Posts Tagged With: percy pud

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmasss. Percy Pud 2017.

Percy pud 2017

Digested read:  has to be done.  Percy Pud 2017, nearly bottled it, then found out about the commemorative 25th anniversary T-shirt so as I’m shallow that was me back in.  Was quietly dreading the freezing start and drudgery of an icy road, but you know what, it was fab.u.lous.  Of course it was, it always is.   With it, the countdown for a Sheffield Christmas was properly underway, ready or not, it’s started.   You might as well try to hold back the tide, way better to just go with the flow.  Bravo all.  Same time next year?

Whether we choose to embrace them or not, the Winterval weeks are all about traditions.   Whether that is the relatively innocuous tradition of being required to don a festive Christmas jumper at work ‘because it’s for charity and you don’t want to be wearing the Scrooge placard for the rest of the year now do you?’; the more serious one of ending up in A&E on Christmas morning because you dropped a giant musical toblerone on your foot (substitute alternative injury of choice here); the massive family row/meltdown in a crowded, slush-filled supermarket car park because you’ve been clamped/ locked out of the car/ couldn’t buy sprouts because you came too late; the olfactory torture of being stuck in a store whilst a ‘christmas hits’ musak tape is on an 8 minute loop and the queue to the till is looking like a 32 minute one at least,  or the seasonal tyranny of receiving an unexpected Christmas card from someone you’d completely overlooked/ thought you’d agreed not to do cards with this year when you’ve missed the last posting dates to shoot back a retaliatory missive in timely fashion. Curses, the stress of it all.  The very thought of it is enough to make you implode.  Still, has to be done.  As sure as night follows day, some or all of the above will feature in your yuletide goings on.

Mind you, the primary school in Plymouth promoting a charity christmas jumper day in their newsletter did indeed put a smile on my face. Couldn’t make it up could you?  The tensions and complexities of the minefield that is Christmas made manifest.  Enjoy

christmas jumper day

Into this category of bowing to the inevitable, is the annual Percy Pud.  For those of you who are predominantly moon-based dwellers, or live outside the boundaries of Sheffield, this is an annual 10k road race, organised by a local running club the Steel City Striders, for which participants are rewarded for their efforts not with a medal on completion, but with a vegetarian friendly (gluten-free option also available) christmas pudding. There are festive trimmings a-plenty with santa leading the runners out and lots of fancy dress and general count down to Christmas cheeriness.  For seasoned runners, and once-a-year runners alike, the Percy Pud has become something of a Sheffield institution.

The Steel City Striders website page blah de blah blurb describes the Percy Pud thus:

We organise South Yorkshire’s most popular 10km each year which takes place on the first Sunday in December.

The event has grown in popularity from the first race in 1993 when 600 finished the race to recent years when the entry has had to be limited to around 2,200.

Such is the demand for numbers that in each of the last 10 years the race has sold out ahead of time.

The 2013 race was no exception, as the race limit was reached within two weeks of the entries opening, in 2014 this was 36 hours and in 2015 it took just 2 hours to sell 2,200 entries.

Why is it so popular? Traditionally each finisher in the race receives a Christmas pudding for their efforts. Food and seasonal music are provided after the race. Of course, the route is not bad either.

For many, the Percy Pud signals the start of Christmas.

There is indeed a massive scrum for places when they come available each year and it sells out incredibly quickly – though ironically there are always last-minute places available as injuries and illness take their toll nearer the time.

For my part – and I’m aware this is going to sound almost sacrilegious – I maintain an element of ambivalence about the Percy Pud. It is indeed a fine Sheffield institution, it does mark the start of Christmas, everyone who is anyone is there, it’s one massive reunion of not just running buddies but friends and acquaintances across the city.  It’s tough to fess up to having a few reservations about taking part. The problem is, I’d twice run the Percy Pud previously, and frankly both times have been type 2 fun at it’s most extreme.  Hideous and freezing at the time, but all that frost-bitten hardship and the humiliation of being overtaken by the bottle man quickly forgotten the moment a pudding is pressed into your hand.  I’m sure last time I did it in 2015 I vowed never again….  Then I couldn’t do it last year because I was working away in Cambodia and so you watch it all unfold from afar on Facebook and slip into a sort of treacherous nostalgia for it all.  I wasnt going to give in, too  cold, too wet, too much horizontal hail and too much roadiness, nope, not for me not this year.  Definitely not, I’m out, let others more committed than I take part.  I don’t even particularly like Christmas pudding.  Then came The Announcement and all change…

Sunday 3rd December 2017, 9:30am start.

Also, with it being the 25th running of the race, every finisher will receive a commemorative anniversary T-Shirt as well as a traditional Christmas Pudding.

Hang on a minute.  Let me just allow that news to sink in for a bit.  So you are saying there’ll be a T-shirt as well as a traditional Christmas PUdding? This is a game changer, only once in a quarter of a century will there be this option.  Bring it on.  I’m fickle, I’ll hold my hand up to being shallow, I’m so in now.  I’ll run for a T-shirt, even though it will probably be deeply unflattering, a male cut and not really fit properly anyway. These are but minor consideration compared to the kudos of a trophy like that.  Frankly, I’ve run for a lot less.

So, once entries opened on-line back on the 1st October I was lurking over the keyboard like the most sinister of online trolls. Waiting for my moment to pounce. Because of problems with registering in previous years the organisers brought in a new online booking system.  I thought it worked well.  If you logged in at or after the alloted time the system went live, you were randomly allocated a queue place in line with the number of available places for the event, you were given an estimated waiting time for when you’d be able to enter and then a 15 minute window to do so when it came around.  Worked for me. There was the – also traditional – usual flack from some who seem to think what is basically a local running club should have the IT booking systems of the international olympic committee  moaning about glitches, but to me that seems unfair.  Most people did get through eventually, and there were still places to be taken the following day.  There is no perfect system, and the event might fairly be said to have become a victim of its own success, but it seemed pretty smooth to me. Plus, it’s surely part of the Percy Pud ritual that you have to scrap to get in it.  It would be like doing musical chairs without taking away a chair each time. Yes, it’s stressful, but the exasperating tension about how the challenge will unfold all part of the fun!

After the succesful entry came the waiting, and the buyer’s remorse.  Life events and an annoying niggle meant I hardly did any of the training I was hoping for.  In fact in the month before the Percy Pud I managed a solitary XC run and a parkrun (I think) and that was it.  Fairly pitiful.  To fuel my growing unease was the ever growing survivors guilt.  Other runners truly gutted at having to pull out due to more obvious injury or illness.  The practicalities of it started to weigh me down. What about parking? How will I get there? What if I don’t know anyone?  What was I thinking?  What if I fall in the ice?  What if I can’t fit into my Smiley Paces running vest anymore?  Also, now I come to think of it, where is my number anyway?  I’ve just moved house, can’t find anything, disaster.  Hang on, no found it!  Phew…

Mercifully, I eventually came to my senses, reminding myself I only ever run to complete rather than compete so really it’d be fine. Then (of course) my Smiley Paces running buddies delivered up opportunities to share a lift.  It’s not that I’m actually incapable of driving there, but parking is a nightmare and it’s a lot more fun going with others – apart from that one time when we arrived early to watch the pouring rain pounding the windscreen of the car and my over-enthusiastic smiley buddies announced ‘oh good, we’ve still got a good twenty minutes to warm up‘ and they weren’t even joking!  I know.  This is what comes of hanging out with proper runners.

This year, I headed over to join some running buddies coming from Greystones.  The morning was actually pretty mild, with just a gentle drizzle in the air, pretty good for running.  We were three smilies and a designated driver (thank you), and after a brief delay for finishing off of breakfast, precautionary pees (that was me, and I was really awkward about it too, insisting the bike was moved so I could shut the door of the loo before I did so, me and my bashful bladder eh, sorry guys) and general faffing we boarded our tour bus. It wasn’t an actual tour bus, but it felt like it was, what with it being a shared adventure and everything.

Knowing parking would be a challenge the plan was to park a reasonable distance away from the event and facing homewards to allow for a speedier getaway.  As a consequence fo this we basically parked in Chesterfield I think.  En route, we passed a couple of runners who we joked must be running to the Percy Pud, only to have our collective smiles comprehensively wiped when we later saw that indeed they were, having come across from Fulwood.  I did clock that one of them was wearing a marathon kit bag, so that sort of explained their commitment to distance running. Then I felt a bit sick, as strictly speaking, that ought to be me then, but it never crossed my mind that I’d want to rack up an extra 8 miles with a race in between to get my long run in.  I really need to up my game and get my injuries sorted so I can crack on with a proper training regime… if I’m ever to make it to the start line of London next year, let alone the finish.

Parked up, we clambered up the hill to the start. This is when the fun commenced.  Yes we were having fun already.  There was not the biting chill wind of previous years more reminiscent of ill-fated trips to the antarctic than joyful sporting events.  Rather there was a merry trail of trainer-wearing people, many adorned with festive trimmings and sunny smiles all ready to take the 10k on.

On arrival, there wasn’t much to do, you pre-register, so other than dumping stuff in the tent and admiring the very fine bespoke marshal tops that certain officials were sporting it was just a question of joining the queue for the portaloos and trying to see people you knew.  I suppose some people did earnest warm ups, but I stuck with the spotting friends and going over for group selfies options.  Well, I needed to save my energy for the actual run, plus, if it’s not on Facebook it didn’t happen.  Of course it needs to be on Strava too as the gold standard of proof, but nothing wrong with belt and braces approach at an event as critical to the Sheffield running calendar as this one.

I managed to spot a couple of familiar faces, one an injured Smiley/Strider hybrid, with a knack for a fine selfie, and my new best friends forever bonded as we are through shared TNT XC exploits.  It is brilliant how you see sooooooooooooooooooo many people you know from the broader running and running related constituencies of Sheffield.  Loads of familiar faces from parkrun, Trust 10, The Trunce, RSR everything and anything really.  All incredibly friendly and good spirited.  Most people are nice you know, running people especially.

Various shots were taken to prove our individual and collective attendance, and then as time was short we joined the process to the start.  While we were waiting, there was still time to practise a bit of running form to get in the mood.  Remember people, running is basically a one-legged sport.

practising running technique CS

I’ve not been able to get to woodrun for a while, and I think it’s just possible it’s taken its toll, I think my form may just possibly have suffered somewhat due to my extended absence.  Ooops, hope I don’t bring shame and dishonour to my accelerate mentors…  I like to think they’ve seen worse, but then again, someone has to be at the bottom of the heap.  I know this to my cost.  I was once at a gym induction and was explaining to the pre-adolescent in charge that I struggled to use some of the weights machines as they didn’t seem to be able to adjust to my proportions ‘on no, you’ll be fine, they can do all sorts of weird shaped people‘ she cheerily retorted, attempting to put me at ease in accordance with requirement 4.7.2 of her NVQ competency recording book no doubt, only to have her face fall as I plonked myself in situ, and to blurt out unbidden ‘OMG – you really do have ridiculously short arms and legs!’ and I’m not even exaggerating for comic effect… you have no idea how hard it is to be me sometimes.   I’m only surprised she didn’t call over her fellow PTs in training so they could have a gawp  at my bizarre physique.  That’s what happened when I had my wrist examined at a physio appointment following a savage ferret attack some weeks earlier.  Suddenly everyone in the department wanted to come and have a gander at my novelty injury.  They must have been disappointed that there were so little to see to be fair.  Those sharp little teeth just delivered a multitude of near invisible puncture wounds, but did a lot of nerve and tissue damage in doing so.  The Grundys were playing with fire when they were keeping those potentially dangerous critters in my book.  Not that I approved of them being bludgeoned to death, even if Jo was down about being evicted, but I wouldn’t go near one again.  A ferret that is, not a Grundy.

Where was I, oh yes, fearful on the start line.  Along with everyone else.

It was a big start, over 2000 people signed up, and because the weather was mild I’d say we were pretty much all there.  It was a miracle I was facing the right way when the call to start went off.  It was a reasonably sedate start, it’s chip timed so no point in anyone shoving.  You start on a bit of a downhill, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good I felt.  I was really worried due to almost total lack of running of late, but although I was slow and steady I did manage to run the whole thing (I fully appreciate for some runners this claim may sound pathetic, but I do resort to run/walking when I have to) the only time I walked was at the water station, which is allowed, definitely, though I still had hiccups for a bit afterwards.

You head down and quickly there are undulations – who put the sneaky uphill bit in? Then you are over the dam bridge with the reservoir. There were cheery supporters lining the route.  For some unknown reason, there was a noticeably thicker density of crowds in proximity to the pubs en route, I wonder why/  There was also some enthusiastic householders our front cheering runners on.  It’s such a good atmosphere.  Who doesn’t love being cheered on by complete strangers, it makes you feel great, even if the generic cheering isn’t particularly aimed at you, you will nevertheless get glory by association as other runners alongside you experience unfiltered adulation.

kindness of strangers

Sometimes more organised marshals/ supporters gave personalised shout outs ‘Go Smiley’ (other running clubs are available) this guy with a megaphone was working hard at that as I went out and still hard at it when I returned back later.  Impressive.

JC vocal support going round

Then there were the groupings of festively clad children.  They were brilliant, ecstatic if you returned their high-fives and keeping up vocal encouragement all morning if my experience was anything to go by.  I’m glad Santa took time to acknowledge their services, I think that’s what he’s doing.  Hope he’s not stealing from them, the body language is somewhat ambiguous, looks suspiciously like he’s asking for contributions, or looting their festive red bag, rather than passing out presents, but appearances can be deceptive I suppose..   Thank you nice Accelerate people for the use of photos.

Acc Santa

I’m not quite sure if he was the real santa, it’s so hard to know these days, and he wasn’t using the traditional form of transport which might mean he must be the real one as he has nothing to prove and can ride in whatever conveyance he so chooses, or could be proof positive he doesn’t know his Rudolph’s from his Blitzen or Buxom or Dunder or whoever it is.  Here are some other contenders, take your pick:

It’s basically an out and back course.  Generally speaking I don’t like those so much as circular routes.  However, for the Percy Pud, one of the great joys of the course is that as a relatively slow runner, whilst heading out you get to see the front runners storming back, led by Santa in his sports car.  There were marshals on hand also warning us ‘keep left, first man coming’.  The first man was extraordinary, so far ahead of the field, he must have run the whole thing on his own.  I gather last year’s winner arrived late so had to catch up which meant there wasn’t an opportunity for a direct sprint battle between the two.  Mind you, can’t remember where I read that now, so maybe I’ve imagined the whole thing.   I’m writing this up a couple of weeks after the event (no internet, long and dull but painful story) so that moment has passed.

Acc how to do it

A few minutes later,  another shout went up ‘first woman coming’, I was a bit surprised to be honest.  I mean there are some awesome women runners, but that front guy was super fast, and usually the strong men athletes are ahead of the first women, much as I’d love it to be otherwise. But no, it was true.  Storming through was the first woman with a little entourage of the elite men, it was really amazing to see them full on sprinting.  As someone who’s usually at the back I don’t often get to see that kind of action and focus, it was amazing, quite inspirational.  Inspirational rather than aspirational I concede, but stunning all the same. I stole this photo from somewhere, thanks AB for sharing.

First woman flying round AB

Not only did I see the great and the good, the fictional and the real, and fellow smilies aplenty, you also get to appreciate those who have made an effort on the costume front.

I was a bit under dressed this year I felt, but fortunately others compensated for my short comings with their grand designs.  I also think I had a pudding like silhouette by way of tribute to the occassion.  Channeling my inner pudding if you like, method acting at it’s best.

PH pudding run

Although costumes and fancy dress in particular are always a welcome feature of the Percy Pud, I feel a special mention needs to go to two of the fancy dress stalwarts without whom the Percy Pud would presumably be unable to take place.  It would be like having no ravens at the tower, catastrophe of unknown but epic proportions would inevitably follow.  It’s just not worth the risk.  I give you, in second place – the Christmas Tree.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong if you run dressed in a tree costume?  How hard can it be?

However, I think we all know the winner in the sense of being a quintessential part of the Percy Pud running experience, is the obligatory bottle of beer.   It’s not just sighting this which is critical for enjoyment on the day, for many it is being over-taken by it en route in all it’s glory. There is no shame in that people, just another Christmas tradition at the Percy Pud.  On this day in Loxley, many will be outrun by a 7 foot beer bottle, you aren’t special.

An honourable mention should also go to the bin man, fast on his way to being a PP institution too I’d say.  It’s good when people make an effort.  Fancy dress is always an option in my running world.  He looks very happy to have got his pudding at the end doesn’t he?

binning it CS

So as these runners were heading homewards,  I was still heading outwards.  It was all friendly and companionable.  I didn’t particularly chat to anyone, but pleasantries were exchanged.   Some expressed sympathy to me for being a member of a club with a name that put so much pressure on its members to maintain a smile whilst running at all times.  In fact it’s true, we do.  All smilies smile all the time.  Not sure what would happen if you didn’t, it’s never arisen.   Worth thinking about though, if you can’t maintain that outer countenance, you’ll need to find or found another club ‘grumpy gallumphers’ or similar I suppose.  Marshals merrily cheered us by, they were an exceptionally jolly lot this year, though I wasn’t going to be so easily fooled by the ‘nearly home‘ shouts as I was in my rookie Percy Pud years.  I’ve still not recovered from the shock of my first year of participation when someone shouted to me ‘100 metres to go‘ and I believed them, taking their call as my cue to launch into a sprint, it was more like 500 metres, I nearly died.  Some of the naive innocence within me died then also.  I do of course appreciate marshals still, but I am more wary and cynical about whether or not to take their protestations of either proximity to the finish (‘keep going, you’re nearly there!’) or course flatness/ terrain (reference Sheffield half marathon ‘all down hill from here‘ remarks).  I don’t wish to sound ungrateful, and of course I know such shouts are well-meaning and intended to be motivational but dear reader, don’t be too shocked to learn they are not always exactly true….  Trust is a precious thing, once it’s shattered, it’s hard to rebuild.

Thank you marshals though, you were all awesome, I did try to splutter thanks as I passed, but I know it can come across as being sarcastic when I’m struggling to breathe.  Glad Santa stopped off to see you all, you were definitely all good this year if your excellent delivery of Percy Pud support services was anything to go by.

After the half way point it’s a u-turn and back to the start.  The route seemed shorter this year, instead of icy wind scraping away my face as I ran, I actually felt a bit too warm.  It was lovely coming back over the bridge to see a friendly face – sorry you were injured running buddy, but thanks for the encouragement in the final stages.  The photo has the advantage of making it look like I must be so far in the lead there is not another runner in sight, it also has the disadvantage of making it look like I only just made it back before darkness fell.  As is often the case with these things, the truth lies somewhere in between!

dam improvements

Over the dam, round the corner, up the hill. There was still a fair old crowd as I approached the finish line.  Just a bit ahead of me there was another runner who seemed to be slowing, for reasons which now entirely escape me, I saw my moment and dug deep for a sprint finish.  It was really fun, I thought I’d snatched ahead, but I think as I ‘overtook’ she heard me and put up a mighty fight.

In our own small way, we were just as competitive as the first woman crossing the line, though she was marginally more photogenic at her moment of triumph. This was the winning picture in the 2017 Percy Pud photo competition by the way.  You can see why, could have been me(ish).  I’m sure our reception was just as celebratory, I can still hear the cries of congratulation ringing in my ears even now!

13-Kev-D-1000x677 winning photo

Last year’s (2016) top three are here.

So that was that.  Spat through the finish and slammed into the back of a very, very long queue of people waiting for T-shirts and puddings, because that was basically what the whole thing was about.  Patient marshals proffered puddings, and your number had a cross put on it to stop you turning round and coming back for more.  Only, there was a flaw in the system, as I went to chat to a marshalling Smiley buddy, and by crossing my tracks in this way found myself to be the recipient of another cross leading to false accusations of pudding hoarding.  I wouldn’t mind so much but I don’t even like christmas pudding particularly, even if I did, there is only so much christmas pudding one can consume!

Even more exciting than the pudding, was the first sighting of the proffered tops.  ‘What size do you want?’ asked a marshal.  Another corrected, loudly ‘irrelevant, what size did you order?’.  I didn’t like to let on I really had no idea, so I just opted for a medium.  Initially I was a bit hesitant about the muddy brown look of it, but you know what, this T-shirt has really grown on me.  It’s not muddy brown, more plum pudding coloured.  To be worn with pride by many and for years to come I’d say.  It could yet be one of my very few (two) running event tops that I’m actually minded to wear from time to time, this is high praise indeed. There follows a sequence of happy smilies with puddings and T-shirts and ‘been there, done that, got the T-shirt‘ smiles of yuletide joy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then, in keeping with another long-held smiley tradition, which extends to Christmas, I found I missed out on the semi-official Smiley group shot.  I’m always back too late for these after race picture.  Oh well.  They are still lovely though, even without me.  To be fair, this can’t have been the full Smiley contingent, there were loads of us out and about causing merriment.

smiley team shot

Never mind, there is a photo of me with my car share buddies post run.  I don’t know why it looks like I’ve photoshopped on the T-shirt, I did honestly get given it fair and square, but I concede the photographic evidence may plant a small seed of doubt in your mind dear reader.  I can only say come on dear reader, it’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmas, show a bit of generosity of spirit and give me the benefit of any such shadow of doubt.

photoshopped tshirt

And that was pretty much that.  Just the long walk back to Chesterfield to retrieve the car. The sun was out, the scenery was stunning, I doubt my photos will do it justice but hey ho.  Thank you carpool buddies for the solidarity, co-conspiratorial companionship and the free ride.  Yay us!  What larks eh?  What larks.

And that was that, all over for another year.  Another event triumph.  It always delivers the Percy Pud, it has a rightful claim to be known as a Sheffield institution.  Same time next year?  More than likely, I enjoyed it, despite my bursting calf and lack of proper preparation, it’s a feel good event.  I keep forgetting it’s basically a road run, as I don’t really like road running, but this is fun, it seems to have become an almost tribal gathering of Sheffield runners at a given time in a given place, to miss out on it, is to miss out on some of the annual bonding rituals that brings runners together.  If you can just make it through the stress of the entry system, it’ll be worth all that angstyness on the day!

Oh, almost forgot, for those of you who need to know, because I do have to concede it’s a race not a run – the results for the Percy Pud 2017 event are here.  To be fair, even though I’m not generally especially interested in the results, this year they were very exciting.  This is because:

Breaking news is that for the second year in a row both male and female course records were broken today and the club handed over £1000 cheques to each of the winners.

Local runner from Hallamshire Harriers Andrew Heyes took 15 seconds off last years course record winning in a stunning 29:42.

In the ladies race, Rio 2016 Olympic 5000m finalist Eilish McColgan of Dundee Hawkhill Harriers broke her own course record by 10 seconds by finishing in 32:32.  She also finished 2nd overall behind Andrew highlighting her dominance today.  Her time was the second best 10k time in the country this year.

That’s pretty impressive is it not, on all counts.  Wow.  Her performance even made a write up in The Star last year (2016), which is basically the Sheffield equivalent of winning sports personality of the year, pretty impressive, but not enough to merit a golden pillar box a la the lovely Jessica.  Good effort though. Jolly well done.

And maybe, just maybe, despite my protestations to the contrary, sometimes my inner competitive spirit will make an unexpected lunge outwards in a desperate bid for freedom!  It does wear off quite quickly though.

having you MH

And if you need to know the route, it’s here, prettier than you might think, with winter sunshine lighting the way.  Don’t worry about getting lost though, even if you are in the lead it’s still just a question of keeping santa in your sights and you’ll be reet.  Enjoy.

The route

So there you go. If you want to know any more about the legendary event that is the Percy Pud, you’ll have to sign up next year and do your own primary ethnographic research.  You won’t regret it.

See you there!  🙂

With thanks to all who shared photos including ste Smith, Sheena Woodhead, Carol Speight, Accelerate, and fellow Smilies and the many nameless others who took photos on the day.  It’s always fun looking back through them and reliving the day.  Some professional photos are availabe for a fee from Mike Hall photographyThe Star did a medley of Percy Pud photos as a video, complete with annoying background music.  And a late last minute find, I stumbled across this one from Mark Walton of the passing masses en route posted on the ‘Pictures of Sheffield old and new Facebook page.  Grand is it not?  This is what running always looks like to me at organised events.  A sea of the backs of people speeding away from me into the distance.  Sigh.  Memories eh?

mark walton en route shot

For all my Percy Pud related posts see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

Merry Winterval until next time.


PS bit of a cheat this one, am publishing backdated to 3 december 2017 but actually did the write up today, 18th December.  Life in general and lack of internet access in particular getting in the way of my blogging career at times, would you credit it? Some think such extended silence from me is a blessing.  You have to decide for yourself.

Categories: 10km, Percy Pud, race, road, running | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Packing a Punch – evaluating the Percy Pud Christmas 10K as a spectator sport.

Not standing in the hail watching it on the day, that would just be miserable.  I am, dear reader, referring to the extraordinary spectacle of watching the social media fall out as cometh the hour, crasheth the website.   5.00 p.m. today, Sunday 2nd October, was supposed to have been the moment that the proverbial launch button was pressed, the site went live, and the battle for Percy Pud Entries was on!   This is an event that seriously punches above its weight.  How else are we to account for the veritable shark feeding frenzy that is unleashed in the quest to secure a place.  Filial loyalties mean nothing, friends must fend for themselves.  Normal rules of engagement and standard moral and ethical compasses no longer apply.   It’s not so much ‘dog eat dog‘ as ‘this dog will hunt down and devour all and everything in its path leaving only the twilight aftermath of a zombie apocalypse in its wake in its quest to secure a place.‘  No really, I’m not even exaggerating (much)!  At least one member of Steel City Striders (who shall remain nameless) admitted candidly that ‘This year I will literally crawl over your lifeless bodies to get a place‘  They reinforced this message with an angry/ determined face emoticon, so they meant business!  Actually, that was relatively mild, at least they were only going to clamber over actual corpses, others would have happily ripped the hearts out of kittens to secure a place I’m sure (not explicitly stated, but definitely implied).  Trust me, securing an entry to the Percy Pud is to obtain a ticket for the hottest gig in town.  Which is ironic, as in all probability it will be the coldest and most miserable weather imaginable on the day, but it seems poor short-term memory is a pre-requisite for seeking to secure an entry to this race in consecutive years, that, and a disproportionate appreciation for Christmas Pud!

Oh hang on, I suppose I better clarify, though surely to goodness everyone knows about the Percy Pud by now don’t they?  Sigh, well for the uninitiated, the website blah de blah is basically:

We (Steel City Striders Running Club) organise South Yorkshire’s most popular 10km each year which takes place on the first Sunday in December.

The event has grown in popularity from the first race in 1993 when 600 finished the race to recent years when the entry has had to be limited to around 2,200.

Such is the demand for numbers that in each of the last 10 years the race has sold out ahead of time.

The 2013 race was no exception, as the race limit was reached within two weeks of the entries opening, in 2014 this was 36 hours and in 2015 it took just 2 hours to sell 2,200 entries.

Why is it so popular? Traditionally each finisher in the race receives a Christmas pudding for their efforts. Food and seasonal music are provided after the race. Of course, the route is not bad either.

For many, the Percy Pud signals the start of Christmas.

WHEN: Sunday 4th December 2016, 9:30am start.

They don’t mention that you will also get to see Santa, probably be overtaken by a guy dressed as a bottle of beer and if you are especially lucky, get to stand up close and personal to celebrity news-reader Harry Gration in the marqee at the finish.  You can’t honestly put a price on that can you.  I’ve not washed since I got a high-five from him at the start of the Sheffield Half.  It’s fine, I’ve got a healthy immune system, but thanks for your concern.

This moment, i.e. the moment when entries ‘go live’,  does indeed represent the official countdown to Christmas for every runner in the Sheffield, nay the whole of the South Yorkshire vicinity.  It was not, as you may have thought, the moment when I was in a Surrey garden centre last weekend and they were actually playing christmas songs (what fresh hell is this, we haven’t even had Halloween yet, this was still September).  Rather, it is this moment, when the final countdown has concluded, the slow hand of time finally reaches the 5.00 p.m. threshold, and the entry site goes live.  Thoughts turn to the challenge of acquiring a christmas pudding to call one’s own, the first hurdle is to secure entry, a process that for many can take considerably longer, and require rather more stamina than the race itself.  It seems the Percy Pud Christmas Puddings are to runners what catnip is to our feline friends.  They will do anything, and I mean anything to acquire a place…

Last year (2015) this race sold out in two hours, rewarding couch potatoes like me, who were sat on the sofa mainlining mars bars, whilst watching the telly, over the really committed athletes out on some epic masochistic road run that evening, who returned too late to nab a place.   Life can be cruel at times it seems, but who ever said it would be fair?


It isn’t always the fastest runners that reach the start line, let alone finish first at the end.  I’m sure there’s a wise saying there somewhere, but I can’t be bothered to think of one right now.  There’s the old ‘slow and steady’ one of course, but I’ve recently found out that’s only half the quote!  I know, who knew?  The full one is “..slow and steady wins the race, till truth and talent claim their place.”  Apparently.  I hope it isn’t true, it messes with my mind.  In fact, it messes with my mind almost as much as the notion that given a head start, a snail could beat the most elite of runners in any race.  This was explained on radio 4 at great length in a programme on ‘infinity’ and I just thought my brain would implode, or maybe explode.  One or the other, and it would be messy.  It’s Zeno’s paradox, good luck with figuring that out.  It’s never worked for me – but then again I do always commence my runs at the back of the line up, maybe if I edged to the front of the throng at parkrun now and again my whole running trajectory would have taken on a quite different arc…  What might have been, if only I’d got a philosopher’s mind…  Oh well, here is a gratuitous snail shot in the interim.


So, what’s my point?  My point is, that in the build up to the moment when entries went live, there was much fanning of the frenzy of anticipation.  Think of the battle for one of Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets in ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ but with higher stakes.  Erm, oh, I don’t know, maybe imagine you are not so much seeking an entry for a fun and festive 10k, more securing an organ transplant for not so much a beloved relative, but for your actual self.  It is seemingly impossible to over-state just how much these places were coveted.  Yep, think of a cross between the last available golden ticket and a new organ of choice for your person of choice and you are only getting near to understanding the desperation people felt in trying to acquire one of only 2,200 running places.  You’d think that it was the only way on earth to get a Christmas Pudding, and further more, that most people actually like them.  I know!  Curiouser and curiouser!


Facebook posts, twitter no doubt for those savvy enough to engage with that, every running club I know of sent out reminders to ensure that cometh the hour, cometh the entrants.  Five, four, three, two one…  not so much blast off, as ‘oh blast!’  The website it seemed crasheth, and did so to spectacular effect.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Basically, the computer said no.  A lot.  For a very long time.

Initially, there was a bit of good-natured incredulity, but, dear reader, frustration built, and the mood turned. Now this is basically where I have to hold up my hand and admit I am essentially a bad person.  I am a bad person because, as a spectator sport,  I found watching the hysteria build to fever pitch because of an IT glitch was pretty entertaining.  Granted, I can’t do Percy Pud this year, for reasons I’ll come to at a later date, maybe… so I had less immediately emotionally invested in the battle to join the starting line up, but I am sufficiently engaged in the whole Percy Pud anticipatory build up that I was interested to see how people fared in their shots at getting in.

For the record, I am sorry that I can’t run this year, because after all it is such a Sheffield Institution, but if I’m really honest, there may also be a smidgen of relief in there.  It has been sooooooooooo very cold and wet when I’ve done it.   It is fun, for sure, but I shudder at the memory of peering out of the event marquee at the start last year, watching stair rods of rain plunge down from the sky like shards of ice thrown to the earth by a vengeful god.  I did enjoy the actual race it is true, during it, because miraculously the sun came out, and indeed afterwards when I was no longer required to keep on running.  However, I cannot tell a lie, I most definitely entertained the near sacrilegious thought of ‘never again‘ whilst waiting for the off….  Even so, you can’t not be caught up in the anticipatory excitement of it all, and I was stalking various Facebook pages to see who’d get in as the countdown reached its climax.

With only 2,200 places up for grabs the competition was sure to be fierce.  Now the thing is, the thing that makes me a bad person is, that in terms of a spectator sport, it was quite hilarious watching reactions unfold on social media.  There were the nonplussed who assumed they themselves were liable due to their own deficiencies in technical understanding, those in denial, ‘it’ll be reyt soon enough‘ the incredulous ‘what, again!’ because they’d had problems with the technology last year as well, and those who used humour as the coping strategy to carry them through the torments of uncertainty.  This post is a tribute to you all.  I thank you, for providing me with a full Sunday evening of entertainment.

Reader, all of human emotion was laid bare that night.  Want to know the depths of feeling, despair, rage, disappointment, forgiveness, blame that people can display, well look no further.  I felt I was watching Armageddon itself, and this catastrophe alas did not bring out the best in all.  It doesn’t bode well if there is an actual zombie apocalypse, mob rule took over with depressing speed.

The panic hitting of the refresh buttons apparently contributed to the server meltdown.  Did potential entrants not realise that every time they hit refresh a kitten somewhere was kicked to oblivion?

Some confusion was understandable, because for a while at least it was possible to see a list of ‘entries so far’ and it seemed that one entrant had got through?  How was this possible, some held this up as a beacon of hope – if one had made it, others might follow.  Others suspected corruption and contacts ‘do they work for fr systems?’  The emerging conspiracy theories made holocaust deniers seem mild-tempered and rational by comparison. I was fearful a whole vigilante mob might yet be roused to hunt him down and take him out (not for dinner, the bad sort of being ‘taken out’, though being taken out for dinner can of course also be pretty tortuous in the wrong company). However, it seems the reality was rather more prosaic.  It was last year’s winner, the only person guaranteed an entry the following year apparently.  Personally, I’m a bit miffed this honour is not extended to the female winner as well, or maybe it is, but they haven’t been added yet.  It was quite comical seeing the reactions to this revelation though.  People doing the equivalent of screaming into the void, unheard, in outrage at this further injustice rubbing salt into their already open, sore and oozing wounds….

Some people took to the couch potato life with ease, settling down to sit it out (literally and metaphorically) too scared to leave their computers for fear of missing a window of opportunity when the server came back up.  One or two brave souls actually LEFT TO GO FOR  A RUN, figuring they’d come back later when it was all sorted.  Yes, gaining moral high ground, but whoa that was a high risk (though on this occasion successful) strategy.  The more productive elements of the running community variously did ironing, household tasks and comfort eating.  The more opportunistic broke open the wine/ beer with considerable cheer.  Others no doubt improvised by making running related purchases on Ebay or amazon.


Some became frankly petulant ‘didn’t want to do it anyway‘ (they were lying); a few resigned themselves to their fate.  Would they be the first to let go of a life raft at sea I wonder?  Others still perked up as they considered the plus side of not getting a place – you could spend that time in a nice warm pub enjoying the spectacle of the runners without any risk of having your nether regions frozen by having to run on the day.  A few lateral thinkers came up with alternative races, since they were all fired up to enter something why not an arctic ultra say.  What could possibly go wrong?  Disappointingly, at least one commentator had a somewhat (in my view) unhelpful rant about how this CATASTROPHE meant the event would be taken over by non-runners (I think he meant fun-runners, and probably people like me who are never going to break any records but want the sense of achievement to be gained from giving it a go). ‘This is disgusting … I bet actual runners don’t get in and you get loads of those WALKERS which seem to be invading RUNS these days!’  Whoa, where did that come from?  It made me sad to be honest, though I was glad that another responder calmed things down with a nice Buddha snap and a reminder that this is supposed to be an inclusive race with over 2000 entries available.  Serious runners might enjoy participating too – and there is an impressive £1000 up for grabs if anyone beats the course record, but  I find it hard to believe that really elite runners have this as their most important 10k in their annual cannon.  Also, if the race were to be over-run with walkers, wouldn’t that cancel out the effect of their slower pace?   Maybe it was drink talking.  The mood was turning though and not in a good way…  It is disturbing how quickly social media allowed a sort of mob rule hysteria to emerge!

After a bit, the servers were shut, and more speculation ensued.  I do find it extraordinary how heated people got, it was like they took it as a personal affront there had been an IT system failure.  I know it’s really annoying, I know you’d think it shouldn’t happen, but the bottom line is we’ve all experienced the extreme frustration of when the ‘computer says no‘, and at that point ranting doesn’t really help.  The organisers know, the IT people know, it will be fixed when it is fixed.  End of.

My favourite posts were the satirical ones.  They restored faith in human nature.  There was a spate of people outraged to the point of not just suing the race organisers, but threatening to pursue them for all eternity like an army of vengeful dementors, and/or demanding a pound of flesh by way of compensation with immediate effect. However, as a counter-balance to this, one poster gave details of his pooing schedule for the following day, requesting a hand-written note be delivered to him personally by a member of the organising team in the event of booking going live again when he was otherwise engaged.  Genius!  Plus, a much-needed lightening of the mood.  At least I presume that request was in jest, though with some of the remarks posted you do have to wonder…


Anyway, the upshot of the evening was, that there was an attempt to restart the servers and at this point a small trickle of further entrants made it through to the checkout.  Alas, then everything crashed again.  The race organisers, who must have been having the evening from hell, then decided to postpone entries entirely for a few days if necessary,  until the system has been stress tested all over again. They had already done significant stress-testing in anticipation of a surge of hits when entries opened, but even so were taken by surprise at the deluge of people all trying to enter at the same time.   Victim of its own success perhaps, but it’s not fair to make the race organisers victims of a vigilante mob as well.  I don’t think lynch mobs have a place anywhere, but especially not for a temporary delay in accessing a run on Loxley Road.  Maybe the Percy Pud will have to be renamed the ‘Angry Mob Fun Run’?  There is precedent for such an event I believe.


So, what have we learned?

  1. The Percy Pud is really popular
  2. The only way to guarantee entry into the Percy Pud is to win in the event the year before
  3. People are very intolerant of failing IT
  4. Passions run high when there’s pudding at stake

For what it’s worth, I think its great that the Percy Pud is so popular, 2,200 places is still a lot and so I don’t see why it can’t remain an inclusive event.  However, nor do I  see a problem with say volunteers one year being guaranteed a place the following one or holding back a proportion of places for e.g. club members, and so staggering entry a bit.  However, I was pretty disgusted by how much rage was directed at the VOLUNTEER organisers.  It’s not life and death, it’s a run.  You wonder who will be willing to step up and take on these roles in future if they have to contend with that kind of abuse.  It’s an IT failure, not criminal negligence.  Or indeed criminal negligee, which I understand is something else entirely. The race team were as frustrated and disappointed as everyone else, and showering abuse on them and demanding reparations like victims of war crimes did seem a tad disproportionate.  On the plus side, there was a backlash (can you have a positive backlash) of more supportive comments, congratulating the team for what they had done.  So not everyone on Facebook was a troll, some were troll-fighters.  Yay!


Anyway, latest is, the booking fee has been removed (good will gesture), and two days notice will be given before the site booking system goes live again (possibly next Sunday).  I hope for everyone’s sake that systems run smoothly, ruffled feathers are smoothed and IT issues forgotten. Let’s all try to be friends again.   Ultimately this is a race that is great fun, should be supported and even if it isn’t possible to run I reckon it would be a great craik just to volunteer for it and soak up all the fun. The link to the latest Percy Pud 2016 entry information is here though, in case you are wondering

Lest you think I have exaggerated the drama, let me conclude by drawing your attention to the press interest generated by the calamitous turn of events – the crashing website making The Star no less.  This would surely have secured the legendary status of the Percy Pud for evermore were it not already an integral part of the history of running in Sheffield as any local (worth talking to) would be able to confirm.  HUGE demand indeed!


So fingers crossed, it will be a case of all’s well that ends well.  In the meantime, I spent Sunday evening on the edge of my sofa watching the drama unfold.  So I’ve already got my money’s worth from the event … though on reflection I didn’t pay anything so basically I have to hold my hand up and admit to being a rubber-necker.  Sorry(ish) about that.  And to think previously I thought GBBO was exciting! Clearly I aint seen nothing yet.  Running for a pudding as a blood sport.  Who knew?

Bring on the Percy Pud, have fun y’all – if you think you’re hard enough!


For all my posts relating to the Percy Pud, follow this link, including an account of my 2015 Percy Pud rainbow run.

Categories: 10km, Percy Pud, road, running | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Percy Pud 2015 – the day of reckoning

You might want to get yourself a cup of tea, or even a mug of tea to be honest.  Tell you what, why not make a whole pot?  Or you could crack open a bottle of wine if you like and maybe get started on some of those nibbles that you’ve been stocking up on and (supposedly) saving for Christmas too if you are feeling decadent – this is going to be a long one, even by my standards, so make sure you pace yourself … ho ho ho or bah humbug maybe, you choose.

Truth to tell, I don’t think I really believed I’d make it to the start line of Percy Pud at all.   There was the unseemly scrap for places – selling out all 2200 places in under two hours.  Then in the build up to the race (gulp- I don’t like to think in terms of races really, the very idea fills me with fear and dread), it was like living through a tsunami.  Subject to the forces of a great sea of runners building, drawing back then returning with a vengeance like a great tide taking over the road ahead.  Bear with me, and I’ll try and explain.

You see, at first there was the excited Facebook chatter of a multitude of Smiley Paces high fiving ‘me too -I’m in‘ as they got lucky in the lottery for places on the night bookings went live.  It was like waves rolling in with the incoming tide, a gathering invisible force of as yet unknown dimensions.

high five

Then, in the last couple of weeks, it’s been like the sea drawing back with an unexpected and almost unnatural retreat.  Smileys dropping like flies as they announce themselves suddenly unable to run – not through apathy, but through injury and illness.  Not since the Eyam plague have so many people within such a localised vicinity been apparently rendered physically helpless and struck down in one way or another.  Shin splints, twisted ankles, dodgy hips, ruptured Achilles all took their toll.  Where is everyone, what’s happened to this sea of runners?

As an amusing (to me) digression, purely  because it made me guffaw inappropriately, there was even an incident not at our running club, but of one poor Rother Valley Parkrun race director who was blown off his bike in the wind yesterday, whilst doing the pre-run safety check.  Ended up with a splintered shoulder or collar bone or something so no Percy Pud for him this year either.  I know, try not to laugh at the irony of it: safety officer hospitalised, – the run did go ahead by the way, safe on foot apparently, just not on a bike.  That’s certainly true to the Parkrun spirit!

I myself wondered if I’d have to pull out after I dropped a ridiculously heavy pottery garlic bulb container on my bare foot earlier in the week.  Right on my  most arthritic bunion, I really screamed, I thought I’d pass out with the pain.  By the way, does anyone else have one of those?  A garlic bulb holder thing, not an arthritic bunion – or is that just me.  I was in excruciating agony for a couple of days.  I honestly began to wonder if I’d broken my foot.  Not as unlikely as it sounds, I do genuinely know someone who spent an entire Christmas Day in A&E after dropping a giant musical toblerone on her foot – she ended up in plaster with some broken bones.  Elevation and angst for me at first, but you will be pleased to know I’m  back to normal now, thanks for asking.

Right, just so you know, I was trying to find a photo (licensed for non-commercial reuse) of running injuries, I came across the one below.  I couldn’t not use it.  I think you’ll understand, it made me laugh out loud!  I could have taken a photo of my pottery garlic bulb holder and included that instead, hope you agree I made the right call…


Then I wasn’t sure of the lift etiquette situation.  A friend kindly offered a lift, but to me and four others, picking me up last, I did wonder if I’d fit in the car, or just have to stand waving at them as they drove past at speed on their way to have all the fun.  How many people can you squash in the average car?  Oh OK – Professor Google suggests quite a few, if you have some outside assistance, and don’t mind being manhandled like you are an inanimate object whilst wearing american tan tights, an unnecessarily tiny cheer leader’s skirt, and an unconvincing fixed smile – so maybe we would all get there after all, but not in my Christmas Tree fancy dress outfit perhaps.  Oh the anticipatory stress of it all – I really hoped this was going to be worth all the pre-run angst.   It’s so hard being me, all that social paranoia, running ineptitude and middle aged insecurities to deal with.  Amazing I leave the house at all quite frankly, and in my heart of hearts I recognise there are many amongst my acquaintances who probably wish I wouldn’t take the trouble to do so.  Such is life.  Hey ho.

As race day eve approached, there was a final roll call of Smileys who posted whether or not they’d be running on the great day itself.  In our own small way we were recreating our very own ‘I am Spartacus’ moment.  That is, as in standing up to be counted in an act of union, one for all and all for one sort of way, not as in getting crucified for your troubles.  Well, I rather hoped not, that isn’t what I signed up for….  ‘Who’s in?’  Loads of us, like that great tsunami thundering in, it seems a great tidal wave of us were going to be at the start.  Over 60 I believe. Some were fit and raring to go; others consumed with apprehension and angst.  I knew at least one who was basically setting out to run on two fractured legs, but decided as she wouldn’t be seeing a medical professional prior to the run who would tell her not to take part, she’d sprint round anyway and then crawl back to her physio/ GP later to be rebuilt.  Run Cheetah, run!  To be fair, it will take someone as gifted as that lovely Supervet chap to recreate her some bionic limbs, so maybe the cheetah analogy will help her in accessing the treatment options she so dearly needs?

Smiley supporters were also getting into gear, I was rather hoping they would have proper banners for us on the way round, and ticker tape and confetti to scatter on us at the end.  But even if not, we were promised a man with an empty IKEA bag at the start.  As we pass we could throw unwanted garments at him (outerwear, not knickers and stuff) which he would then carry into the marquee for collection at the end.  There was to be no freezing in the rain at the start for this solidarity of Smileys – (best laid plans though).    Unlucky Smileys who missed out first time round with getting a place, secured them by mopping up the entries from those who could no longer race.  Mind you, you do have to be a bit careful what you wish for – Percy Pud organisers had put us in some sort of order of ETA at the finish line, so at least one poor runner was now destined to be herded in amongst the clump of people in the sub-40 holding pen, good luck with that!  My number was 2122 – which I reckoned must be pretty much the back-marker, lawks a lordy, I hoped I wouldn’t be quite that slow.  Maybe I was the only one who didn’t lie about my expected finish time on the online entry form!   Thoughts crashed through my head the night before.  I distracted myself by pre-pinning my number on my Smiley vest – doesn’t it look fab!  I think the slightly out of focus effect is rather arty, and is suggestive of the blur I created speeding past photographers during the event, which is why I’ve only managed to find one of me in action to date.  It’s unlikely they will have captured me on film because I was just so fleet of foot, it is not at all the case that I was simply obscured by a plague of puddings overtaking me at critical points around the course.


So, race day finally came around.  I didn’t sleep, got up ridiculously early for my porridge, coffee and little rituals like the hair drier on the feet routine (I can’t be bothered to explain that again, you’ll have to guess).  I heaved on my fancy dress outfit, I’d compromised a bit on that, so I could be sure of squeezing in the car.  I waited outside at the appointed hour, and was scooped up, everything going brilliantly to plan.  Yay!  Quick chit chat with fellow Smileys and we’re away.

We got to our destination, the Percy Pud start, relatively painlessly.  Well, it was painless for me, because I just sat in the back and was transported as if by magic.  Others had to deal with the complexities of navigation.  Our designated driver had awesome parallel parking skills too, so squeezed into a space only a couple of hundred metres from the start.  Less encouragingly, it was looking grim out the window.  To my considerable consternation, one of our number said with satisfaction, ‘that’s great timing, 8.40 a.m. plenty of time for a decent warm up!‘  Turned out, she wasn’t even being sarcastic, it seems this is what ‘proper’ runners too.  Personally with nearly an hour to go (9.30 start) sitting in the cosy car watching the windows steam up for the next half hour seemed a better option. Anyway, in a 10 km event isn’t the warm up what you are doing as you limp round the first kilometre?  Apparently not.

After some discussion about what to take and what to wear, and where to meet.  We leave the safety of the vehicle for the icy wind outside.  How did I manage to delete from my memory banks just how exposed it is up there?  I even looked at the weather forecast for Sheffield just prior to leaving and concluded it would be dry.  Loxely though is that much higher up, it’s not looking good.  We plodded up to the start, some with more of a spring in their step than others.  The start set up is pretty well organised.  There are lots of portaloos, and a tent with mobile urinals for the guys which is a pleasing innovation. and looked a bit like the flight deck on a space ship from a distance.  There were also marshals at the loos who blew a whistle to attract attention to any queuers so they would know exactly which portaloos had become available.  When you are waiting, this is a genius idea, as you don’t have to play a weird Russian Roulette type of game in guessing which loo to queue for.  If you were exiting a cubical it was a bit more alarming.  I did vaguely wonder if that is how they potty train kids these days, you know, clicker training, they come to associate a sound (like a clicker, or in this case a whistle) with being rewarded for positive behaviour.  In this case, the accomplishment of using a portaloo rather than wetting yourself in public.  In any case, the consequence was I left my personal portaloo, a whistle and a shout went up just as I exited and I could see the person next in line start sprinting towards me in order to take up occupation in the same cubical as quickly as possible.  Efficient, but slightly intimidating to be honest. I’ve always had a bit of a bashful bladder, and this didn’t help me much.


Onward to the marquee, where we could temporarily huddle together for warmth.  For my part, I nursed treacherous fantasies about whether or not it would now be too late to offer up my Percy Pud place to someone else who had been unlucky in the ballot earlier in the year…  On the plus side though, I was amazed at the number of people I saw who I knew.  People I didn’t know were runners even, but used to ride with, work with, that kind of thing.  I even met an acquaintance I’d chatted to for the first (actually only) time at the start of the Tententen.  Apparently I’d said to her that I found tapering effectively was the most appropriate preparation for an event, much more effective than actually training say.  Yep, that does sound like me.  Pleasingly, she had thought of me whilst carbing up for today.  I couldn’t be more proud.  I also shared another Top Tip, namely, it is important to always don some sort of approximation of fancy dress – in my case this £5.99 purchase from the party shop in Sheffield – it makes it appear as if you are just running for fun and not taking it all too seriously, thereby lowering the expectations any spectators may have about your running performance.  This is good advice, but doesn’t entirely work, because if the rain was set to continue as heavily as it threatened, my face would quickly betray the self-evident fact, that the emotion I was currently experiencing and expressing most definitely wouldn’t be compatible with that of someone having a great deal of ‘fun’.  Even so, here is a dramatic reconstruction of my outfit, there weren’t photo opportunities today, and I drew the line at a selfie.  Also the proof is in the pudding.  In this case, the pudding prooves I did make it round, apprehension and all.  Yay!

As well as sharing useful Top Tips with other runners, there was the added bonus of a celebrity sighting too.   Harry Gration,  I feel like I know him because he’s round my flat all the time on the telly, and because I usually have a cup of tea when watching Look North, I associate him with comfy cosy things – kittens rescued from chimneys rather than shock and awe outbreaks say.  Last year he got roped in to do the prize giving for Percy Pud, but I don’t know about this time around because that had all happened long before I made it back to the marquee.  Still, fortunately, running is its own reward, I don’t need a trophy.  Mind you, I’d have gone a bit mad if I hadn’t got my pudding at the end (vegetarian friendly I notice, and I thank the organisers for this detail).   Actually, he (Mr Gration) must have got back after me as I passed him when he was heading towards the half way point and I had just turned around to head back.  He looked a bit knackered actually, but we exchanged a virtual high five.  So that celebrity exchange means we are practically related now, I’m well in there, mixing with the stars.   Couple of months ago I was happy to settle for Miss Piggy at the Wingerworth Wobble, but I’ve gone more serious now, and upmarket too by mingling with a BBC news reporter as well.  I’ll try and remember my friends on the way up…

After a bit, having enjoyed the band and the carols, inevitably the time came when fleeces had to be discarded.  The worst bit of today for me was, making my way to the exit of the tent, looking through that marquee opening to see a great sheet of rain pouring down.  I was decidedly low on seasonal cheer, what was I thinking signing up for this for a second year on the trot?  I slid off to the start, and (via second precautionary pee – I know it’s psychological, but what can you do?) made my way into the heaving throng at the start.

It really was quite something.  I found some Smileys and other familiar faces in the crowd.  Oh, another Top Tip for you by the way, some more experienced runners were wearing bin bags over their running gear, not as an ill-judged punk fashion statement, but with the intention of whipping these off at the start like a seasoned stripper, and casting them aside for the run.  In this way they would stay dry until the moment of off.  I do concede the potential appeal of this technique, I just worry about the turtles.  Marine life suffers terribly from discarded plastic, they end up trying to consume plastic bags in particular, because they confuse them for jelly fish, and the bags jam up their intestines so they starve.  I can’t help thinking there is a very good reason why you never hear of any marine life at all, let alone sea turtles on the Loxley road.  Food for thought you’ll agree…

There were a few friends, noticeable by their absence – may you all recover speedily and join us in the throng next time round.  It was fun fancy dress spotting – though not that many this year to be honest.  A mass outing of Christmas puddings was the most noticeable.  I was initially quite jealous of those outfits, because they looked roasty toasty and you could potentially keep your arms in  them and stay dry – but then again, they looked like they were made of felt, so might have got quite sodden and started to shrink in the rain.  Even worse, what if someone mistook them for the real thing, doused them in alcohol and set light to them?  Death by being flambéed wouldn’t be such a great way to go.  All in all, I decided I was happy to stick with my red and white tutu.  (Thanks to Finish Line Photography for some of the photos by the way, pretty good eh, I know!?)

Once in the start funnel, a miracle occurred.  The skies seemed to clear, things were looking up.  It was all good natured banter, not that I could see much on account of the fact that every runner around seemed to tower over me.  The crowd started edging towards the start, and then almost unexpectedly, the shout went up for off, and the wave of Smileys – and everyone else for that matter – was unleashed – ready or not, here we go, a tidal wave of runners moving like a force of nature down the Loxley Road!  I made the start, hooray, now just the little matter of getting around.


So as to the actual race.  Well, I don’t know if it was partly a consequence of the rush of relief I felt as the skies cleared, but I really enjoyed it.  I know, a first! Apart from the Round Sheffield Run (which is my favourite event ever) I only normally enjoy runs when they are over, and I am safely tucking into my post run carb and protein replenishment with free-flowing endorphins confusing my powers of accurate recall.  Today though, the atmosphere was great.

I remembered the route a bit, so that made it a bit easier as I knew what to expect.  I never saw the Smiley Spouse with the IKEA bag though, so was quite relieved I’d left my fleece in the marquee.   I wasn’t quite so horrified when at the 3.5 km mark going out, we met the front runners charging behind Santa on their way home.  (Though who was that woman that appeared to have even overtaken the lead car,  odd?)  That was hard last year, quite a shock indeed, I felt defeated before I’d even hit the half way point.  The Smiley Vest really helps too, you get lots of extra encouragement from spectators.  Also, I quite enjoyed shouting ‘go smilies‘ at the faster runners who were passing us on their return.  It’s also fun to see the real athletes sprinting in a way that seems impossible, though to be fair, I don’t think they’d be able to speak and run at the same time either, judging from the expressions on their faces, so I do have something in common with them in my own running journey.  I must find  some of the winners and swap stories sometime, I’m sure s/he’d be thrilled.  Some action shots follow, courtesy of Accelerate, thanks guys – went to one of your running workshops once, it was fab!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

High points: Smiley cheers; kids at the side holding out their hands to offer high fives on the way round; virtual high five with Harry Gration (I know, I’m so star struck); cheery marshals.  There was one who shouted at about the 500 metres to go now, ‘it’s easy now, just look at the top of the hill and let it draw you up’.  I’m not sure that really worked for me, but I greatly appreciated the sentiment.  The glimmer of a rainbow at the half way point, just before we turned back on ourselves; the view of other runners ahead, streaming over the bridge, as those of us at the back were still taking off from the start.  Oh, and the marshal in a lion suit (I nearly said ‘loin suit’ that would have been a bit chilly) who did a brilliant roar at me as I passed, and then said with considerable self-satisfaction ‘I think I’m having more fun than you!‘  which was probably true! Below the legend that is Harry, together with Race Director (well I believe what it says on the high viz jacket) Rich Dunk.

TV legend Harry Gration

I also enjoyed listening to the banter of other runners.  There were two guys behind me who were discussing trying to overtake me, I knew I wouldn’t hold out for long, but kept putting on a bit of a sprint to stay ahead for as long as I could.  They made me laugh, they were discussing tactics.  My favourite one was their idea to save a bit of energy so they could offer up a sprint finish, and make out they were really elite runners but had just started off a bit late for some reason.  Turned out they were honorary Smilies anyway, as one was running with his Smiley partner’s number, as she’d injured herself and couldn’t run.  I was a bit disappointed he hadn’t thought to take on her vest as well as her number, but I suppose you don’t always get everything you wish for at Christmas.  Hope that news isn’t too much of a spoiler for any readers out there.  The tooth fairy is a lie too by the way, whilst I’m about it…

Less good moments included: being overtaken by a posse of puddings, they completely surrounded me, and I had little choice but to give way with grace;  the marshal at the middle of the last hill climb who shouted ‘how about trying some running‘ when actually, I was trying at that point, in my own special way – to be fair, he was meaning to be encouraging, and after all he must have been freezing in that weather, so I appreciated him really, just with hindsight more than at the time;  and my brilliant tutu ending up as a Marilyn Monroe tribute accessory when we went over the bridge.  There was a serious up-draft both coming and going, which completely inverted my skirt.  Why this should be embarrassing, when normally I run only in my leggings anyway I don’t know, I think the ‘big reveal’ just made me feel more naked than I actually was because it seemed such a  contrast to the coverage offered by the taffeta and (fake) satin combo that I was sporting.  To date, this is the only action shot of me I’ve located – you get the gist anyway (thank you nice people at Accelerate for the photo).

Lucy running

oooh, hang on late addition – thanks to SI events photography  for being quick with capturing this sequence (I think) not flattering, but proof of my presence, and frankly you have to take whatever crumbs are offered in the race photograph department.  Besides which, I am secretly extremely chuffed to have an airborne shot – (I’m not that good at keeping secrets to tell the truth…).   You can probably tell I have a bit of a propensity for taking up any crumbs on offer, possibly a bit more than I should.  Oh well, might as well lard-up over Christmas now and then worry about shifting it all again in the New Year…

Ambivalent moments:  the marshal who shouted ‘go smiley – there are loads of you out there today‘ I cheerily thanked him, and then he shouted after me as I passed ‘not enough puddings for you all though‘  Aaaargh, surely not!;  and the bystander who also shouted ‘Run Smiley‘ which was great, immediately followed by a ‘Go Strider‘ to some other runner!  Split affinities can be almost as upsetting as split infinitives.  Let’s not boldly go there…  Having someone point me out as Mrs Christmas to their kids was also strangely unsettling –  it had never occurred to me that that was The Look I was modelling, my lack of self-awareness can floor even me at times.

The run seemed to go really quickly.  I amazed myself by actually running the whole thing.  No walking at all, at any point, normally I cave in somewhere.  I was quite chuffed by this, I’m sure though it’s a testament to the number of spectators and the fact you have all the faster runners passing you, you don’t want to be caught slacking, you are way too accountable on a route like the Percy Pud!  Marshals everywhere, they must have been cold!  Thanks marshals, you were and no doubt still are, all awesome!


A final heave up the hill, and I did indeed go for a sprint to the finish. Great surge of adrenalin.  Job done, and felt warm and dry too!  I got chatting to a friendly woman who finished about the same time, she might be up for joining Smiley Paces too, that would be cool.


Grappled off my timing chip and in due course surrendered it to an official in (a very fair and cordial) exchange for my Christmas Pudding (there were enough to go round, phew!).  Then it was just a question of seeking out and greeting other Smileys.  The ones that hadn’t already gone home because they finished hours ago.  I don’t really know how to describe running club greetings.  You know how dogs are really pleased to see others they know, or would like to get to know and go round and sniff their arses?  Well it isn’t quite like that… not exactly… but there is that slightly euphoric air of expectant enthusiasm mingled with appreciative recognition, and a fair few hugs – some more self-consciously offered and received than others  – were exchanged.  It was good to hear tales from around the route.  Also, to share kit advice.

One Smiley guru expressed enthusiasm for my choice of outfit.  This is timely, because she is responsible for sourcing and trialling new Smiley kit ideas over the next few weeks.  Clearly an important and influential role.  I am therefore pleased to say that she, like me, was in agreement that a logoed Smiley taffeta skirt would be an apt and awesome addition to our club running wardrobe options.  The only stumbling block appeared to be the issue of fit.  I was able to reassure her that no, it wasn’t sewn into place.  I am blessed with that ‘silken layer’ of excess body fat.  The elastic in the said skirt simply squeezed neat rolls of fat on either side of the waist band creating a perfect groove in which the skirt could sit securely.  Genius design, there are some advantages to my apple shaped physique, staying warm, and being able to hang onto tutus and ra-ra skirts are but the tip of the iceberg of the accomplishments I can claim based on this personal attribute. I am also very good at floating in the event of flood for example, exceptionally buoyant in fact, really exceptionally.  I’d have been fine if I’d inadvertently toppled over that bridge into the water of the reservoir for example.  Good to know.

We gently rounded up our travelling companions, failed to take a group photo as none of us had a camera – though one of our number spectacularly photo-bombed some other people’s group photo, which I found disproportionately hilarious – and then we made our way back to the car, clutching our puddings with pride.  As we did so, the skies darkened, the wind whipped up, and the heavens opened.  The timing couldn’t have been much better as we’d been able to run the course in the dry at least, but we were pretty drenched by the time we made it into the vehicle.  Exiting was tricky.  Our driver expertly got the car out, and we then we sat in a long immobile traffic jam, slumped in the car, with rain beating down on the windscreen and steam building up on the inside, going nowhere for the next half hour at least.  It was weirdly reminiscent of family holidays in Northumberland in my youth.  Long journeys in a car, shivering, gazing out at mist and rain and trying desperately not to ask again too soon ‘are we nearly there yet?’ Or plead for a loo stop.  Still, good opportunity for a natter, always welcome.

I was deposited back home, hot bath, bubbles, tucked up on the sofa with a cup of tea and no intention of leaving the house again until Monday, brilliant!  In the meantime, I stalked Facebook for photos and stories of individual adventures throughout the day.  So far, my favourite excuse for a poor (in relative terms,  it would have been miraculous for me) Percy Pud performance and no PB for the day was ‘remind me next time not to give blood just before a race day‘.  Love it – love it, moral high ground and great get out clause.  A few fellow Smileys offered virtual comfort ‘think about how much more important it is that you saved a life‘ or words to that effect, I get the impression that for this particular runner, that’s an inadequate return.  This won’t be happening again within the same time scales, future blood lettings will fit around her racing schedule, NOT vice versa!

STOP PRESS – presentation alert – look at these fab Smilies in their moment of glory.  Seems Harry made it back in time to do the honours after all.  Harry is a legend, an icon in fact.  Anyone who suggests otherwise is at best misguided, and to insinuate he was wearing his tracky bottoms the wrong way round?  Well, that’s just downright sacrilegious, let alone slanderous.  We all love you Harry!  Hurrah, all is well with the world, my cup runneth over – who needs a tooth fairy anyway!

smiley awards

So that’s that, Percy Pud 2015, done and dusted ’til same time next year!   Thank you Steel City Striders for laying it on, and especially thanks to those of you that ended up marshalling for two years running (pun intended) because you didn’t get to run again this year.  Your sterling efforts are much appreciated.   Thanks too to all the photographers for their efforts in capturing the occasion, and to the supporters for cheering us all round.  Isn’t the running community fab.  I love you all!  Well, I do just now as I’m in the warm, I might go off you a bit if you expect me to venture out in the cold for another run with too tight a turn around.  I was thinking I’ll just hibernate now ’til spring, and then start off again, raring and ready to go (ish).

For myself, if I do make it to the start line again in 2016, my goal will be to make it to the finish in time to be included in one of the Smiley group shots at the end, so far that achievement has forever eluded me…  Trophies you can save for someone else – mind you, I wonder if it is possible to consume a whole Christmas Pudding on your own.  They are microwaveable after all – I’m going to go have a look at the instructions.  For now, over and out!

23507713521_11e904c0b1_z (1)


Categories: 10km, Percy Pud, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Perishing Parkrun

Shackleton weather this week at Parkrun.  That is, arctic conditions, those rising to the weekly challenge of the 5km jog out, would not just be running in the wet carrying a barcode and wearing deely-boppers (optional).  Instead, they (that is I) would be navigating the ice, dragging negative thoughts round the route with them/me (what was I thinking? why am here?  Will I ever feel my hands or feet again?), definitely a test of tenacity to turn up at this week’s Parkrun….

shackleton ice photo

 Wet is one thing, snow and ice quite another.  My relationship with snow is complex but perhaps familiar.  Yes, yes, it is very inconvenient and cold and all of that, but the first snow of winter is completely brilliant.   The possibilities for sledging and snow angels, and the sheer breath-taking loveliness of it all  means at first you forget  about the no public transport and ample chilblains aspects of it all.  Well, I do anyway.  Being in an attic flat with insufficient insulation meant it was absolutely freezing on Friday night.  True, the temperature had plummeted anyway, plus I’d just come back from a trip to London for a couple of weeks, so returning to Sheffield I did indeed find as a soft southerner that it is a bit grim up North just now –  (temperature wise, not local temperaments).  And, it happened that snow was forecast, and snow came!

I was so cold in the night I couldn’t really sleep, and in the small hours detected that change in sound that can only mean one thing, SNOW!  That was enough to get me out from under the duvet, first trying to peer through my Velux windows and excitedly realising I couldn’t see anything because they were completely obscured by snow.  This meant I had to resort to opening blinds and looking out properly onto the snow-scape outside.  Not an entirely poetic sight, as mainly from my bedroom window I can see a car park, but the cars were most definitely covered in a good couple of inches of snow, and the garden at the back (yep, I had to check out every possible window view in the house) was more working towards winter wonderland status with trees having a good covering and grassy areas obscured with a blanket of snow.  I was so excited.  This completely put paid to any further sleep, and I spent the rest of the night, blinking, getting up periodically to look out of the window and check that the snow was still there, whilst listening to Radio 4  Extra.

By morning, some of the snow had disappeared, though I can’t fathom why as there was an icy blast that made it feel way below freezing.  I was quite taken with the idea of running in freshly fallen snow, but in the cold (literal and metaphorical) light of day, Parkrun was seeming a bit less appealing if I’m really honest.  It was very icy, and nippy even by northern standards.  Maybe not enough for wearing a coat on a night out, but cold enough to remark on it whilst waiting at the bus-stop say.

People often say to me ‘what possesses you to run?‘  I tell myself this is  because they are in awe of my obvious commitment to the pursuit of athletic endeavours.  If their intonation has a slight tang of incredulity, it is surely that they are incredulous at my tenacity, not at all that they are incredulous that I bother to venture out at all given my physical limitations which are many and manifest. Running motivation is different for all of us, so I can only speak personally.  On this particular day it was largely on the basis that  the worse the weather, the greater the bragging rights post run, so the misery of running in the cold and wet is cancelled out by the joy of going on and on about it later on. This though, alas, is only partially true.  Because you can’t win a bragging contest with other runners who are out there running too anyway, and you can’t win a bragging war with non runners, because they just think you are stupid for going out in the first place.  What you can do though is generate a healthy glow, burn some extra calories and enjoy breakfast more than is entirely decent.  Plus, a handy motivational picture on the Graves Parkrun facebook page reminds us that –

its only cold if you are standing still

‘It’s only cold if you’re standing still.’  This is sort of true, but little comfort to the volunteers, who for all I know are still standing in their fluorescent jackets immortalised in ice around the route at Sheffield Hallam because even extreme commitment to clapping runners en route wouldn’t do much to keep the cold at bay.  Maybe as the winter finally draws in, we need motivational posters for the volunteers specifically as much as the runners.  There’d be no Parkrun without them after all…

Venturing out of the house, it’s a lot harder to get about than I’d imagined.  Black ice, thick ice, icy ice.  I nearly went arse over tit (and not in a glamorous way) just going down the front steps.  My route to the park takes me down a really steep hill.  It didn’t look too bad, but was adrenalin inducing treacherous to negotiate.  Quite quickly I was skidding out of control, and for quite a distance.  It was that thing of being too scared to try and stop the skid, because I thought I’d end up falling backwards and cracking my head open.  In my third skid, I built up such momentum that I saw my life flash before me.   I ended up bending my knees and adopting a sort of skiing posture.  (Well, what I think might be a ski posture but I’ve never been skiing so who knows?  I have though met a fortune teller who told me I’d meet a ski instructor one day who will take me to Switzerland and teach me for free, so I’m rather hanging on for that.  I’ve been waiting a quarter of a century so far, so I’m hoping it will happen quite soon now.)  In fact, this change in posture, just created extra acceleration, and in desperation I did a sort of slalom into the stone wall of one of the front gardens that I was otherwise whizzing past en route.  The good news was  that this did bring me to a halt. The bad news was that in grabbing the top of the wall it began to crumble under my weight, and then I realised the house owner was watching me from her car.  She was very nice actually, asking me if I was alright as I sheepishly tried to nonchalantly re-erect her garden wall.  It is just as hard as you might think to reassemble a stone wall without drawing attention to yourself and the damage you have caused to it, especially when you have just that moment been witnessed crashing into it.   I made the rest of the way down the hill clinging to the walls at the side of the way down.

I did start to wonder if Parkrun would be cancelled, but figured that if so, the worst that might happen in that event would be breakfast, but without the running first bit, which would be OK.  Actually, that’s not entirely true, the worst thing would be being made to run it anyway, but without it ‘counting’ towards milestone T-shirt. This happened last New Year’s day.  I headed off to Graves Parkrun, in fancy dress, and it was cancelled due to ice.  My over keen friends insisted on running it anyway, and because I never really got the hang of being assertive, and I don’t like to miss out, I traipsed round too, it was terrifying ice and hills, not a great combination … but then again, strangely pleasing at the end. It seems when it comes to my motivation for running, it is sort of complicated and hard to explain.   I do think though that there is one line that is not to be crossed.  I have recently become acquainted with a new running buddy who has floated the idea of possibly coming and doing Parkrun but without doing the breakfast bit afterwards.  This is surely a precedent not to be set.  I’m letting it go at the minute, because she’s new, but it may yet have to be tackled, we shall see…  That would be the absolutely worse scenario.  Run in ice, unofficially so no time, and then NO BREAKFAST either.  Disaster.

Because it took ages to get down to the start, I was quite late on the scene, and quickly joined the huddle of starters.  We were like penguins, in constant motion trying to get in the centre of the throng so others would shield us from the arctic wind.  It is one of those rare occasions when I don’t mind too much about my personal space, hell I’ll cuddle up to anyone when it’s this cold, could be a good opportunity to get to know some of my fellow runners a bit better.


So this is what it looked like basically.  The penguins on the edge are the hardy (or noble and self-sacrificing anyway) volunteer marshals and run-director.  You can see what I mean about how cold they must have got.  Shame.

The pre-run briefing warned of ice en route.  Now, I figured I’d already had  quite enough near death experiences for one day, so I made a really conscious decision, to go for just keeping safe, and see whether I might achieve a PW (personal worst).  I would put myself under no pressure at all, it was quite liberating in a way.  For clarification, you might not think it to watch me run, but slow and steady as I am, I do try… not as hard as others granted, but in my own special way, it was quite nice to just decide to pootle round gazing about  and trying not to skid around to much.

In such a mind set, running became an exercise in mindfulness.  The shout for ‘off’ went and I shuffled out.  The first patch of ice was within the first loop, and I gingerly picked my way through letting most of the field stream ahead of me.  It was good taking in the white hues of ice and frost in the park.  I was a bit unnerved at one point by an unpleasant grunting behind me.  This can happen, noisy breathing runners just at your shoulder can be unsettling.  Well I find it so, I’ve been on the receiving end of a few near miss spitting incidents, and those sounds were suggestive of an early warning  indicator that a trajectory of phlegm could be in the offing.  In the event, it turned out to be a dog hauling round a more hesitant owner.  Generally speaking having a dog is an advantage at Parkrun, but I wouldn’t fancy being dragged headlong over the ice by a hyper excited and super-animated canine in these conditions. However, for future reference, you may be interested to know that at  Graves Parkrun they occasionally auction the opportunity to run with their resident whippet Lily, so that you can achieve a personal best .. presumably as long as your nerve holds being hauled round. Oh, and before you ask, in the picture on the right Lily is in fancy dress for Halloween as a Mummy Dog, it isn’t a case of dog-abuse, no need to get Alan Davies round to check it all out.

It was quite an education going round deliberately slowly  I decided (uncharacteristically) to try to concentrate on improving running stride.  I was listening out for my footfalls, to see how heavily I was landing.  confusingly, it took a while for me to register that there was a runner behind me who was I think deliberately pacing in rhythm with me.  I felt quite honoured, normally it is me parasitizing someone elses pacing.

The words of the foundation running group guru at Smiley Paces are ringing in my ears.  I  try to gain more speed but keep stability by taking really short strides so I can use my weight being forwards to help rotate through my foot and so quicken my pace.  This is counter-intuitive, but it sort of works.  Get me, working on my technique.  If my old PE teacher could see me now…. and gawd help her if I saw her first to be honest, but that’s a petty grudge that’s been carried over decades longer than is probably absolutely healthy….

Going round I realised I’d left on my buff round my neck by accident.  This means  I am running in a scarf essentially.  Actually, it’s quite comfy, but I don’t look hard core or cool donned in it.  ‘How very unexpected’, I hear you exclaim!

Inevitably, I am lapped.  But I am completely mystified as to how these runners have come round quite so quickly  The ice was treacherous enough that I resorted to walking and picking my way over it in places.  They just fly through as if the ground is utterly predictable and firm under foot.  Have they been running in snow shoes?   Surely I’d have noticed, though my observation skills aren’t flawless I have noticed the trees along Rustlings Road bedecked with knitted bunting (an attempt to raise awareness of their imminent risk of being untimely ripped from the earth for reasons that I absolutely cannot fathom).  I notice too that leaf litter fairies have cleared some of path on the outside of the park, but as you turn into it again it has become a slushy slide of autumn leaves churned by runners into an organic orange slick of high risk terrain as you loop back in.  All good practice for off-road trails of the future I suppose.

So finally finished, to my amazement, the zero effort approach has only added a minute to my usual time.  This is perhaps telling. I do have a theory that when the weather is bad there are fewer runners, and those that come are typically more dedicated so fleeter of foot, and that speeds things up.  Even so it is food for thought, I walked longish sections and didn’t even get out of breath, maybe if I made just a bit more effort, I could improve my speed quite significantly… it remains to be seen if I can be bothered to put this theory to the test.

Some companionable chatting at the end of the run. Catching up with fellow Smileys nursing injuries (shin splints, sprains)  Some are wondering if they will have to miss the Percy Pud, which  as regular readers will know is THE Event of the Sheffield Running Christmas Calendar.  To pull out would be terrible, especially after such a scrap to get a slot in the first place!  The fear is that running would worsen existing injuries, true of my Smiley comrades who find it hard to suppress their competitive instincts.  I suggest enforced slowing by dint of wearing elaborate fancy dress.  Something spectacularly unaerodynamic would work for nursing the injured home safely, maybe a Christmas Tree made of foam, or even a papier mache plum pudding would do the trick.  I am not convinced my ideas were treated with the reverence and seriousness they deserved, personally, I think this idea is genius, and would save a lot of taping and ice-packing post run.

We didn’t linger too long.  Four of us go heading off to breakfast we found our favourite café pretty empty.  Unusually , the proprietor is waiting tables, and we take the opportunity to we complain to him about the reduced portion size for mushrooms we have noticed has crept in since they introduced a new menu.  He looks crestfallen, and I feel guilty.  Though it is true.  I’d rather they upped the price and kept the mushroom portion size the same, but it seems it isn’t that simple.  Confusingly, we then go on to order what we always ordered anyway, scrambled eggs on granary bloomer with mushrooms and a latte.  Is there a different breakfast option?  I can’t see the point.  It is delicious, it is still our favourite café.


Buoyed up by breakfast, buzzing with extra endorphins from running in the cold, we discuss future running challenges.  The further away they are in the future, the more inclined I am to imagine they will be doable, because by then I will have metamorphosed from an inadvertent runner to a toned and perfectly tuned running machine.  Hope over experience triumphs again, Lakes Dirty Double? Count me in…  Here is a cheesy quote to prove my current optimism, however misguided, might yet be enough to get me round.  Well, it’s either the optimism, or the large glass of alcohol that also features in the image, that should keep me both dosed up and deluded enough to at least give it a go.


 Seriously though, what’s the worst that could happen?  No doubt I’ll get to find out in due course if my running history to date is anything to go by… we shall all just have to wait and see!  In the meantime, let’s drink to over-optimistic challenges, and find out what we are really capable of.




Categories: 5km, motivation, parkrun, Percy Pud, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hobbit wins out over Hares – Percy Pud Entry Success 2015

Running isn’t fair.

It started innocently enough.  Last night I successfully got an entry in for the Percy Pud. This race is something of a Sheffield institution, a 10k race organised by a local running club, that sells out year after year.   It’s appeal is hard to explain, I did it last year in freezing hail and have never been so cold and wet in my life.  However, you get a Christmas Pudding on completion instead of a medal, what’s more, one that is vegetarian friendly, and there is always a massive turn out and great atmosphere.  Plenty of people in fancy dress, Santa and his sleigh leading the show and, last year at least, an exhausted penguin bringing up the rear.

The Steel City Striders who organise the event warned on their website that in the past few years they have had to turn away over 700 entrants annually because it sells out so quickly.  They announced that booking would open at 7.00 p.m. on Monday 5 October, so  In anticipation of this being a hot ticket, I was poised and ready with my fingers hovering over the keyboard at the appointed hour.  Immediate fail.   The website crashed, and I found myself guilty of that childish quality of really wanting what I couldn’t have.  Oh no, I wont be able to enter, all the other smileys will be pounding round as one, and I’ll be shivering on the side lines like Molly no-mates all over again.  Clutching a sodden placard and cheering desperately others as they sprint past, gazelle like, not even registering my presence as my voice is carried off in the biting winter wind.

I amazed myself by how much I minded, and then did so all over again by accessing previously hidden areas of initiative and knowledge at the depths of my brain by thinking to check on first the event organisers Facebook page, and then thieir twitter feed.  Those who know me will know how remarkable this is.  Whilst not exactly a technophobe, I don’t do facebook (way too scared of stalkers) and the point of twitter has previously seemed to me to be completely unfathomable.  Just a way to broadcast personal idiocy or attract trolls.  However, I find necessity had me change my tune with a quicker turn of speed than I have ever mustered on an actual run!  I find that they have tweeted a different link that can bypass the crashed website and allow you to enter.  Da na!  The deed is done, I am in.

I didn’t think all that much about it again until this morning.  I noticed a flurry of activity on various running groups facebook pages.  Percy Pud 2015 has sold out in 2 hours – all 2,200 places.  This is extraordinary.  I am pleased to have got in, but I also feel a pang of guilt.

It seems a significant number of others have not been so lucky.  The injustice comes in the reason why.  The very event organisers had a regular Sunday run out that coincided with the registrations going live.  This means, that those serious runners who were out, pounding the roads and tracks and trails with head torches and resolve, and who delayed trying to enter until they got back home post runs,  were too late.  Sofa ornaments and couch potatoes like me, who from our recliners could try and try again to access the website in comfort, were able to get in.

There is no justice in the world at times.  I do feel genuinely sad, some people who volunteered last year and were hoping to join in this year have missed out.

I don’t know what the correct response is, but I’ve decided for today it is this.  I am lucky to have a place, so I must make sure I don’t waste it.  I will endeavour to train and truly earn my pudding.  What better tribute can I make.  Weird though, to find I have secured such a coveted place, it is luck not justice, and a rare moment of triumph for my inner (and outer) hobbit, I don’t know what the lesson there is quite.  Life isn’t fair, and on this occasion I have benefited from that inequity.   Don’t hate me.

Percy Pud sell out

Categories: motivation, Percy Pud, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: