Posts Tagged With: Round Sheffield Run

Geronimo! Sky’s the limit at the Round Sheffield Run 2017

Digested read: RSR 2017 was fab.  Thank you for asking.  No blisters and knee held up.  My giraffe came too.  Roger couldn’t make it 😦

If you don’t know about the Round Sheffield Run by now, you really should.  The blah de blah from the website explains it as follows, but really it makes it sound way more complicated than it is. Just accept it’s fun, fast becoming a Sheffield trail running institution and sells out quickly.  You snooze you lose.  Alternatively, you could just spend two minutes of your life looking at the fun video of the RSR 2017 event, and you’ll get the idea…

The Round Sheffield Run, trail running enduro is a unique creative “multi-stage” running event following the beautiful Round Sheffield route, a superb running journey linking some of the best trails and parkland. It would be a tough task to find anywhere in the UK that showcases these kind of trails & scenery within its city limits.

 The 11 timed stages make up 20km of the 24.5km route.

 The unique format breaks the route down into stages. Each stage being raced, and competitors receiving both results for each stage as well as a combined overall result.

Between Stages competitors have the opportunity to rest, relax,  and regroup with their friends and refocus before the next stage begins. Competitors are allowed to walk or jog in between stages. The unique concept creates a supportive and unique social vibe.  The race format also opens up the course to all abilities. 

A festival atmosphere at the end with draft ales, tasty food, and great DJ to ensure that everyone can celebrate in style.

So, I expect you have been in an agony of anticipation wondering what happened at the RSR 2017.  Well, may your angst be herewith ended.  I did go.  It was yay.  Roger was in need of veterinary attention however, so in the end I took his sub along as my companion animal for the day.  May I introduce Geronimo Sky:

RSR Geronimo Sky effortless!

This photo is courtesy of RSR by the way, they put loads of pictures up,  available for free on Facebook – but ask that you consider a donation to the fantastic Weston Park Cancer Hospital www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr-wpcc-donations which seems fair. Thanks to all the photographers who turned out – I credit all those of you I was able to run down at the bottom of this post.  I can’t run that fast though, so sorry if I’ve missed anyone.

Back to Geronimo Sky.  Isn’t she gorgeous?  She did really well for her debut run.  I’d say the RSR is broadly speaking a giraffe friendly event.  I mean, you’ll understand that it can take a bit of time for running partnerships to develop, but we romped round OK.   She is a female by the way, but don’t worry if it wasn’t immediately obvious to you, giraffes can be quite hard to sex I don’t take offence at gender identification errors.  I was less impressed by the ‘go zebra‘ shout out, though I appreciated the positive (I think) sentiment behind it.  I just think it’s a shame that people aren’t sufficiently educated about the world’s wildlife these days.

Spoiler Alert – Geronimo Sky and I even won our category!  Admittedly, that was my own personal fantasy category for fastest giraffe round. I was actually hoping for fastest animal but those pesky tigers lapped me.  Oh well, at least they didn’t recognise us as prey.   If they’d been african lions it could have ended badly, tigers though, completely different continent, we were fine.  Thanks for your concern.  I hadn’t done a proper risk assessment on the possibility of being predated on the way round, I’m quite relieved I got away with it…. this time.  Next year, I’ll know better.

 

Anyway, I’m jumping ahead, don’t want to cause unnecessary discombobulation to readers who prefer a more straightforward chronology to their race reports.  You might know already that I was a tad apprehensive on Round Sheffield Run 2017 Eve, understandable, but Roger talked me round.  Consequently, as Sunday dawned I’d decided I’d be starting come what may.  My knee might shout in protest, my winded running technique might elicit more pity than respect, but I’d be there.

I woke up insanely early, by accident, but didn’t want to risk falling back to sleep and missing the start.  It was about 5.00 a.m. but on the plus side, plenty of time for porridge and precautionary pees.  Also, it gave me time to apply the learning acquired as a direct consequence of my misjudged RSR recce of a fortnight earlier.  Specifically, I was conscious this length of run might take me perilously close to the chafing zone, so I had the chance to have a bit of a go with experimental chaffing-averting lubing up. This was way harder than anticipated, and more dangerous too. I’ll try to explain, but read on at your own risk.

warning

WARNING the following paragraph might just have a bit too much information, but I’m only thinking of other runners in the future remember?  They might one day see me out running and wonder ‘what was she thinking? how on earth did she come to be doing that?’ (with not at all an incredulous intonation) so I think it’s important I tell my story fearlessly and (mostly) with honesty.  As well as my poorly knee, I got a blister on one of my toes on my recce, I always do over a certain distance on account of my arthritic and bunion bestowed hobbit feet.   I’ve tried every shoe and sock variant known to runners across the world, but to little or no avail. I really need to be able to run in clown shoes, as only they would have big enough toe box, but that wasn’t really an option for a trail race. My clown shoes just don’t have enough grip, they are more for road running I feel, and that’s not my thing at all.   Post my recce run, there were also a few erm ‘hot spots‘ suggesting chafing threat level might rise to ‘critical’ for the event day itself.  It’s the bra area basically.  I don’t care what the running mags tell you, no sports bra keeps your assets absolutely fixed.  You can get away with a certain level of erm, dynamism as you bounce along on a run, but sooner or later, just as the titular princess bothered by a pea under a stack of mattresses in the fairy tale, or Simon’s cat trying to get comfy against the odds in the laundry basket, for me, ultimately any bra is going to chafe once you start to sweat, in my world anyway.  (Don’t be shocked by this revelation, I refuse to believe I’m the only runner ever to have perspired due to the exertion of taking on the roads and trails.)

simons cat washed up

Undeterred, what I decided to do this time, was to reach for the vaseline.  A marathon running buddy had proclaimed the wisdom and effectiveness of this.  I think her approach was sudocrem then vaseline, pretty much everywhere.  I couldn’t remember which way round though, and sudocrem is something of a nightmare to work with.  It has a half-life of 30 gazillion years I think.  Also, in my experience anyway, it has a knack of adhering to every available surface apart from the actual body part to which you are trying to direct it.  I eyed my tub of sudocrem, and decided to just go straight for the vaseline. Good call.

vaseline

So, what followed was a pretty impressive attempt to apply vaseline to all high risk chafing areas.  I started cautiously, but some areas are hard to reach, so I ended up just using an aim and flick technique in the hope of firing globules in the general direction of my back bra strap area as best I could. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t even effective really.  I did get the area covered, but it was hardly a surgically accurate application, more carpet bombing.   A lot of collateral areas affected.  It doesn’t matter particularly, but it did get messy.

Applying vaseline on the feet was more straightforwards, but – and this was another area where I should have paid more attention to my personal health and safety – the vaseline just seeped through my socks effectively greasing the soles of my feet. Whereas normally the soles of my feet provide traction on floors when walking they were now rendered useless in that respect.  It seemed that the entire vicinity of my flat became a high risk skid zone, like I’d inadvertantly created my own personal curling arena.  Every floor I tried to move across seemed to stretch to infinity as cheap laminate and aging lino created a perfect storm of slipperiness when brought into contact to my grease sodden socked feet.   Inexplicably, my landlord hasn’t anticipated this scenario, I must give them a ring, see if I can have some nice engineered hard wood floorboards put down instead, that would be much safer.  There was no time to attend to this on the morning of the race though.  I had to crawl on my hands and knees in order to reach the safety of a carpeted area where I could put on my (non-clown) trail shoes.  It was touch and go for a while there I don’t mind telling you!

The other unanticipated consequence of such comprehensive lubing up, was that loads of vaseline soaked into my hands making them soft and waterproof, but also pretty rubbish as aids to dressing.  Everything I touched just slipped through my fingers, even clothing slid away from me like liquid mercury.  Doing up my bra took many abortive attempts, and at least one major tantrum.  I was on the point of leaving the flat in search of help, but I don’t know my neighbours well enough for that to be an acceptable way to behave. I understand convention requires that first introductions should be around borrowing cups of sugar say, not presenting them with the sight of your naked torso at 6.00 a.m. on a random Sunday morning. Well I say I don’t know my neighbours well enough, more accurately I didn’t back then.  Actually I’ve just got off the phone talking to a very nice woman who works at party-on in Crookes, and it turns out she lives practically next door.  I’m sure she’d help out another time!

Anyway, the important thing is, I got there in the end.  Vaseline was effectively applied in thick enough quantities that I probably had enough protection to take on a channel swim.  Even better, I had successfully wrestled into my running clothing, and my giraffe.  Result!  What’s more, I can report it all paid off.  Not a single hot spot, blister or chafing zone to report either during or post race.  I guess body-glide or whatever might be a less messy way to achieve the same result, but I’m completely sold on vaseline. As soon as I’m finished here I’m ordering a crate load on ebay.  Best be on the safe side.  I imagine I can now look forward to a chafe-free future, who’d have thought it?  What with that and my runderwear, I’m sorted.

And just think, all the time I was wrestling with petroleum jelly, these nice people were up early to catch the bus from Marple!  There’s dedication.  It’s still dark out there, surely?  Must be middle of the night!  I had no idea Marple was so far away!  I know the Snake Pass can take longer than you think to traverse, but even so…

marple runners showing commitment

You’re OK to read on now by the way, lubing strategy descriptions concluded

The next challenge was getting acquainted with Geronimo Sky – what with it being her first outing and everything – and plucking up the courage to leave the safety of my attic flat accompanied by a giraffe.  I know you can’t always tell by looking at me, but honestly I do still have some vague sense of what is considered socially acceptable behaviour and running wear.  Whilst it is huge fun to run in fancy dress, trust me it takes some neck to take that first step out into the big wide world.  You just have to brazen it out ultimately, act ‘normal’ (whilst recognising completely that this is a contested concept and probably an artificial construct too) and stride out avoiding eye contact as far as possible.  Ultimately though, I am still marginally less embarrassed by running with a giraffe (or horse), strapped around my ample midriff, than by running in unforgiving lycra in the raw.  Draw your own conclusions.

Whilst I was doing all this pre-run preparation and faffing, the RSR team (how we love you all) were labouring at the start.  It’s impressive is it not.  (Thanks RSR for these photos – don’t forget to donate people http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr-wpcc-donations )

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I say everyone was labouring, but clearly some have perfected the art of delegation better than others.  Respect!  I think we all know that Skip is the real power behind the Front Runner show.  The camera cannot lie.

frontrunner hard at it

I decided not to arrive especially early at the start this year.  This event is always extremely well organised, and I didn’t want to have to hang around too long before running when there was no need to.  It was a bit nippy early on and I didn’t want to get cold – perfect temperature for running though.  Unfortunately, I cut it a bit too fine.  I got waylaid on the way down by a super friendly marshal who was incredibly supportive of Geronimo being with me (always a worry that I’ll be disqualified either for having an assisted-run or because I should have put in a team entry, but not so).  Obviously we had to have a chat at the corner of Rustlings Road before I could enter Endcliffe Park.  She promised to look out for me as I ran by, and did (having carefully and cleverly memorised my appearance it seems), waving and cheering me on which was fab. Thank you first of many friendly and encouraging marshals of the day!  Marshals across the course were in position early, setting up and getting ready for a busy morning of high-fiving and sustenance distribution. They were certainly smiling at the start, and when I passed them, so bet their cheeks were aching with all that grinning by the time the final finisher came through.

 

Once in, and aware of the event markers (thanks Robert Scriven for these shots) it sort of dawned on me once again that this sight that normally greets me on parkrunday as the  Saturday 5k course, was actually the gateway to a rather longer challenge today.  24.5k to be precise, that’s around 5 parkruns near enough, which would usually takes me five weeks to get round therefore. Eek.  Perhaps it’s like childbirth? Afterwards you just forget all the painful, bloody and humiliating aspects of it all (so I’m told) and just remember the trophy (baby or running bling, whatever).  On the approach though, I was getting some flashbacks.  I do remember this, curses!

 

I also hadn’t factored in that now there’s an elite start group.   A good idea, the super-speedies go off on their own mass start at 8.30, so they dont have to overtake everyone else on narrow woodland tracks as happened before when they just joined in other later waves.  Upshot was, there was already quite a crowd when I arrived.  In previous years I’ve always been in the first wave (more time to get around) so fewer people had gathered by the time I headed off.  Plus, I had to say hello to loads of fellow smilies, and other familiar faces, which is great, but time-consuming.  Busy, busy, busy!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m pleased to say that there were lots of concerned enquiries about the whereabouts of Roger, but general acceptance of Geronimo Sky. That’s what I love about my running club Smiley Paces, a friendly and inclusive bunch. It is about running, but it’s also about chatting, tea and cake (sometimes gin and prosecco) and having a shared run-related laugh whenever the opportunity arises.  Always time for a few pre-race pics too I’m glad to say – though I rarely finish events fast enough to be part of the post-event ones:

 

So it was that pre-race, I ran round with more speed and focus than I managed at any other point in the day, dropping of my bag, picking up my dibber, and joining the mammoth queue for the loo.  The queues were so bad, I missed not only seeing the elite runners head off, but almost my start pen too.  Did get a shot with a lovely backdrop of the Endcliffe park loos though, so that’s a great way to mark the occasion of a new Smiley Paces recruit’s debut run!  Welcome to the Smiley fold my friend.  All will be well!  🙂  By the way, does anyone else think these loos are the opposite of the tardis?  You know, the building looks huge, but really, just one cubicle lurking behind each door.  I really must learn to keep my legs crossed for longer, dread to think how many hours of my life have been lost to me waiting in line for a pee.

CS loo shot

Although I missed the first wave heading off, fortunately the paparazzi were on hand to capture the scene.  The elite runners must be a feisty lot, because it seems they were most definitely herded into cages under quite close supervision, and then released one at a time to run free in the wild.  I think it was sensible to send them off first, unimpeded by the masses.   They fair whizzed round.  Seriously, this did work, in previous years I’ve always had a few speedier runners struggling to pass,, and much as I do always try to give way, at parts of the trail it is genuinely impossible to dodge to the side.  This time although of course I did get overtaken (a lot) I didn’t feel I was in the way ever, which made a pleasing change. (Photos courtesy of RSR Ben Lumley and Martin James this time).

