Posts Tagged With: Round Sheffield Run

Giving Sheffield the Runaround: Round Sheffield Run 2019

Digested read: Round Sheffield Run came round again.  Did that, got the medal, six out of six.  Yay!

Undigested read:

It’s a long one, but then who wouldn’t want to linger at a location like this?

Lingering location.jpg

Runaround NOW!!  Does anyone else remember that TV show.  No, only me?  Surely someone else is in my demographic.  It was a children’s quiz show, and they all had to run from one end of the studio to another to choose the right answer for some random quiz question and then there was a shout out to ‘runaround NOW!’ from Mike Reid and everyone ran around changing their mind about their answer.  Lots of running around basically, the clue is in the name of the show.  Ring any bells?  There was even a Runaround 1980 techno Christmas special in which an actual robot appeared as co-host.  Life changing AI on our TV screens, once the set had a chance to warm up of course.  You’ll be telling me next you don’t remember that, having to plan ahead and turn the TV on 15 minutes ahead of whatever programme it was.   Oh.  You don’t.  Sigh.  Did you really not even ever experience dispatching a household member to lean out of an upstairs window with a bent coat hanger, trying to improve reception on the aerial whilst you all shouted contradictory instructions at them?  Oh.  How times change.  Trust me dear reader. The past was another country indeed…. we did things differently there.

Hmm, granted, the caged children do in fact seem somewhat dodgy with the benefit of hindsight – anyway, you are completely missing the point.  The point is that come the summer solstice, near as dammit, cometh the hour, whilst the good people of Sweden are busy making their celebratory floral garlands – no really, they are – runners from near and far will be gathering in Endcliffe Park to commence the Round Sheffield Run, or … wait for it… the Sheffield Runaround!  See what I did there?  Because we all get to run-around Sheffield see?  Hilarious, not a laboured anachronistic niche buildup at all, just joyful, seamless expanding on a theme.

I’ll get my coat….

Phew.  That was hard work. It does rather spoil the overall affect if I have to explain it.  You know what, to be honest, if you aren’t experiencing being doubled up with laughter to such a degree that you fear your knickers may never dry RIGHT NOW, best walk away.  No honestly, that’s my humour at its peak, it doesn’t get any better.  For the most part it will get considerably blander.  You can just back away, and we’ll say no more about it.  You’ve not over-invested in reading this account, you can still scroll through a few photos if you want, I shan’t take it personally.  However, if you read on knowing what you know now, that’s contributory negligence, FACT. There isn’t a law firm in the country that will represent you whatever their ads may say to the contrary, so just don’t get drawn in.

Here’s a group sporting Swedish midsummer garlands by the way, just to prove a point.  This post may not amuse you, but you could learn something, nothing useful, but could save you come the compulsory ‘fun’ work quiz at Christmas. Your choice.

Midsummer_Sweden_09

Where was I?  Oh yes, cometh the summer solstice, cometh the Round Sheffield Run.  Not completely synchronised admittedly, which is an important detail, as it would have been a very long wait indeed if you hadn’t double checked the date for this year’s RSR and rocked up on the longest day.  That would have been 10 days early, but you get my drift – and at least that way you’d have been first in the toilet queue.

I lurve the Round Sheffield Run, and have been lucky enough to drag my weary carcass run round it every year so far.  It’s profile has skyrocketed since the year of its debut in 2014, when I’d venture it was just a few hundred from the local area rocking up to check it out.  Now it’s into ballot entry popularity territory and drawing runners from much further afield as a destination event.  Even so,  in my humble opinion it’s remained true to it’s essence of being friendly, inclusive, showcasing the best of Sheffield running and having a festival feel with guaranteed sunshine or your money back* and  it is also a flat one lap route, as in ‘Sheffield flat’ – the marshal at the end of Leg 1 was most conscientious and insistent on this point, alerting runners to the stretch of Sheffield flat just ahead as they approached Forge Dam.  Hilarious for the locals, potentially devastating for the out-of-towners of course, but what’s a bit of collateral damage to them set against the in-joke for them in the know eh?  Besides, all in good humour I’m sure!  You know who you are high-vis hero, but in case of ambiguity, here’s the body-cam footage I took en route.  Can also be seen keeping order at Sheffield Hallam parkrun, so has form on expert regulating of runners.  Hurrah! :

