Posts Tagged With: Poolsbrook parkrun

Taking the plunge on parkrainday aquaplaning the undulations at Sheffield Castle parkrun

Digested read:  went back to Sheffield Castle parkrun today, it rained.  It’s been a while.

Undigested read:

I wasn’t going to do a blog post today, as it’s sort of my home patch and I’ve done a post about Sheffield Castle parkrun before, loved it then, two years ago – they had tadpoles* for goodness sake – what’s not to like?  But then this is such a fabulous parkrun and so under-recognised in my view, I changed my mind.  Putting up a post, even if no-one ever reads it, is my way of sort of writing a thank you letter to the individual and collective awesomeness that is the Sheffield Castle parkrun team.  They are dedicated, welcoming and cheerful, and I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to come back for another visit.  It’s a great run, and hardly ever cancels.  Once because of black ice, and once because of another event in the park, which isn’t bad going for a parkrun which started way back in August 2013.  Today was their 318th run.  And the ratio of volunteers to runners is impressive, how they pull it off week in week out is a minor miracle.  It would take more than apocalyptic flooding for them to pull the plug on their run.  Though to be fair, the irony is if that flooding did make them pull a plug, then the water would all drain away and everyone could run without getting their feet wet, so they wouldn’t need to pull the plug after all.  I know, the contradictory logic messes with your head!  Still, point is, lovely parkrun, why not celebrate it in a post.   Thank you lovely Sheffield Castle parkrun people, your parkrun is epic, as indeed are you!

Also, on the subject of plug holes, check this one out at Ladybower, not a magic portal to a parallel universe unfortunately, but pretty impressive all the same, although not a good idea to dive into it I’d venture.  It would have taken something on this scale to dry out the roads of Sheffield this weekend though.

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So there has been was a lot of rain.  No really a lot.  They say every cloud has a silver lining, and that is true, but they also hold an enormous amount of rain, and a great many large clouds have been jettisoning biblical quantities of rain for what seems like forever.   This plays havoc with my parkrun plans!  What to do?  I was thinking earlier in the week of venturing away from Sheffield before winter properly sets in.  However, parkrunning tourism isn’t that appealing when it might involve aquaplaning down motorways in early morning darkness through zero disability torrential rain.  I’m a bit of chicken driving, unlike rats, surprisingly.  No really.  Look, it was on the BBC website so it must be true check this out:   Rats taught to drive tiny cars to reduce stress levels.  I mean, they’d probably be less stressed if not in a lab in the first place, but even so.  Amazing.  Counterintuitive, as I find driving incredibly stressful, but then again, I’m not a rat, and maybe the roads are better in Canada?

Fab ratmobile though…  I wonder if this was inspired by the bat or popemobile, or vice versa. So hard to establish what is cause and what is effect sometimes, or indeed correlation.  We live in a world of mystery and wonder.  On the subject of bats (yes we were, albeit tenuously) did you see this?  Sweetest thing ever.   Bumblebee bat apparently.

bumblebee bat avant gardens

Stop distracting me by asking about the bat, I’ll never get to tell you all about the Castle of parkrun adventure at this rate what with all these pesky interruptions!

The other complication, was the amount of cancellations popping up.  Wouldn’t want to risk life, limb and worst of all sense of humour bypass, from turning up somewhere only to find it cancelled at the last minute.  I’m desperate to get my running challenges gold running obsessive badge this year by completing 50 parkruns within one calendar year. I know it’s basically a virtual sticker chart for grown ups and inherently pointless, but I don’t care.  I seek it out.  This compulsion hurts no-one.  Sigh, it would be awesome on my profile…  Blooming love the Running Challenges Chrome Extension.


I’ve actually not missed a parkrun this year, but at three of them I didn’t get to run.  Two of them I ended up watching with my mum including supporting her getting her Spirit of parkrun award which was amazing by the way (parkrun royalty, had to be done, and well worth it), and one I turned up at only to find it had been cancelled at the last minute due to high winds, which I completely support – difficult decision for RDs and all that – but it meant it was too late to go anywhere else.  Can’t afford for that to happen again this year.  I’ve just one parkrun in hand, perilously close… in my reach, but not in my reach, like blooming parkrun bingo.  The idea for Stopwatch Bingo , is that you collect all the seconds from 00 to 59 in your finishing times.  I’m on my 227th run, and yet STILL the 20 second time eludes me.  So near and yet so far.  Aaaargh.  Would today be the day I scooped it.  Spoiler alert, nope, it wouldn’t.  But I did a whole lot worse than that, though you’ll have to read on to find out why.  Blooming hate the Running Challenges Chrome Extension.  Pointless stress-inducing obsessive-behaviour-cultivating oojamaflip.   As if life isn’t fraught enough!

Where was I?  Oh yes, in Sheffield, watching the parkrun cancellations tally be revised ever upwards on the parkrun cancellations page.

parkrun cancellations

Bit of a theme emerging eh?  It’s worth looking at this page from time to time, some parkruns are quite creative with their cancellation reasons.  My favourite was one stating the parkrun had actual polar bears on their course, such were the arctic conditions, which I daresay they did, though I can’t remember which one it was now… oh hang on, I can check.  Give me a minute…  it was Bradford parkrun!  I mentioned it in an earlier blog post.  I’m almost disappointed they didn’t cancel today, because they have a gift for communicating their cancellation reasons.  They’d have been building an ark or something.  Wish we’d thought to do that in Sheffield too to be fair.  And, of course I wouldn’t really wish a parkrun cancellation on anyone.  The horror of turning up and finding only tumbleweed or a solitary sodden marshal detailed with breaking the bad news to you.  Too cruel anywhere, as has been said before…

Best stay local.  I was thinking Millhouses parkrun, to continue to support it, what with it being both local and new having only had its inaugural last Saturday.  Then that became definite, because I was going to stand in and be tailwalker for someone else (complicated story), and then there was a suggestion it might be cancelled, due to stretches being not so much puddled as underwater and then it was cancelled.  Oh dear.  Now where?  And then there was a chance Sheffield Hallam parkrun might be cancelled too, on account of the fact it basically being a pond.  I didn’t want to leave it too late to decide where to go if I was going to need to drive.  I wasn’t 100% about whether Graves parkrun would go ahead (also good choice for halloween theme of course) it usually does.  Then as I was browsing through various Sheffield parkrun Facebook pages there was a little comment on one of the posts for Sheffield Castle parkrun Facebook page, just saying almost coyly – ‘yes, we’ll be there in the morning‘ with some fine running emojis.

we ll be there

It was meant to be dear reader, it was meant to be.  I’m in!  Sheffield Castle parkrun has slipped off my radar lately, mainly because it involves driving without the incentive of Highland coos at the end of it, but it’s a great reliable parkrun, so why not.  Make a change.  It’ll be fun, it’ll be fine.

In the morning there was some conferring and some last minute call outs and checks.  Smilie Selfie Queen was going for Castle, Sheffield Hallam reported flooding but would try to go ahead -though not confirming til 8.30.  It’s astonishing those that did as well as those that didn’t.  Penistone parkrun cancelled the night before on account of a bog:

Sheffield Hallam parkrun went ahead, too good an opportunity for triathlon training to pass up.  Plus, must have been hilarious to be fair.  Not to mention a triumph of hope over experience, as one parkrunner at least clung to a King Canute like belief he could turn back the tide.  You have to admire this kind of tenacity, not to mention my boundless appreciation for any parkrunner who seemingly never travels without a yard broom in case of just such a parkrun eventuality.  Yes, that is on the actual course by the way, and what’s more, a bit you get to run/ splash/ swim through four times.  The joy!

Sheffield Castle parkrun facebook page hadn’t got a more recent update, but that’s OK, I’d go there.  Point of information if you don’t know this particular parkrun, it’s a really cool parkrun (get me and my trendy yoof speak**), small (by Sheffield standards) and ‘proper’ community one.  It’s held in Manor Fields Park, which to be honest, when I first moved to Sheffield about ten years ago had a reputation for being something of a dump.  Dog shit and fly tipping, a sad and derelict site.  In recent years, it has been utterly transformed with wildflower planting, sculptures and – best of all – it’s very own parkrun!

Sheffield Castle parkrun is small but perfectly formed, so we can forgive it for being devoid of an actual castle.  The committed team of volunteers who run it are locals invested in the area rather than necessarily runners as such. This gives the run a uniquely friendly, welcoming and community vibe.  It also has a sort of informality to it, which to the uninitiated may seem disconcerting. For example, if you look at the volunteering rota as a way to check its on as tourists often do (blank rota usually means no run) you’ll just see a void, stretching into eternity, it only gets populated immediately after the run when they are events processing for the days parkrun.  In fact, they don’t really bother with it in advance, they have a dedicated team, who presumably rock up each week and sort it out on the day I think.  It works anyway, but is unnerving if you are traveling any great distance I imagine!  Concord parkrun similarly don’t really bother with their volunteer roster in advance either.  Nerves of steel to travel a long way to go there too, but each Christmas day they deliver parkrun magic, no excel spreadsheet required!

castle vol rota

The website also doesn’t list any facilities, but dear reader, on arrival you will find there is a loo, and a little warm room to wait at the start and ‘free’ (for an optional donation) tea and coffee in the community room at the end. Some limited free parking, but it’s on a tram route so accessible by public transport anyway.  if you are driving, I went with the postcode for the premier store next door at 525 City Road with a postcode of S2 1GF, and that worked fine, but be warned, it isn’t a premier store anymore, it’s called something else, so you could miss the turning on arriva.  However, the postcode will get you there – make sure you don’t use the store carpark, turn into the Manor Fields Park area instead.

Right, whilst I’m doing the routine stuff, I might as well tell you about the course, don’t think I did last time, honestly can’t remember. Anyway, the Sheffield Castle parkrun course blah de blah on the official parkrun website describes it thus:

Course Description
The course consists of three laps of Manor Fields park in an anti-clockwise direction.
The Start/finish line is situated at the entrance to the park from the car park adjacent to York House, City Road.
From the start head east following the tarmac path which descends gently and then takes a more north easterly direction. Take a right fork climbing gently on a curved path towards the Queen Mary Road entrance to the park keeping the houses to your right.
Adjacent to the Queen Mary Road park entrance take a left turn following the tarmac path north east towards the children’s playground.
Immediately prior to the playground, at the cross roads, turn left and take the gentle descent north westerly. Continue along the tarmac path following it north keeping rocks to your right and over the discreet, level bridge.
Take the next available right and continue along the tarmac path in a generally northerly direction as it ascends ever more steeply towards the Raynald Road exit from the park.
Follow the tarmac path left and north west as it descends steeply towards the Manor Park Crescent park entrance keeping within the park boundaries following the path as it bends left passed the entrance heading south in a steady climb.
Stick to the main tarmac path as it bends south westerly and commences its steady climb past the cemetery entrance on the right back to the start/finish line.

Which makes it sound reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally complicated.  It’s not, you can either just follow the person in front, or just be guided by the strategically positioned cones and smiley marshals.  You won’t be lost.  You do need to be able to count to three though, or you might over or under shoot your parkrun experience.  It has happened.  I was definitely at a parkrun where a first timer did an extra lap once, but then again, I like to think how chuffed he would have been on completing his ‘difficult second parkrun’ where he must have got a stupendous personal best!  Not sure if that would be absolute consolation though.

The course looks like this:

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What they don’t tell you with quite sufficient emphasis in my opinion, is that it’s Sheffield Flat.  i.e. undulating, i.e. some really quite big hills, two in fact, each of which you do three times.  The views are fab though, and what goes up must come down, so you do get to whizz down them again, which is always a boon.

Anyway, that’s the background info.  My day involved waking up early and thinking it was the middle of the night it was so pitch dark outside.  It wasn’t.  It sounded like torrential rain was beating down on my attic window, shudder.  It was.  This was definitely going to be a wet one. What’s more, at the minute my back is stuffed, so I’m just walking.  In a way, this was something of a relief as it legitimised me wearing waterproofs and even a scarf and woolly hat, but I am getting so sick of not being able to run or do anything very much.  It’s soooooooooooooooo frustrating just pootling round, I wonder if I’ll ever get back to running again, however ineffectually.  Mind you, pootling might be the better option to running to the point of collapse.  Super speedy runners are impressive, but sometimes I worry they don’t have as much fun as the walkers.  Here’s one trying to emulate Mr Kipchoge’s marathon pace for just a kilometer.

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It didn’t end well.  Worth a gander though, and if it’s still raining and you now know what happened in the Rugby***, what else are you going to do today?

Sometimes slow and steady will get you there more reliably.  Hare and tortoise anyone?  For longer distance challenges, pause for a moment to celebrate this woman.  Maggie Guterl.

Maggie Gurtel winner ultra

Oh yes she did!!! Maggie Guterl just won Big’s Backyard Ultra. She ran 250 miles straight and was on her feet for 60 hours!! She is the last WOMAN standing and the first woman to win this race. History is made and barriers have been smashed.

Both ends of the distance are impressive.  Beyond impressive, but I’m thinking for me the goldilocks zone is somewhere between a flat out 1 miler and 250 miles straight (averaging 4.1 miles an hour – about my parkrun speed today, so I’m on target 😉 ) that is, a nice 5k parkrun distance.  I’ll try that, but note the achievements of others in terms of acknowledging what is possible.  Maybe not for each one of us, but within the potential of humankind at least.

So up and out and off to Sheffield Castle parkrun.  My satnav obviously felt my life needed an element of surprise and enrichment, and not only took me the most roundabout route imaginable, I’m pretty sure I went via Aberystwyth, or possibly Cape Pembroke Lighthouse parkrun, but also had a 3 second delay as the signal dropped in and out, so I kept misunderstanding or missing altogether directional instructions.  Probably those things are related, but I choose to believe my satnav is sentient and mischievious, trick or treating me in keeping with the season.

It was pyjama parkrun day, so in theory you could run with your duvet, which would have been fab, but susceptible to extreme waterlogging, so that didn’t happen. Oh well.

I still arrived really early, and was seriously impressed to see a cheery finish funnel already up.  Welcoming lights gleamed out from the community building, this run was happening!

I love the sculptures in this park too, they truly are spectacular.  It’s a while since I’ve been, and I went for a quick wander a  gander.  I  think it was winter when I was here last, so I didn’t fully appreciate the amazing wetland bit with huge bulrushes and boardwalks as well as ducks, and I do love a duck as my regular reader will know.  There was also a great playground, and even though it’s basically winter now, still lots of flowers around.  It’s an amazing place.  It has taken real imagination, passion and dedication to transform this site, it’s astonishing.  It’s not promising when you approach, and then you find the oasis of green space for wildlife and people alike.

I also spotted another slow and steady potential parkrun participant.  This is the parkrun pact, thou shalt not finish last, there shalt be a tailwalker, and possibly even a mollusc, to reassure you there is a chance you’ll get to storm ahead of some living creature at least!


And, for the first time, I spotted this fabulous revelation.   Finally, a pb parkrun, even if three laps!  I know, I know, the jokes been made before, but with an open goal like this one what are you supposed to do?  It might be raining, but this is doable, very doable indeed!


It was definitely still raining, really rather a lot.  So I used the facilities for my precautionary pee.  Top tip, the light switch is inside and low down, you will be plunged into darkness if you shut the door first without locating it.  Just passing on the info for a friend, obvs.  Next door there is a store room, where the innovative Sheffield Castle parkrun team have completely solved the impossible challenge of working out how to pack away the start/finish banner.  Just leave it popped up the whole time!  Genius.  No more ritual humiliation trying to contort the parkrun pop-up banner cat back in the proverbial bag! Talented team here at Manor Fields Park like I said.

I went to join the little huddle in the brightly lit community room.  I didn’t take a picture as it didn’t seem appropriate.  But volunteers were assembling and hot steaming cups of tea and coffee were available as hi-vis was donned.  A few tourists appeared, I like to think it was quality if not quantity.  Some from Nottingham, braving it in shorts – skin is waterproof being their mantra.  I know they are right, but even so, brave and bold parkrunners there.  Properly hardcore.  There was a Rother Valley ‘local’, who like me had decided venturing too far for tourism with so many cancellations potentially pending was not the best move, so keeping it relatively local and visiting a too long neglected parkrun friend.  There were also some refugees from Millhouses parkrun as well as some who were clearly regulars.  A friendly and even optimistic vibe.  Call that rain?  Hardly drizzling!

This parkrun prides itself on starting bang on 9.00 (my watch today said I started my run at 9.01, which is pretty darned close).  So about 15 minutes before the run director braved the rain to put out the final course touches pre run briefings.  Seeing the activity, parkrunners began to emerge from their cars like crabs from under rocks.  It’s always amazing how from nothing a parkrun appears just at the last minute.

The unique selling point of this parkrun is that the volunteers are all spectacularly photogenic, and also have the most extensive collection of golfing umbrellas ever held aloft at a parkrun.  FACT****.  I had no idea golf was so big up at the Manor.  Assume nothing dear reader, rather expect and embrace the unexpected.  I don’t know (or care) enough about golf to make any golf-related small talk, but if it’s your thing I daresay you could give it a whirl.

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Whilst chatting with volunteers I also learned more about Manor Fields.  For example, it was among the first in the UK to adopt

an exemplar SuDS system reproducing natural wetland features to assist with drainage solutions designed to cope with major wet weather incidents.

That means, all the run off from the surrounding houses collects in Manor Fields, and so creates that amazing wetland habitat.   I also learned that the work that has gone into creating wildlife habitat has started to pay off.  I’m not a twitcher as such, so might be getting this wrong, but various endangered species have somewhat surprisingly found a safe haven here, including I think the grasshopper warbler.   According the the RSPB website:

The high, insect-like reeling song of the grasshopper warbler is the best clue to its presence. Even when you hear one it can be difficult to locate it due to the ventriloquial effect of its singing. If seen on migration it moves like a little mouse, creeping through the foliage. Dramatic population declines have made this a Red List species.

Who knew a bird could be a ventriloquist!  Every day’s a learning day!


So that was great, but we were here to parkrun, and so volunteers headed off to the far corners of the fields, and parkrunners materialised in time for briefings.

Smiley Selfie Queen and her making-an-effort comrade were just in time arrivals, but appropriately attired.  Good work my running friends, good work.  Also, handily posing in the doorway of the community room, so you get a little hint of how welcoming and roasty toasty it was in there, pre or post run.

CS made an effort

There was a little comradely huddle of first timers:

the atmosphere built, the crowds assembled:

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and then the RD was astride his podium.  I like to think this was put in place especially for this purpose, but reluctantly concede it is part of the kit for an outdoor gym type initiative:

The brief was pretty focused and brief, with a pleasingly attentive but small cluster of a select 56 runners.  A late arrival didn’t mean there wasn’t time for a bit of parkrun posing.  Shame not to.  After all, if you can’t flash your boo at the parkrun nearest to halloween, when can you?  There were some fine skeleton earrings donned by a participant today, but you might need to be rather eagle eyed to spot them.  … Anyway, ages since I’ve been at such an intimate parkrun gathering.

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quick shuffle round to get in position

and then – a la junior parkrun – there was a collective countdown from ten, nine, eight… to go!  This was great, as it meant I had an accurate start time, creating the giddy possibility I might be able to help along acquisition of my last outstanding parkrun bingo number.  Ye gods, if only!

Awf we went.  Two tail walkers at the back, I wanted to keep just ahead of them.  Despite appreciating the social aspect of parkrun, I can’t bear running with other people, I just find it really stressful.  There was a jeffing run/walker with the tails, so I sort of did impromptu jeffing to keep just away from them, but interspersed with pauses for photo ops.  One thing about being really slow at the moment, is I can appreciate routes more and stop to take pictures on the way round.  Might as well quite frankly.  I think I overheard the tailwalkers say to one another ‘oh no, only runners today!’ which made me feel better in the event I was last one in.  They were looking forward to a walk and talk perhaps.  They were lovely anyway, I warned them I might have to walk a lot because of my back and they just said ‘no problem, that’s what we’re here for’ and more than saying it, clearly meant it.  I could feel the wave of relief wash over me.   The inclement weather did seem to mean only the more hardcore runners had turned out, numbers were definitely down – well, that and the Rugby apparently – so fewer slow and steady participants than usual perhaps.

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It’s a three lapper, and I normally don’t like them, but honestly, there’s so much of interest to look at going round this course is isn’t boring at all.  You can see the other runners in the distance, you can admire the views across Sheffield or the cemetery, you can admire the autumn leaves on the trees or the weird and wondrous sculptures, AND, as if that wasn’t bounty enough, you can interact with the cheery marshals on the way round.  No chance of getting bored here! 

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You start off down hill, but pretty soon have to go up, but it’s fun, no really it is, like a DIY roller coaster.  And it looked spectacular.  Those golfing umbrellas are great for creating a cheery and colourful vibe too!

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Check out the wildflowers too.  Reet nice oot!  Reet nice marshals too, which was fortuitous as you pass them at least three times, more if you are wandering around pre and post parkrun.  Here is one, strategically places at the bottom of heartbreak hill.


What’s that you say?  Why heartbreak hill?  Erm. Tell you what, come find out for yourself, put on a spurt as you go past the entrance to the conveniently placed cemetery and you might be able to make an educated guess.  Alternatively, if like me you are walking at parkrun on the day, you can pause to admire the bog plants thriving at the wayside, look in admiration at the community orchard, planted so people can help themselves to the fruitful bounty (brilliant idea, don’t know if that’s a thing elsewhere too) and watch in wonder as front runners – admittedly somewhat sodden, come steaming by!

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Walking at parkrun is fine by the way, parkrun are rather proud of their walkers as it shows it is creating opportunities to be active for people who might not otherwise be so.  There is even a Walking at parkrun Facebook group.  Good to know.

You have a tantalising glimpse of the finish funnel, with a concentration of high-vis heroes all tooled up and ready to go, and then round you go for lap two.  Or lap three, if you are faster than me, and have just lapped me.

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Ding ding, round two.  Looking lovely curving round the uphill ahead.

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I love that you can see the houses, it really highlights how the park is city based resource.  There weren’t all that many other users out and about today, a couple of dog walkers.  And one guy with a huge umbrella in one hand and an enormous bap in the other, chomping away.  I’m not going to line, I did have a moment of thinking his approach to a walk in the park looked like it was potentially a bit more fun than mine – but then again, he didn’t have the camaraderie of an entire parkrun community alongside him.  Though he did have breakfast…  tough call.  Still, no breakfast is better than a post parkrun breakfast.  FACT!*****

As I went round again, I espied a different style umbrella, this one with unicorns.  Not real unicorns, just a pattern of them.  Not sure if this was here as an emergency resource, much like one of the volunteers was despatched to their spot clutching a first aid kit, and there’s a defibrillator somewhere – or if it was just soooooooooooooo wet now, even the bushes wanted a bit of respite from the inclement weather.

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Round we go, wave at marshals, back to heartbreak hill, oh look, more runners coming through, and sprinting to their finish.  Yay!  Go them.  Some still had time to shout encouragement or offer up a cheery wave as they sped on by.

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Past the finish again.  Inexplicably, I am never thought to have already done two laps, but I got cheers of encouragement as I set off for the final lap.

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In truth, I think it was me, the jeffer behind and the tail walkers on our own for the final lap.  A couple of the volunteers had started to wander back towards the start to see where we were.  They were still directing, just checking everything out, which was fair enough.  The tailwalkers were a bit further back, as they ‘released’ marshals as they passed, and scooped up the cones that had signalled the way.

In the final stretch, Smiley Selfie Queen appeared.  I thought she’d have had to rush off, so that was great.  And also, of course she obliged with photos.  Yay!  I concede I’m hardly dressed for running, but I was dressed for the elements.  And I still got wet through to my knickers.  It was a wet one, seriously, very wet indeed!

CS not very action stations

Finally, the end was in sight, and I glimpsed my watch.  Oh.  My.  Gawd.  So close to time, I jogged and then sprinted through the finish, and the time called something 20!!  BINGO!!  BLOOMING BINGO!!!  DONE IT DONE IT DONE IT!!!  If this comes good, I’ll get a pointless virtual badge that only I can see on my running profile!  I wondered if it was cheating to have helped it along, but decided not, because it’s not like I waited, and it’s so arbitrary, and anyway, it felt goo.  Hurrah.  This is the parkrun that keeps on giving.  Could this get any better?


Through the fun of the funnel, token issue, 15th birthday flat-band scanned.  Job done.  Smilies reunited.  Boo!  I wasn’t alone in getting wet en route methinks!

Time for the obligatory group selfie, courtesy of Smiley Selfie Queen and facilitated by a volunteers golfing umbrella!

CS selfie

And that was that.  Team stood down.  Course dismantled, and volunteers disappearing off to the community hut, splashing through the standing water en route to get there.

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I had wanted to stay for coffee to be sociable, but I was so wet I decided to head home after thanking the team.  It was an excellent choice, and I’m really glad to have Sheffield Castle parkrun back on my radar once again.  It’s such an intimate run, and it’s an interesting course, challenging if you want it to be, but supportive if you are wanting to take it more slowly for whatever reason.  A good inclusive parkrun community.

Rained on the way home, but some nice views across the city from on high.  Don’t worry, I was stationary when I took the photo.


And as I stepped through my front door, super fast results processing meant I heard the ping of the results coming through on my phone.  Just a formality to check.  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  Not my twenty second time as expected, worse it was twenty-one seconds.  One second awry!  That’s hard to take dear reader, I’d rather miss it by a mile.   If there’s one thing worse than not getting a bingo number, it is to miss it by just one second.  I don’t think I’m ever going to get that elusive 20, it is so very random.  Oh well, perhaps I should be grateful to have it still outstanding and something to chase.  Who knows, when all my bingo dreams are fulfilled, perhaps life will seem strangely pointless?  Best not to know.

Oh, and in a parallel universe, they were showcasing the joy of running, if not singing in the rain over at Sheffield Hallam parkrun. Good work behind the camera George, with these pics you have surpassed even yourself!  Just a bit of surface water, no great drama.

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There was a fair bit of water at Poolsbrook parkrun too!  Never have so many parkrunners had soooooo much fun, splashing through puddles.  You have to pity the poor trolls that normally live under the Poolsbrook parkrun bridge – where would they have gone to hide?  Heaton parkrun had a water feature too! 

So that’s that, thank you fellow parkrunners in general and Sheffield Castle parkrun team in particular for another precious parkrunday.  What a cracking parkrun Sheffield Castle is, I’m not going to leave it quite so long between visits next time!  Special thanks to the amazing volunteers who kept cheerful and enthusiastic with their clapping and directional pointing despite what might be referred to euphemistically as ‘sub-optimal’ conditions. You are all superstars!

What did we ever do with our Saturday mornings before.  I know one thing, as I stood dripping in my hallway, gazing at my one second out bingo time, there is no way on earth I’d have spontaneously out of the house for any sort of outdoor exercise today were it not for the pull of parkrun.  It’s been life changing for me as well as life enhancing.  #loveparkrun hope you do too!

That’s it for now then.  Don’t forget, clocks go back tonight, we all get an extra hour in bed in which to dream about parkrun, sigh.  Lucky it was a day full of adventures!

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You can waste more hours of your life by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Enter at your own risk.

You’re welcome.

f Sheffield Castlt.jpg

*just to be clear, the tadpoles were present, but not actually participating. That would be stupid.  Little did I know back then that 2 1/2 years later, I’d have tadpoles of my own.  Just goes to show, you never really know what the future holds.  Giddy times.

**sarcasm alert people, sarcasm alert.

***don’t tell anyone, but I don’t really care about the Rugby, and haven’t found out the result yet therefore.  Hence you’ll find no spoilers here.

****Lucy fact, that is, I choose to believe this to be true.  Works for me.

*****also Lucy fact.

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

Extra, Extra, bonus parkrun day times two! NYDD Poolsbrook parkrun 2019

Digested read:  Extra extra parkrun day, went to Poolsbrook parkrun for parkfun two.  The sun shone and all now right with the world. Hurrah!

Unabridged read:

Loads of us there, no really, absolutely loads!  Thanks Kevin Bird for sharing this picture on the Poolsbrook parkrun Facebook page.  Epic!   And that’s not even everyone, not by a long shot, more trailing to left and right of this shot you know, you should have been there.  Perhaps you even were?

kb still they come

Honestly, I was in a bit of a New Year’s Day grump en route to Poolsbrook this morning.  Two reasons.  First reason, two unaccompanied children at the first run of the day at Graves parkrun, looking increasingly worried about not knowing where their parent/ designated adult was meant I had to ditch my run and walk with them for a while – as did at least another half a dozen other concerned runners at various points, they were only about 6 for goodness sake. I was not impressed, particularly as when their parent was finally identified he shouted at me for apparently ‘not understanding‘ instead of maybe saying ‘thanks for giving up your run to make sure my small children were safe.’  They may have been all smiles once reunited with their parents but there were quivering lower lips and clearly upset on the way round.  A particular shame to have a bad experience as Graves parkrun is in many ways my favourite venue. Fab volunteers, friendly fellow parkrunners and I love the new course too, was expecting a feel good high after starting the new year there   …  Anyway, it meant I was even slower than usual finishing, discombobulated, wearing my grumpy knickers and wondering if it was even worth trying to get to Poolsbrook at this stage as I might now be too late and miss the start there.  Fortunately, I decided even if I did arrive too late, I could still plod round for a ‘freedom run’.  Had to be worth a try.  My other, possibly even greater concern, was that I had lost a banana in my car.  This dear reader has far more potentially catastrophic consequences.  I’d had the foresight to chuck it in to provide mid-run carbs to keep me going sans breakfast for run two of the morning.  Whilst it seems I can run (slowly) just fine without extra sustenance, the thought of having a slowly rotting banana lurking somewhere in my car is a cause for real concern.  I might not be able to find it now, but one warm day – and the interior of cars can heat up pretty darned quick – and that banana will become not only easy to locate but no doubt leave a lingering memory for many moons to come.  Curses.  Maybe I should have stayed in bed after all.

Chuntering away to myself I headed over to Staveley.  Not chundering, I had a most abstemious new year FYI, not a drink passed my lips.  Oh, maybe a gin and tonic early on, but that was it. What did I do instead?  Well, actually, and atypically, an early evening panto trip, well, I couldn’t let my American visitors come to the UK at panto time and not inflict introduce them to this uniquely British bizarre theatre tradition.  I did forewarn them about the Dame and the audience participation ‘Oh yes I did!’ but forgot to mention the casual extreme racial stereotyping and absence of plot.  Ooops.  Apart from the former, oh, and the ritual traumatising of children on stage – which I had to explain was another British institution (telling a four-year old she should have made more of an effort with her outfit for starters did cause me to simultaneously put my head in my hands and laugh out loud) – the Manor Operatic Panto was pretty goddarned impressive.  A flying carpet scene was the best ever, and that’s without making allowances for this being an amateur show.

manor operatic 2018 panto aladdin

Still, don’t bother me with all these questions about New Year’s Eve and panto!  You are distracting me. Where was I?  Oh yes, grumpily en route to Poolsbrook Country Park.  Praise be for sat nav, this got me there safely, by what route I could not now tell.  It was indeed tight, but as I pulled into sight of the venue there was a queue of cars waiting to come in, and an efficient and good-natured volunteer on car direction duty, warning us that the car park was full, and even the adjacent industrial estates so to the verges it was.

I don’t honestly know if they delayed the start or not, possibly by a bit, but it was extremely well-managed, particularly given the unprecedented numbers.  I gather even the tail walker from Graves parkrun made it in time, so that’s a well oiled machine indeed, on both counts.  Kudos to the tail walker, and kudos to the Poolsbrook heroes.  The volunteer team here were completely amazing.  All smiles and cheerful waving even though some of them had less glamorous hi-vis roles being relegated to far-flung corners of the park to manage the cars descending on the venue with the intensity of space debris being sucked into a black hole.  Though I maintain from personal experience that directing traffic is still preferable to being dog poo bin monitor at Sheffield Hallam parkrun – well, that’s in my humble opinion anyway.

Here are some from their Facebook team photo. Aren’t they a delight to behold?  One other thing they did here at Poolsbrook which was quite marvellous, was put up a placard which had a photo of many of the volunteers who’ve turned out to support the event over the previous year, along with a selection of runners.  Don’t know what criteria was used to make the final cut as all parkrunners are awesome, fact.  Look, I’ve now been gifted a copy of it, gotta love a photo montage, or might it even be a collage?  Not decoupage though, although that would be a fab innovation for this time next year:

volunteer thanks collage poolsbrook

What a great idea! This was (the majority of?) the New Year’s Day offering.  Note in particular the excellent tinselled hat appendages and the fine kilt-sporting.  Most apt for the season.  One of their number had even joined the pre-run briefing at Graves to advise on logistics at Poolsbrook for any NYDD seekers.  All in the planning people, all in the planning…

PP hi vis heroes

Anyways, I parked on a verge near to the starting area, and after a further failed rummage around in the car in search of my misplaced banana, headed off to the gathering area near the main building and where the finish funnel is.  I saw a few familiar faces from running in general and earlier in the day at Graves in particular.  More remarkable were the many I missed, possibly due to the enormity of the crowd, or possibly due to the fact they saw me first.  Hard to be sure.  I forgot my camera, which I regret as Poolsbrook offered up some fab photo ops, so I’ll be trawling t’internet and Facebook for pics to cull.  Otherwise, you’ll just have to use your imaginations.

It’s been a while since I was at Poolsbrook, so in case you are rusty too, here is the course blah de blah from the Poolsbrook parkrun event page:

The course, which was accurately measured by a AUKCM Measurer, is entirely within Poolsbrook Country Park which was once the site of the former Ireland Colliery, but which has been transformed from dereliction into a popular country park and amenities area. The course is almost entirely on compact wide trails but some sections of the course may accumulate mud, leaves and puddles after rain, so please take care. Dependent on availability, marshals will be at key sections of the course, or signs will be in place.

The course starts about 300m away from the café and consists of three anticlockwise laps of the main lake. The finish is on the grass on the right side of the path, in front of the adult gym facilities.

A couple of points to note:
The course leaves the immediate side of the lake to cross the weir and for about 30m runs on the wide path next to the road. Please keep to the lake side of the path.
If you are being lapped by faster runners please keep to the left side of the course to allow faster runners to overtake on the right.


and the course looks like this:

Poolsbrook route

In a nutshell, keep to the left to allow faster runners to pass, or to the right if you are such a faster runner, and do three and a bit laps on the flat course.  If you end up on grass or in water you have veered off course in one direction or the other.  I’d say it was pretty difficult to get lost on this course – indeed the RD claimed they’d lost no-one yet –  though to be fair, if someone was so lost they’d sunk to the bottom of the lake complete with their barcode I’m not sure how you’d ever know.  So really I think they should say ‘to the best of our knowledge we’ve lost no-one yet‘.  I might message the event team with that feedback later, I’m sure they’d thank me for interrupting their winterval festivities with such an important observation.

I arrived at the finish tunnel just in time to see a couple of familiar faces, dump my fleece and scarf on a bench near to the finish funnel, and join the  migration to the start.  En route, I spotted scooby do from Graves earlier, and finally twigged he is actually working as the guide dog for a visually impaired runner, fundraising for, erm, actually I can’t remember, but bet some photos will go up at some point and I’ll maybe borrow one of those.  Amongst those assembling were Regal Smiley and others of the Tilly household.  I didn’t spot Tilly, but my eyes widened as Regal Smiley produced the most enormous plastic bags I’ve ever seen, think bin liners, and I couldn’t disguise my horror at my immediate thought that these were bespoke poo bags and Tilly was suffering from a serious and explosive digestive disorder. Don’t dear reader, the error was mine, the bags were for coat storage purposes.   They came prepared this family.  No wonder I gaze on at them as super human role models from afar.  Tilly was having a day off.  Well someone had to stay home and watch out for squirrels coming up the drive. Those pesky rodents won’t bark at themselves!


It was nippy, but the sun was beginning to peek out.  HOW EXCITING!  I’m not a regular here, but you could tell this was a huge turn out as we gathered in the start. The paths are wide and generous, but even with good-natured parkrunners trying to give way, it was quite a squeeze to get into position.  Some runners with buggies, had to manoeuvre their way to the back by passing them almost aloft, but it was all fine and friendly.  A little glimpse of what travelling by tube in the London rush-hour could be like if all your fellow passengers were parkrunners and inclined to co-operate with one another rather than will you to vanish from their mind if not their sight.  I was camera-less, but thankfully Smiley selfie queen was in position and on form, for which I thank her!  Other acquisitions have also been made from random Facebook findings. If it’s your photo and you object to my using it please let me know and I’ll unhappily delete, because that’s fair enough.  But you know, it’s a compliment that I like your pictures really isn’t it Al Dalton, and it’s all to share the parkrun love. Plus only me and you will most likely ever see this post unless you choose to share it, so it could just be our little secret, and that might be kind of fun yes?

Or no 😦 ?

Just me having fun then? Story of my life…


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See how the sun has come out and how happy we all are.  Astonishing given that some had already run 5k this morning and others were nursing hangovers, full on ones, not even the creeping ones yet to kick in!

Oh, and thanks to Andy co Event Director for and oftentimes RD at Poolsbrook who was the teleporting Poolsbrook presence at Graves earlier on and who has also gifted some fab atmospheric shots.  Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Poolsbrook?  (Rhetorical question, of course we all did!)

The run briefing was personal and all round excellent. The usual welcome and thanks.  Claps for those who had already run today, cheers for those who hadn’t the loudest cheer for the I think solitary person who identified themselves as a first time ever at parkrun runner.  How exciting is that!  He had a good-natured dog with him and was standing in front of me. Another runner made two abortive attempts to say hello to the dog, both of which resulted in a lot of animated barking, not aggressive, but not impressed either.  It was as if the poor parkrunner was the opposite of a dog whisperer, more a canine agitator, it was sad really. Like when people desperately like cats, and by seeking to engage with them make cats run away or hiss.  Sad but true.

We were told of not one, not two, but three visually impaired runners on course. One with scooby-doo on a fund-raiser, another, with an actual dog, aiming to do six parkruns in I think 15 days, but I’d need to check.  Here is a fab picture of him lifted from their Christmas Day Poolsbrook run report

Chris and dog christmas day parkrun

I’m always somewhat in awe of visually impaired runners, it must take a lot of trust to run with a guide even if there’s no-one else around, but today it was heaving as well, different level of courage altogether.  Coincidentally, there was a great article from the perspective of a VI runner on the parkrun newsletter today (yep, time travel again) hang on, I’ll find it, it’s inspirational stuff.  Check out Kelly Barton’s story on this link of GP stories. You’re welcome.

After a most jolly briefing, with happy birthdays and milestones all acknowledged alongside practicalities the call went up for 3 2 1 go!  And absolutely nothing happened.  Is it bad I was a tad relieved?  No chance of a speedy one today.  Pleasingly I found myself alongside a fellow Smilie, and we shared with each other our insights that this start would rather scupper our plans for a run at pace, so might as well just treat it as miles on the legs rather than a tempo run, I nodded furiously, not entirely sure what this meant other than it being a free pass for taking it easy and providing some sort of race-craft justification for doing so. Hurrah!   We trotted along companionably, until inevitably she was chaffing at the proverbial bit to speed up and needed to chase down her offspring who was in danger of disappearing into the swell.  For the record, I think it was his idea to do the New Year’s Day Double, which is impressive indeed for a junior runner.  Hurrah!  Also, just because it pleases me, turns out I was also right behind them in the panto audience too, if only they’d believed me and looked round they might have spotted me.

As we headed out, we passed one hi vis hero who had secured the sweet spot for volunteering purposes. Seated on a bench he shouted out warnings to runners to avoid them colliding with it.  Sort of like the foghorn on a lighthouse keeping ships away from treacherous rocks.  Excellent.  Only a post involving custody of  a clipboard could possibly be more high status I would have thought…

From the back, the circular route meant I could see the runners ahead streaming round the lake, and quite a sight it was too!  I don’t know how to share videos I’m afraid, but check out this link from Melissa Swann of the start of Poolsbrook parkrun on New Year’s Day 2019 oh hang on, it might even work – impressive eh?

Off I trotted, hard not to feel cheery with the sun shining, flat course and cheerful ambience.  I’m not the greatest fan of multi-lap routes, but this was somehow doesn’t seem too bad.  It goes quickly and there is much of interest.  Though I’m always a bit wary of goose-shit bridge.  It is a well-known FACT – or at very least a Lucy Fact (i.e. one which I believe to be true and choose therefore to cite as an absolute truth until proven otherwise) which for the purposes of this blog amounts to the same thing – that goose poo is the slipperiest substance known to humankind.  No really it is.  And those geese get everywhere.  Fortunately there are marshals on hand on either side of the bridge to point and clap and cheer and, when the occasion requires it, to wrangle the geese.  I don’t know why the chrome extension volunteering roles don’t list ‘goose wrangler’ amongst the options, because to be honest that is one of the potentially scariest roles.  Maybe they don’t want badge-hunters going for glory and putting themselves in harm’s way.  Geese can be vicious you know, and need to be treated with respect.  And yes I do speak from personal experience, I’ve had more than one run in with an aggressive goose and they are one of very few creatures on this earth I actively dislike as a consequence.  My shins have never been the same again after being savaged by the beating wings of a goose that sought to see me off its land. There is a reason they are used for guarding property you know. At least an aggressive dog can be pacified or distracted by food.  Geese have no such vulnerabilities.     Oh anyway, here’s Smilie selfie queen, capturing the goose action so I didn’t have to. Thanks again.


I survived the geese and their deposits on the bridge, and onward  I went.  It was good for my confidence to do a completely flat parkrun for a change.  Lately I’ve struggled to run up hills at Graves and even Concord parkruns which both have some undulation, though by no means extreme.  It was nice to just hit a rhythm and stay in it for the duration, even if I was slow.  I thanked the marshals as I went round for the first lap, offering a ‘happy new year’ on the second and a sort of free form  hybrid for the final circuit.  Each hi-viz hero had their own style.  Some excelled at clapping, some at directional pointing, some at apt quippery – the ‘fake it to make it’ comments re ‘pretend to enjoy it’ were helpful toward the start section by the marshal on the pavementy bit.  A special mention for the kilt wearing marshal who boomed out encouragement that could be heard across the lake, and interacted enthusiastically with seemingly every runner as they passed. That’s dedication:

I’m a slow and steady runner, so feel well qualified to testify that those marshals kept up clapping the whole time, for every participant.  It’s no mean feat to clap continuously for that long and cheerily AND throw in some directional pointing as well.  An endurance challenge in its own right.  Thank you all of you for sterling support.

The laps do all merge into one  a bit.  I could see early on in the first lap that a super speedy athlete was storming round on the other side of the lake. The downside with a three-lap course is I get lapped even earlier than usual, but on the plus side it is really astonishing to see those faster runners cruise by.  Most managed to choke out words of encouragement through their rapid breathing as they passed.  It was an extremely well organised and mutually respectful run. The only minor incident I witnessed was when Scooby was guiding his runner and asking for people to give way and another parkrunner wearing headphones just didn’t hear, I sort of chaperoned her to one side and she was fine about it, so all’s well that ends well.  It was a master stroke of irony that the guide dog’s Scooby costume impaired his vision too, so it was hard for him to make out quite what was going on, especially as it was so very crowded at that point it was hard to find a path through.

Astonishingly, nobody mistook me for a faster runner on either of the first two laps and erroneously tried to usher me towards the finish funnel so I had to do all three loops, but at least it meant I got my monies worth for time out on the course.  By the time I did get to the final lap, I mistook the turn off for the finish funnel, which meant what I laughingly refer to as my ‘sprint finish’ was both longer and more uphill than I’d banked on. However, some already finished and now departing friends cheered me in, and then there was a bonus hug and selfie from smiling non-smiley and a new year’s hug from a vegan runner who I stalk for his fab running photos.  Seems we are mutual stalkers in fact so here’s a wave out just for you. I was worried I was keeping him from his V-gang team photo, but he made it as the picture testifies.  Some pretty fab and friendly runners in this line up you know:

V gang out in force

Even though I was slow, there were still plenty of people on the course and busy scanners scanning and people gathering and all good and all smiley.

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I retrieved my fleece and scarf and suddenly felt cold and peckish.  However, good news dear reader, whilst the official cafe was shut, a pop up community cafe was very much open.  Volunteers were constantly refilling an urn of hot water and you could have tea and coffee and help yourself to a smorgasbord of cakery.  I had a coffee, which I slightly over-filled and subsequently spilt onto my feet, which would have been catastrophic but for the intervention of one of the Tilly household who spotted my rookie error in coffee cup handling.  I also had what I think must have been a home-made rock cake and you know what, it was absolutely delicious.  Not had one of those in years, not tasty and fresh like that one.  Retrospectively, I read that parkrunners are encouraged to bring stuff along to share as well, which accounts for the copious amounts of food on offer.  You are encouraged to make a cash donation, and I certainly couldn’t begrudge that, however it was very much up to individuals as to what they chose to leave. It was great, and the money goes on, erm, actually I’m not sure on what exactly, I think on things like new parkrun tokens – a few went walk about today for starters…

After a little lingering, I went out to cheer in the last few runners.  I must look like a pro at the finish these days, as the RD came along and told me they had enough scanners for the last few on the course so I could stand down if I wished. That was confusing, but fathomed satisfactorily after a few moments of mutual incomprehension.

Soon some of the earlier marshals strode into view, carrying their various hi-vis signs like roman soldiers with battle flags.  I suddenly felt cold, really cold so decided it was time to depart.  I thanked random marshals as I left. They really had created a brilliant mood.  I could just make out the final finishers coming round to finish to a welcoming team of supporters.  I do like a happy ending.  🙂

Oh and for stats-geeks, we must once again salute Elliot Line who hot of the press told us in his New Year’s Day update that at least 150 events had attendance records today.  Oh yes they did!

New Years Day 2019 Attendance Stats.

Apologies for another shortened stats summary. Full stats including milestones, records, volunteers and comparisons will resume mid-January.

Biggest parkruns UK: Bushy Park (1156), Southampton (1048), Eastville (941), Milton Keynes (918), Rising Sun (869), Brighton & Hove (826), Chelmsford Central (811), Cardiff (805), Kingsbury Water (792), Hove Promenade (787), Lee-on-the-Solent (777), Sale Water (775), Braunstone (753), Frimley Lodge (741), Huddersfield (735), Conkers (719), Catton (715), Long Eaton (703), Rushmoor (702), Telford (699),

There were at least 150 new attendance records in the UK today!

In the UK there were 332 parkruns and 125375 parkrunners, (fewer unique parkrunners, as many of those will be the same parkrunner twice), plus pending results from Delamere, Barry Island and Shepton Mallet.

Worldwide there were 673 parkruns and 178444 parkrunners, (fewer unique parkrunners, as many of those will be the same parkrunner twice), plus a few pending results.

Poolsbrook included.  Wow, parkrun is indeedy most definitely becoming a thing for allsorts.  In a good way.  Hurrah!

parkstatswangy also had an update on the stats.  Wow!

A record breaking New Year’s Day! An astounding 150 events broke their attendance records and 2 events equalled theirs. This gave an overall U.K. attendance of 126,653, which is only about 8,000 less than the previous Saturday despite there being 239 less events. Five regions actually increased their attendance, with East Midlandsbeing up 17% and Scotland up 11%.

A record among the new recordsHove Promenade saw its record increase the most in absolute numbers, up 344 parkrunners to 787. Perry Hall north of Birmingham saw the biggest percentage increase, more than doubling its record from 223 to 561 (up 152%). Whinlatter Forest in the Lake District saw the biggest increase from its usual (10 week median) attendance, hosting 279 parkrunners when it normally hosts around 43 (up 549%).

The total attendance on New Year’s Daywas 126,653 at 335 events.

Poolsbrook reported on the day with a Facebook post as follows:

Wow, what a morning it was at Poolsbrook parkrun today. A new record of 617 of you took part supported by 30 amazing volunteers. It seems as if our planning to accoodate such a high number of participants paid dividends today 😀

We hope that you all had a great time at Poolsbook today – thank you to everyone who took part and all of you who volunteered

They also did their own fab run report of the day, so you can read the New Year’s Day Poolsbrook parkrun official run report and triangulate that report with mine to help inform you analysis and conclusions about what the morning was really like. 🙂 It’s important to do your own parkrun research if you want to keep on top of this parkfun game!

Oh, and in other good news. I found my banana at home!  See, all good with the world. Yay!  This isn’t the actual banana by the way, wouldn’t want to mislead.  Just have used a stock image of a banana in case you didn’t know or couldn’t recall what I was referring to. You’re most welcome.


I think the previous record was 473, on New Year’s Day 2018, so that’s quite some jump in numbers.  Wow.  I’m impressed they didn’t run out of tokens.

So there you go. New Year’s Day Double done and dusted.  Glad I did it in the end, though had a wobble in the middle there somewhere.  There are some pretty excellent graphics about who went where.  Couldn’t find a Graves/ Poolsbrook link but this one gives the general idea.  Can’t find out where it came from, if I do, I’ll add that credit in some time later.

Yorkshire and Humber NYDD parkruns

So Happy New Year and happy running in general and parkrunning in particular.  Remember it’s not the miles on the legs that count, it’s the smiles in those miles!  #loveparkrun and even if you didn’t get out on New Year’s day, it’s never too late to get to your first or any number parkrun…

happy new year


parkrun, there really is no other way to start your Saturday…

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though. 🙂

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

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new parkrun double for me… and I’m feeling good! (ish)*

Digested read: we’ve had an icy twixmas parkrun, then new year day double. Hurrah.  Best way to start the year. Shame some people have picked up a mysterious 24 hour bug, but hey ho, job done. Go us!  Happy New Year everyone.  Also, let Smiletastic commence. Isn’t parkrun grand?  Love parkrun.  🙂

*Strictly speaking, I was feeling a bit rough.  But that messes with both the scanning and the opportunity to link to a fine Nina Simone power ballad, so forgive the artistic licence with my edit.  Gotta love Nina


Is it true you are supposed to start the New Year as you mean to go on?  If so, I don’t know whether I have passed or failed in that respect.  I did make it to a parkrun, twice in fact (yay) but I also felt distinctly queasy, sleep deprived and as a consequence loped round the two different courses lard-arsed, and with little vestige of either personal propulsion or personal dignity.  On the plus side, awesome crowd, parkrun buddies old and new, with added Smiletastic Dragonfly vigour for good measure.  Maybe a case of good in parts.

Last time I posted about parkrun it was to reveal all about my ill-judged,  type 2 fun run out with Sophie at Concord on Christmas Day.  By mutual consent, this romp round marked both the beginning and end of our running partnership.  It’s OK, because she has decided she want’s to focus on her skiing – she thinks the photo ops with a backdrop of snow will be more flattering, and likewise I think I’ll have more flattering running photos too, without wrestling with a unicorn the whole way round.  Running with dignity – that would be a great way to start the new year would it not.

It sure as heck wasn’t how I ended it though.  Since Christmas,we’ve had our ‘twixmas run at Sheffield Hallam.  That was something of an experience.  Other parkruns local to Sheffield fell like flies, cancelled due to ice and slidy paths. Hallam gamely decided to brave it, but you know that it’s not going to be a PB run when you see the run director heading out with a shovel at the start don’t you?  I promise you, he wasn’t just heading out for a wild-camping inspired dump.  I know this, because I saw him ice breaking on Rustlings Road,  above and beyond my friend.  Respect to you.

man with shovel

It was something of a slide about,though those in the front of the line up seemed as fearless as ever…

how it started

but I like to think the mud snorkeling and iced pavements added a certain frissance to the occasion.  We had our very own arctic enemas and mud crawls. Who needs tough mudder anyway?

Personally, I didn’t mind at all having to take it really slowly, but maybe with hindsight I’d have bottled it.  You know it’s bad when dogs are being carried round rather than chased after by breathless runners.  Unless our resident photographer inadvertently snapped a 101 Dalmatians inspired dog-knapper at the very moment of the dogduction, must check Sheffield animals lost and found to clarify.

precious cargo

Weirdly, it’s the rise in temperature that made the compressed ice especially treacherous, not so much slush, as a perfect skidway with meltwater pooling on top of the ice. Still, all’s well that ends well.  They counted everyone in, and they counted everyone back, sighs of relief all round. What was not so grand, was discovering that apparently it isn’t running with a unicorn that makes me appear undignified in my gait.  It is the actual act of ‘running’.  The camera never lies, although it does have a very dry sense of humour it seems…

I have to accept I’m not a natural at this.  I don’t know why I keep on going really.  Hope over experience perhaps, or maybe the prospect of post-parkrun brunch?  Probably brunch.

Still, love parkrun. The more parkruns the better.  Hence, given that, as parkrun aficionados all over the world know:

New Year’s Day is the one day of the year where it is possible to walk, jog, run or volunteer at two parkruns on the same day! What better way to start 2018

I remain conscientious about the concept and commitment to parkrun if not always keen on the actual running component of the enterprise.  New Year’s Day promised the possibility of a parkrun double, and as a parkrun partaker, that was too good a chance to miss.  I couldn’t get to parkrun last year, but achieved the parkrun double the year before going to Nostell Priory and Pontefract parkruns and that was fab.  This year, a host of us were planning to go, but inevitably it got a bit complicated, there were those with injuries or hosting obligations on New Year’s Eve that might prove incompatible with undertaking a parkrun shuffle. Then, an added consideration for me at least, was feeling torn between my conflicting desires on the one hand to be constant to my regular parkrun partners and brunching buddies or on the other to take flight and throw my lot in with my new Smiletastic compatriots in our newly formed Dragonfly team. Dropping my longstanding, loyal and unswerving running companions as my head was turned by short-lived glory that might be achieved through association with such swarming irridescent beauties.  Tough call.  Seductive, aren’t they?  You’ve got to admit you’d have your head turned too, surely… and I’m way more suggestible and shallow than you probably are with your principles, stoicism, and fine running technique. Plus, well, it’s Smiletastic, that’s an annual game changer.  All previous alliances, allegiances and agreements are off.  It’s another new dawn, you exist for your team and they for you.  One for all and all for one, and everyone for post run coffee and cake (other foods and beverages are available).

For those of you not in the know, firstly, where have you been?  Secondly, in brief, Smiletastic is an annual team challenge for members of the Smiley Paces.  I did it a couple of years ago, and participation in that helped me to put in the necessary training which got me round the Sheffield Half, in a fashion.  It also was fairly traumatic, it’s a big responsibility pledging runs and knowing if you fail to deliver, you will bring your team down with you!  STRESS!  As with all running related stresses, after the event, trauma morphs almost seamlessly into nostalgia.  That was sooooooooooo fun and not at all pressurised and stress inducing!  No wonder we all worship Smiley Elder for bringing Smiletastic into being.  After a year off when I was in Cambodia, this year when Smiletastic came round it was Bring. It. On!

Better yet. I was in team dragonfly.  Hurrah.  Great, we would be mutually supportive we quickly agreed. This would be fun and about team motivation, and we wouldn’t let it get stressful and none of us were going to be competitive about it.  … mind you, doesn’t hurt to get in the mood, maybe we could pitch for some fun ‘getting in the Smiletastic spirit’ team points early on using the old tea-cosy on the head ruse, that might work?  Failing that the dragonfly trail find has to be a win right?  Loving your work fell flying smiley.

Then there is always the fancy dress dimension to be considered, but no spoilers regarding that today.  Patience dear reader, patience, that time will come…

The Smiletastic rules pronounced that individual points would be available to those who rock up at parkrun. Hurrah. That’s me in, twice, it being a New Year’s Day double there for the taking. Then, we see that if we can get more than 50% of our 13 strong team along to a timed run (such as parkrun) then there are more points to be had.  Well.  I mean, no pressure, but ‘just out of interest, who’s thinking of rocking up on New Year’s Day’.  Our Facebook exchanges were hilarious.  Artistry of expression, as we all tried soooooooooooo very hard to be mutually respectful of each others circumstances and decisions whilst desperately, desperately trying not to reveal that every one of us was furtively counting up the takers to date on our fingers to see if it might be doable.   Such was the swell of enthusiasm for the endeavour some of the ‘sorry, but categorically can’t make it‘ dragonflies were soon flitting back with a ‘but I have terrible fear of missing out, so maybe…‘. Anyway, dear reader, the upshot was, come New Year’s Day, we were all on the cusp of witnessing a miracle akin to that of dragonfly larvae emerging en masse from a pond and revealing their wings, were we to witness a similar magnificent display of dragonflies altogether for the New Year’s Day parkrun Double?



It nearly didn’t happen though. I was out on new year’s eve, by no means a given for me.  My body is generally speaking a temple, albeit one for people who worship somewhat spherically inclined deities that have recently been dragged backwards through a hedge.  Even so, I can tell within a microgram when I have reached capacity for alcohol and need to cease drinking and withdraw from social situations.  On reaching this point about 11.30, I was ready to sneak away from the festivities but was caught in the act, persuaded to stay on, toast in the new year, less sleep, more alcohol, face-plant into a trifle (that was well worth staying up for) and to see the new year in with a ferocious display of fireworks.  When one went off a bit too close for comfort I learned about myself that in adversity I will try to save myself before others.  Oh dear.  I may be a horrible human being, but at least I am self-aware…  Anyway, it was a lovely new year’s eve celebration with fine hosts and fabulous folk all around, but it was not compatible with idealised double parkrun preparations.  I knew I’d be dehydrated, so drank loads before I went to bed, and then had to get up loads in the night so I wondered why I’d bothered to go to bed at all.

Sleep deprived, managing somehow to sport simultaneously an uncomfortably full bladder and a raging thirst, I staggered down to the rendezvous point where a group of us had pledged to meet and go together to the first parkrun of the day.  As I dragged my weary carcass down the empty streets, I saw a couple of people, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, cheerily jogging along. ‘What are they doing, are they crazy?’ I thought, a bit too loudly for comfort – where did that headache come from, who is it who’s shouting?  Before it occurred to me that in a way I was about to do the same, but with considerably less bounce, well boob bounce possibly, but spiritual bounce not so much.  It is an interesting (to me anyway, you can be bored if you like) concept, that parkrun has become so much a habit, that I actually no longer associate it with running at all.  It is just that when parkrunday comes around, I go and do it.  No thinking, no negotiation, it is just a case of ‘make it so’.  This is the great glory of parkrun  – and indeed Smiletastic, on days when I wouldn’t normally entertain the idea of running anywhere or for any distance at all I find I’m almost doing so by accident.  It is a wonderful thing.  Shame that I’d obviously eaten something that disagreed with me yesterday, no other explanation for my constantly shifting consciousness. Thank goodness I wasn’t doing the driving!

Astonishingly, four of us did make the rendezvous as planned!  We piled into the car, and off we went to Graves.  We expected to find the place heaving, but it seems on New Year’s Day parkrunners work on just-in-time principles.  Apart from the core team of hi-viz heroes who were out setting up the course whilst revelers from the night before were probably still making their way home.  Kudos to you guys, your efforts were and are appreciated.  🙂  (Nothing like an emoticon to make someone feel valued apparently, so that’s good).

NYD graves team

We sorted parking, and then some opted to sit in the car, I went in search of a loo.  Disaster, they were shut.  It would probably be unseemly to report that there was a fair exodus of wandering runners who all seemingly had dropped something in the bushes just before the run, and that something was possibly their pants.  Don’t know why, desperate times call for desperate measures though.

Soon, there was quite a gang assembled.  I found that, much like when I tried to save myself when the rogue firework went off, I was quite happy to ditch my loyal parkrunning buddies and lift providers at the first sniff of a dragonfly.  Found one, found more.  Then there was frenetic counting, would we make the 50% requirement.  … not that we cared, because it was all fun, but ooooh, so teasingly close.  We half-heartedly greeted others whilst distracted by our search for insect companions.  We achieved one selfie, of the dragonfly team, only one of the people within it isn’t, no matter, we can always photoshop on the missing fellow dragonflies later on, so that’s fine.

graves parkrun dragonflies

Then there was a call to gather and the Run Director’s briefing.

graves RD song line briefing

Impressively, the poet laureate for Graves had composed something for just this occasion.  You really should read the Graves parkrun report of the morning, because it contains not only pictures AND the note that this was a record-breaking start to the year with an attendance of 374 parkrun/jog/walkers AND an original poem to mark the occasion of the New Year but also the fabulous statistical insight that ‘of those taking part at Graves this morning, 131 then headed to Poolsbrook and a further 50 to Hillsborough’.  Hurrah, I do like a good parkrun stat.  I wonder how they number crunched that one.

These were pleasures yet to come.  I just know that when the shout went off to start, we went off.  It was a bit of a slow shuffle to be fair, a fact for which I was enormously grateful.  I pootled round.  Graves parkrun is actually my favourite of the Sheffield courses, because of the varied terrain, the scenic nature, the farm animals, but today it was a slog. Who lengthened the hill?  Even so, there were some – indeed many – highlights en route.  Specifically:

  • WAtching regal smiley pause to take a photo of the donkey on lap one and a goat on lap two, because if it isn’t instagrammed it never happened, apparently. That’s what she said, I still think she was angling for a lift from the donkey when I rumbled her, but I suppose we’ll never know now.
  • Spotting some fabulous junior parkrunners who instead of running were donned in over-sized hi-viz with matching over-sized smiles and proffering a succession of high fives. That was my favourite bit
  • REalising at some point that we had made the count re dragonflies
  • Seeing so many great people out and about, parkrun is a huge community of joy, because the double parkrun options locally are a bit limited, it seemed everyone had congregated at Graves today.  ’twas truly a wondrous sight to behold.
  • Finishing, without actually asphyxiating on the way round
  • Realising, once again, that you always have a parkrun within you somewhere, even if in your heart you’d rather be under the duvet still

On completion, people vanished pretty rapidly. Some speedy runners were aiming to do their double at 10.00 a.m. at Hillsborough – ambitious!  They had an express checkout for barcode scanning. No really, they did!  We more leisurely doublers, were headed to Poolsbrook.

Thank you fine people of Graves parkrun for your hospitality, your poetry and your fine organisation and winning smiles and ways as always.

Farewells were said, and off we went again. Not exactly in convoy. As in, not in convoy at all, it was a bit of a rural magical mystery tour to get to Poolsbrook parkrun I was just passively parasitic, I left it to other with GPS and initiative to get us there.  I only pitched in when I saw the sign for the country park, which I concede was probably a bit of a case of ‘too little too late‘ not sure they’ll buy ‘it’s the thought that counts’.

As we neared the entrance, I realised for the first time that Pools Brook is actually two words not one. Didn’t notice that when I was last here for the inaugural Poolsbrook parkrun (which was good actually, though now I understand new events try to discourage people from attending inaugurals so they have a chance to bed in first. Good point, well made.  Respect that people.)

pools brook country park

The place was heaving, and cars were being turned back from the park, so we ducked into a sort of industrial park alongside where there was space to park on the side roads.  It was freezing, and we were still quite early.  We sat for a bit, until i saw a carload of dragonflies rock up, and that, and my need for a precautionary pee, were enough for me to head up to the start.  As at Graves parkrun, the core team had been hard at work early on to make the magic happen at 10.30.  Thanks everyone 🙂  (See what I did again there with that smiley emoticon – they’ll be beside themselves with thrilledness!).

There were lots more new and familiar faces.  An enormous queue for the loos, and – a considerable boon – a sort of cafe area where an urn and biscuits was set up for post-run refreshments in return for donations. Also, a working radiator and a store cupboard where you could leave your bags. All extremely well organised, although I was slightly worried that the drop in temperature as we entered the store-room was indicative of entering some one-way anomaly into a strange, sub-zero parallel universe, but I made it out OK.  After a bit, it was announced the run start would be delayed by about 15 minutes, presumably to accommodate people who were having to park up further away and walk in.  Never ones to waste an opportunity, we put some serious work into getting into the dragonfly team spirit.  I think we did ok.  See how we’ve near enough perfected those double wings there.  I know, impressive!  I’ve only just realised that one of our number somehow lost a hand in the melee.  It was so cold I don’t think she noticed, as she never mentioned it at the time. Oh well, it was all for a good cause.

poolsbrook dragonfly

Eventually we had to venture outside, and I remembered a bit belatedly the start was slightly further away from the finish so we needed to allow time to get there. Still, plenty of time for another group dragonfly shot. We are getting better at this.   Still a learning curve, but we’ll get there…

poolsbrook dragonflies

A quick trot down to the start. Brrrrr.  Best and only option was to dive into the midst of the throng and, penguin-like, hope to benefit from the heat of huddling up with others. It’s lucky that all parkrunners are lovely and mostly accepting of such behaviours.

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We were a fair old gang!  A record Poolsbrook parkrun turnout, they put a Facebook post up declaring ‘WOW! A massive new attendance record with 473 finishers!! Last year we ‘only’ had 289!’  It felt big!  I couldn’t hear much of the briefing, but got the general idea. Milestones, thank the volunteers.  Three laps, counting to three is harder than you think by the way. They do put up kilometer markers, but that’s only helpful once you get the hang of them, to begin with they felt a bit random as I slowly registered I can’t possibly have done 4km already, I’m still on my first lap etc.  We were quite a sight though, storming round, and round, and round again…

GP poolsbrook parkrun dash

Hard to imagine, but I think I was even slower for this than at Graves, it was flat but quite congested, and frankly I just wanted it to end. It was a jolly crowd on the whole.  I did regret not hearing the end of the conversation between two runners where one said ‘so basically the kids row deteriorated into an international incident‘ and the other said ‘what did you do?’ and the first said ‘left them to it.’  I have a feeling that wasn’t the expected response.  I think it probably didn’t end there….  The marshals were all unfailingly lovely, I did try to splutter out thanks to each and everyone. I’ve since though read about another parkrunner at a different run (can’t remember where though, and it might have been on Christmas day now I come to think of it) who ran the whole parkrun with a box of chocolates, which he handed out to each and every marshal on the way round. That’s impressive!  Maybe next year, if I’m not having to use my hands to keep my unicorn under control.   I wasn’t so cheery about my proximity to the pimped up buggy that blared tinny tunes out throughout.  Kylie should be so lucky indeed, I didn’t feel it myself.  I gritted my teeth, reminding myself of the need to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way, whilst lamenting my inability to outrun this assault on my senses…

Round and round the lake I ran.  It was quite social, or potentially so, my ability to run and talk was pretty much eroded.  I was relieved when I knew I could finally take the right hand path up the finish funnel.  Yay!  It wasn’t quite as empty as this as I approached it, but it was just as much a vision of loveliness as this early morning photo suggests!

poolsbrook finish

A bit of a queue for scanning, but that was fine, as an opportunity to mill and mingle. Then into the coffee area where a donation secured coffee and a choice of biscuits or mince pies.  Loads on offer, very impressive.  I wasn’t sure if dragonflies eat, so I checked.  Not only are the nymphs impressive predators within a pond (I knew that already) but so are the adults.  Veracious carnivores they will happily eat other winged insects according to the British Dragonfly Society.  This meant we could still tap our inner dragonflies and eat with a clear conscience, but we’d have to make some adjustment in dietary expectations to take account of veganuary, obviously.  That’s OK, we weren’t real dragonflies, only channeling them.  In case you weren’t sure….  By the way, veganuary seems particularly high profile this year – even got an article about going vegan for runners in Runners World this week.  It’s increasingly becoming ‘a thing’.

Refreshments quaffed, we were homeward bound. Some had ambitious plans for further activity.  Personally I favoured a power nap – once I’d safely submitted my ‘tell Sue’ Smiletastic forms and could sleep easy in my bed.  Well, had to be done…

Poolsbrook parkrun not only delivered up a fine event and coped with the unexpected influx of tourists from near and far, they also wrote an event report with fine pictures and stats. Read it here and be amazed, Poolsbrook parkrun news – records smashed!.  Thank you fine people of Poolsbrook, both for the warmth of your welcome and polish of your logistics.

Just for the record, there were a fair few parkrun people on the move this morning.  I have no idea how, but someone, somewhere, created this fabulous offering showing parkrunners migration paths across East Derbyshire on New Year’s Day.  I know!  You didn’t know you’d be interested in a pictorial representation of statistical information, but suddenly you are.  It’s a splendid thing.  Now if only someone could do that for South Yorkshire as well, just imagine the joy they would bring…

east midlands parkrun double migrations

Also, according to the parkrun UK Facebook page:

18,393 parkrunners completed a New Year’s Day double by walking, jogging or running around two UK parkrun events on 1 January 2018…

That’s 33% of all those who completed a UK parkrun on the day!

At what point do we become an official movement I wonder.  I mean movement is integral to the initiative is it not, maybe we are already?

I think in the circumstances, the final word should go to our founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, who did us a 2017 review which you can read here.  But you know what, he also sent my mum a Christmas card to acknowledge her sterling support of Bushy parkrunners week in week out, and that’s even more exciting.  To be fair, it was another parkrunner who set that particular train in motion, but to a fine end.  Love parkrun, not just because of Mr S-H, but all the other lovely parkrunners who sent personal messages with their own parkrun stories!  Thank you all.

So that’s it.  New year’s day double done.  Thank you everyone, everywhere, who helped make it so!

Including my mum, that’s Elisabeth with an ‘s’ by the way – who was out cheering at Bushy parkrun on New Year’s Day too!

mum new years day


Happy parkrunning into 2018.  It will bring new runs, and new adventures aplenty I’m sure.  Hurrah!  Go us. Just #dfyb.

Happy new Year y’all!

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

It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmas…! Concord parkrun Christmas Day spectacular 2017. Delivering Christmas cheer since 2012

Digested read: me and my companion animal the unicorn Sophie joined the festive fun at Concord parkrun today. It was the perfect winterval celebration.  What’s not to like.  Note to self.  It was all very jolly and jingling, but unicorns aren’t really the best running companions to be honest (though they have lots of other qualities), so I think she might be happier to stick to supporting and marshaling duties at parkruns in future.  Yuletide felicitations everyone.  Ho, ho ho / bah humbug etc.

parkrun merry christmas

What could be more festive than being sat in front of the telly drinking tea, eating my way through a pack of orange club biscuits and watching ‘My 600lb life‘ on Quest Red whilst waiting for the pinger to ping and announce to me that Christmas dinner is done.  You don’t know?  Taking your unicorn to a Christmas Day parkrun, that’s what!

rh unicorn flying

Further more, these activities are not mutually exclusive. You can do both. I am the living proof.  Let me elaborate …

First, a bit of a history lesson for you.  So, it’s hard to imagine ‘t’was ever otherwise, but there was a time when Santa couldn’t bring you what you most wanted on Christmas morning, not because he was off shift by then, or because he doesn’t exist, but because Christmas parkrun wasn’t a thing.  Later, when parkrun was a thing, parkrunning on Christmas day in particular, generally wasn’t.  These were dark and sad times, but we knew no other reality, so made the best of things, or not, depending on the dynamic of the human relationships that surrounded us.  Now however, in the season of goodwill, Christmas Day parkrun is not only a hypothetical option, but an absolute reality for the people of Sheffield.  Dear Reader, I bring you Concord parkrun, spreading the Christmas joy, by opening their proverbial doors to parkrun tourists from near and far.  Mostly near I think, refugees from the other Sheffield parkruns that have yet to run on Christmas Day.   If I have correctly interrogated and understood the Concord parkrun stats page, then it seems they have been hosting this Christmas spectacular for every year since 2012.  It is definitely become an established part of my Christmas ritual in Sheffield.  By which I mean I first went to the Concord Christmas parkrun in 2015 and it made my Christmas.  I resolved that henceforth, in perpetuity, I would always go to parkrun on Christmas Day if I could.   Last year I couldn’t.  But I did today, and as Mr Loaf says, two out of three ain’t bad.  Christmas Day parkrun is a splendid thing.

Incidentally, there is one at Poolsbrook on Christmas Day also this year, but I’m saving that destination of choice for the New Year’s Day Double.  Poolsbrook parkrun put on a good show for today though, so respect to them when they’ve not even made their second birthday yet.  Bodes well for parkrun’s ability to replicate itself.   They plotting a new Junior parkrun for 2018 too, so watch this space.  Oh, you know what, I might as well give them their own star billing,  here they are, looking festive.  Santa’s little helpers in all their glory.  You can see how we compared with our Concordian efforts for yourself by reading on. Or sated, conclude your reading of this post now, the choice is yours dear reader and yours alone.  Go with your gut instinct, usually works, though of course I don’t know what you’ve ingested on Christmas day, might be playing havoc with your normal peristalsis cycles, so you could be getting atypical signals.  Can’t help you there, just do what you think is best, and remember, it’s all at your own risk.  I know, elf and safety is critical whatever the season,  it has to said…

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Anyways, back to Concord.  Are we nearly there yet?  Nope, but let’s get the basics out of the way first shall we? With regards to the course, the website blah de blah states:

The course consists of two counter-clockwise laps, all on asphalt paths suitable for mobility aids including wheelchairs. The course starts with a flat of 500m then a slight downhill of 500m levelling out at the far end of the course. Passing through a gate and returning with a slight uphill of 400m before levelling out to complete the lap. On the second lap the finish is 400m before the start line, ensuring a total of 5km.

and according to Strava, when run, it looks like this:

Xmas Day parkrun sloth route

Fess up time.  I stole/borrowed shared this from my sloth buddy and (newly appointed) marathon run mentor.  I can’t upload my own strava as no internet. I’m using a dongle for rubbishy internet of a sort, but can’t use two devices at once. Then I thought (because occasionally I do) ‘why not use someone else’s strava’ and I chose this particular one because it was just so exciting meeting an Endurer Dash buddy and also, the photo we casually posed for together can’t now be found, so this little thumbnail advisory picture of the running man himself will have to do as the photographic evidence that we were indeed both there, same time, same place, same mission.  Yay! Grand to see you out there.  Storming it.  As indeed we both were (ahem.)

But we had to all get there first.

I was up in the dark, eager with anticipation, and also needing a bit of extra time to get me and Sophie kitted out for our run. She’s only really had the one outing so far, to Graves junior birthday parkrun, but that was only marshaling, and I’d promised I’d take her out for an actual run on Christmas Day.  Seemed like a good idea at the time. I was feeling somewhat dubious about my promise this morning to be honest, but she was up and ready by the door waiting at 6.00 a.m.  No backing out now!  Could hardly rain on that parade, besides, it seemed like a good idea at the time…  I mean, running 5k with a unicorn, what could possibly go wrong?

up and raring to go

The first challenge of the morning was heading out the door.  Astonishingly, the streets were pretty deserted – I’d expected a mass migration of people heading over to Concord – honestly, what else was anyone going to do today? I hardly saw anyone, apart from a car taking advantage of the empty roads to speed to its destination… spectacularly scraping its undercarriage on a speed bump as it did so.  Happy Christmas, ho ho ho etc.

I arrived at the logistical operations centre from where communal transport was to depart.  Three of us set off from transport HQ, scooping up another couple en route. For your information, unicorns aren’t entirely practical accessories in a car, although she did function as a personalised air bag, I think having her face squashed against the window wasn’t the best of preparations for a run out.  Next time, I think I need to organise proper transport for her, to ensure she is able to optimise her performance.  I think there are specialist companies that can do this.  … anyway, one of our number had apparently cut it a bit fine with his timings, so had to run in his jimjams, but then again, if you can’t spend all day in your festive themed pyjamas on Christmas Day when can you?  Good call.

rh overslee come in you jim jams

On a more serious note, it is a demanding and busy day for many, so all time-saving tips are helpful.  A fair few runners today therefore chose to run in their special yuletide outfits to save having to change again later. Good call.  Classy choices.  I appreciate it when people make an effort on these occasions.  Lucky it’s been quite a mild one though, is it not?

So, on arrival, we found the car park pretty empty, and at first I thought there weren’t all that many people around, which would have been a shame, as Concord parkrun is surely a Sheffield running tradition these days.  In fact, people rapidly started to gather, so I was back into ‘oh my gawd I’m so excited to see you‘ mode, as familiar faces a-plenty came into view.  I was especially pleased to see my sloth endurer dash buddy, who I’ve not seen for ages.  He can’t possibly have been avoiding me, it must be that we move in different orbits these days, what with all his hard-core tough mudding and my… well, my not tough mudding. So much so that we not only did big hugs and much whooping, but even posed for loads of pictures together, because these days, if you aren’t photographed together so you can tag all your other mutual friends and acquaintences then that social interaction never happened.  No idea what happened to those snaps, it’s not like he’d have deleted them on the quiet in the hope that no-one need ever know I’d cornered him, and due to his gammy leg he was unable to get away before the photoshoot that put us both in the frame same time same place  …  we will just have to settle for our memories on this occasion.  Don’t worry, there’ll be other opportunities for a re-shoot in 2018 I’m sure!

There were some more succesful pre-run group shots though, yay!

Christmas day concord smiley trio

Collectively we must have tested the logistical operation of the Concord team – the usual average attendance is given as about 53, though actually I think that’s the mean, it’s been creeping upwards to 80 or so in recent months. Even so, the two-hundred plus turn out is a massive surge in attendance.  The record attendance at the event before today was 259 for Christmas Day 2016.  Today though (cue drum roll, but you’ll have to do that yourself as I don’t have it in my gift to activate that sound effect through this blogsite), the number was smashed out of the water.   A nice round 300.  Isn’t that spectacular?  Imagine that though, having to cater for 300 guests for Christmas Day, with just six unknowns (does that correlate to gate crashers or welcoming strangers into your home to spread the yuletide joy) whatever.  Impressive turn out, and impressive event management, so we are all marvelous.  Thanks especially to all the volunteers who turned out to make it so.  I’m sure you must have been on the ‘good’ list for Christmas.  Hurrah!  Thank you too to photographer for the day Ray Hibberd, from whose Facebook album for Christmas Day at Concord I have borrowed freely.  🙂

As we were a bit early, there was time for mutual appreciation of outfits, and much milling and seasonal mingling.

KW concord mingling

There was also an opportunity for comparison of Christmas morning experiences, past, present and yet to come.  I was taken by tales from parents about how you cope with offspring who are terrified of Father Christmas.  Not unreasonably, children who you have spent the rest of the year warning not to talk to strangers, aren’t to be so speedily hoodwinked into allowing a strange bearded man to enter their room at night just because it’s Christmas eve!  Various strategies have been employed over the years apparently, house lock down, stockings by the fire-place rather than the end of the bed were all options.  My favourite though, was the deal whereby one parent had a personal arrangement with Santa that they’d meet him a bit down the road for the present exchange so he’d never have to enter the house or even work out quite where said child lives.  It just goes to show, with a little planning, it is possible to make reasonable adjustments so events can be inclusive for all, worth remembering I think.

Mind you, some Santas can be quite terrifying, not the real one I daresay but his body doubles.  Our very own Sheffield runderwear ambassador has espied one this very morning whilst out walking her dogs.  A santa suited man doing multiple drive-bys of a particular house – presumably to be a well-timed surprise with a live appearance on Christmas morning, but maybe a ram raider, hard to tell.  Here are some santa-suited runners from today.  If you are still off work, and a bit bored now that your food coma have faded and the needles have fallen from your tree, you could mark them out of ten for your own amusement.  You can use whatever criteria you like, but I suggest approachability; ho ho ho quotient; authenticity of outfit; contemporary interpretation of outfit; vividness of red; quality of trim/ facial hair.  Note, points should be deducted for any real fur, there is no need in this day and age, really not.  Did you know nowadays even faux fur might be real?  The irony that as real fur becomes unacceptable, it is sold as fake, fake news indeed.

Before the running though, the briefing.  And the barking.  There were some very excited hounds at this parkrun.  It helped build the excitement as they were gathered at the back, beside themselves with eager anticipation, just like the rest of us.  It was grand to see lily the wonder dog again, first sighting of her this year by me I think, though of course she is a regular fixture at Graves parkrun.  Our paths just haven’t crossed for some reason. Grand to see her out and about, again, I like that she never disappoints in her choice of outfits, and can be relied upon to dress appropriately for any and every occasion:

At the RD briefing, we also learned that two amongst us had pulled off an impressive double whammy, having perfectly timed their running rendezvous to ensure they both marked their 250 milestones on Christmas Day. Brilliant. Just a shame that all Christmases from hereonin will be somewhat anticlimactic.  Oh well. Still good job, well done Craig and Claire, I did applaud you, but honestly, not quite sure who you were.  Bravo though, and good luck with topping that next year….  Still, you’ve got time to plan I suppose. Maybe Lapland will have launched a new parkrun somewhere by then, so you could take a husky ride to the start of that.  Just a thought.  You’re welcome.  Lapland is the largest and most northern part of Finland by the way, in case you were wondering if it was a real or fictitious place.  Reindeer are real not fictitious as well.  One Christmas, when I was away traveling I was sharing tales of native traditions with both a Finnish and an American fellow nomad.  The Finn explained that reindeer is commonly eaten in Finland, less so than in the past, but definitely widely available.  I thought our poor American friend was going to implode.  She definitely went into existential meltdown.  For her this revelation encapsulated a moment of both complete joy and utter despair.  Joy because she’d previously thought reindeer were mythical creatures only to discover in the same breath that people willingly tucked into them as their primary protein source.  Just another smorgasbord opportunity, not a creature to be treasured at all.  We never discussed the flying ability of reindeers, mind you.  You might think it impossible, but then again, we were once told it’s impossible for bumble bees to fly, despite the evidence to the contrary.  Don’t think they can run though, so that’s a shame for the Bee team taking on Smiletastic in 2018… as part of the Smiley Paces running challenge to kick off the year.  In any event, I think we all know reindeers can definitely fly – better than most turkeys, which is why Santa has come to rely on them as a sustainable form of transport as well as a handy snack to act as a savoury antidote to all those mince pies and glasses of sherry.  Jerk reindeer anyone?

Anyway, back to empathy for Americans (stay with me dear reader) – can you imagine that, finding out that reindeer are both real and a legitimate food stuff on the same day!  It would be like finding out they eat dragons alongside the lava bread for breakfast in Wales, or that minced Nessie meat is a key component of haggis on the banks of Loch Ness.  Which I don’t think they do…  More a burger staple.  What is it with having live animals celebrating and endorsing the consumption of their own kind by the way?  Never understood that.  Does Babe appear on sausage packs?  Mostly nope, but bet his relatives do.  Sad but true.

nessy burgers

Fortunately, although we in Sheffield know unicorns are real (ref Round Sheffield Run route – look out for them particularly in the Whitely woods and Ecclesall Woods sections), as fas as I’m aware people haven’t identified them as a legitimate food source just yet.  Just as well, it’s not a thing to be done at all.

So after the appreciation by way of applause, we were off, to the baying of hounds bringing up the rear.  They were raring to go, it helped build the anticipation.  We must have been a festive sight, charging off into the park, following the tarmac road with the instruction ‘if in doubt, keep right’ ringing in our ears.  The dogs tore off with enthusiasm as you can see

between you and me, my own enthusiasm levels diminished quite rapidly. The thing is, *spoiler alert* it turns out Sophie is really rubbish as a running companion.  What may have seemed like a good idea at the time, was all too soon established to be patently not.  Probably my fault for not having briefed her properly, and also for being too short.  The thing is, well, lots of things actually.  For starters, all those limbs and wings take some co-ordination.  It must be a bit like trying to run a 6-legged two wings race.  I should have guessed this, it was hard enough for Paul and Harry when they did their three-legged walk challenge.  I should have made the connection, but I suppose I thought with the wings we’d be flying round, not hindering one another.

3 counties on 3 legs

We just never seemed to synchronise.   Her hooves kept scraping the top of my trainers and causing them to come undone.   Three times I had to stop to retie my shoes, and that’s harder than you might think  to do with a unicorn strapped round your midriff.  I was in constant fear of a tarmac directed faceplant, the only brake on my fear being the cushioning potential of my companion unicorn. Sort of the yin and yan of a catastrophic incident in the making being potentially both the cause of my falling and the instrument of my protection.  Then her head and neck kept sticking out at a weird angle, making it look broken and giving her a rather sinister appearance.  When her hooves weren’t sabotaging my laces then her legs had an alarming tendency to gravitate between my own legs in a way that not only considerably hampered progress, but gave me the weird sensation of having wet myself, which I don’t think I had. That reminds me though, I wonder whatever happened to the Smiley elder in search of a pee point at the outset?  All the facilities were closed, and she didn’t seem persuaded by my observation that this is why skorts were invented, and also there is a Smiley precedent for just doing what’s necessary without bothering to seek cover or even drop your knickers first.  That story though is for another day…  ‘The post event photos suggest she made it round though, so she must have had some solution presented to her other than the nuclear Paula Radcliffe option.  Personally, as I have a bashful bladder at the best of times, that tactic of last resort would never be available to me.

rh in the red

As if all that kerfuffle wasn’t bad enough, I also felt compelled to hang on to my Santa hat, which frankly was doing its darndest to abandon me.  It wasn’t the most elegant of runs.  Any vision of floating by in a magical mist of unicorn fairy dust (no she isn’t a my little pony) quickly evaporated.  This was a test of endurance, a mental battle, particularly as turns out (I’d forgotten) Concord is a two lap course.

This is the reality of my progress, hanging on to my accessories for grim life, teeth gritted, head bowed into the wind ‘I CAN do this, I WILL do this, parkrun IS FUN’ my mantra of choice as the entire field overtook me and sped ahead.  I gave up any pretence of giving chase to anything.  Watching other runners disappear into the distance.  ‘Oh well, maybe it will be type 2 fun‘, I thought to myself as I staggered onwards.

RH the way ahead

Mustn’t grumble though, Tough Mudder fancy dress options can be even more challenging, I think it was fancy dress, not an actual T-Rex, but then again, I wasn’t there.  They are also very good at fancy dress in Wigan I understand.  Note to self for next year perhaps.

tough mudder trex

On the plus side, there were friendly marshals a-plenty to offer encouragement and support on the way round.  These included those with bells to ring.  A Valley Hill Runner – this is my new favourite club by the way, I mean Barnsley Harriers are all lovely of course, but not in evidence today. However, at Hallam parkrun earlier in the week one of the VHR runners sought me out and explained the password that would have got me a free pass into the Valley Hill Runners tent at the XC course when I was lost and lonely and afeared because I couldn’t find my club anywhere.  Apparently, they’d have fed me buns, and offered moral support too, so I need never be alone at a XC event again if I can’t find my own club gazebo for whatever reason.  Isn’t that nice?  Anyways, one of the VHR crew was marshaling, albeit disguised in a santa suit, grand to have new friends.  The VHR had also written motivational slogans in chalk on parts of the route.  I parasitized some of them to help me round, no harm in that surely, I doubt they’d have begrudged me such succour in my hour of need.

As I trudged along towards the back, other marshals cheered me on.  One near to the railings at the start had a dog with her. This dog took extreme exception to Sophie for some reason.  The same thing happened at her inaugural outing at Graves Junior parkrun’s first birthday bash.  She seems to have something of a Marmite effect on those who come across her.  The marshal was a bit apologetic and embarrassed, but I have to concede, same thing happened again as I was walking home through the streets of Nether Edge later.  Another dog went into a frenzy of barking and straining at the leash to get at me the entire time I was within his sight – and that was from the opposite side of the road.  This is another reason why I think running with a unicorn is a lot nicer as a fantasy than as a reality.  The constant fear of being hunted down stalks you.

There were some bright moments, the en route selfie with my Hallam buddies (also never to be seen again, maybe they are saving it to capitalise on at a later date if I ever become famous or infamous. They can sell it to the highest bidder, legitimising their claim that they were with me at the beginning when it all started, before going on to the established go to script about ‘well, she mostly kept herself to herself‘ etc.  I can’t begrudge them that opportunity.

There was also a Christmas Day volunteer photographer, snapping us in all our glory, he managed to make me look magical at least.  A unicorn, for christmas, what more could one want – a think of beauty indeed! (Her not me).

rh a unicorn is a thing of beauty

Well actually, what more you could want would be a bike.  Another traditional christmas gift.  This parkrunner was so excited at getting one, he couldn’t wait til after parkrun to try it out.  Which is why it’s so very important to respect the right of everyone to participate in parkrun in their own way.

rh bike for christmas

There were festive costumes and smiles a-plenty.  I got to see some of these as the faster runners looped back whilst I was still running out. There were even a few friendly high-five exchanges to be had, some shared a bit more self-consciously than others, and there may have been at least one swerve away, like when you go in for a hug and realise you shouldn’t and have to pretend you were heading somewhere else entirely.  There was plenty of family fun and buggy runners too.  Cue a little slide show I think, you can check out your own favourite ‘aaaw‘ moments, spot those holding out for type two fun, the ‘oh yes we are having fun yet’ parkrunners as well as the deeley bopper challengers. You may even see some flying feet if you are particularly observant. 🙂

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Because I was distracted by my unicorn, it was only looking at the photos later that I realised I missed spotting this fancy dress offering on the day. Total respect:

RH how did I miss this

And we had a few naysayers too, also seasonally apt.  No Christmas would be complete without the bah humbug contingency after all:

Finally, finally I made it round.  By mutual agreement I think it’s safe to say Sophie and I wont be running together again.  I’m glad we did it once, but hey ho – or ho ho ho as is more traditional at this time of year – there is no need to repeat the indignity and peril of the occasion in future.

The marshals were still in good voice, and there was no queue for the scanners.  The runderwear ambassador ahead of me commiserated with the unicorns flying legs issue. If only I’d conferred with her in advance she could have warned me of such hazards.  A relative of hers who shall remain nameless but is RD at Hallam, did the Trunce in a fancy dress costume with an elaborate tail one time.  Long story short, it ended up reversing and sprouting up between his legs as he ran, the only way to keep it safe was to hang onto it.  This caused both hilarity and consternation to the runner behind, who every time she thought of overtaking, was confronted with the sight of him clutching an enormous erect phallus, and she was unable to pass.  A potential ‘me too’ moment indeed, were it not for the fact his awkwardness far exceeded her own.  That’s what I love about parkrun we can pool running knowledge and experiences and learn from one another.  If I could just remember what the darned creature was called I’d find a picture of it.  Then again, maybe best not.  Might add it in later…

Edit:  It was a pokemon character, pikachu – you’ll see the issue I think

pikachu pokemon

NEWSFLASH – you want more, I give you the photographic proof:

Sometimes say nothing

Sometimes there are no words…

So a bit more post run mingling.  A cheer for the final finishers, and that was that.  A great way to start Christmas.  Well that’s what I thought, others pointed out that their Christmases had actually started with excited wake up calls at 2.00 a.m. so they were well underway whether they wished to be or not.

Fond farewells, tinsely embraces were exchanged and all back in the car for the journey back to our own stomping ground, so I could have a dog bark ferociously at me on the way home.  So thanks everyone who shared in the parkrun spirit and made the Christmas Day walk/run/jog/ volunteering parkrun possible.  Best part of Christmas for me is this parkrun outing, you get to see all your friends, have a bit of a trot out, and all done and dusted so you can vegetate in front of the TV later on with a cup of tea (ahem) and an easy conscience.   Hurrah!

In the interests of fair reporting,  I should point out that there are of course other sporting events available on this day, though why they would take precedence over a local parkrun I can’t imagine.   Christmas day sea swim at Porthcrawl anyone?  To be fair, I can only assume this crowd go for the swim option as they didn’t know about the Christmas Compendium to find a parkrun on 25th December, because they look like definite parkrun material.  parkrunners working towards triathlons perhaps – or undertaking a searun in the inexplicable absence of a parkrun option locally.  I wonder what time the swim started, maybe some of them did a parkrun first anyway, duathlon option, now that would be grand…  Loving their work though. Most festive.

So there you go, something for everyone,  here’s hoping this parkrun malarkey is a Christmas tradition that endures… so now it’s a question of who’s going to make it to the New Year’s Day Double?  Oooooh the excitement.  I can hardly wait!

Happy running til then dear reader, hope you are having a good one.  If not, at least by now you’ve made it through to the other side, and as long as you have a barcode, all is well with the world, hope reigns.

Oh, and entertain yourself with Harrogate parkrun’s barcode exploits, most festive, and impressive.  I thank you.

Job done.

For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries.

For my Christmas related running reports see here.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pioneering parkrun pilgrims take on Poolsbrook

007 and “M” Stealth parkrun Smiley mission.  Our Smiletastic task was to be up early, navigating the hills, facing the rain, battling the wind – and all because the ladies love to ……….run !!!

Poolsbrook country park

I’M SO EXCITED!  Today, I did something extra special, something I’ve always wanted to do, and something that is even on my bucket list.  This isn’t an actual list, to be fair, but I always know when an item comes up that would be on it if I’d ever got around to writing one.  It’s that feeling I get when an opportunity presents itself that it is for something I’ve longed to do so  much and for so long it actually hurts.   As the day and then appointed hour draws near, the excitement is such I feel I’ll burst.  I sort of enjoy the anticipatory angst – is my dream really about to come true, or will it yet be snatched away at the final hour?  That is what I felt like when I heard that Poolsbrook parkrun was to be launched in Chesterfield.  Finally, a new parkrun taking place commuting distance from Sheffield.  One I could be in on at the start.  I too could join the throng that will be for ever listed as First Timers on the first ever set of results for Poolsbrook parkrun.  I’ve always wanted to get to an inaugural parkrun.   I was always going to get there to join them for their first ever event at Chesterfield (near as dammit) come what may.  I wanted to be one of the Pioneering Poolsbrook parkrun Pilgrims, and reader I WAS!  The inaugural Poolsbrook parkrun was today! How amazing is that?


So here is what happened.  The run was first mooted ages ago, and I’ve been circling the parkrun pages ever since waiting for news.  Finally, the official announcement came that the run would indeed be happening for the first time at 9.00 a.m. (you probably knew that bit already) on Saturday 2nd April 2016.  A Poolsbrook parkrun Facebook page was duly launched the week before and the countdown began.  They had a suitably inviting cover photo (see above), as well as a succession of ‘getting ready’ photos to reassure their parkrun public that all was progressing well and that they had e.g. the requisite number of colourful helpful signs ready to go. (That three laps direction one was a bit of a worry though):

helpful signs

Even more pleasingly, the organising committee (we love you race director and volunteers whoever you are) had a sense of humour too, coming up with a most acceptable April Fool the day before, which was sufficiently well thought through to be funny, without risking veering over the line in terms of taste (oh dear Preston parkrun – is it true your one involved a bomb on the course?  Seems not everyone found that funny – though Google pranked themselves too so they were not alone – shame, I like a good minion story, who doesn’t?)

poolsbrook pranksters

To be honest, there were quite a few parkrun pranksters out there.  I’m sure I only stumbled across a very few, but if you like a detour en route to the substance of this Poolsbrook premier parkrun commentary, have a peer at these:

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So, back to business.  The day dawned.  Obviously, in this age of Smiletastic, it wasn’t quite so simple, bonus points for timed runs still needed to be claimed.  Serious members of Smiley Paces (Sheffield Women’s Running club) who are registered for Smiletastic need to take this into account.  The most effective strategy being for team members to disperse as far afield as possible. Then again, there was the pull of wanting to do things as Flying Feathers all together for the team as well.  Who want to run on their own if they can have a running buddy to accompany them?  The compromise was just me, and our very own undercover agent 007 would take on this particular parkrun challenge and nab the point for the team between us.  Normally I’m known as hobbit, but as this was a special mission I was anointed ‘M’ as my alias for the day.  (Too complicated to explain, just go with it).   We synchronised our watches, agreed rendezvous hour and allocated tasks.  I was in charge of transportation, my fellow Fighting Feather would check in with Q and sort appropriate turbo assist rocket chargers to get us round.  Such external speed boosters being deemed necessary, as Poolsbrook parkrun hasn’t yet introduced the platinum membership initiative on offer from Tring parkrun.

On waking early, as we had an uncharacteristic commute to our destination, my weather check through the window revealed RAIN.  I was a bit taken aback, this wasn’t what was ordered, and the Poolsbrook team had looked so efficient I thought they’d have had that aspect covered.  Oh well, we are feisty fighting feathers, it would take more than a bit of rain to abort our mission.  I scooped up 007 and satnav took us on a magical mystery tour that ended up at the entrance of Poolsbrook Country Park.  The postcode didn’t work on my satnav by the way, but I was able to use the ‘points of interest‘ option, so that was an exciting test of my problem solving skills.  If you are planning a satnav directed trip maybe check the route in advance just in case.

On arrival, I couldn’t help noticing the entrance looked rather less enticing than on the cover photo of the Poolsbrook parkrun Facebook page.  It’s the way I take them probably, that, and the rain, but compare and contrast my gritty realism in the photos with the charming paradise above and you must concede I have a point:

Even so, I was even more excited when I knew we’d made it to our destination, and there were even super keen runners to be espied who were making their way to the start loping along in the rain.

On a practical note, it was really easy to find – handy brown attraction signs as you get close) and about a half hour from our side of Sheffield.  There was loads of parking… but, even so, this space was almost full when we got there, so I don’t know what happened with the overflow cars of which there must have been some.  Obviously, it could have been that this début event attracted a lot of parkrun tourists like me and Smiley 007, as it settles into a more local event maybe fewer people will drive there if it’s a more local catchment area that becomes the core of the run.  No problem though, and parking was free too (yay!).  It was still raining though (NOOOO!) but there were ducks milling about who seemed to appreciate that, so ill wind etc..  Actually, there was a lot of milling about of waterfowl now I come to think of it.  I wonder if that was part of their pre-run risk assessment?


Now, apologies if you are a newcomer to my blog and this is too much information, but regular callers will know that I do appreciate the opportunity for a precautionary pee pre parkrun.  So, in case anyone is anxious on my behalf, or indeed on their own, I can report that Poolsbrook parkrun scores full marks for precautionary pee facilities.  Loads of loos, all open, and whilst there was the mandatory queue for the ladies there was also a separate disabled loo and gents as well.  Toilet paper, sinks for hand washing, the full complement of facilities.  Always puts a smile on my face!


There was much excited milling around.  Very quickly I saw familiar faces.  The odd strider with their fetching and distinctive charity fund raising bobble hats and a familiar chatty friendly face from Sheffield Hallam amongst the throng.  I wrongly attributed her to be a Monday Mobster, but she claims not, I think otherwise – she must be one by association surely?  Hey ho. She too no doubt lured away by the intoxicating prospect of joining an inaugural run.  I ambled about, and spotted an upmarket coffee van at the start/finish line too.  This is a great innovation I’ve not seen before.   Not only coffee on completion, but potentially coffee before hand, and/or for volunteers or spectators on arrival.  I don’t know if this was a one off or not. (Clarification – coffee is to be covered, mobile outlet for now, inside café some weeks down the line)  Decent coffee too.  Yay! Though I went for delayed gratification option, didn’t want to have to off load en route so to speak due to the contributory negligence of having taken on extra liquid immediately prior to departure, so I saved myself for the treat of caffeine on completion.


I was like an over-excited puppy, I just didn’t know who to greet first, and would probably have been in real danger of wetting myself had it not been for the first rate facilities already alluded to.  I exchanged hellos with the Friendly Face on exodus from Hallam, who had come with a gang of raucous running friends.  I took a photo of them all together. What do you think?


She claimed them as friends anyway, some of them look a bit cold at first glace, but look again and you wonder if it might not be cold, it might be the expression you pull when being photographed under duress?   I wanted her to lie across the front of them, but she wasn’t keen.  Later on she admitted she’d actually driven over on her own, and not come with them at all (something about being paranoid about being late because of conditioning brought about by having parented a run director herself ya da ya da ya da etc).  I can’t honestly be sure if she knew them all, or had just appropriated them at that moment for self-promotion purposes.  I say it doesn’t matter, if you can photo-bomb a group and look completely at home, then you can claim that group as your friends.  Well done.  Good on yer, I’m going to try that technique myself next time out…

Photo taken, we started checking out our surrounds and as well as being excited by just being there, and by the presence of loos, and by the presence of a mobile coffee outlet I was further excited by the proximity of an outdoor adult gym!  At this point my Friendly Faced running mate from Hallam (not a Monday Mobster) was compelled to point out I do seem to excite quite easily.  I concede this point.  It was quite remarkable that I hadn’t already burst or otherwise exploded just on arrival, this sensory overload was putting me in real peril of going off with a bang!  But really – look – shouldn’t every parkrun have one of these as a warm up area?  I think you have to bring your own golfing umbrella and clipboard though.

There was an absolute first timers’ briefing – it looked like this:


Aww, I felt quite emotional watching it.  I remember my first ever parkrun, all that apprehension and uncertainty, yet also the beginning of a beautiful relationship – these people had/ have the pleasure of all that still to come!  Nevertheless, for me and 007 this was our first First parkrun, so we found someone to capture our moment of initiation to this club too!


Oh, I almost forgot, for those of you who like the official course description blah de blah, the Poolsbrook parkrun page describes the course as follows:

Course Description
The course is entirely within Poolsbrook Country Park which was once the site of the former Ireland Colliery, but which has been transformed from dereliction into a popular country park and amenities area. The course is almost entirely on compact wide trails but some sections of the course may accumulate mud, leaves and puddles after rain, so please take care. Dependent on availability, marshals will be at key sections of the course, or signs will be in place.

The course starts about 300m away from the café and consists of three anticlockwise laps of the main lake. The finish is on the grass on the right side of the path, in front of the adult gym facilities.

A couple of points to note:
The course leaves the immediate side of the lake to cross the weir and for about 30m runs on the wide path next to the road. Please keep to the lake side of the path.
If you are being lapped by faster runners please keep to the left side of the course to allow faster runners to overtake on the right.

More milling about, and finally a sort of migration to the start that seemed to be communicated by osmosis.  I’ve stolen some of the ‘official’ photos to report on this part, mine weren’t as good.  I don’t like to think of this as plagiarism, rather I’m honouring the photographers by displaying their work, also, I freely admit they aren’t all mine that follow, so as long as it’s referenced that’s OK too right.  So it seems that most of those that follow are from Andy Morris (thanks Andy) though there were others out there who I may well also borrow freely from if ever their work makes it into the public domain.  Here’s a picture of one of the other ones below, don’t know his name, but documentary proof that many were out there to document this historic occasion.   You know you are sharing a moment of history in the making when the paparazzi are in attendance in plural.  Loving your work, whoever you are, all of you, thanks for turning out.  Oh, and (late addition) I’ve now added in some of Mark Webster’s photos too, so thank you Andy and thank you Mark for sharing so beautifully.  You are AWESOME!


So the milling about, and the migration to the start, and the official inaugural race briefing looked like this (you can tell who took which photos as mine are basically the out of focus ones, I’d like to pretend I was trying to achieve a soft focus effect, but that is basically untrue):

We took the opportunity for a selfie, obviously, which came out a bit crap (also obviously).  Less obviously, we had even more excitement (I know that seems impossible) as we were joined by two more Smilies making a similar pilgrimage to the start.  One of which was a Smiletastic opponent, but only a Rowdy Rooster, they’ve got no chance to be honest so we didn’t have to pretend to be sporting, we could be genuinely friendly!  It was great to have some other Smilies sporting their vests to join the fun.   Albeit we sported them a bit sheepishly on the whole, under rain coats truth be told…

So finally, after much applauding of the great and the good, the volunteers, the organisers, the local authority who’ve given permission to use the park and so on, we were awf!  I love the first shot here – Steel City Strider with bobble hat on tour, Smiley Paces and the guided runners all in one shot. All the fun of the proverbial fair in one picture, thank you flickr uploading photographer, fab!

start mob

ready for offthe off

So, as always, I was a bit surprised to find myself running but it was fun.  I was taking it very easy because of my poorly calf/ knee, but it was really fun to soak up the atmosphere.  This is a three loop course, so I hadn’t expected to enjoy it as much as I did, but in fact there was loads to look at on the way round.  Waterfowl aforementioned didn’t limit itself to the water.  There were some particularly immoveable geese of some sort just before the bridge at the half-way point on the loop.  As I approached them on the first lap they just ignored us.  Second time passing they looked a bit pissed off, third time round, they took direct action honking (I think that’s what geese do) flapping their wings in an ‘I’m very annoyed now’ display and at least one of them led a protest march onto the path.  Good for them, they were there first after all.

I am however jumping ahead.  You have been forewarned that there are three loops, however, that’s not strictly true.  You also start a few hundred metres back from the eventual finish point, so you have to pass the finish FOUR times.  I had a moment of hopefulness after the first 300 metres, or whatever it was, when I thought that might count as first time round, but apparently not so.  You will know, so avoiding any future disappointment.


My photos make it all look a bit dismal, but in fact it was very jolly.  Loads of colourful marshals in their high-viz tabards for a start, and runners in fluorescent gear a plenty, it was quite a rainbow of hues out there.  The ‘proper’ photographers did rather better.  Thanks Mark, this next one is yours I think:

Rhapsody of colours MW

 Although three loops aren’t really my thing, an unexpected benefit of this set up was that there was a bench in handy proximity to the finish.  I realised I was going to be too hot going round, and was able to jettison my coat onto the bench after the first lap.  I guess you could strip off ever more layers as you went round, knowing they could be heaped on the bench near the finish in safety several times with four passes available to you.  Like a running version of strip poker if you will, should the mood take you.  I stuck with just the one layer taken off, but in principle at least I guess more dis-inhibited runners could bare as much as they dare en route.  It might even spice things up a bit for other runners in their wake.  Some runners might otherwise be finding the laps a bit relentless.  Some disrobing runner offering up a bit of eye-candy (or presenting a dire warning) might offer up a welcome distraction, just a thought.  Here is a spectator espying the course, a fun one to watch I reckon, because you can see all the drama unfold without having to particularly relocate.  You could even plonk yourself down on a bench and drink coffee as people plod (or sprint) by, possibly even offering unsolicited advice on their running technique each time they pass you.  I’m sure that would go down really well!

surveying the course MW

It was a good surface, tarmac really, and despite the number of runners, it spaced out pretty well, and you could overtake (on the right please) by nipping on to the grass if you did feel penned in.  There seemed to be a good cross section of runners.  Including a blind runner with a guide.  I’ve not seen that in action before and it was VERY impressive, they left me for dust early on.  It is the ultimate in team work watching that display of trust, timing and co-operation.  I wonder how long it takes to build that partnership.


So, at Poolsbrook parkrun you do most definitely have to run round a lake three times, there is no escaping that, but it looks cool in the photos don’t you think.  These next two are from Poolsbrook parkrun Flickr site too – though not all photos are accessible for some reason, don’t know why.  I might go back later and have another look to see if any more are apt for inclusion in this post, but I’ve got bored of waiting for now.

round the lake we goview from the back

 One of the great joys of parkrun is meeting not only old friends, but new people too.  I also love to eavesdrop and people watch on the way round.  So people who stood out today – the mightily speedy runner who sprinted past and I thought I knew from a previous life, only it wasn’t him.  He looked very surprised when I lurched towards him offering a high five as he walked homewards back along the course after he’d finished and when I was still embarking on my final lap.  He looked even more discombobulated as I aborted my high five attempt looking slightly horrified. Sorry about that nameless pirate runner with the bandana and long hair!  (Mind you, I know one running blogger who confessed to once high fiving a passing cyclist she thought was offering an upward palm for that purpose, only realising as she passed the poor guy was just using a hand signal to turn right – or possibly left, she didn’t say which…)

Pirate man surprised by high five MW

The guy with a black Labrador on a canicross harness, who was running with a dog in one hand and freshly bagged dog poo in the other.  (Well, I assume it was freshly bagged, it isn’t the kind of thing you’d head out the door with like grabbing a water bottle and energy gel is is?)  It was somewhat dispiriting to realise that this must mean he was so much faster than me, he was able to stop and supervise his dog pooing on the way round, then clear it up and recommence running and still be way ahead.  Well done for being a responsible owner.  His dog wasn’t especially appreciative though, as I watched, it dragged him into a ditch alongside the path which was rather deeper than first appearances indicated.  Very wet footed owner was reduced to – well, I was going to say ‘walking’ but ‘sploshing’ would be more accurate!

responsible dog owner MW

At about the half way point I also became increasingly aware of a female runner on my shoulder.  We had a sort of unacknowledged battle with each other.  Every time I slowed a bit she put on a spurt to try and catch me… and I’d realise I was slowing and so speed up again.  I feel we were evenly matched and even kindred spirits – she too removed her rain coat on the way round!  She kept close by right up until the very end when I did a sprint finish (I use the term loosely).  It was nice after we’d both finished to have a chat with her – she’s done loads of inaugural parkruns I was most impressed, and a regular parkrun tourist too. Thank you Peniston Footpath Runner for the external motivation on the way round!

Some other observational details.  On a three-lapped course, you get lapped.  Well, you are more likely to get lapped than on a two-lap course (sometimes) or one lap (never – unless you go in reverse which seems unlikely).  The one advantage of this, is that as I was finishing my second lap (or quite possibly my first, but let’s say second here) I was  lapped by the winning runners going through the finish tunnel.  However, a consequence of this is that there may well be (time will tell) photos of the first finishers which provide the illusion that I was in the lead…  Not a very good illusion apparently, as none of the marshals tried to point me towards the finish funnel, but I can dream.  Incidentally, I felt this was an unusually polite run in the over-taking department.  Whilst parkrun is a run not a race remember, sometimes speedier runners let their competitive spirit rule them and are not always forgiving of slower runners as they pass.  Here, I am delighted to report, camaraderie running was the order of the day.

A special mention should go of course to the small army of marshals who remained smiling supportive and cheerful despite the unrelenting rain!  It makes such a difference to have their support en route, not to mention the fact that parkrun wouldn’t happen anywhere without them.  I did try to thank each one as I passed each time, but have to admit my efforts got a bit more breathless and a bit more strangled sounding with each passing loop!  I had an inward smile for the road based marshal who shouted after me and my acquire running buddy from Penistone ‘just remember to keep the arms and legs moving‘ as we neared the finish.  Good advice, if only it were as easy to implement at that point as it sounds – encouraging shouting nevertheless, I thank you!

Another thing that I noticed plodding round was that they have thoughtfully put km markers at, well funnily enough, at 1km intervals.  This is sort of helpful, but also a bit perplexing.  As it is a multi-lap course, I got a bit confused at points because the first one I saw was on the first lap and it was for 4k, then later on I spotted the 2k etc etc.  However, this is ungenerous of me, because once you get your eye in it’s pretty handy. Well it is for those of us who either don’t have a GPS or similar, or like me have one but have no real grasp of how to use it other than for uploading runs onto Strava after the event for Smiletastic purposes.  Actually,  you might like to see the Strava route – and proof, it ’twere needed that it is indeed incredibly flat.  I reckon for them as who seek it out, this has the potential to be a PB course for sure.

strava route

As I neared the finish, I espied my Hallam parkrun tourist friend just ahead, I admit I used her as a goal to aim for and managed to catch up and overtake, but only just.  I felt a bit mean doing so, but she cheered me on.  For that I thank you Monday Mobster, no wonder everyone wants to be your friend!  She was right behind me anyway.  At the finish tape were my Smiley smiling buddies, cheering me home.  That was so great.  We’d agreed not to run together under the pretext of me being slow, (also grumpy when I run, I can’t talk and run, I just can’t) but really it was so we FFs could spread out amongst the course and keep an eye out for any previously unseen Smiletastic opposition. We got away with it though.  I felt like I’d broken the 4 minute mile or something as I went through the tape!  No finish photo of me, but here are my fellow Smileys romping home.  I don’t know why one of them looks like she’s standing around with her hands on her hips.  Maybe she’d just abandoned all hope of passing the other two at this stage in the game…

Smiley finishers MW

We were able to pose for a photo, then, hilariously (I thought) our fellow Smilies were off to do another 6 miles in the rain – oh the tyranny of the long run!


Me and 007 instead drank coffee and went to cheer home the other runners still coming in.  Thanks for the caffeine fix my friend, although maybe that’s what got me over-excited all over again and making an exhibition of myself on the adult gym…

We inevitably felt we had a go with the various exercise equipment that looked so inviting as play equipment for adults at the start/finish, and 007 did some very impressive balancing stretches.  We moved into the area of making our entertainment at this point, I can’t help feeling one of us did rather better than the other in securing flattering photos for their scrap book.  I’ll let that go this time, but it has been noted…  And no, I don’t have any idea how to use the equipment properly, I think that’s fairly obvious.

We enjoyed going down to the finish funnel to cheer back the final finisher who romped home with a canine companion…. who was very nearly a funnel ducker (the dog not the runner) but disaster was averted, order was restored to the funnel, and cheers all round in the rain as the finish token was handed over, then handed back for scanning. Run done.  Mission accomplished.  Great job y’all!

So that was that, suddenly all done, and we could head home. We waved cheerily at our fellow Smilies who we could see in the distance were only just heading off on the Trans Pennine Trail which goes through Poolsbrook Country Park  – they didn’t look too keen to be honest.  This is what happens if you pledge a long run, you have to be willing to follow through!

Home with the usual parkrun high, and a lovely warm feeling of appreciation and delight that all seemed to have gone so smoothly for the Poolsbrook parkrun pioneers.  It must be quite nerve wracking to put on an inaugural event, but it seemed to go really well.  The results came through promptly.  Photos were on Flickr and updates on Facebook.  In keeping with parkrun lore and tradition they even had a handful of unknowns (sorry parkrunners, you know the mantra, no barcode, no time, no exceptions #DFYBC) and their first finish token go walkabout. This was no doubt very, very annoying but also probably had an awful inevitability about it too.  Nevertheless, here’s hoping that finish token Missing in Action number 58 has a well developed homing instinct and makes its own way back to the fold in time for next parkrun day.  Fingers crossed eh?  Oh, there was a Poolsbrook inaugural run report too, all jobs covered, and in record time.

So thank you everyone at Poolsbrook, you did an awesome job today.  Thank you whoever got the idea off the ground in the first place, thank you organising committee and run directors for putting in the work to make it happen, thank you marshals and volunteers on the day for the cheery, encouraging and efficient hosting, and thank you fellow runners too for a great morning of parkrun tourism

We’ll meet again, don’t know quite where or when, but I’ll be back, you have been warned.

The over the top Love-In endeth here!

Have a Heart shaped balloon - Copy


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

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