Posts Tagged With: parkrun

The Spirit of Bushy parkrun. 15th Birthday Brilliance at Bushy parkrun.

Digested read:  I went to Bushy parkrun for their 15th Birthday Bonanza.  It was epic.  There is however a darkside to parkrun I discovered.  But in a good way…

LC the awards

Undigested read:

Well, yes it was ‘epic’ but I’m hardly going to leave my account at that now am I?  Have you not been concentrating on my previous parkrun posts?  Concise isn’t really my thing, but on the plus side, that’s what scroll buttons are for, and you can always just whizz through the photos if you prefer.  On the other hand, if you are up for the account then best to strap yourself in, it’s going to be a long one.  Maybe get some tissues to go with your pot of tea/bottle of neat vodka and/or other assorted victuals, it was after all quite an emotional roller coaster of a day.  A good one, but overwhelming for sure, and reliving it all, might just trigger a purely reflex reaction of general teariness.  Or it might not.  I don’t know, maybe you dear reader have a heart of stone, but keep the tissues handy anyway, just in case a friend needs them, or you are coming down with the first cold of autumn, it would be the right thing to do.

So, where to start?

Well, let’s start with a swirly scene dissolve sequence to signify traveling back in time, because, my perspective on Bushy parkrun’s 15th Birthday (which by happy and fortuitous coincidence just happens to be actual parkrun’s birthday too – what were the chances of that?) started a few weeks prior to the day. 

I got a message.

Not from some weird spirit or voices from the sky, or even from deciphering the imagery in my morning bowl of porridge, rather more prosaic.  An actual message through Facebook.  Not just any old message, but one from the epicentre of parkrun.  One from the Bushy parkrun Event director himself!  So actually, pretty awesome, and way preferable to hearing voices in my humble opinion.  It said, basically,

…  we have a little* prize giving every year on our anniversary, this year it falls on Oct 5th. One of the awards we introduced a few years ago was Spirit of parkrun and we would love to present it to Elisabeth this year … do you think we’d be able to get her across to the start area for the presentation?

For clarification, this Elisabeth. That’s my mum.  I exist in the parkrun world only as ‘Elisabeth’s Daughter’, it is my tenuous claim to fame.

Oh.  My.   Gawd.  This was amazing news.  She’d be beyond ecstatic, and I’ve been wanting to get her to see the start and finish of Bushy parkrun for herself for years.  This would be a great excuse to get her over there and ‘make it so’.  There were a few logistical challenges to work out, but I could go down from Sheffield, and there would be a veritable parkrun army of well wishers on hand to help if needed.  This was going to happen.  It couldn’t be a surprise as I needed to work out the details with mum, but it was going to happen.

I replied with what I hoped was an appropriate level of effusive enthusiasm, both on my behalf and mum’s too.   She was chuffed, delighted, totally up for it.  I could not wait.  How as I going to keep it secret when I was bursting with wanting to share.

‘I’ll have to think about outfits for us both too’ I said

‘Outfits?’

‘Fancy dress outfits, it is going to be fancy dress right?’

‘Erm…’

Not fancy dress then.  Lucky the topic came up, it was only because I made a chance remark about I found out.  It just never occurred to me that it wouldn’t be fancy dress.  I had just assumed it would be because I understood that is the default parkrun party celebratory way. It shows yet again, everyday is a learning opportunity.  Mind you, it would have been hilarious if I’d rocked up with mum and me in complementary themed fancy dress outfits.  Not gonna lie, there’s a teensy bit of me that wishes I hadn’t been disabused of my misunderstanding, it would have been a classic.  And you know what, if we had, it would have been fine.  There’s usually a few people sporting fancy dress at any given parkrun anyway, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t have been us on this particular day.   If junior parkrunners can turn up at parkrun in minion onesies just because they felt like it, why not us too – apart from the fact I don’t have a minion onesie – but otherwise my point still stands.  Still, maybe just as well, finding something to go with her traditional Happy Birthday parkrun sash  might have been a challenge.  I got on with ordering that, and asked her what colour she wanted.  ‘It has to be orange that’s the parkrun colour!’ well apricot technically, but good call.  All those months and years of watching parkrun have not been wasted, she has totally internalised the parkrun palette.  It’s not only the high fives she’s nailed since she became an honorary marshal on the Bushy parkrun course.

kudos to parkrun

The semiotics of parkrun eh?  Someone should write a book on that – or maybe do a podcast.  Perhaps a niche OU sponsored variant special edition of With Me Now – a With Me Know broadcast has a certain ring to it?

Re the keeping it a secret bit, I did try really hard, but I may have sort of accidentally told a couple of very exceptional individuals who weren’t in the Bushy parkrun circle ‘in total and absolute confidence‘ as in ‘this is a secret but not a secret, it’s only ever to be divulged on a strictly need to know basis‘.  You need to understand this was basically a necessity for health and safety purposes, I’d have imploded if I’d had to keep that to myself, and with my brain splattered around the interior of my Sheffield home, and my undiscovered imploded carcass adorning my hallway in a star shape, who’d have taken mum to the start line in Bushy park?  Precisely.  I know, unthinkable!

The excitement continued to build as the countdown continued.  Little teasers appeared on the parkrun uk Facebook page.  The 15th anniversary commemorative barcode flatband, the poster for the first ever Bushy parkrun time trial was dug out from someone or other’s attic and reposted for the digital age.  Also, some uplifting videos reminding us why we do parkrun, not that we all need reminding necessarily, but it’s still nice to hear other people’s stories. 

Whangarei parkrun excelled even themselves by having their very own darkrun by way of celebration. This was run as a freedom run, simultaneously with everyone taking off on the start line of Bushy parkrun at 9.00 a.m..  That was 9.00 p.m. in New Zealand, hence they were in the dark, but a select group darkran/parkran and celebrated with cake and probably fizz as well.  It is the parkrun way!  I really want to go to Whangarei parkrun one day, they positively ooze the parkrun ethos.  Darkruns are catching on over there thanks to them!

sept5 18A small group gathered for Whangarei darkrun and I understand a thoroughly enjoyable event resulted. Denise very kindly provided a celebratory cake. The night was made memorable by a visitor from Hamilton , Joseph Morgan, who ran the course in 16:01 which would be a course record. Of course it being a Freedom Run and an unofficial event it will not take the official title, but nonetheless it is a stunning time and we congratulate Joseph. Incidentally his brother Adam also ran and was not far behind! (Apologies, the picture is badly cropped, but you get the idea!)

sept6 19Whangarei was also the catalyst for a South Island darkrun at Pegasus which was very successful and included a live link with Market Harbororo parkrun in the UK . Quite a day down there with the celebration earlier in the day of the completion of 500 parkruns by Steve Darby, the first time that has been achieved by anyone outside the UK.

It isn’t even the first time they’ve done this, here are the original darkrun crew from 2017.

Whangarei original darkrun

That’s dedication isn’t it.  High Five to Whangarei parkrun!  And to Pegasus parkrun too!  I wonder if there is a Running Challenges badge for nabbing parkruns linked to mythical beasts?  There should be, gap in the market I’d say.  Greytown Trail parkrun had a darkrun too.  Double the parkrun fun all in one day!  Yay.  Like the New Year’s Day double here except only one counts, they are 12 hours apart and one is in the pitch dark and a freedom run, but otherwise identical.  Bound to catch on. Not.

greytown woodside trail parkrun darkrun

Mind you who expected 13 on 2nd October 2014 to become 1838 13 years later?  That’s right dear reader.  Nobody at all.  Can you tell which starting line up is which?  Go on, be brave, take a wild guess…  Maybe New Zealand freedom darkruns of the future will have similarly grown exponentially.  Only a matter of time.

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Anyway, where was I?  Stop distracting me with all these questions about darkrun, fine innovation as that is.  Oh yes, I was indulging in the anticipatory build up to the big day.  My Facebook feed was full of it, mind you it is always full of all things parkrun, no idea what the point of Facebook is otherwise to be honest.

The actual anniversary was 2nd October, though the nearest Saturday/ parkrunday was 5th october, and parkrun UK reminded us of this with some handy stats.

birthday stats

Time ticked by, and eventually, amazingly there was just one more sleep to go.  I had a nightmare drive down from Sheffield, a record 8 hour drive due to the M1 being closed in a couple of sections.  However, you have to think of those who never made it to their destination at all, and I did, so let’s keep perspective eh?  Quick visit to mum, she had her hi-vis all ready, and her birthday sashes too, looking good.  One more sleep.  Not that it was a sleep really because I was SO EXCITED!  And also, had to invest time in excited texts and messages with parkrunners and supporters various to check out who was going to be there for the big celebration.  Turns out, it was basically everyone in the whole wide parkrun world, so I could have saved myself the trouble of contacting people.  Joking apart, it was brilliant to be sharing the anticipatory excitement, and many  of the Bushy parkrun team touched base too, offering support on the day as needed.

And then it was tomorrow!  Which was, in case you haven’t been concentrated, or maybe just skipped ahead parkrun day and Bushy parkrun’s 15th birthday!  Yay!  Let’s get this party started.

Over to pick up mum, and she was pretty much in readiness, with her hair done specially and so it was just a question of gathering up everything bar the kitchen sink ‘just in case’ into the car and – after texting to say we were en route –  off we went round to the carpark near the coffee shack and the Bushy parkrun finish line.  I knew there was a couple of disabled parking bays there, but we went early because it was going to be rammed.  It was about 8.10 a.m. as we were driving along Chestnut avenue, we could see some runners whizzing about – with the benefit of hindsight, I wonder if this was some of the original golden barcode bearing parkrunners, who I gather met and ran the original route, started by Paul S-H himself after he’d given the traditional run briefing apparently.  It was on the With Me Now, special Bushy parkrun Birthday Edition broadcast – more of that later.  There were some humungous stags about, it is the rutting season, and they had to cancel Bushy junior parkrun because of them potentially charging.  The threat is real, but I think even a rutting stag might give way to 1800 plus runners.  This roaring beastie was snapped in Richmond Park.  Respect.

jules cox photo

Photo taken by https://www.instagram.com/julescoxphotography/ following the British Deer Society Code of Conduct: https://bit.ly/2Eqr0EK

You could see from a distance the car park was full, and as we cornered there was a TV van, and hundreds of people purposefully setting up for the occasion.  It was amazing, and we’d not even parked up.  I could feel myself filling up, this was going to be quite an extraordinary day.  The scale of the event takes your breath away. I’ve run at it loads of times over the years, but this day was something else.

exciting!

Mercifully, the disabled space was free, and we pulled up.  Mum was soon safely out of the car and into her wheelchair, sash straightened, hi-vis on,  and into the collective embrace of parkrun.  Honestly, it took seconds for her ‘regulars’ to spot her and come rushing over.  Although mum has got to know people at her corner, obviously there are limits to how long they can talk for as inconveniently they are mid-parkrun and have to press on.  It was just brilliant that many came across for ‘proper’ hellos and yep, the photos started.  I wonder if this is what it is like being in the entourage of a famous celebrity, you are just stunned by the attention, the paparazzi, the fan base.  It’s overwhelming.  Actually scratch that.  What am I saying ‘I wonder if this is what it is like being in the entourage of a famous celebrity’.  No need to wonder dear reader, that is exactly what I was.   And it was great.

I left mum surrounded by well-wishers taking selfies.  I was filling up already and we’d not even left the car park.

and rang the RD who was organising the awards ceremony.  They had two RDs today, one doing run stuff and one doing awards stuff.  The team at Bushy parkrun is amazing.  It’s huge, but still friendly, and the whole event runs like a well-oiled machine.  A well oiled machine fuelled by cake and prosecco and the positive endorphins that fly around the park I think.

I headed to the big birthday balloons, which are mandatory for Bushy parkrun’s birthday as it is a parkrun rule that Paul S-H has to be photographed alongside them. In years to come this may no longer be environmentally acceptable what with the plastic and helium and all, but this impulse was nevertheless indulged today, and, I’ll let you into a secret, quite a few other people embraced the photo opportunity they presented too.  The pictures tell their own story.  Here’s the starter though:

Paul and balloons

Despite getting my contact on the phone, I had a little trouble spotting him because firstly, I was looking in completely the wrong direction, and secondly, he was in disguise not yet wearing a high vis.  However, we made contact, and I got a lovely welcome, and directed to where the awards were to be presented.  It wasn’t too far, and mercifully the rain of the last few seemingly months had stopped.  The compact path was pretty good, I’d been in a panic about whether the wheelchair would be robust enough for it, but all was well.  What I hadn’t factored in was how slow progress would be as it was like doing a royal walkabout wheelabout.  So many well-wishers.