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I scrambled into the back of my start pen just in time to find a fellow Smiley to yomp away with.  She’s ducked behind another runner so as not to be seen in public with me in the photo below, but don’t worry, she couldn’t keep that up the whole way round, she’ll get outed soon enough!  Geronimo Sky couldn’t wait to start yomping.  It boded well.  I hope the guy just ahead who was hopping the whole course got round ok.  Ambitious, but you have to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  The RSR is a bit like parkun in that respect.

RSR6 underway

Plenty of Smiley Paces were out and about today.  Some running with more focus than others.  See if you can spot the Smiley phoning ahead for a pizza so it would be waiting for her at the finish (it was quite a big queue, so that was smart) or possibly for her forgotten inhaler, I forget which.  Look on in awe at the Porter Plodder showing the grim determination of a man who has forgotten his phone, so will have to just run very fast to get to the front of the pizza queue ahead of the crowd instead.   We all have our unique approaches to getting underway.  All are valid. Don’t judge.  You may see mayhem, whereas what’s actually happening is race-technique in action. Look and learn.  You have to pace yourself properly if you are going to save something for the 0.4km sprint finish at the end!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In all the excitement, I forgot to start my tomtom,  curses, not on strava, didn’t happen, thems the rules – whatever my legs are telling me.  I did realise after a bit, but still feel cheated. My Isle of Wight map is incomplete.  Sigh.

 

Never mind, worse things happen at the seaside!  (Long story).  Main thing, we were awf.  Even better, I was even running when the first stealth photographer of the day was in evidence (thanks Robert Scriven), he was actually stalking North Derbyshire Running Club, but pleasingly I was able to gatecrash their photo shoot. Job done.  It might not be on strava, but a photo never lies!   A key part of running in organised events is the ‘ooh, I’ve seen the photographer‘ pose.  It becomes a reflex over time as evidenced here.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I think now would be a good time to remark on the jolly and supportive camaraderie that exists within running clubs everywhere.  So let’s have a shout out for North Derbyshire Running Club.  The action unfolded behind me but I’m really sure that what I overheard was someone being prevented from a near fall into the Endcliffe lake and early race dunking, and not at all someone being hilariously thrust waterwards as part of a merry (but high risk) jape.  Great team work NDRC.  Impressed.  It’s what it’s all about, looking after each other on those long and lonely trails!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So there we go, race underway ready or not.  As in previous years, it all becomes a bit of a blur.  Although not officially in a pair, I yomped alongside a fellow smiley for a lot of the first few sections which was companionable.  (Sorry if I talked too much, but you got away from me in the end, so well done.)

The big thing about this event is that it’s set up to be highly social, more so if you are slow and people overtake you, and more so squared if you have a giraffe apparently.  People like giraffes I’m pleased to say.  Whilst some commented on the sheer neck required to bring one along with me on the trails, personally I always appreciate a good giraffe related pun  so that was fine and dandy.  For the most part people were friendly and encouraging, actually, not just for the most part, I’d say EVERYONE was friendly and encouraging, this event oozes goodwill, you practically have to wade through some of the pools of positivity in parts.  I was worried Geronimo might be a bit flighty, but she was fine.  I think when she finishes her racing career maybe she could retire and do that ‘pets as therapy’ thing. You know, when animals go round old people’s homes and the like for people to stroke and adore.  Quite a few people spontaneously reached out for a quick cuddle as they passed, it was nice.  She did feel a bit like public property though, I wonder if that is what people mean when they say people touch their pregnancy bumps uninvited.  I didn’t mind, because, well because she’s a giraffe, and people weren’t touching my stomach, they were stroking her head, and running on refreshed by her magical restorative powers apparently.  Much as I love Roger, it was also quite nice not to have a single person shout ‘go camel woman‘ at me all day.  Geronimo seems to have no such outward ambiguity relating to either her personal identity or all round loveliness, so that’s good.  Special shout out now to those who took time to admire her during the day:

 

Back to details,  hopefully you know by now the blah de blah of this event, it’s broken down into ‘epic stages‘ they each have their own unique selling point.  Personally I was only ever going to walk up some of those really steep uphill bits, but you’ve got to enjoy whizzing down Limb Valley shouting wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee all the way.  Remember to follow the green cross code at the roads, and miss a dib at your peril (friendly marshals will remind and assist).  There were some stealth photographers out and about this time, so some new takes on the classic route shots.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m not doing a stage by stage debrief this time (no, no, don’t beg me, it diminishes us both), rather some key observations for your edification and perhaps merriment?  Oh and here’s an aide memoire of the stages for those of you with the necessary 20 20 vision that will enable you to decipher it.  Or you could try just the ‘control’ and + key instead, that works.  Don’t try control/alt/delete, that doesn’t.  Also, on balance, don’t take IT advice from me on any matter at all, it will definitely invalidate any computer-related insurance policies you have to hand.  Just so you know.

stages

The course is extremely well signed and marshaled.  A particular innovation is the inclusion of extra markers that are large crosses that are positioned to indicate where you should not go because it is the WRONG WAY!  These are designed to look like the sort of warning signs that you might reasonably expect to be positioned to keep you away from say radioactive waste, think of the no-go zones in the post Chernobyl apocalyptic woodlands and you get the idea.  No possibility for navigational error on the whole. However, I was briefly confused in Ecclesall Woods as I saw little figures in fluorescent yellow lycra popping up and down on some unexpected woodland trajectory.  Turns out each was seeking their own personal unofficial pee point, lucky I didn’t go yomping behind any of them and interrupt their flow.  I managed without having to nip behind a bush this year.  I must have either been dehydrated or perhaps my bladder control is improving.  I don’t think I wet myself on the way round which is the other possible explanation. I like to think I’d have remembered that.  Then again, it is all a bit of a blur…

One sighting worth mentioning was that of the awesome guy who actually marshaled last year, but this year was offering his services as a water carrier.  He was basically doing a series of shuttles run with a plastic jug full of water from his house, and offering it to passing runners so they could replenish water bottles if they wished. His house was just at the point you take the narrow path into I think Chancet Woods – or was it Graves?  Doesn’t matter, point is, he was there, a founder member of Striders we are told, still supporting runners, and a great ambassador for the benefits of keeping engaged and active for sure.  I didn’t pose for a photo – he was busy with his water patrol, but others did.  Look, smiles all round.

 

In more serious mode, to be true to my own integrity I do have to make one negative observation about the day.  Though I hope it will be recognised as constructive criticism.  Generally, I  don’t like to say anything bad about this event because overall it is completely glorious and takes on board feedback annually so it can continue to evolve into ever more spectacular reincarnations of itself year on year.  However, and I will say this only once, I couldn’t help noticing that I did suggest last year that mandatory fancy dress would improve the event massively and yet …. this didn’t happen!  Serious miscalculation.   I was pretty devastated to be fair.   I had naturally assumed that once this blindingly obvious suggestion for improvement had been pointed out it would be speedily implemented.  Well, disappointingly, apparently not.  I’ll try not to dwell on it, but, well, you know…  If the FRA can have mandatory kit for their fell race series, it shouldn’t be beyond the collective wit and wisdom of kandoo events to to sort out some sort of similar expectation for the RSR.

There was one bridal/hen party it’s true.  But there were only a couple of superheroes out and about.  I’m sure the quota should be more for this type of event – there were definitely more around in 2016 – I can only assume most entrants didn’t get the memo this time. There’s always next year though, so I’m going to try to keep it positive.  Point made.  (The photographers, marshals and organisers are all super heroes of course, but they don’t always reveal their identity as they move among us – notable exceptions aside…. )  Those aren’t detachable nipples by the way, well I don’t think so anyway, I assume them to be those magnets you can get to secure your number.  Some questions are best left unanswered as we all know.

 

A particular highlight for me was heading down through Meersbrook park.  Two reasons.  Three if you count the fact you get to run down a hill.  Firstly, I caught up (briefly) with some fellow smilies and we were able to take time out to do some group smiley shots.  You’ve got to love a trail event where this is recognised as a quite legitimate mid-race activity.

Meersbrook high jinks

Second reason, it was in Meersbrook (though it is all a bit of a blur, maybe it was later on in Chelsea park – somewhere with a down hill though), where there was a particularly excited and appreciative gathering of children who screamed in delight at the sight of Geronimo Sky and I strutting our funky stuff (ish) on the trails.  I took up the proffered high fives as they stood jumping up and down on a conveniently located bench.

RSR5 best support team ever

As I ran off I could hear them screaming behind me ‘Gooooooooooooo Lucy Giraffe!‘ it resonated behind me, seemingly bouncing of the hill and fair ringing in my ears as I sped (ish)  away.  It was fairly cool I don’t mind admitting.  It was pretty much identical to being Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury I reckon, hearing the rousing chorus of ‘gooooooooooo Jeremy Corbyn‘ and finding it both affirming and puzzling in equal measure.  I’m not going to lie though, it felt good!

The trails were pretty dry on the whole, but still sticky in some of the muddy woodland parts.  Loose gravel on the dry down hill sections was a bit of a hazard too.   I saw more people take a tumble this year, some quite nasty falls.  I don’t know if that’s because it was a faster course and people took more risks, or whether people thought they’d get away with road shoes and frankly didn’t.  Personally, on a serious note, I think this route does require trail shoes, I wouldn’t dream of doing it in roads, but then I’m quite cautious.  Oh, and also quite unbalanced,   (no quipping please, and stop sniggering at the back), hence risk averse.  Good grief, I’ve already explained about barely managing to remain upright whilst manoeuvering around my own flat – albeit due to my vaseline smeared stocking feet having to negotiate lino – (it’s hard – have you never seen total wipeout?)  – in the face of such evidence, I think I can safely rest my case with respect to my ability to remain upright for extended periods of time.

Well done though to the fallen who fell down, but got up again, albeit not in quite such spectacular fashion as bus collision survival man but kudos to you all.  Bloodied but unbowed.  Ouchy but heroic.  Smiling on through.  Awesome, always!  And you made it round so secured your bling too.  Job done!  Don’t know why, but looking at these photos makes me think detachable nipples might be quite a handy adaptation for running comfort.  I wonder if that is yet a thing?

 

In other reflections, it’s worth noting that one hilarious aspect of the recovery stages, is that for many of the more urban sections (apart from the horrific Stage 10 which I choose to erase from my mind every year) you are not only allowed to be walking, but it makes sense strategically to do so. Thus, bemused passers-by must think this is the slowest, tardiest, crappiest bunch of over a thousand runners they’ve ever seen racing.  One couple did stop us to ask what we were doing, but it’s hard enough to explain the concept of the RSR to people who actually run regularly.  I left Regal Smiley to interpret. She trotted to catch us up having done her best to convey what we were up too –  stating that she was pretty confident she’d left them with the impression it was a 13 plus mile charity walk, for some previously unheard of fund-raising initiative or other. Oh well.  Their interest was benign and the explanation close enough in a not-like-what-we-were-doing-at-all sort of way!  Still, a bit of mystery in the world is what makes life interesting.  Oh, and in other walking news, as I was walking a road section in stage 10, another cheery runner romped by waving enthusiastically – shouting out to me that we’d met at Southwark parkrun back in April!  How pleasing is that?  What a small running world it is.  Should you be reading this, hello again, sorry I was too breathless and disorientated at the time to be appropriately communicative at the time.  Fret not though, some might see that as a blessing, and it was fab to see you again.  Apart from me being caught walking in a running section, but I am seriously unimpressed by that bit, it’s hard.  You on the other hand were flying, running gazelle like ahead and waving supportively too.   I am in awe.

So we the great migrating mass of runners and walk/runners and bumble-rounders continued on our way.  The photos suggest some achieved a more elegant running look than others, but we all did the same distance in our own unique ways.  Aren’t Barnsley Harriers lovely by the way?

 

Now might also be a good time to point out I have my own awards system.  Here therefore are my chosen winners for the ‘seen the camera-guy heel click jumping award‘, and also the ‘stealth photo-bomb prize‘. There is also a ‘making it uncessarily hard‘ award, (it’s easy to get carried away by the sense of occassion I know) –  and one for ‘team solidarity to the finish line!  Congratulations everyone. Sorry there is no actual prize, only the glory of having your efforts acknowledged in a blog post no-one will ever read.  Maybe not even you.  Oh well, you won’t be the first unsung heroes to have walked the earth, and your efforts were not invisible to me.  🙂

 

Towards the end of the route there is the bit where you wander down through Hunters Bar and back to the park.  This is a good social part, as lots of people are up for a chat since the end is in sight, and most are saving their energy for the final sprint.  I got some more high-fives from a group of children on the wall at the entrance to the park, and then you have to dib in for the final stage.  Here, a marshal sat in his own personal collapsible chair was ‘motivating’ runners with tales of his best time for a 0.4km sprint giving them a time to beat. Honestly, I didn’t have that much of a sprint in me, so stuck with a sedate meander, up to the hedge (which hides you from the crowd) and then picked up a bit of (relative) speed as I cornered it coming into view myself whilst seeing  both the finish and the supporting crowds proclaiming the end.

It was good fun seeing people you know lining the finish funnel, also clearly I lack focus, as I had to stop and wave at people aplenty in preference to actually running home.  I was having so much fun out there I guess I just didn’t want it to end!  At least Geronimo Sky was looking where we going, so we finished safely.  Yay.

RSR getting distracted on the way in

The finish photos are fab by the way.  Grinning runners euphoric at coming home.  Some people were joined at the end by family members or supportive friends running them in; other club teams stormed to the finish holding hands in an ‘all for one and one for all‘ sort of way –  it warmed the cockles of the hardest of hearts to behold it all I’m sure.

 

What we will go through for a bit of bling eh?

RSR medaling

So, then it ends.  Almost suddenly.  Bling is offered up, you join a short queue to have your dibber dibbed for one last time, and you get an instantaneous print out of all your segment times.  Pleasingly, because only 20km of the route is actually timed, even though (taking my case as an example) you’ve been out on the Round Sheffield route for about 3 days, the dibber recorded time knocks off loads of sections, so you end up feeling you have run the course at super human speed.  It’s very heartening.  Less heartening is that the same print out also gives your current position, which as it’s done in real-time, means inevitably at that point in time it will tell you that you are in position one squillionth out of one squillion runners, which is a tad demotivating.  Maybe not if you are first home, then you’d be one of one – but still currently last actually, now I come to think of it.  Actually, on reflection, maybe it isn’t?  Maybe they know how many people have set out and the first person home gets a print out saying they are first out of a squillion, maybe I really was one squillionth finisher out of one squillion, and the results processing system just made a calculation that I’d still be slower than everyone else yet to finish because they’d started after me.  Oh well.  I can’t go and check my slip now as I spilt coffee over it (I know, waste of a good latte) and it isn’t really readable anymore.  Perhaps that’s a blessing!

Fortunately, this event really isn’t about placings, well not for me anyway.  Enormous respect and kudos to those who storm round at vomit-inducing and leg-cramping speeds on fearless trajectories to win their categories, or achieve new pbs.  For the record, we had some awesome Smilies who left laden with prizes at the end of the day. Can’t really say I contributed to the club triumph other than by keeping out of their way, but so proud to see them wearing the Smiley vests in the winners enclosure.  Go Smilies!

 

So race done, just a matter of queueing up for your goodie bag (wotzits, banana, water and trek bar); reclaiming your bag, and weighing up which queue to join. I opted for coffee (proper coffee, hurrah).  There was loads around though, bar, pizza, EPIC cafe of course.  Straw bales a plenty. Also deck chairs for the brave and supple otherwise surely a poor choice to sit in one of those if you’d just been running.  How on earth would you ever get up again without outside assistance?  This sort of seemingly impromptu running festival atmosphere is a massive draw of the RSR.  There were too many people to catch up with everyone, but it was just lovely and chilled to join in the general lingering and milling about. The organisers even laid on cool air for the morning, their attention to detail also including delivering some restorative cooling drizzle for the main run, and then hot rays of sun for the afternoon of loitering and lounging about.  Impressive.

So here are some of the many taking it all in.  If you were there you’ll know how much fun it was, if you weren’t, look what you missed!  These are more RSR official snaps by the way.  It’s not too late to donate to the cause if you, like me, appreciate them.  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr-wpcc-donations

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The pizza queue was tempting, but huge, so instead I opted to join a Smiley enclave around the physio tent.  We took it in turns to lie out on slabs like the freshly deceased, and allowed the team from The White House Physiotherapy Clinic, to wok their mysterious magic with their healing hands.  All for a suggested donation of £10 which is an absolute bargain for having the ability to walk once again restored to you.    It fair feels like they have a super power.  I’m not going to lie, the massage did hurt, but then it weirdly magically feels better.  Some bits didn’t hurt and just felt great.   Thank you Ric.  I’m still not sure if he was entirely joking when he said that sports massage is a massive smoke and mirrors kind of deception. The process of being massaged is so painful that when they stop you think you are healed whereas actually they’ve just ceased inflicting unecessary pain on you and you are the same as you were at the outset.  You confuse the stoppage of pain brought about by the massage being finished with being miraculously cured.  I don’t care if it is a massive con trick to be honest, as I felt great afterwards.  Even the day after I briefly felt ‘completely fine’ until I was faced with the four flights of stairs I am required to negotiate to exit my flat.  Still would recommend though. Felt great.  And that’s another fine thing about the RSR, it’s not every event when you can have a lie down and a massage at the end.  Heaven!

RSR and finally

So that was that.  All done and dusted for another year.  Back to another 12 months of eager anticipation, still, the build up is all part of the fun is it not.  So hopefully see you same time next year.  Mandatory fancy dress for 2018 remember.

In the meantime thanks to everyone who made it so.  Organisers; fellow runners; marshals; supporters; photographers; sponsors; the weather gods; Smiley compatriots and the good folk of Sheffield too.  We are so lucky to have this on our doorstep.  Long may it continue.

Oh, and in case you do care about the full results for the RSR 2017 they are here

*This post is work in progress, any objections to use of photos or content, please let me know. Let’s stay happy!*

RSR aerial view

Closing Photo Credits:

And to help you out with the browsing the post race photos experience thanks to the following for turning out, taking fab photos and sharing freely afterwards:

Incidentally, it was nice to see some photographers got to be positioned the other side of the lens on the day.  Hurrah!

 

Oh and special thanks to the genius behind the RSR.  Good job! Those aren’t knitting he’s holding needles by the way, that would be silly.  Note the RSR logo on the side of the tinted windowed support vehicle.  You’re welcome.

RSR power behind the run

And if you want to relive other years of the RSR, you can find all my posts here – scroll down for older entries.  Don’t have nightmares

panorama

 

 

Oh, and let’s not make reference to the cows, but we can be quietly grateful to Edale Mountain Rescue all the same.  All’s well that ends well.

 

Categories: half marathon, off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

‘Tis ‘Round Sheffield Run Eve’ – Roger that!

So today is the evening before the race morning after.  My regular reader will know that the Round Sheffield Run is the highlight of my running year.  Not only for me, but for other Sheffielders, it is long looked forward to, and, apart from the first year when nobody knew what to expect, it sells out really, really quickly.

Uhm.  Can I be bothered to explain it all again?  Not really, but go on then.    Simply put – the Round Sheffield Run is a 20km off-road trail run, only actually it’s 24km.  Only 20km of it is timed. You do it in stages, so you only really run a couple of kilometers in one go. Teeny little stages, way less than a parkrun. As a consequence, it is easy to overlook basic arithmetic principles of the need to add all these sections together to estimate the total mileage required, it just doesn’t look that far, not really.  Hardly worth training for.

race card

Also there are trees, and friendly marshals, feed stations groaning under the weight of munchies at two points along the way.  Friendly comradely runners, lots of different start waves.  All social and jolly, and not really running at all, apart from the 24 km and the 2,121ft of elevation which is basically a flat route in Sheffield terms.  Well maybe ‘undulating’.  Oh and cows probably.  You get your own dibber!  Always a boon.  Good bling and fine music and dining options post run.  Guaranteed sunshine I seem to recall but might need to check terms and conditions for that to be fair.  I don’t know why someone has taken a bite out of the acorn they used to model the medal, bad idea.  Acorns can be really poisonous. Well for horses they are, pigs like them, and so did Eeyore, so maybe donkeys are OK with them, or possibly only Eeyore, I don’t know.  Look, stop hassling me about the acorns for goodness sake. It’s the running people you need to look at.  They haven’t officially told me, but I’m really confident they modeled those figures on me and my running buddy of previous years.  I’m fine with it, I’d have given consent freely had they asked.

Bottom line, is that this has always been to date anyway, a super fun event and a ‘must do’ occasion on the Sheffield Running Calendar.  However, just because at Hallam parkrun this morning we were all buzzing about it in eager anticipation ‘it’s like running Christmas day!’ exclaimed one running buddy (who actually likes Christmas by the way, in case you were wondering), doesn’t mean that on Round Sheffield Eve there isn’t a bit of apprehension as well.

In the spirit of getting my excuses in early, as in previous years it is now dawning on me that actually, you know what it is quite a long way. Also as in previous years I haven’t followed the diligent training regime I’d fondly imagined undertaking when I signed up some months ago.  Worse than that, I’ve even knackered my knee this time.  Hilariously, or ironically, depending on your point of view, I did this whilst doing a recce for the RSR two weeks ago. The plan had been to do the whole route at a steady trot just to remind myself of how to pace it, and give myself the confidence I’d get round fine on the day. The plan was definitely not to pick up a post race running injury a fortnight ahead of the event.  Epic fail alas.  In stead, I realised about half way round my knee was giving serious gyp (is that even a word?) and by the time I’d finished it, it was fair screaming at me never to run again.  I’ve never hurt my knee running before.  Usually it’s just my pride that suffers under any exertion.  Uh oh. RSR in doubt.

I’ve had to back off even my usual pitiful running schedule, including missing out on both woodrun and the frontrunner fell running Wednesday evenings.  Well I made one, pre-injury, and it was good fun actually, in a ‘let’s bound off boulders and try to out run the midges’ at Padley Gorge way.  I enjoyed it.  Not sure the couple who’d come out for a romantic picnic at the same spot felt entirely the same way….  But hey ho, each to their own.  The photo is stolen from Fell Running Guide by the way.  Thanks!  🙂  I’m in there somewhere… actually, I probably bounded so high I’m quite out of shot, leaping in a trajectory over the head of the photographer now I think of it. That makes sense.

fell running guide bouldering

So, upshot is, it’s the evening before the long-awaited RSR, and I’m feeling well, more towards the ‘what was I thinking‘ rather than ‘bring it on‘ end of the continuum.  This happens every year to be fair, but normally I’m only battling being ridiculously under-prepared, not usually carrying an injury as well.

I went to parkrun at Hallam today, just for a gentle trot round to see if knee was up to it.  It’s flat, and we are doing an alternative route at the moment because of road works.  It’s really nice actually, under the shade of trees and a bit more traily, though also quite narrow so not for speed  merchants.  I figured I needed to see if I can do 5km without my knee crumbling, and it seems I can, as long as I’m careful going down hills.  Me and my trotting compatriot for the day were deliberately slow as we are tapering for tomorrow, slow enough that we briefly contemplated just doing the one lap and whizzing through the finish funnel to secure new pbs.  It was  bit confused with the route and we’d already been lapped so we may well have got away with it.  Plus, added temptation, lamentable times tomorrow could be explained by this unexpected performance peak the day before!  In the end we didn’t though.  There is little point in ‘cheating’ at parkrun. None whatsoever in fact, but the little moment of enjoying a fantasy finish time spurred us round!

Well, I was, waivering about whether running the RSR tomorrow is really such a great idea, but you know what dear reader?  I’ve just finished convening with Roger, and I’m feeling a bit brighter now. Roger has been a running buddy for a while now. We were supposed to do the London Marathon together, but that didn’t happen for various reasons, and he’s been resting for most of the year.   If by ‘resting’ you mean being stuffed in a plastic carrier bag at the back of a wardrobe.  I went to find him, to explain…

DSCF7802

Roger has been a great running buddy over the years, but I just wonder if it’s a bit much to drag him out on a 24km yomp when he hasn’t done anything since Southwark parkrun back in April.  I mean, I do have a contingency giraffe (don’t we all), it would still be less embarrassing to face the event in fancy dress than in unforgiving lycra in the raw… maybe I should utilise that and let Roger retire, or at least have a season off, and then he can return restored, renewed and reinvigorated some other time after the requisite rest and relaxation has worked its magic.

Roger is wise though.  He’s given me a bit of a pep talk.  I was saying how much I wished there would be some more runners out there on the trails.  So I wont be the last one out there all alone on the trails.  I don’t mind being slowest one out there, but I’d like to get back in daylight and before the coffee place has packed up.   Lawks a lordy – I don’t even know if I can run for a bus anymore, let alone romp round 24km, feed stations a plenty or not!

Roger though is smart.  He explained you have to just find your motivation and then you can unlock your inner runner no worries.

not a runner

If there were more runners, there might be more slowbies, and if there were more marshals, that would be more motivational high-fives and sweaty hugs to give me strength.  ‘Well‘, he said, ‘don’t you dare wish for a single runner more.   There are runners enough out there – any more finishers would only dilute your achievement‘.  I paraphrase, what he actually said was this:

What’s that your wishing for?

More runners  Lucy? No! don’t think it;

If we are meant to run, we are enough

To take on Sheffield’s trails; and still to live,

The fewer run, the greater share of honour.

I mean really! I say, wish not one runner more.

FFS! I would not lose so great an honour

As one more trail runner might steal from us

It will be great! O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, to anyone who’ll listen,

That they who have no stomach for this run,

Let them depart; we’ll wave them on their way,

And jelly babies for convoy give to them;

We would not yomp in that runner’s company

They that fear they might expire out there

and so choose not to die in fellowship with us.

Fair play, they need not join us running scared.

And yet….

This race is call’d the Round Sheffield Run of well, Sheffield!

We that outrun these trails, and come safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,

And come alive at the very mention of the RSR

We shall tell all who’ll listen* of our triumph

And how we took on the great challenge of the day.

We that shall see this day, and live old age,

Will yearly on the vigil bore fellow runners,

And say “To-morrow is the Round Sheffield Run

I’ve done that!  Loads of times!  Go me!”

Then we will we strip our shoes and show our scars,

And say “These blisters I had up Porter Valley.

See this hamstring limp?  That’s from the limb descent”

Others may forget, but we won’t ever,

We’ll still remember, with advantages,

What feats we did that day. Then shall our club names,

Familiar in the mouth as household words—

Be newly toasted

We shall drink to Smiley Paces; Dark Peak to boot;

Cheers to Monday Mobsters and parkrunners all;

Strideout were there and Les Brutelles

Team Sloth and the lovely Barnsley Harriers too

Shout loud for Valley Hill Runners also

and the Porter Valley Plodders pounding through

all trail runners a-go-go who pulled on their shoes to run

Undaunted by the hills, or mud or the fact that ‘it’s an awfully long way to have to go now we come to think of it…’

So shall all such Round Sheffield Runners

Be each year by flowing cups freshly rememb’red.

This race shall remain the mecca trail run for all of England

And the Round Sheffield Run shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

Without all those who have ever run it being rememberèd-

We few, we happy few, we band of runners;

For they this day that pound the trails with me

Shall forever be my running buddies;

Even be they ever so vile,

This day shall gentle their condition;

And runners of the world that stay in-bed

Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,

And hold their run bling cheap whilst any speaks

That ran with us upon the Round Sheffield Trails!

No honestly, he did!  It was stirring stuff.  I can hardly not rock up at the start after all that!

So are you coming out with me tomorrow then Roger?’  I asked.  ‘I’m not sure’ he said, ‘you know about the “for want of a shoe” don’t you?  Well, I’m not feeling too fabulous, and for want of a proverbial shoe you might not make it round the whole trail.  Don’t you have a back up plan?  One time only.   Any random bit of African wildlife would do?’  ‘Oh’.  I said.  ‘I’ll think about it.  It wouldn’t be the same without you, but I do take you point.’

So bottom line.  I just need to find and channel my inner runner.  When I do, if I can’t run like the wind, I shall run like the winded, which means I’ll still get to be part of it, and as a bonus, it also means I can eat the Belgian bun I have stashed away.  It was going to be to celebrate having completed the run. But who I am trying to kid. Why go for delayed gratification when really I should be focusing on carbing up.  Essential pre-event prep as any runner can tell you.

Soooooooooooooo, I expect I will be seeing you all at the start after all.  Don’t have nightmares!  And don’t forget to high-five me as you pass.  If I’m collapsed on the trails, please step over me, no stamping on my face. Thanks in anticipation.

running like the winded

*to be fair, I don’t think we’ll care if anyone in the vicinity is listening or not, we’ll just hold forth about our RSR experiences anyway, shouting louder if necessary, so they can still here us as they try to get away.

 

Oh and for all my RSR blog posts see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

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

Round Sheffield Run 2016? Neigh Worries!

Reading this is optional.  Could be a time-vampire, but then again, so is daytime TV.  Scrolling down to look at photos also an option.  If you are hardcore, then this account is a bit like a TV box set binge, just so you know.  Maybe get some Pringles in just to be on the safe side.

Digested read:  I like the RSR.  It is even more fun in fancy dress.

RSR 2016 logo

Magic Realism I think it’s called.  That is, the acceptance that magic can exist in a rational world (not that the world feels particularly rational right now, but let’s not go there).  It might of course be false memory syndrome or just general common or garden personal delusion, but when I think of the Round Sheffield Run (RSR) I just feel a little warm wave of happiness pass through me as I take the opportunity to indulge in some temporary escapism by filling my mind with memories of the event 🙂 it really is magical.  To recall it in your mind’s eye is to give yourself a virtual hug.

RSR shot

For me, the RSR has a personal symbolism and significance.  I entered it the first year it took place from a foundation of complete ignorance.  I had only ever done a parkrun 5k before, and took very literally the blurb about it being an all-inclusive race for all abilities.  I figured you only ever had to run about 2.9 km in one go, so that should be fine right?  It never really dawned on me that you end up doing near enough 25 km and there is more than a smidgen of hill to negotiate.  But you know what, I’m so pleased I was that naive, because if I had thought about it too much I’d have concluded it was way beyond me, not been brave enough to enter,  and I’d have really missed out.  This event was just brilliant from the outset.  The route and location are fabulous of course, but it is the organisation, attention to detail and friendliness that makes this trail run,  in my experience at least, a really social and inclusive event.  2014 was my first time tackling anything like that distance, and my first experience of running and enjoying the experience of doing so actually at the time, (no really), instead of just retrospectively when awash with a post runner’s high and feeling smug afterwards.  You know, that Goldilocks zone, when the endorphins have kicked in but the stiffness has not?  So what is this darned race then?  I hear you cry.  For any still uninitiated, I shall try to explain.

Firstly, here is the course profile (thanks veloviewer sponsored athlete for sharing) it is from last year, but hey.  It isn’t my time either, but maybe I won’t draw attention to that and so some reader, somewhere, will be left believing it is.  (I was way faster, obviously).

veloviewer route map from 2015

The official blah de blah on the Round Sheffield Run‘s website reads thus:

The Round Sheffield Run, trail running enduro is a unique creative “multi-stage” running event following the beautiful Round Sheffield route, a superb running journey linking some of the best trails and parkland. It would be a tough task to find anywhere in the UK that showcases these kind of trails & scenery within its city limits.

The 11 timed stages make up 20km of the 24.5km route.

The unique format breaks the route down into stages. Each stage being raced, and competitors receiving both results for each stage as well as a combined overall result.

Competitors have the opportunity to relax, regroup with their friends and refocus before the next stage begins. Competitors are allowed to walk or jog in between stages. The unique concept creates a special and unique social vibe.  The race format also opens up the course to all abilities.

Personally, I think they deliver.  In the first year, there were just 600 runners, last year probably double that number.  I don’t know exactly,  I didn’t count, though I could have done had I taken a clicker with me, as pretty much all of them overtook me at some point on the course.

Why so brilliant?  It might not entirely sound fun to the uninitiated.   I excitedly told a non-running friend of mine about having done it before and that I was doing it all again this year (‘it’s really great – pretty much all off-road; lots of mud and hills and 24 km of running all at one go!’) and she said ‘oh poor you‘, so maybe there are gaps in my communication skills. You’ll have to draw your own conclusions.    It helped me, that the first year I ran as a pair with my  Cheetah Buddy, and we got the most brilliant number EVER by chance.  It is true that we missed out on the comedic potential of the  best fancy dress opportunity of all time by not realising it was in our grasp until we got there, but this was at least partially rectified by Photoshop afterwards:

Last year (2015), as far as I remember it delivered all over again.  The trails were paved with gold.  A continuous archway of rainbows lined the course, and at intervals unicorns appeared in the woods to silently guide our way.  The unicorns in this part of Sheffield actually crap golden nuggets so you could gather those as you passed if you wanted, though most favoured the jelly baby alternative option for ongoing sustenance.  Tables groaned under the weight of jelly babies, bananas and water at the feed stations, and every marshal applauded each runner as they approached them, and then hugged them as a long-lost friend once you reached them.  Volunteer marshals are always intrinsically, probably even pathologically brilliant, but in many races you pass them breathless and faint and don’t get to interact with them all that much beyond a slightly strangled ‘thanks’ as you pass.  The RSR is different, loads of opportunities for hugging and chatting. What’s not to like.  All very nurturing and moving.  I found this account from a marshal’s perspective from a previous RSR, they seem to have had a fun time too!

To turn my head even more with regard to the RSR, I cannot tell a lie, later on I had a brief period of fame (ish), as their unlikely poster girl to promote the 216 RSR so get me and my running fame.  Naturally I am a massive fan of this event.  All in all, I was looking forward to doing it all again on 26 June 2016.  Yay, bring it on.

RSR poster girl close up pos

When I say ‘bring it on‘ I do of course mean that there was a bit of pre-event apprehension this time.  It is weirdly a bit more daunting if you know what you’ve signed up for.    I’d fondly imagined that by the time RSR 2016 came around I’d have lost weight; trained loads; perfected my gazelle like bounce for bounding up the hills.  Best laid plans eh…   These things did not happen.  I have however, learned a little from experience.  My regular hobbit running buddy and I agreed to run together but not as a formal pair.  The idea of running as a pair is great in theory, but in practice I think it’s quite hard to get someone who really is the same pace as you, and if one of you gets injured and has to drop out, well la de da.  It seemed less pressurised to enter as individuals and run together anyway if that seemed to be working out on the day.  I may be deluded in many respects, but not so deluded I was expecting to be in the running (great pun there) for any prizes.  I suppose for competitive dudes out there, the pairs option does give the chance to clean up in a different category, but dear reader, this did not apply to us.  We also were completely committed to the fancy dress option, and that was going to be AWESOME.  We even had a trial run out together in fancy dress to check it out, that was hilarious.  I’d run in fancy dress every day if I thought I’d get away with it!

DSCF8877

My Sheffield half-marathon experiences have convinced me that fancy dress is always the way to go if you want to harness the maximum fun and comedic potential of any event (other than job interviews possibly but never say never).  Fancy dress brings you extra crowd support, reduced expectation from  others about your running prowess AND people assume the costume must slow you down.  ‘Naturally, without the 250 gram drag of Roger and Ginger we’d have been way quicker‘ we can say afterwards, should we feel the need to justify our run times at any point.  Secretly, (see magic realism reference above) I was rather hoping the equine assistance would speed us up those hills, that didn’t happen either.

The pre-event recce:

What did happen, is that we went on a recce the week before.  I figured it would help us psychologically if we familiarised ourselves again with the route.  Afterwards we’d know better, where we could push on (yeah right) and where we might best conserve our energy.  This was  a mixed hobbit hashing shared experience truth to tell.  Less team bonding and more team incredulity.  High points were giving parsley to a goat (Betty I think she is), low points were about 7km in when my running buddy stated ‘so, that must be about half way now yeah?’ This was followed by a long pause from me whilst I processed her statement – maybe it was her dry wit?  She was probably being sarcastic.  Careful scrutiny of her face suggested otherwise. ‘Erm, no….’  It took her a while to fully absorb the enormity of this statement.  It wasn’t so much that she was whingeing, more that she was utterly incredulous.  I felt awful, and completely thrown.  It was like I’d broken it to her about the tooth fairy, and knew that shortly I’d have to explain about Father Christmas too.   I wasn’t sure how she would take it, well, I knew it wouldn’t be well, and we were rather a long way from outside assistance…  I thought it was going to be OK at first, as I saw she had slowly registered the logic of my account of the course.  I also pointed out (perhaps cruelly) that there was a tad of contributory negligence at work here, because she had actually run the RSR before in its first year, so it wasn’t entirely unreasonable of me to think that she knew how far it was.  She made a conscious effort to think positively ‘oh well‘ she replied, ‘at least we’ve still got a few weeks to get ready! ‘  This was a bit trickier ‘Erm no.  You know how tomorrow is Saturday?’ I said.  Slowly and deliberately, to avoid any possible further ambiguity.  ‘Yes.’ She said confidently.  ‘And you know the day after that is a Sunday right?’  ‘Yes.’ she replied again.  ‘Well, it’s a week after that‘.  Pause.  ‘Oh.’ I think it would be fair to say morale dipped a bit after that, we made it round, only squabbling mildly as we found ourselves lost coming out of Brincliffe Edge.  A passer-by intervened and pointed us in the right direction so we didn’t have to retrace our steps right back to where we had started from fortunately.  Even so, not quite the confidence giving romp of the  circuit we’d maybe anticipated.  I’m not telling you how long it took, but let’s just say it’s lucky we were still pretty near the summer solstice.  Nice goat though:

betty

The build-up

So, once the awful reality of the distance we would be required to run and the time we had left to us before we joined our start wave had sunk in, we decided that best option was just to do one more joint jog out to pick up our numbers, and thereafter just focus on our tapering.  (I am particularly good at this). We met the Wednesday before the run and did a gentle jog down to Frontrunner to pick up our race numbers.  Even this task turned out to be a bit beyond us as we didn’t know it only opened at 10.00 o-clock.  Never mind, we had a nice detour browsing in a local antique shop, we could have added a bit of extra onto our run instead I suppose, but one should never under-estimate the importance of a good taper, so not worth the risk…  At five past 10.00 we were back trying the door of the shop, and bouncing on one leg the lovely staff member opened up to us.  A cruel and judgemental customer might have thought he was still getting dressed and had been caught in the act of hauling his shoes and socks on, but an experienced runner would instantly recognise he was just doing some one-legged running drills.  After all, everyone who knows anything at all about running, knows it is really a one-legged sport, improved by practising hopping at all and any opportunities (you can thank accelerate Thursday morning breakfast woodruns for that insight!).  He didn’t actually laugh in our faces when we explained about coming in to pick up our race numbers in advance of the RSR.  But then we got in first about perhaps not looking like we’d realistically make it round, but contrary to appearances we would be  giving it a go.  (I bet we were the only two of the hundreds of people who went into Frontrunner to collect their numbers who made such hilarious quips and original observations whilst being horribly over-excited… yes?)   To be fair, he was very encouraging.  We said we’d done a recce, but acknowledged there might have been a bit more walking and talking than actual running going on (we didn’t mention the squabbling) and he said that was the whole point of the RSR so that was fine!  We were  a bit giddy with excitement of pre-race anticipation, and also our 10% discounts.  I bought a new pair of running socks (which are blissful) and my hobbit friend got a visor.  I now have visor envy, but tried to be pleased for her outwardly at least.  I did contemplate going back later and buying one of my own, but then she probably would have noticed if I’d turned up wearing with it on Sunday and I’d look like a stalker.  We also got our numbers and felt VERY EXCITED.  Big up for Frontrunner, they are always really helpful in there and trust me, I’m very needy when I nip in, I’m like a nightmare mystery shopper on acid or something, self-parody is my speciality when it comes to acting the part of the clueless beginner runner to test their customer service.  They’ve done alright so far, though I will always be a bit scared of running shops I think.  They are also good at taking selfies which include a reflection of the RSR venue in their cool shades apparently, so that’s good to know.

face of front runner

With just a few days to go, most important activity was weather-watching.  Mainly it was torrential rain.  It wasn’t entirely heartening to see periodic film clips of flooded crossing and quagmires from the event team.  Participants also helped by supplying snaps of fallen trees blocking the way.  Still, there was a sense of an atmosphere building, and what’s the point of going off-road without extra mud and additional un-mapped river crossings?  The yin of encouragement to the yang of fear was periodic postings of  event T-shirts, water in bottles (as opposed to falling from the sky) and stock piles of jelly babies and post-run refreshments.  All good!

The video clip of a raging river more suited to white water rafting that the organisers thoughtfully uploaded on Facebook the day before helped clinch any indecisiveness about footwear.  No question, rather than debate between trail or road shoes, the jury was definitely decisively in favour of Wellington’s, so that was one less decision to have to wrestle with on the day.  Good oh.

So before I go on, can I just say I’ve used photos from RSR Facebook page as well as friends and fellow Smilies.  The RSR organisers (rather brilliantly) and as in previous years, make the photos freely available, but ask for a donation in lieu.  Good plan and fair enough.  I donate each year, and would encourage others to do likewise.  Bargain I reckon, and a good local cause.

All the event pics are being uploaded to Facebook for all competitors to enjoy for free! The page we are using for donations to Weston Park Cancer Hospital is https://www.justgiving.com/rsr16 in lieu of any good photos! Last year we raised over £1500 lets see if we can beat this target this year!! smile emoticon

Race day rendezvous

Always good to wake early on a race day, need to get that breakfast down nice and early.  Thus I was naturally really thrilled at being woken by a 4.00 a.m. torrential downpour.  Oh well, at least I could listen to the early morning radio play whilst I had my breakfast porridge.  Played Facebook messaging tag with my running buddy over what to wear (Smiley Vest over T-shirt, tick); when to don/ mount horse (last-minute) and moment of leaving house.   This was early morning view from my window by the way.

DSCF9978

Who wants to hang around on a street corner with their pony all alone like nobby no-mates for longer than they absolutely have to?  Anyway, all went according to plan, 7.45, slightly over-excited, we two hobbits met with our respective steeds, rearing to go rather than raring to do so (see what I’ve done there?)   We are lucky in being walking distance from the Endcliffe Park starting point, so spared the horrors of driving and parking, so the plan was to meet a short distance away and stroll down together.  opportunities for some early morning mutual photographing were exploited before we cantered down to the start all frisky with excitement.  Maybe our horses were a bit fresh, there might have been some giddy-upping, and whinnying and maybe some bucks and bolting off out of control going on.  Possibly we should have tried to save some of that exuberance for once we were actually underway, but where would be the fun in that?

 

The gathering

So off we trotted to the park.  Once we’d got our steeds under control (Hobbit buddy is on Ginger, and I’m on Roger – see what we’ve done there), we were able to shriek delightedly in recognition as the first person we espied in full marshalling gear was one of our own.  Ready in place, it was fantastic to see a friendly face and get some Smiley motivational pep talk from our expert running club compatriot.  Big shout out to all the marshals, I mean, all of them were fab, but obviously known marshals are even more cause for whooping with delight and recognition. She was positioned at the first critical dibbing point too, an important location, and good to know we’d have sympathetic assistance to call on there in case of need.  She was also sporting a RSR tee – rather good this year I think, though I have a feeling that the white will look less good on me, but we’ll see…  Presume the ‘M’ stands for ‘Marshal’ in case of any ambiguity about her status.  Attention to detail you see – that is what the RSR team have become known for.  Similarly they have carefully erected those railings as a  crowd control barrier to avoid her being trampled in any stampede inadvertently generated as each wave of runners comes past.  Genius.

Smiley Marshal stage 1

Once we entered the park, I immediately spotted a group of people ahead of us who were all dressed up as pirates.  Oh good, people in fancy dress!  Except they weren’t, as we got closer, we realised they’d maybe just got a bit carried away with the matching bandanas.  Oh well, easy mistake.  I wonder if people might think we were in fancy dress and not riding actual horses?  Or worse still, think we’d done that really embarrassing thing of doing the race equivalent of turning up to a posh party and finding you were wearing the same outfit as one of the other guests!  Oh the shame!

We arrived pretty early to be fair. We already had our numbers, so just a question of picking up our dabbers, getting a t-shirt (I found I had actually bought one in advance, which I’d forgotten, so it felt like a freebie).  They were £9 in advance £10 cash on the day.  Very cheery T-shirt sales volunteers I felt.  Then there was baggage drop, also well organised, and a Frontrunner stall for emergency purchases.  Deck chairs and various tents and awnings scattered about, music playing, all great for building atmosphere. It has a sort of festival vibe, even more so afterwards when the sun came out.  We started to spot other runners we knew and fellow smilies from our smiley paces running club too.  One big love in basically.  Thought I might have spotted a potential cani-cross entrant, so reckon that vindicated us in going for the equine-assisted passage.   Turned out not to be so, this isn’t a cani-cross friendly event.  Roger and Ginger were made very welcome though.  Rules are made to be broken I guess. Loads of marshals were assembling, and there was a sense in general of the event being made ready for off. All very exciting.

 

The recognition

So we had some mutual ‘hellos’ and a bit of posing:

pre run smiley shot

Hobbit buddy, Ginger, Roger and I were trying to play it cool, but it was always inevitable that we’d get spotted by the paparazzi at some point.  (Honestly, this is for real, magic realism aside, this genuinely happened).  Just as we’d finished posing for our own Smiley assembly shot, a guy with a camera approached us.  He was from Runner’s World magazine (he said, we didn’t ask for ID because we were too star-struck), obviously he saw our cover potential immediately and so asked us to pose for  a picture.  We dutifully posed, asking that our fellow smilies could flank us.  Even if the photo is never used, we have our memories, even if it is, with the caption ‘If they can, anyone can!’ with the strap line ‘trail running just got truly inclusive‘ I don’t care, it felt like external validation.  It also occurred to us, that even if we didn’t finish now, the possibility remained our faces would smile out of some future edition of Runners World for all eternity, forever linking us with running excellence and the sporting elite.  This notion pleases me.  I don’t need to be confronted with the awful truth, the truth at the moment is all horrible, let’s stick with the magical side of the coin rather than the real one.  Pick the version of the story you prefer as in The Life of Pi, that’s my advice.  I haven’t got the Runner’s World shot, but handily, an RSR photographer also got us posing, so here we are again.  Don’t Ginger and Roger make a lovely duo?  How can ignorant people confuse them with camels?  Even one of our own?  I won’t name names though, but I hope they know who they are… ‘I thought they were camels and you were the humps‘ indeed! What was she thinking?

Ginger and Roger at the start of something

The reckoning

So, because it was all running quite smoothly (even managed to fit in a precautionary pee which was more challenging than you might think as it involved taking a horse into a portaloo) we were all ready to go.  To be fair, we Smilies were split in 8.30 and 8.45 start waves, but a call went up for red, orange and yellow (I think) numbers to assemble, and we got ourselves into the line up – towards the back so the faster runners could charge off unimpeded) and were able to depart together.  This might have been a bit sneaky, but we took the view we’d hold back if we were in the way, but go with the flow otherwise, and that seemed acceptable if not exactly to be condoned.  You have to individually dib your dabber (or should that be dab your dipper, or maybe dip your dibber, who knows?) through the timing thingamajig as you set off, so we probably looked like bees exiting a hive, one by one, but tightly behind one another till a great swarm was heading off down the route.  Here are some Strideout folk demonstrating nicely.  Thank you, good team showing there.  Also my endurer buddies later on, sorry I missed you.

So we were off. Stage one!  You get a handy little race card (not the same as a dance card) that tells you how long each of the 11 sections are.  Bit of feedback for the race organisers, not such a good quality print run as last years, this paper version was in danger of disintegration (last time it was a good quality card, more like a business card kind of thing). Didn’t rain this year, so got away with it, but high risk decision with the paper choices there I feel.

race card

So anyway, even though we’d given one copy to the Runner’s World photographer, we were still equipped with a version for our own reference.  It was well signed as well, and of course we’d done our recce, you’d be unlucky to get lost on this route. One year they even put signs up where you could go astray saying ‘Not this way, turn back/ here be dragons‘ kind of thing, which is another RSR innovation I like.  Didn’t see that this year, but then we didn’t get lost.

Stage 1   :  2.9km Endcliffe Park to Forge DamA pleasant gradual ascent leaving Endcliffe Park, up through Bingham Park and Whiteley woods, a stage to take nice and steady through the paved and dirt tracks up to Forge Dam.

Liaison between 1-2  A short walk / jog up past the Cafe to the start of the next stage

We headed out up Endcliffe Park, and espied some super-heroes just arriving coming towards us in the other direction which was good to know.  Presumably to replace the need for any St John’s Ambulance folk.   They are an impressive quartet on the local running scene and a distinctive look to them I think you’ll agree.

competition for fancy dress

We shot off pretty fast (by my standards) there is definitely a buzz from being at an event and being underway.  In next to no time we’d waved in recognition at our Smiling Smiley marshal buddy, and dibbed in and out for the zebra crossing (they are called zebra crossings because of the stripes – who knew that hobbit buddy?  Pelican crossings are weasily distinguishable because of the stuffed pelicans at the side of the road.  There is actually a very useful guide to the five types of pedestrian crossing you might encounter here.  You’re welcome.)  Off up through Bingham park there was a photographer here, but not sure we got snapped (we did pose a lot though, so give it time).

seriously smiling

Here is a shot of one photographer who forgot his camera and so was made to run the whole event instead. This is some sort of racing equivalent of forgetting your gym kit at school and being made to do PE in your knickers I think. He seems OK with it though.  Stormed round.

must have forgotten to bring camera

Hobbit buddy and I had agreed to take it easy, but we were in good spirits, and kept our yomp going pretty much up to Forge Dam.  It is fun that, because the race is split into different sections, you get to sprint finish 11 times.  They thoughtfully put 100m to go signs up at the appropriate spot to motivate you to do so.  We took advantage of the breathers at each stage.  Bit of foot massage when needed for rearrangement of bones and muscles in feet, and general chit-chat.  I’d been meaning to ask about what had happened with regard to that outstanding gym membership for ages… plus, was keen for hobbit to come up with some ideas for names for guinea pigs that another friend of mine has just acquired.  Some nice action shots of other runners at this point on the route.  It is possible there was some posing at this point, and some horseying around too:

At one of the other road crossings en route, it was great to see another familiar face from parkrun, Trunce, anywhere and everywhere to be fair (though not a Monday mobster apparently, she is otherwise very well-connected on the local running scene).  Great encouragement, and also a supportive enquiry on the state of our chaffing, and a recommendation for runderwear as the ultimate non-chaffing technical underwear option from wiggle as we passed.  Must look into it.  This kind of expertise and advice is priceless.  I thank you.  I don’t have a marshal shot of her, but I do have one of her running at Sheffield Hallam parkrun the previous day, so here she is, salute our runderwear ambassador if you will.  Looking a confident runner there, no chaffing distractions impeding progress there I’d venture!  Anyways, runderwear is ‘the ultimate chafe-free running experience for committed athletes‘, so clearly right up my street.  I’ll admit I’m tempted.  Though for the record, got away with my M&S standard issue ‘lord-knows-how-old-they-are’ pants today.

marvelous marshal wunderwear ambassador

Stage 2   :  2.5km Porter Valley Ascent – Up from the Forge Dam Cafe this stage leads us up the porter valley and away from town towards the Peak. The gradual ascent becomes slightly more aggressive half way up leading up. This is possibly the toughest part of the course, a good one to get under the belt early on.

Liaison between 2-3 The “Recovery” Stage along Fulwood road sticking to the trail on the left past the Alpaca farm to Ringinglow road, this stage is nice and flat and will allow for nice recovery after the endeavours of the previous two.

Local knowledge definitely helped for the Forge Dam ascent, it’s our patch, we run it every week (albeit not always with that much emphasis on the ‘run’ aspect of the outing).  I think if you didn’t know the area, it would be a bit of a shock.  We’d already agreed we’d just take it easy-going up and save ourselves for the long haul and whizzy down hill bits later on.  In fact, we got loads of encouragement from other runners.  We did a sort of companionable leap-frog with some other runners who were at a similar pace to us.  And inevitably, at some point the faster runners from the following wave came through so we let them pass and cheered them on.  A few were familiar faces who called encouragement to us too.  Plus there were a few complaints about our unfair advantage what with having six legs each to their two, but most accepted our point that we’d not really thought this through and as Roger and Ginger were more feet or even ‘airs above the ground‘, rather than kicking their heels behind us to give us added forward thrust, they weren’t massively or noticeably contributing to our success.  Nobody really quibbled with that argument.  How could they?  The cafe wasn’t open, so no detour for that.  We didn’t run the whole thing, but we had a reasonable stab at most of it, some bits were really, really muddy, I was very glad of my super expensive but good investment trail shoes.   Hobbit buddy was similarly very glad of her decathlon specials, which astonishingly, though second-hand and cheap to begin with, are the only ones in which she can run with comfort.  Takes all sorts I suppose.

Just as you think the uphill section is starting to take the piss, there is a handily positioned bloke with a pirate flag to call you in.  He was there last year too, same place exactly.  Maybe it’s a variation on Brigadoon, I don’t see him during the rest of the year, but he appears out of the mist at significant times.  HUGE flag, very impressive dimensions, and the flag waver managed to shout individually tailored words of encouragement to each runner.  In our case, he picked up on our team logo ‘Go Smilies’ that’ll do!  So a final scramble up the muddy steps, and that was the worst climb of the run done and dusted, now we met with the feeding station, water, first of many photo stops.  I mean honestly, how cool is it to do a race where it’s not just legitimate to linger at water stations taking photos of each other but positively encouraged.  There were jelly babies a-plenty, mountains of water (mysteriously it did run out briefly later on but was rapidly replenished, but in defence of the organisers it did look like they’d made good provision at the outset, so not sure what happened there).  There were banana halves and trek bars, which looked tempting, but I didn’t risk because I’ve never had them before.  I did gulp down water (mistake, drank too fast) and had jelly babies which I feel really guilty about as I am supposed to be vegetarian.  In my defence as a vegetarian for the past 33 years, the only time I’ve lapsed is by eating jelly babies both whilst running the Sheffield half marathon and the RSR because I can’t seem to find a suitable alternative, and these are so freely available at both those events.  I know, it makes me a terrible human being.  If only I could run fast enough to catch up with one of those vegan runners, I’d quiz them for better options.  Maybe it was bad karma that uncharacteristic jelly baby consumption gave me a stitch for the next section…  who knows.  Maybe the jelly babies were sacrificed for the greater good, or maybe they took their revenge at the shallowness of my conviction by endowing me with instantaneous belly ache.

So, after  the feed station you get a walk to recover and chat down past the alpaca farm (hello Betty, hiya Bamm Bamm and Pebbles).  You pass some cottages in Ringinglow, where when we came through there was a family cheering and clapping next to the Norfolk Arms.  We thanked them for their brilliant clapping, and even put on a bit of a half-hearted jog by way of appreciation even though technically it was a non-running section!  That’s the kind of crowd-pleasing mentality that characterised our efforts all the way round.  They were pleased we were pleased, and shared they’d actually been told off by one of the house-holders for waking them up what with all their loathsome noisy cheeriness and good-humoured public-spirited clapping (bah humbug etc.)!  This kind of censure seems a bit mean to me, it wasn’t that early, and it is only once a year.  I’d be pleased to find some sort of event happening outside my front door of a morning.  Plenty to look at and laugh at with a cup of coffee in your hand without the stress of even having to get dressed and leave your own house.  Oh well, maybe they’ve not seen ‘A Christmas Carol’ yet, they’ll learn…

Stage 3   :  2.5km Limb Valley Descent – Wide open grassy trail, leading into windy, flowing single-track down through the Limb Valley, a real nice downhill section that everyone is bound to enjoy. Our personal favourite.

Liaison between 3-4 – A short walk / jog across the main road and down onto the playing fields to the start of the trailhead.

Next, hiya and thanks to the marshal who pointed us over the style and down Limb valley.  yep, this is a favourite section.  Or would have been if I didn’t have a stitch and increasingly need a pee.  It was still good fun though, a bit squelchy, but also some novelty value at the top as we espied a mystery man with a remote control and realised he’d got a drone overhead to capture us in action.  To be fair, I don’t think it was only us he was hoping to get on film, but we still enjoyed our moment of movie stardom.*  I don’t feel a pressing need to source an agent just yet… though we did speculate on possible sponsorship deals as we ran on.  On balance it’s probably the ride on horse costume manufacturers that would be our best bet to access any funding, we did get quite a bit of interest from other runners in our equine companions, but we don’t want to rule any other options either in or out at this stage.

This bit ended more quickly than I remembered, so we must have been practically ON FIRE.

Stage 4   :  1.8km Ecclesall Woods having crossed Eccleshall road south on the liaison between stages, we are into Eccleshall woods, a favourite with locals. The first section stretches through pine, skipping between roots and pine needles, then up onto the main trail and down through to Abbeydale Road.

Liaison between 4-5 – Along the road past Dore Station and the a left up over the railway and up to the next trailhead, up the stairs to the start of the next stage. We were kind enough not to make the stairs part of the timed section.

I can’t lie, lovely as this section is, I was becoming increasingly preoccupied with bladder issues at this point.  Pelvic floor exercises can only do so much.  Yes, yes, trees, lovely, was this the bit with the miniature railway alongside?  Can’t even remember.  I do remember, that at the first appropriate opportunity I left the path and did the necessary, my mood improved after that.  I’d got to the point where I figured nobody would see me because they’d be too focussed on running ahead, and even if they did, they’d just think ‘oh, there is a runner needing a pee‘ and it’s not like anyone would recognise me, they’d be too busy admiring Roger, in the event, I got away with it.   Phew.

So this recovery section takes you up quite a steep hill, and then massively steep steps.  Somewhat cruelly, the dabber in which to dib at the start of the next stage was right at the top of this muddy vertical challenge. I’m sure in previous years it was further along the woodland track. We joined a couple of other runners who we’d been leap-frogging earlier on (metaphorically, not literally, that really wouldn’t have helped us to progress at all) and stood slightly to one side of the top of the stairs so we could get our breath back before cracking on.  We made a big show of ‘waiting for another runner behind us‘ which hilariously the guy who was waiting took seriously enquiring what they looked like so he could hep spot them whilst the woman who was with him laughed in appreciation of our subterfuge, and explained with a knowing wink that by complete coincidence they were doing the same – they were stuck with a real slow coach apparently, and might be there for absolutely ages!  After a bit, we gave in to the inevitable and on we went…

Stage 5   :  2.5km Beauchief Golf Course – Undulating Single track up and over lady woods, until Beauchief golf course can be seen on the left, the track then hugs the course through the woods popping out onto the road down to the beautiful Beauchief abbey, back into the woods continuing on next to the GC eventually coming out onto the road.

Liaison between 5-6, A short walk across the main road and up the pavement and down into the next set of woods.

In the photo below these aren’t THE Tough Steps by the way, they are a little sneaky run of steps that appeared later on. Truthfully, in terms of my course description, it’s all starting to be a bit of blur about what was when and where.  But this is a nice photo, and it was on the route somewhere.  Be reasonable, it’s not like I’m trying to describe a route to law enforcement officials so they can rescue a kidnap victim or anything, I’m just trying to give you an illustrative vision of a trail race.  If you really want to know what it’s like, don’t waste time reading about it, just go and do it.  It will be better exercise and probably a lot more fun.

hobbit land

Hmm, tricky section to describe this one, as this bit is definitely hobbit country.  In fact, it might have been just as we went into the woods here a kindly participant warned us to be careful as it was bear country too.  The warning was really helpful, we didn’t see any bears at all, because we knew to pass through noisily to keep them at bay. Without such a warning who knows what might have happened.  Although the track is called ‘undulating’ it was quite narrow, early on, though once you’d pulled away from the narrow bit, it opened up quite markedly, lots of room for overtaking and things without having to dive into nettles or risk tumbling down an escarpment down to the railway line for example.  To be fair, we had no problems with other faster runners.  Most just called ‘coming through on your left‘ or something and that was fine.  Did have one moment of hilarity with a runner telling off a group of us for not being in single file, but as it was at a later point in the course when there was a FIELD alongside the wide path, so plenty of room for all of us, we felt she was being somewhat precious.  Making a point about being a ‘proper’ runner to us ‘have a goers’ perhaps?  Well, wait til she sees the next copy of Runner’s World that’s all I’m saying… we’ll see who the proper runners are then won’t we!

Some people have fed back frustrations about having to negotiate with other runners out on the course.  Fast runners feeling blocked and slower ones feeling shoved, but with 2000 runners out there I thought it was pretty good.   Part of the fun is all these interactions in my view.   If you really want an unimpeded run, then I reckon you need to get yourself in the first wave, or accept that this particular event is all about inclusion, and that means there will be slower runners, and it does have a social aspect so be prepared to compromise a bit on times or think again about whether you’d prefer a more out-and-out competitive event.  It’s hardly rocket science…  Personally I love the chattyness of it all.  However socially phobic I normally am, for the duration of the RSR I feel like I have loads of friends. Granted, most of them are closing down on me menacingly from behind initially and then subsequently running away from me again as fast as they can, but that’s understandable.  Anyway, with Hobbit Buddy beside me and Ginger and Roger too, I was never alone on this journey.  If you haven’t ever done it, you can never know how comforting the view through a horse’s ears can be.  The reassuring bob of head going up and down in front of you is very lovely to behold.

Stage 6   :  0.9km Chancet Woods  A cheeky fast short section of flowing undulating singletrack.

Liaison between 6-7, Across the busy A61 and along the pavement up to the entrance to Graves park. The stage starts a little further in.

 Stage 7   :  1.4km Graves Park,  gradual ascent through the mature woods of Graves park, this is another stage to take at a steady pace, up and over right across the park popping out at the main car entrance.

liason between 7-8, Following the main road on the tarmac path up around 500m to the New Inn Pub, turn left onto road here, following to the start of the next trail.

OK, so stages 6 and 7.  Chancet woods, quick sprint through (ish) can’t remember, probably muddy, might have been quite narrow actually now I come to think of it.  I did dive into some nettles at one point to give way, but that was fun because a heap of Smileys and other known runners came hurtling through.  During the liaison bit, we met another runner, who came up with the brilliant suggestion that in subsequent events we do more to pimp our rides.  A bit of cunning disembowelment of Roger and Ginger, and we could maybe have opened up say the legs, and replaced the stuffing with other supplies (gin, chocolate, clean pair of knickers whatever).  I took the point, but he hadn’t factored in that our ponies were real, and so we wouldn’t dream of mutilating them in such a way.  Food for thought though….

The Graves Park section I found a slog.  You are back onto tarmac, and although generally speaking I really like Graves Park (the Graves parkrun is always a hoot),  the RSR doesn’t take in the best bits of this park (apart from one rather dramatic rocky bit that I have never got around to photographing, it looks suddenly prehistoric with dramatic ferns and the vertical rock face with trees precariously on top of it).  Also, the surface of the tarmac felt really slippery.  I don’t know why, I mean obviously there had been loads of rain, but so many runners had been through you’d think any algal bloom might have been worn away by the time we got there.  I even wondered if I felt I was slipping because the tread on my trail shoes was giving a false surface, but I was knackered and not confident to run much (any) of this bit. I did slow hobbit buddy down here, and gave her the option of going on alone, but she heroically refused.  Start together, stayed together (apart from my pee point – which on reflection could have accounted for her mysteriously faster time) and finished together.

Coming out of Graves Park was where I’d got lost on an earlier recce, but this time it was OK.  It is a bit of a walk to the feed station.  (Weird phrase that, sounds like either a bird table or like you’re going to be tube fed, but neither of those options were actually available).  This was a great gathering point.  Like animals in Africa gathered around a water hole.  Loads of people were milling around, and there were plenty of impromptu reunions taking place.  Highly sociable.  More like a drinks party than a race.  Here hobbit buddy and I had some fellow smilies catch up with us.  Cue, massive photo opportunities.  Again, how brilliant to be at a race where you can stop for photos, chat, even ask other runners to take photos for you AND try different location options to create the right ambience.  So it is we ended up with a group photo of all of us together, and some Ginger and Roger  shots re-enacting coming out of the woods and actually ‘in action’ running despite it being a non-running section.  So easy to make your own entertainment in such situations, and indeed to be disproportionately amused in doing so.  I shall let the evidence speak for itself.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 We were a bit over-excited and quite possibly also on a sugar high by this point.  Maybe that’s why we thought it would be really hilarious to fool another runner into thinking we knew them by all as one shouting ‘hiya David’ to some random runner on the spur of the moment.  This seemed like a good idea at the time.  It arose from us remarking how you forget you have your name on your number, and how disconcerting it therefore is if people suddenly call your name.  We tested this at the next person that passed.  He did look at first, confused, then horrified, and then relieved and amused in equal measure as the sight of us rolling around laughing with our ponies revealed our cunning jape as innocent mischief.  We surely don’t look all that threatening.  He did take off at quite a sprint at the first possible opportunity afterwards though, but probably just competitive runner, not at all that he was trying to escape from us or anything…  Anyway, good to meet you David, or ‘Dave’ as I like to think we are on more informal terms now.  Thanks for being a sport.

Just to break up the text a bit more, here is a gratuitous shot of a tooled up smiley ready for action.  We may look Smiley on the outside, but it seems none of us are to be messed with…  For the record she galloped past us at one point, definitely well in touch with her inner pony, shouting the motivational cry of ‘prancercise, prancercise’ at us in her wake.  I felt a bit emotional on hearing that.  I like to think in my own small way, by spreading the prancercise word, I’ve enabled her to access her own inner equine strength and performance potential.  Roger and Ginger were hobbit buddy and mine outer ponies perhaps, but tooled-up regal smiley has her own pony prancercising within.  It was a timely reminder that if we accessed our inner, as well as outer ponies we would have double the horse-power, genius!  It is a coincidence by the way, that she was already a very capable runner before, I feel confident she would be the first to admit that now she has embraced prancercise (entirely thanks to me), it has allowed her to grow and gallop ever onwards and upwards.  Inspirational running and steeplechasing, I applaud you gunner/ ghost-buster smiley, oh, and you’re welcome!

tooled up ready

Hobbit buddy (whilst happily married to her imaginary partner) meanwhile speculated that for running singletons RSR must have pick up potential because of this social side. I’m not sure.  Firstly, I think you’d need some sort of signifier that you were potentially interested and available (but not actually desperate) for opening dating negotiations, and I’m not sure how easy that would be to achieve (tattoo on the forehead perhaps, if that space was not already taken up with a running club buff?) Secondly, I don’t know if flushed, grubby and sweaty from a run is necessarily the best pulling look for all of us.  Still, another one to feedback to the RSR team I think.  They are described as ‘very responsive’ on their Facebook page, so I’m sure they’ll give it some thought in order to keep their 4.9 star feedback rating.

Revitalised with laughter and Smiley smiles, we were off again.  Nearly home now.

Stage 8   :  1.3km Lees Hall Golf Course – This is an exciting fast, flowing trail down between Lees Hall Golf course, down past the academy playing fields, opening up to some great urban views and then diving round to the left and back up towards Meersbrook.

Liaison between 8-9, Along the road in a straight line for about 500m, past the row of shops joining the main road and up to Meersbrook park entrance.

Stage 9   :  0.8km Meersbrook Park – This stage is extremely fast, bearing left along the paved path and hooking right down to the far corner of the park. One for the short distance specialists. Do take care, and don’t go too fast

Liaison between 9-10 Out the park across the A61 following the permanent signs, across to Abbeydale rd and Edinburgh Cycles, turn left onto Abbeydale Rd, and then turn right by the mirror shop for the start of the next stage. Marshalls will be in key positions for this slightly tricky liaison.

The Lees Hall section is fun, pretty much exactly as described, and with a good enough path that you can pick up some speed without wanting to cry with fear.  This photo is within those sections and I picked it because it features one of our temporary running companions en route.  Hello!

temporary running buddy

Quite a few good snaps from this point too.  Including capturing some of the one-legged running club contingent.  Amazing.  They hopped the whole way round as far as I can see.  Whereas me and hobbit, we just screamed and adopted unflattering gurning facial expressions throughout. Also no mean feat to keep up for 15 miles.

Also, another segment where we seemed to see familiar faces.  I also got to be a bit smug, because turns out I did navigate correctly on our recce.  I just knew that hobbit buddy would be thrilled to be reminded of this quite frequently as we went round.  There were people various enjoying the park, so that was good.  A few shouts of appreciation and recognition from children at our ponies.  Some spectators on a bench who must have been there all day clapping and offering jelly babies who were caught on camera by the drone too.

As Smileys, we also had had a heads up about an official supporters contingent who were on hand in Meersbrook park, supplied with not only a sustaining picnic but also an assortment of children who were particularly excellent at shouting support.  Possibly, some more competitive runners might view this as an unwelcome distraction that might impede their times. However, hobbit and I are sufficiently confident in our athletic prowess that we have nothing to prove.  We therefore felt able to stop and chat, hug, give thanks for support, meet the children and ask about other runners who might have been seen going around before we went on our way.  As we ran off, we agreed that it would be only fair to knock say, half an hour, off our official time to get a true sense of our performance.  We know, don’t need to go on and on about it in a blog or anything…..

someone fell over

Some people really hurtled down this section, we were possibly a bit more cautious.  Above is a photo of someone hurtling, who I can’t help noticing may also have hurtled a bit too horizontally earlier on in the course, but such mud-sliding antics don’t appear to have marred his game.  Saw him at the end too actually, with runderwear ambassador, he had some minor war wounds but will live to run another day.  Good job, well run!

Can we have another marshal thank you interlude?  The support going round the whole way was great.  One shot is of an esteemed Sheffield inaugural Strider I think, on marshal duty, flanked by two other marshals wearing possibly the finest millinery accessories I saw sported all day.   Later on, another Sheffield Hallam parkrun regular, and my buddy on the monster hill for the Sheffield half gave huge encouragement as we approached the streets of Netheredge.  Aw, she is so encouraging.  Thanks for the hug, and for disposing of my empty water bottle for me.  I’m really sorry about your injury, but can’t wait to see you hurtling round the RSR yourself next year.  (Marshals get free entry the following year for either the RSR or the TenTenTen just so as you know).  When you finally get to do the run yourself, you will be carried round on a wave of good wishes, positive vibes and good karma from this year’s runners.  Awesome support all round.  Thank you.

So, where next.  Oh yes,

Stage 10 :  2.2km Brincliffe Edge –  The end is getting close, this urban stage takes you up the road on a gradual climb to Brincliffe edge, keep going up the road and then duck into the woods onto the trail, contouring round, then up and down into Chelsea park, popping out in quiet suburbia on the other side. A few quiet wide streets to negotiate on the pavement before finishing just before Psalter lane.

Liaison 10-11, A nice gentle trot down the hill to Hunters bar roundabout and the entrance to Endcliffe Park saving those legs for the final push knowing the end is in sight.

Now, to be honest, when I was thinking back to last year, with the rainbows, and unicorns and everything I think I must have just completely blanked out this section.  Even when we recced the whole route, I had it firmly in my head that we walked all the road bits.  Alas, not so, outrageously we were required to continue running. I hated this bit.  I’d have cried were it not for the rallying support from our parkrun kindred just at the beginning of this segment to wave us on our way.  Also, didn’t want to let Hobbit, Ginger or Roger down at this point.  It was a trudge though.   It seems that even inwardly reciting (I don’t think I was doing it out loud) the lyrics for ‘horsey, horsey don’t you stop‘ will only encourage you to a certain extent.   Plus, as Roger and Ginger’s hooves were airborne rather than in touch with the ground, it was a challenge for them to ‘Just let your feet go clippety-clop’ homeward bound or otherwise.   Also, they are unshod.  Barefoot horses don’t make clippety-clop noises all that well.  The sun was out, which ought to have been nice, but just made it hot and a slog.

Some faster runners tried to encourage us with a ‘giddy up’ but it was only marginally affective.  There was a ‘caution runners’ sign, but I couldn’t work out if that was to warn other road users about us or vice versa.  One guy went past contorting himself and clutching his inner thighs.  ‘How can you get cramp here‘ he was pleading to anyone who would listen.  I felt like we’d left someone dying of thirst in the desert, but we felt helpless to assist.  It’s true what they say.  You learn about yourself when you run, just remember you might not always like what it is you find out about yourself.  We (or perhaps I should own my statements and say ‘I’) walked on by…  Actually, that last statement is really for dramatic effect.  Pained as he was, he was still making faster progress than me and Hobbit and our equine companions.

Chelsea park was a relief because it meant we were near the end.  Also, good to notice how well the grass there always bounces back after the Fireworks Display each bonfire night.  Excellent ground management.  I’d forgotten though that we had to keep running on the roads afterwards. This bit I did not like.  It’s unavoidable though, but I can quite see why I had entirely erased it from my memory.  I will again in time for next year.

The final liaison bit, we drifted into complete idle chit-chat about whether or not hobbit buddy should invest in a T-shirt and if so, whether to stop at a cash point somewhere en route to facilitate this purchase.  Then she had to phone her imaginary husband to arrange a rendezvous time and point for when we got back.  Very practical and helpful for childcare purposes these recovery sections.  We ended up doing a detour in Hunters Bar to find one (a cash point, not an imaginary husband).  Hilarious really, a running race event where you can do this.  Some kindly runners called after us, thinking we were lost, but we weren’t, just distracted.  Money was taken out of the cashpoint and we rejoined the route for the final bit.

Stage 11 :  0.4km Endcliffe Park Finish – A final flourish, starting at the park entrance up onto the park itself where you will join the marked course for the dash for the finish outside Endcliffe park cafe. You will be greeted by fellow competitors, adulation from the crowd and if you wish a cold beer!

Now, I can’t help but notice this blurb mentions a ‘flourish’.  Hmm, depends what you mean by flourish.  I’d already done some negotiation with my hobbit running buddy, and we’d agreed on a half-hearted jog to show willing once we entered the final section, but that I wouldn’t manage to sprint the whole 400 metres.  We did want to cross the line together, that was important.  Anyway, we did our dib dab thing, and trotted off for a bit.  Then reason got the better of us.  No-one was watching.  We decided to just walk for a bit, as nonchalantly as is possible when you have a pony strapped round your waist, and only started running once we rounded the corner of a hedge that had previously hidden our progress, and saw the crowds lining the last few yards of the finish line come into view.  It was great that last bit.  There aren’t many spectators going round, so when you suddenly see the crowds at the finish it really makes your heart race.  We picked up a bit of speed and enjoyed the applause and shouts of recognition as we headed under the glorious inflatable arch.

Job.  Done.  Yay!

One final dab out, and a medal each, we weren’t sure whether it should go to our horses or to ourselves.  Mine went on Roger for a bit, but did end up rather a lot round my neck later.  You can then pick up an instantaneous print out of your times as you return your dib dabby thing, and fall into the arms of your Smiley compatriots, all of whom finished hours ago, but who was noting that?  Incidentally, other running clubs and familial/friendship options are available, but if you don’t have those, most members of Smiley Paces are free and easy with congratulatory hugs in case of need,  just ask. There was an official photographer, though he missed our crossing the finish line.  Never mind, we could do our mandatory post-run selfies anyway.  Hobbits are brilliant, hobbits on horses? Better still!  I’m still nursing some poorly repressed visor envy though, hope it wasn’t too obvious…

mandatory post run selfie

The aftermath:

So this is what we ran round according to strava, 14.9 miles in total and 1684 ft elevation, which is quite a lot actually:

strava RSR 2016

More of a rhombus than a circle some would say.  Good route though, really nice.

The goodie bag

So you get a plastic co-op bag (that’s worth 5p now for a start) and can join the queue to sweep the goodie bag table.  On offer was water, banana halves, trek bars (definitely energy bars, made my teeth tingle and I couldn’t eat it, I’m sure they would be really good for ultra-runners who needed a calorie fix though) and this weird drink thing.  I had an iced coffee one.  Really liked it, quite a thick consistency, and it might be that it was just perfect for after a run and less desirable in ‘real life’ (like a wine you love on holiday and find out to be truly disgusting if you try it at home out of context).  Great recovery gloop drink though.

Post event festival

So job done, there was a lot of gathering around in the sun.  Because the weather was so good, loads of people lingered soaking up the atmosphere in deck chairs and making the most of the pizza and beer tent options.  This made it a bit harder to regroup in terms of spotting people in the crowd, especially as we hadn’t made a Smiley post-run rendezvous plan.  Other local running clubs pulled this off with greater aplomb and could be seen cavorting with one another in Dionysian post-run revelries.  Good for them.

Truthfully, I was feeling stiffness setting in, unlike my hobbit buddy who was behaving like a hobbit possessed, feeling not just fresh, but up for going round all over again.  Runners high is one thing but she seemed to me to be oxygen-deprived delusional quite frankly, but in a good way.  I declined the offer, but am up for next year.  I took in the atmosphere for a bit, and then headed home for a bath and a lengthy appointment with my sofa afterwards.  Wish now I had stayed for a bit longer as I missed out on an impromptu reunion with my Endurer Dash buddies  Love you guys, sorry I missed you, I expect it was just that we whizzed round so fast with Ginger and Roger we left you for dust, nothing to do with the fact that you started 2 hours after us.

ocr finish buddies

In conclusion:

Once again, a fab day out.  A few niggles for some this time, but I think that’s inevitable as the event has grown and I’m really confident the organisers will look at feedback and sort anything that needs sorting.  Thank you RSR team, marshals, fellow runners one and all for restoring faith in human nature at a time when restorative powers are very much needed.  Thank you especially those out and about who gave equine related puns by way of encouragement, and laughed at our somewhat lame (gettit) return quips too.  Thank you for the prancercise shout out, and the ‘go hobbit’ cries too.  All the interaction helped get me round.   Also, seemed to be a bit of a thing today about coming to the event in matching outfits.  Who thought of that?  Loads of runners did that, never seen so many colour coordinated teams, running club team vests en masse are a glorious thing to behold!  Special thanks to hobbit buddy.  We did it, we are awesome.  Full trail marathon next I reckon!

and so it ends

Oh, and in case you were wondering, she did make her rendezvous, so happy families all round, even able to take advantage of Mr Pullins very splendid inflatables.  Endcliffe Park has everything it really does.  I do like happy endings.

DSCF9981

I shall leave you with a smorgasboard of atmospheric photos to browse and enjoy.  Well, that’s the plan anyway, I’m going to add to them as more and more photos become available.   I love looking through photos post an event from the comfort of my sofa.  You can relive all the thrills and spills without having to do any actual running in the cold and wet.  Genius.  Have you made your donation in lieu of RSR photos yet?  Hope so:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What a day eh, what a day.  The only thing that would improve this event for me would be mandatory fancy dress, but then again, that would only add to the competition for coverage by Runner’s World, so sometimes it really is best to stick with the status quo.  Don’t you think?   More unicorns would be good though.  Just saying.

As for the morning after the day before?  Well, we have our memories, and some also have extra straw for their allotment, so I say, everyone’s a winner!

the morning after the day before

 Same time next year everyone?  Good oh! 🙂

*UPDATE:  So, we didn’t make the final cut for the film version of the RSR (too expensive probably) but there is a very fine  video of the RSR 2016  made possible ‘thanks to JS Collective – Video/Photo & Orbit Media Ltd’ apparently.  Great capturing of the occasion, and a stunning showcase for Sheffield to boot. Aren’t we lucky?  Hope we are still the greenest city in Britain when Amey have finished with their chainsaws.

Categories: off road, race, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Making the big time – meet The Poster Girl for the Round Sheffield Run

round sheffield run 118 in the woods

It’s not that I’ve got a poor body image exactly, it would be more accurate to say I have a realistic understanding of my body’s human frailties, and it’s a poor body indeed.  Mine, for all its idiosyncrasies is what defines me whether I like it or  not.  Whilst it is hardly true to say ‘I wouldn’t have it any other way’, it has served me well, I should take care of it, and not berate my genetic inheritance, after all, it allows me to put one foot in front of another, repeat, and so on – that’s all that was needed to access the complicated and ambivalent joys of running!  Bizarrely, through running I’ve become sort of habituated to the horrors of being caught on film.   It’s not made me body confident, but it possibly has made me body-resigned.   I’ve never been so snapped in my life since I started running. There are photographers everywhere at events, parkrun, sharing on Facebook.  The photos are great, yeah, yeah, we all may wince a bit at ones of ourselves, but on balance they are really fun.  Individual flattering photos are few and far between, rare treasures indeed.  However, I think maybe this is an example of how individual sacrifices have to be made for the greater good.   I cannot begin to explain how much joy photos of other people running have brought to my life.  Very few people look unconditionally fabulous in such circumstances, but a great many look hilarious.  There are websites devoted to unflattering running photos and some voluntarily upload their own corkers – I’ve included a few of my own on this blog.

Some runners look determined, or with a good photographer framing them (and we are blessed with fine photographers in these parts) can look like art works, captured in a moment in time.  You can observe people’s technique, relive races as you lament the puddles and bow waves generated by runners passing through liquid mud.  Having experienced the run first hand in inclement weather, you can now enjoy it again this time from the comfort of your sofa.  Photos allow you to see into other runners’ souls, pain written on their faces.  I love the shots of people apparently levitating, captured in the moment when both their feet were off the ground.  The fancy dress offerings, family outings with all generations represented.  The fast, the furious, the good, the bad and the ugly.  Everything in between. Even the worst of shots can be reclaimed with a good caption competition.   How about this (you might take as your inspiration the guy on the extreme left of the photo, giving me the evil eye).  Worst case scenario, at least they show you were there, taking part in something unexpected and maybe bigger than yourself.

victory finish smile unflattering

The point is, I’m never going to look like I’m running with the grace of a gazelle, lightly bounding through the grasslands of the Savanna.  If I’m to continue to risk being seen in public and head out the door to ‘run’, I guess I just need to develop a thick skin, a sense of humour to deflect the worst of the pictorial atrocities and sort of embrace the concept of the ‘unfortunate snapshot’, as an inevitable part of the running experience.  As surely as I have become interested in running socks; developed an unexpected curiosity for both foam rollers and the road less travelled, I will find myself now and again caught on film, captured for all eternity in a less than flattering pose.  Same things happens to celebrities, ultimately, nobody cares.  OK, maybe celebrities get a few more fringe benefits by way of compensation, but let’s not get picky.  Basically, what I’m trying to say is don’t let a poor body image get in the way of running… you probably are doing just fine.

Over time,  I have come to realise that actually, when you are running, this is honestly true.  Really, nobody cares.  They might possibly be amused, but they are unlikely to be judging in harsher terms, and those that are judging are most likely doing so from the sidelines.  We should feel sorry for them as they are missing out on all the fun, no wonder they are small-minded, bad-tempered and have to plump their own egos by being derogatory about others.  (What do you mean defensive?).  As for the really fast runners, or being self-conscious about my body as a middle aged, past fifty female being lapped by lithesome young men I’ve learned a few things since I started running, which I will share here, you might want to write them down, or at least bookmark this page:

  1. We aren’t so much being lapped we are ‘active spectators’ who can simultaneously watch and admire the front runners, whilst participating in the event ourselves, perfect example of multi-tasking.  A cause for celebration, not shame.
  2. Whilst I absolutely deplore the objectification of either sex, focussing on an Adonis like form ahead can help you in your quest for a PB, where is the shame in that?  And incidentally, I’ve had at least one short sighted runner (straight man) admit to me they had their eye on a particularly delightfully contoured bottom for almost an entire parkrun, really pushed themselves to keep it in sight, and it was only at the end they realised it belonged to a gender other than the one they had been pursuing in their imagination!
  3. Most importantly, I now realise that the ‘serious’ runners, are so focused on their own performance, that I could be running ahead of them naked, bar my shoes, and they wouldn’t even notice me unless my spikes were superior to theirs.  Fact.

MDF-NoMatterHowSlow

Honestly, nobody cares.  Having said that, I’m not so completely liberated that I’m going to now upload all my really dire offerings, there are options enough within this blog already for anyone who wishes to ruin me.  I’m quite happy to post funny and unflattering photos of others though, they are already in the public domain, so I reckon it’s a fair cop.  Note, all of these people are in great shape, they ought to look absolutely fabulous in photos, but guess what, if you are running, chances are you’ll be snapped in less than poised perfection at some point in your sprinting, trailing and jogging career.

Even so, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that now and again I’ve dreamt about being a bit more in tune with the fantasy image of the streamlined runner.  You know, those runners that look strong, confident, streamlined and are eating up the miles with effortless long athletic strides.  They never have to worry about bounce, and drag, and pelvic floor.  They won’t fall over half way round, end up face first in the mud or be last home at the end of an event.  Sigh, imagine what that would be like.  To be The Poster Girl* for a running event, then you’d know you’d really arrived.

So I like to think it isn’t entirely hypocritical and inconsistent of me to harbour a dream of one day being that Poster Girl.  To find myself chosen as the singular image that will epitomize and encompass all the that the organisers wish for in promoting their running event.   Now, wouldn’t that be something?  However far fetched.  What is it they say ‘you gotta have a dream, cos otherwise how you gonna have a dream come true‘ (sorry, Americans and their cut short English, not exactly RP I’m afraid, but you know what I mean.)

th_oscar_hammerstein__ii_quote_you_gotta_have_a_dream__if_you_don__t_have_a_dream_how_are_you_gonna_make_a_dream_come_true__5327

If I’m really honest, I’ve been angling for such an opportunity for some time, albeit going for the ironic rather than serious approach.  I had really hoped to be snapped up by the Wingerworth Wobblers for the poster for their 2016 Wingerworth wobble.  I’m not ashamed to admit I’d more than hinted at this possibility, perhaps even pro-actively lobbied for it in an earlier blog entry (bringing ballast to the back). After all, if you see me in action, compared with the poster advertising the 2015 event (profound contrast between the rhetoric of the promotion and reality of participation you will agree) I think you can see that replacing the current image with one of me in action instead would have a profound impact on the appeal of the race.  Widening participation is terribly important in this day and age, and surely I could be the face of inclusivity for them if not exactly aspiration and excellence?  To be fair, I don’t think the committee for this year’s event have yet agreed their publicity strategy for the 2016 Wingerworth Wobble so there is still time for them to consider.  What do you think, am I in with a chance?  The photo’s already good to go, just a bit of photo-shopping to complete the picture

Reader, I am toying with you.  I’m here to tell you that dreams really can come true, I am the living incarnation of this!  Earlier this week I was stalking the Round Sheffield Run Facebook page for updates on how entries were going. This is absolutely my favourite event of the year.  Friendly, local, beautiful location, leafy trails and glorious views.  It has everything, lovely route, pathologically friendly marshals, great stop start/ format so you never have to run more than 3 km maximum.  Lots of spectator support – look out for the pirate in the woods (or was that the TenTenTen?).  It is clearly a run/race designed by people who love running, and have thought about the ideal components for a perfect event, and then made it so.  It is unusual, and possibly unique, in that the way it is structured allows elite runners and novices to run in the same event.  They use the terrain in a fun way.  So there are prizes for King/Queen of the mountain for those who are super-keen and want to sprint up the killer hills, but places where it is beyond imagining (and/or too dangerous) to run, like up some steep slippery steps going into one of the woods, become untimed zones so you can saunter up, eating your body weight in jelly babies as you do so, and exchanging pleasantries with other runners or marshals en route.  What’s not to like?

Fast runners can treat it as interval training, mere mortals like myself can enjoy the unpressurised approach.  Jelly babies in abundance (bananas as the vegetarian option), nice bling.  Different waves of start times mean, if you go early you get to see the faster runners pass you by, whereas in other events you just trail home behind them never getting to see the elite runners.  This was the first time ever I’d actually enjoyed the experience of running at the time, as opposed to feeling smug on completion, and given that the route is 24 km or thereabouts (only 20 km is timed), that’s pretty much a miracle.  I also made the rookie error of taking the advice about ‘suitable for all abilities’ quite literally, and from having only really done parkrun and a slow and laboured 10 km before (well over an hour and on a tedious flat course Varsity 10K), entered the RSR without realising  quite how far it was.  I’m so glad I did, I would have missed out massively otherwise, and once you’ve done that distance once, albeit as a walk /run (it wasn’t so much of a miracle that I could actually run the whole thing – what do you take me for?) – then it follows you can do it again.  Hooray!  So, another learning outcome for you from today dear reader, don’t be afraid to give the RSR a go. What’s the worst that can happen?  (Actually, scratch that bit, that sounds like tempting fate).  Maybe think in terms of if you can walk this distance, then why not enter anyway, and just put in the odd gentle jog en route.  You’ll be fine, it’ll be fun, think of the bragging rights on completion.  And trust me, I went to complete rather than compete, and it was a great way to go.  More time on the course, better value for money, that’s how I see it, and the queue for coffee is shorter by the time you get back to Endcliffe Park.

Did I not mention they even have proper coffee at the end?  Also sports massages in return for donations.  Photos for ‘free’ – donations encouraged,only cheapskates fail to cough up.  Honestly, the only thing that would improve this event would be an archway of rainbows lining the entire course, and compulsory fancy dress for competitors.  Oh, actually, that reminds me.  First year I entered this as a pair with my Cheetah Buddy and we found our numbers were 118 118.  No really!  We were over-joyed, we hadn’t known in advance unfortunately, so had to resort to post event fancy dress via a bit of cunning tampering with the image.  You get the idea though.  Shame we couldn’t find a way to make our legs look longer with the image tampering, but we look happy enough all the same, and that was for real!

So, I’m really building up to the climax now.  Guess what?  No, go on, see if you can guess!  No, not that.  Oh, no, not that either – what do you take me for?  Perhaps I should… yes, I’ll just tell you.  LOOK.  It’s me.  I am The Poster Girl for a running race.  Not just any running race by MY FAVOURITE RUN OF THEM ALL.  I can now die happy (though hopefull not as an immediate and direct consequence of all this excitement).  I could burst I’m so chuffed I don’t mind telling you.  In the circumstances they could have picked a picture as unflattering as hell and I wouldn’t have cared, but actually, they’ve done pretty well AND I’m wearing my Smiley Vest.  This means a perfect trinity of delight – I get to be The Poster Girl (point one)  for my favourite run (point two) and do so sporting my treasured (but rather unflattering) Smiley Paces vest (point three).  Weirdly, it’s also a picture I’ve not seen before so double bonus points for that:

RSR poster girl

Now, pedants amongst you might notice (so I’ll get in there first), that strictly speaking this isn’t an actual poster, and nor is it the only image being used to promote the event on Facebook.  It is but one post of many on their Facebook page, bigging up the occasion and trying to get people to sign up.  You know what.  I don’t care.  I have had my five minutes of glory, and the opportunity to get a screen dump of that moment so it is now true for all time.  I was the runner they chose for that moment on that day, even if it was just a joke or because of my Smiley vest.  It even looks like I’ve over-taken some of the other runners, as long as I don’t draw attention to the fact that their different coloured bibs are indicative of a later starting wave, so actually they’ve well caught me up.  It can be our little secret, yes?

The fact that the use of my image was but fleeting, sort of echoes with the nature of both a dream-like state (who knows what is real and what is not in that magical land of limbo and semi-consciousness) and that running requires a fleetness of foot.   Or in my case, at least to be game.  Yay, get me, I’m a Poster Girl for the running community.  It is only a matter of time before if you Google my name it will come up as ‘runner’ for the top hit.  If my old PE teacher could see me now!

I’ll try not to let this unexpected moment of celebrity change me, instead I’ll use my influence for the greater good.  Ideally, I’d like to travel the world and meet people, be an ambassador for world peace and rescue animals.  Fortunately I have friends to help keep me grounded; eminent Smiley Paces athletes who have been proper celebrities before me (by say actually winning championships whilst representing the UK in running and triathlon for example. as opposed to having their picture randomly chosen for a facebook post) who can advise; and also actual ground beneath me.  Muddy and undulating, ultimately, it is that uneven  terrain which will bring me back to earth.  I fully expect to be face planting or arse sliding at some point on the Round Sheffield Run 2016, but you know what, it will be soooooooooo worth it.  Can’t wait, can’t wait, can’t wait.

So dear reader, on dark days when life’s challenges may seem to overwhelm you, I’m here to tell you dreams can come true.  If it can happen to me it can happen to anyone.  I may even come to build a career as a motivational speaker, touring the country with my rousing and uplifting talk on this very theme, coming to a village hall near you any time soon.  Look out for the posters!

(* In this instance it is OK to use the term ‘girl’ because the whole point is that a poster girl is an artificial one-dimensional construct that just doesn’t really exist, trust me on this).

****STOP-PRESS***

OMG – have found I’ve practically gone viral – see runABCnorth Kandoo attitude for Sheffield Trail Run article  it just gets better, I get to be associated with a pun as well, who doesn’t love a fun pun for a fun run?

ABC north running feature

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

Chimp down and Tiger up – running techniques and other shenanigans

Yay, time for the hobbit harriers to reconvene.  I do wonder if anyone out there has been googling ‘hobbit’ and ended up at my blogsite.  That would be really annoying wouldn’t it?  Sorry about that.

Anyway, it being Tuesday, communications having been furtively exchanged and once again we hobbits buddied up for a running rendezvous.

The plan was to go for a long slow route.  I wanted to check out bits of the Round Sheffield Run (my absolutely favourite race of the running calendar – though on reflection, as I’ve only run in about half a dozen organised events in my whole life that might not be such an amazing endorsement, but trust me, it is fun!).  When I last went out with Cheetah Buddy we decided against taking the route down to the Limb Valley from the Norfolk Arms because we thought it might be beyond muddy, and we were wet enough already. Well, one of us was,  (mostly me).  Today then, the objective was to check out those parts of the Round Sheffield Way and see what the trails brought us.

It was fun to meet up again, we chatted quite a lot.  Some might say more chatting than running went on, but I say it is important to concentrate on breathing when you run, and anyway, if you can talk and run it shows you are actually really fit.  We will start with improving our chatting, and then we can add in the running bit later, once we’re more established in walking and talking simultaneously.  Also, without wishing to sound defensive, a lot of what we talked about was running related.  In particular, the importance of a good sports bra and the difficulty of finding one.  Even more difficult is being parted from a good bra once it is past its prime, because of the fear factor that you’ll never be able to build another relationship as good as this ever again.  We actually spent quite some time debating the perils of ill-fitting bras and contingency plans to prevent blistering.  Remarkable results can be achieved with strategically positioned soft felt apparently, something to think about.   We also had a bit of a confessional about the dilemma of spending an absolute fortune on running shoes, only to find out after a couple of weeks that they really aren’t quite right.  We’ve all done it, hung onto trainers, willing them to suddenly be comfy next time we wear them, wondering how it is possible that they were fine in the shop, on the treadmill, round the house – and yet on real mud and roads suddenly the rub and blister and pinch, and just aren’t fit for purpose.  If you are me, you remove them, put them somewhere where they are in constant sight, an ongoing reproach of your poor purchasing decision and a silent rebuke to you for having stupid hobbit plate feet.  After a bit, you try again, same result.  Blisters.  It seems criminal that these lovingly fitted trainers just wont squelch on, and in your heart of hearts you know that it’s too late to return them, best to just get them out of your life.  Like ending a toxic relationship, you will only really appreciate how dire it has been when you experience the relief of letting them go.  Fortunately, there are increasing options for unwanted but good condition shoes.  As well as the obvious charity shops, or offering to other members of our very own running club, there are now better options too.  There is a charity a mile in her shoes, which takes good quality kit, and uses it as part of a volunteer led initiative to get women affected by homelessness up and running.  I wish I’d known about them the first time I had to jettison some expensive hardly worn trail shoes, they ended up at Oxfam, I’m sure whoever got them was pleased by the bargain, but I’d rather they’d gone to a runner.  For tatty shoes I now know some running shops will recycle them too, though I’m not quite sure what happens to them.  Still, the point is (top tip even) it just isn’t worth hanging on to shoes that don’t fit.  You can’t wear them, and if you do, you’ll regret it.  Much better to let go, and free up the physical and mental space for a new better fitting pair.  Yes, it is like burning money, but once the money is burnt, it isn’t going to magically reconstitute, you have to learn to move on.

Anyway, after being distracted by earnest conversation, now and again we loped on upwards.  We weren’t in especially agile form.  In any case it was way too slippery for running in many parts, and quite undulating.  Emerging at the top of the valley, we jogged past the Alpaca place (brrrr it was cold up there, the wind shoots through you) and found the footpath down to the Limb Valley.  It was lovely to do a route I’ve not trod in ages, but in truth it was way too wet to do any actual running, we were skidding about all over the place.  We did manage to pause for our very own photo shoot though, got to get our priorities right after all!

We decided there wasn’t time to go down to Whirlow Hall, so instead took a stile and ran past a field of curious horses, through the mist, and out back onto Ringinglow Road.  More footpaths took us a zig zag route in the general direction back to where we started.  It was good fun exploring, but ridiculously slippery.

We seemed to be constantly battling with some pretty steep up and down bits.  We raided our memory banks for running techniques.  hobbit buddy believed she’d heard a mantra about ‘chimping downhill’ and ‘tiger uphill’.  Short little steps and an upright posture going down, more attacking going up, I think.  Essentially, it became apparent neither of us really knew what this meant.  However, undeterred, clearly the idea necessitated a great many animal impressions as we experimented with the general concept.  This included mimicking ape-like gaits down hill (more effective than you might think) and making roaring tiger impressions that were more fun to aim at each other what with using hands as attacking claws and needing to work on our vocals and everything, rather than to try using actually running up any hills.

An unfortunate side-effect of making our own entertainment in this way was that we inevitably lost concentration and slid about even more than we had to begin with.  I managed to stay on my feet (new trail shoes with thicker grips perhaps?) but my partner did a pretty good tumble, though disappointingly this was onto her knees rather than an actual slide on her rump.  Lots of mud though, so that was good.

DSCF8194

We made it back in good spirits.  We didn’t go as far as we’d hoped, but we had a lot of fun charging about the countryside, and maybe it’s best to finish whilst we still wanted to do some more.  Can’t wait to get back out there again.  This is going to be grand, than you hobbit buddy!  Now if we could just find  a way to perfect our selfies…

unfortunate close up

 

 

Categories: motivation, off road, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: