Posts Tagged With: Plogging

Rocking the context appropriate look. Snow plogging microadventures r us.

Digested read: went plogging on the Sheffield Half-Marathon route.  It snowed.  It was still fun.

litter picking white out

Undigested read: I can hardly run a bath at the moment, let alone a half marathon.  This is a shame, because we are fully into not so much the run up (see what I did there?  Hilarious) as into the actual tapering period for the 2019 Sheffield Half.  This time last year I was well into my distance runs and used the Sheffield Half as a training run for the London Marathon. That seems like a life time ago. The past is another country I did things differently there.  Now, for various reasons, I’ve had my running goals for this year well and truly scuppered.  It is a source of much squirm-inducing regret that when my lovely running club asks us each month to volunteer our achievements and post them on Facebook for each return period that I find myself racking my brains trying to think of something to say.  Something – anything?  Nope, just an echoing void up there at present.  Nothing to report.  I blagged it the last two months, by explaining February was pretty much taken up with my merchandise testing commitments (Brooks Juno Bra thank you for asking) and then March brought with it my media commitments, culminating with my companion animal finding herself the poster giraffe for the Sheffield Half.  She was thrilled!  I got glory by association.  I might not make the start of the half this year, but hopefully the 5-10% of the population who are apparently particularly susceptible to hypnosis and suggestion will come to believe I was there just because they have seen this image circulating about the right time. I like to believe so.

sheffield half picture

Anyway, irrespective of whether or not I’m running, this is my blog, my rules, I can plog if I want to, however tenuous the theme in terms of its relationship to running.  Today’s theme is litter picking on the Sheffield Half Marathon loop, so that’s almost exactly the same as going for a run yes?

The background is that a group of us did this half marathon litter pick last year, after a last minute ‘who else is up for it’ Facebook post put out by a local running shop.  A fair few of us were, and rocked up, and it was fun. We got to dress up like Nemo and everything, though the amount of litter on the route was dispiriting.  It came about because those of us who’d been using the route for long run recces couldn’t help but notice the litter that had accumulated along the way, and it seemed a poor advert for our beloved Sheffield.  Instead of waiting around for some vague ‘other’ to take the initiative ‘somebody should do something’ Front Runner took the initiative, and put out the call. Seems that hit a nerve, and people came indeed.  Litter picking in general and plogging in particular is increasingly a thing – check out Runners Against Rubbish – which is good because it has to be done and bad because it shouldn’t be needed. Plogging runs featured at the Big Running Weekend a couple of weeks back too.  Anyway, pleased to report, they did the same again this year, suggested a group litter pick along the Sheffield Half-marathon route, and there was an even bigger turn out, this year than last.  yay!  Perhaps this will become an annual tradition.  Hope so.

shef half litter pick

So you see, whilst I might not be up to much running, I can still have running related fun times scrabbling about in mud and heave-hoing unsavoury discarded bits of rubbish out of polluted ditches with my running buddies.  We are hard core we Sheffielders, and we know how to make our own entertainment!  Plus, plogging in a ditch is pretty light weight compared to fell running which to the untrained eye might seem to stretch the definition of ‘fun times’ yet looks like great larks compared to the Barkley marathon.

You do know about the Barkley Marathons yes?  In case not – you might have just blocked the very thought as a subconscious protective reflex – this is a 100 mile plus suffer fest.  It has five laps, each lap of 20-plus miles in distance and includes about 12,000ft of brutally-steep, obstacle-laden, muddy mountain ascent through thick woodland.  That’s like climbing Everest twice, apparently,  which is another thing on my list of activities I have zero desire to undertake.  Just to be completely clear, I don’t even want to climb Everest once.  In conclusion, I think it’s fair to say that the Barkley Marathons stretches the definition of ‘fun’ a tad too far for even type two fun* recognition. Just saying.  Well done Nicky Spinks for giving it a go all the same.  Shame it meant you missed the first Trunce of the year but understandable in the circumstances.  Epic.  No-one came close to finishing the Barkley Marathons this year by the way.  I’m not surprised.  Nicky looks hard core yes, but she doesn’t look like she’s particularly having any real=time fun now does she?  It’s cool she’s wearing a dark peak fell runners bobble hat though.  Respect.  She’s still beyond awesome.




Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, having running related fun in the great outdoors.  So it was that last night I scooped up a friend and together we chugged up to the Norfolk Arms rendezvous for the collective litter picking endeavour.  Tooled up with our heavy duty gloves, we sat in the car, admiring the moody sky and dramatic clouds.  About five minutes ahead of our rendezvous time, heavy drops started to land on the windscreen.  ‘I hope it’s not going to rain’ remarked my litter picking buddy.  We laughed nervously.  It would only be a couple of hours.  We exited our vehicle and joined the gathering by the van, joining the queue for bin bags, struggling into our junior sized high-vis and delightedly welcoming our parkrunning buddy, Regal Smiley who’d rocked up to join the fun=fest and frolics in the name of keeping our run routes litter free. Yay!

As we greeted one another, the rain stopped.  That sounds good doesn’t it, except it wasn’t because there was no longer precipitation, oooooooooooooooooh no.  It was because it transmogrified into fat flakes of snow. Proper snow.  Full on white out, snow snow. It settled on our hats, and snowed with an intensity and density that is usually reserved for the closing climactic sequence of cheesy American films set against the backdrop of Christmas holidays. You know, where every problem is overcome, every misunderstanding cleared, and loving couples or families rush out red cheeked, starry-eyed and bobble hatted through a forest of Christmas trees already laden with snow, or along a city street with shop windows a-bling with Christmas lights as fresh snow falls and the credits roll.  Like that. Exactly like that, only colder and wetter and with less joyful cavorting on our part.  We did laugh though.  A lot.  And to be fair, if the weather was going to be dramatic, I’d sooner take the apocalyptic drama of unexpected decent snow over the soul-sapping water torture of horizontal rain.  Also, definitely better than having a helicopter induced storm hurl roadside barriers at you mid-marathon in China.  It happened.  It really did… quite relieved I didn’t bother entering that one now, especially after learning I wouldn’t get away with taking along the bike for part of the route after all.


Besides, we were here now, committed.

We took our bags, our gloves, out litter picker and our resolve and off we went, a trio of awesomeness, to take on Sheephill Road.  Time for a quick selfie first though…  Just for clarification purposes, that’s the start of the snow you can see in the flurry of white flakes, not a severe dandruff episode by a fellow litter picker just out of shot.

what larks eh

We bagsied the upper end of Sheephill Road from the Norfolk arms downed.  I thought we might have to fight for it – I feel a tad territorial for this section because it’s the same bit I did last year, which is ridiculous, but true.  As it happened, we three got it all to ourselves, and off we went.  We were an awesome team, covering both sides of the road like police forensic investigators seeking out clues in a finger tip search.  Litter picking is disturbingly surprisingly addictive.  No fag end is safe, no bottle too remote to be hunted down and caught bang to rights and bagged – probably to end up in land fill which is depressing, but preferable to choking wildlife at least.

There aren’t any whales in Sheffield, so I don’t think we were saving them particularly from consuming plastic on this occasion but then again, who knows where discarded plastic can end up.  No really, I spent some time volunteering at a wildlife centre in Zimbabwe and one day found myself removing plastic wrap from cucumbers flown in from the UK – probably grown in a poly tunnel, that were past their sell-by date and so were discarded from the shop and were now being used as animal food. How many countries had that plastic wrap visited in its single use lifetime? What is that about?  Crazy.  That’s why 44 kg of plastic was found in a dead whale only last month.  No fun to be had in that story, none at all.  Don’t need to be Hercule Poirot to work out contributory factors for cause of death for that one.  Or even James Herriot, or whatever the marine biology veterinary equivalent for that might be… This is plastic that emerged from a whale gut, I couldn’t be more astonished if it was a picture of Jonah himself bursting forth.

plastic in dead whale guardian

It was surprisingly companionable yomping along plogging and picking our way through the undergrowth with varying degrees of concentration. We evolved a system whereby Regal Smiley/ bicentennial woman who was in possession of the grabber (well, she does command natural authority, plus she was the one who had the foresight to bring it with her) responded to a sort of directional pointing system whereby we other two, lacking her reach, would get the bits we could and then point out to her the more elusive finds.  She would do well in the opal mines of Coober Pedy as once she was convinced of the presence of something, in this case litter, nothing would deter her from ferreting it out. Together, we were invincible.  That dear reader, is what team work is all about.

coober pedy

‘This image is courtesy of John Park, who you can follow on instagram at  if you fancy some virtual travel browsing through some stunning pictures of the great land down under and beyond!’

We didn’t find any opals, but we did find some vintage crisp packets, they don’t have the same market value though, well, not as far as I can tell anyway.  I didn’t research it all that conscientiously, I’ll be kicking myself when a vintage salt’n’shake crisp pack suddenly appears on eBay, with the faded lettering being described as ‘adding authenticity and character’ … I can feel my blood boiling at the very thought!

The weather did crazy things.  At times there were blizzard conditions, at times bright sunshine broke through, and there was the most extraordinary rainbow that seemed to arch across the whole city, I wished I’d got my camera with me, but then again it probably wouldn’t quite have done it justice, plus, I was able to delegate photo duties to Regal Smiley who did a fair enough job in the circumstances!

Here is the snow:

reet nice out

Well, some of it, and here is the rainbow. Also just some of it…

rainbow road

We were merry in our labours.  Also, encouragingly, the litter situation was way better than last year, and although there was still plenty, we made speedy progress.  No especially epic finds – well, apart from the almost buried plastic Christmas Tree and associated baubles, really people?  There was inevitably, lots of plastic, haylage bags, fast food polystyrene wrappers, huge amounts of cigarette ends, discarded bottles, one solitary gel pack wrapper. and debris from miscellaneous road accidents.   Had we but the time and inclination – oh yes and skill too – we could quite possibly have built our own vehicle with the bits of body work accrued along the way.  Some duct tape would have helped maybe, but then you can do anything with duct tape and imagination!  After all, if it can be used to fix a plane after a bear attack, I’m sure it could assemble some discarded car panels without too much difficulty.


After an hour or so, there was the pitter patter of tiny feet behind us.  Breathless, and inappropriately dressed for the inclement weather was a trio of youths.  I must be getting exceedingly old, because when they introduced themselves, still wet and shivering as ‘students’ my immediate thought was they were a detail from a local school sent to join the community initiative, but no dear reader, they were actual university students, doing a journalism course and in search of a local story.  Mind you, I do find increasingly I have become that person who notices that my GP and other officials look alarmingly youthful.  The logical conclusion of this I am actually old, not just old before my time.  I don’t know quite how to process that thought, so now I’ve shared it, I’ll ignore it and move one… Anyway, where was I, oh yes, clearly, we were the most newsworthy thing going on at the time, and so we were within their grasp. Also, I secretly suspect they’d got wind of my recently acquired poster girl status so perhaps were hoping for some sort of celebrity coup to boot, though they were far too professional to let on to that insider knowledge, didn’t want to seem all giddy in my presence I expect… So, what they wanted to do was a little piece on the community litter pick for one of their assignments. Fair enough, sounded entertaining.  ‘We are like the wombles!  You know “underground, overground, wombling free“‘ I half-said half (badly) sung, being met with looks of confused incomprehension, oh gawd, I really am old, surely they haven’t been forgotten – I had their LP at one point, ‘wombling free’ it’s a tragedy if that cultural heritage has now been lost, we do indeed need the Wombles more than ever!


We continued our litter pick, whilst they found a suitable lay-by to set up their gear.  To the casual observer they would have looked like spectacularly well equipped doggers.

They wanted some litter picking shots, featuring the grabber in action and in close up.  This required quite a lot of practise, and hilariously (well I thought so) the initial actual litter that was being used for the shot just didn’t cut it as camera eye candy.  Fortunately, one of the trio had brought along her own, more photogenic litter just in case.  This was in the form of a bottle of lucozade sport (I like to think, as the ‘sport’ reference seems especially apt, but I might have imagined the whole thing just because I wished it so), which she downed in one, so that she could jettison the bottle on the verge where it could be picked up and popped in a black bin bag on endless repeat until caught from all possible angles and the perfect shot, like the discarded bottle, was safely in the bag.  (Honestly, I’m on fire tonight!)

Then we stood in a slightly self-conscious line and the director said he was going to ask us each a question to camera as a sort of vox pox segment (well, what with my work as a supporting artist elsewhere, I have all the media lingo down to a tee). Now, this is where we approach the comedy climax of the evening…  but to fully appreciate this, you need context.

The thing is Regal Smiley has many talents.  Epic runner, parkrun run director blah de blah, but one of her most public-spirited duties is linked to her being the power behind the photographic throne occupied by Mr Carman.  Yes, yes, he takes squillions of pictures week in, week out, selflessly giving his time for the running community of Sheffield, but it is Regal Smiley who acts as upholder of human dignity and public decency, acting as censor to any shot that might unduly humiliate or embarrass the subject of the photo.  Obviously due humiliation is a different thing altogether, and comedic value can outweigh an unflattering shot, but even so, she has much respected form in saving us runners from the brutal reality of seeing in high-definition our true running likenesses if that truth might mean we never left the house again.  She is the guardian of our individual and collective self-esteem, for this we should all be grateful.  Therefore, it was not unreasonable, that before consenting to our vox pox section she politely enquired

Do we look OK?‘. I know what she meant, save us from the spinach caught in our teeth or the inside out jacket or the river of snot that I’ve failed to notice because my face is too numb from the stinging hail. It was self-evident to all.

You look great!’ he said confidently.   The reassurance he gave us was to be short lived.

It wasn’t self-evident to all.  I know this, because he added with a bit too much enthusiasm in his voice ‘being bedraggled and cold and windswept and filthy is exactly the appropriate look for this piece when you’ve all been out litter picking in the snow!’  Oh how we laughed!  I’m paraphrasing only slightly, we rocked our context specific look, it is fortuitous that these clips will never see the public light of day.  Well, unless one or more of us was to go missing on the way home and they had to play that snippet of us on Look North as the last sighting of us for identification purposes, oh the shame.  And that nearly happened to be fair, but more of this later.

We did our slightly stilted commentary on the community cohesion of litter picking, and love of the peaks and running, and how we met through parkrun and all of that. Then, in a moment of clarity me and Regal Smiley realised this could be our running related achievement for April when reporting back to our Smiley record keeper, so more photos of us all together and separately in all possible permutations were taken. The sun came out, rather spoiling our hardcore claims.  I think it’s fair to say the weather was changeable.




We left them doing there final ‘to camera’ summary and continued our meander back along the verges.  It started snowing again, we were on a mission.


It’s amazing how you see missed bits of litter when you view the landscape through a different angle.   We’d already done this section on the outward march.  Regal Smiley was emboldened to scamper over walls and criss-cross wobbly stones to reach tantalizingly placed litter the other side of walls.   There was definitely more than one point when I thought we might lose her over a crumbling dry stone wall. We discussed this possibility.  I was thinking at first we’d get away with pretending we’d never seen her, there weren’t many cars about and nobody was taking much interest in us… as long as we other two stuck to our story we’d be fine – then we remembered the cursed vox pox sequence, and if those keen journalism students got wind of her disappearance they’d be like the blooming Scooby Doo team, endlessly screening their now highly marketable footage as they tried for a ‘true crime’ documentary full length feature on ‘what really happened’. We’d never have got away with it.  So all in all, it was very fortunate, that we were able to haul her back roadside, and make it back safely!  No search team required…. this time.

scooby doo

Pleasingly, just as we returned to the corner of Lady Cannings plantation entrance, where we’d piled up all our bags, the Front Runner white van appeared to gather up our rubbish offerings.  It was a leaky, sodden and unsavoury mess of stuff, I wouldn’t have wanted it in the back of my car.  Above and beyond I’d say.  You can get Sheffield City Council to pick up bags from organised litter picks if you let them know in advance, but there was a different plan at work here.

And that was that, we said goodbye and went our separate ways.

I feel however I need to add this postscript.  As me and my tail walking buddy – did I mention that already?…


were derobing and clambering back into my car, we got chatting to a guy in the vehicle next to us.  He hadn’t been litter picking with us but he does solitary litter picks around his road all the time.  I mentioned to him that there is the Sheffield Litter Pickers Facebook group if he wants help.  He brooded on this point for a bit and then said words to the effect of he quite liked the cathartic effect of doing it alone and raging at the awfulness of mankind with every bottle plucked from a hedge or broken glass from the gutter he weirdly liked finding justification for his misanthropic view of the world.  I rather respect that.  It made me laugh.

And so dear reader, it was but two sodden hours on an April evening, but it was crammed with hilarity and micro-adventures a-plenty. Sometimes, it is worth just stepping outside the front door and seeing what unfolds.  Just be wary of cameras unless you are dressed in a context appropriate way. Oh and also, I feel a  need to share that really, in our own way, we three, and indeed all the other litter pickers out there last night, were tackling the same elements as the Barkley marathoners, because they too started their quest in sunshine, only to be caught out by wintry conditions and snow.  I may not quite be in Nicky Spinks’ league just yet, but I am somewhere on the continuum of weather she has experienced in her running challenges, and that’s a start.  Also, other litter pickers took independent initiative to play their part in an afternoon pick as they couldn’t make the evening one, ploggers are everywhere it seems, how splendid is that!  See them rock their context appropriate hi-vis too.

independent action litter pickers

Heart warming isn’t it?  And we could all do with a bit of good news in these dark times I’m sure.

You’re welcome.

*type two fun – things that are fun only when viewed retrospectively, from a very safe distance.

Categories: off road, teamwork | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Because binners are winners! Plogging the Sheffield half-marathon route

Digested read: runners recceing the Sheffield half have been noticing a depressing amount of rubbish along the route.  The nice people at Front Runner decided to suggest a meet up to do something about it.  Lots of people went, me too, it was really good.  Litter picked, communal plogging engaged in.  All done and dusted within a couple of hours.  Hurrah.

Nobody wants to see Skip upset.

be like skip

But Skip the running dog is upset though, because of all the rubbish he keeps seeing out running.  Anyone who has recced the half marathon route of late – which is basically the entire running population of Sheffield – must have felt their heart sink at the sight of some of it.  The problem is, its quite tricky to pick up rubbish whilst running on your own.  I do always make a point of picking up at least one bit of rubbish every time I’m out.  I mean, it’s not much, but it’s better than nothing, and frankly, anyone who runs any route regularly must have experienced that thing where you keep passing the same bit of rubbish every day.  Case in point, there is a bus-stop at Broomhill – just outside the Guitar Shack, it has a couple of empty spirit bottles on the roof there that have been there ever since I moved to Sheffield 7 years ago now, granted, they are not that easily accessible and only visible from the top deck of the bus but it illustrates a point. Rubbish stays where it is unless someone, maybe you or me, picks it up and disposes of it in a responsible and appropriate manner.

Anyways, in a fit of initiative and pro-activity the good people of Front Runner, under the direction of the senior management (Skip) decided to take action on this point.  Noticing a ridiculous amount of rubbish along just a short section of the Sheffield half-marathon route  whilst leading a group recce up there, they spontaneously collected a good bag full of rubbish over just 100 metres.  Figuring that other runners would similarly be dismayed by this, they put a call out for other runners – or indeed ‘normal’ people, to come join them for a communal litter pick yesterday evening.  Keeping it simple it was a question of basically turn up at 6.30 pm outside the Dore Garden Centre and take it from there.

Pleasingly, the post got quite a positive response straight away.  It’s heartening, people do want to do something about their local patch, but sometimes it takes someone to be a catalyst to harness that general sense of ‘someone ought to do something‘ and turn it into ‘we could do something ourselves‘.   It’s true that plogging has become a new and welcome trend, albeit one with a stupid name. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to describe it thus:  Plogging: the fitness craze that’s sweeping the streets,  but the enthusiasm for this apparently the Scandinavian trend for picking up litter while jogging is surely a good thing. Though it’s hardly new.  We have Runners against Rubbish locally – you can join here for just £2 and make the pledge:

The Pledge:

  1. I will never drop any rubbish and will always take my rubbish to a bin
  2. I will encourage others not to drop rubbish
  3. I will pick up rubbish when I see it and am able to do so

I must admit, I’ve not paid up my £2 yet, but I will do so.  I thought until today it was just a concept and a Runners Against Rubbish Facebook page, but it seems it is evolving further.  Hurrah.


Hurrah, because rubbish not only looks awful, it can be catastrophic for local wildlife too.  Plastic straws up turtles noses is bad, but rubbish isn’t only devastating in the oceans, it does damage on our streets too.




and David Sedaris has been on a solitary endeavour of picking up litter during his epic walks in Sussex for years and years.  He’s even got a bin lorry named in his honour!


Still, it would be unwise to pick up litter in the hope of getting a bin lorry named in your honour, picking up litter is rather its own reward.  Upshot is/was there was a little flurry of enthusiastic interest, and it seemed a fair few runners, myself included were totally up for this.  It was a great idea.  A perfect example of many hands making light work, it would be soul destroying and impractical to head out solo and litter pick a 13 mile route, but with a good gang of people, armed with bin bags, gardening gloves and enthusiasm, we’d be able to split up and cover a reasonable stretch quite quickly.

The hour came, and people did indeed gathered.  I’m not good at counting, and also I forgot to do so, but I’d say maybe ten of us or so.  Skip personally welcomed everyone with a sniff and then left his minions to action his plan.  50% of the Front Runner team explained it was all really quite disorganised and clueless, and they hadn’t got much further than setting a time and place to meet and dragging some bags along.  The other 50% of the Front Runner team quickly interjected the correction that this should be seen as an informal approach to the collective endeavour, with all participants being recognised as having equal value and therefore able to make their own decisions about where to go and start plucking litter from the trashed verges along the route.

Despite the ‘informal’ approach, actually there was organisation.  Loads of rubbish bags- proper heavy-duty ones which was just as well, some of the rubbish was pretty substantial.  Someone had brought along a load of extra gloves for others to use, one was tooled up with a proper extension picker thing (I nearly gave in to some litter picker tool envy there) –   plus, there were plenty of hi-viz to go round. Good idea, as dusk was falling.

I was the first to don one. In my defence, this is a lot harder than you might think. this particular vest was the fabric equivalent of super-glue infused mercury.  Mercury, in that it just wanted to reform with itself, and super-glue in that in then wouldn’t detach from itself.  It was like trying to clamber into spandex spanx pants by hauling them over your head.  Not that I’ve tried this, but I’m confident the comparison stands.  Did you know that you can get different discomfort levels?  Everything from ‘smooth’ (they lie) to shaping level 3 ‘sculpt – a super firm hug’.  That is a hug, but from an abusive partner or one with little understanding of the concept of personal space and/or robotic limbs which are incapable of interpreting feedback from the hug-ee, such as when they start gasping for breath and their eyes start trying to escape from their eye sockets.  Less bear hug, and more Heimlich manoeuvre.

Shaping Level 3

It wasn’t altogether supportive that those around me were scrambling for their mobile phones to capture my writhing distress rather than stepping up to assist me, but I took enormous comfort from noting that the next person who tried to don one found the process similarly challenging.  I think it’s because they are small and designed to stretch, which they do, but string vest like there are too many holes to work out which one is for your head and which one is for you limbs.  However, more pleasingly, once someone else was wearing one, you are basically camouflaged as a clown fish.  No really.  I have no idea when Ronhill took over Pixar Animation or if it was the other way round, but anyone wearing the kit was essentially dressed up as Nemo.  Making him easier to find in terms of all round visibility, and harder to find in that they probably weren’t going to be looking for him in Sheffield and there were quite a few decoy hi-viz wearers.  The clown fish kit though was not a bad idea given how much water was sloshing around everywhere.  I didn’t actually fall into any ditches, but it was a close run thing.  I daresay those Ronhill vests would be buoyant in water too.



I think it was making the connection between wrestling with this hi-viz garment and string vests, that led me at least,  on to the obvious next topic of crocheted swimming trunks.  Disappointingly, the youthful contingency that surrounded us took this to be a jump into surreal humour, not understanding that the concept is not funny at all.  They were indeed a thing, back in the day, and a splendid garment in which young bucks and silver foxes alike could pose on yachts or whatever with far more style and class than could ever be achieved with budgie smugglers. This is no doubt why you can still get the vintage men’s swimwear patterns here,  though to save you the arduous task of clicking on the link, here are some highlights I’ve found especially for you dear reader.  Not that I need to prove my point exactly, but I do feel some sense of responsibility for educating the younger generation coming through.  Terrifying to think this sort of fashion knowledge is at risk of being lost for ever.  We can start the restoration of this garment in Sheffield, and from there it can once again spread out across the world!  That’s stirring stuff.



In the swim indeed!  And why stop at just knitting your own trunks?  Back in the 1920s I see there was an early prototype of the onesie tri suit that’s just crying out for a come back. I’m sure it would look absolutely fabulous, custom made in club or Front Runner colours.  For some reason I’m thinking the Dark Peak runners vintage hues would be especially magnificent in this style!

crochet tri kit

The possibilities are endless, knitted or crocheted trunks are endlessly versatile and practical too.  Perfect for a snow run for example, the evidence is out there, I mean, granted, he might not have the most efficient running form, but looks fabulous. These ideas could be a game changer once the new tri season gets properly underway:



Whilst waiting for others to assemble, the chit-chat covered nutritional tips for fuelling marathons, though unfortunately at that point I hadn’t uncovered this helpful bit of research into identifying the best cake for runners.   On the plus side, I was also at that moment in time, unaware of the new fad of using baby food to fuel long runs, so that was some small blessing.  I do accept it comes down to doing whatever works for you, but why not have proper food?  I’ll concede these are a much better option than gels in terms of ingredients, but I think I’d struggle with the texture.  Also, I’m so slow I can take my time a bit more when fuelling on longer runs.  I’m never running with that much speed or urgency.  Plus, all that packaging and waste, it’s terrifying.  Ironically, I picked up some of these baby food wrappers along Sheephill lane.  Maybe it is becoming an adult ‘thing’, it can’t all be recalcitrant children hurling spent wrappers from their buggies as they are pushed along.


We were surprisingly focused.  Some people had come on their own, others in couples or pairs.  With relatively little faffing, we sort of spread out.  I went with two others (hello :)) who drove us up to the far end of Sheephill Lane where we parked by Lady Cannings Plantation and basically worked our way down the hill.  It was noted that passers-by seeing us in our combos of hi-viz and track suit bottoms and hoodies might have assumed we were out there doing community service. That’s fine, as long as they didn’t run us over.

It was quite bright sunshine when we headed out, so I was wearing dark glasses, which no doubt looked increasingly ridiculous as dusk fell.  Mind you, I have plenty of experience of looking ridiculous whilst engaged in running related activities so that was OK, and also I was frankly quite glad of the eye protection as I dived into hedgerows to retrieve wedged in bottles from prickly undergrowth.

A few things you need to know about litter picking.  It’s strangely satisfying and compulsive, once you eyeball a shiny degraded and discarded crisp packet it’s surprising what acrobatic challenges you will take on in order to seize it.  It’s also harder work than you might think, all that squatting and stretching, and even ‘clean’ litter is surprisingly gross.  A lot of the stuff I scooped up out of ditches was full of stagnant water or worse, and even though you shake out what you can, there is definitely a residual ‘ugh’ factor.  On the plus side it’s rewarding to see instant improvement, and sometimes it’s quite fascinating.  Yes there are sweet and crisp wrappers and discarded gel packets and other unremarkable stuff, but can you explain the seemingly empty jam jar apparently placed on a wall.  One section I cleared seemed to have a significant part of the front of a car – including a number plate – I had a momentary fear I was inadvertently clearing up a crime scene and there was bound to be a body submerged in the ditch alongside.  Although to be fair, we sort of agreed really big stuff, like fly tipped goods or indeed corpses we wouldn’t be able to move so I suppose it didn’t matter all that much.  There was a ceramic bowl that was a bit random.  I wonder if someone was carsick into it and just threw the whole lot out some time. We may never know.  The items that enraged me most included banana skins, that I think people deliberately threw into the hedges because they are biodegradable, but without removing those little yellow stickers; and piles of cigarette ends where I think motorists must have just opened their car doors and emptied their ashtrays onto the road.  Top tip, if it’s too gross to want to keep in your car, then it’s also too gross to discard on a public highway.

I was complaining about this to one of my fellow pickers, he said he didn’t think it was necessarily always motorists to blame, could just as easily be cyclists or anyone else, but personally I’ve never seen a bike with a built-in ash tray so I remain unconvinced.

In fairness, not all littering and destruction is intentional.  Some items may have been carelessly blown away out of the grasp of someone and ended up on the route.  Who amongst us has not had a littering accident of their own. I  still feel awful about losing a helium balloon at a birthday parkrun, and have vowed never to run with a balloon again.  Knowing how bad I feel about that, we should all spare a thought for the hotel guest who inadvertently drew a flock of seagulls into his hotel room, where they completely trashed the place.  “The result was a tornado of seagull excrement, feathers, pepperoni chunks and fairly large birds whipping around the room. The lamps were falling. The curtains were trashed.”  As a result of this mishap, which honestly could have happened to anyone who absent-mindedly laid out a whole suitcase of pepperoni on the windowsill of the seaside establishment at which they were staying – he was subject to a lifelong ban from the classy hotel.  Though got pardoned on appeal after 17 years.  Quite right too.  You have seen the Hitchcock film The Birds right?


Anyway, pleasingly, just as I had nearly filled my second bag of rubbish, I met other litter pickers who’d come up from the bottom of Sheephill Lane, thus we did indeed do that whole section.  There was however a bit of confusion at this point.  I opted to continue onwards so I could leave my bag with the Front Runner vehicle which I could see up ahead pulled over in the huge external driveway of a rather grand house up there.  My two litter picking compatriots would return the other way, picking up the full rubbish bags we’d left en route and pick me up in their vehicle as they passed.  Unfortunately, the Front Runner vehicle sped away before I could catch it. Then when my litter picking buddies appeared in their very fine souped up mini, they didn’t have room for my bag along with the other three already stowed in their boot. We agreed I’d stay with the bag whilst they went to dump the others and they’d come back for me.

I waited.  It was quite peaceful standing there, watching the dusk.  Various half-marathon runners had constantly jogged past as we were plogging away, but now there were fewer, just one or two, who offered weak smiles as they trudged by.  I waited some more.  It wasn’t an especially long wait, but long enough for me to entertain the idea that if my compatriots were to suffer some freak accident, or indeed just get bored and decide to ditch the plan of returning to collect me I could be out there for days.  At what point would I leave my post.  Should I take the bag with me?  To leave it might just constitute fly-tipping anyway, the very anathema of what I’d set out to achieve.  Also, it was actually pretty isolated up there, peaceful even. There might be a Zombie global apocalypse just starting out from the epicentre of the Sheffield peace gardens RIGHT NOW this moment, and there was I, oblivious, standing in my inappropriate shades and clown fish hi-viz, next to a bag of rubbish. Maybe, though I didn’t know it yet, my future survival would depend on how I utilised the contents of that bag as the only resources available to me to defend myself.  Waiting, waiting, little knowing what tsunami of horrors was about to unfold.

That didn’t happen though.

Fortuitously dear reader, they did return, my bag went in the boot, and I went in the front as the boot wasn’t big enough for me too. We returned to the Dore Garden Centre and found everyone else gone, just three bags of rubbish and some returned borrowed gloves.  We weren’t sure what to do with all this rubbish, it wasn’t stuff you would really want in a car interior.  I reckoned we might be able to sweet talk the pub to let us use their bins, especially as the plan was to have a drink in there afterwards.  I did ask, and to be fair the guy behind the bar was really good, and I was thinking I’d definitely be able to get signed off for my NVQ competency relating to ‘negotiation skills’ as I asked so sweetly if we could avail ourselves of their bins what with having done a local litter pick and being all so public-spirited and everything. Plus I was wearing my hi-viz albeit my companion was in her community service trackies, so we looked like we’d definitely been doing something worthwhile and important.  Alas, it was not to be, turns out they have a strict recycling policy for their bins and so if we put random rubbish in it they could end up being fined, which was disappointing but fair enough.  Instead we divvied up the seeping bags between us, and realising no-one else had lingered for a drink and that we were also now in need of decontamination ourselves, made do with some mutual air-hugs and went our separate ways.

The whole thing only took a couple of hours tops, but between us we got loads of rubbish.  I mean, it’s depressing all that garbage was out there in the first place of course, but heartening that you can make such a difference relatively quickly, and now none of that rubbish is there any more.  That’s good. This picture is not even a third of the total bags gathered up. Bravo.


So all in all, that was pretty darned satisfying I’d say.  Thanks Skip for taking the initiative to set the plan in motion.  A very fine plan it was too.

Afterwards, I was able to wrestle out of my Nemo outfit in the privacy of my own home.  Result.

So there you go collective plogging comes to Sheffield.  No reason we can’t all do it on our own too. The best bit of this evening was realising that other people care too, and saccharin as it may sound together we can make a difference.  In a world where often times I feel quite powerless, that makes for a nice change.


So how about you?  Have you joined in the RAR roar yet?  Go on, go on, you know you want to!


Categories: road, running, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Running London …. ish. Work in progress a horrible long run in marathon training. I so haven’t got this! Aaargh.

Digested read:  I had to do a 17 mile long run today. I did it even though I felt rubbish, and did everything wrong.  A lot of it was walking, but probably it was a good test of my mental strength if not physical prowess.  I did at least complete it.  The Thames route was scenic, the royal parks lovely.  I really hope it isn’t true about all the peeing at the Marathon.  Type 2 fun, and a learning curve.  This is scary now.  Aaaargh indeed.

This popped up on Facebook recently, and made me cry with laughter:

anyone can win the marathon

That’s right dear reader.  ‘Anybody can win the race‘, the ‘race’ in this context being the London Marathon. So says last year’s winner, who incidentally, has his family watch the ‘movie’ of the race twice a week or so.   To be fair, if I win, I will expect anyone with whom I have even the most tenuous or fleeting acquaintance to be watching the coverage on a continuous loop between now and the end of eternity.   I will nail them to the spot if necessary in order to facilitate this, but on the whole, unless an unexpected Tsunami from the Thames wipes out all 39,999 runners ahead of me and leaves me as the sole contender  I think the parkrun populus of Sheffield are safe.  And no, I’m not being unnecessarily self-deprecating in stating this.   Methinks reigning champion Daniel Wanjiru is possibly somewhat overestimating the competition across the field – or maybe elite runners never look behind them and have yet to realise the London Marathon is a mass participation event.  They see only the finish line and hear only the pitter patter of their immediate rivals alongside and behind.  It’s another world, another world entirely.

Talking about running alongside the Thames (yes I was), that was my long run venue of a week or so ago.  It was a really tough one, something of a misery to be honest, but in the interests of completeness I feel I should record it here. It can be the yin to the yan of the more positive experience of a long run a week later on the Monsal Trail.  Not sure if that’s quite what yin and  yan are, but highs and lows certainly.  My Thames side long run was more of a low.  Not that it wasn’t beautiful, and I didn’t absolutely regret it, but my goodness I felt rough before, during and for many days after.

The thing is, I was staying in London.  I’d decided I’d fit in my long run whilst I was there, partly because I needed to, and partly because the weather in Sheffield has been so dire (white out and wash out alternating to stop all running fun, races tumbling all around as they got cancelled due to arctic conditions) I figured I’d take advantage of the milder southern climes.   Plus, running round Sheffield is so hilly, I end up having to walk some sections, I thought maybe doing a flatter route would help me hit more of a rhythm and replicate the London marathon terrain.  Also, I thought maybe it would be a good mental discipline to run an unknown route and see how far my legs would carry me.

Reading that back, that rationale makes me sound super organised and equipped for running a London marathon, but I’m just not. Everything feels bumbling and improvised.  I have little idea what I’m doing, and honestly, sometimes I think I just decide what I want to do, and then think up some post activity rationalisation as to why it was a legitimate strategy or idea.  A bit like when you are trying to make a decision, and you seek advice from loads of different people, but really, what you are doing is keeping on asking everyone you meet until someone, FINALLY, gives you the answer you’ve been wanting to hear.  I actually don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing, it at least crystallizes in your mind what it is you want to do, albeit you are seeking some sort of external validation for doing so, but I do think it’s worth being self-aware about it.  Maybe even more so with a physical challenge like this, where actually, if I don’t prepare my body physically and mentally for what it’s up against, then it just isn’t going to happen, as it is, the attempt may not be pretty.  PANIC!

Point of information, as usual, I’m writing up this post belatedly – I nearly said ‘posthumously’ there, perhaps that’s apt – I’m sat at a table looking out on a snow swamped garden, lamenting the fact that this is another day when my running aspirations will not be met.  I have made it out far enough to dig out the bird feeders and put some food on the ground.  I didn’t think they’d found it, but I’ve just noticed a pigeon’s head peering up from out of the snow.

It’s head high for a pigeon. Which probably doesn’t sound all that high to be fair, but it’s high enough to mean running isn’t an option. You can’t see where your feet are landing, and it’s way over my ankles.  Deeper where it’s drifted.  Can’t make up my mind whether or not to risk venturing out.  I’ve been watching the Martin Yelling marathon talks (I’m slightly in love with him, he’s so positive and smiley) and he was saying the other week that you have to consider the risk of injury v potential training benefit and adds in ‘any run is better than no run’ but equally you shouldn’t stress niggles too much at this late stage.  I might try for a walk later.  Surely a snow trudge constitutes cross training, even if it is just to check out the interior of the nearest open cafe?  One way to find out.

Back to where I was, about a week ago, contemplating a long run.  I was aiming for 17 miles, and hadn’t honestly planned a route as such, beyond a vague idea of starting off by parking at The Pheasantry Cafe in Bushy Park.  However, this was one of those runs, where just everything seemed stacked against if from the off.  To begin with, because I was away from home I’d not eaten particularly appropriately the day before, just salad all day and where I was staying the only breakfast option was high sugar kiddies mini pack cereals.  Then I had the most terrible night’s sleep ever, even for me, and I can’t remember when I last slept through the night, and when I did finally ‘wake’ properly I had a raging sore throat and felt dire. I wasn’t sure what to do. I consumed the only available breakfast option, which was a little pack of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, which was vile, and had half a cup of not very nice coffee, which just made my insides slosh about.  I felt shattered, poorly hydrated, ill, and a bit queasy.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  It was definitely not the best preparation for the run, but then again, what if I feel like this on marathon day, I’m not going to bale then surely?  Plus, if I didn’t get my run in this day, I might end up missing it, and back in Sheffield with the weather as it is, it would be another week of really inadequate preparation.  I also needed to drive back to Sheffield after the run, if I abandoned the run and drove back early, I knew there was no way on earth I’d head out for a long run after dark.  Aaaargh.

In the end, I decided I might as well at least start off, worst case scenario I could cut it short.  I just thought if I didn’t try I’d regret it, and I was imagining how I’d feel the next day –  fabulous if I’d succeeded and a worthless failure if I hadn’t.  I decided I’d prefer the former scenario – though in fact it didn’t entirely work out like that.  Running when you are so depleted knocks you out for days afterwards apparently.  So now I know.  Weirdly though, I still think not running at all would have been worse, but worth noting for another time.

Belt packed, naked bars, water, and vague sense of a route.  Even the weather was against me though. The place I was staying, Bushy Park Lodge, had great views of Bushy Park.  Only the day before I’d had runner envy watching people job past in the early morning.

This day it was dark and threatening ‘proper’ rain.  I am increasingly hating this weather. I do still cope better with cold than heat running wise, but there are limits.  This is not fun.  This was the view at the start of my run out:


Joy.  Not.  Originally, I’d planned to do sort of figure of eight loops around Bushy Park, but then the ground was too saturated for that to allow for even running, besides which I thought it might get a bit dull, I hate running in laps.  However picturesque the setting.  I then hit upon what I considered to be a genius plan!  I’d start in the park, head over to Hampton Court palace, dip down onto the Canal path and then maybe loop through Home park, something like that.  This would guarantee move even terrain and a longer route, with less temptation to abandon the run when the going got tough.

Off I went.  It was sploshy, dark and pretty empty really.  Though to be fair it was a weekday. Even so, it surprises me how you can find space even in this jam-packed area of greater London.  It was wet, even the deer were lying down, trying to keep at least a small area of ground dry. There was a dramatic white stag, which I failed to photograph as I didn’t want to disturb it by going too close, and trees heavy with bright green mistletoe.  I wished my stomach wasn’t heaving so much though.  That breakfast was not a good start to the day at all.

Onwards, I decided to head straight out of the park.  On my way, just walking, trying not to heave, I found a bit of discarded steel wire, where on earth did that come from?  That could seriously damage a deer or horse in the park.  It was huge and heavy, I didn’t really know how best to dispose of it, but I did at least pick it up and put it in a bin.  A small gesture to improve the place I was running in, though not perhaps in the same league as those ploggers who in Sweden, have identified the ultimate rubbish way to get fit, but a start.

Soon, I was at the Hampton Court gate to Bushy park, that’s an impressive bit of iron work right there

and out, over the road, past the separate entrance to the old tennis courts – oh, don’t you have a separate entrance for your on site sporting facilities?


and towards Hampton Court Palace.  Even though I grew up not far from here, I’ve very rarely done the touristy things, and stopping to look at Hampton Court palace, and the grand statues on the posts surrounding it I have to acknowledge it is really impressive.  Spectacular even.  You can see why it’s such a tourist attraction with it’s grand visage and photogenically sited red telephone box just outside – even if you can’t use that for actual telephone calls any more.  It was harder than you might think to photograph those impressive statue thingies, which is why I appear to have carefully framed a shot right up a unicorn’s arse.  Perhaps this is apt, as I have a unicorn’s arse in hell’s chance of getting round the London Marathon the way my training was feeling on this day…  The selfie also tells me my outfit wasn’t offering up the most photogenic of possibilities, however practical it may have been.   I look like a badly animated lollipop my face is so round. That has to be an optical illusion.  I’ve surely not really been seen out in public looking like that.  It’s not great for my body image to be fair.   I have subsequently inadvertently shrunk my woolly hat in the wash.  Gutted, it was really good at keeping my ears warm, even if it did look like I was wearing an alpaca-fleece giant condom on my head, by choice.  Sacrifices have to be made in running, all athletes know this.  Dignity is just the first of many things that have to go if you are serious about getting out there and running, however ineptly and for however long.  Harsh but true.

I was still feeling headachey and hardly underway, but I often feel rubbish in the early stages of runs, it takes me ages to get going.  I honestly think it’s partly that my body is in denial about the whole thing, so for the first few miles I just pant, and sweat and feel every twinge and ache and find it nigh on impossible to make myself run.  It takes super human strength to force myself to propel my feet forwards.  Once I’m far away from home that carrying on with my planned route is going to take just as long as retracing my steps and going home, I seem to move into the ‘acceptance’ as opposed to ‘denial’ stage and it’s fine. Well, maybe not exactly fine, but so far, I’ve never thought I wouldn’t complete once I get to that point.

Just beyond Hampton Court Palace, there was a really clear sign onto the Thames Cycle path.  This was great, and a revelation.  The path was wide, clearly marked, not very busy and offered spectacular views.  A bit of a contrast to the industrial heritage you view from the canal path in Sheffield through to Attercliffe.  Plenty of runners do use the canal paths in Sheffield for training, but I don’t fancy them, this Thames canal path felt a lot roomier, more open and frankly safer.

Still pretty wet though – I’ve just realised, you can, in theory run this all the way to Tower Bridge!  Wow, I’d love to do that.  Or even take on the whole of the Thames Path, that would be a lovely running challenge.   Well, I say ‘run’ but might be more fun to cycle that far.  Never say never though, if I’m really a more efficient runner than Usain Bolt, and I’m allowed to walk chunks, maybe I will surprise myself one day yet.  Oooh, what’s that overhead?  Is it a bird, is it a plane?  Oh, no it’s just a cloud.  A big black rainy one…


Inevitably, it being a new route, I had to stop and take in unusual views, and admire the palace from a new angle.

And then there was a yellow submarine, and more mistletoe, and cooing parakeets

I saw hardly anyone, a few cyclists, including one with an incredibly speedy and athletic dog.  That was impressive, but somewhat intimidating, it took time out from loping alongside its cycling companion to chase down wildlife along the river, ducks, swans, geese, nothing was safe.  It annoys me when owners let their dogs do that.  It spoilt my run, plus, whilst it may be true ‘they never catch anything’ they still stress the wildlife, which have to use much-needed energy stores to get away, endless times each day, and in winter especially when food may be harder to come by and they need those reserves just to keep alive in the outdoors 24/7, whereas the dog can go home to it’s centrally heated home and automatic meal.   Then there is the risk of them chasing and stressing deer, sheep whatever to the point of death.  It isn’t funny.  I’m consistent on this, I hate it when adults allow children to chase down birds too.   What is that about?  Scaring animals for fun.  People are weird.   What with that and the bagged dog poo strung up everywhere, I’m really going off irresponsible dog owners, responsible ones are a different matter entirely.  Impressive hound though, my it could run.  It looked really fit and healthy too.  Dread to think what damage it would do in a herd of livestock though.

The path was VERY wet.  But it was also flat, straightforward to navigate and punctuated with unexpected and interesting views.  Crazy amounts of mistletoe and many delightful boats.  Not that I really knew what any of them were, but most picturesque.

I was cold, and uncomfortable, but the miles did roll by quite easily, if not exactly speedily.  I was soon approaching Kingston:

Now, this was something of a cross roads, in a literal as well as metaphorical sense.  I could have gone back through Home Park, but I decided instead to press on along the Thames Walk to Teddington Lock.  Partly as this was a more definitive destination, and partly because it committed me to doing a longer distance, and rough as I felt, I didn’t want to abandon the run just yet.  Also, I was aware I might not get a chance to do this route again, and it was enticing, even with my head aching, my stomach sloshing and temperature falling. When is the sun going to come out.  Is it ever going to come out ever again?  Is this what the end of the world feels like.

Over the bridge, then down some steps to a freezing series of tunnels alongside John Lewis where an unexpected mural cheered up the grey iciness of the route.

I was feeling thirsty by this point.  I reached for my water bottle and discovered to my horror, that I couldn’t get into it.  I washed it in the dishwasher and I think maybe I’d damaged the top somehow (though update, subsequently realised I had accidentally ‘locked it’ which I didn’t know you could do, and was too lacking in initiative to unlock it).  Fortunately I did have another bottle with so not a disaster, but food for thought.  Not great to run out of water on a long run.  I had one of my naked bars, but that just made me feel really sick, and my stomach was cramping a bit, I felt physically awful to be fair.  Light headed.  The cornflakes were too sweet but also just hadn’t provided enough or at least appropriate fuel to run on.  In better news, the sun was at least coming out periodically, and that made everything feel better.  I was astonished how deserted the route was, and how picturesque too.  My run took my past the Hawker Centre, which I think is the starting point for Kingston parkrun, there were pretty parks to pass through, some amazing trees, and at points, two paths to choose from, an upper tarmac and lower mud path. I took the mud path, more my natural habitat and definitely kinder on my feet, even if it did mean they got saturated.  Also not great on a long run, note to self, buy new socks.   I liked the stacked up rowing boats at one point, with their inspiring names upturned vigour was just the attribute I was needing to channel.

If I’d had more time, I’d have lingered more over the notices which explained the history of some of the landmarks and names along the route.  The Elm Tree – which is no longer there, being a case in point, it must have been a mighty tree indeed, as it lives on in the name of the place where it stood for hundreds of years.

Onward I went, cold, bit grumpy.  This run was only fun in parts.  I really needed the loo, but when I found one, and I did find a couple of public toilets en route, I seemed unable to er hem, ‘perform’.  I felt so sick.  I NEVER get digestive problems, so this is/was a first for me, and I really do think it was related to change in diet and too much sugar.  I just have low tolerance for that, I suppose that’s why I can’t tolerate gels, the very thought of them makes me heave.

I tried to remind myself that this run was as much about tackling mental running demons as covering the physical distance.  It didn’t matter if I was slow, what mattered was putting one foot in front of another.  I could learn from this run, however miserable and inept it was turning out to be.  It was great that I’d made so many rookie errors, as I’d learn so much more.  How genius am I for cramming so many ‘what not to do’ learning opportunities into one relatively short, ‘long run’.  Great.  Blooming great.  I had a lot of quite negative thoughts, but kept trying to bury them, and remind myself I was just doing what needed to be done.  It was normal to doubt myself.  Blah de blah.

One mantra that keeps being trotted out by those who know, is that you should try to replicate as many of the conditions of the marathon as possible in training, whether that is practising with gels, making sure your kit is comfy and appropriate, and working through the ‘mental strength’ challenges of putting in the necessary miles in training.   That’s all well and good, but should not be taken to extremes.  I found out a couple of days ago, to my absolute horror, that one dark secret about marathon running, is that you will be showered in pee en route. ‘You have got to be kidding me?’   Apparently, this is a dirty secret that isn’t widely shared but is true.  A fellow marathon runner in training was telling me about a mutual friend of ours who has run the London Marathon twice.  (You know who you are) I don’t know why this ‘mutual friend’ hadn’t thought to tell me this herself.  Perhaps she was just trying to protect me. The problem is, the truth will out. As will a build up of urine in the bladder apparently.   Both are inevitable.

She shared how her first time, a few miles in there is a part of the route where there a few less spectators and it opens up a bit.  She became aware of her legs getting wetter and wetter as she ran, and couldn’t work out at first what it was.  It turns out, it was because many male runners had used the opportunity to relieve themselves whilst running and were happily disporting their assets and in full flow, running onwards, running free.   Really not caring that basically they were pissing on all the other runners in their wake.  I was and am horrified.  I do not intend to replicate this in training by having members of my Smiley Paces running club spray urine at me as I run.  Since when has this been OK?  I really and truly didn’t know if this was a wind up, so have googled it so you don’t have to. It seems, sadly, this is indeed a thing (though be careful what your search engine will throw up – might want to hide history afterwards).  I get that you might inadvertently wet yourself through stress incontinence or just not being able to hold on, but basically peeing on your fellow whilst running as a deliberate strategy because your need to save 30 seconds on your marathon in your view over-rides other runners right not to have you urinate on them strikes me as a rather arrogant perspective.   Wet yourself by all means, but please don’t piss on me.  I don’t want my abiding memory of London to be wading through other runners’ bodily fluids.    What if I face plant in it, having lost my footing.  Lawks a lordy, if it’s so commonplace, I might actually drown.  That’s really not up there in my list of top ten ways to go.  Not even the top fifty to be fair.

Hmmm, not sure I wanted to know this in advance.  I may report back on this, and the extent to which it was an issue, and if it was, whether in all that heady atmospheric context I even cared.  However, dear reader, if you are thinking of getting your todger out for a piss, or projecting a snot rocket for that matter during the marathon, consider where it might land, please.   And if you must practise peeing whilst running (and it is recommended apparently), choose wisely where to do so.  If you pee on me I won’t be impressed, and it will put me off supporting whatever charity you may be running in support of, unless it’s for urinary incontinence support or the fistula foundation, in which case respect.  I’d even persuade every other runner to wait for you to finish so you aren’t disadvantaged by nipping in to use the loo if that’s your preferred option.  Then again, who knows, maybe I too will be the one unable to contain myself, peeing during the marathon or worse yet, crapping myself.  It’s happened to greater runners than me.  Maybe I should revisit the idea of running in skorts, they have helped many retain their dignity whilst running.  Not about making a fashion statement people, more about hiding your inability to control your bodily functions.  I know elite runners who have got sport prizes at fell races in respect of this.  FACT.  Enough of this now.  Here is a Sheffield snow shot by way of distraction.  (Stolen from Round Sheffield Run Facebook page, but I’m sure they won’t really mind…)  Looking so very pretty, and yet so very incompatible with my marathon training aspirations.

sheffield snow

So many things to fret about.  I feel very naive.  There are whole forums dedicated to peeing whilst undertaking all sorts of sports from running, through cycling and swimming.  I’m definitely not doing tri now.  I suppose though, that’s sort of the point.  I can’t really know what this is like until I’ve done it, or died trying.  What other things though have more experienced runners been keeping from me?  I dread to think.  However bad things have been in training, I’ve yet to change my mind about doing this, I still really, really want to take part, but do I really want full knowledge of what I’m letting myself in for?  Possibly not, it will only scare me, sometimes, a bit of naivety is what’s needed or I’d never do anything.

Where was I.  Oh yes, finding it hard down the Thames Path.  I made it down to Teddington Lock.  Up close, it is impressive, but really difficult to capture in photographs.  There was the option of heading across Ham common and on to Richmond Park, maybe one day, but not today. I was properly cold, and feeling a bit sorry for myself, although there was some comfort that having come this far, I was going to get a reasonable distance under my belt.   Disappointingly, you are not allowed to dive from the bridge into the churning white water and hidden under water hazards below.  No worries, as already clarified above, I’m not training for a tri.

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Having admired the view, it was a case of turning round and heading back.  It was really, really cold, and I felt drained and uncomfortable, this run seemed to be taking forever.  There had been a brief interlude of sunshine, but now the sky was dark again, and I felt like I was running into a chilling headwind.

Back past the Hawker centre, back past the river boats and house boats, pit stop in the Boaters Inn where I was able to refill my water bottle too.  Nice pub actually, and they seem to have some local agreement whereby members of the public are allowed to use their loos.  Not that this really helped me, I was feeling increasingly rough.  Eventually I was back at Kingston bridge – which does look magnificent.

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Back onto the Barge walk and heading back towards Hampton Court.  This was really, really tough.  Light relief was only available through unexpected sights.  Such as the vision of an enormous bumble bee, alongside an open winged swan on the opposite side of the river as I made my way back – Smiletastic team references get everywhere:

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To achieve my desired mileage, I’d need to double back again. There was a gate from the canal path, near to Hampton Court Bridge, where you could dodge into Home park.  I figured I could nip in there, go through Home park, come out at Hampton Wick and back into Bushy Park from there.  This is what I did, but it was really hard to make myself do it.  I just felt ultimately I’d have regretted it if I didn’t do the mileage, and also Home park is really lovely.  A bit wilder than Bushy park and generally deserted. Which it was on this day too, apart from some well-heeled golfers, availing themselves of these exclusive greens.  I’m so glad I made the effort, even if I was basically just walking by this point.  Lovely herds of deer, spectacular views of Hampton Court along the Long Water,

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and a chance to pause by a tree that is special to me.

I was pretentiously contemplative by this point.  Exhausted maybe, rubbish nutrition, dehydrated, cold, not feeling the running lurve at all.  I have been getting weepy on my long runs, I thought it was just me, but – another previously unknown revelation has been that – this is apparently quite common. What’s more, you think you’re weeping now, wait until the marathon!  Not just at the end, I have heard from others it’s quite likely you’ll be blubbing the whole way around.  Particularly if you are running for a charity that has personal meaning for you, but whether you are running for a charity or not (I’m not, I got lucky in the ballot, and besides, I don’t think I could cope with the pressure of running for a charity myself).  Oh no!  Will that constant uncontrollable sobbing cause further dehydration and electrolyte loss?  Yet another factor to take into consideration. This is proving to be ridiculously hard.

What were these abandoned wings about?  A fallen angel? Maybe it was all that was left of the bait laid for the crocodile trap.  I think that must be what the wire cage is for.  There is after all a famous crocodile alongside the stream in the Woodland gardens of Bushy park.  It’s not such a stretch to imagine a cunning saltie navigating the water courses hereabouts to end up in Home park too…

Soon, I gave up any pretence of running, and just told myself it would still be time on my legs and endurance, so I might as well check out the ice house.  Can it really have been standing since the 17th century, late or otherwise, that’s a lot of years.

The ice house is pretty near the Kingston Bridge entrance to Home Park. There was a handy cafe at the edge of Bushy park as I crossed the road.  So I nipped in to use their loo, but felt no better.  It was a slog to go on, but I had little choice at this point.  Don’t know what the London Loop is, might check that out (150 miles of London sights apparently).  I had no idea there were so many options round here.  It’s a quite different running environment from the peaks, but in inclement weather it has its advantages most definitely.

Into Bushy park, and I found myself on part of the Bushy parkrun course.  This was good for morale.  Because, it is a well-known fact that you can always push out a parkrun, no matter how rubbish you may feel.  I made a rather half-hearted attempt to jog on a bit, but it was tokenistic, if not actually non-existent.  I pressed on:

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The final bit of mind over matter, was about 15 miles in (is that all) I realised I still needed to add on another couple to meet my target. It would have been so easy to finish as I neared the Pheasantry, but I went on.  Fortuitously, at exactly this moment, I got a text message from a Smiley friend, I told her I was crawling my way round 15 miles into a 17 mile ‘run’, she sent much virtual support, and because I’d ‘fessed up to what I was doing, I felt motivated to finish what I’d started.  Back round the park.  Brief nip in to see my mum – who is nearby – and a final farewell, back at last to the woodland gardens with the Pheasantry cafe within.

and the crocodile without:

They are indeed still and log like.

Into the cafe.  I had the most fantastic soup ever (tomato and red pepper I think) and sweet potato fries with more salt than I care to admit.  I sat shattered and teary.  Everyone else was on a table a-buzz with friends, with one solitary exception. An older man, sitting alone.  That made me feel a bit sad.  And then I thought of me all wet, and broken and also sitting alone and over-emotional and I just thought how ridiculous this whole thing is.

It was not a good run.  The 17.3 mile route looked like this:

strava long run london

I like that Strava helps you get a sense of where you went, so many other possibilities – ham common and on to Richmond park another time maybe…

I’m really glad I did it, but it wasn’t fun.  Possibly type 2, I saw some amazing things.  And I did learn a lot, albeit about what not to do in training.  I followed the run with an epic 7 hour drive back to Sheffield,


which I don’t mind telling you is most definitely contraindicated after a long run.  I spent the next few days practically unable to move I was so wiped out.  I could not longer tell if such fatigue was a ‘normal’ response to being out for so long, a result of over-training (by my terms, doing too much too soon) or actually being ill. Maybe though, going out when I felt crap to begin with wasn’t the best idea, though I did subsequently bag a really good long ‘run’ along the Monsal Trail   (run walk) which restored some small measure of self-belief.

It’s hard this marathon training thing.  Really hard.  The actual marathon should be a breeze if I survive the run up!

And that was that.  Long run.  It was progress, but still need to add another 10 miles on.  I don’t understand how that is possible.  I do want to break the 20 mile barrier in training.  Oh well.  I’m not going to be a speed merchant, and this run did leave me drained and crap, but I suppose there’s a little bit of me which was chuffed I’d drawn on mental strength to complete what I set out to do, even though this was probably my most miserable run out to date.

Oh well, that’s past now, new runs and adventures lie ahead.

Bring them on.


Don’t even ask about times, it’s not the point and also it depresses me.  In all the uncertainties about what will happen in London, I’m going to put it right out there, that I don’t think Daniel Wanjuri has anything to worry about from me.

PS I wrote this on 18 march, but it relates to a run on 7th March, so I’m going to post it retrospectively.  Think of it merely as a form of time travel, don’t worry about inconsistent chronology within my references, they matter not.  It’s the broad sweep of time that is the important thing, and how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things.  I at least find that ultimately comforting.  Nothing matters nobody cares, kind of liberating.  Same with the marathon.  I’ll do it, or I won’t do it, it shouldn’t matter that much, the journey getting there is the thing.  The marathon itself just the icing on the cake.  I like being reminded of how small and insignificance we are in the universe, it means I no longer need to burn up with embarassment at the memory of my many social faux pas.  Nothing really matters.  Not even being peed on whilst runing a marathon.  Hurrah!

dr who title sequence

Categories: motivation, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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