By the time I got back to mum, she had been located by the Bushy parkrun team who were in on the awards and around to help.  Happy reunions, they were awesome, not only because all parkrunners are awesome anyway, and they were great company, but also because they helped make the magic happen by clearing routes, sourcing balloons and selfie-frames and carrying out all those individually small but cumulatively huge and magnificent gestures that made the morning get better and better!  I now realise, my whole life would just run so much more smoothly if I had a couple of attentive and proactive personal assistants to accompany me about my daily business.  It was fantastic!  Thanks team Bushy!

We passed the film crew – it was going live on the BBC apparently, later I had a moment of disappointment at having missed it, but then again, that’s ridiculous as WE WERE THERE ACTUALLY EXPERIENCING IT ALL FIRST HAND which is way better.  Anyway, I was still sulking after the One Show coverage, so annoyed about how negative the guests present were about it afterwards, totally missing the point.  Oh well, let it go, their loss after all.  Poor people not yet inducted into the way of parkrun, their lives must seem strangely pointless without it…  They deserve our pity not our hate.  It must be awful for them.  I’ve moved on already.

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Next challenge, was to make it down the long path, but there were lots of micro-adventures and distractions along the way.  Photo ops and greetings too.  Our Bushy parkrun snatch squad managed to requisition the balloons so we could take pictures in all possible combinations of groupings.  It was hilarious.  You’d be amazed how much fun potential is contained within a couple of balloons.  Awesome.  That was going to be hard to top…. 

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Hard, but not impossible it turns out.  It turns out, that this yellow brick road was studded with ever escalating awesomeness along the way.  I say this, because ‘suddenly’ out of the autumnal mist (I might have made up the bit about the autumn mist, but I like to think it adds atmosphere) not one, not two, but THREE Pauls emerged.  This was amazing, the holy trinity of Pauls.  All of these Pauls are important in different ways.  One founded parkrun, which you might have heard of, one was responsible for posting a picture of when he delivered a Christmas card for mum and she shared with him what parkrun means to her which set in motion many more Christmas cards, and one is another Bushy parkrun stalwart, Bushy junior parkrun instigator who has proactively offered support to mum in practical ways.  The problem is, that up until now, they have never been gathered together in one place.  I don’t know if that’s because like the royals who travel on different planes, they daren’t risk all being taken out simultaneously by a rutting stag or falling tree; or if it is because time and space will invert and collapse if they are all seen at once; or – and I’ve thought about this a lot – if it’s because like Superman and Clark Kent, they are actually all the same person.

superman and alter ego

Well, you do start to wonder.  I’ve invested quite a lot of time and effort trying to explain to my mum who is who (or should that be who is whom?  My grammar fails me), but they’ve all sort of merged into one multi-talented, multi-faceted, interchangeable Paul, and it’s hard to differentiate one from the other.  I mean she knows each individual identity, but as soon as we have any conversation in which I refer to a parkrun Paul, it becomes immediately confusing trying to explain which one I mean.  Similarly when looking at pictures, all Pauls can seem pretty much the same if you only see them one at a time apparently.  In my defence, I mentioned this to the partner of one of the Pauls and they agreed that this was a valid point and they felt the same on occasion, that they seemed interchangeable at times and it does get confusing,  so it isn’t just my mum.  Anyway, today was the day that kept on giving, because they all came, and they all posed, and it was THE BEST THING EVER ALL DAY (until the next best thing ever all day, because like I said before, it just kept getting better).

Here they are a-gathering 

And they did attract a lot of attention:

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and it was so exciting there might have been so over excited and opportunistic photo bombing going on.  I was trying to play it super cool alongside parkrun royalty myself, but not sure I totally nailed it on this occasion:

Despite the mass of people, there was time for some proper conversation too.  This photo is another BEST THING EVER that happened on Bushy parkrun’s birthday.  Thanks Wendy Stokes for the pic.  It is taken from her awesome run report for the Bushy parkrun 15th Birthday event which is a must read too.  Here are two icons of Bushy parkrun sharing words of wisdom.

sharing words of wisdom

It was basically like a ‘Who’s Who’ of Bushy parkrun.  Like I said before EVERYONE was there.  Oh, and then we found the selfie frame. This was just the beginning, gets even more genius later on…  I’m not sure I’d properly inducted mum into the joys of selfie frames at this point, but even though it looks marginally like elder abuse to the ill-informed, all these photo based activities were in fact consensual.

and we continued our slow progress to the area near the start where a table was set up in readiness for the awards.  But more friends emerged from the throng.  This one is my namesake, and, although it’s a bit tricky to pinpoint exactly at what point Elisabeth was first noticed by the Bushy parkrun community, her formal recognition was as a result of this member of the core team, saying very sensibly, well, if she’s there every week anyway it’s high time she had her own hi-vis.  And someone, not sure who, maybe a team, maybe Lucy herself, duly walked down to present her with her very own marshaling tabard many moons ago.  From thereon in she was an honorary marshal for Bushy parkrun.  I remember that day, because when I spoke to mum in the evening afterwards she was so thrilled to have been recognised and welcomed into the parkrun community. It was both a small thing and an enormous thing at the same time.  I might have got something in my eye that evening too.  Honestly, I do like Bushy parkrun, but the allergens there are so powerful they could bring tears to my eyes even over a phone line to Sheffield.  I know, almost unbelievable.  I do have a tendency to be allergic to things, but it’s still quite bad. I think it may be that sadly I’m allergic to unicorn hair or something, there are loads of unicorns in Bushy park, so perhaps it’s that.  Anyway, high time we got a picture of these two together.  The start of the chain reaction that culminated in today. 

One day, I’m going to use my hallway wall to create an incident room time line of the sequence of events that led to the naming of Elisabeth’s corner and the celebrations of today.  Like on Vera, or maybe Sherlock Holmes, the new version with Benolin Cumbersnatch, I like the idea of those hi-tech interactive glass boards to work with.  It’s higher up the food chain than post it notes, though I do like Vera, maybe she could be my consultant…  Also, on reflection, I get quite excited by colourful stationery, and this would be a great pretext for getting a stash of new highlighter pens and novelty post it notes so potentially something like this:

investigation wall

but with more hi-vis, milestone tees, fancy dress, christmas cards, and TpoT orange beanie hats.  A project for another time, you must be on your second pot of tea/ bottle of vodka by now, and we’ve not even made it to the start line yet…

More and more friends emerged, some pre-arranged, some by happy chance.  Many were delighted to see mum at the start, if a bit perplexed as to what the implications for this might be when they got to Elisabeth’s Corner and found her absent.  I was kicking myself for not having thought to put some sort of hi-vis substitute in place for the duration, that could have been hilarious.  What about her parkrun public who count on seeing her at the half-way mark to give them the necessary energy boost to make it round to the end?  Oh well too late now.  Hello best ever photographer for taking fab photos of mum over the years (sorry I don’t have the skills to quite return the favour), hello pioneer parkrunner – congratulations on your 250th milestone and well done for having a balloon – nice to see a fellow Smiley here,  hello everyone! 

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While we were having our micro-adventures trying to get to the start area and the presentations table, others were similarly migrating across the park.  Not least, David Moorcroft, who was to be presenting the awards.  One of my favourite posts from today (of which there are a great many to be fair, often the one I’ve most recently looked at) is this one, of a cheery parkrunner welcoming a newbie to her home parkrun.  ‘Do you run much/ at all?‘  Oops.  Only not oops at all, because she was appropriately welcoming and that makes her a winner to me.  Yay!

do you run much.png

It is amazing, everyone of the 1838 runners plus volunteers and parkrun entourage had their own physical, mental and emotional journey to get to the start.  It can be both the simplest and hardest thing to rock up.  If you listen to the With Me Now parkrun special edition podcast, you might like me, be surprised to hear from others how it took a bit of courage to turn up the first time, and sometimes still does.  But it’s always worth it.  You just start by reaching out and saying hello, or not even that, just turn up and observe from the sidelines if you want, you are still significant and a part of parkrun for doing so.

Anyway, on the subject of ‘oops’ as we went towards the start, mum struck up conversation with David Moorcroft.  She had no idea who he was at this point.  Sorry.  Thought he was very nice and friendly though, which is actually more important and more of a compliment isn’t it.  She was querying why his N was the wrong way round on his tee shirt.  I’ve clearly not kept her up to speed with the merits of the COИTRA brand.  Oops.   A few people were sporting the raspberry tees today by the way, they were really nice.  I’m tempted, but then I’ve just splashed out on my apricot tee…

contra.png

En route I spotted another familiar face – a splendid individual to whom I am still grateful for securing us extra Smiletastic points during a running challenge on account of her dragonfly necklace.  Long story.  Smiletastic can be quite hard to explain… We first met when I was on a running weekend including a track session, Bushy parkrun (obvs) and a recovery run round Richmond park too.  Also, and this is crucial, a meal out, during which she wore said dragonfly necklace, and through some shameless meddling with the points allocation system, nabbed our Smiletastic Dragonfly team some extra points.  Yay.  We even requisitioned it for a photo op, and one of the Pauls took the picture too, proving they can be handy accessories to have around in all sorts of unexpected contexts.  Also, I think it must have been quite a novel experience for him standing the other side of a camera lens, so everyone’s a winner!  I’m actually quite surprised he knew how to operate it at all.  We probably had to direct him… 

We were pointing at the dragonfly brooch.  Don’t be childish.

Anyway, as well as her being intrinsically awesome, and getting us smiletastic points, on this occasion she introduced me to the RD for Colwick parkrun, another of my favourites, who was touristing at Bushy parkrun today.   I went to Colwick parkrun earlier in the year, but this RD was away then for some reason, so it was nice to say hello.  It’s a great run, if you go, you have to wear a Hawaiian shirt, I mean the RD was trying to convince me that’s not strictly true, but trust me on this one.   Love the parkrun network, it reaches everywhere.  Finally, we found ourselves at the front of the presentation audience, my lovely Bushy parkrun assistants having cleared a way through the throngs to secure us prime position.  Having contacts does help.

And then the awards commenced.  The RD did a lovely intro – encouraging us to look at our watches around the 13 minute mark and note where we were and that back in the day David would have been zipping down the finish funnel at just that point.  David Moorcroft added some heartfelt comments too, he was a great choice.  Fortuitously, a friend took a video of the start and some of the early awards, they are also documented in the aforementioned run report, so I’ll resist the temptation to go through it all again here.  Just take it from me that it was all heartwarming, celebrating and sharing the joy of parkrun.  A very special morning indeed.  I freely admit I was quite overcome, but for the record, the photo below, which I’ve included in the interests of transparency and because it meets the comedic element criteria which overrides my default reflex of deleting unflattering photos, is the face I pull when I recognise a parkrun face in the crowd.  In this instance the amazing Waterworks parkrunner who became my best friend when we bonded pre marathon at Southwark parkrun.  She’s not only awesome in her own right, but appreciates the importance of fancy dress on any and all occasions.  Of course it was emotional seeing her, even though I’d known she was coming.  I can’t help having a slightly manic and over-excitable disposition on occasions so I may as well embrace it.  I may look pained and in shock, but it was coming from a happy place.  Just shows how hard it is to read emotions.  No wonder social interactions can be so fraught, it’s a complete minefield.  You can never really tell what someone is thinking, just have to go with your instincts and hope for the best. 

And you can click on the link to see for yourself if you want the full immersive experience.  And let’s face it, why wouldn’t you?  Hope the link works.

So the various awards were dished out to worthy winners all, and it was lovely how the parkrun family came together to celebrate diverse achievements.

But then, the for me BEST BIT OF THE MORNING EVER was coming with the final award.  The RD did an awesome build up, not naming mum but referring to her as ‘this person…. more famous that Paul Sinton-Hewitt‘.  Credit where credit is due, this RD knows how to work a crowd.  He spoke of how she’s at her corner week in week out – ‘but she’s not there today‘ a gasp of horror from the assembled company… to be replaced by a cheer of relief as he added ‘because she’s here at the start!’.  It was just the best noise in the world ever, real affection.  And then when she was presented with her award, the applause went on for ever.  Well, nearly for ever, I mean we still had to stop to have parkrun happen at some point – and then she held her award aloft and a great collective whoop went up.  Best thing in the world ever!  It is- quite a solid chunk of glass with a personalised inscription on it  and has considerable heft, anyone would be delighted.  This moment gave rise to my favourite photo of the morning EVER, until the next picture popped up in my newsfeed obvs.

mum and david moorcroft

But you know what,  you don’t have to take my word for it, you can see if for yourself in the clip below.   The volunteer of the year gets his recognition first, and then it’s the final award of the morning to my mum about one minute in.  Not a dry eye in the park I can tell you.  Those blooming unicorn allergens eh?

It all went off to perfection.  All the award winners were present, the day stayed dry, and now it was time for the run.  As people dispersed snatched a few more hellos, and a little bit of trophy admiring (more of this later).  I took the opportunity to go in with a big hug of emotional gratitude to David Moorcroft, he looked a bit startled.  It was only as I walked away it dawned on me that although I was meaning to just express appreciation for the brilliant way he gave out the awards to everyone including my mum, he would have had no idea at all who I was and what I was doing.  In the circumstances he handled it well, all the same, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise for scaring him and potentially invading his personal space.  The irony is I’m not even all that huggy generally speaking, but something about the whole parkrun/ running vibe that stimulates this impulse in me.  I think it does for others too.  We’re all on hugging terms here… but even so, note to self, maybe check first next time.

and then positioned ourselves in a good spot to watch the start.  It was the first time mum had ever seen this, and what a day to choose.  Some good parkrun citizen had the wit to take a video of the start line.  It went on for ever!  Mind you, even the stills are quite impressive:

AB start

It’s an extraordinary sight to see a whole sea of people moving like a tsunami across the grass and towards the ant hills.  Amazing.  Here is another video clip of the start from a different – more courageous angle some would say

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Wow, a lot of people pile past pretty speedily – and then they are gone, winding their parkrun way out of sight

Bushy parkrun around they go

see them run!

SG parkrun surge

Time to turn about, and make our way to the finish funnel, or more specifically a new, one time only honorary marshal point from where we could cheer the parkrunners in.  Time for a bit more trophy admiring en route though, and a proper chat with parkrun supporter friends who’d come especially to see mum’s prize giving.  That was fantastic, it is wonderful to share such moments.  Mum was really taken with the way running gear adorned the railings round the trees.  Funny the things you notice being there for the first time.  One of the hi-vis heroes sped off as she was in charge of spot prizes for the finish funnel.  I’m not quite sure what the prizes were – a lifetime of free parkruns maybe?  But what she’d done was use the letters that they give out to organise the funnel, to spell out Happy Birthday Bushy parkrun, and whoever got one of the letters appearing in the phrase would get a prize.  Presumably not necessarily in the right order, the turnout was certainly great, but they weren’t expecting that many on the day!  Genius idea.  As someone who has no chance of ever winning a prize on account of my athletic prowess at any organised run, I’m a massive fan of spot prizes!

We found a good spot, and a non-running parkrunner to share it with.  She was doing the Kingston Half Marathon the next day, so tapering ‘us too!’ I said, a bit too forcefully, I think my ploy was well and truly rumbled. 

If you want to experience the actual run, number one option is to come and take part in it.  However, an acceptable position two, is to take a bit of time to watch this brilliant youtube video which basically summarises the whole event.  To be honest, I could have saved us all a great deal of time and bother by just putting this link up in the first place, but where would be the fun in that.  My blog post might be uncomfortably long, but it is a much more effective procrastination tool, so basically you make your choice and you take your chance.  Nevertheless, I offer up Here we are running’s take on the morning.  It omits my mum, but don’t worry, I think it’s fair to say I’ve more than compensated for that oversight, so no hard feelings eh?

I sat and watched this YouTube video with my mum.  She’s never seen the course from a runner’s perspective and was completely rapt.  Recognising parts of the park she used to explore a lot.

So after not very long at all, first the lead bikes came into view.  I don’t know why they have two, I mean it’s sensible to do so, but wouldn’t it be more fun if they whizzed round on a tandem.  Or even a rickshaw – now that would be prime position to have a ride in the back of one of them.

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Right behind the bikes, the front runners, they are insanely fast, and giving it their all.

After the run I was asking mum what her main observations were from the day, there were lots, she’d had a great time, but one comment that made me chuckle was that she said she noticed the runners looked a lot more tired at the end of the run than they did at the half-way mark.    Good point, well made!

She was in fine form cheering and clapping with considerable stamina.

It was lovely to see the reactions of parkrunners.  Not all had heard the briefing so some were concerned that she hadn’t been at her usual spot of Elisabeth’s Corner.  I resisted the temptation to pretend we were still at the halfway point by calling out ‘well done, just one more lap to go!‘ as I think that joke has been done to death and isn’t always as funny as you think when you are actually running.  I have learned this from bitter personal experience.  You have to appreciate the runners who are fleet of foot and speed by, but it’s extra fun if you are cheering and people wave or high five.  My mum was ecstatic when she spotted one of her ‘regulars’ and there are loads of them.  You can’t not feel good giving out high fives and cheers at a marshal point, it’s just the best.  Especially brilliant was seeing happy parkrunners who’d obviously been worried because she’d not been at her usual spot.  Such an outpouring of affection.  People do care about each other, more than we maybe realise, but perhaps we need to give ourselves permission to express it somehow, and that’s what parkrun does.  Allows us to see the best in others and ourselves.  Giving and receiving a high five is quite an art though, some of those parkrunners could take you out with one, I should know, I’ve been almost flattened by the force of a four year old high fiving at full velocity on the course of Graves junior parkrun.  I wonder if RDs do a risk assessment for shoulder dislocations as part of the generic parkrun preparations?  Note to self, must ask.

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In the midst of all this clapping, and cheering and high fiving, we had a visitation from Danny of With Me Now, who – quite rightly – had worked out no account of a visit to Bushy parkrun would be complete without including the infamous Elisabeth.  It was quite a trick to pull off though, interviewing her when every other runner was shouting greetings, and parkrunners were in need of their long awaited high fives to get them through the sprint finish!  In the circumstances he did really well.  And mum showed off both her trophy and birthday sash.  Listening to the audio later, it was really comical and appropriate that the conversation was constantly interrupted by mutually appreciative shouts.  It was great, and another pleasing micro adventure to add to the morning’s tally.  Plus, more photo ops, some classics here, mum has totally nailed selfies now!

Front runners called out breathless greetings, but her ‘regulars’ less focused on a time, stopped for a catch up, and some finished their parkrun first and then came back for a proper talk, to admire her trophy and yes, get a photo too of course.

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And then, much excitement for me as my Waterworks parkrun buddy came into view.  She, like me, has a propensity for collecting new best friends on her parkruns, and did not disappoint today.  This was a parkrunner making the trek from Burgess parkrun I think, with a cohort of others donning Uganda tops because it is Ugandan Independence Day next Saturday.  I so wish I was near enough to Camberwell to join them for that parkrun, I bet it will be epic!***  They clearly have plans for the morning.  Anyways, once they joined us obviously that was more photo opps, and then others joined in, and so the picture party continued…  The Ugandan Runners were the subject of one of the Jessica’s parkrun heroes stories.

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This new temporary Elisabeth’s Corner turned out to be quite a prime spot, but eventually as the runners thinned we tore ourselves away. I generally do like to wait for the tail walkers to come through, but I was also mindful that I wanted mum to experience the cake and prosecco celebrations and see the finish funnel in action too, so time to relocate.  That took time too, as we had to stop to have the trophy admired and catch up with a whole new set of Bushy parkrunners, some of who were now departing.  A few select individuals got to hold the trophy – under supervision –  it has considerable heft, and it is very satisfying to feel the weight of it in your hands. 

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There is a special place in my heart though for this parkrunner:

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He normally runs, and when he does always greets Elisabeth on his way round.  However, today he couldn’t – injured I think – so had gone to her corner to keep her company for the morning.  When he found she wasn’t there, but was at the start, he’d come up to find her (and yes, probably other people too) all of which was of course really welcome.  However, when we got chatting about our parkrunning stories, he confessed he was aware of the original time trial 15 years ago, and could have gone, but it was 9.00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and he just didn’t fancy getting up and over there at that time on what might have been a cold day.  He was very matter of fact about it, but I couldn’t help thinking on his behalf ‘oh, what might have been!’  Just shows people, you never know what opportunities have been lined up for you, you just have to learn to spot them and embrace them so they don’t slip through your grasp.  Look around you RIGHT NOW, there’s probably an opportunity waving at you even in this instant!   Thank you for sharing your story nearly parkrun pioneer!

Finally, we were within reach of the cake and prosecco offer, which was extensive.  Obviously this was a particularly special occasion, but I reckon on any given Saturday there will be cake and prosecco at parkruns everywhere.  It did make for a party though, and such an abundance of offerings.  Little individually wrapped cupcakes, themed homemade cheese biscuits of 1 and 5.   A fresh bottle was duly popped and bubbles flowed, more parkrun friends old and new appeared.

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The trophy was much admired, but it was also carefully inspected by those in the know who were carrying out quality control spot checks.  Apparently, one year all the awards were engraved with ‘Busy parkrun’ instead of ‘Bushy parkrun’, in fairness, it is very busy, so you can understand the mistake, but they didn’t want a recurrence.  This is mum’s reaction to hearing of this past calamity.  Serious business, the administering and supervising of awards production.  This award passed its inspection with flying colours.  Hooray!

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Astonishingly, not enough photos had been taken of the morning yet.  There were still queues of people trying to get the perfect balloon/ parkrunners combo for their social media accounts.  This has to be the most photographed and documented parkrun of all time.

All the fun of the run wasn’t over yet though.  I was worried mum was flagging a bit, and so one of our entourage went in search of coffee.  I got distracted by – I don’t know – spotting another parkrun friend probably, and when I got back, With Me Now were trying to get the perfect shot with a WMN selfie frame.  They were doing ok.  Bit of negotiation and shuffling around secured the backdrop of The parkrun Tree.

but then I had a genius idea if I say so myself.  In my great and unmatched wisdom I proposed we go for a tunnel of selfie frames.  It took a bit of team work, but oh my, this is the best thing ever. In a way it makes it even more fun that you need at least five people to capture this effect!

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and then, someone – my Belfast Buddy in fact – in her great and unmatched (except by me) wisdom suggested that I get in shot too. And the result is this, another of my absolutely definitely favourite pictures of the day.

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Thanks to With Me Now for the picture, which, in their great and unmatched (except by me and my Belfast Buddy) wisdom, they used as the clickbait for their special edition podcast.

What’s the plural for genius?  Genii, yep, probably, we are all that.  Magical presences certainly.

Still time for more mingling.  You know what, I discovered it’s a great boon to hang out with parkrun royalty, I’ll take glory by association.  Loads of people came to say hello and introduce themselves, which was wonderful.  So many parkrun doors thrown open to me because I’m Elisabeth’s daughter!  I explained my origins at Sheffield Hallam parkrun by pointing to my newly personalised apricot tee – though in reality, it would be even better if it just said ‘Elisabeth’s Daughter’ rather than the more prosaic ‘Sheffield Hallam’.  It was noticeable how in many introductions people basically pointed to their boob area to indicate their parkrun of origin, it’s like a sign language for parkrunners.  It works well if you are indeed wearing a bespoke apricot tee, less well if you are just wearing a random running top – people have discovered this to their cost.  Also, on my last parkrun visit, a parkrun core team member who will remain anonymous, lamented how they were so proud of their new apricot tee they got a friend to take a close up of the Bushy parkrun strapline under the parkrun logo.  Let’s just say the resulting photo was not really ‘appropriate’ which might be why prodirect use a photo of a flattened t-shirt for promotional purposes, rather than an extreme close up of a female parkrunner’s assets.

apricot tee

So here are more parkrun people, sharing the Bushy parkrun party.  In possibly the weirdest ever twist of fate, we also met some people walking their dogs, one of whom I was at junior school with and haven’t seen since I left around forty-four years ago, that was bizarre.  With her was the parent of my bestest friend from that time too, see how parkrun brings people together!  I had not expected that.

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Inevitably this account is very much focused on me and my mum, or more accurately my mum and me, but for the record, she wasn’t the only celebrity present.  Here are more, including the parkrunner who has done the most parkruns of anyone on the planet – 741 and counting.  Also, I feel I should have given the deer in the park higher billing, they are amazing at any time of year, but this Saturday the stags in mid rut were particularly impressive.  The deer certainly need to be treated with respect though!  Don’t know if they remembered their barcodes.  Plus a pic of a parkrunner I’m more used to seeing in fancy dress, who was today doing her unofficial milestone 350 run.  Yay!

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At around this point, as if by magic the coffee appeared.  I wasn’t sure how mum would be able to juggle a cup of coffee and a flute of prosecco, but not to worry dear reader, she quaffed her remaining half glass of fizz in one go and freed up her hand for the caffeine fix.  A very fine cup of coffee it was too.

All good things come to an end eventually, but luckily we have not only memories on this occasion, but actual silverware.  Here it is for one last time, with the backdrop of the famous parkrun tree where it all began.

Totally the spirit of parkrun, I’m sure you’ll agree.

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And the morning was nearly over, the last few parkrunners peeling away, the course dismantled, prosecco bottles drained and cake tins emptied.  The Bushy parkrun core team were so attentive and asked if we needed any help getting back, which we didn’t.  I’d felt we were so welcomed and looked after all day, it was a blast.  As we made our way back to the car, the contrast between the scene a few hours earlier and now was extraordinary.  All was quiet and calm and clean, nothing but footprints was left behind** and nothing but photographs were taken away.  A lot of photos though,  No really, a lot.  Think of the biggest number you can imagine, ok, got that?  Is it huge?  Well, I’ve news for you, you are not even close 🙂  What’s more, every picture holds a memory.  A.Maz.Ing.

Another parkrun done and dusted, and added to the annals of parkrun history.  I wonder what the next 15 years will bring?

Even though it’s another whole week before parkrun day comes round again, the good news is you can continue to indulge your parkrun passions by checking out the awesome Bushy parkrun Big Birthday Bash run report (thanks to Wendy Stokes) for Event no 809, 5 October 2019 here

If you prefer your parkrun fix to be delivered by audio, then immerse yourself in the With Me Now podcast link which is here, or you could check it out via the With Me Now Facebook page post if you prefer.

And no doubt there will be a squillion other photos and posts out there on the interweb too, yours for the finding, plus the personal reflections of the 1838 parkrunners and multitude of volunteers, spectators and cheery melee of others who joined the occasion.  Quite something it really was…

So thank you Bushy parkrun for putting on such a show, not just on this special day, but delivering the parkrun magic week in week out.  It was just the best day ever.  Mum loved her trophy, but more than that, she loved meeting and mingling with so many fantastic parkrun friends.  All parkrunners are equally epic, what a wonderful shared adventure it is for all of us.  For me and mum today, entering Bushy park, was like being drawn into a collective supportive parkrun hug.  Best day ever!

Bloody unicorn hair.  Leaking eyes again.

And when you’ve finished reliving Bushy parkrun’s Birthday Bash, you can prolong the parkrun party for longer still by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  And maybe you have a life.  There is life outside parkrun so I’m told, which might be true, but it’s also true that parkrun is a little microcosm of life as it should be, which is sometimes a great deal preferable to life as it is, though on the plus side, parkrun also perhaps shows us what might be possible, and brings together the positivity that is out there in the world if we are but open to it.

Incidentally, Mr S-H said something – I think on the podcast, about how every week he gets hundreds of emails and messages from people talking about what parkrun means to them, and the funny thing is, that almost none of them mention the actual running!  Rather it is about the community cohesion, the coffee, the coming together, the sharing of adventures, the mutual encouragement, the being outdoors.  The run is the glue that holds it all together, or the catalyst that sets the reaction in motion, but it’s all the things that spin outwards from it that makes parkrun the global phenomenon it has become.  And better yet, anyone can join in, how fabulous is that?  There’s a research report just come out about that wider impact too, volunteering is even more fun than running for some it seems.  So we have the yin and yan of parkrun, it needs the runners and it needs the hi-vis heroes and wider community too.  That’s the open secret.  Yay!

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Even people disappointed by finding out this week they did not get a ballot place in the London Marathon can find solace here.  All welcome.  Volunteers as well remember, the parkrun community has a wide reach.

youre in

#loveparkrun indeed

(No idea how to use hashtags, but that seems about right eh?  🙂 )

*The occasion wasn’t all that ‘little’ to be honest, but I suppose it depends on what you are comparing it too.  Anyway, I’ll let that go.

**actually, one poor runner lost their garmin when it broke somewhere round the start apparently, so that might have been left behind by accident.  That’s a shame, but unusual to be fair.

***Yep it was, check out this video clip courtesy of Ian Feeley who was there, and keep an eye on the Burgess parkrun Facebook page too, as surely more pictures will follow… AND they got a mention in parkrun uk newsletter assante marshal for 16 October 2019 – well worth a gander

PS to save you the effort of googling it, the ‘Jog On’; podcast referenced in with WMN podcast is Ep 36, Darren Wood – the most parkruns ever.  You’re welcome

PPS Mum, if you are trying to find the podcast it’s here.  CLICK ON THIS LINK FOR THE WITH ME NOW BUSHY PARKRUN SPECIAL EDITION.  It should just start playing by magic.  🙂  It’s like a radio programme, so the screen might go blank.  It’s about an hour long.

Are you still here?  That’s amazing!  Well done.  You get the prize for making it through to the end.  It’s a virtual prize, not an actual one, but you’ll know you did good.  A round of applause from me (I’m clapping you now) and free parkruns for life!  Congratulations.

🙂 x

As a reward here is are some early morning photos in Bushy park, taken this very week, though not by me.

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Quite a special place eh?

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

Right behind you all the way – tail walking tales from Graves parkrun

Digested read: tail-walking at Graves parkrun today.   Most educational.

Undigested read:

Yes, well, bit stream of consciousness today, but then, I wasn’t originally going to do a post about this particular parkrun.  Well, it’s one of my locals, and I’ve posted about Graves parkrun a fair few time before – and then I was just because.  But, spoiler alert, you might find this post to be even more parkrun-lite at times than usual.  The blogging reflex was instigated by my being at parkrun I readily concede, but the in terms of actual content, the linkage may be tenuous at best.  You might still enjoy scrolling through the pictures from today though.  Or you might not, because I have no innate photographic talent, but then again I was there, and might therefore offer up not so much the ‘least worst’ option, but the only available  photojournalistic documentation of the occasion.  Quite a responsibility on my part you’ll agree.  On the plus side, it will make you appreciate our fabulous, dedicated and regular Sheffield parkrun photographers even more – if such a thing is possible.  Also, maybe in the future my blurred offerings will seem innovative and genre challenging, you never know*.  Here is a taster to get you in the mood.  In my defence he was running awfully fast… faster than a speeding bullet at the very least.  Even Mr Carman would have struggled.**

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I like to manage expectations.  I think I’ve achieved that with the image above.

It’s been a very educational and pretty mind blowing few days to be honest.  Only yesterday, just before I had a flu jab, the pharmacist asked me if I was allergic to formaldehyde.  I said ‘surely everyone’s allergic to formaldehyde?‘ I mean, you don’t want to get a vial of that injected into your arm do you, even to protect you from the worst horrors of the latest strain of flu.  The vaccine however apparently includes this.  Only the smallest of trace elements I’m sure, allowing for the potential of some sort of homeopathic poisoning, falling into anaphylactic shock as a consequence of an underdose perhaps.  Even so, it seems allergy to formaldehyde is in fact a ‘thing’ raising the question of whether you can be similarly ‘allergic’ to strychnine.  It seems bizarre.  I know what they mean, an allergic response is a different biological phenomenon to that of poisoning, and I daresay the trigger quantities are entirely different but honestly who knew?  Unless you are a pharmacist or other medical specialist.  Just shows how every day has the potential to be a learning day.   This can be enlightening, but also terrifying.

I’ll get to the point eventually.

What if you discover that you are unwittingly in possession of a super power.  An ability to change history, and so influence the future in ways that are impossible to predict or control?  What’s more, that you have been unleashing anarchy for years, not so much a butterfly flapping its wings, but a crazed individual who has been carelessly lobbing grenades with untold potential to distort and contort future event,s without the slightest insight into what you’d been doing.  If a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state, then the cumulative impact of multiple changes could be almost infinite.  Gulp.  What. Have. I. Done?

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I know, scary.

Case in point, as I was tail walking at Graves parkrun today, I snapped away, trigger happy (with the camera button, not an actual gun, I’m not insane) and took photos en route.  It helps me remember each parkrun, and digital cameras allow an excess of photos to be taken.  If you get enough quantity, you never know, the occasional lucky quality picture might just sneak in.  I’m never 100% sure of photo sharing etiquette in public places.  But I’ve come to think as long as you are obvious and not sneaky in taking pictures it’s very apparent if people object to one being taken.  And I also have a personal rule that I delete any horrifically unflattering photos – the sort I wouldn’t want to see of myself – unless, and this is crucial, the hilarity induced by its inherent comedic value clearly outweighs the risk of personal humiliation to the subject of the shot.  This rule has I think served me well.  I’ll always delete a picture if requested to do so, so that’s a reasonable back-up plan.  Anyway, at the end of the parkrun, I just checked in with the core team about whether photo sharing would be ok, and explained about my unwritten personal rule.  Comedic talent v personal humiliation, and far from their agreement to me sharing them on this basis being given as a formality it was pointed out to me that this would never do.  It might not in fact be a good approach to take.  It could be, that the act of deleting photos was like trying to tamper with history.  In doing so I would basically be messing with the time/space continuum and this could have catastrophic results, not so much life changing for me necessarily (although, that too, obvs) but epoch altering.

Sentry

We’re all familiar with what might happen from Star Trek and Dr Who, surely.  And for the more literally minded, even the most casual reader of either Nineteen Eighty-Four or Brave New World must know, to rewrite history is a dangerous thing.  I have my 1981 ‘O’ level English Lit syllabus to thank for that insight.

We are right now living in a time where it seems a regime will indeed go ‘to any lengths to own and possess history, to rewrite and construct it, and to inculcate it by means of coercion.’ (thanks Christopher Hitchens for the quote, written in in the introduction to his 1999 article “Why Americans Are Not Taught History”, which I’ve lifted for here).  Where is my moral compass set if I start deleting photos because that version of what happened sits uncomfortably me.   What about my responsibilities as a guardian of the truth?  As someone who likes to document things, my travels in Cambodia and Vietnam as well as my running scared adventures, this messes with my head.  Living in the world as we would like it be, as opposed to the world as it is, requires each of us to take responsibility, and that must surely include a respect for truth and, another thing, not messing with the space/ time continuum and so inadvertently altering the course of history.  Whoa.  Scary times.  And I didn’t think it was possible for the world to feel any more frightening a space to inhabit than it does right now.

You see my problem.  How to document a morning at parkrun, where each of the 286 runners and umpteen volunteers and supporters will have a different version of ‘the truth’.  No wonder I have writer’s block.  And what about the pictures, should they stay or should they go?  It’s been a tough call.  Is it a personal or shared responsibility to be a chronicler of history.  Is there any such thing as objective truth anyway?***

Back to basics.

Graves parkrun is definitely one of my favourite runs, not even just of the Sheffield ones, but more widely too.  Sheffield Hallam parkrun is strictly speaking my home run, but it has got quite crowded and lacks highland cows.  I’ve been doing a fair bit of touristing of late and so fancied staying closer to home this week.  Also, a friend was doing her 25th Volunteering stint there, it would be good to support that.  I’ve been quite poorly, no idea what, but hurrah for the NHS and their probing and scanning and imaging apparatus as well as fab straff.  Upshot was, I wasn’t really up to running a parkrun, but figured I ought to be able to walk it… hopefully – what’s more fate decreed there was a gap in the tailwalking role on the volunteer roster.  It was meant to be!  I’m wanting to get to 50 parkruns this year if I can,  (gold badge for running challenges to add to my bronze and silver and so complete the virtual set) and so don’t want to miss any.  I have missed two this year so far, despite attending a parkrun on all saturdays to date.  One was cancelled a bit last minute,  and I was too witless to check prior to arriving there and then it was too late to go elsewhere.  Oh well, it happens, I feel for the event teams who only cancel in desperation.  On the other occassion I was watching at Bushy parkrun with my celebrity mum, at her very own Elisabeth’s corner, it’s quite an experience.  She, as you know dear reader is officially parkrun Royalty.  More Queen Elisabeth of parkrun than even these two Queen Elizabeth parkruns.  Wish I’d thought to make a load of fridge magnets years ago.  Cool plan though by the QEs.  parkrun kudos to them!  Let’s just agree there are three Queen Eliz/sabeths in the parkrun chronicles.  Loving the waving across the world initiative though, and I’ve always believed fancy dress at parkrun (or indeed in life) to be a boon.  Anyways, check out their international parkrun friendship story, and see how geographical miles can be vanquished by a parkrun wave across the waves.  No really, check it out 🙂   Queen Elizabeth parkrun (Horndean, UK) and Queen Elizabeth Casino parkrun (Australia) united.

where was I?  Oh yes, so the upshot was I missed, not really missed, but not recorded on the Running Challenges stats, two this year, so reaching 50 feels quite tight.  The Running Challenges chrome extension is fab, and weirdly compelling, with somewhat addictive potential.  It shouldn’t be the be all and end all of parkrun, but it is a fun tool for choosing where to go next….

This time though, Graves parkrun.  And then MORE GOOD NEWS (it was so meant to be) the Tring Travellers would be honoring Graves parkrun with their presence.  Oh good.  Catch up time.  parkrun and the vagaries of the internet bringing random people together.  Not quite as impressive as the link from Australia to the UK, but jolly impressive and pleasing all the same!

A while back the Graves course changed, I prefer it, it’s probably more challenging, finishing up a steep hill, but very much more picturesque.  I double checked the route.  Last time I tail walked it I was quite far behind the throng – having a lovely time admittedly, as the unadulterated photos from the February day show:

but got a bit confused about where the first loop went and the turnaround spot, didn’t want a repeat of that.  So to be clear, it now looks like this according the the Graves parkrun website course description blah de blah:

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and is described thus:

Course Description
A 2 lap course which starts on the path next to the main car park. From the start, a short flat section leads to a long shallow downhill behind the cafe. A sharp rise gives way to a sweeping descent through the treeline, before emerging at the lakeside and taking on another short hill. The course then loops all the way around the cricket pitch before heading uphill once again between the cow fields, in the direction of the historic Norton Hall. Following a sharp descent, the route splits, on lap one, a circuit of the east lake is undertaken; whereas on lap two, runners take the shorter option between the lakes. The course come back together for a final ascent of the hill towards the cafe, before hitting the finish straight on the ridge line.
Please note Graves parkrun requires that all dogs be kept on a short lead, held in the hand of the runner at all times during the event.

Yeah, don’t worry, just follow everyone else, or the way the marshals are pointing, and you’ll be fine.

I arrived at Graves park early.  As is my way.  Just in case you have inexplicably missed my previous posts about Graves and are checking it out for the first time, there is paid parking from 9.30 – free before.  50p for an hour and £1 for two.  Bargain.  Parking isn’t ample, but sufficient, and as I’m always paranoiacally early, I’ve never had a problem.  There are loos too, outside the Rose Cafe (which I think opens from 9.00 and has superior indoor loos) so precautionary pee or emergency pees are possible without the indignity of having to rush behind a bush.  You need change though – for the car park, not the loos.

Graves park has its own microclimate, so ignore whatever the forecasts say and dress for plague, blizzard, apocalyptic rain, whatever.  Be aware that if you do, there will suddenly be a localised blistering heat wave, or earth scraping wind, it is the Graves Park way.

I may be always early, but my milestone pacing friend was even earlier.  I could see her with a friend, down by the meet up bench where the core team muster early and the parkrunners themselves a little later.  She’s deaf, and so I’d tried to learn the sign for ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’, so as soon as she spotted me I gesticulated in what I hoped was an appropriate way.  I’m not sure how accurate I was, but the sentiment was clear, and also, it’s very pleasing that with sign language you can actually communicate over a greater distance than you can shout.  Excellent.  With her was a signer, who was volunteering for the morning, as lots of this high-vis heroes deaf running friends were also coming from near and far to join the celebrations.  Cool.

A little later, the RD appeared, and hi-vis tabards were distributed.  Roles allocated, Graves parkrun runs like a well-oiled machine these days it seems.  I was pleased to see more familiar faces, it’s worth staying home in Sheffield now and again to catch up with folk.  Also, conspiratorially share secrets.  I know, a teaser, but hang on in there, you’ll find out soon enough.   Congratulations to the junior parkrun co-volunteer still flushed with success (and a few aching muscles) from the Sheffield 10k last weekend.  Yay.  Awesome.  Also a multi-tasker, able to run and smile at the same time.  Surely a skill honed at parkrun?

SW sheffield 10k

So there was milling and chilling and meeting and greeting.  Mountains of cake arrived for the celebrations, parkrunners appeared seemingly from nowhere to congregate around the start.  RD briefing was given, with accompanying signing, I particularly like the ‘jazz hands’ that replace applause to signify thanks.  Awesome.

I didn’t take any photos at this point. I wasn’t planning on doing a post about this parkrun at this point, so didn’t see the point. However, fortuitously others did, here is a shot of the deaf parkrunners from near and far – Huddersfield, Leeds and Wakefield who came to celebrate with their friend and mine.  Also my namesake, we are mutually blessed.  Here they are, either before or after the parkrun, but posing rather brilliantly with both the RD and the all important parkrun sign.  Good job.  Glad someone was concentrating.

Lucy support crew

All in line, and I positioned myself at the back of the pack.  There were a couple of people even further behind which confused me.  Both looked like speedy runners, and had speedy hounds with them, they choose to start at the back and then enter the throng once underway, no point in positioning myself behind them or I’d never see the back of the run again, they’d be overtaking me in an instant!

And soon enough awf!

It was a fairly sedate start from the rear.  There were a couple of people who looked like they were walking companionably so I left a bit of space.  Tailwalking is an art rather than a science.  I know from being at the back of many organised events I actually find it quite stressful if a sweeper is right on my tail, so err on the side of the respectful distance unless it looks like someone is happy for company or on their own.  I resolved I’d wait a bit and then see if they wanted me alongside once they’d settled in.  In fact, I was so distracted by interacting with marshals and other park users and taking photos and trying to manage my own pain that I didn’t really catch up with them until we were nearly at the end of the first lap.  I hadn’t factored that in. You’d think I’d know better, one of my most challenging volunteering positions ever was as tailwalker at junior parkrun.  It’s a two lap course, and some junior participants inevitably drop out after one. That’s completely fine, but it does mean you have to do a mad sprint to catch up with the rest of the pack once the others have retired.  I’ve run faster doing that then I ever have on an actual run, and learned from bitter experience one should always wear a sports bra when tail walking, the walking moniker is not always strictly accurate!

So off I went, you start off down a hill and through the trees, the timers and RD were marching towards the finish funnel, the event temporarily out of their hands now parkrunners were go!

It was nice at the back.  Contemplative.  The hound dogs various quickly raced by, as predicted.  Also faster than a speeding bullet you’ll agree…

Quite soon, you are at the base of the hill, and friendly marshals are on hand to direct, encourage and assist.  I hadn’t entirely registered it at this, but a full circuit of the course revealed that every marshal had some sort of assistant or prop, or, as in this case, a pint-sized supervisor to keep order.  The supervisor in this location took the opportunity to alert me to the presence of a loose dog, that was being searched for by a concerned owner.  No sooner had she passed this information to me, a man and his re-acquired dog, now back on a lead – reappeared.  His dog had just wanted to join in all the parkrun fun it seems, but was thwarted in doing so because that wasn’t on his human companions agenda for the day.  You can’t really blame the dog in such circumstances, why wouldn’t it want to join in, parkrun is indeed a lot of fun.  In the circumstances I think it showed considerable restraint returning to its human at all.

Thank you first marshals of the morning.  Loving your work.

Ooh, with the canine interruption, I was a bit far back, sprinting on, oops, that’s up a hill then, quite a steep one, sprinting contraindicated.  Then at the top of the hill, good news, another smiling marshal, this one equipped with a canine assistant, equipped with their own high-vis.

Obviously I had to say hello.  Particularly as I’d been lucky enough to meet this particular hound earlier, being given temporary custody and control whilst the accompanying human was donning high vis.   I can therefore report as absolute fact, that this dog has the softest ears ever.  So greeting were enthusiastically exchanged, and then oops, lost the back of the pack again, so quick sprint(ish) and round towards the lake area.

and oh good, up the hill, and another marshal to stop you veering off too soon.  Another marshal, another hound.  This one also in high-vis.  Hopefully parkrun branded canine hi-vis will follow in due course we agreed.  Me and the human handler, not me and the dog.  Don’t be ridiculous, I can’t talk dog.   Like I said, you have to have an assistant, supervisor, dog, child or prop to marshal on this course.  I’m not sure how this is enforced exactly, but perhaps it’s just a general understanding, with occasional dispensations depending on your particular circumstances?

Had to stop for a bit to say hello, obvs, but strode onwards and upwards to the high point marshal.  He had the good fortune of a tree to shelter under, though you’d be pretty exposed up there in the wind.  What’s this?  No dog?  No child?  Like I said, there must be the occasional dispensation.  Fair dos.

My camera can’t cope with parkrun high-vis so just getting that excuse in while I can, but the thing is, you can’t change history, it’s dangerous to do so.  Tamper at your peril.  That’s what I’ve learned since.

Trit trot off to the right and a lovely expansive view down the hill, towards the huge wrought iron gated entrance at the far end of the park.  I say far end, I suppose strictly speaking that would depend on which end you typically approach and enter Graves park from, but I’m going with the ‘far end’ because this blog post is all about me and how I see everything.  Sorry about that.****  I seemed to have fallen even further back, not as agile as I’d hoped, I hate being injured/ poorly.  Did you know that stopping exercise (e.g. running) for as little as two days can contribute to low mood/ depression.  I can believe it.  What’s more, this is more pronounced in women.  Interesting.

I scampered onwards. Couple of cool things, I saw a bright green parakeet flap across the cricket pitch.  I’ve noticed them before squawking away in the trees down near the bottom entrance of the animal farm, but they do seem to be spreading out more.  I’m quite blasé about parakeets as  I’m from the south where they are naturalised almost to the extent of grey squirrels.  You see great flocks of them at Bushy parkrun in amongst the red deer and unicorns.  I don’t have too much of a problem with that, as those are managed landscapes anyway, but I’m a bit worried if they are making their way up north, they are certainly spectacular, but must negatively impact on native British wildlife for sure.  Oh well.  The other fun thing, was that you can see the faster runners storming round the far side of the cricket pitches in a colourful ribbon of milestone tees, race shirts and bravely close fitting lycra.  You can’t tell this from the photo I concede, but maybe if you squint and use your imagination.

You’ll need to use your imagination a bit more than that.

Can’t change history after all…

Eventually I was at the gate, where the marshal was accompanied by the required pooch.  Not gonna lie, this dog was actually rather cute.  It was just SO EXCITED to see me.  Well, admittedly, to see absolutely anyone passing by, and desperate for a bit of hello.  I’m shallow, so any animate being (or even inanimate object in truth) that shows delight at seeing me will absolutely melt my heart.  It’s horrifying to think how easy I would be to manipulate, just a small crumb of attention and you’ll have my undying loyalty.

So then here I was delayed by exchange of greetings, and also by a park user who I thought for a moment was going to complain about parkrun but actually was just very curious about what it was all about.  So I paused to explain a bit about the event and the ethos and encouraged her to think about maybe joining in herself some time. I’m not sure if she will, but she seemed positive about the whole parkrun vibe, so that’s a win.

Off again, past the cricket storage area.  Nice mural there I think, and a brief flat section alongside an overflowing ditch – that rain has really transformed the landscape, before the next heave ho up hill

It was just before the hill that I started to be lapped by the front runners.  They were a courteous as well as speedy lot.   Some managed to shout out encouragement as the whizzed on by.  I like that you get to see the faster runners on multi-lap courses.   Some of them are amazing to watch.  A few make it look effortless, but some demonstrate that I maybe could try a bit harder myself, as they are giving it everything, whereas I tend to veer on the side of caution keeping much in reserve just in case.  Just in case of what I’m not entirely sure – just in case they make me do another lap say?  Unlikely if I really think about it.

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I did a great job of photographing the litter bin didn’t I?  Good to know I can get something in focus, even if it’s just park furniture.

Onwards and upwards.  At the top of the hill, another cheery marshal but one inexplicably without a dog or other assistant.  Maybe it’s not a requirement for ones situated under trees?  She was in fine form clapping parkrunners with enthusiasm.  Clapping is a tricky one, based on my experience, once you start clapping parkrunners you feel obligated to continue until everyone has passed for fear of demoralising those most in need by stopping just as they come into range.  However, it’s way more strenuous than you might think, you have to pace yourself or it’s an exhausting work out that will leave you unable to move your arms again for the whole of the following week at least. This is tricky, as not all employers are impressed by a self-certified sick note giving cause of incapacity and inability to present at work as clapping related repetitive stress injury.  It’s like breaking a little toe or getting flu, only those of us who’ve experienced the real thing can truly empathise appropriately.  Just saying though, excellent work.  Maybe that’s why no dog come to think of it. Holding a lead whilst trying to clap would be really tough.

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From here, you turn off and run along the pathway with the iron railings, from where you can see and appreciate the highland cattle, you are heading now in the direction of the aptly named cowpoo corner.

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and there is another cheery and cheering marshal, acknowledging the parkrunners as they fly by.

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Looks like she didn’t get the dog memo either.  Maybe it isn’t a thing after all…

Now it’s round the corner and really steep downhill bit.  The ground was quite wet still, and honestly, I’m a bit of a scaredy cat going down such vertiginous slopes, but if you are brave or foolhardy and feel the urge, you can build up an astonishing amount of momentum going down this slope.  Just be careful though, sharp right on lap one at the bottom.  These front runners could go for it though, as lap two they’d be going straight on, and all that forward thrust would help drive them up the steep heart attack hill haul the other side.

 The marshals were working this section as a pair.  I wonder if they ever have had to heave ho anyone out of the water who didn’t either turn or brake in time?  I imagine they must have done.

The front runners rushed onwards, but we at the back, hooked right, and I briefly caught up with the walkers, who were happy in their companionable chat.  There was a cheery mood as we headed round the pond.  Pond?  Lake maybe.  Honestly, I’m not entirely sure when one becomes the other.  Round the water anyway, and past the sodden looking sheep and alpaca.

On guard at the farm entrance, a buggy assisted marshal, all smiles in high vis.

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and back down the other side of the lake or pond or water feature, and you are in time to see the front runners tearing up the hill for impressive sprint finishes.

I know, shite photos.  Think of it as another opportunity to use your imagination, and thank your lucky stars I didn’t tamper with time and bring about catastrophic unimagined consequences as a result.

However, you also get to see this awesome volunteer:

100th volunteer

On the one hundredth occasion of her volunteering.  I know, she doesn’t look old enough does she.  This proves, as if proof were needed, that volunteering keeps you young.  Bravo high-vis hero.  Glad to see you are suitable accessorized for the event too, starting the next generation of parkrunners and run directors off nice and early.  Good job.

Round the corner and up the hill towards the cafe.  It was quite a hive of activity here. There was the buzz of the finish funnel in operation, and parkrunners already home and dry were lining the finish area to cheer other participants in.  All very good natured.

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Good fortune rather than good timing meant I was at this point exactly as 50% of the Tring parkrun contingency arrived there too, so a bit of mutual cheering went on before she finished her final glorious lap and I heave hoed round to do it all again.

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The uphill finish is an acquired taste, and I’m not gonna lie, it is a bit hard to tear yourself away from all the post parkrun partying to do the second lap, but on the plus side, if you are a more sedate parkrunner at least you get to see it all now, because it will pretty much all have vanished by the time we’d come round again

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Ding ding, round two.

Marshals stand down as you pass through as tail walker, and a parkrunner who’d just finished came to join me for a while as was asking about whether or not this parkrun would be ok for walking at parkrun as a family member was thinking of coming but hesitant.  Of course it is!  Walking at parkrun is a thing,  It has been for years.  Although I have to be honest, I have heard some negativity expressed towards walkers, that’s not the norm, and it’s not ok, walkers welcome.  There are C25K groups, a dedicated ‘walking at parkrun’ Facebook page  and you can even put ‘walking at parkrun’ as your club name.  Some parkruns have walker meet up points, which is brilliant, and there seems to be a move to have walking groups for specific groups such as the ‘‘5k Your Way: Move Against Cancer.’ initiative

a community-based initiative to encourage those living with and beyond cancer, families, friends and those working in cancer services to walk, jog, run, cheer or volunteer at a local 5k Your Way parkrun event on the last Saturday of every month

Sheffield Hallam parkrun is one of the 5kyourway event hosts, according to their website, so that’s good.

5kyourway.jpg

Not all parkruns proactively do this, but all are open to walkers.  Walking and talking your way around a parkrun is one of the most therapeutic activities you can do on this planet.  FACT.*****  

So that chit chat slowed me, so I had another sprint to catch up.  Jeffing parkrun after all, huff puff.  Before I knew it, that was the second lap nearly done and dusted, and I gathered up a couple of marshals to walk back in with.  It was most jolly and companionable.

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And then we were back on that there hill.  Oh no!  Have to do a final sprint in.  Well, you don’t actually have to of course, everyone has the right to enjoy parkrun in their own way and all that, but it is a shame not to, when the finish is within your grasp and the hi-vis heroes are greeting you like you are elite athletes smashing world records as you head for the line!

I’m in, I’ve done it!  My junior parkrun marshal buddy was on hand to welcome me through and act as official photographer to document this moment of triumph too.  I thank you.  I think that the fact it took a squillion attempts to work out how to use the camera and to switch off the video feature just made the whole occasion all the more memorable.  Anyway, perfect eyesight and technical prowess are over-rated.   Who needs eyesight good enough to see the mould on the ceiling when they are lying in the bath anyway?  Precisely.

Nailed it!  Thank you timers and scanners for making it so!

There was even someone profering sweets at the finish.  Better yet, I still managed to get one of the purple wrapped one.  After I had face planted into the open tin, and was bolting down the  smooth milk chocolate with runny caramel in the middle and that all-important hazelnut at the centre almost before I’d had time to peel back the brightly-coloured wrapper and foil –  I did think to ask what was the occasion. Not that parkruns generally need any particular occasion to break out bubbles, cake and edible delights, but sometimes some flimsy premise or other will be rustled up.  Today it was the giddy collision of both a fortieth birthday and fiftieth milestone. Hooray, definitely worth celebrating.  Thank you generous fellow parkrunner, and congratulations too.

Next task was to strike the set.  The course needed to be dismantled, but you know what, it’s harder than you think to get those stakes up.  There’s a knack to how you twist and my back was not helping.  Further more, in a break with junior parkrun pack-up protocols, here they keep the tape in place on the poles.  I nearly created future mayhem by trying to take it off.  In my defence, this was less a competency issue than a training one.  I’ve not had the training module on course stand down yet, and understand that this involves a competency based checklist and a powerpoint presentation.  Shows though, using initiative can set a dangerous precedent and you shouldn’t meddle with entities you don’t understand.  Why can people never grasp this.  It’s why the B flick disaster movie is the trope that just keeps on giving.  Anyway, disaster was good naturedly averted thanks to a gentle intervention by a more experienced – and fully trained up – volunteer.  Phew.

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I think that’s a British Military Bootcamp going on in the background, not a parkrun haka, but I wasn’t really concentrating so it’s hard to be sure.

Course collapsed and hi-vis surrendered, job done.  Just a matter of gathering up worldly goods – don’t forget your cymbals, or your bike, or your dog…. mutually congratulatory high fives… and then to the Rose Garden Cafe for results processing (events team) coffee quaffing (everyone else).

One very significant advantage of being among the final finishers in general, or tail walker in particular, is that on the whole by the time you reach any particular parkrun cafe, queues will have dispersed.  On this day, things were even better.  My best friends from Tring parkrun had already purchased a hot beverage just for me!  They had also somehow transformed themselves from flushed and sweaty lycra wearing parkrunners into the sort of mufty that ‘normal’ people wear.  It was almost unsettling.  Lovely sight though.  Thank you!  🙂

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I did offer to pay my way, honestly I did, but gave in a bit too quickly, as I realised I could quite do with saving my pound coins for parking for Graves junior parkrun the next day.  I’ll pay another time.  Probably.  I did appreciate it though.  A lot.  See earlier reference above about howa exceedingly grateful I am for any act of kindness, and today I was overwhelmed by parkrun bounty, what with doggy hellos, chocolate and now a steaming latte. Could a parkrun get any better than this?

We sat and chatted and shared parkrun tales and parkrun love.  They are going to do an Italian parkrun soon. Oh. My. Gawd.  Definitely on my wish list.  But then pretty much all parkruns are.  The parkrun world is our oyster indeed.  Whatever that means, and not if you have a shellfish allergy, then you may want another analogy to draw upon.  Point is, any Saturday with a parkrun is a win.  Every parkrunner knows that.

Coffee drunk, my companions had to drive back to Tring, which is a real, not a made up place by the way.  So I waved goodbye to them, and immediately transferred my allegiance to my namesake who was sat amidst her celebrating friends, armed with a glass of something bubbly and surrounded by gargantuan quantities of cakes, piled high.  You could hardly see her.  I mean she is fairly petite I know but even so!

I had to ask what the sign language is for ‘congratulations’ and it’s very jolly but hard to communicate in words.  I duly congratulated her on her 25 volunteering and pacing triumph, and then one of her party signed rather dryly ‘don’t congratulate her, she’s rubbish really‘ which sounds mean but was actually in context hilarious – but what made it especially brilliant is that even though I can’t sign, the meaning was self-evident.  It’s an expressive and rich way to communicate, nuanced and funny, it must be brilliant to be bilingual with BSL, it is innately expressive it seems.  Anyway, good job parkrun tourists, excellent rallying round our parkrunner of the moment and fine celebrating too.

It was time to disperse – just a quick check with the event team and my query about the photos that exploded my brain as I realised I was peering into the jumbled anomaly that represented the fragile boundary between fact and fiction and alternative truths.  Faced with the reality of this responsibility, I could do little other than stagger away reeling.  I can never unhear those words, or shrug off my responsibilities for being a guardian of the truth and a chronicler of history.  So be it.  It’s taken well over a century to understand this, but understand it I do.

That’s why all these photos get included whether flattering or not, it’s what the event team would want.  It’s unethical to try to edit history remember.

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You’re welcome.

but for my friend there was to be no immediate escape.  My camera has certain desirable attributes, being tough for one, but it can’t really cope with taking photos indoors, so I insisted on an outdoor photoshoot, and some nice posing, because shame not to.  I admit, the power goes to my head, but you’ve got to admit, it’s more memorable to have photos like these than the rigidly posed ones yes?  Or is that just me then.

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Oh.  Ok.  Probably good to know.

And that was parkrun concluded.  It might seem sad, but you have to remember it can all happen again tomorrow at junior parkrun and next week parkrun day will come round again on Saturday. What’s more, next Saturday is International parkun Day, 15th birthday of Bushy parkrun, so bring. it. on!  Imagine that, a world without parkrun?  I shudder at the very thought, and I have no idea what I used to do on a weekend, it’s just a void of tumble weed moving through a vacuum – if that’s possible, which I’m not entirely sure it is…

Thank you lovely parkrunners all, from wherever you hail.  And special thank you to the Graves parkrun team for delivering week in week out, you are a mighty force for good indeed.

Very tempted to get one of these to mark the occasion – 15 birthday limited edition barcode.  Rude not to, given all parkrun has done for me.

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So remember dear reader, however sad the world may make you feel sometimes, you are never more than a few sleeps away from a parkrun.  And parkrun will remind you of all that is good in the world, and all will be well.

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 this isn’t necessarily a recommendation, just a statement of fact.  Other blogs are available.

Before you go though, a final important message as we head into October.  Please don’t squish spiders.   Some are (almost) vegetarian too.  Who knew?  Bagheera kiplingi to be specific.  Amazing.  Also, rather cute.  See a spider, see a friend.  That’s why we are all wearing spider brooches now

You’re welcome.

🙂

Have a nice day, step out and be the change you wish to see in the world if you can, but at the very least, be careful how and where you go about flapping your wings.

BeTheChange_Gandhi

*though you could have a stab at an educated guess and say never-in-a-million-years, unless the person photographed becomes either infamous or famous in some way, which would be fab.  Maybe I should put a (c) sign on it just in case.  Hope over experience is clearly the way forward.

**probably not to be fair, but who reads this far down the footnotes to seek clarification on a controversial point?  That’s right, no-one.

***no.  Although the world is definitely not flat, so there may be exceptions.

****not really though.

*****Lucy fact, by which I mean I choose to believe this to be true.

 

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

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

Undigested read:

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

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

First some research.

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

super cool york facebook image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bingo not

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

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

Course Description

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

and it looks like this: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

international rescue whangerei parkrun

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

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

More milling and chilling…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There was a cute dog jogging along

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

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

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

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

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

All round again…

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

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

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

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Caught them!

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

jacob leeks mogg

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

Of course I took some more pictures:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good oh.

🙂

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

The bear truth about Congregating at Congleton parkrun

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Congleton parkrun.

Undigested read:

This could be another long one, so maybe have a precautionary pee first, before you settle down with a mug of tea or gin or whatever.  Not that I’m advocating having a mug of neat gin, that would be very ill-advisable, you should at least be supplementing that with some nibbles or consider adding in a mixer.  Though, for the record, I’m not medically qualified (astonishing revelation I know) so use your own judgement, but for what it’s worth, I’d go for a mug of Yorkshire tea myself, with unsweetened soya milk, no other beverage will quite hit the spot.  Each to there own though, I’ll never know.  Even if you don’t want to read any further, there’s always time for a sit down and a nice cup of tea.  Mrs Doyle was right on that score for sure.

cup of tea

and if you are procrastinating anyway, well, reading a blog might make a change from the usual four horseman of procrastination don’t you think?  It’s not social media per se, it’s parkrun research, that’s practically keep fit, which comes under the category of self-improvement.

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Where was I, oh yes, Congleton.  It’s still just about parkrun tourist season, the mornings are not yet too dark nor the weather too inclement to want to venture out in the car on an early Saturday morning. I was still in search of a final sea/c to complete my pirates running challenge.  Shallow but true, and a vague browse of the various parkrun location resources revealed Congleton as being in striking distance of Sheffield, about 45 miles away or so.  Hmm, didn’t know anything about Congleton.  More research revealed it to be in Cheshire.  Oh Ok then.

Because the interweb never lies, and is the font of all knowledge, my next stop was the official Congleton parkrun website course description, where the blah de blah reads as follows:

Course Description
Congleton is a pretty course consisting of 3 anticlockwise laps around the mere plus 100m to finish. It is flat, on hardcore and tarmac and should be suitable for fast times. There is a small section on an access road in front of the Watersports centre but there is a pedestrian route painted on the road. A marshal will be available here.

and it looks like this:

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which is obviously a cross section of an eel.  No doubt the course will also be electrifying, though whether it will reach the wattage of the newly discovered electric eel recently found in the Amazon.  As I’m sure you know, and will readily recall at the first possible pub quiz opportunity, the Electrophorus voltai can deliver a jolt of 860 volts, much more than the existing record of 650 volts.  I dare say that the Congleton  course will similarly light up its parkrunners with the joy of parkrun.  Still, no harm in going to check that out for myself.

electric eel most powerful guardian image

On the subject of pub quizzes, yes we were, did you know the electric eel is actually a type of fish and not a type of eel?  I know, remarkable, who knew? I’m allergic to fish actually, which is a shame on account of my being a Pisces, but I’m not allergic to parkrun so I expect it will be fine.  Anyway, in truth, it’s more likely to be a cross section of a conger eel at Congleton, that would make more sense.  Can’t wait to join everyone doing the conger conga on Saturday, bet it’s Congleton’s unique selling point, missed opportunity otherwise….  On reflection, I was somewhat surprised they don’t make more of this point on their website, or on the about us section of their Congleton parkrun Facebook page. Still, nowt as queer as folk, I’d best go check it out for myself.  Bit of parkrun themed ethnographic research to kickstart the weekend is always a good call.  Hurrah, decision made.

So my alarm went off at stupid o-clock on Saturday morning, it was still dark and I did wonder if it really was such a good idea to be venturing out early on a Saturday morning. Oh well, I was up now, and it was my plan, and I’ve always been conscientious if not keen, and I’d said I’d go, even if only to myself, so go I would.

By the time I stepped out of the house the day was dawning in gorgeous gloriousness!  I love this time of year and this time of day.  Mornings are awesome, pink sky, promise of autumnal sunshine, this was going to be epic. Off I went, and the drive was fantastic.  Heading off towards Bakewell, there was quite a thick mist which gave a surreal other worldly look to the drive.  Then as I ascended over moors in the general direction of Buxton the views were just stunning.  Bright sunshine illuminating huge expanses of moor and hills. Although the purple heather has died back to brown now, it looked like copper under the early morning sunlight, it was the sort of view that lifts your heart and makes you happy to have ventured out.  It was like going on an impromptu holiday. I didn’t get any decent shots because the roads were windy and there were a lot of warning signs that you could die because of a collision at any moment – well words along those lines, I’m not entirely surprised, although there was no traffic, the views were distracting and if you lost concentration you could ricochet off a bend with most unpleasant consequences.  Unless you were will be Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, she’d be fine,  what with her wing and boat conversion options – but I’m going to stick my neck out and take a punt that you probably won’t be, so drive with care.  I did stop and take a couple of snaps, but they make me feel inadequate as they don’t really capture the scene at all, however, I showed willing, and I took the blooming pictures so here they are, don’t judge, just go check it out for yourself sometime, think of this as but a teaser, like a peep through the key hole to whet your appetite for the feast for your eyes that awaits you if you make the trip in your own right.

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Not a route to be doing in winter though, you are high up, and those roads are twisty and steep at times.

I’d got confused (doesn’t take much) about where to park on arrival. There was mention of both the Nobanno Lakeside Indian Restaurant for parking and that car parking would be available at the Visitor Centre on Sandy Lane.  In the end, I saw signs to the visitor centre first, and went there.  Because I am always ridiculously early (about 8.30) there was lots of parking at that time, and you are incredibly near the start, so it was fine.  However, it did fill up, so I guess it depends when you’ll get there.  I’d arrived.  Hurrah!  Always a relief.  What’s more, there was a ‘caution runners’ sign already in situ, so I knew I was in the right place AND toilets which were even open!  Phew, on all counts.  It was just 50p for 4 hours parking, which is an absolute bargain and enough time for even me to complete my parkrun.  There was also a coffee place, and a map of the mere and, allsorts really.  Quite a hub, with far superior facilities than I’d expected from the website, which is grand if you are touristing.

Paid up and peed out I went for an explore.

The parkrun location is a bit of a surprise, because after all the moorland I’d been prepared for a more exposed and wild site. In fact it is indeed a very pretty location.  But, what they didn’t mention is….

can’t believe they didn’t…

the usp of this parkrun – well surely unique I’ve not seen the like before, even though Sherwood Pines parkrun has a Gruffalo, that’s not the same at all, and anyway it’s only in the general vicinity, it isn’t supervising the whole parkrun operation from above –

is that the Congleton parkrun is overseen by its very own bear!

YES!  A bear!  How fantastic is that.  Taking an overview of proceedings thus!

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They must be so habituated to their bear that they no longer even notice it.  I mean, quite frankly I’m beside myself with excitement if I just get a robin in my garden, and when I got little froglets emerging anyone that made eye contact with me in the street was dragged round to my back garden to appreciate them.  If I had an actual bear, well, I think I’d implode.  Still, Congleton parkrunners are apparently pretty laid back about the whole thing.  I wasn’t though, I think this is a major asset to the parkrun.  The bear is Sandy Bear apparently, making this parkrun a mandatory destination for any parkrunners called Sandy (or Sandi, just saying, you know who you are).  Also, the bear is the symbol of Congleton, and this one keeps watch over the mere at Astbury from his elevated perch, like a lifeguard.  That’s what is says on the interweb so it must be true.  I’m not sure you should rely on Sandy to rescue you if you fell in though, looked to me like the bear was more supervisory than hands on.  Super cool though. An actual bear!

I could bearly believe it.

So, once I’d got over that excitement, I checked out the view. Which was lovely.  Water sparkling under the morning light, and Congleton parkrun marshals congregating to get the event under way.

There was a sign for the first timers’ new runners briefing, and an enthusiastic and early to post marshal on hand, proactively asking people if they were new as they came within ear shot.  I was new!  I therefore responded to the affirmative, and got a personalised welcome, and course description.  Three times round basically.  A polite enquiry about whether or not I’d survived the crossing from Sheffield without getting a nose bleed – a valid point, it was pretty high up there, very close to Flash which I believe has recently been revalidated as the highest village in the UK – although this claim is not without controversy.  He was extremely welcoming, and up for a one to one intro, even though there’d be plenty of other first timers’ coming in my wake I was sure.  I also learned there was an injured badger nearby, but the RSPCA were on their way to rescue it, so I hope that ended ok, poor thing, as if badgers haven’t got enough to cope with what with being pointlessly  and painfully culled all over as well.  I got a picture of me and the nice first timer briefing marshal.  Here it is, and here is him on his own, holding the sign with panache and welcoming smile.  It is the hi-vis way.

I left him drumming up further takers, as other runners were starting to emerge from the various hedgerows and surrounding paths.  The core team were loitering with intent by the freshly erected finish funnel, and Sandy Bear was surveying the scene with quiet authority as is no doubt the Sandy Bear way.

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I meanwhile went back the short distance to the car park to dump stuff. By this time the car park was pretty busy.  They had some car park marshals on hand to direct traffic into extra little corners of the car park to squeeze in – safely – as many vehicles as possible.  I would like to take this opportunity to give a special shout out to the hi-vis hero who was literally, not just figuratively, sprinting about waving cars into position.  It was very impressive, and totally worthy of a special volunteering running challenges badge for being a car park marshal.  I declare a vested interest in this, as the following day, I too got this iconic purple badge for being car park marshal at Graves junior parkrun – I’ve done the role a few times before, but not been uniquely credited for it previously.  I’m not sure if this is a new badge, or just we’ve changed how we name the various marshals on the volunteer rota.  Whatever, it’s a beauty, and I have to concede this car park marshal in particular was grafting in the role.

Car Park Marshal – Keep everyone safe and organised in the car park

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Here he is, and there’s a pic of his companion hi-vis hero, who no doubt was equally proactive, but in this shot is demonstrating in between doing essential directional pointing as opposed to actually sprinting around.  Directional pointing is very important too, one of those roles that is perhaps undervalued until it is done incorrectly!  Thank you both!

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For the record, I didn’t run around when I was car park marshal, but I did give out a great many high-fives.  Every car park marshal role has its own unique vibe and context specific responsibilities.

So after observing the car park synchronised vehicle dancing, it was back to the start, through the little gateway and passing under Sandy Bear.  You don’t have to wave every time you pass Sandy, but I personally think it’s only polite to do so.

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I followed the migrating runners to the start funnel area.  There were more runners than I expected, and the start is a bit narrow.  People squashed into the funnel with good natured banter and outstanding spatial awareness.

Some waited til the last minute, warming up for their parkhop challenge.  Remember people, you have to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  parkrun code and all that.

The start funnel got increasingly intimate, and I wasn’t sure quite where to put myself.  I didn’t want to be too far forwards and be an obstruction to other runners, so in the end I slotted in almost at the very back, and outside the formal start funnel structure.  A few late comers were sprinting up, and excited anticipation continued to bill as the RD and team came down for the briefing.  New Runners marshal was waving his sign to try to attract the attention of anyone who might have missed him.  I approve of this actually.  It is daunting turning up at new venues and if you are a completely new runner to parkrun, nothing is obvious and everything can seem intimidating.  This proactive welcoming and identifying of newbies was great.  I mean, you weren’t actually stalked.  If you wanted to blend in unobtrusively you could without being hunted down and outed, leading to you being surrounded by an enthusiastic but alarming crowd of parkrunners encircling you shouting crazed good wishes in a cult like altered state – but no-one could have rocked up and taken part without knowing there was someone on hand who would willingly welcome then and answer any questions and calm any nerves.

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The RD briefing was completely impossible to hear.  Everyone around me was chatting loudly, and completely ignoring it, which made me inwardly squirm but not do anything.  I’m always staggered by how rude some parkrunners can be at this point.  Talking through the run briefing isn’t by any means unique to Congleton, but it was so frustrating.  I hadn’t heard any of it before even if they had, and I also think just a base line of respect to the poor RD who’s given up their morning to facilitate the run, keeping quiet for 5 mins isn’t really a lot to ask is it.  Anyway, I joined in the clapping at what seemed like appropriate points, and tried to remember to feel the parkrun love for my fellow parkrunners even if they were apparently incapable of of the briefest of silences.  It wasn’t even a very long briefing, extraordinarily brief, and the call to start was bang on 9.00 a.m. too.  Thank you RD, I think you and your team were awesome, I’m sure everyone did, even if they weren’t proactively demonstrating it in any very obvious way.

So, the cry went off, probably, didn’t hear it, and immediately nothing happened.  It was a sedate start.  This bothers me not one iota, because I’m not interested in times at all at the moment, just going round and taking it all in.  However, if you are a faster runner or going for a pb you’d need to position yourself further forward in the line up.  It has the potential to be a fast course as it’s flat and once the runners spread out the paths are wide enough for overtaking, but it took me a good 15 seconds to get across the start.  However, good news, they may be a noisy lot in the funnel line up, but they are good natured, and there was no shoving, it was all very sedate shuffling forward and honestly, it would have been an excellent opportunity for a nice big collective parkrun conga!  We were all squashed together and shuffling forwards anyway, a few high kicks and hip thrust would have added greatly to the occasion.  They should at least do that on their Christmas Day parkrun, if they have one, or maybe their birthday one, they must have a parkrun birthday, every parkrun does!  Or International parkrun day, that’s coming soon, what better excuse for a Congleton Conga, as if one were even needed!  As if an excuse were needed I mean, not a Conga, Congleton parkrun unquestionably needs that!

They could get even more ambitious with a bit of practice, and get an entry in for either the longest distance Conga dance like this Ipswich group, or the most people participating in a Conga line on ice like the good students of Oswego don’t know how often the mere freezes over, so that would be a challenge, but who doesn’t like a challenge eh?  The actual longest Conga, in terms of numbers of participants was  the Miami Super Conga consisting of 119,986 people gathered in Miami, Florida, USA on 13 March 1988, but I don’t think that would be practical.  They’d run out of tokens and it would be a nightmare adding those other results manually afterwards don’t you think?  I mean I know hi-vis marshals are absolute heroes, but I agree there need to be some boundaries.  Even so, that’s my constructive criticism for Congleton parkrun for what it’s worth – implement Congleton Conga parkrun protocol at the commencement of the parkrun, that would really put the fun in start funnel would it not!  (See what I’ve done there?  Genius.) Also, I’m sure it would make Sandy Bear incredibly happy, you could probably even do a ouroboros round the mere, quite something I’m sure you’d agree.  The mere was made for it!

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I suppose the hokey cokey would also be fun, but less practical for achieving forward momentum.  So many options to explore, so few Saturday mornings with which to experiment…

giant hokey cokey

So off we went eventually, in a good natured train of unfortunately non-congaring parkrunners.  There’s not much to say about the course, it is indeed three laps, as long as you can count to three, you should be fine.  There seemed to be a fair few slower back of the pack parkrunners which I personally find reassuring. It had a relaxed feel, although there were plenty of speedier runners sprinting off ahead, already little dots in the distance as the cohort of parkrunners I was in started to thin out.

So you keep the mere to your left, and away you go.  Although the water is ever present, it’s often obscured by trees or hedging, but the occasional glimpses across the water were lovely.  There were a few ducks, swans and even…  I think seagulls.

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Fishermen aplenty (they did all seem to be men) but then again, it is a fishing lake so I suppose that’s to be expected.  And a multitude of benches, never seen so many.  Plenty of opportunities for a quick sit down if the mood seized you.

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The first lap was about just getting into a rhythm really, and finding a pace, though of course I was stop starting to take photos whilst pretending to myself it was a legitimate jeffing parkrun tactic.

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After a short stretch, you emerge at the restaurant which was where it was suggested you might park.  There was some parking here, although some of it was fenced off too.  But basically, those directions work as well.  There is the potential for traffic here, but worry not!  In the absence of Sandy Bear, a friendly marshal is on hand to direct and supervise.  I know this, because I stopped to take a picture of him – I try to take a photo of every marshal I see en route at parkruns these days, because they are often overlooked when people are photographing events – but I misjudged this, as somehow another runner ran right into me.  Oops.  I’d thought I’d moved way off the path, but apparently not.  Embarrassing, ‘don’t worry’ said the marshal encouragingly.  Just one of those things.  I clearly need to work on my spatial awareness, as well as my personality, shortcomings in my social skills; risking being seen or out in public and running skills.  I’ll add it to the list.

Onwards, and round and round, glancing sideways at the views, and enjoying seeing Sandy Bear from directly opposite the water.

I’d describe the experience of this run as pretty contemplative, it wasn’t particularly chatty, not that I can talk and run anyway.  And being three laps it takes on a meditative quality.  I didn’t particularly interact with other runners, although I did catch snippets of conversation between others as they passed.  I think we should all give a particular shout out to Caroline who apparently bought ice creams for everyone.  Generous, and much appreciated.

Astonishingly, I got lapped on the first lap.  They are super speedy these front runners.  Mind you, three lappers are growing on me.  I like that you get to see the faster runners pass, and it also means you have more company on the way round, instead of running round in glorious isolation once everyone else has pulled away.

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You come back round to the mustering point, which is now in readiness for the finish.  What a fine sight and vision of loveliness this team were!  It’s always amazing to see how many people it takes to put on a parkrun.  It’s an act of faith everyone coming together week in week out to keep the parkrun show on the road.  Thank you parkrun marshals everywhere.

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And round all over again, this time for lap two.  Hope you are counting.  

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This would probably be a good training route if you were aiming for consistent splits or the giddy heights of a progression run – a feat of which I can only dream, unless I started a a crawl.  It is a very flat and consistent surface.  I didn’t find it dull in fact, though I’d thought the novelty might wear off a bit.  How Bob Becker won his ‘race for the ages’ ultra marathon did 230 one mile laps I cannot imagine.  Oh you don’t know about this?  Well, dear reader, FYI:

The race consists of a 1-mile loop in Manchester, Tennessee, and runners only have a certain amount of time to run it—and how long depends on their age.

For example, Becker, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is 74. Therefore, by race rules, he will get 74 hours to run as many loops as he can, whereas someone who is 67 will have to start seven hours after Becker. This gives the old timers a chance to win outside of their age group for a change.

Even so, that’s a lot of laps, way more than three.  I can only assume he entered some sort of altered state to do so.  Mind you, great advert for jeffing, it’s all a question of scale, maybe if I can jeff a parkrun I could do 231 laps jeffed nicely, as long as I live long enough to be eligible for loads of extra time to do it in, not sure I want to live that long though, I’ve not made adequate provision for my old age as it is, even so, as a hypothetical aspirational running goal fantasy, I could do worse. Also, I’d need someone else to be keeping count, even counting to three takes a fair bit of concentration.  Respect to BB though, fab achievement.

photo-by-john-price-2-1567786340 bob becker

So I kept on running(ish), and by the time I made it round to the finish funnel at the end of lap two, there were some speedier runners romping home.  I paused to try and capture the scene. Runners who’d already finished were milling and chilling, and Sandy Bear was watching on from above, it was a lovely colourful and cheery scene.  #loveparkrun

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And round again for the final lap, which, dear reader you will already know if you’ve been concentrating, was lap three.  Always is here at Congleton, for parkrun purposes anyway.  I think it was on lap three that I did have a bit of parkrun friendship with another runner, who was being really consistent and steady, and we were sort of the same time with my stop starts keeping pace with her romping on.  Cue some companionable leapfrogging until my pauses for photo ops made keeping up anymore impossible. Thank you new parkrun best friend!  Happy parkrunning.

For the final lap, I decided to check out the multitude of benches a bit more. I’ve never previously been to a parkrun with quite so many.  It was fun reading the dedications.  There was one for ‘Rush’ which seemed apt, for runners, but the next bench along encouraged you to ‘sit a while, rest and enjoy the view’ and another to ‘don’t worry, be happy’.  All approaches are viable options at parkrun – everyone’s right to participate in their own way, very appropriate.  Every bench a store of memories, as well as a statement of commemoration and an opportunity to dispense wisdom.  I wish I’d stopped to photograph them all now.  Each their own unique character, set aloft on a viewing mound or moss covered, a great way to keep a memory alive.  Also, very practical, not only for runners in need of a sit down, but for all the mere side users too.

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It was my last chance to capture car park marshal man, who posed beautifully for me with directional pointing and gazing into the distance that would be worthy of a catalogue man pose.  Wasted at parkrun – no scrap that, everyone should be at parkrun, it’s never a waste to give up your time to be there, what I’m really getting at is that there’s a whole new parallel world of opportunity available to him – he could start with workwear given his existing expertise in high vis and take it from there.

By the way, no alcohol at this parkrun, not round the lake anyway, and not in wine glasses either – presume swigging straight from the bottle is ok?  Anyway, it means you have to take your milestone celebrations back to the coffee hut area later I suppose, not such a hardship as all that!

So round again, taking in the view, taking some pics. Yes, I liked this parkrun, it wasn’t perhaps the most ostentatiously sociable one I’ve been to, but it had a friendly and comfortable vibe, and it was indeed picturesque and great for facilities too.

Round three, done and dusted.  Into the finish funnel and the virtual embrace of the welcome back.

It was very efficient, time keepers clicked me in and barcode scanners were on hand using the phone apps, which I think are increasingly becoming standard.  They certainly seem to be efficient, but I find they make the scanners harder to spot, the bizarre advantage of a bar scanner on a lanyard, is you spot the lanyard wearing marshal near the funnel and it’s usually the scanner.  Still, using my skill and judgement backed up with the directional guidance given to me by one of the finish funnel volunteers, I found the barcode scanner who cheerily obliged and posed for a photo too, always a win!

And, excitingly, I finished in position 222, this is not only pleasing in the number sequence, but today was my 222nd parkrun.  No really, it was!  What are the chances eh?  I’m not going to lie, I’d have preferred to get my last outstanding stopwatch bingo number, but as that apparently is never going to happen, ever, I’ll settle for the satisfying text from parkrun that read as follows:

Congratulations on completing your 222nd parkrun and your 1st at Congleton parkrun today. You finished in 222nd place

Little pleasures eh?  🙂

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What were the chance eh?  Very pleasing.  My birthday is 22/2 too, this pleases me, even though objectively I know it all to be very random, still, where’s the harm.  We have to snatch what joy in the world we can, we live in dark times.

The weather was lovely, so I lingered a little longer to watch some other finishers and try to get the perfect shot, which it turns out is a lot harder than you think.  Here are some of the finishers behind me:

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and here are some of my attempts to get the perfect shot to capture the spirit of Congleton parkrun.  Remember, I didn’t say I succeeded, only that I’d tried…  Check out the juniors token sorting though, great bit of team work there.  Also like the looking out across the horizon to seek out the last few runners pic.  Everybody matters, it’s still 5k irrespective of what position you cross the finish line in.

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So finally, off in search of coffee.  Once again, I can report this parkrun somewhat undersells itself.  The official blah de blah says ‘Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee at the mobile coffee van – please come and join us!’ and I’m sure I heard someone refer to a ‘hut’, like it was some kind of ramshackle wooden structure held together with optimism and string, I was imagining a sort of Victorian bathing hut, like these:

it was almost disappointing to find that in fact, there is a purpose built, rather chic and sleek coffee bar.  Spotlessly clean and doing decent coffee and snackery, including ice creams enabling Caroline’s earlier referenced benevolence.  You couldn’t get a cooked breakfast, but there were toasties.  If the posters are anything to go by, they are very hot on identifying potential allergens, though the crustacea on their posters look way too cute to eat anyway.

I had a coffee from them,  and a banana I’d brought with me.  People sat in the autumn sunshine catching up, it had a nice social feel to it, and I think if this was your local parkrun you’d soon make friends if you wanted to.  The glass panels did make it look as if the people eating outside were actually entombed in if not a glass dome as such, then at the very least a terrarium.  They looked happy enough though, but then I suppose parkrun is really it’s own self contained ecosystem when operating at its finely tuned best, as is clearly the case here at Congleton parkrun.

And that was that, time to go home, I departed just as the Dogfather (see what he’s done there) was gathering some hounds around him for some sort of instructional dog related activity.  It was all happening here.

Mission accomplished, because also, rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, I am now a pirate!  Hurrah!  Pirates! – Run seven Cs and an R (say it out loud).  I have this virtual running badge, courtesy of the running challenges chrome extension, that I can now admire, like Gollam, poring over my own private treasure, though unlike poor Gollam and his precious, no-one else can wrestle this virtual trophy away from me.  No wonder he was such a tortured soul, I can’t imagine how I’d feel if some blooming hobbit tricked me into losing this.  Poor Gollam, he didn’t deserve that really now did he.  The picture is of me, staring at my laptop, admiring my new icon on my runners profile.  That’s how obsessions start apparently, we shall see…

To be fair, it’s a bit weird, because I am pleased to have this badge, really I am, but it is also a bit anti-climactic.  Perhaps I should have dressed up as a pirate or something to make it more of a thing, or maybe it turns out it was the journey to get this that was more the point than the thing itself.

So parkrun remains fun, although whether it is as much fun as a rat has playing hide and seek I just don’t know.  I am pretty confident it is though, and you just can’t hear the parkrunners squeaks of joy because those sonic giggles are also at too high a frequency.  Yep, that’ll be it.  No other explanation would suffice.

happy hide and seek rat

Oh, and another thing, if you are feeling down, and you don’t have a rodent around as an emotional support animal with which you can distract yourself by playing hide and seek, and if it’s too long to wait until next parkrunday, why not just purchase an emotional support clown to accompany you for any important work meetings.  Like this guy did when they were being fired.   No really he did, took a clown along to his redundancy meeting to help break the tension!  It was on the BBC news website so it must be true!  The clown made balloon animals throughout.  Excellent.  I do feel if one is going to burn one’s bridges, one ought to do so in style!

Well, I say to break the tension, but really as an almighty piss take and give his bosses the finger, even so, we all know this is genius, and definitely now incorporated into my future fantasy leave my job scenarios.  Excellent.  And to think I previously regarded myself as a bit phobic about clowns, but now I see they can indeed really bring joy into the world.  Hurrah.  See, things seem bad, really really bad, but we can still find things to smile at despite ourselves!  There is hope yet, slim hope perhaps, but hope nevertheless.  And if clowns aren’t your thing, well, we still have parkrun, and there’s even a new one just started at Castle Howard!  How awesome is that!  Can. Not.  Wait!

But whatever your running goals, or parkrun goals, keep reaching for them.  Sometimes the struggle to get there is actually the best thing.  Case in point.  I’m pleased with my pirates badge, but also feel a bit flat.  It was both the whole point and pointless and actually, the real point, was using it as a tool for choosing which parkrun to go to next.  And there are still a lifetime of parkuns out there for the taking, with more every week.  Aren’t we lucky, aren’t we blessed, and isn’t parkrun a wondrous thing.  Enjoy the parkrun journey, don’t worry about it being a cliche, it can still be a thing, and we needn’t let on.  It’s a Woodland Trust picture by the way,  I know, a pic that’s epic!

keep reaching for your goals

and also, you know how I said I get super excited at seeing a robin in my garden or froglets, well check out this siting.  An eft!  I nearly burst!  You can’t tell in the picture, but it’s just over an inch long and super cute.  FACT.

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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.  Hide and seek with your rodent companion  of choice might be more fun, but more energetic too, maybe some power napping in the guise of parkrun research is in order after all…

🙂

 

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

Checking out the sea at Clifton parkrun.

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

Undigested read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ian Guest parkrun hero

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Precisely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

aaaargh

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

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

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

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

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

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

31 aug 2019 finish funnel

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

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

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

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

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

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

… you won’t believe this….

a respectful and attentive silence!

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

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

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

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

And ‘go!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rhetorical question, of course they are!

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

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

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

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

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

Then round