Posts Tagged With: parkrun

parkrun perfection at Victoria Dock parkrun, a victorious parkrun debut, a V nabbed and everyone’s flying high!

Digested read: went to Victoria Dock parkrun for some parkrun tourism, nabbed a V and got to accompany a friend on her parkrun debut.  Hurrah!

previously known as

Undigested read:

Oh so much to share.  Brace yourselves people, could be a long voyage, though not a rocky one, apart from some early turbulence, but we’ll come to that in a bit.  I’m knot sure how long I’ll be able to keep going with the nautical references, it’s inevitable I’ll dry up schooner or later, but remember dear reader it’s the thought that counts.

Sooooooooooooooooooooooo excited!  I was heading to London for the weekend anyway, to assist a friend and my personal favourite EWFM* with the celebrating of her birthday. She has thoughtfully recently relocated to London, and, even more fortuitously if not proactively thoughtfully, found accommodation for which the nearest parkrun (as the crow flies) is Victoria Docks parkrun. BIG excitement.   What is most excellent about all this, is that this particular friend, whilst she has many and manifest redeeming qualities, she had not previously taken part in parkrun.  I realise increasingly, that friends, or indeed just people I know who aren’t parkrunners in some way, shape or form are quite a rarity.  I tend to live in a parkrun echo chamber, where people are either already converts to the faith, or just haven’t yet transitioned. This particular friendship however, predates my own encounter with parkrun so she is one of very few in my social circle who is allowed not to actively participate in it – I think friends should never require their friends to change or do new things unless they want to, each to their own etc – although inevitably she has been subject to my anecdotes about parkrun participation on quite possibly more than one occasion… and has been required to hang around for me whilst I was parkrunning when the situation necessitated this. That is, it was Saturday morning, and I was doing parkrun before we were going to do whatever it was we were going to go on to do.  All of this makes sense to parkrunner people, though possibly not to those as yet uninitiated into the joys of parkrun. There are some.  Hard to imagine I know.

Anyways, the point is, when we were planning my sojourn to the giddy delights of our great capital city, my only request was that I’d be allowed to do parkrun at Victoria Dock parkrun because, ‘it’s a V, and I really want to do a V‘.  Well, dear reader, not only did she agree to this, but also (drum roll) a couple of days before D-Day (or should that be V-Day?) messaged me a picture of her VERY OWN parkrun (allonewordalllowercase remember) BARCODE.  Yep, you’ve guessed it, she’d been following a C25K programme on the quiet in anticipation of joining me for parkrun by way of climax.   The big reveal, was sending me a picture of her own actual one.   OH MY GOD!  I was so excited. Best thing ever.  It would be her parkrun debut, and hopefully the start of a new shared life of parkrun playfulness together which will be massively enhanced by her having a London pad with proximity to a veritable treasure trove of parkrun possibilities.  parkrun has been so fantastic for me, the thought of being with someone as they took the plunge and had their parkrun debut was positively intoxicating.  Once she comes through that finish funnel at parkrun for the first time, her life will be changed forever.  Her Saturdays will be reconfigured, things will never be the same again.

never the same

Things would never be the same again?  Gulp.

Suddenly, I felt the burden of responsibility weighing heavily upon me.  You only get one shot at a maiden voyage.  I wanted it all to be perfect for her.  I wanted her to feel the parkrun love as much as I do.  What if Victoria Dock parkrun is the one parkrun in the whole wild world that is off with newbies and laughs and points at slower runners in between ignoring them.  I know, I know ‘ye of little faith‘.  I wonder if this is what it is like to be a new parent, feeling suddenly overwhelmed with how fragile a newborn seems to be and how it is up to you how they experience the brave new world which they have freshly entered?  I just really, really wanted her to ‘get it’ and cross over to the other side without regret.  If it was awful we wouldn’t be able to ‘undo’ this experience, things would never be the same again.  Tumble weed being blown about between us where before there was always chatting and hilarity.  Too terrible to contemplate.  I shuddered at the very thought.  I mean some things like broken noses, pets and EWFMs are for life not just for Christmas, but even so….

I was worried, not gonna lie, especially when I looked at the results and clocked it was quite a speedy one, with relatively small numbers so not many slow and steadies coming in at the back.  I also know next to nothing about his part of London, and therefore didn’t know how it’d be for practicalities like loos and leaving stuff, let alone for friendliness and scenery.  Ah well, it would be   a V, and parkrun always delivers, sometimes you just have to trust that everything will be alright in the end, and if it isn’t all right then it isn’t the end.  Just so.

Checking out the Victoria Docks parkrun Facebook page didn’t reveal a huge amount.  It’s clearly monitored but not super active, though top marks for team work and this offering on their 50th run, that’s class, right there, good job parkrun celebrants, it’s not easy doing those sort of shots.  I wonder how they got the shot, from a drone, from a very tall person, or from dangling from a cable car over head. Oh, have I not mentioned the cable cars yet – oh my you are in for a treat dear reader – they are magnificent!

victoria dock parkrun at fifty

So, did some research, according the the Victoria Docks parkrun website blah de blah the course is:

Course Description
The course is a horseshoe around Victoria Dock, entirely on the dockside path. Starting near the community hut in the Crystal gardens, proceed along the north side of Victoria Dock. When you reach the far (east) end of the ExCeL, turn around. Come back past the Crystal, then along the south side of the dock to the SS Robin. Turn around here and head back to the Crystal to finish.

hmm, not sounding overly exciting.  I mean dockside paths sounds a bit ropy… oh well, and the course looks like this:

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Also, hmmm, not the most inspiring, but you know what, it’d still be a V.

How to get there.  I had wanted to do something spectacular in honour of the first ever parkrun experience.  You know, sort out transport like ‘young people’ do to get to their proms which wasn’t even a thing for my generation.  Maybe not a stretch limo, too carsick inducing, but were it not for my awareness of the negative environmental impact of sorting out an arrival by helicopter that would have been good.  I understand it is traditional to have some sort of high impact happening to mark a participants first parkrun. Well it ought to be a thing.  Worry not dear reader, a bit of research, and things were looking up!  Literally, not just figuratively.  The best way to get from her house, to the Victoria Dock parkrun rendezvous point was to fly there!

I know!  A first for me too!  Not the city airport route, though I daresay some could, but by Emirates Air Line ….

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Yay!  We’d get to go on a cable car.  Hooray!  What could possibly go wrong.

OK, maybe not quite the same as an actual aeroplane, but just as much fun and less having to hate yourself for contributing to climate change and acceleration the rate of  extinction of life.  I mean, we won’t be taking it to quite the same level as Greta Thunberg in terms of forgoing home comforts for the greater good I know, but showing willing eh?

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Everybody wins.  Except at parkrun, because it’s a run not a race, although all parkrunners are winners just for being there, though you don’t get a trophy as such every time, just the warm glow of satisfaction for being part of something so awesome –  so that’s a bit of a mind knot to be untangled.  I’ll leave it with you to ponder and get back to me…

So we’d get to fly in, and I’d get to be there alongside her at her first ever ever parkrun.  Like being there at the big bang, the starting point of the creation of the known universe.  It was going to be epic!

The day dawned.  Windy.  Windy in a blustery sort of way and wet too. Wet in a ‘we may escape it or we may be drenched’ sort of way.  Not enough to deter true parkrunners, but enough to wonder if the cable car would still run.  I hadn’t entirely thought through this aspect, as I was too excited by triple whammy of new parkrun, a V and my bestie having her parkrun debut.  We had an easy bus ride to the base of the cable car, and although it’s expensive to catch £6 or something crazy like that, because you can pay by contactless it feels like it’s free until you see your bank balance later on.  The cable cars move continuously, so you can recreate the giddy excitement of the first people to step onto those paternoster lifts by clambering on board whilst it is still in motion!  I’m actually quite blasse about extreme sports having both travelled in the University of Sheffield paternoster lift and indeed clambered over the Millenium Dome – though that was after not prior to Victoria Docks parkrun adventures, so I was quietly confident about taking on the cable car challenge!

paternoster lift

You do get sealed in before it heads off across the water, giving you a sense of being entombed just before the wind picks up and an error message appears on the computer screen in you cable car suggesting you are now in the opening sequence of some sort of London based disaster flick.  FYI you may find out at this point that your travel and  parkrun companion isn’t over enamoured of heights and turbulence in cable cars which swing about really quite a lot in gusty winds.  You may also find out at about this point that you aren’t over keen on these things either!  However, none of these momentary flickers of self-awareness will derail you sufficiently that you forget to take the obligatory over-posed slightly manic selfie shots during the voyage.

Oops.

And then.  Something amazing.  Oh my gawd.  The views from up there, it was just beyond awesome.  I felt pretty stupid for not having worked it out before, but the Victoria Dock parkrun is in the middle of the redeveloped docklands area of London. The weather stormy with moody clouds – gave us amazing skyscapes of iconic London landmarks.  Canary wharf, the O2 arena – which is actually the millenium dome obvs, big eff off boats and the teeny tiny toy trains that are not teeny tiny but far away and nipping along the docklands light railway route.  A somewhat bizarrely annotated marriage proposal marked out on a roof top I didn’t know that you were supposed to give your age when proposing.  Good to know.  No idea what the outcome was – in fact, it may even be a cynical marketing ploy of some sort, though as it’s too clever to know what it was advertising, maybe not as clever as it thinks…  And even the slightly scary aircraft taking off and landing from the London City Airport was impressive if a bit discombobulating.  I just don’t know if you should be landing aircraft on that teeny tiny runway, which was actually teeny tiny by the way and not all that far away at all, in case you were wondering.  Still, at least it took our minds off the cable car swaying.  It was fantastic.

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And what a way to make a parkrun entrance too!  You can see the whole dock spread out before you as you approach and descend, and no prizes for guessing what the crystal centre is when you see it from on high.  How did I ever think this was going to be a bit of a ho-hum parkrun experience I can’t imagine.  I can only say I’m shamed and apologise unreservedly.  My bad, my oops.  This was by far and away the most impressive approach to a parkrun I’ve made.  I was EVEN MORE EXCITED now.

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Any fear of finding the rendezvous point quickly evaporated.  You can see the crystal building even though I didn’t know before hand what it was, it is very distinctive.  And as you descend the cable car you are deposited just a hundred yards or so from it really.

So we’d arrived. There weren’t any parkrun flags up as such, but there were some people in running gear hanging around.  I thought they might be fellow tourists, since we were all so early.  In fact it was their local.  They were very welcoming, pointing out the hut where you can in fact leave your gear, and where there is a single loo for pre-parkrun precautionary pee purposes.  They explained the route – which is basically a horse shoe, and were great ambassadors for parkrun in general and Victoria Dock parkrun in particular.  They were faster runners than me ( not hard) so were actually heading off home whilst I was still on the course finishing, but I did get to wave goodbye to them before they vanished. Thank you nice welcoming fellow parkrunners and Victoria Dock natives 🙂  You can tell they are friendly can’t you?  Very reassuring. Never underestimate the impact of a friendly smile of welcome on any occasion, but especially at a new parkrun.

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So then we got chatting with some other new arrivals, who were also tourists.  One had Bushy parkrun as his home run, though usually runs at Kingston apparently (wave if you are reading) and was also after his V.  It became apparent from him, and other parkrunners who started to appear, that not only is this a V opportunity, it’s also a known fast run.  Flat and sufficiently spacious and even surfaced to attract those heading for an all time pb.  Oops again.  Obviously, faster runners are going to want to make the most of that, and good luck to them, but it made me a bit twitchy about how we slower runners might fit in, I wasn’t worried for myself, but for my first timer friend I didn’t want her to have that isolated plodding round at the back through a veil of tears experience that I myself have encountered at running events, though never at parkrun.  I hadn’t thought to check the course records for this one, but have now and they are impressive….

