSL at parkrun briefings as standard is brilliant, and I think for those parkruns fortunate enough to have BSL users amongst their numbers it is increasingly common to do just that. Have it as a default option and not only put it on because they know in advance someone might require it – commendable as that is. Oh I digress, sorry, never happened before though so…

Where was I? Oh yes, run briefing proper. I’d been advised that I knew the RD already from somewhere or other, but nope, didn’t register him at all. And with his commanding authority at the briefing I surely would have done? We were reminded of the course, of the last mile being that of THE ACTUAL GREAT NORTH RUN, to watch out for other users, dinosaurs, sand dancers probably, I forget the details. Milestone shout out for our BSL apricot wearing 250th celebrant and standing ovation for the volunteers. Well, we were standing already to be fair, but standing and clapping is a standing ovation as far as I’m concerned and the main thing is they were properly appreciated. They went through the route again I think, or maybe not, but at some point, someone said basically keep the sea to your left and you’ll be fine, marshals will stop you getting lost. Not wishing to be overly picky, but wishing to avoid future trauma for others, I must point out this is only is sort of true. In fact at some point it does actually swap since you cross a grassy bit and come back the other way with the sea on your right. If you miss this turn (admittedly hard to do on account of the outstanding directional pointing on the part of the marshals) you could in theory end up doing a complete round coastal run, and if I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure the batteries on the timekeepers phone would hold out long enough to guarantee you a finish time. So, consider that you’ve been warned. All parkruns will endeavour to remain til the last parkrunner is safely home in normal circumstances, but if you take a route detour of approx 2700 miles give or take a few then you do risk them stepping down in your absence. Good to know. Keep your wits about you out there.

And then we were off!

I say ‘we were off’ but really I mean everyone else was off, and I took some not very good pictures and then pootled in behind. It’s a lovely parkrun this one, but also somewhat weird. By this I mean the route on the promenade tarmac is, well essentially a rather bleak road run, but if you turn your eyes to the left you get this staggering coastal view. Although I do feel bereft at not being able to run, it is true that when you walk you see so much more. You soon move off the tarmac and up a bit of hill onto the cliff top proper. Guided by the first of the marshals who guide you way

Looking out you see breaking waves and boats and rock pools and also unexpected (to me) bits of coastal history, the gun thingy, notice boards explaining some of the history of the leas and the rock formations and nature. Barriers advise you to keep away from the edge of the cliff, with a running total of those who failed to follow that advice and no doubt perished for it. Harsh, but fair.

There was another walker early on. Turned out he was one of those who originally set up this parkrun. Even measured and designed the course. Unusually perhaps, the South Shields authorities were incredibly keen on hosting parkrun, did all they could to accommodate it, and even suggested the GNR stretch I think, if I recall correctly, so this was perhaps one of the speediest ever course approvals. It’s great when new parkruns are so welcomed. He soon disappeared off ahead, and I was left for a mindful walk. I could hear the tailwalkers companionably chatting together a bit behind me, and now and again got a glimpse of parkrunners on the horizon or on my right as they’d turned around and were zooming down the home straight to the cheering welcome of the finish funnel.

After a good stretch of the coast, you cut across a grassy section as per the course description, towards the GNR section. What the course directions omitted to mention, was that at this critical point would be a gorgeous troupe of marshals to cheer you AND photograph you en route. The quartet included fine mini-marshals, with their own bespoke high vis which is one of my favourite things. Upshot was, that I was in the giddily joyous situation of photographing them, photographing me. It was all very jolly, and very friendly. I was conscious of being a long way behind everyone else, but it didn’t feel uncomfortable at all, it felt fine.

parkrun photos are always grand aren’t they, but this photographer papped some real classics, how smiley and cheery and flying feety were all the parkrunners today! The sea air clearly does wonders for your parkrun times. Yay for parkrun pictures to capture the parkrun memories of seaside days and adventures.

One of the stood down marshals came past on his bike, all smiles, and before I knew it, I was on the homeward stretch of the GNR. By now it was drizzling a bit, and most people had dispersed, so it was cheering when some of my parkrun buddies came back to join me for the final march in. In fact others came back to join the tail walkers too, and there was barkrunner joy as well as parkrunners reuniting, definitely a back of the pack party going on there.

Supported in by my entourage, the finish funnel came into view in no time at all. Most other parkrunners had taken refuge in the Bamburgh pub at the finish line, but there was still a quorum for cheering and timing and scanning and results processing, and we did some more mix and match phots to capture the occasion. It had to be done. This, incidentally, is the actual finish area for the GNR. Don’t let on, but it’s actually a bit underwhelming on account of the fact it’s just a vast open bit of grassland, so you have to use your imagination to fill in the buzz of the crowd, the jangling of finish medals and the sound of celebratory claps on backs echoing around the area. Fortunately, I have a very vivid imagination, so that was not a problem for me. I got a genuine high from doing this bit. It was in a small way compensation for missing out on the Great North Run itself, and technically, as final finisher at this parkrun (before the tail walkers admittedly, but that doesn’t suit my narrative so I’m ignoring them) I am first finisher at the 2022 Great North Run. My logic being that parkrun is cancelled next week (probably) due to prep work for the event, and so the next run to take place finishing there will be the event itself. I’m not one to brag, but just putting it out there. I finished first. I imagine quite a few of you will be seeking out selfies with me in due course, I get it. I may not have sought out this degree of fame, but I accept it.

Then took sanctuary in the pub, which was noisy but spacious, with plenty of room for 250 milestone celebrations and general post parkrun parkfaffing. I had a chat to the RD and finally made the connection! Oooh, I do know you, you are the unicorn man! How I was supposed to recognise him without his inflatable unicorn and in the disguise of an RD high vis I have no idea, but now it all makes sense. Of course he is the unicorn man, he has the watch and accessories to prove it! We both listen to the With Me Now unofficial parkrun podcast and even met at the recent listener meet up at PERRY HALL parkrun, my bad. His inflatable unicorn is tapering ahead of the Great North Run, well, this is what I choose to believe anyway. It was all very jolly. There were even group photos and cake, though I skipped eating on account of my inflatable jaw. Isn’t that joyful though, parkrun friends all together, gathering from near and far, it is a wonderful thing the way parkrun continues to bring people together. Aw.

Oh and did you spot the genius ‘ask me about volunteering at junior parkrun’ badge what a great idea! I love the different ways parkruns do things, that’s such a simple thing to try to get people on board, and we do need volunteers desperately. Endcliffe parkrun had to cancel for the first time ever due to lack of volunteers this week, it’s heart breaking, that’s a huge parkrun but has only a handful of regular volunteers who inevitably reach burnout, myself included if I’m honest. Oh well, maybe it will be a wake up call for more people to step up in future. There is still this sense that volunteering is ‘giving up a parkrun’ whereas it really isn’t. It’s just spending it in a different way. A new kind of joy and one that delivers virtual badges on the Running Challenges sticker chart. I mean, what’s not to like? And if you think volunteering at a Saturday parkrun is fun, wait ’til you turn your hand to junior parkrun! It’s a distillation of all that is glorious in parkrun, with extra high fives and fancy dress!

parkfaffery concluded, stories shared and then people started to peel away. There is loads to do in South Shields, but I was flagging so needed to get home. This is definitely one to come back for though, it would be super fun to actually run it, fast and flat, but with compensatory views on route if you picked a day with an icy headwind to slow you down. Even in the wind though, there is something energising and life affirming about being by the sea and at the mercy of the elements – especially when you know there’ll be a warm put to welcome you at the end should you survive it!

I knew I didn’t have the stamina for a full on day out, but I did have a mini explore on the way back to the start where my car was. I had a peer into the rockpools, checked out the big guns and just breathed the sea air.

Like I said, not too shabby. Oh, and if you want to look at some decent photos from the Bank Holiday parkrun, check out the Facebook post with the official ones, aaah, aren’t they splendid!

and that was that, time to go home and dream of parkruns again until next time.

So once again, congratulations on completing your 250 milestone, hope by now you’ve ordered you milestone club tee. Oh, and extra kudos for planning it so you did your 250 on the day when PSH and JSH both nabbed their 500. You are basically milestone triplets! Good work. Check out the results for that weekend from Dietenbach parkrun and allow yourself an aaaah moment. Lovely isn’t it? Don’t you wish you were the photobomber though #lifegoals

The end

Thanks for sticking with me. It’s good to know there is parkrunner support right to the end!

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

Beavering away at Beguiling Belvoir Castle parkrun

Marshals are lovely though aren’t they? Wherever you end up on a parkrunday.

Why Belvoir Castle parkrun for this weekend? Well, why not? Lots of reasons, it’s relatively new, it’s within commutable distance from Sheffield, I needed to find out for myself how to pronounce it properly and see if there are any in fact any Beavers there or indeed an actual castle. Sheffield Castle parkrun is lovely, but not a sniff of a castle to be seen anywhere. There is a whole history lesson to explain why, but still no actual castle to gaze at, or visible moats to negotiate on your way to the start. Well, let’s check out Belvoir Castle parkrun and see whether this particular castle is for real.

First though, the Belvoir Castle parkrun website blah de blah

Course Description
Summer Course – Footpath/trail terrain.
This will start and finish at the overflow car park opposite the Castle main (long stay) car park. This out and back, undulating stoney course follows the footpath and track up to the Reeded Cottage where it joins the Jubilee Way. At the cottage you will turn right and follow the Jubilee Way until you reach a distinctive twisted trunked tree on your left. You will turn here (look out for the stunning view of the Vale of Belvoir) and head back where you came from with a unique view of the Castle to enjoy.

Winter Course – Grounds Course.
This stunning one lap course is held entirely within the historic Belvoir Castle grounds and follows a fully tarmacked route all the way round. The start is just down from the main Castle and next to the Rose Garden. The course goes through the Japanese and Kennel woodlands and then over a bridge between the stunning upper and lower Belvoir lakes. You will then have a steady climb to the cattle grid and bridge above the Woolsthorpe Main Road. At this point you will turn and come back down over the bridge to a junction where you will turn right. You will then follow the path past some cottages and stables and then turn left to commence a climb back towards the Castle where you will reach the finish, which is 1 level down and 100m from the start and also 100m from the main car park.

Please check our Facebook page for which course we will be using, sometimes when the weather is bad during summer months we will need to use the Winter Course.

Trail shoes are recommended.

Fair enough, shame they aren’t describing the summer course as ‘stunning’ throughout, but there is a reference to at least one ‘stunning view’ and it’s not going to be actually horrid is it? parkruns never are. And an out and back, that’s promising, not done one of those for a while. Also, quite intriguing they have two courses, it’s a win really, as it means it’s worth coming back at a different time of year to compare and contrast, that’ll do.

Plus, lots of references to handy facilities, like loos – always a boon when touristing, café and even carparking, yep, perfect for a bit of parkrun adventuring.

oh, and the Belvoir castle website blah de blah too, in the interests of thoroughness

A HISTORIC GEM IN THE HEART OF ENGLAND

OK, fairly concise, but to the point, and surely worth a gander.

I always check the attendance numbers these days before rocking up at a new parkrun. Mindful of my slow times, I seek the reassurance of either a regular who takes their time, or a large enough field that inevitably there will be a continuum of times. Belvoir parkrun’s results event history was massively confusing though. Their numbers have really fluctuated from record attendance of 313 at the second event to numbers as low as 40 for no very obvious reason, oh well, undeterred, it was my parkrun of choice. Always good to have finally made a decision.

Up early, sat nav set off I went. Why do I follow my satnav? It’s crazy I tell you, crazy! In it’s defence it got me there in the end, but took me north first, and then the road I wanted was closed so I went a gazillion miles in the wrong direction following some random diversion that went via Brigadoon and Atlantas with the satnav constantly doing that passive aggressive thing of repeating endlessly ‘u-turn when possible’ in an unhelpful and distinctly judgemental way. They really do take passive aggressive vocalisations to a new level of art form. I think I may have slipped into a toxic dependent relationship with my satnav, I do depend on it, imagine I’d be literally as well as figuratively lost without it, and yet it’s constantly undermining my confidence and leading me to doubt myself.

I was starting to feel that this tourism wasn’t going to happen, and regretting my lack of a smart phone and lack of a back up plan. However, the plus side of dizzying cocktail of insomnia, over-excitement at the prospect of a new parkrun and fear of oversleeping had ensured I’d allowed loads of spare time to get to my final destination so all was good.

Once I was heading the right way, things started to look up. The scorched earth and dry landscape is definitely a worry. It’s true, some trees have a worrying autumnal hue, are they dying, or just shutting down to live to grow another year? I hope it’s the latter. As I got nearer to Grantham, the landscape became quite novel for me, less novel if that’s where you actually live I suppose. It looked quintessentially English, with signs warning you to give way to ducks crossing at the village pond, and signs warning you of cows ahead, which seemed unlikely as it looked very much like a residential area but lo, there was a diary farm or maybe a beef farm, right in the middle of it. It was all very picturesque, and I did feel like I was on holiday.

Then there was the jaw dropping moment when as I neared the Castle there it was! Just on the horizon, looking gorgeous. Cue, sub optimal photo trying to capture the moment. It was like the first sighting of the sea when you are heading to the seaside. REALLY EXCITING!

I concede maybe you had to be there. It did look very much like a proper castle though, and had a wavy flag too, so that’s good enough for me, even if subsequent research (Wikipediasoitmustbetrue) was a bit more sceptical. Not an actual castle it seems, but a pretend one, well I’m not an actual runner but a pretend one, and parkrun works for me, so fair enough.

Belvoir Castle (/ˈbiːvər/ (listen) BEE-vər[1]) is a mock castle built upon the site of an historic castle and stately home in Leicestershire, England, situated 6 mi (10 km) west of the town of Grantham and 10 mi (16 km) north-east of Melton Mowbray. The Castle was first built immediately after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and has since been rebuilt at least three times, the surviving structure, a grade I listed mock castle,[2] dating from the early 19th century. It is the seat of David Manners, 11th Duke of Rutland (the tiny county of Rutland lies 16 mi (26 km) south[3] of Belvoir Castle), whose direct male ancestor inherited it in 1508. The traditional burial place of the Manners family was in the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, Bottesford, situated 3 mi (5 km) to the north of the Castle, but since 1825 they have been buried in the ducal mausoleum built next to the Castle in that year, to which their ancient monuments were moved. It remains the private property of the Duke of Rutland but is open to the general public.

Now don’t judge me, but although the postcode NG32 1PE did take me to Belvoir Castle, I got massively distracted by The Engine Yard retail yard with it’s very impressive horse, and so completely failed to spot the car park and actual castle entrance, instead ending up at a gate that was only for wedding and event guests. Er?

Back to the gee gee

and oh look, there is the car park, and the café and the gates, and an RD being busy and important. Next thing was to be confused by the parking. You get it free for parkrun up until 10.00 but then it’s erm £1.50 an hour I think, which you can get knocked off the cost of any purchase of food or drink from the café. I wasn’t sure when to pay as I was worried if I paid on arrival for an hour, it would expire before I needed it from 10.00. In the end I paid afterwards, and can report that you input your reg number, and your ticket is just for an hour, any hour, it doesn’t have a time on it, so you can pay either pre or post your parkrun. Apparently there are number plate capture cameras somewhere recording arrival and departure times. They weren’t obvious, but I think the parking charge was fair. I do wish though, car parks would put lines out so you can work out the most efficient way to park. My spatial awareness is sub optimal. I just pulled up alongside the RD and marshals vehicles. In fact the carpark had loads of space for everyone, I don’t know if it can get busy but it wasn’t particularly today.

Next stop the loo. I can report these were open, and to a high standard, and what’s more, if they hadn’t been, the RD has a key to facilitate access! I know! Living the dream in parkrun tourist terms!

Hilariously, I note I remembered to photograph the loos but completely failed to photo the actual castle entrance. Oh well. You’ll just have to come and see for yourself.

Precautionary pee concluded, time to peer at the car parking payment machines and reach consensus that it would be ok to pay post run, and then a saunter across the road to where the marshals and RD were gathering. It’s described as the overflow carpark, and it is just immediately opposite the main car park. It sounds way more complicated in the instructions than it actually is, you can’t get lost, you can see the start gathering area from the loos, and the start is the same as the finish so all good. Although officially there was nowhere to leave things as the start and finish is in the same area there are volunteers there all the time (at your own risk) but the post parkrun café is actually within the carpark so leaving stuff in your vehicle if you’ve driven is also the obvious option.

I went for the awkward gathering. A few BRILLIANT things, one is that it’s a very friendly, compact but perfectly formed team. And the event has it’s very own windsock for no reason I can fathom. Still, maybe handy to know if you are planning to arrive by glider, or need to know what strength hair spray or setting gel to use prior to your run to minimise unruly hair related incidents on course in the event of a parkrun photographer being present? Not sure.

The out and back course meaning there isn’t a need for thousands of marshals to directionally point you round a complex route I suppose. The thing that caught my eye though, was the genius innovation of a white board for tourists to write down their names and where they are from. I suppose partly to give a shout out at the run briefing, but a positive consequence of this stroke of genius, is that as people gathered to write on it, you got to meet other tourists, and first timers too potentially. Great idea. They even had a marker pen on a piece of string like they do with pens on counters in banks to stop you stealing them. Obviously parkrunners don’t steal marker pens but they can go astray in the general parkrun melee of gathering and running around, so a sensible precaution. Genius I tell you, absolute genius.

Almost as good as the South Shields volunteer the following Saturday who wore a badge saying ‘ask me about volunteering’ also genius. So many geniae (is that a word?) in the parkrun world, can’t move for the genies everywhere about you! No wonder parkrun is always so mysterious and maaaaaaagical!

parkrunners gathered, the Run Director soon had a semi circle of attentive parkrunners hanging on her every word as she called us to order and explained the course:

But you know what? Probably not, unless you were there. Just as the RD was about to embark on her briefing, her walkie talkie buzzed into life. Did I mention they had walkie talkies? Well, they do, and that makes it all seem super exciting and pro event organisation, pretty much identical to being stood next to one of the sound crew at the front of the main stage at Glastonbury say. Bestows waaaaaaaaaay more authority than even a clipboard in my book. Anyways, above the static, the marshal at the top surveillance point warned of an oncoming hazard. A hazard dear reader, in the form of an entire hunt, a-galloping down the bridleway/ parkrun route towards the Castle! Well, maybe not actually a-galloping, but certainly a purposeful trot, and they were quite a sight. That was a first for me, seeing a parkrun start delayed due to an actual hunt en route. In the circumstances it made the advice to look out for and give way to horse riders on the path somewhat redundant, it would be a bold parkrunner indeed to stand their ground in the face of this lot! No wonder we all had a good gander!

I’m somewhat conflicted about the sight of the hunt. I don’t approve of hunting, and although it is technically illegal, I’m always unsure if such gatherings really are following scent trails or using it as a cover for illicit activity. Then again it is an impressive sight. Maybe they were just trying to hunt down their perfect parkrun, and then as they approached us heard the RD mention about the one dog per parkrunner and on a short lead directive and realised they’d be turned away. If that’s the case it’s a bit sad, maybe next week then.

Wherever their intended destination, they turned off the parkrun route, and headed beyond us and past the castle into the distance, leaving us behind at our gathering point for the start of the parkrun. Back on track. We learn that there is a defibrillator kept at the start (or the finish, depending on how you like to think about these things) though the course goes basically straight up hill for the first 2.5 km. In the event of a parkrunner having an arrest at the furthest point, the RD would have to sprint up with the kit and you’d have to hope the exertion didn’t give her her very own cardiac arrest in the process. I’m sure it would be fine though, some pretty speedy parkrunners around. In all seriousness, the walkie talkies also would speed up response times. Alas, there at two events in recent weeks medical emergencies have arisen, I think at one the defib was deployed, their presence can indeed save lives. Sobering thought.

Enough of sobering thoughts, back to the fun stuff!

After all the excitement of the hunt, we were back to the run briefing, and that was it Go! I slotted in at the back, and was able to get a couple of pictures of the rest of the parkrun pack disappearing into the distance leaving a literal trail of dust in their wake. This isn’t a course you could get lost on, but in the unlikely event you were to get disorientated, just follow the dust storm up hill and you’ll be reyt.

And so off we went. Despite the dry conditions and the uphilliness of it all, I found this to be a really lovely mindful course. I’m at the stage in my post illness rehab where I need to find my limits. Although there is an incline, and I can see in wet weather the surface might be iffy, the dry had made the tracks hard, and the incline is steady. I had my stick with me, but wasn’t reliant on it. I loved that you could see the ribbon of colourful runners ahead and turning off to the left at the top of the first track. The route went through recently harvested fields so you had acres of stubble on either side basically. There was a breeze, and at one point, as you passed a little line of trees, you could hear the magical rustle of the leaves. It was gorgeous. Unusually, I was slightly ahead of the tail walkers, though massively behind everyone else, so it was a mainly solitary progress, but none the worse for that. The farmed landscape is very different to ‘my’ peak district trails, but full of interest all the same. If I’d remembered to glance back I’d have seen castle views, but not to worry, I got to enjoy them all on the way back.

Sorry about the photo quality, it’s the thought that counts dear reader, and you’ll get the gist.

After the first long haul, you are greeted by a cheery marshal to point you up the next hill and ensure you make the necessary left hand turn, to ensure you head off (ironically enough) in the right direction. Never has the phrase ‘onwards and upwards’ been more apt!

By this point in proceedings faster parkrunners were coming back down the other way. This meant that regular parkrunners could greet each other. I’m getting to like out and back courses precisely because of that companionable element. The brave can give each other high fives, but with the speed velocities some parkrunners were reaching as their natural athleticism combined with the steep downhill gradient and who knows, maybe their boingy carbon shoes as well, there might be the real prospect of a well meaning high five entirely taking the unprepared recipient out of action for quite some time. Exciting though. Plus, as they sped by and I glanced after them I got a great view of the castle on its hilltop. If you had a decent camera this would be a wonderful spot to pap passing parkrunners, flying feet, castle on the horizon, golden fields, giddy smiles, all the things! I don’t have a decent camera, but I do have a vivid imagination, if you do too, then go spoil yourself with this smorgasbord of visual gloriousness!

As faster parkrunners sped on by, me and another walker who was pushing a buggy continued on. The path narrowed as you moved out of the fields. The buggy runner was met by her partner who was coming back down, and he took over the buggy to take down so she could sprint on and avoid negotiating the narrower section of the course.

So we went up, and what had already been up, must come down. Through the long grass, through a gateway, past the next marshal who had put out some cones with extra care to guide us to the final right angle turn

into the shadows of some trees. It was quite narrow here, but by now the faster runners had long since passed by. I may have had to leap into the hedgerow at one point to let others by, but it wasn’t a big deal and it was all negotiated amicably

The literal high point of the course was a u-turn around the top marshal on the course. Top marshal in terms of elevation, and also top man for having clambered up to this point to see us safely round and back. The mini cones provided a colourful climax to the route.

Fortunately, what goes up, must come down, so around the top cone, thanked the top man and back round and down. The surface was good when I went, despite the warning (which I missed until I came to write it up) that trail shoes were recommended. After I’d exited the undergrowth, there is a lovely weeeeee downhill bit, that if it was on a junior parkrun course I’d encourage junior parkrunners to do full on aeroplane wings outstretched and fly down. Was half tempted to do this myself. I was inspired however to put a bit of a joggle on. The joggle turned into something of a jiggle, since I haven’t been running for well over a year due to, oh sickness stuff, I hadn’t bothered to wear a sports bra. This would have been less of a problem had I not been using a stick. I have on previous occasions – notably as tail walker at a junior parkrun when the junior I was accompanying at the back dropped out after the first lap and I had to do a full on sprint to catch up with the actual final finisher – employed the inglorious but effective technique of one boob cupped in each hand and hang on as you build up speed. This was nigh on impossible here, but even so, I was cheered by this most modest turn of speed. I didn’t fall over, and it wasn’t agony. Maybe there is hope for my parkrun career yet. I’m never going to be speedy, well, I never was, but I’d love to jog or even just jeff round a course again one day. It would feel like a taste of freedom restored. Those of you who are blessed with physical health and pain free, try to make the most of it, it’s true you don’t always know what you have ’til it’s gone. It doesn’t matter what you look like, how fast you go, just enjoy what your body is capable of, they are pretty amazing things.

With too much jiggle interrupting my downward joggle, and stick and boob juggling defeating me, I slowed back to a walk and just enjoyed the view. Despite the dusty ground, there were wildflowers peaking out, I felt inspired to maybe try for a drought resistant chamomile lawn for next year, I enjoyed the views of Belvoir/ Beaver Castle, even though I couldn’t make out any actual beavers from this distance. I could hear the tailwalkers and marshals chatting as they came in behind me, and I thanked the marshals I’d passed on the way out as I headed back.

I didn’t expect to like this managed landscape as much as I did, but I actually loved how the paths opened up in front of you and it felt like you could run to infinity and beyond. I loved the castle on the horizon. I loved the little dots of parkrunners in the far distance (not small but far away) and the as I came towards the finish a couple of cheery parkrunners came to see me in, which was lovely. Aren’t parkrunners splendid? Rhetorical question, yes they are! This one is looking exceedingly happy too. It’s those post parkrun endorphins kicking in, that and the child like joy of zooming down hill for 2.5 km on the way home, even if there is a little bit of a kicker hill just in the final couple of hundred metres. By then you can see the finish funnel, and it sort of draws you in. Lovely jubbly.

Finally, there it was, the finish! They’d been waiting a while for me anyway, so I figured they wouldn’t mind a 2 second delay whilst I took a photo – alas as a consequence my finish time was 2 seconds slower than my one outstanding parkrun bingo challenge. Oh well, it’ll happen when it happens, and they were a welcoming and photogenic lot! Would have been rude not to have captured the moment.

And that was it, job done. The tail walkers were not far behind me, and they came in, and then the high vis heroes busied themselves with uploading and downloading of times and results, sorting of tokens and sharing of stories.

One particular boon of this parkrun is the onsite café, where the team had their volunteer table set up. It looked like the Wi-Fi from the café was strong enough they were able to process results there and then, which was jolly impressive. It had been a relatively small parkrun, and that was nice. I was about to say it was incident free, but that’s forgetting the presence of a whole pack of hounds and herd of horses on the course at the outset, that nearly took everything in a different direction. I didn’t mention to the RD that I’d wished I’d worn a sports bra so I doubt an incident report would have been needed for that.

I was just over the hour by the time I was back to the car park, so paid for my hour from the machine, and then went to get a cut price coffee to offset the cost. One of those curious transactions where by spending an addition £1.30 to get my £2.80 (or whatever it was) cup of coffee felt like a bargain. I didn’t have any cake but can report that although the selection was limited the chunks of cakery being handed out were basically breeze block size, you’d have to be careful they didn’t alter your centre of gravity if consuming there and then, and you’d need to balance the load if you were taking them away in your car for later as they might mess with your suspension. There was only one person serving who was struggling a bit as she had to make the food and do money and coffee – normally there are two, but nobody minds a wait after a parkrun, it’s part of the post parkrun experience surely.

I didn’t linger long, as it took a bit out of me, but I was pleased to have come, this is a lovely parkrun and one I’d happily come back to do again particularly as I’d love to do the winter course. I hope as I get a bit more confident with my stick I might even pop back with appropriate corsetry and see if I do can have the giddy joy of an exuberant run down hill, what could possibly go wrong?

So thank you Beavers of the Castle for allowing the parkrun to take place on your land, and thank you lovely RD and event team for making the magic happen. ‘Twas fine and dandy. Be proud of what you do week in week out. I would be. Nice digs you’ve got there judging by the photo on your Facebook page, I’d like to allow myself a bit more time next visit, and make a day of it. Though that must be a properly steep climb to the top, even by my Sheffield flat standards. Hurrah, love a parkrun challenge! I might not have seen any beavers, but I did see lots of beagles, so half way there. A fine bit of parkrun tourism, would recommend.

🙂

Oh and if you like to triangulate, there is an official run report from this event number 30 on the Belvoir Castle parkrun page here and have a look at their Belvoir Castle parkrun facebook page for some decent photos from their events to date to get a better feel for the loveliness of it all.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Wonderful, Welcoming, Wollaton Hall parkrun

Reyt nice view and a very photogenic volunteer team too!

I took that photo by the way, it was supposed to capture the moment that everyone jumped in the air, I have no idea if I was early or late, but the important thing is that the person who instigated this picture was satisfied it caught the RD crouching in a slightly bizarre fashion, which pleased them. Good enough for me. The snap is something of a spoiler for where my decision making processes took me, but hey ho, didn’t Brecht himself signpost how his dramas were to unfold, removing the fourth wall and all that, and it just served to intensify the understanding of the world as it is, all good. I’m basically creating my own new art form here. Admittedly a niche movement only I understand, but you have to start somewhere.

Where was I? Oh yes, parkrun day eve but where to go?

So many parkruns so little time. Did you know, that at the time of writing there are 775 parkrun events just in the UK, and if you are able to go outside our borders there are EVEN MORE to choose from. 1840 or thereabouts. That’s an incredible amount of options. Speaking as someone who is quite prone to having a panic attack, due to being overwhelmed with choice, even if just having to choose a parking space in an empty carpark, it can sometimes seem almost paralysing. All parkruns are uniquely lovely in their own way, but even in a lifetime of parkrundays you aren’t ever going to get around them all, so you have to choose wisely. There are no wrong choices as such, but then again, there are some parkrun locations you really don’t want to miss out on. Bushy parkrun is clearly one such, and it seems there are others!

My parkrun choices are compromised somewhat at the moment as I can’t run anymore and can be a bit wobbly so I need to choose parkruns that are walker friendly and have reasonably predictable terrain to avoid faceplanting en route, or worse still, toppling into another parkrunner and creating a domino effect through the whole field. I mean, of course parkrun is inclusive, and on the whole event teams and participants unconditionally lovely, but everyone has a tipping point. Or strictly speaking multiple tipping points in the case of a toppling running creating a Mexican wave of faceplants across the whole parkrun route. Just imagine the incident related paper work! Yep, I reckon creating on course carnage could be one such scenario that would wave goodbye to goodwill…. I am based in Sheffield so wanted one not too far away, one I’ve not done before and one that has reasonable terrain. Hmm, still loads to pick from. I was dithering, until a little thought buried in the back of my mind pushed through to the service. Hang on a moment, isn’t Wollaton Hall where batman lives?

OMG it is! This isn’t so much Wollaton Hall parkrun as Wayne Manor parkrun, just as everyone knows that Somerdale Pavilion parkrun is really Curly Wurly parkrun and it’s nonsense to try to claim otherwise. Not such a tough call, of course I want to go there, imagine, might even get to meet batman… or robin, either would be fine. Childhood hero, toss up between him (Adam West) and John Noakes to be honest. Well, not many female role models back then. The former stands out in my mind for one particular episode of batman where he and Robin have their hands tied behind their back and are swinging from some skyscraper or other hanging on to a literal thread by their teeth. They are saved, can’t remember how, but Batman turns to Robin and says ‘and remember Robin, you owe your life to dental hygiene!‘ Wise words indeed. And I am obsessive about cleaning my teeth to this day, maybe that’s why? And John Noakes? Well, he did such cool things, being physically adventurous, climbing Nelson’s Column and things like that – and I remember him dropping his trousers to show off a bobsleighing related injury. Quite shocking at the time. And having a massage somewhere and saying to the woman pummelling the chest area around his nipple ‘I hope that doesn’t make it come off!’ Most risqué a the time I assure you. Sigh, oh giddy days, when we still had the testcard of an afternoon, and ‘photocopiers’ produced wet, purple-inked shiny reproductions only accessible in the most prestigious of workplaces. The smell as evocative as that of cooking cabbage in the school lunch hall; a slightly turned third of pint bottle of full fat milk, warmed by the sun at morning break or class A solvent containing marker pens. I feel properly old now.

Where was I? Stop distracting me with reminiscences of children’s TV shows of the early seventies. Oh I remember, going to da na na na na na na na parkruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun!

There are apparently 80 ‘nas’ in the original 1966 Batman TV theme tune in case you are wondering. I was.

Wayne Manor parkrun here I come.

Checking out the official parkrun website for Wollaton Hall parkrun it all looked very promising. Parking, toilets, one lap course, all the lovely things.

The course blah de blah states:

One lap through the park, round the lake and back. The surface is a mixture of tarmac, grass and trail. The start and finish are close to the main car park and entrance

which all sounds splendid. I charged up my satnav, and set my alarm and before I knew it, it was parkrun day!

It had been really hot and dry, so I didn’t really think about waterproofs, but had my fleece in the car anyway. The drive was pretty straight forward, and quicker than I imagined. Also, some exciting sightings en route. Did you know there is a Bilbo College? Me neither! But I passed signs to it on the way, a spin off from the Lord of the Rings presumably, I’m not sure what courses they offer, cooking for second breakfasts perhaps? Nor is it immediately obvious is the college is named as such as an homage to Mr Baggis, because Bilbo is a benefactor, or because you learn about the history and culture of hobbits and orks and/or how to become more Bilbo. A research project for next time.

I got pretty close to my final destination, and then disaster. The most ridiculously confusing road work junction I’d ever seen, I wanted to turn right to Wollaton Hall which was so sharp it was practically a U-turn, but the junction was all blocked off and I could not fathom how to negotiate the one way system to navigate it. I ended up driving past and then trying again, like an abortive landing, all very adrenalin fuelled. Then, when I arrived at the MASSIVE gates for the hall, they were locked shut. Those gates are really quite something, you ain’t getting past them, I actually thought I’d got the wrong place and drove around again which gave me another go at the ridiculous road work junction again. Turns out, I was just too early.

The parkrun takes place in the grounds of the hall, which is now Nottingham Museum. By special dispensation, the grounds are opened early for parkrun to take place, but I reckon that must be about 8.30, I was a bit before. I got locked out so you don’t have to, just arrive at the right time, or indeed, if you must come early, wait it out with dignity, rather than screeching away in panic, much more decorous I assure you. They certainly know how to do large scary gates here though. Never seen anything so huge. Think Jurassic park style fencing, only solid. Impressive. Actually, on reflection, I think there may have been some sort of dinosaur exhibition on now I come to think of it, perhaps that’s why they are so particular with their boundary walls just at present. Yes they did, a real T-Rex is there til the end of August 2022, no wonder there is no skimping on health and safety. Just imagine that! Hard to know which to be more excited about, seeing an actual dinosaur or meeting Batman or taking part in a parkrun. All. The. Things!

By the time I came back round again, the gates were open and in I went. Wowsers, it’s a properly huge, landscaped deer park. There was a massive carpark, which confused me greatly, as there are scary signs about how you MUST pay, but to do so requires a smart phone, which I don’t have and downloading an app which I couldn’t do. The other option is to pay in the café or hall, but neither were open. I asked a passing woman, bedecked in a fine hat and festive lei and colourful dress – she turned out to be the Run Director no less. She assured me that paying after the parkrun would be fine, and welcomed me. Explaining that it was Nottingham Pride this weekend, so to show support, parkrunners were being encouraged to come as colourful as possible, which is rather fine. I do like it when people dress for an occasion.

I noticed a rangers van had written on the side ‘Proud to serve you!’ whether they are proud all the year round or had repainted in honour of Nottingham Pride wasn’t entirely clear, very much on brand though, well done.

I parked up, and gazed out at the lovely view.

It was raining, quite a lot. Oh well, it would be a novelty. It was nippier than I expected too. I decided I’d wear the fleece, that way, I could soak up as much water as possible, and transport it back to parched Sheffield with me afterwards. A fine plan, worked well, apart from the steaming up the car interior on the journey home bit.

I always feel a bit self conscious at this point at a parkrun. I couldn’t really offer to help because you don’t know what to do if it’s not your home parkrun, and I’m not nippy enough to be much help. Instead I took in the view. It was fun watching people assemble. There was soon a jolly crowd of volunteers going about their business, the pop up sign was put up in the prime position for photo opps, the flag waved a greeting. Some appeared carrying flags and directional arrows, someone was in green high vis, not sure why, Defibrillator man perhaps? A bit like Batman, but with less in the way of shining a laser into the sky as his batsignal and more able to revive you in an emergency?

After a bit, I ventured out, after all, the precautionary pee isn’t going to facilitate itself now is it! As I did so, some other parkrun tourists who’d parked up next to me asked if I knew where the loos were, I didn’t really, but felt confident enough to wave in the general direction of the play area and cafe. That’s where I was heading anyway.

And loos there were, not the nicest ever, but fit for purpose. The sinks looked alarmingly like urinals, but they were spotlessly clean and open, which is always a parkrun win. No soap though. The building had some cool murals on, which is always a boon, and on the way over, I passed by a sign for a walled garden which looked lovely. I hadn’t got time to linger at this venue alas, as I needed to get back to Sheffield, but honestly, it is a parkrun where you could – and quite probably should – make a day of it. I was particularly sad to have missed out on seeing the house made of restored cucumbers. Next time perhaps.

By the time I’d erm ‘powdered my nose’ – or should that be kapow-dered? Others had started to assemble. I was struck by what a friendly parkrun this is. Volunteers were greeting each other warmly. You could spot the tourists as we queued in turn to take pictures of one another in front of the parkrun pop up sign, quite a queue at some points, but all very good natured.

I chatted to a few including a parkrunner in apricot from Mulbarton parkrun, one I’d not hear of, it seems that alas it is no more. She’d done some bespoke embroidery on her top so it now says RIP above it. I wanted to take a picture, but then realised I was basically asking to do a close up of her boob, and that felt wrong on so many levels, so just went for standard pose and you can imagine the embroidery for yourself. It’s so sad when parkruns close. It’s nice that the personalised apricot tees allow them to live on a little longer at least.

Oh, and that’s when I got lucky and was talent scouted to take a photo of the volunteers gathered together and jumping in unison! Unfortunately, my point and press skills are not all they might be, hence photo above that just makes the RD look a bit constipated and everyone else a bit, well, a bit peculiar quite honestly. I did my best. This is why I won’t do timekeeping, how people have that level of precision with their hand eye co-ordination I can’t imagine. Still, the quality control officer didn’t seem entirely displeased, amused even. It’s not the quality of the photo that counts, it’s its comedic value, and I guess I delivered on that at least – a partial success!

I think they must aim for this picture of the volunteer team every week, and it’s such a good idea, I’ve been to so many parkruns 260+ and another 100+ as a volunteer and not seen this happen before other than at ‘special occasions’. Too often volunteers get overlooked by photographers who are going for action shots, and it’s just so nice to have the moment and memory captured like this. Or it would have been, if they hadn’t picked a dud to push the button. Oh well, thought that counts. I am going to try to suggest this at some of the parkruns I regularly volunteer at though, it’s a nice tradition.

Next enrichment activity was the first timers’ welcome. There seemed to be quite a gathering, and it was a jolly welcome to all, there were even some first time everers which caused a stir. Imagine having that as your first ever parkrun, wowsers (or should that be kapowsers?) Quite an event. Thirteen in fact – lucky for some. That seems quite a high proportion of newbies, I wonder what brought them, I know they’ll have had a grand time though, how could they not.

Oh, and there was also a box of parkrun magazines available, in case you’d missed out on them. I did get a copy, but haven’t actually seen them freely available to pick up like that before, so that was good too. They’d be a brilliant souvenir of a first parkrun too. Really, they should have got all the other runners to sign them, like you do with programmes at a first night opening or whatever, but that could have taken quite a while.

After the excitement of the briefing, off to the start area. It was a nice gathering under an avenue of trees. There was a white board up asking for volunteers for the following week in particular roles, people were catching up with friends, and mustering near the start line. Timers synching their watchers, all the hub of a pre parkrun assembly. It had felt a bit mad to drive such a long way ‘just’ for a three mile walk round a park without even a friend to go with. However, once I was there, I felt vindicated. If Batman and T-rex weren’t sufficient in themselves, here I was in a fabulous park of which I’d previously been entirely ignorant, and as for friends, well all my fellow parkrunners could be claimed for that. Of course it was worth the trip!

The Run Director did a great briefing, I can’t remember all the details, but I do remember it was thorough, a clap of solidarity for LBGTQ+ parkrunners and reminder of Pride this weekend, yays for volunteers, tourists, milestones, all the things. I got a sense of a strong community, and it was like being part of a warm collective hug, can’t diss that, always a win. Then it was all at the ready and off we went!

I tried to take some snaps of sprinting parkrunners before slipping in at the back. Not gonna lie, they are a bit on the shite end of the spectrum. Not the parkrunners, my pictures of them, it’s not the best camera, however, at least it captures the occasion, if you want better images, you’ll have to go take them yourself. Frankly, that wouldn’t be too much of a hardship as it’s a venue you HAVE to add to your ever growing parkrun ‘to do’ list anyways.

I was determined to push myself a bit more this week, but turns out, the gains are marginal. I power walked in a sort of twilight zone slightly ahead of the pair of tailwalkers and slightly behind the next parkrunners. This worked for a bit. It is a truly gorgeous park. Lovely friendly marshals, one who was playing ‘eye of the tiger’ or more accurately had a sound system playing it for her, as we cornered past her and turned up an incline the goes past the house. Possibly a bit early and ambitious for such motivational music, but it gave a bit of oomph and atmosphere, some charismatic kapow if you will

I couldn’t capture it, but as you go off, you can see the faster runners looping away and up away from you, it’s a great sight. as you climb the hill, you ‘suddenly’ see the full extent of the house, it’s extraordinary. According to Wikipedia so it must be true

Wollaton Hall is an Elizabethan country house of the 1580s standing on a small but prominent hill in Wollaton Park, Nottingham, England. The house is now Nottingham Natural History Museum, with Nottingham Industrial Museum in the outbuildings. The surrounding parkland has a herd of deer, and is regularly used for large-scale outdoor events such as rock concerts, sporting events and festivals

Just pause to think about that for a moment. It’s properly astounding. 1580s? It is in immaculate condition and very, very impressive, well the bit you can see from the outside is. I cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like in its heyday. It is a privilege to be able to run past it even. That sounds weird, but it’s true, parkrun gets you to some pretty fab places once you get the touristing bug. Although walking is incredibly frustrating at times, it is a good way to soak up your surroundings at a parkrun.

By now, I was getting curious and wanting to stop and take photos. Also, I tried a little jog for the first time in nearly a year, and it wasn’t good. The pain that shot through my legs made them feel like they were on fire, and I was distinctly wobbly, so that wasn’t going to happen again this parkrun. The consequence was, I ended up dropping back and joining the two tail walkers who were just lovely. Very chatty, inclusive and companionable. Also, very much part of the Wollaton Hall /Wayne Manor parkrun history, being long time volunteers, RD and pioneers in getting it started up in the first place, so lots of useful history, and high tolerance levels from them that I kept wanting to stop to take photos.

Well, it wasn’t just the venue that was photogenic, it was the lovely marshals too. Their finesse at directional pointing and motivational clapping was positively sensational.

Quite early on, as we were heading out, the faster parkrunners started back along the same path, having already done their circuit of the lake. The path was wide enough this wasn’t really a problem as long as you stayed to the left.

One thing that struck me though, was the number of wheelie bins. Honestly, I’ve never seen so many in my life. I couldn’t work out if this meant those attending Wollaton Hall grounds are the messiest or tidiest of visitors. Do they need lots of bins because they create huge quantities of litter and waste, or is it that they are really tidy and have to bin even the slightest particle of plastic they spot on their watch? Or was it a wheelie bin graveyard, where wheelie bins go to die? The truth was disappointingly mundane. Proof yet again, it is better to widely speculate and imagine possible scenarios rather than find out the truth. If you do want the truth, it’s that the bins were left over from some sort of music festival the week before. They’d been emptied, but not removed. Told you my version was more pleasing. This is the kind of local knowledge that the tailwalkers could share though. That and the best view points.

We headed off round the lake where a marshal had been duped into throwing a ball for a border collie, that had brought it back and dropped it by her and was now staring at it with such intensity I fully expected it to burst into flames at any moment. The ball that is, not the dog, or the marshal, that would have been awkward. Mind you, because they’d taken that photo at the start they’d have known who was missing which would have made identification of any fragments later discovered on the spot by forensics very much easier. Just shows, ,attention to detail is never wasted.

The dog, and me insisting on photographing the situation did mean the parkrunner ahead went a bit wrong and had to be called back to the path. My bad for creating a distraction, no worries, we were off around the lake. As it is basically a one loop course, by now pretty much everyone had disappeared out of view, so we wandered round the lake, marvelling at the views. You get great vistas of the lake and house. There were herons, and at one point a tree full of them roosting. I couldn’t get a picture though as they were too far away, but it was great to see. We also discovered a carving of the birds that has been there for yonks presumably, but which one of the tail walkers hadn’t noticed before. I think though this venue would be different every time with the changing seasons. There are deer too, and other park users walking their dogs and enjoying the spectacular surroundings. And as previously mentioned, if you are trying to complete your ‘I-SPY book of wheelie bins’ you’d have been in your element!

So we walked and talked and it was most calming and therapeutic. It really was healing for me and parkrun at its best. We discussed issues around shortage of volunteers. It seems the same everywhere, parkrun volunteers have ebbed post pandemic, so have actual parkrunners, but whereas a smaller number of participants doesn’t mean a parkrun can’t happen, too few volunteers really does mean it might not go ahead. It saddens me. Volunteering is fun, and it should be just that, voluntary, but I still feel some people don’t quite grasp that it needs volunteers to happen, there is no one making money off the back of parkrun (we’ll draw a veil over recent poor judgement by an individual) and volunteers don’t put on the event for the community, they are the community! If possible, regular parkrunners do need to step up now and again to keep it sustainable. I don’t get why so many just don’t. Some can’t for legitimate reasons, but I think others just never get round to it, or it doesn’t occur to them, they are the people it would be good to bring on board. Oh well.

Round the lake we went, and the parkrun seemed to pass really quickly. As high vis heroes stood down as we passed, we seemed to gather a fair old crowd, so I got them to pose for me too. Hurrah for these fabulous fun makers

and then we were heading back, homeward bound, up the hill, down the hill and into the finish funnel. Such a huge team and they’d all waited for me. I was just under an hour which is a PB post illness for me, but still a fair bit behind the penultimate parkrun finishers (not including my lovely tailwalking twosome of course). Check out all those welcoming smiles. It was lovely!

As I came in, someone pointed out the carefully positioned parkrun logoed birdboxes. How awesome are these! Turns out, one of the regular volunteers, also volunteers for Wollaton Hall, he had the idea of putting up the bird boxes to mark particular points on the course, the start and a couple of the marshal points, so instead of having to spot ‘the ninth tree’ out of a veritable forest of them, you can look out for the bird box, isn’t that genius. Here he is is, looking at his work and being looked at in turn by the volunteer who pointed him out to me. Teamwork once again you see, what parkrun is famed for. Oh, and mass participation in free exercise world wide too I suppose…

I did wonder if bat boxes might have been more appropriate, but then again, if bats are basically birds of the night (which they are, in a flying nocturnal mammal as opposed to day flying bird sort of way), then it follows birds are basically bats of the day, so close enough. Apparently, they aren’t in the best location for actual birds to nest in, but you never know, something might find shelter in them one day.

All timed in, and scanned just time to say thanks and goodbye. The volunteers were busy dismantling the funnel and sorting results.

Many adjourned to the little café afterwards, I was in quite a bit of pain though so decided to just head off home. I gather there were a couple of eating options though, and aforementioned play area and exhibitions various too, so in a way I regret not lingering, though it was the right thing to do at the time.

Final verdict. This was such a positive parkrun experience. It is a lovely venue and that helps of course, but it was the warmth of the team that made it special, I felt really welcomed and not a problem for being slow, and the walk and talk was companionable and enlightening, it was a good morning.

Oh and the bonus, as I was exiting the park, the deer put in an appearance, huge antlers bobbing as they grazed near the exit gates. Maybe not in the numbers you see at Bushy park it’s true, but impressive all the same.

and you know what? Nope? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you. I might not have met Batman or indeed Robin, but I did meet loads of parkrun people and they were properly lovely. Batman and Robin are all well and good, but not all heroes wear capes. Thank you lovely Wollaton Hall parkrun Wayne Manor parkrun team for making me so welcome at your gorgeous park. Genuinely, one of my favourite parkruns and most positive parkrun experiences. You are heroes indeed.

Oh, and there is an official run report from the day Wollaton Hall parkrun number 56 running with pride you can read here too. Helps prolong the post parkrun experience, all good.

#loveparkrun It reminds you of all that is good in the world.

So home I went with my nicely saturated fleece, sodden with healing Nottinghamshire rain to take back to Sheffield with me along with my parkrun memories…. a good parkrunday.

Categories: 5km, parkrun | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

A humdinger of a parkrun at Humber Bridge!

Humber Bridge parkrun

Event number 350

16th July 2022

This is actually a run report I did for Humber Bridge parkrun, it was shared on their Facebook page (thank you lovely Humber Bridge parkrun) but not posted on their news pages, so I’ve just added it to my own blog to store the memory. Indulge me 🙂

A humdinger of a parkrun!

Well, that was splendid.

What a humdinger of a parkrun Humber Bridge is indeed.  I can’t believe it wasn’t even on my radar until last weekend.

What happened last weekend I hear you cry?  Well, funny you should ask, last Saturday I was at Perry Hall parkrun, there for a gathering of listeners to the unofficial parkrun podcast With Me Now – worth a listen if you a parkrun passionista, as I’m sure you must be.  Turns out, Humber Bridge parkrun’s very own Ali CARTER was there too, blending into the background dressed as a unicorn as you do.  Despite her near invisibility, we struck up a conversation, I explained I was hesitant about trying new parkruns because I’m currently having to walk and my balance can be poor following serious illness last year.  Quick as a flash she suggested joining her today at Humber Bridge as she’d be celebrating her 250th parkrun and the weekend of her 100th volunteering stint with a spot of tailwalking, so she’d be more than happy to keep me company at the fun factory at the back on the way round.  I mulled it over, not for long, and then this morning, up at stupid o’clock and off to Humber from Sheffield.   I do love a parkrun adventure after all, and knowing the tailwalker was happy to take the time needed gave me the confidence to try an unknown venue.

My bad, but I hadn’t really appreciated before just how stunning your venue is.  On the way, there was a point when I looked out of my car window to the left and saw sparkling blue water and tantalising glimpses of the Humber Bridge.  It was absolutely stunning.  Literally jaw dropping.  How have I missed this?  It felt like being on holiday as I followed the signs to the Hessle foreshore.  I actually paused before going under the bridge to the black mill car park so that I could take in the view and check out the emergency rescue teams doing their life boat drills and take some photos too.  Then, back into the car, and following your website instructions (which were excellent by the way) on a little further to the carpark just adjacent to the foot tunnel heading into the country park.  Great news for a tourist, there were loos!  Not only that, they were open, and not only that they were literally just being cleaned.  This was going to be a good morning.  I always worry about having to go al fresco when touristing, a loo is always a huge boon, one that is clean and has toilet paper and soap and everything is like hitting the jackpot – and I’d not even made it to the gathering point yet.

This parkrun has all the things, loads of free parking, immaculate loos and of course super friendly volunteers, plus, as the morning unfolded, celebratory milestone cakes.  And the course is super lovely, the shade of trees, spectacular views, a sculpture trial, wildlife – if this is your local, you are winning at parkrun life, it’s properly gorgeous.

I’m always a bit awkward on first arrival, but I was so excited to enter the shaded woodland, make may way along the board walk and past various ‘caution runners’ signs into the open grass area where the finish funnel was already set up in all its glory.  A parkrun banner fluttered against the backdrop of the Humber Bridge, and people started to arrive and mingle.

I got chatting to another tourist.  He was here because his son’s graduation had brought him to the area, like me, he was blown away but the spectacular setting.  He helped me acquire a staged photo of the RD through the selfie frame, always good to have a willing accomplice when you are operating by stealth.   Love how the parkrun community always helps one another out. AND he took the obligatory photo of me through the selfie frame.  Hurrah!  I’m not sure why we call them selfie frames to be fair, you’d have to have arms the length of Mr Tickle to take an effective authentic selfie all on your own. Still, minor quibble, happy to have them 😊

Today’s run director was Matthew FISHER-GILL, resplendent in monochrome.  That’s the tourist’s hand in shot there, sorry I didn’t get his name, but at least he has had his hand immortalised in the run report, I hope that’s its own reward.

Matthew also did the first timers’ welcome.  Today there were 20 of us discovering Humber Bridge parkrun for the first time.  Not sure what’s taken us so long but better late than never, and my we were all in for a treat.

The biggest shout out of all though, should go to the duo of first time everers.  Yep, that’s right dear reader, people doing their first ever parkrun.  What a welcome they had!  Bravo to these terrific two, Jonathan HATE and Michael VESSIO I hope it is but their first of many.  I’m not sure if they came separately or together, but hopefully they’ll be back again soon.  Just imagine, their Saturdays will never be the same again, but in a good way, and their lives will be the richer for it!

The other first timers were an eclectic mix from those doing just their second parkrun to those who have already notched up a couple of hundred.  Various clubs were represented including: Coventry Triathletes; South Leeds Lakers; Selby Striders; Bournville Harriers (which sounds like it ought to be a sort of chocolate but disappointingly is not – as far as I know); Run Sandymoor and With Me Now.

After the first timers’ welcome, we were called to the start area, and parkrunners compliantly assembled with the Humber Bridge spectacular as ever in the background.  Nope, the photos don’t do it justice, but I’m trying to show willing.

So it was 104 of us assembled at the start area.  We were addressed by the charismatic Jamie PENN.  At other parkruns it tends to be the Run Director who does this address, but I can quite see why Jamie was put in the spotlight.  It was a very entertaining, and authoritative briefing.  Lots of interaction, reinforcement and clear messaging.  You can see why he’s on comms.  It is THREE laps we were told. THREE, which is not the same as one, or two, but THREE.  You have to keep to the LEFT, so faster runners can pass, they aren’t being horrid if they call out to you as they whizz on by, they are just letting you know.  LEFT is the right thing to do, oh no, scrap that, not right, always LEFT.  There are some steps on the way but DO NOT USE THEM, they are NOT PART OF THE COURSE, they COULD BE DANGEROUS, THIS IS WHY THEY ARE NOT PART OF THE COURSE.  Honestly, it says a lot about the style of delivery that I can still remember all these things.  It was terrific.  And people kept quiet throughout, that pretty much never happens.  All good.

There were shout outs for milestone Ali CARTER for her 250th – heads up for cake at the finish, a huge cheer for Kevin PENNY on the occasion of his 25th volunteering stint, and fine work he did out on the course today too.  Every person visiting from another parkrun was identified and greeted in turn, too may for me to remember, but Coventry, Hull – me from Sheffield, we all got a cheer just for being there.  It’s nice in life to be cheered for just existing, it’s validating and fun and much appreciated.  The bear hug was reserved for Ali though, I assume that’s traditional when you reach your 250..  Besides, we have to make up for all those weeks and months when we couldn’t even gaze at each other across a parkrun let alone touch.  Then when parkrun returned we could only do air elbow bumps which were never very satisfactory and high fives were a long time coming back, we are – for now at least – back into full on (consensual) hugging territory, and the world is a better place for it.  It’s important to make the most of it whilst we can.

The briefing was so thorough, I was half expecting a written test before we would be allowed to continue, much like doing the driving theory test, before you are allowed out in the car but no, it was straight onto the parkrun practical, ready and OFF!

The start was up a little hill, though generally the course was pretty flat, and the terrain even.  A few narrower sections, some tree roots, but nothing too technical.  Very doable with my sticks.  It was lovely seeing the mass of runners disappearing in a streak of colours ahead.  They looked like celebratory bunting as they ran up the incline and cornered to the right.  High vis heroes provided superb clapping, enthusiastic words of encouragement and outstanding directional pointing to help us all round.  There was an abundance of arrows too.  Even though all three loops are identical, I managed to entirely lose my sense of direction.  By chance, on this hot morning, it was a lovely shady course.  You weave beneath lovely mature trees.  I was distracted by the little carvings en route, the spectacular ‘cliffs’ of chalk, the views of the bridge (oh, have I already said about that?) the calls of encouragement from passing runners and the fine company of the fun factory at the back.  Plus, it was edutainment at its best, since we were joined by Helen PENN for a couple of laps, and she was able to fill me in on some of the venue’s history.  It used to be a chalk quarry apparently.  I had a Google later on to assist me with parkrunpedia, from this I learn that ‘the Humber Bridge Country Park, a former chalk quarry that once supplied the whiting mill with chalk. Known locally as Little Switzerland, the Country Park has been a popular family destination for generations. It is also a designated Local Nature Reserve welcoming more than 100,000 visitors per year.’ Also, more about the big black mill ‘on Hessle foreshore, in the shadow of the north tower of the Humber Bridge, stands Hessle Whiting Mill, a unique example of an early nineteenth century whiting windmill. The mill forms part of the Humber Bridge Country Park’s Chalk Walk heritage trail.’  And to think that less than 12 hours ago I didn’t even know a whiting mill was a thing!  Just goes to show, parkrun really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Helen was involved in setting it up Humber Bridge parkrun some 8 years ago now, and seems to do pretty much everything.  She was explaining that she originally did a parkrun at I think Peter Pan, and just wondered why there wasn’t one at the Country Park at Humber Bridge, expressed an interest in setting one up, and then before she knew it was Event Director and Run Director and made it so!  She has already joined the 250 volunteer club, but … get this… has completed an astonishing 2478 roles!  Even allowing for the fact she often takes on multiple roles on one day, that’s an extraordinary statistic, it surely equates to a whole year of parkrun volunteer days at the very least.

Today was Helen’s 333rd parkrun, though I’m not sure she appreciated this at the time.  I do love good palindrome.  This made her the most runny parkrunner in attendance today, the next up being Neil HERON on 288 parkruns.  Helen is also an international parkrunner having done parkruns in Australia, Germany and Italy as well as in the UK.  She’s even done Bunbury parkrun in Australia, which I didn’t know was an actual place despite being pretty positive it got a mention on neighbours back in the olden days when in was Scott and Charlene not Jason and Kylie.  Sigh.  Just goes to show, parkrun can open your eyes to all sorts of new worlds if you just step out and explore the ones on offer

I was impressed talking to the volunteers how committed the core team are.  It seems there are some regulars who go above and beyond to keep the show on the road.  Yay for Terry, Terence William PARKER, who has also been involved in the parkrun from the very beginning. His 288 volunteer roles isn’t too shabby either.  I’m constantly bowled away by how much time, and love is poured into parkrun by volunteers.  It’s important not to take them for granted.  Yes, they get to look fabulous rocking the high vis – who doesn’t look great in fluorescent pink after all, but they also do a huge amount behind the scenes.

The event today was made possible by 15 AWESOME & AMAZING volunteers:

Terence William PARKER • Helen PENN • David ROOMS • Ali CARTER • Jamie PENN • John RIDDIOUGH • Pamela TARBET • Victoria RIDDIOUGH • Susan ELDER • Graham NAYLOR • Fiona WALES • Matthew FISHER-GILL • Tony NICHOLSON • Kevin PENNY • Mandy SIMMS

Many events have really struggled to get volunteers since coming back after the pandemic, and it seems Humber Bridge is no exception.  Volunteering is not compulsory, but it is super fun.  You get to wear the parkrun high vis and look busy and important (some roles even involve holding a clipboard, and you don’t get more high status than that), you get the gratitude of passing runners; you get all the fun of a parkrun without the messy sweaty having to actually run bit; you gather virtual badges for your Running Challenges extension (think sticker charts for grown-ups) but best of all you get a lovely glow of inner joy as the feelgood consequence of being part of what keeps the parkrun phenomenon running (or walking or jogging).

If you haven’t volunteered before, do consider giving it a go, you’d be so very welcome, and you’ll find you aren’t really giving anything up, just experiencing and enjoying parkrun in a new way. You can find out more here https://volunteer.parkrun.com/principles/volunteer-roles If you have volunteered before then you know how brilliant it is!  Why not pick a future date, put it in the diary so you commit to do a stint on an actual day, rather than some vague ‘one day’ and email the team to offer a date and preferred role (if applicable) together with your name and athlete id.  Email: humberbridge@parkrun.com Imagine what it would feel like for the event team to have a whole rota filled up in advance?  Pretty amazing eh.  Or if you aren’t wanting to commit that far ahead, maybe at least opt in for the volunteering emails, so when the parkrun is in jeopardy due to lack of volunteers you could maybe save the day.  All contributions will be appreciated.  Every little helps as the saying goes, and it’s super fun.  Plus, it is a known fact, that volunteers are the most photogenic people at any parkrun. 

Case in point, yay for Kevin PENNY, on his 25th volunteering occasion.  He’s only four parkruns away from his 100th parkrun too.  He’s going to need a bigger wardrobe for all those lovely new milestone tees that I hope he’ll be indulging in shortly.  This could be you too dear reader, just imagine!

A Kevin factoid, is that his best time in 2018 was 22.00 a 72.88% age grading, impressive yes, but get this, in 2022 he has still achieved a time of 22:07 and his age grading has increased to 74.45%

Be more Kevin.  It looks like doing all that volunteering pretty much guarantees you an improved percentage age grading.  Well, it ought to, if there was any justice in the world.

Age grading takes your time and uses the world record time for your sex and age to produce a score (a percentage). This score allows you to compare your personal performance against other people’s performances even though they might be a different age and a different sex to you – the higher the score the better the performance.  Did you know that the Humber parkrun course record in relation to age grading was Jane Ruth MORLEY – 87.19% 22:54 – Event 80 (19 Dec 2015).  That’s pretty impressive.

So off we went, walking and talking.  I used to run parkrun, slowly admittedly, but a lot quicker than I am now.  Now I can’t do that anymore, I like to take photos along the way, I’m not much of a photographer, but the pictures remind me of each different parkrun.  Today however, I captured a fluke flying feet photo of which I’m very proud.  So, mystery runner, thank you for bounding by.

Ali as tail walker was keeping me company, but it was lovely that at various time we were joined by other parkrunners who’d either already finished, or were just pausing to congratulate Ali on her 250th parkrun.  For at least one lap she was joined by her birthday twin, Naomi.  Apparently, there are three friends who share the same birth date but as they are decades apart in age I am going to stick my neck out and venture they are non-identical triplets.  

Despite being smartly hatted and suited (I do appreciate a fine hat) Ali hadn’t in fact dressed in my honour as you might have first thought.  Turns out, she is a local (and probably international too) legend for her finesse at fancy dress.  She’s already completed one parkrun alphabet (run a parkrun beginning with each letter of the alphabet apart from X because that’s not possible) and is doing it again.  However,  this time, not only is she running them in alphabetical order, but with a fancy-dress outfit beginning with the same letter of each of the parkruns she attends. I did ask her if she could remember all the outfits and all the parkruns, and you know what?  She absolutely can!  She told me all of them, but unfortunately, I’m not so good at remembering.  I do know she has been some or all of the following: a penguin; a minion; a unicorn; Wally (or is that W’Ali?); Olaf; a fox; a frog (that was for leap year run nothing to do with alphabeteering though I think) and many more besides.  Oh, I do remember she did an x-ray at Exmouth parkrun though, see what she’s done there?  Clever.  That’s the way to do it.  And and ambulance, that was pretty fabulous, as tailwalker on the celebrating 70 years of the NHS day.  She picked up a timer dressed as a patient at the end.  Attention to detail you see.  Impressive.

This week 104 people ran, jogged and walked the course, 10 recorded new Personal Bests.  Which is especially impressive on a hot, hot day.  All are worthy of congratulations, but a particular shout out for Colin BOTHAM because he achieved the numerical finesse of a finish time of 27:27.  Nice.  Almost as good as Roby STYLES who smashed out a palindrome as a first timer with 24:42.  Loving your work.  Tim GREEN was also concentrating getting a 37:37, a Humber Triathlete no less, triathletes have to be on it for their timings so I’m going to assume that was intentional.  I need to get some input from these folk, I’m 262 parkruns in and yet to complete my parkrun bingo (that’s when you collect all the seconds from 00 to 59 in your finish time – one of many Running Challenges parkrunners can undertake.  Check out the chrome extension at https://running-challenges.co.uk/ if you want to get some ideas about how to choose parkrun tourist destinations, though warning, it can get a bit addictive.

Representatives of 19 different clubs took part.  Some were triathletes joining in the Ali CARTER’s celebrations for her 250th parkrun.  The The McGill’s Martletts were represented by Sian AUSTIN who was doing her 99th parkrun today, hope she had a celebratory flake ice cream somewhere afterwards.  Perfect day for it.  There were also three Lonely Goats, so hopefully not feeling lonely at all today.  Edward STEAD was the solitary Royal Sutton Coldfield AC representative but cracked his 42nd parkrun and therefore possibly the meaning of life too.  I didn’t get to meet him though as far as I’m aware, so therefore didn’t get the chance to ask him about it, and now that moment has passed.  Oh well.  The point is, there were many clubs represented, and that’s always great to see.  There was also a noticeable couch to 5k contingent, I think they were touristing from elsewhere so must have already graduated, but great to see so many people sporting their team colours.

I honestly feel quite emotional watching parkrunners assemble for and participating at a parkrun.  People of all ages, shapes and sizes, a healthy scattering of tutus, fancy dress, club t-shirts, it’s genuinely uplifting, and all that a parkrun should be.

Even though we walked round, and took just over an hour, cheery volunteers were still patiently waiting to cheer us home through the funnel of cones and to time us back.  It seemed to go quickly.  Yes, it was a three-lap course, but there was so much to see, and such good parkrun companions the time flew by.  We even got to see some of the speedier parkrunners come flying through the finish funnel as were finishing one of our laps.  Epic running.

Once we’d finished, and been timed in and scanned there was still sufficient patience in the team to allow for more posing for photos at the end.  All possible combinations of people and selfie frames with the Humber Bridge doing its thing in the background were accommodated.

Finally, back to the car park.  I wasn’t able to join the gathering for post parkrun coffee and catch up, though I was warmly invited and made to feel very welcome, but I did get to admire the cake.  Excellent.  Oh, and for the record, I may also have got not one but two almond shortcake biscuits in the shape of a milestone tee.  I might also have eaten these on the drive home, scattering crumbs all over my car and lap.  If I did, then just so you know, it was totally worth it.

Today’s full results and a complete event history can be found on the Humber Bridge parkrun Results Page, today’s results are here https://www.parkrun.org.uk/humberbridge/results/350

Just so you know, here are some general Humber Bridge facts, they may come in handy if ever you have a local parkrun pub or café quiz say, plus inherently interesting I reckon:

  • The male record is held by Kris LECHER who recorded a time of 15:40 on 2nd June 2018 (event number 210).
  • The female record is held by Della HATFIELD who recorded a time of 18:30 on 25th June 2022 (event number 347).
  • Humber Bridge parkrun started on 7th June 2014. Since then 7,957 participants have completed 44,721 parkruns covering a total distance of 223,605 km, including 7,501 new Personal Bests. A total of 526 individuals have volunteered 5,093 times.

Are you still here?  Thanks for sticking with me!  Just like with the tailwalker, you are here to support me right to the very end.  I appreciate that.

Thank you Humber Bridge parkrunners and volunteers one and all for making this such a fantastic parkrun tourist experience.  You are all STARS!  I feel lucky indeed to have chalked up this most excellent parkrun at long last.  It was just joyful.  What fantastic ambassadors you all are for parkrun in general and Humber Bridge parkrun in particular.  At the end of the day, parkrun is about communities, and bringing people together and this event does exactly that.  Be proud of yourselves, you are The Best!

Lucy Marris, A448776

Give me a wave if you see me out and about!  Happy parkrunning ‘til then.

and a bonus smorgasbord of photos just because, you’re welcome!

The End

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

Having a right royal time leaping* round Queen Elizabeth parkrun

Digested read: long story short, parkrun tourism took me to Queen Elizabeth parkrun in pursuit of my Q.  Sub-optimum running conditions, but superb muddy fun and friendly too.  Nearly didn’t happen, but then it did!  Hurrah!

Undigested read:

For the short story made long, read onwards, but it’s not compulsory – or you could just idly scroll down to have a look at the photos in between eating crisps on the sofa wearing a walrus onesie**.  You choose…

I will say this though, had a filthy good time.  Mud, mud, glorious mud, what’s not to like?  Nothing quite like it indeed!

I’m half heartedly pursuing my alphabet challenge.  For a long time it seemed pretty unattainable, but now I’m down to just the last few, and finding myself down south again this weekend, it didn’t seem too much of a stretch to add on another hours driving, oh, and an overnight stay in a Premier Inn and get my weary carcass round Queen Elizabeth parkrun.  I was a bit nervous booking ahead, as the recent stormy weathers has led to many down south cancellations, but then when I looked at the Queen Elizabeth parkrun Facebook page I saw this event:

Leap Day Event – Fancy dress optional

leap parkrun

Where they helpfully explain:

This year is a leap year and February 29, 2020 falls on a Saturday, parkrun day !! The next time this will happen will not be until the year 2043, so the QE core team thought we would make this February 29, a special occasion and have a fancy dress event

So you could dress up as a frog, wear only green clothing, run in your frog wellington boots or an outfit that represents one of the many sporting events also happening this year the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Euro 2020 Football tournament, or the ICC World T20 Cricket tournament.

So two things, fancy dress – albeit they say it’s not compulsory, and if they are having a special event, then I’m guessing they’ll do everything they can to make sure it goes ahead.  I mean, you can postpone a parkrun birthday run, or even an inaugural, heartbreaking as that would be, but you can’t arrange for another 29th February to come around again on a Saturday for way more years than I can count.

In case it’s escaped you’ve not done the number crunching yourself, just to be clear, leap years happen every four years. I’m actually going to credit you with already knowing that. However, did you know the last leap day (i.e. 29th February) fell on monday 29 February 2016? A monday! I ask you, what good is that to a parkrunner? We are only interested in dates that fall on a Saturday parkrunday. This year (hurrah) it does. This means there is a total of 5 parkruns in February for the first time in parkrun history. (Wowsers). The last time 29th February fell on a Saturday was in 1992 – pre parkrun. I know, hard to imagine there was ever a world without it yet ’tis true! No-one in history has ever run a parkrun on leap day, so if you were part of the parkrun army that did so on the 29th February this year, you are a trailblazer in parkrun history. My doesn’t that feel good!

What’s more there won’t be another chance to run parkrun on leap year day until 2048! That’s ages and ages away, a literal lifetime for some, and if I’m still going then I’ll be hopping round in my frog outfit at the ripe old age of 83, and as I don’t really want to live that long because apart from anything else I’ll be in utter penury due to lack of adequate pension provision, that means for me, this is to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, because never before has the leap day falling on parkrun day. HOW EXCITING!  My, I’d better make it a good one.  Capturing a Q on a themed parkrun event would be just the job! That AND fancy dress all round, the intoxicating cocktail of excitement generated by these two opportunities appearing simultaneously was a seductive possibility.  Indeed, together they were the clincher, I’d be hopping off down to there then.  Hurrah!

Alas dear reader, when I came to check the forecasts a few days before it boded badly.  Gusts of 47mph and I know that the Queen Elizabeth Country Park close if the winds pick up above about 35 mph.  A Sheffield friend of mine – Smiley Selfie Queen – got caught out by just that when she was down there on 15th February. I naively thought it would be pretty unlucky/ unlikely to get such inclement weather again, hence had confidently booked and pre-paid for my hotel in advance.  Thus, I’d be there anyway, Q parkrun or no Q parkrun.  Undeterred, I went in search of a back up plan.

The handy ‘nearby parkruns’ information on the Queen Elizabeth parkrun home page gave me an idea of which were in reach, and then I used their historic results listings to see if they’d had to cancel a fortnight ago as I figured that would be a reasonable indication of whether or not they’d be vulnerable to inclement weather again.  It was with a bit of a heavy heart I scrolled through the options, until dear reader, I lighted on Lee on the Solent parkrun.  Not only was it looking like a goer, with a running club takeover but they were have a 250th number event; they have a super hero fancy dress theme. I sort of assumed in the circumstances if I should find myself a refugee from QE’s frog-themed event then Lee on the Solent parkrun would most likely be both accommodating and understanding. Besides, I could probably blag it that there is a frog superhero out there somewhere.  There must be, or am I thinking of ninja turtles?  Anyway, sounded good.

STOP PRESS – O.M.G. there is a frog superhero apparently!  Admittedly one I’d never heard of, though I suppose it is just conceivable I am not that particular superheroes target audience.  Anyways, googlesearch told me that:

Frog-Man is a well-meaning but often bungling superhero in the Marvel Universe and is the son of the villain Leap-Frog***.

Origin
Eugene Patilio was the son of the supervillain Leap-Frog, who had since reformed and retired. Eugene, deciding to clean up the family name decided to use his father’s old superhero suit to fight crime as Frog-Man

ok, maybe not a superhero to set hearts a-beating, but that’s 100% close enough for me.  Things are looking up!  I can totally blag this and will be a natural with my somewhat rotund form being an asset in the role!  This was meant to be!  I knew my frog costume would turn out to be endlessly versatile and become a wardrobe classic.  Result!

Even better, when I posted sheepishly on the Lee on the Solent parkrun Facebook page asking if they expected to be on, I got an almost telepathically instantaneous reply.  Yep, weather was even worse last week according to forecast and they cracked on.  Plus, there might even be cake!  Maybe the quest for a Q is over-rated, this wasn’t going to be second best at all.  What’s more, judging by the very fine profile picture (thanks to Paul Thompson) it looks like the sun always shines there anyway, or your money back, guaranteed.  Excellent.

paul thompson

There’s even a cool aerial video of the parkrun back in 2016 – sun was shining then too.  Brilliant!  Super excited now.  Might even make this the A- plan!

Wouldn’t be a Q though…. oh the tyranny of too much choice eh?

I decided to throw my parkrun destination into the hands of fate.  I mean in an uncharacteristic burst of forward planning I had booked the hotel nearest to the Queen Elizabeth parkrun on a non-transferable basis (aargh), so that would remain my first choice, but if it were to be cancelled Lee on the Solent parkrun was sounded like a fab option too.  Maybe one to come back for…

Oh, I was staying at the Premier Inn Horndean if you are interested.  Actually, that’s not strictly true, there is a farm that looks fab if you are camping or camper vanning Upper Parsonage Farm might be worth checking out.  I liked the look of the shepherds hut – Linda Snell would be impressed I’m sure – but you needed to bring your own linen, and that’s too much faff for me as I’m heading on elsewhere afterwards.  Still, you might like it.  Have a looksie.

So, the night before the parkrun after, I had two options to weigh up in between paranoically refreshing the weather forecast.  Lover-Lee-on-the-Solent parkrun or Queen Elizabeth.  No wrong decision, but I was twitchy.  This was the forecast dear reader:

weather

I was fully prepared to activate my back up plan, but then again, all this way to get a Q, would be a shame if it didn’t come to pass.

I filled my idle, angsty hours with a bit of research about the Q course.  And according to the official website blah de blah the Queen Elizabeth parkrun course is described thus:

The course is in Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean. …

The course is undulating and is run on a mix of compacted gravel paths, grass and forest trails. The course consists of two loops. From the start (green pin), head up a short incline on the gravel path. After approximately 200m take a right turn onto a grassy downhill section. This is quite steep at the bottom so caution is advised. At the bottom of the hill take a right turn and follow the perimeter trail back to the start at approximately 2km. This completes the first loop.
The second loop ascends the initial incline up the gravel path. This time instead of taking the right turn from loop one. Continue on the gravel path for approximately 1km. At the crossroad adjacent to Holt Pond take a right turn onto a downhill trail. At the bottom of the hill turn right on to the perimeter path. This will join the end section of loop one and take you back to the finish funnel (red pin).

Oooh, it’s in a country park!  Queen Elizabeth Country Park to be precise.  That sounds grand, not only worth visiting for an elusive Q then.  Also, and I’m hoping that unlike at Bradford parkrun this won’t be delivering false hope, the information on facilities declares that ‘Toilets are open from 8am‘.  I’m properly excited now.  You have to pay for parking though, which I don’t begrudge at all, but can’t see how much it is or how you pay. I’ll worry about that when I get there.  Actually, no I won’t I’ll look now.  … ok, bit of googling later, looks like you pay on exit, and you can use a card or cash, but if you use cash you won’t get change.  Fair dos.  Good to know.  Venue looks amazing.  This is going to be grand.

The course looks like this:

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Ooh, lap two looks a lot bigger than lap one.  Nice though, not too much repetition.  This is going to be fab – if it happens.  Oh no, it might not happen, weather forecast is properly shite!  Oh well.  Que sera…

and then parkrun day finally dawned…

I woke early, and stared out of the window.  It didn’t look too windy.  I’m the last person in the world with no smartphone and I was a bit twitchy about what to do, as at some point I’d have to tear myself away from the weak but just about detectable wi-fi of the hotel, and from thereon-in I’d be on my own.  No updates.  Like those disaster movies where the central characters have to establish early on why they don’t just get their mobile phones out for help, information or a google map to guide them on their way.  I’d have to survive on nothing but my wits and my parkrun locating instincts.   My only hope was that I’d have left a paper bag in the car somewhere so I’d have something to breathe into in case of emergencies…

Lee on the Solent parkrun was much further away, so I’d need to get a wiggle on to get there, but Queen Elizabeth parkrun had promised to post either way as early as possible.  In the end, I decided to go straight there, but early, as it would be obvious if the park was closed and I could just turn around and head back to Lee on the Solent.  OK, a plan.

I checked out of the hotel, where the receptionist took my key pass off me without passing comment about my green tutu.  She’s probably learned from years of experience that sometimes it’s best just not to enquire.  In the car I peered through the windscreen to establish current weather conditions.  My windscreen is almost as good at identifying current weather conditions as the met office or seaweed hung in a porch, I was thinking it was going to be wet…

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Fortunately I had windscreen wipers, albeit slightly squeaky ones.

I got to the park after an angsty satnav journey which appeared to take me to a random stretch of dual carriageway.  Eventually, big brown signs headed me towards the country park.  You arrive and go through barriers, which make you wait like a conscientious but slightly bored dog humouring his or her deluded owner.  You know, the ones who will insist on doing random and pointless obedience training drills with a less than enthusiastic hound, as some sort mindless power game,  in this case ‘sit’ and ‘wait’.  I didn’t even get a treat for doing so.  Not so much as a veggie jelly bean, or even an actual bean, I’d have settled for that, breakfastless as I was.  I learned later, that this is because big brother photographs your number plate as you go in, but takes a little while to do so.  Presumably because he is lining up the perfect composition, or getting your number plates best side, i.e. the one which has the numbers on – so when you exit the car park paying and entering your number plate in the magic machine, it knows who you are and how long you’ve been a-lingering.   Clever, but ever so slightly unnerving too.

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Now I’ve been, it was fairly obvious where to go – past the visitors centre, and to the next car park along, the gravel one.  But I am of an easily confused disposition, so therefore got confused.  I sort of assumed the barriers wouldn’t have let me in if the country park was shut, but it was very, very quiet.  Well, I suppose I was extra early too.  I finally spotted some people walking and asked them hopefully if they knew anything about parkrun. They had no idea.  Seemingly, they were there to lay tracks for a film crew.  Oooh, how exciting, maybe I’d get to be an extra, I expect they are in need of a super-sized frog wearing a tutu in at least one of the background shots!  No?  Oh well, worth a try, anyway I’d rather do parkrun…

Then a bit further along, I espied a familiar assortment of parkrun related paraphernalia and signs being heave hoed along by a high vis hero.  I paused to check with the person in charge of this bounty and learned, yes, parkrun was indeed on!  Better yet, I was in the right place!  Hurrah!  There was the little matter of being about an hour early but I hate being late, this way I’d be able to fit in a precautionary pee for sure, probably several, shame I’d not had any breakfast.  Premier Inn is fine, but super basic.  I did have a coffee in my room, but hadn’t thought to bring so much as a banana with me for pre-parkrun sustenance.  Fortunately, I had coincidentally brought along with me a quite extensive layer of subcutaneous fat, so that was both my carb reserves and my heat generation systems sorted.  Excellent!

By the time I’d parked, some helpful signs were already up.  The venue is gorgeous too.  Mature trees, huge ones, everywhere.  And lots of mud.  I like mud!  I’m a slow runner anyway so I’m not going for speed, I’m just in search of a micro-adventure, mud ticks that box gloriously, and the fact it provides an excuse for a slow and steady romp round is but a welcome bonus.  Weirdly, others don’t feel quite the same, this I don’t understand, if you want predictable terrain, there are always treadmills, but where’s the fun in that?

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Off for my precautionary pee. It was a shortish 5 minute stroll back to the visitors centre.  There was a single, unisex disabled toilet open, so I nipped in there.  It was deserted as I approached, but as I emerged, there was a little orderly queue of other parkrunners all standing directly outside like a pop-up guard of honour.  I felt they ought to have applauded me as I exited really.  It was slightly alarming though, as I hadn’t realised they were there.  On reflection though, this was just as well, since I have a bashful bladder, and the thought of a trio of parkrun tourists – however empathetic and friendly – outside potentially listening would have entirely negated the positive provision of precautionary pee facilities.  I left them to it, hoping I didn’t have toilet paper stuck to the sole of my shoe or anything similar…

Back to the carpark.  There weren’t many people around, I was in two minds about my fancy dress, I’d not seen anyone else wearing anything green, let along amphibian themed – yet.  Then again, they did say it was fancy dress, and to be honest, I’m not really expecting my frog outfit to become a wardrobe classic, so really I just needed to brazen it out.  Not very likely to be passing this way again, and anyway, the advantage of the head attire was that I’d not be recognisable in any other context, it’ll be fine… what’s the worst…

I headed up the hill, following the signs to the start.  A little assembly of core volunteers had already gathered.  Couldn’t help noticing a distinct absence of green as I approached.