Female record holder: Jess SAUNDERS – 18:22 – Event 56 (18/05/19)
Male record holder: Paul MARTELLETTI – 14:43 – Event 55 (11/05/19)
Age graded record holder: Ros TABOR – 95.99 % – 22:27 – Event 8 (05/05/18)

though not as impressive as Bushy parkrun, their stats are dazzling indeed, but then again, a lot more people have run there and it is a site of pilgrimage, though I’d say the terrain was tougher at Bushy.  Strange but true:

Female record holder: Justina HESLOP – 15:58 – Event 379 (22/10/11)
Male record holder: Andrew BADDELEY – 13:48 – Event 422 (11/08/12)
Age graded record holder: Jane DAVIES – 100.23 % – 21:30 – Event 645 (24/09/16)

and, whilst we are on the subject of being impressed by the physical capabilities of others, what about Germany’s Fiona Kolbinger becoming the first female winner of the Transcontinental cycling endurance race.  She cycled more than 2,485 miles across Europe in just over 10 days, unsupported.  I know.  That is impressive.  She must be a parkrunner too I’d imagine, inside if not actively participating on the outside just now… she looks smiley and all round awesome, so would fit the parkrun bill.

Mind you, so would this lass.  Jeannie Rice, setting a half marathon record for her age group with a 1.37.07 half marathon aged 71.  Yep, that’s very impressive too! Not sure if she’s a parkrunner either, she is American, and parkrun is less of a thing over there, I’m sure otherwise she’d be up for it too.  Why not?

And then we have Cynthia Arnold and her triple buggy running exploits.  Also awesome.  Cynthia Arnold, 35, finished the Missoula Marathon in 3:11 while pushing her three children in a buggy, unofficially breaking the Guinness World Record for fastest marathon ran while pushing a triple-person stroller.  That means she maintained sub-7:20 pace for 26.2 miles with her six-, four-, and one-year-old in tow.

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You know what, these women are extraordinary, and I want to note and celebrate their achievements, but I’m beginning to feel a bit inadequate now.  Maybe I’ll feel better after I’ve eaten a six pack of doughnuts…  Hope over experience, usually makes me feel worse, but I’m game.

On the subject of awesome women and their endurance and tenacity, did you see the parkrun blog post about Yorkshire woman Stephanie Evans who moved from London to Michigan at the start of 2018 she biked 30 miles each way through the snow to get from Ann Arbor to Livonia, so that she could join a parkrun.  I know.  Puts my parkrun tourism efforts into perspective, I hesitate about driving that far, even if there’s no snow.  High five to her!  Shame they haven’t got a picture of her cycling in the snow, she looks very happy now though doesn’t she?  She has a more local parkrun these days apparently.  I wonder if she shouts ‘weeeeeeeee’ when running with her arms outstretched, I told my parkrun first timer that it’s traditional to do so, but it might just be a me thing to be fair…

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So, on the subject of miraculous physicality, me and my new to parkrun buddy were gazing about, milling and chilling and/or possibly feeling a bit apprehensive.  One of us because we were worried about what on earth we’d consented to take part in, and one of us because she was so desperate that this conversion and inculcation to the parkrun way would run (pun intended) smoothly.  Only time would tell…

It was a bit of an atypical parkrun, in that because it was so gusty, they’d not been able to put out any of the flags, cones or other parkrun paraphernalia that indicates you are at parkrun central.  No matter, hi-vis wearing volunteers began to come into view, and a little queue materialised at the crystal community hut where the loo was situated.  Cue companionable queuing where a lot of the parkrun magic happens!  There was no paddling poo today, but there was a specialist eye care first aid kit, which sort of puzzled me, it’s very niche, maybe something to do with being near the water?  I like that the centre was signed ‘bliss events’ apt indeed, and the extreme enthusiasm for hand hygiene judging by the number of bottles of carex gel in the loo, was also noted and a boon!  Well, I took it that they are of a exceptionally clean disposition but I suppose it’s possible it goes the other way, and that in fact they require such copious quantities of antibacterial gel because they are not generally friends of hand washing.  Some unknowns are best left that way I think, you can draw your own conclusions…  I didn’t feel the need to ask anyone if I could inspect their finger nails, so I reckon it was all fine.  Anyway, you are attending parkrun, not signing up for any surgical procedures so it matters not.  Bottom line is, there was more antibacterial handwash than you could shake a stick at, by which I mean, a very great deal.

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parkrunners assembled in their apricot and milestone tees, and I found myself explaining to my parkrun buddy what they all meant.  ‘Ah!  I see, it’s basically the  essential semiotics of parkrun‘ she exclaimed in enthusiastic recognition of what I was saying.  Dear reader, now I appreciate this is very niche indeed, but it was at that exact moment that a heavy penny dropped and I understood the meaning and application of the word ‘semiotics‘.  I fully recognise it would be possible to pass your whole life without this insight, and indeed most, if not all people could still have a rich and full existence without ever needing to reach for this word.  But what you need to know, is that one of the reason me and my EWFM buddy are so bonded, is because we studied together at one point, and this included a whole year module on the theme of ‘the semiotics of theatre’ and I never understood what it meant, despite apparently passing the course.  Total mystery, until now, some three decades later.  Another parkrun miracle, of which there are many, every week, happening more than likely, at a parkrun near you.  Anyway, it was fab to share the semiotics of parkrun and the parkrun jargon in context.  This was going to be grrrrrreat as  Tony Tiger would say!

theyre great

It was good to witness the gathering of parkrun people.  I know you shouldn’t have favourites, but I was particularly delighted by this attendee and his ‘well, this is what happens when you dress in the dark‘ bravado!  Well, you can’t be expected to miss a parkrun over a minor detail like this can you?  Hilarious and most excellent, anonymous parkrunner I salute you!  That’s the parkrun spirit right there!

The real worry to me would not be the colour issue, conspicuous as that was, but the differentiation in drop. What if that led to veering to one side or the other, you might end up in the water, and that would ruin your morning for sure… unless you were in training for a triathlon, which some may well have been.  There were people swimming in the dock, deliberately and not by accident as far as I could tell…

There was time for a few scenic shots, and I explained that it was customary and tradition to have a pre-parkrun selfie shot on the occasion of your first parkrun.  Was planning on milking that trope for as long as possible…  Hurrah!

As is traditional, some selfie shots were noticeably better than others.  Also, turns out it’s really quite hard to get a selfie with a cable car in the background, but you have to admit we tried, giving it a good shot if not actually securing a very good one.  Go on, you try when you go, you’ll struggle too, unless you are very, very tall indeed, which you may be.

So then, after much faffing, and wondering whether it was coat on or coat off weather – also a parkrun tradition, we conferred over participation tactics.  The agreement was companionable ignoring.  I hate it when people run with me or try to engage me in conversation, so am never offended if people shun this in me.  But I didn’t want my first timing buddy to feel abandoned, so we agreed to stay in sight of one another, and she could initiate communication if required.  Above all else, I pledged not to shout any words of encouragement that might imply judgement, because they can push you over the edge when you are starting out.  Good, all settled then.

In due course, by general consent, people started to gather around the RD for the pre-event / first timers briefing. We stood on fake grass, which was practical, but always makes me sad.  Granted, elsewhere they’d made an effort with wild flower planting.  Drainage was perhaps a bit of an issue though as I managed to stand in an unexpected indentation (those are the worst) and almost ankle deep in water. Oh well, my trainers were going to get wet anyway.

First timers briefing was brief, friendly, route was explained, but hard to go wrong really, as if you went the wrong way or tried to cut a corner you’d end up in the Thames.  The only really important warning was when you come back to the finish after the second half of the horse shoe, you need to add on a little u-shape at the end past the crystal centre before you get to do your sprint finish arms aloft etc in the usual manner.  Also, a general ‘keep left’ rule, as the nature of the course means inevitably runners will be going in both directions for most of the course as speedier runners come back against the flow of others still heading out.   It will make life interesting!  There was an option to hang back if there were any more detailed questions for true first timers as opposed to first timers through tourism, but we were ok so didn’t take advantage of that.

Then we edged our way to the start line, where moody skies provided a splendid backdrop to the suspended cable cars.  When the wind gusted it was pretty strong, it seemed likely we’d have a headwind for at least half the time, but hey ho, it all adds to the unique qualities of the event.  Was rather hoping we wouldn’t be beneficiaries of any surprise splashing, as per the overhead signage, but there was a railing alongside the dock so should be easy enough to avoid.

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There was a second RD briefing, but we’d tucked ourselves in towards the back, so I couldn’t really hear it, so didn’t get to manically point at my EWFM during the ‘any first timers’ moment.  Not to worry, I’d find a way to rectify that later.  Some clapping, presumably for the volunteers not for Trump’s latest tweets, though always a concern when clapping a message you’ve not actually heard… and then awf!

The paths are wide, and some were definitely going for pbs so people took off quite quickly.  I did my leap frogging technique of stopping to take pictures, and take in the view and the sights and sounds, and then running on as fast as I could in an attempt to keep ahead of the tailwalker.  Might even have been able to spin it as intervals if I’d only thought to do so, but jeffing at a push.  Love legitimising walk/ run approaches.  It is the future.  Oh look, here’s the first marshal!  She was super friendly – all of them were of course.  There weren’t that many about but then again, the course doesn’t really require them, only at the far turning points really.  You will note, that even just a few yards in, there was nothing but the dockside equivalent of a trail of dust as all the other runners had disappeared out of view.  A fast field indeed.  I however, can always make time for a stop and shoot (photo) opportunity.

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Off parkrunners sped, along the dockside, cornering past the cable car terminal building and after a mini zig zag the first long straight outward stretch to the turning point.  There was a random guy on a bike giving high fives.  The one in the blue sweat shirt, that was good.  And as is often the way for me, I could see the stream of colourfully clad runners who’d already cornered ahead of me.  Nice.

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It is such an amazingly picturesque location, albeit in urban dockside glory, it’s really hard not to be distracted by the novelty of the sights and sounds en route.  A tad disconcerting to have life buoys lining the route, but then again, probably even more disconcerting if they were absent.  Those faster runners are running past the restaurant by the way, not trying to nab their post parkrun breakfast tables with indecent haste by elbowing other participants out the way.  That would not be in the spirit of parkrun at all.  Not one little bit.

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Ridiculously soon, the front runners were coming back the other way.  Now, can’t lie, I’m extremely pleased to have inadvertently got a couple of flying feet photo.  I think being airborne early on must have sort of set the tone of the event somehow, I’d never have caught these if I’d been trying!

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Oh, you’re disappointed.  I never said they were all flying feet photos, that would have been too much to hope for.  Even so, you get a sense of the fab setting at least don’t you?  And the wideness of the path and the way the out and back bit works I hope?  You do?  That’s good.

So we trotted down to the turning point, companionably ignoring each other as was prearranged.  A cheery marshal called encouragement as we cornered, always appreciated.  Thank you marshal!

And you get to run back the way you’ve just come!  This does offer up some great views, but also, not gonna lie, as you get towards the end of the straight and turn a corner again you got a full head wind which was pretty hard core demotivating.  Still, we like a challenge!  And nothing like a wind eddy near a big drop to make a parkrun course the more memorable.  However, you get to see the big red boat; you get to see the O2 which we’d be clambering over later; you get to see the runners on the other side of the water – if you squint a bit; you get to see the marketing model used by sports bras manufacturers as a terrible warning of what will happen to your boobs if you don’t wear a properly fitted brassiere; you get to see the seal in the dock – oh no, not a seal, a spent swimmer perhaps; you get to see the life saving marshal in a kayak, hooray, don’t fall in people, but if you do, there is someone on hand to save you!  Well, strictly speaking I think they were there for the swimmers, but didn’t look like a jobsworth, I reckon they’d drag you out too if required to do so, isn’t that the law of the sea that you help others in need – unless you are Sicilian fisherman rescuing drowning, desperate migrants, when you risk being jailed for doing so.  Such are the dark, distorted times in which we live.  Topple into Victoria Dock though, you’d be rescued I reckon… most probably.

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I actually felt quite emotional, seeing London landmarks laid out along the way, especially having come in by plane cable car, for the first time I got a real sense of how the river shapes the London landscape, and a renewed appreciation for what a fantastic city it can be.  It was a great choice for a debut parkrun outing, what’s not to like?  Apart from the feeling compelled to run, and the gusting headwinds, but that’s just what happens with type 2 fun experiences, it’d be grand by the time she was clutching her first finish token and allowing the post run endorphins so surge through her veins.  Hurray!  We done good.  Also a V.  Or we would have done, by the end of the parkrun immersive experience – hopefully without immersion into water, which wasn’t on my ‘to do’ list irrespective of the likelihood of rescue, but only with immersion into the loveliness that it intrinsic to parkrun.  Perhaps ‘experiential’ would be a better choice of descriptor in the circumstances.

So, back to the crystal centre, and the gusty wind.  Some of the super speedy runners were finishing, and others just behind them were doing the little extra u-shaped loop, which was handy to see as I hadn’t really grasped where to go from the briefing, but when you see others running the route it becomes very obvious.

I ran on ahead a bit of my running buddy to try to get some photos, and paused to talk to the Run Director who was doing sterling work cheering runners by. I couldn’t resist informing on my EWFM by alerting the RD to the fact she was a FIRST EVERER at parkrun, which as all parkrunners know merits extra special cheers of encouragement.  After all, you never get a second go at your first ever parkrun participation.  Sad, but true.  She obliged brilliantly, bigging it up with the support as is traditional, though should never be taken for granted!

You run past the fake turf where the finish funnel and post run chilling and milling was taking place.  I knew pretty much everyone would have gone by the time I got back there again, so I paused again for some snaps.

Then you are off again back out along the other side of the dock.  It was thinning off a bit by now.  The second stretch is significantly shorter than the first, so you are about two thirds through by now.  Wide paths, and a good view across to the opposite side is quite fun, as you can see more clearly the route you’ve taken, and take in the visual feast from another angle.  I tried to get arty shots of runners through the life buoys.  Didn’t really work to be fair, but it’s the thought that counts.

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The paths were very clean by the way.  I was impressed by how immaculate everywhere was.  I’m not sure if it’s because all the litter gets blown away, or perhaps people in London know better than to drop rubbish everywhere or maybe they employ people to do a fine job at picking it all up.  Whatever way, it was impressive, and a refreshing change from the rubbish strewn streets of Sheffield which are beyond depressing.  I suppose it helps that this is such an iconic location.  Even so, very nice.  Clean hands, clean paths too.  Tip top, spick and span and  spit spot as Ms Poppins would say.  Possibly, or maybe not.  Didn’t ‘spit spot’ mean hurry up?  Whatever.  I’m sure she’d be pleased anyway, she liked things neat and orderly, for ever tidying up with a song.  Also the spoonful of sugar reference is apt, because a lot of the docks around here were – indeed are still known as Silvertown, because of the link to Tate & Lyle and Silver Spoon sugar.  Interesting isn’t it?  Well I think so.  It may also explain why towards the end of this parkrun you may feel like you are running through treacle.  Again.  Good to know.

Onward we yomped.  Oh look, there are people in the water and they’ve gone in on purpose.  Bobbing about by a buoy, taking it in turns to swim off.  I’m not sure what the deal was quite.  These were clearly an organised group in training, but I guess if open water swimming is your thing, this is somewhere you could jump in at the end of the parkrun if you want to get a swimming fix.  There were a couple of places that with the benefit of hindsight were platoons pontoon type structures that were where people could plunge into the water if they felt the urge to do so.

to the final turn around point, where there was a still smiling marshal to cheer us round and back for the homeward straight.

And back we went, jeffing along nicely.  Using the cranes to judge walk run intervals and running together in parallel but incommunicado.  Companionable ignoring remember dear reader, that was the agreement.  Wave at the tail walker coming on through…

Oh look, my parkrun friends from earlier just as we cornered the fake grass again:

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Then just the final u-turn and back past the crystal centre:

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and then the final marshal and to the finish!

Yay!  Job done!

That was it, my EWFM through the finish funnel successfully and now clutching her very own finish token as a matching accessory for her personal barcode.  Temporary possession only of course, she was going to get that scanned, and she had been well briefed on the importance of not being a token magpie.  Take a finish token home with you and token sorters and run directors weep and a kitten dies.  Every time. FACT.

So me and my EWFM both had run, both had our finish tokens, and were in the line for barcode scanning.  We are all parkrunners now!

I felt a lump in my throat at being there at the beginning of this initiation into the parkrun family.  So proud of my EWFM for being there, and parkrun too, for delivering when it mattered most.  (Though it does always to be fair, so I should have had more faith…).

I explained about it being traditional to have your photo taken with your finish token at the end, and that everybody looks fabulous with their post run glow!

Then I explained it was parkrun tradition to be photographed having your barcode scanned and posing with parkrun hi-vis heroes.

She got a bit suspicious when I tried to persuade it was parkrun tradition to be thrown in the air by a cohort of hi-vis clad heroes at the end of your first run.  Worth a try though…

I took some photos of the final few coming through.  One runner ended up sort of on her own for the final u-shape addition, and I noticed a man who’d finished his run quite a bit earlier, accompanied her round before peeling away at the finish funnel.  That was very public spirited I thought, sort of unassuming but necessary assistance, perfectly judged.  My EWFM did stretches amidst other collapsed runners on the astroturf.  This is admirable, I personally don’t favour sitting on the ground immediately after parkrun because of the fear I will stiffen and set there, unable ever to stand again.  It’s a real concern.  One not to try at home, unless you are lithe and fit, or at least stretchy.  I am none of these.  Kudos to those who are.  On reflection, maybe that’s what the RD was conferring about with that other parkrunner.  How to raise the cross-legged parkrunner from the ground, maybe they were fixed to the spot too after ill-advised, over confident post parkrun sitting down.  It can happen.  I think parkrun HQ probably makes you do risk assessments about what to do in those sort of situations now I come to think of it.

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It is however most definitely a parkrun tradition to be photographed with the RD at your first event.  And if it isn’t, then it should be.  So we went to seek her out and to thank her, and she obliged with photogenic gloriousness as well as personal charisma and charm!

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It was a revelation talking to the RD,  not least, because turns out she was actually Event Director too.  This makes her Paul S-H’s earthly representative, or at least his Victoria Docks one, huge kudos by association to be photographed with her.  Thank you for obliging lovely RD!  🙂 Plus, it was interesting hearing a bit about the history of the event and how it had evolved.  When it was being set up, the core team imagined it would be a smallish one, not thinking then that people would be on a quest for a V, or that it would attract lots of tourists to London, irrespective of the running challenges alphabet questing.  That, and it turns out to be a pb course for many, which again attracts runners from outside.  Such visitors are all extremely welcome, but it had been anticipated that they’d get mostly locals because this parkrun is held pretty much on a well worn run route for the local population.  This means it can take longer to work out who the locals are, and although there is apparently a healthy, friendly and welcoming team of volunteers, it isn’t always obvious if people are just passing through or there to stay.  I’d not thought of any of those things.  Most fascinating of all, was the moment when my running buddy had a penny drop moment on a par with my comprehension of semiotics.

EWFM: ‘Oh, they are after the letter V!’

Me: ‘erm, yep… that’s what I’ve been saying...’

EWFM:  ‘I thought you meant the run was shaped like a V!’

Me: blinks.

Glad we cleared that one up.  parkrun outings are always most educational.

So we thanked the lovely RD and the high vis heroes still out and about, and then we wended our way off.  You can hang around for a coffee in the community hut I think, but to be honest, there are so many coffee shop offerings around that may explain why people seemed to disperse.  We were going back by the DLR, which is but a hop, skip and a jump from the crystal centre.  This is an incredibly accessible parkrun in terms of proximity to modes of transport.

So just remains to say big thanks to the whole Victoria Docks parkrun team for the fab welcome and brilliant event.  What an amazing location and a memorable induction into parkrun for my old friend and new parkrun buddy.  It was a spectacular and positive experience.  So much so, my EWFM proclaimed that she would ‘definitely be back’ though we didn’t set an absolute timeline for this. I’ll take that, my biggest fear was that it’d be a ‘we shall never speak of this again’ experience, and we were way the other side of the continuum to that!  Hurrah. Better yet, she also conceded that whilst it wouldn’t have been accurate to describe it as type 1 fun at the moment she was being blown back along the dockside path coming back towards the crystal centre for the first time, that moment was now recognised as complying with type 2 fun regulations, and the approach to the finish funnel and being processed bit was genuinely type 1!  Result.  A new convert, we can all rejoice!  New parkrun possibilities await, like I said before, never the same again, but in a good way…

Took the parkrun plunge and didn’t fall (into the river or anywhere else) but rather flew.  Literally too, what with the sky train and all.  Hurrah!

what if i fly

Yeah yeah, I get that it’s a cliche, but it seems especially apt here, and I like the sentiment it expresses.  Post parkrun highs make use of inspirational quotes acceptable.  FACT.

I expect you are longing to know about our post-parkrun breakfast options.  Well dear reader, I can report we ended up going to Jade at Woolwich for a truly spectacular breakfast, but the real high point was seeing the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Association trough.   What the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Association would have to say about this water receptacle being appropriated and re-purposed for non-cattle drinking related use I dread to think, but how pleasing that such an association (once) existed/s

And then later in the weekend, we checked out the Victoria Dock parkrun espied from the roof of the O2 arena.  That was cool.  It would be better if it had been labelled as such with the parkrun logo, but there you go. This was a birthday treat for my EWFM who seemingly shares a birthday with Mr S-H, it was meant to be.  They are practically twins, apart from age, and having dates a day apart, but clearly, it’s a sign, you know it is.  All’s good with the world.

So there  you go, here’s to a parkrun that’s practically perfect in every way !

Right, that’s your lot, I need to crack on, can’t spend my whole day chatting away to you much as I’d like to.  Hope you are enjoying your own running in general or parkrun in particular adventures.  Have fun remember, that’s really the only rule.  Run for fun!  Type one for preference but type two is also acceptable.  parkrun is for everyone. Yay!

parkrun for all

🙂

If you want to see more of Victoria Docks parkrun – Vicky D to her friends apparently –  and can’t get there yourself, you could check out this video of Victoria Docks parkrun taken by a participant back in June.  It’s very cool.  Taken by Andrew from Action Go! Thanks Andrew, appreciated, loving your work there, loving your work.

By the way,  you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  And you might have places to go, people to see and/or a life to live, so I’ll understand if you leave it for now.  🙂  I do not have a separate blog about semiotics, though I daresay they exist.

Oh and finally, because the world can seem a dark and dismal place at times, have you seen this or this?  No?  Well maybe you should.  They will give temporary respite.  Try not to dwell on whether or not the atypical snow in Australia is yet another indication of apocalyptic climate change, that would rather cancel out the feelgood effects.  Also this statue, isn’t she splendid!  No shame in having crabs in your pubes for her.  No need for body shaming, be proud of who you are!  Listen to Eilish people, she is an epic runner and speaks the truth – the statue isn’t her however, though maybe she’ll get her own statue one day!

*Erstwhile Flatmate, what else?  And yes I know it strictly speaking should be EF, but that has connotations of Ef Off, which is most definitely contrary to the esteem and affection with which she is held and how we choose to interact with one another.  I suppose I might have gone with EW, but who wants to refer to their friend as ‘ew‘ which sounds more like an expression of disgust rather than affection, so by custom and practice this has become EWFM, which is a sort of abbreviation rather than an actual acronym, and not at all a mnemonic.  Which is something else all together.  Thought it would have been obvious, but then semiotics wasn’t to me til just now so I suppose I have to make allowances…  Bottom line is that it is traditional that we recognise each other as EWFMs, and if it’s good enough for us, it’s good enough.

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

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

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

Undigested read:

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

Np behind you

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

juggling parkrunner royal canal parkrun

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

dont know dont care

Genius!

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

Now, where was I?

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

tourism

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

parkrun+Compass+Club+UK Richard Gower

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

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

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

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

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

and it looks like this:

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

More research, that may help.

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

fancy dress parkrun

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

Bushy parkrun slightly scary

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

cleopatra-Egypt13-150x211

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

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

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

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

chucklinggoat-logo

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

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

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

this might win fancy dress internet today

Oh didn’t I say?

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

well always have london

Decision made.  Northallerton parkrun it would be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

aloha colwick parkrun august 2018

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

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

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

Np not a dog a unicorn

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

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

Np taking control

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

women-pyjamas-cambodia

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

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

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

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

Np dogs life

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

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

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

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

Np view from the rear.jpg

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

beehind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Np definitely a field

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

Np team support.jpg

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

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

Round I went again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Np fun factory at the back

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

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

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

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

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

And all too soon, that was that.

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

You’re welcome.

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

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

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

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

happy birthday

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

where next

By the way,  you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  And you might have places to go, people to see and/or a life to live, so I’ll understand if you leave it for now.  🙂

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

every adventure

🙂

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

 

 

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

♫ (Go West) where the skies are blue? ♫ Beverley or bust. Beverley Westwood parkrun where there be coos!

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Beverley Westwood parkrun.  It rained.  A lot.

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Undigested read:

When the world is your lobster oyster, it’s hard to know where to travel next parkrun wise.  I was going to head to Isabel Trail parkrun, it’s on my ‘to do’ list, like trail, and an ‘i’ for my alphabet challenge would be a boon.  Ouch, it is a long way from Sheffield though.  Aargh.  Yep, a long way, but nearer than any other ‘i’ s, they are few and far between.  I’ll go there then.  … only then I remembered some fellow parkrunner that are seriously dedicated tourists, they have an itinerary, always worth a gander.  Where are they going I wonder?

Oooh, Beverley Westwood parkrun.  Never heard of it.  Google.  Google (which never lies) takes me to their official Beverley Westwood parkrun page seems this parkrun is but freshly emerged.  Now, I concede some might say that this is still a ridiculously long way away from Sheffield for a couple of hours excursion, but that would be in the eyes of non parkrunner tourists.  It’s doable.  It would be a chance to catch up with some fellow parkrun pilgrims, as a bonus, it might give me a ‘west’ for the compass challenge (not entirely sure of the basis of inclusion for that, but I think as long as a compass point is included anywhere in the title, it’s OK), and a 3 for my Wilson, which I’m only very halfheartedly aware of but I wouldn’t shun even if I can’t be bothered to actively seek any numbers out.

compass club

wilson index

Incidentally, be aware that attending inaugural events is generally discouraged to avoid scaring off new volunteer teams.  I think the consensus is now that if a new event is your new local, and/or the new event team are actively promoting it then it’s fine to attend, but otherwise, let them settle in.  Fair do’s.  It didn’t used to be an issue but now parkrun is soooooooooooooo much bigger – 6 million registrations now, that’s eye popping, and excellent, but also a tad scary if you are a new kid on the block!

You know about the running challenges thingamajig yes?    I’m never going to really get very far up the Wilson index, but I reckon I’ll succeed with the compass challenge one day, plenty parkrun options available for that!  Yes, I know it’s childish, but in bleak times, anything to cheer the spirits surely?  We are all going to hell in a handcart, granted, but at least we have parkrun.

Loon landing private eye

Quick change the record before it all gets too depressing!  Speaking of which, (yes we were) I know the perfect record, feel free to join in!  This calls for a rousing chorus of ‘Go West!’ – only you know if you want the Village People original or are a Pet Shop Boys kinda person, but either way it’s most jolly and uplifting and the chorus couldn’t be more apt!

Go West!

life is peaceful there
(Go west) in the open air
(Go west) where the skies are blue
(Go west) this is what we’re gonna do
(Go west, this is what we’re gonna do, go west

So what can I find out in advance about this parkrun?  We know already it will be in the open air and the skies will be blue, because the singers tell us so.  You should so watch the video* if for some inexplicable reason you haven’t done so in a while.  Absolute classic!   Yeah, jfdi, and you know what, you should totally join in, that’s what kitchen floors were made for!  I’m not endorsing the casual cultural appropriation aspects, clearly, but can’t help but be taken back when that comes on!

*The village people, version, obvs!

Right, enough of the distractions, back to the important preparatory research.

Well, according to the course blah de blah on the Beverley Westwood parkrun page:

Course Description
The start/finish is situated on an open area of Beverley Westwood adjacent to where Westwood Road meets Walkington Road.
The course is 2 anti-clockwise laps on the historic, scenic and undulating pasture and follows an ancient drove way, goes down then up Hill 60, crosses the Tan Gallop and circles Black Mill – entirely on grass so trail shoes are advisable in wet weather. Cows roam freely on the pasture from April to December and have right of way at all times. Follow the marked route to ensure you remain in the safe area away from the golf course. There is plenty of room near the start to park bikes and to warm up on the grass. Unfortunately the course is not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs.

Ok, so two things immediately strike me.  ‘Entirely on grass’ and the ‘presence of cows’.  I way prefer off – road, but I am a bit dubious about grass courses, horribly reminiscent of the humiliation of school sports days and my brief but misguided foray into XC running.  The very thought makes me nervous, though it sounds interesting and picturesque, so hopefully not too like a school sports field when you are actually there.

Apropos of the cows, I’m going to have to trust the event team.  I used to be fine with cows until I moved to Sheffield, where it seems bovines have been cross bred with aggressive carnivorous predators and there have been an alarmingly frequent number of incidents of runners being carted off in helicopters by mountain rescue after coming off the worse in bovine/runner encounters.  Still, at Beverley Westwood parkun they give the cows names according to their inaugural event report.

there are not many parkruns with a Cow Risk Assessment, however the cows were great and our marshals even named a few – Pat, Parsley and Pie behaved beautifully. So anyone afraid of cows should consider this. The only stampede was the one to the pub afterwards!

It’s hard to be scared of something when you’ve named it.  That’s why I called a resident house spider Christopher one winter.  The ones you see are most commonly male apparently, lost and lonely and looking for a mate.  We came to an understanding.  He could stay, as long as he never crossed the threshold into my bedroom.  I actually felt sufficiently protective of him, that before I moved out at the end of my tenancy, I relocated him to an attic where he’d be safe from over enthusiastic vacuuming by any new occupants.  Anyway, point is, they have cow marshals.  It’ll be fine!

Besides, indisputably, some runners benefit from external motivation to help them achieve their full potential.  For those in search of an elusive pb, maybe the cows will help?  A bear did this for the cohort pictured below, a whole herd of cows could do way more I reckon.  Also, illustrates rather brilliantly the accepted wisdom that when under threat, you don’t necessarily need to run super fast, just faster than at least one of your companions.  Harsh, but true.  Don’t worry fellow parkrunners, there’s always a tail walker, you can’t be last!  I’m not saying tail walkers are expendable, they are not, but it is one of the easier volunteering roles to fill, so it’ll be fine… probably.  I’ve been a tailwalker and I’d happily have martyred myself for the greater parkrunning good if required to do so.  I’m sure other community minded hi-vis heroes are willing to do likewise.

photographers fleeing

Where was I?  Oh yes, the course.  It looks like this:

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and as far as you can tell from the Beverley Westwood parkrun Facebook page, the locals are friendly.  They are setting up monthly gatherings, what a brilliant idea.  Spreading the parkrun love indeed.  I like the idea of a parkrun that starts  and finishes at a pub!  This parkrun would seem destined to be sustainable!  Hope they do veggie breakfasts…

Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in The Woolpack Inn on Westwood Road – please come and join us!

Woolpack pub

Yeah, definitely worth the early start.  What could possibly go wrong?  🙂  Yeah, bring it on!  Might be more than a couple of hours worth of Saturday morning fun at this one!

Bring.  It. On!

Bit worried about the heat though.  It’s soooooooooooooo hot.  At least I’m not a dog.  It’s worse for them poor things.  The RSPCA advice is to leave them at home when it’s like this.  Apparently (read it somewhere on Facebook so it must be true) Canicrossers use this rule: Temp (c) x humidity (%) and anything below 1000 is good to go, for instance 14 degrees and 45% humidity would be 630. If in doubt … do not run!  You know, I might start applying that rule to myself.  I just can’t function in heat.  I feel like a super-villain has caught me in an energy-draining spotlight and I will expire within seconds if I can’t move to a place of cool shade imminently. It’s so hard being me. A cap and shades and electrolytes will only get you so far.  Heatstroke can kill.  In fact, there is a whole blogsite ‘Hot Dogs –  heatstroke heatstroke education for dog owners. ‘ all about heatstroke prevention.  Quite scary stuff. They did a post about parkrunning with dogs in the heat, food for thought, and I haven’t even got a dog. Though I do have massive empathy for them as the temperature rises.  I am not a sun worshipper at all.  I’m sure I’m part vampire heritage, no other explanation.

Directions wise, well I would be heading to their suggested car park near to the start.

Getting there by road
Whichever route you take into Beverley, you need to drive into the town centre to access car parks. To get to the start from the town centre, head for Lairgate then follow ‘Getting there on foot’ below.

Grayburn Lane pay and display car park (HU17 8JR) is only 600m from the start and Tesco (HU17 9DB) which offers 3 hours’ free parking is a 15 minute walk away from the start. There are also several other car parks near the town centre.

To help us maintain good relationships with the Pasture Masters, local residents (people and cows) and the golf club, please do not park on the pasture verges, on Westwood Road or at the golf club.

Hmm, could be up to a couple of hours drive, allowing for paranoia, getting lost, pre parkrun angstiness etc.  Lucky I’m an insomniac, an early start makes no odds to me!  Also, in order to ‘Go West’ I actually have to head north-eastish from my starting point.  That spoils the theme somewhat, but hey ho, worse things happen at the seaside.  And I should know, I broke my kneecap at one (Hastings since you ask, that was a bad day).

Yep, very up for this, what could possibly go wrong?

So the day dawns.  Morning!

Morning

aaah, maybe that.  Gulp.

Thunderbolts and lightening?  Very, very frightening!

What happened to ‘Go West – where the skies are blue‘?  Asking for a friend.  On the plus side, at least I won’t be fretting about sunstroke and over-heating…

Up at stupid o’clock.  To some extent, I was lulled into a bit of a false sense of security as I peered out my attic window to assess what the weather gods were offering up.  It was raining, but not too hard as I left Sheffield.  Almost refreshing after the recent heatwave I thought to myself, (be careful what you wish for) naively.

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However, dear reader, I can report that once I hit the motorways, it was like entering a parallel universe of apocalyptic weather.  The sky was obscured by an other-worldly gloom, not so much from mist, but from the absolute density of rain reducing visibility to scarily short distances.  Oh well, I probably shouldn’t hold my hand in front of my face when driving anyway, it’ll be fine…  Once I’d talked myself down from a full on panic attack re visibility, there was the little matter of standing water and the awful suspicion that however slowly I was driving, I’d be aquaplaning at any moment!  This would have been ok if I had the sort of car that converted into a hydrofoil at the push of a button, or indeed had thought to source Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the day, but neither was the case.  Incidentally, whilst we are on the subject of children’s films and childhood humiliations, was I the only child who sang along to the movie track loudly pronouncing ‘shitty shitty bang bang’ for more years than I should because my nearest and dearest thought it was very much more amusing not to correct me?  Oh, it really was just me then.  I suppose that explains some things  …

I was glad I’d allowed plenty of time.  The roads were clear, fortunately, though to be fair I wouldn’t have been able to make out any of the other traffic on the roads anyway.  It sure was going to be a wet one!  Just to liven things up a bit more, periodically, a flash of distant lightening would pierce my eyeballs, causing momentary blindness as I drove onwards to my unknown destiny.

Once I came off the motorway and headed to Beverley, the roads got even worse.  I don’t know if my satnav took me a particularly odd way, but the roads seemed to twist through villages, and flood water was perilous.  I crawled along clinging to the middle of the road to avoid standing lakes on either side, other vehicles 4×4 ploughed through sending up tsunami waves of water as they passed. Cheers for that (not really).  At least I wasn’t on a bike.

One village had a sign advising of the presence of ducks!  That was particularly pleasing and apt.  So much so, I stopped to take a picture of it on the way back.  Shortly after the sign, is a beautifully picturesque village pond, which indeed had ducks on it, though it wouldn’t entirely have surprised me if they’d been swimming alongside me on the roads. It was wet, wet, wet.  No honestly, imagine the wettest you’ve ever been, yep, that time, and now get someone to chuck another bucket of water on you whilst you stand over a burst water hydrant.  That’s it.  That kind of wet.  ‘Nice weather for ducks’ indeed.

DSCF2891Smart ducks those, they did a good job with the hanging basket didn’t they?  The environs of Beverley were pretty classy, they get a better quality of mallard round here too I dare say.

From what I could make out in the rain, Beverley is pretty nice.  There are some wow moments en route with the architecture – making out the cathedral in the rain and indeed Westwood Pastures on the way into the town.  The buildings as you approach are stunning.  My satnav took me straight to the car park, although it seemed weirdly residential on the final approach.  Even the car park is posh here, it’s the first one I’ve ever graced that has its own art work on display!

There’s a long stay and a medium/short stay section. I was early, so dithered about which to choose.  There was loads of parking at 8.00 a.m. and still some spaces in the long stay when I came back to the car about 10.30 ish, so that was good.  Logistically speaking though, you do really need to be in an official car park, there weren’t other options, on street parking was restricted to residents only and anyway there weren’t any spaces.

It wasn’t cold, but it was very definitely wet.  In an uncharacteristic fit of forward planning, I brought with me a print out of the route from the car park to the parkrun.  I’m glad I did, as it wasn’t obvious without, and i don’t have a smart phone.  Maybe later on other parkrunners would have gathered and it would have been a case of follow the crowd, sheep like, to get to the start.

parking to start

Speaking of sheep, the next stop was the Woolpack.  It was very much open, and people were busy frying up sausages in prep for parkrunners a-plenty later on.  I asked if it was ok to use the loo, and it was fine.  Check this out – see what they’ve done there with the signs?  I know, hilarious and genius!  Also, it was equipped with a few extras in case you need a pre- or indeed post-parkrun preening.  This was the ladies loo, or ‘ewes’ I imagine the ‘rams’ have brylcreem, old spice and chamois leathers in their basket.  That sort of thing anyway.  Ace.

Pre parkrun pee executed, I headed to the start.  It really isn’t very far, and it’s an exciting revelation when it comes into view.  At the end of a tightly packed, but exquisitely beautiful row of terraces, the vista opens up into the vision of sodden loveliness that is Westwood Pastures, enhanced by little flashes of hi-vis on the horizon.  Hurrah!  I’m here!  More importantly, so is the parkrun core team.  Takes more than a little bit of  torrential deluge of rain to deter them.

It wasn’t really cold, but it did very much feel like the sky was falling in.  Chicken Licken would have had a complete meltdown.  In fact, this would be a terrible parkrun for Chicken Licken, there are chestnut trees along the way, with conkers already starting to fill out nicely.  Only a matter of time before they start plummeting down from above too.  Honestly, the risk assessments for this parkrun must fill several volumes!

Educational point of information. I’ve just re-read Chicken Licken, because it’s always as well to fact check important points, and I see Chicken Licken is gendered as ‘he’ in the version I came across.  I’d always assumed Chicken Licken was female, is that because I’d identified with the character I wonder, or does the ladybird book assign the female gender?  Would be so much easier if everyone was just ascribed non-binary in my view.  Ah well, onward.

I wended my way towards the hi-vis hubbub, where very sensibly volunteers were gathering and sheltering.  The sheltering was a bit redundant to be fair, wasn’t sure at what point someone was going to break it to them they were going to get soaked through to their knickers within seconds of leaving the sanctuary of the tree’s branches –  and I don’t mean from crying with laughter at the parkrun participants either.  Though to be fair, that is a given at junior parkrun, if my experience of volunteering there is anything to go by…  Hilarious.  Always.

I was trying to be discrete, you know, get some non-posed photos.  Epic fail, partly because  that’s not my forte, and partly because it was so blooming dark, my flash went off.  This nearly brought about apoplexy amongst the event team, who were mid-briefing about how they would implement their storm warning protocol  in the event of thunder and lightening bursting out.  It would have been pretty exciting I reckon, not so much sharknado as bovinado, which would any Sheffield runner would tell you is way scarier!  Isn’t there a documentary about that: cownado I mean?  Yes there is!

We have scary cows in Sheffield though I tell you, really scary ones.   I really wouldn’t want to be hit by a falling cow.  At least for the most part this course was in the open, no chance of being squashed by a falling tree say…. a tree branch fell in a storm at Preston parkrun today which caused quite a commotion, no-one hurt but event team emergency protocol well and truly scrambled.  It pays to be prepared people! No team wants squished runners, it can ruin your whole morning more even than unregulated funnel ducking, and that’s saying something!  Preston parkrun had to notify the council for heaven’s sake, I mean just imagine – the incident even made the local news!

preston parkrun

Funnel ducking is still worse however.  Just so you know.

Funnel ducker , n, parkrunner who crosses the finish line and thus gets a finish time but leaves the funnel without taking a finish token, thereby creating results processing grief for the event team.

You’d be surprised at the mishaps that can befall parkrunners though.   Spare a thought for poor Maureen of Whangarei parkrun who apparently missed the whole thing after become trapped in a loo cubicle.  No really, it was in their run report it must be true.  I daresay there are some out there who might pretend to be locked in a loo to avoid running, or hide in one to avoid school ‘games’ – which so weren’t fun at all as the titular ‘games’ misleadingly implies – but she was incarcerated due to mechanical error.  Just imagine.  She may still be there for all I know.  They say they don’t want any jokes about how many parkrunners does it take to repair a broken lock, but I reckon they’re bluffing.  Feel free to respond!

international rescue

I wonder if there is a special volunteer credit available for liberating fellow parkrunners from being locked in toilets – or indeed other receptacles like, oh I don’t know, panic rooms, skips, recycling containers?  Maybe there will be now.  Hope they filled in the relevant critical incident paperwork afterwards.  This crew they deem to be ‘international rescue’ I like that.  Could catch on… and there is definitely already a badge for that too!

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Anyway, in the circumstances, you can see why my camera flashing didn’t help settle the nerves of the still relatively new Beverley Westwood parkrun team.  Ooops.  Sorry about that.  Well, sorry-ish.  It’s hard to be properly penitent given the comedic value of the moment, can’t lie, made me laugh – still,  I’m sure they’ll understand…  Also, did nothing for my undercover photographer capturing candid camera moments.  Oh well.  At least I got a picture of the volunteer rota team, and the team, albeit I was outed as a potential ‘well sometimes quantity over quality isn’t all a bad thing’ in a back up parkrun photographer role!  Not official enough to merit a volunteer credit perhaps, but showing willing, that’s the main thing!

Having nicely spooked the event team, I headed off to explore.  Marshals were marching out like explorers, hunched into the rain.  Some already in post were sporting some exceedingly fine umbrellas, now, if only I’d thought to do likewise, and could work out a way to run with one  – and they’d left a top dog supervising the start area.  All contingencies were covered.  It has to be a new team, as this was only their 3rd parkrun, but it seemed very well organised and confidently handled.  Hurrah!

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Although it was early, the cones were out, the marshals were already actively on manoeuvre, cow cowl wearing tourist(s) were commencing warm up, and the cows were congregating too.

Really.  A great many cows.  Not over keen to be fair, however, I think you can pay a lot of money to a therapist to be exposed to flooding techniques to cure you of such fears.  Here you can do it for free.  Though actually, come to think of it, I think the idea of subjecting someone to their worst nightmare in order to desensitise them to it might now have been completely discredited on account of the fact it induces trauma.  You know what, I just don’t know!  Fortunately, I’m not absolutely phobic of cattle, just deeply cautious of them, which isn’t a bad thing to be to be fair.  They can trample people when spooked or provoked.  In Sheffield cattle have alarming form in this respect.  Not their fault, but worth knowing… eek.

flooding

 Also evidence of where other cows had previously passed this way.  Be warned dear reader. The cow pats are a real hazard.   Up until today, I had thought goose poo was the skiddiest substance known to humankind, but now I think it might actually be fresh cow poo, especially when drenched with newly fallen/ing rain.  It is truly skiddy, imagine running across a slurry spill on wet grass or smooth tarmac – actually, scrap that, you don’t have to imagine it, you can experience it for yourself!  Rock up to Beverley Westwood parkrun on a really wet day, make an exaggerated point of not looking where you put your feet and hey presto!  You too can undergo a whole new level of immersive slipperiness!  Hurrah!

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More people gathered, with various degrees of saturation and cow tolerance:

Oh look, some familiar faces, and a hurried pre-run group shot.  It is compulsory on such occasions to gather together as many tourists and anyone else who fancies being included all together in a group shot.  Never has a gathering of cow cowl wearers been in a context more apt. Here it is:

Group cow shot

‘Suddenly’ as if from nowhere, loads of other parkrunners appeared.  It’s always astonishing to me, in a pleasing way, how 20 minutes before parkrun it’s often just the hi-vis heroes, me (because I’m so paranoid about being late) and tumble weed, and then 15 minutes before people appear out of the mist (or rain on this occasion) and it’s like a flash mob or pop up party or something.  From nothing, comes something.  What strange sorcery is this?  Replicated in parkruns the world over.  A.Maz.Ing.

Next stop, first timer’s briefing.  This had a few unique (I think so anyway) elements.  We were instructed how to deal with cows.  Confidence and clapping, but there was a practical demo coming up later anyway.  Also warned of the cow pat frequency along the route.  They are like little land mines essentially, peppering the route.  I think it adds a certain frisson of excitement to proceedings myself. It also definitely elevates the course from sports field to proper off road pasture.  Result.  This is a course where not only the marshals may be required to clap!

There was more pointless sheltering from the rain, and I dumped my bag at the informal bag drop.  By which I mean in the general area under the designated tree hq.  Unfortunately, my aim meant my rucksuck was basically chucked into a puddle, which during the duration of the event turned into pretty much a pond of slurry by the end of the parkrun, dripping a giddy cocktail of rainwater and cow poo from it’s straps as I picked it up later.  Oh well, just another thing to up the memorability quotient of the event, and I didn’t realise I’d done this at this point, so all good.  It was a surprise for later!  What I did realise, as I stuffed my fleece into my backpack and donned my waterproof instead, is that my ‘lost’ cap had been in my backpack all the time, and on being liberated from it along with my running coat, landed splat in the nearest available cow pat.  Oh dear.  I’m pretty cool with animal waste from vegetarian animals, but decided against smearing it onto my hair through wearing said cap.  This would have to be a capless run.  Oh pooh indeed.

Excitingly, in amongst the tourists, and people who’d rocked up before, were some honest to goodness absolute first timers.  How exciting!  I was very impressed they’d braved the elements.  They had decided, quite rightly, that if they were going to do this parkrun malarkey, they best commit to it and not cry off at the first spot of rain.  Quite right too, though I’d have given them a pass myself as unless ‘spot’ and ‘raging torrent’ have become synonymous of late, this was inclement weather at it’s most extreme – though also most comedic, so that’s ok.

Here are the first timers, with their parkrunning buddies.  You’ll have to guess which is which or who is whom.  Everyone is smiling in the before shot anyway, and that’s the main thing.  They too may become some of Jessica’s parkrun heroes.  Have you seen those films yet?  You really should you know, mind you, all parkrunners are heroes, however they/we choose to be involved in it.  #loveparkrun

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There was much excitement.  The cows were especially excited!  I suppose you have to release the mounting tension of anticipation somehow, and so far, cows haven’t been specifically welcomed as participants at parkrun in the way canines have been, so they can’t relieve the stress by joining in the 5k run. I think that might constitute an assisted run by the way, also not one to try at home, obvs. Though probably better tried at home than in the rather public start funnel line up in case that wasn’t for you a self-evident truth.

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A bit more milling, some last minute pep talks by the run director, late arrivals and some final stretches.  Wish I’d thought to run in a cycle cape – even if the wearer said it was to be discarded during the parkrun.  Too much wind resistance apparently.  I’m sure that’s true, though it made me wonder if that was the voice of experience or creative imagination dispensing such wisdom.

Then everyone assembled for the RD briefing.  Facilitated by step ladder elevation.  Kicked off with thanks to the volunteers.  A warning that in the event of a storm, the team reserved the right to cancel even if the parkrun was underway.   Shout outs for visitors and milestoners – one of which is pictured, usual notices.  A gentle reminder that this is a tough parkrun, it’s ok to walk or even grind to a halt if you need to.  Plus some cow corraling hints and tips.  Most educational parkrun, particularly if you do a bit of touristing.  Did you know Beverley’s founding saint was John of Beverley?  I don’t suppose you did, I didn’t learn this until a good half way through the second lap myself!

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A reminder it isn’t a fast course and of cow moving techniques.  Though there are cow marshals out on the course to assist.  Like this:

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Not really, they are like this!

🙂

We were asked not to have any accidents if possible as some of team are still being trained up.  Sounds reasonable.

Briefing concluded, timers ready?  Gladiators ready? parkrunners ready?  Ready, steady GO!!!!

And off parkrunners ran, walked and jogged, cheered on by directionally pointing marshals and with a bovine guard of honour to keep us all on track as like a string of bunting, parkrunners flew over the brow of the hill!

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and you know what, I think it may have eased off with the rain a bit too.  The weather is always fabulous at parkrun or you get, to run for free – every time!

So you head off, and it is indeed a big loop round the pastures.  It is ‘all grass’ but it was nice grass, by which I mean not horrid, exposed sports field traumatic grass, but lovely hillocky, romping through country estate sort of tussocky grass.  The course was well marked and marshalled.  The terrain is pretty open, so you get to see faster runners looping ahead of you.  Cones and flags are used to assist with cornering, and enthusiastic marshals prevent corner cutting and shoo off cattle in between calling out encouraging cheers.  Serious multi-taskers had been recruited to take on these marshalling roles.  It looked quite energetic at times.

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There really are a great many cows.  They didn’t seem unduly bothered by the parkrun, and moved on when requested to do so by politely persistent marshals.  I tried to get some beautifully framed cows with parkrunner shots.  I meant well, you have to respect my intentions were good.  Plus remember dear reader, comedic value trumps quality on occasion, that’s the rule!  That cavorting cow – the pale one, it’s in post-shoo frolics.  They are quite surprisingly light on their feet it seems.  My favourite was the one with the panda black eyes and black nose.  Awww.  Did I tell you the story about the 4 year old or so at Graves junior parkrun, who seeing similarly marked sheep in the animal park they pass through en route, insisted they were baby pandas!  How wonderful, to exist in a world where you get to see baby pandas at parkrun, but having said that, getting this close to cavorting cows is pretty fabulous too!  And when you are four, or thereabouts, I suppose seeing a panda en route is no more remarkable than seeing an alpaca or a chicken or even a donkey, and they are all there for the gawping too.  Poor things.

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So you speed round the corner, or if you are me, drag your weary carcass.  I got distracted by taking lots of photos, and doubling back to try and get some new angles, and slowly but surely, found myself filtering further and further back, til I was in sight of the tail walkers, and then I wanted to get some shots of them, so I waited, and then I ran on a bit, it was all stop start.  Then I realised after a bit it wasn’t actually raining any more, but I was drenched from within by the extreme inner clamminess of my jacket.  I was way too hot, it was nigh on tropical in there, not good.  I really don’t know why I put it on in the first place, it was never going to end well as I was soaked long before the start.

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Still, the landscape was lovely, there’s a bit of an uphill, as you swerve away from the fast food van parked on the road straight ahead of you – and then you are rewarded with the site of a great tower, which was once a windmill.  It’s quite a landmark, so that required a lot of photographing too.

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Busy, busy, busy.

So you loop the loop round the old windmill, and then it’s a homeward straight, under an avenue of trees, alongside the road through the pastures, trying not to be too distracted by the vista to your right, that’s some cathedral they’ve got going there! Actually, correction, it’s not a cathedral, although it is a minster.  Beverley Minster accordingtowikipediasoitmustbetrue is apparently:

one of the largest parish churches in the UK, larger than one-third of all English cathedrals and regarded as a gothic masterpiece by many.

Whatever, I thought it was quite splendid anyhow.  Also, given how overcast it had been earlier, the views were extraordinarily clear.  Faster runners started lapping me, so I paused to watch a few of them pass by.

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I was rewarded for my tardiness by seeing a particularly fine demonstration of cow shooing in action.  A veritable five star class.  Loving your work hi-vis cow marshal.  If that doesn’t merit it’s own running challenge badge I don’t know what does?  The ‘other’ icon surely, as an absolute minimum?

Well, I say she was cow-shooing, and that’s definitely what I thought at the time.  But the photos make it look like either she was doing some impromptu (and to be honest, not particularly well executed) thai chi moves, or alternatively striding out water divining.  If the latter, I can’t quite decide if she was doing spectacularly well or spectacularly badly.  I mean, water water everywhere after all … I’ll never really know.  A bit of mystery is good though isn’t it.  Life should be full of unknowns as well as surprises.  Unless of course she was auditioning for a zombie film, arms outstretched in front of her, staggering off across uneven terrain?  Yep, that seems the most likely on reflection.  Probably that.  Glad that’s been sorted.  Those marshals who have completed the cow-shooing training would be shoo-ins (see what I did there) for supporting artistes on Zombie apocalypse films, they’ve nailed the stumbling along techniques.  Original steady paced zombies, not the faster than light ones that are currently in vogue, though having said that, I bet some of them can really shift too, so all ends of the zombie continuum are catered for.  Excellent.

zombie

So down you go, and the finish funnel is in sight, but only for people who’ve already completed both laps.  I could still record a few finishers coming through though. It’s such a great sight, a cheery parkrun finish funnel.  I mean just look at these lovely happy, smiley, welcoming faces, and they can all be your new best friends in that moment!

BW fab finish funnel

Check out the funnel-ducker defying security fencing being employed here.  This crew means business.   Respect!

So here are the speedier than me’s coming through.  The ones with the real stamina are those marshals though, still smiling and clapping:

Here was also a photo swapping opportunity.  See what we’ve done here!  Genius.

So I went past the funnel, despite the siren call of a distant cow bell and the lure of the homeward welcome, and round the loop at the bottom and out again for round two.  Ding ding!

By now, most other runners were way ahead and out of sight, so it was a more sedate second lap.  I tried to get shots I’d missed on the first time round, and ended up in what I hope was a mutually companionable power walk with my new best friend who was a Beverly Westwood local and second time parkrunner.  It was ace, because I got to learn about the Pasture master and the common ground, and St John, and the racecourse and the windmill and all sorts.  Like I said parkrun can be most educational! Thank you impromptu tour guide, much appreciated!  🙂

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Marshals dismantled the course behind us as we came in, but not before they’d cheered us on and pointed out newly deposited cow pats that I like to think had been presented in our honour.

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And then, before you know it, the parkrun adventure is about to conclude.  We ran together through the finish.

BW my new best friend

Cheered in by a fair old crowd, which was particularly impressive given the prevailing weather.  Even if it had brightened up a bit by then, we still all basically felt like we’d been ducked or dunked or otherwise fully immersed in liquid and spun round for the last hour or so!

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I had my barcode wrist band thingy, so no sooner had  I located a scanner, I was all scanned present and correct.  Job done.  Hurrah!  Now we are all au fait with #dfyb, it’s second nature.  Hard to remember there was a time when barcodes seemed but a far fetched futuristic fantasy.  That was when tank tops were quite in vogue and loud kipper ties too as I recall, though to be fair, in an ironic time warping twist, that seems far fetched fantasy too from this distance, so who knows.

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The volunteers were coming in behind, laden with the detritus of a comprehensively set out course.  Cones and flags and signs a-plenty.

And that was that, parkrun wise.  All over but the shouting.  Or more accurately in this case, the course shut down, blood caffeine stabilising and results processing, which amounts to the same thing.

Many adjourned to the Woolpack pub, I did too, and it was friendly and they did coffee for £1.80 and parkrun breakfasts of basically sausage or bacon rolls – but no veggie option alas.  Though the Woolpack has only been open under new ownership for a couple of weeks, so I think that may well change.  They said they do offer vegetarian sausages at lunch time, so I suppose it’s a work in progress.  They were friendly and welcoming though. I got a coffee anyway, because I felt I should support the business really, plenty were breakfasting, some sitting outside and the results processing HQ is here too I think.

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It definitely is.  Check out these pics lifted I’ve shared from their photo posts of the results processing team in action.  Nice candle display they have going on there.  Creating anagrams can be such fun!

I took my coffee and headed off for an explore and ended up in step with one of the volunteers who by coincidence works in Sheffield part the week.  (Cheery wave coming right atya if you’re reading).  I made my way to another possible gathering spot, near the long stay carpark – The Windmill.  Other parkrunners were there but it was dark and not really enough space to join them plus also lamentably poor veggie choices, so I abandoned the breakfast idea, deciding not to linger longer.  I reckoned my surplus body fat* would probably see me through ’til I got home.  *Spoiler alert, it did. Also, the novelty of being soaked through to my knickers was definitely wearing off, and the slurry seeping from my saturated backpack into my purple tee was making its presence felt!  Time to say goodbye…

I was homeward bound.  And hail and rain beat on the windscreen for the drive back to Sheffield.  How we managed to have most of our run in relative balmy dryness I have absolutely no idea!

So thank you parkrunners all who made Beverley Westwood fun-filled and fabulous.  I can’t believe you are but three runs old!  Definitely already punching above your weight.  One of my favourite courses bizarrely, I think the cows add a certain charm, the views are stunning, the locals friendly.  Throw in some pre-run toilet facilities, and I do declare that’s all boxes ticked.  Yay!  If the weather had been kinder it would have been well worth a day trip, I bailed I’m afraid, but perhaps I’ll return, places to go people to see, new horizons to be explored.  So it seems that when you go west, the skies aren’t necessarily blue, but it was definitely delightful in the open air, and the elements just made it more memorable.  Everybody knows running in the rain just proves you to be hardcore, and as for those who marshal in the rain?  Well they are the stuff of legend!

hardcore runners

Thank you high vis heroes, you were ace.  parkrun volunteers are indeed a whizz in hi-viz! I hope you have all managed to dry out by now and are being as cossetted and kept warm as your hi-vis attire!  Beverley Westwood Laundrette had a conveyor belt of washing and drying services in operation all afternoon if the picture is anything to go by.  Above and beyond I say.  Bravo indeed!

Beverley Westwood parkrun laundry mart

Oh, and if you want to check out the accuracy of my account by being a bit more robust in your research into this fine event then I offer you this link by way of triangulation.  Their run report for Beverley Westwood parkrun #3 offers another perspective.  Go on, do it.  It’s all about the milestones!

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

and finally, before I go, can I just share this?

just because

Why?

Just because, sometimes there doesn’t need to be a why.

You’re welcome.

🙂

Happy parkrunning people, share the parkrun love.

By the way, I have discovered this fab website for bulk resizing photos (so they don’t use up all your memory, well not your actual memory, your digital memory) and for adding a batch watermark.  Free and glitch free. Cool eh?

 

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

An out of this world parkrun, Alvaston parkrun welcomes wandering earthlings

Digested read:  went to Alvaston parkrun for a spot of parkrun tourism.  It was very nice thank you for asking.  An absolute blast in fact.

pooh

Undigested read:

Yes indeedy, it was an out of this world parkrun, because it offered up an earth rise, and not (m)any parkruns do that, and I particularly appreciated this what with today being  the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing it was a nice touch.  My photo of this Alverston offering is almost as good as those taken by the actual moon landing crew of the actual earth.  I wonder if you can tell the difference?  I’m giving no clues…

… though I will say this, I think mine is actually better because you can make out the UK and therefore if you squint a bit, quite possibly the location of Alvaston parkrun itself.  Win for me therefore, though I suppose to be fair the crew maybe had other skills, but they also had a team behind them.   The Clangers made exactly this point in their Facebook post today – it takes a team to make history.  I love the Clangers.  I hope they have survived the moon landing.  Not so much as take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints, we left a load of trash last time we visited including 96 bags for poo, urine and vomit.  Poor Clangers, hope their planet is still safe.

Coincidentally, that is exactly the guiding principle of parkrun too.  Not the leaving your poo behind, that’s a definite no no, but in that it takes a team to deliver parkrun too.  It’s all about the team work – and there was a well-oiled team in operation at Alvaston today, hurrah!  Here are just some of them:

Alvaston parkrun team

In less joyful mood, Alvaston parkrun might as well have been on the moon given how lost I got on the way there.  The directions they give are good, the satnav postcode works.  However, I somehow, somewhere missed a turn off, and then I got caught up in road closure and a veritable vortex of roundabouts and circles that would have left even a Somerdale Pavilion parkrun regular, dizzy with confusion.  I’ve yet to experience their Curly Wurly route to be fair, but I nevertheless know it to be the stuff of legend, but going by their ace video of it, I’m confident I was doing the vehicle based equivalent.  Either that, or possibly Scalextric, but not in quite such a fun way.

Somerdale Pavilion parkrun

It didn’t help that my satnav was soooooooooo judgemental about the whole thing, suggesting U-turns, ‘at the first possible opportunity’ even though it wasn’t safe to do so, and then having a definite edge in her voice when I failed to oblige.  Why can’t my satnav be all friendly and supportive when it comes to a U-turn, like the lovely Alvaston parkrun marshals, such as the one exhibited below for illustration purposes?  (Thank you lovely marshal).

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At one point my satnav just entirely gave up on me and started to give my ETA as post parkrun start.  At that point I can’t lie, I did start to catastrophise a bit, WORST DAY OF MY LIFE, and may even have cried with frustration momentarily before I had a self imposed reality check.  It’d all be alright in the end, and if it wasn’t alright then it wasn’t the end, and anyway, it’s parkrun, it’s supposed to be parkfun, not worth getting into such a disproportionate state of angstiness about the whole thing.  Worse case scenario, freedom run.  That’s not so bad.

Even so, I was relieved when I got back en route, even if my need to get to my destination promptly meant I had to drive straight past Tile Town, which I’m sure is a great loss.  I imagine it’s a bit like legoland, and they recreate extraordinary wonders out of tiles.  They are bound to have done something lunar related given the significance of the day, I’d love to see the whole known universe miniaturised and recreated in ceramic tiles.  Oh well, next time.  Disappointingly, I couldn’t even find any images of this exhibition on the interweb, but I did find this very nice cactus sculpture made out of glass tiles which gives a glimpse of what might be possible, so that’s good.

On arrival at Alvaston parkrun I was reminded anything is possible apparently, so that’s good to know too.

Yeah, OK, to pacify the pedants among you, what they actually say is ‘impossible is nothing‘ which is very Yoda, but it that’s good enough linguistically for a Jedi Master then it’s good enough for me.  I took the image from Yoda’s Wikipedia page by the way, not quite sure how to attribute it properly.

Oh, you want to know what possessed me  made me choose Alvaston parkrun as my destination of choice?  Well, partly I was in search of an ‘A’ (alphabet challenge for the running challenges chrome extension), it’s amazing how even a virtual badge can assist with running motivation.  If you’ve not come across this yet, it’s basically like a sticker chart for grown ups.  Having said that, I find the running challenges operates more as a guide to choosing a parkrun to head off to for tourism purposes.  It’s all a bit arbitrary, and picking up an ‘A’ is a good a reason to rock up somewhere new as any.  Alvaston is also reachable from Sheffield, particularly if you don’t get lost in all the flyover dual carriageway scary bits, and a relatively new one.  It’s only 8 weeks old (bless).  Perfectly formed though, like my new froglets!  Have I mentioned them recently?  I do try to at every possible opportunity.  No visitor to my house, or indeed anyone who walks past it but makes eye contact with me as they do so, is entrapped and made to come and admire them in my back garden.  I’m so excited, they’ve all just appeared en masse, exiting my pond.  It’s my first year of home grown spawn to froglets and I couldn’t be prouder if I’d given birth to each and everyone of them myself, even if, had I done so, I’d probably have been burned as a witch a few centuries back – heavens, even today, given how bigoted this world seems to have become.  Maybe heading off the moon and staying there isn’t such a bad idea.  … Nope, not going down that wormhole of misery and despond, let’s admire a newly emerged frog instead.

See, gorgeous aren’t they?  Phew, now doesn’t that feel better  🙂  everybody loves a froglet.  Well, they should do, surely this is something we can unite around!  They are so very tiny, and yet completely perfect.

Where was I?  Oh I remember.  Lost, hopelessly lost.  And a bit panicky.  When my satnav was telling me (with rather unnecessary insistence and a somewhat patronising tone I felt) that I’d ‘reached my destination’ I was apparently in the midst of some sort of out of town shopping centre/ industrial estate.  Surely not?

Just as I was losing hope, this vision of loveliness and competence appeared:

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I know, how fortuitous was that!

I overshot the entrance, but this legend in a tabard, stopped the traffic so I could reverse back and into the designated Derby Homes car park.  I’m not sure how the core team have negotiated this, but it is a boon, as they have agreed:

Free parking (approx. 110 spaces) is available at Derby Homes (the entrance is opposite Wickes) on London Road, DE24 8UZ between 8:30am – 10:30am

It is worth noting the finish time though.  I completely didn’t.  More of this later.  I parked up, alongside loads of work vehicles and motivational bannering.  I do like a motivational banner.

Parked up, at around 8.30 fortuitously enough – in fact, if I hadn’t got lost, I’d probably have been too early, and never spotted the marshal or the entrance at all, overshot, and still be driving towards Dover even now, and there isn’t even a parkrun there.  Well I don’t think so anyway.  Look, it’s not important, I was just trying to emphasise a point.  Move on dear reader, move on.  The point is, it it isn’t hard to spot the car park entrance once you know it’s directly opposite Wickes, and also that it does look like you are going in to an industrial estate, because you sort of are.

The directions I’d printed out, said exit car park and turn right.  In fact, the marshal directed us left, unless I’ve forgotten how to tell my left from my right which is entirely possible, but I think not on this occasion.  So I went left, following other parkrunners to the bus stop and the slightly hidden entrance into the park just behind it.  Leaving our friendly car park marshal expertly coraling cars and parkrunners with extreme competence (yes, that is a thing).  It should be an extreme sport really, like extreme ironing.

So, I sheep like followed other parkrunners into Alvaston park.  Well, this is a surprise.  It possibly helped that near biblical rain and storms of the night before suddenly gave way to glorious sunshine, but you enter this gorgeous verdant park, which comes as a complete surprise as you’ve just been driving on a rather dull and grey roadway to get here.  Just wow!  Mature trees lined the walk way down to where the volunteer team were congregating.  It smelt wonderful, the trees heavy with pollen after rain.  The joy of that wore a bit thin as I was near asthmatic by the end of it, but you have to appreciate it all the same.  On the horizon were giant sculptural wind turbines.  I quite like them, I think they are rather elegant, I recognise not everybody feels the same, but, at least one other parkrunner paused en route to capture the scene.  We can’t both be wrong!

Other worldly indeed.  You get to pass Mars on the way in, which was a first, and if you listen out carefully, no, more carefully than that – there you go!  You can just make out the melodic tones of Holst’s The Planets, carried across to you on the breeze.  Very atmospheric.  It all helps to set the scene.

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The finish funnel was all set up.  There was a gathering of folk near the imaginatively named Waterside Cafe.

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There are loos, and I made a new friend in the queue, bonding over the mutual necessity of a pre parkrun precautionary pee.  There are only two loos, so a bit of a queue potentially, and they had alarmingly weak flushes, but fine.  There was also an informal bag drop (at your own risk) which rather sweetly, kept your bags of the ground.  We have no such provision at my home parkrun Sheffield Hallam parkrun.

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People milled and chilled, and I had a little explore.  So glad I did.  I not only discovered another planet – well, not in absolute terms, I think others had found it first, but it was a surprise to me – but I also hooked up with Jessica Ennis!  I’ve been trying to get a photo with her for years.  First tried at a VitalityMove event at Chatsworth, and she even commented on how fine my companion animal Geronimo was – and someone took some pics of me and her (and Geronimo) all together – only they didn’t, missed opportunity. Today though.  Result!  Also, I’m ahead of her on this occasion!  The camera never lies remember dear reader, humour me!

Oh look, first timers’ briefing, went and joined in that.  The briefing was good, but oh my that course is complicated, wait, what two out and back sections you say?  That’s erm, not my first choice…

It all seemed very well organised, with a lot of volunteers, the course is quite complicated so does need a fair few marshals to keep people literally as well as metaphorically on track.  Oh I suppose you’ll be wanting to know the course, well, according the Alvaston parkrun website the course blah de blah the route is as follows:

Course Description
This is a ‘pancake flat’ course on tarmac and is a creative variant of an ‘out and back’ route. We start next to the community/café building in the centre of the park completing one and half laps of the grass field ending up at the corner of Lakeside school. From there we then do a long ‘out and back’ up the Route 6 cycle super-highway turning around near Aldi. Once back at the school there is a second short ‘out and back’ section in the opposite direction turning around at the end of the park’s lake. You then finish close to where you started back in the centre of the park.

and it looks like this:

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Maybe a bit like a kite, with a string flowing out behind?  Oh I don’t know, you’ll have to come up with your own idea.  But you know what dear reader, unless you are super fast, you can just follow the person in front, and if you are super duper fast, then it’s extremely clearly signed and marshalled – just watch you don’t overshoot at those U-turns, your internal satnav will be furious.

After the briefing, parkrunners moved to the start, which was pretty near to be fair.  Although it’s a 5 minute walk to the start from the car park, the cafe, start, finish, loos are all pretty close together.

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Check out the super polite dog too – one for barkrun methinks.

then it was the Run Director’s Briefing.  It was her debut apparently, but I didn’t know this at the time as she seemed like a pro to me.  It was nice and friendly, welcoming, milestones acknowledged, tourists acknowledged, first time everers greeted, an invite for a family day in the park tomorrow and a big cheer for the graduating group from the Alvaston C25K.  It was all very friendly.  About 200 or so runners I think, I didn’t count, and can’t be bothered to go check the results – I don’t know what the normal turn out is, but I expect with it being a new one, it may take a while to plateau.  Anyway, here is the RD in action, with attentive wide-eyed in wonder parkrunners taking it all in.  It’s genuinely refreshing when people are quiet during the briefing.  Long may that habit continue, it’s a rare thing indeed.

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and then, ‘suddenly’ we had count down, 10, 9, 8 etc*, and then lift off!

I turned my watch off instead of on by mistake.  I’d like to think that was the critical point at which a new pb became out of the question, but it wasn’t.  Off we all went.  Scampering down the avenue of trees.  You do sort of one and half laps of the field, but it’s not too bad as it isn’t miles and miles and it’s fun seeing the runners all streaming ahead.  I think must thin things out a bit for faster runners too, though I think it’s a good pb course for anyone wanting to chase those, as it’s a cunning layout that means if you position yourself in the right place at the start, then you shouldn’t really be having to do all that much overtaking.  By the way, before you get too critical, it’s harder than you think to take photos whilst running, even at my lamentable speed.

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I think it’s fair to call this course erm, ‘idiosyncratic’ but no worries dear reader, it’s well signed.  At the top corner of the park there are signs to differentiate between the first and second lap routes – and then, it changes again later.  As if by magic.  These are high end marshals, not just directional pointing, high fives and cheering – though they perform those tasks admirably too, but actual relocating of cones and selves mid course.  Respect!

One new thing I saw here, which I’ve never seen before but which is genius and lovely, was the presence of an official parkrun buddy!  What a great idea.  I mean I’m just assuming that’s sort of part running marshal (keeping and eye on things on the course) and part befriending anyone that might want a friend.  Aw.  Every parkrun should have one!  Or lots.  I mean, on one level, every parkrun has the potential to become a parkrun buddy, but this sort of breaks the ice if you are new and feeling a bit of a wall flower or otherwise lost and lonely.

So we carried on round for the first lap, past the satellite dishes that are actually whispering domes which sounds a lot of fun and to the next set of marshals in situ to stop you running on to infinity and beyond, because being space themed is all well and good, but it’s better all round if we just stick to the usual 5k.  Also, you might end up in the lake if you didn’t take a sharp right here.

As you corner, you can see faster runners on the other sides of the square.  Very scenic!  And then you are back up at the ‘lap 1/ lap 2’ intersection, only this time you get to travel onwards, past the (slightly scary) owl cut out and on to pastures new.  How exciting!

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You jog on – or perhaps in your case sprint, it’s all tarmac, waving at the marshals as you pass and then you do the first out and back bit.  Caution, it’s a lot further than you expect, I don’t know why.  I think because I hadn’t looked at the route in advance, and I just assumed the out and back sections would be evenly split, and they most certainly are not!  However, it is pleasing all the same.  For example, you get to pass the marshal with the classiest leggings of the morning. Check out those different patterned legs.  You espy the dancing car-park marshal from earlier, now relocated and dishing out high fives and high tens even like they are going out of fashion, you even get to see the speedier runners rushing back towards you.  Lots to take in and all marvellous of course!  I also saw my toilet buddy from earlier – but my reflexes weren’t quick enough to snap her, and an actual proper first time ever at parkrun parkrunner and the parkrun buddy with her buddies, having a ball. Hurrah!  Feel the parkrun love people, bask in that glow of parkrun joy!

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And then you reach the end, and the turning point.  This could be viewed as a metaphorical turning point in your life, things will be different from now on, you can be the person you want to be – or you could just turn around and start over again – though that would be figuratively rather than actually, it was a 5k not a 10k today remember.  The 10k was yesterday, apparently…. I  met someone who’d run it and someone who’d marshalled it, but couldn’t find what the event actually was. Oh well, no worries, it’s been and gone now, I’m sure it was lovely, if a bit wet and blustery out!

Or it might just have been a turn around point of course, but where’s the fun in that.  Lovely helpful marshalling though.  Another highly trained special operative in action here!

And if you set your course up, people will come!  And they did, running up, turning around, running back to the tunnel and the high-fiving hi-vis hero and back to the right and down to the park bit where you can see where you started and runners trailing on right in front of you …  Wave at the tail walker, check out those leggings again, wave at pee partner, check out the tunnel mural.  It’s busy, busy, busy, out on them there paths at parkrun I don’t mind telling you!  All parkrun life present and correct.  And those photos won’t take themselves!

My favourite overheard conversation of the morning though, was when a dog walker (not a parkrunner) was strolling towards runners and her friendly hound was tempted to come up and greet parkrunners as they passed. She immediately called the dog back ‘nobody wants to say hello to you right now‘ she said firmly but with good cheer, and then I heard an immediate desperate chorus from parkrunners behind me calling out ‘but we do want to say hello, we really do!’  It was quite a cute dog to be fair, and another polite one.   I heard doggy hellos and greeting hugs being exchanged behind me as I ran on.  They seem do seem to be particularly polite the pooches in this park, no Wellard rough necks in these parts to be sure!

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and oh no, we aren’t allowed to carry on straight, we have to go out and back all over again!  They weren’t joking about these out and back bits, oh no sorree.

So awf we go again, back out towards the pond.  Haven’t we been this way before?  We go a bit further, taking in planet earth, mercury and more marshals until we get to another turn around, fair play, this is a much shorter section.  Oh, and I actually found a living thing I could overtake, left that slug standing.  Well, I say ‘standing’ I don’t know if that’s anatomically correct, upright maybe more accurate…

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Then, finally, you get back to the place you were earlier shooed away from, and you can weeeee down the hill (it’s a very, very slight downward incline) and the end is in sight.

So down you go and then another right angle turn past the marshals and you are on the homeward straight.  It’s not far now, through a spectacular avenue of trees, and towards the finish line, where it feels like you must be the first parkrunner through as a veritable mob of well wishers line the finish funnel, cheering and clapping and making you feel truly a.maz.ing.  Now, I’m not completely delusional, I may have benefited from the extreme solidarity of the C25K group who came en masse for their graduation run.  Every member was there at the finish to cheer all the other runners in their band through.  They supplemented the event team, who were also out cheering and clapping in force.   Heart warming, and also brilliant fun.  Who wouldn’t feel better after being cheered home by this fabulous lot!

Featured image Alvaston parkrun 20 july 2019

So the experience is nearly over, through the finish funnel, scooped up by the lovely scanners and time to cheer through the last few finishes.  It’s always emotional parkrun, and this seemed a particularly cheery and supportive one.  What parkrun should be, it felt inclusive and fun, with the super speedies through to the slow and steadies and the long in the tooth experienced runners to the just starting out.  #loveparkrun

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There was bell ringing, by those who felt the urge, and the C25K group, gathered for post parkrun photos, which is compulsory.  It takes a great deal of photographers to faciliate that.  These milestones matter,  good job people, good job!

and the last few volunteers found their way back to the finish hub from their spots on the course.  And I had my suspicion that occasionally the start and finish lines at parkrun do get moved whilst you are en route.  I’m not saying it’s not the event team’s prerogative to do this should they so wish, is just that I’ve never caught them in the act before.  I don’t think they were moving it any further away on this occasion though, or indeed closer, perhaps just testing the water in case of future need.  Stress testing I think it’s called.  Yep, that’ll be what it is/was.

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Aw, love the parkrun picture, check out this tableau and all’s right with the world, for this snapshot in time at least.

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Before I peeled away, I checked in with a couple of parkrunners that they’d be OK with me using their pics.  100% I spoke to seemed fine with it.  I explained my rule which is I delete any really unflattering ones unless comedic value is strong enough to outweigh compliance with personal dignity.  This seemed broadly acceptable.  However, if youa re reading this and I have included a photo in this that makes you want to crawl into a hole and never emerge again, or you just don’t want to be here, let me know and I will immediately delete.  By the way, I didn’t get any peeing shots, the person to whom this statement is relevant will understand.  All good.  😉

I then I retrieved my bag, and headed to the cafe via checking out the waterfowl, which are numerous and impressive:

Then to the cafe.  Turns out, the cafe is really good value, I got a veggie cob/bap/roll/breadcake  with quorn sausage and egg and a latte for £5 which is pretty good I think.  They also had cake and ice cream, a fairly impressive menu for the size of cafe, and it was immaculate, with seating inside and out.  I wasn’t sure I’d find a seat, but good news, my pee partner from earlier was outside on a table, which she’d been saving for her husband, but he’d been waylaid by token sorting duties inside, so room for me.  Yay!  We had a companionable chat, good to hear more of other tourist options.  Walsall Arboretum sounds fab!  The coffee was a bit rank, I think they make it with UHT but the bap was OK, and the company grand.

We were chatting away quite companionably, until, thankfully, a friendly local asked if we were in the carpark, as it shuts at 10.30.  Eek, I had no idea.  ‘What happens at 10.30 then?’ I asked, revealing myself as the dullard half-wit I am ‘erm, it shuts.‘  OK then, best get moving, what with it being 10.23.  Our conversation ended abruptly, I bolted the last of my bap, and got in the fastest parkrun sprint finish in many moons.  Those affected, made their speedy way back to the car park.

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and that was that.

For the record, I was the last to leave the car park, waving to the security guard who emerged from his hut at 10.29 just as I was pulling out.  Phew, that was a close one.  I honestly don’t know what would happen if you over stayed.  You’d be unpopular for sure, or stuck.  10.30 is plenty of time, you just mustn’t forget.  The marshals were discussing this as a group of us sprinted off, I think ‘remind visitors they need to leave by 10.30’ may be added to the ‘to do’ list for oneo r more of the hi-vis heros in future.  It probably comes under ‘any other duties’ that always covers a proverbial multitude does it not?

By the way, today was an extra special parkrun, at Alvaston because of the following happenings, all of which are epic, and all of which were reported on the Alvaston parkrun Facebook page in a post following the event.  Hurrah!

Congratulations to all 222 finishers today. A special mention to the Alvaston joggers couch to 5k group who ‘graduated’ today and Val Naylor for breaking the Age Grade course record at 99.26%. Also well done to Clare for her first time Run Directing.

Alvaston joggers couch to 5k

Did you see that though?  99.26% that’s insanely impressive.  Just wow.  In fact, it definitely is, because it set a new age category record for this week for the 75-79 age group, and I reckon it’s one that will stand a loooooooong looooooooooooooong time, as other age category records have been achieved largely by runners hitting ‘just’ the high eighties.  She got a mention in the Alvaston parkrun run report for event #8, and quite right too – ‘rocket-propelled Val’ indeed!

Mind you, having said that, she has a young whipper-snapper at her heels with Angela Copson achieving  97.12% in the 70 – 74 at Nobles parkrun today as well.  Blimey.  And I’ve never even come near their finish times now, let alone these percentages.  Hurrah for the VW.  They are bringing running home.  Mind you, some women runners are pretty hardcore.   What about that one that got knocked down by a deer in the middle of a 10k but still bounced back and recovered sufficiently to come first in her age category.  Not only that, but Karen Brewer, for it was she, told the BBC news

 “I heard a rustle and seconds later I was thrown into the bushes and a deer landed right on top of me. … After I found out I was OK, I got up straight away, I didn’t want to waste any precious seconds.  … I actually found it quite hilarious.”

and, on Friday, July 12, Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands broke the women’s mile world record at the Diamond League meeting in Monaco by running a time of 4:12.33.  Just believe dear reader.  It’s amazing what is possible.  She didn’t get hit by a deer though, so I suppose she had it a bit easy really, but even so, fair do’s, that’s still impressive.

It’s been a good week for running veterans to be fair.  Did you see that Roy Englert, a 96-Year-Old man ran a 42-Minute 5K to Break World record for his age group a couple of days ago too.  He shaved 8 minutes off the previous record, and, was still faster than me today, though I dare say he didn’t stop to take photos and chat to the marshals on the way round. parkrun is a run not a race people, so I’m allowed….  Here he is:

m96-roy-englert-5000m-gold-wr-42-30-23-1563369702

So there you go, that was that.   Pretty epic.  Other epic parkruns are available of course.  Conkers parkrun did a fancy dress theme, or at the very least, some game parkrunners unilaterally decided to don fancy dress, which amounts to the same thing.  That’s pretty epic.  Went to Conkers parkrun with Smiley Selfie Queen on a penguin mission, I can imagine they’d embrace any excuse for a parkrun party to be fair, and quite right too!  They had quite a cool Conkers parkrun run report from their space-themed event in fact.  Worth a gander, particularly if procrastination is your thing.  You’re welcome, happy to help.

Bushy parkrun also had an ace run report with space referencing a-plenty.  Loving your work run writers parkrun world over!  Also, they included a picture of my mum, in good form, cheering on the runners.  Good choice.  I was pretty over the moon about that I don’t mind saying…

mum cheering 20 july 2019.jpeg

Also this courtesy of  Durham, NC parkrun, America:

Durham NC parkrun

Respect.

In other news, there was an actual al pacino, cappucino, al fresco, Acapulco, A capella chorus, when Hallmark of Harmony were a flash mob of singing marshals at Sheffield Hallam parkrun this morning.  That would have been quite something.  Thing is, all parkruns are epic in their own ways.  Wherever you are epicness will out.  I’m happy to have experienced Alvaston epic today.  I hope you embraced epic wherever you were today, or if – inexplicably – you didn’t get to parkrun, enjoyed being epic in your own way!

Only this flash mob could better that – credit to AXEL SCHMIDT / REUTERS. People dress like singer-songwriter Kate Bush as part of the “The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever” flash mob in Berlin, Germany.  Excellent.  With this photo BBC week in pictures you spoil us indeed.  Imagine that lot singing ‘running up that hill‘  just wowzers!  Maybe if  Hallmark of Harmony recruit enough new members they may yet make it so… stranger things have happened.

best flash mob ever

parkrun all done and dusted for another week.  Yes, yes, that is a wee bit sad, but there is always next week.  And remember dear reader, don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened!  Dr Suess – indeed Mr P S-H himself too no doubt – wouldn’t want it any other way!

dr suess

There was one poignant moment though.  I couldn’t find the moon, not anywhere.  I asked, but we all concluded it must be up in the sky where it belongs.  Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it will be safe there.  This park hosts Venus, Mars, Earth and Mercury and yet the moon sits apart.  It is a thing of wonder.  Stay safe.

Full-Moon

Of course in the meantime, no need to moon around (see what I did there?  Lawks a lordy I can be hilarious at times) if you want to prolong your parkrun fix, you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.

So thank you lovely Alvaston parkrun people however you participated to make it the fab event it is.  May I just conclude by saying thank you for posing so beautifully, what an exceptionally photogenic lot you are!  One small point – constructive criticism if you will, any chance of a lead emu for next time I come?  Thanks in anticipation.   Appreciated.  This one is called Fluffy apparently, and after all, if Nambour parkrun can, then…