Personally, I really like events that are single lap as well.  It means once you set off you are basically committed aren’t you. You’ve got to make it back for tea at some point, so one foot in front of the other to make it so.  If you prefer the meditative quality of multi-lap offerings, then other options might suit you better.  There’s always the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,100-mile race around a New York block. Yep, you read that right.  Not my bag to be fair, but people do it…  Some claim to have out of body experiences as they do.   Frankly I’m not surprised at all, out of mind might be more apt though…  At least you wouldn’t have to worry about navigation, though lord only knows how you keep count of laps. 5,649 of them you’d have to do.  What would happen if you lost count and had to start again from 1?  It would take a great deal of Zen calm to cope with that eventuality.

I’m not completely uncritical of the RSR though.  Where would be the fun in that?  I’m actually still quite peeved they’ve not taken on board my feedback at all about either increasing the number of unicorns cavorting about the wooded sections or having an archway of rainbows to get you through the finish – despite the latter suggestion clearly being way more reliable than the inflatable archway option (just saying), and probably more environmentally friendly too, now I come to think of it.
whatever it takes

Incidentally, do you think holding up the inflatable finish arch comes under the ‘any other duties’ line on the job description for Event Director?  There are worse unexpected tasks to be fair.  Only the other week I was a supporting artist on a film being made in Sheffield which I shan’t name but which is set in Sheffield and features a drag artist.  Between takes, one of the costume and make-up team was tasked with kneeling at the feet of the lead actor, who was overheating in his phenomenally impressive drag outfit – wig, heels, tights, the whole shebang – frantically flapping away with a paper fan to waft air up the drag artist’s dress in order to try to keep his nether regions suitably cooled.  When you imagine getting your lucky break as a dresser or in the costume department of a feature film I’m guessing this isn’t quite the scenario you’d imagined in your fantasy of a day tending to the stars on set… definitely a key supporting role though, and certainly encompassed by the ‘any other duties’ line, which all we serfs know covers a multitude.

Anyway, undeterred by the silent treatment my quite brilliant suggestions have received to date (I really thought the compulsory fancy dress suggestion would have been enthusiastically embraced at least, it’s inexplicable to me that this hasn’t happened – yet) I’m hopeful that my offering for this year will hit the mark.  Thing is, the after party is all well and good, but having recently discovered the joys of gardening, I feel the post run offering would be massively enhanced if they had a few plant stalls in between the coffee and pizza stalls.  Maybe even a horticultural swap shop, now that would be lovely.  Perfect end to a perfect day.   Just imagine, medal round your neck, pizza in one hand perennials in the other.  Bling and borders covered. Result.  I feel sure pop up plant nurseries are a thing, and if they aren’t, well clearly they should be, and it wouldn’t be the first innovative thing the RSR has brought into being now would it?

Anyway, look you really need to stop distracting me, this account is all over the place.  I want to get this post written up in time for next year’s run at least.  Still, best get the basics out the way.  For the uninitiated – apparently, there are still some of you out there who have yet to savour the delights of this splendid event and have still have no idea what I’m on about – the Round Sheffield Run website blah de blah explains the event thus:

The Round Sheffield Run is the original multi-stage trail running enduro.

​An original, unique, creative and social concept that brings all the best bits of running together into one exciting event.

A superb running journey linking some of the top trails and parkland Sheffield has to offer.

​It would be a tough task to find anywhere in the UK that showcases these kind of trails and scenery within its city limits.

​11 Individually timed Stages each with their own challenge and character make up 20km of racing over 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. Plenty of opportunity for friendly competition!

​Between stages competitors have the opportunity to rest, relax, and regroup with friends (new and old) and refocus before the next stage begins. Competitors can walk or jog between stages. The novel concept creates a supportive and friendly social vibe.

The race format also opens up the course to a wide range of abilities. The support round the course is also something special.

​To top it all off a festival atmosphere at the end with draft ales, tasty food, and great DJ to ensures that everyone can celebrate in style.

Run as an Individual, Pair or even a Team with some top prizes to be won! Including beer!

Fancy yourself as an Elite? This years Elite wave has 250 runners going for top honours! See the entry form for the qualifying criteria.

On the way round, you can eat your body weight in jelly babies or even stop for a latte or ice lolly if the mood takes you if the pics on Facebook are anything to go by, and afterwards join in the big party in the park.

​Astonishingly, some participants choose to forgo the refreshment breaks en route, and actually run the whole thing crazily fast, like a proper race as opposed to a social run, but then again, there is some fine bling for the taking, and if you are sufficiently rapid to get yourself to the front of the queue for the beer tent, why wouldn’t you?  Kudos to those who can.  And, in deference to them as like that sort of thing and are speedy enough to do so, there is an ‘elite wave’ that departs first, so they don’t have to overtake slower runners on the trails as is inevitable if you are a fast runner in one of the following waves.  They have to demonstrate a qualifying time somehow or other.  Not quite sure how, but I think there’s a common sense rather than officious approach taken.

RSR fine trophy

That’s not my trophy by the way, in case you were wondering, though it is my age category for the record, which is why the Runaround reference made sense to me, but I’ve moved on now, I’ll let that go…   I just have to accept dear reader, that you may not even know how to use log books and a slide rule – possibly not even be familiar with colour factor, how you live independently I cannot begin to imagine.

colour factor

So you will have probably sussed by now that I have a huge soft spot for the Round Sheffield Run, I’ve run completed it every year since it started in 2014 and it’s always a joy.  Not even type two fun, but actually type one – in parts anyway –  which given the distance and elevation (1981 ft) is no mean feat!  I managed to enter and even get my preferred wave, the first one of the day!  No, not the elite wave obvs, but the one immediately after, which because you start off early, gives you extra time to get around, and, in my case, disguises my slow progress.  There was some shenanigans with the entry system this year, because of the increasing hype the event attracts. A veritable tsunami of wannabee Sheffield runarounders swamped the site as soon as the entries went live.  This resulted in a crashed site and a hastily introduced semi-ballot system in which I got lucky but others didn’t. There was some flack directed to the organisers which I think unfair. It’s hard when an event becomes so popular that it is over-subscribed, to come up with a universally approved and fair entry system.  However, in reality, as entries open so far in advance, there are always places that come up later on as injury or circumstance means others have to pull out. There is a waiting list that you can join, and you can always secure a ‘free’ place by volunteering to marshal at either the TenTenTen or the RSR in one year – or indeed, getting a friend to do that for you, and blagging their freebie.  Oooh, nice pic on the volunteering info link – am nabbing that – see the views that will unfold before you if you partake of this running banquet through the green spaces of our great city.  Yay, #lovesheffield 🙂  And it really is like that when you get there, there being Meersbrook park.  Stunning views.

panorama rsr

So you enter in, I don’t know, January or something insanely early like that, when you are sat on the sofa fondly imagining yourself having transformed your body into nothing but sinew and muscle by the time the event comes round ‘it’s ages away’ after all, and then you think no more about it.  Until, suddenly it seems it is upon you, and that rigorous training routine you dreamt of, well, in my case at least, spoiler alert – it hadn’t come to pass.  In my defence, I’ve had a particularly shite year, running, however badly, being way down on my list of priorities.  I did consider withdrawing, but then again, it wouldn’t be the first time I’d rocked up to a run woefully unprepared, and I do have the advantage of knowing the route really well.  Also, it is indeed true the event gets you round because of it’s supportive ethos.  It is also true that it is better to rock up under trained but uninjured than over trained and carrying some sort of running related twinging, better runners than me by far have been caught out by less.  This is unfair of course, but true.  As with much of life. But let’s not got too far down that line today.   Today is about positivity and all being well with the world, even if it isn’t at all really, and that’s just the running endorphins kicking in… we have to take what comfort where and when we can.

So I entered, and winter moved into spring, and spring into summer and suddenly the RSR Facebook page is commencing countdown, ooh look here are the t-shirts – here is a teaser of a run stage the week before.

Oops, this was becoming very real suddenly.  Then, after weeks of rain, it became scorchio.  Crappity, crap crap.  Heat is my running nemesis (oh, and hills, and roads, oh and the actually being required to run bits as well, also humidity – that’s even worse possibly –  but mostly heat.)  I am not good in the heat, this does not bode well.  Heat really stymied my London Marathon experience, and I really didn’t fancy doing the Round Sheffield Run under the glare of uninterrupted sunshine.  It didn’t help I got sunburnt on the Friday by accident.  I rocked up to Hallam parkrun on Saturday slathered in sunblock.  Yes, I know proper athletes rest up the day before a big event, but I’ve only really got one gear at the moment, so might as well do parkrun the day before – particularly as I had to go into Frontrunner anyway to make an emergency electrolyte purchase, I’d be near Endcliffe park anyway.  So at parkrun, a couple of things happened. First off, my thickly applied unblock sloughed off as I ran (cough), glooping in a sweaty pool of white stripes congealed in the deeply attractive folds of skin in my neck, giving me the appearance of a new born alien being recently ejected from my egg sac and still dripping afterbirth, or just been doused in ectoplasm or something.  Just to be absolutely clear here, this is not a good look.  Gloop pops up in many different guises, it’s hard to get the adjective that perfectly captures the texture, but you’ll get the general gist I’m sure.  That’s an actual picture of me post parkrun on the right.  Don’t use that look in the nivea sunblock ads now do they?

Some things, only a true friend will tell you, so special kudos to this fab friend, who pointed out this was not the best look, and promised to let me have a go with her non-glooping, but effective S20 the next day.  Wonderwear ambassador, once again I have you to thank for sharing your wisdom!

DSCF2072

Wiping the gloop off my turkey neck as best I could, I went on to Frontrunner in search of electrolytes.  Skip was in charge, effortlessly ignoring me as I went in.  I was thrown initially because they’d moved their display around, but then was informed in response to my enquiry that THERE WERE NO ELECTROLYTES! Well, not the tablets anyway. Oh my gawd, calamity.  This just did not compute.  I stared blinking at the alternative options but I know from bitter experience there is no point in using sports gels or drinks as they trigger my gag reflex more even than framing the tattooed skins of your loved ones for display in the lounge (other room choices are available) after they’ve died.  And trust me, that’s saying something.

Anyway, I used electrolyte tablets for the first time at London in the hottest marathon on record, and I’ve relied on them ever since when the temperature soars. They really do seem to help, they avoid that ‘inquenchable thirst’ sensation, and post run headaches, or have for me anyway.  The thought of doing a hot RSR without them was not the best.  I was annoyed with myself too, because I’d used the last one in my hydration pack for the Hathersage Hurtle, which was ages ago, and I’ve been meaning to nip in and replace them ever since.  Crap. Also, turns out, just blinking vacuously from time to time in between staring in disbelief at the space on the display stand where the electrolyte tablets are supposed to be, doesn’t make them magically appear.  Who knew?  I retreated.  I needed a plan b.  Plan b was maybe get some electrolyte sachets like the ones that are sold for tourists to re-hydrate after getting the runs in a different sense whilst on holiday.  Problem with plan b, was that I couldn’t be bothered to find a proper chemist, and they didn’t have any at the mini Sainsburys I pass on the way home.  Oh well…  eek.

Day before angstiness was well under way.   Things brightened up a bit when I dug out my hydration vest to get my kit ready.  There are water stations on the way round, but I knew I’d probably need more.  This route actually goes past shops during some of the recovery sections so in theory at least, you could nip into the co-op for a bottle of water en route if desperate, but best to go equipped I feel.  Anyway, good news, my slatternly habits are such that I still had an almost full reservoir of water in my running vest, and what’s more, one in which I had previously dissolved electrolytes for the Hathersage Hurtle.  Turned out, didn’t need as much fluid then as I thought.  I had been meaning to empty that out and sterilise it all for ages, but on this occasion, result!  I know it’s probably not the most hygienic thing in the world to keep the water thing filled and lying about for weeks on end, but my need for electrolytes outweighed any risk of near instant death by sepsis from being infected by my own germs.  Hurrah!  Anyway, clearly I’ve survived to tell the tale, so good to know, eh?

Just a matter of digging out my running top.  Erm.  Oh dear.  This was a problem too.  The thing is we have some new Smiley Paces kit.  Now, hear me out, I love my smiley paces buddies, and the ethos of this super friendly club crammed with awesome Sheffield women, however, the kit is not my friend.  The old kit was unforgiving to say the least, and so I was pretty excited when there was a prospect of ordering new kit, in a new design with a clean slate.  I ordered, it duly came.  Now granted, it looks epic on some, the new graphic design is fab, but the actual cut of the shirt.  It’s a no from me.  It only seems to suit a particular body shape which I do not share.  It’s best suited to a coat hanger, but failing that an athletic frame.  My frame is only athletic in the sense that a space hopper might be described as athletic, i.e. not really very athletic at all.

Space_hopper,_Walker_Art_Gallery

I ordered a size big enough to squeeze over my bust, but when it arrived it just swamped me everywhere else on account of being a mens’ fit.  Well, they call it ‘unisex’ but clearly this is bollocks – and I use that term advisedly, because ‘unisex’ always means designed for men.   I might as well run in a toupee teepee.  This garment doesn’t just belong on a coat hanger, but on a coat hanger popped on a rail hundreds of feet in the air.  Not being one to see the glass as always half-empty, I will say this.  Up until the point of trying it on I had thought my self-esteem had already hit rock bottom, but it seems I must have been feeling positively cheery, since the devastating effect of seeing my reflection in the glass whilst wearing this item suggested that in fact I hadn’t, there was still a fair old distance to fall.  I was beyond crushed, it made me never want to leave the house in daylight hours again, and no, I’m not posting a photo of me wearing it even for comedic effect.  It’s too humiliating.  It has been cast to the back of the wardrobe on the floor, never to see daylight again, unless I inadvertently ingest enough growth hormones through my diet to grow an extra three foot in height.  This is unlikely, as I’m vegetarian, so generally avoid ingesting growth hormone in my food.  The problem was, what to wear instead?

I dug out my original smiley vest, but this has endless variants of my name on it, as I personalised it for the London Marathon.  That’s a good top tip actually, if you have your name on your shirt, you get more shout outs from the crowd and it helps keep you going.  I don’t regret that, but such a highly personalised top seems a bit OTT to wear at a local run.  It just would feel a bit egotistical to head out on the RSR with my name front and back, and a bit misplaced given the speed with which I’d be progressing round the course.  Aaargh.  It felt bad, but I honestly didn’t want to be seen in public wearing either garb, so instead reached for my parkrun volunteering tee.  It’s the most forgiving of the running tops I own, and pleasingly, colour co-ordinates with my inov8 parkclaw trail shoes, which I love.  That would have to be the way to go, it seems my loyalty to my running club has some limits.  If only I were an international sporting icon – or indeed some other sort of celebrity, I could have my own kit custom made for my body shape and it would look and feel fab.u.lous.  Here’s hoping that I come to inhabit such a parallel universe comes to pass before the next time I venture out in public for a running event.  Not in time for this year’s RSR alas.

I felt sad not to have a Smiley Vest that I felt confident enough to wear in public, but hey ho, maybe it would be as well to go under the radar given my current fitness levels.  Wouldn’t want to bring the name of the club into disrepute after all, not so much with the requirement to run fast, it’s an inclusive group, speed isn’t everything, it’s more that if you have ‘Smiley Paces’ emblazoned across your front, there is something of an obligation to smile throughout any event when out and about.  Wearing a smile and wearing that new Smiley vest are mutually exclusive.  You can’t force a smile when you are blinking back hot tears of humiliation because what’s been seen in the mirror cannot be unseen. Also, I’d be out and about for rather a long time potentially, that’s quite an endurance test for smiling throughout, even if the smile came easily to begin with …  Maybe I could wear the top and distract people by, oh I don’t know carrying a giant carrot around with me for the duration?  That makes other people smile apparently, thereby potentially removing the obligation for me to do so.  It was a thought…  Mind you, timings a bit tight for making one overnight, that papier mache would too long to dry, and I have no orange paint either, still, there’s always next year.  It’s not Ken Livingston by the way, though possibly his doppelganger.

melbourne carrot man

I wonder how they did the leaves.  Do you think they are actual palm fronds, or made of plastic?  Hard to tell.  Will have to nip across to Melbourne and ask him in person sometime.  He is known for carrying a carrot with him by the way, it’s his thing. Maybe like our John ‘the man with the pram’ Burkhill with the green wig or Tony tending the War Memorial in Endcliffe park.  A known character, part of the landscape, with a particular USP.  We have running icons in Sheffield too.  Pirate Flag man anyone?  All Sheffielders know who I mean!  Spotted at the bottom of the Meersbrook Park hill by me today, but sure he will have popped up all over.  Always worth keeping an eye out for him on Sheffield runs – not that he’s especially hard to spot to be fair, but just so you know to be on the alert.  It’s like the notion of Sheffield flat – man brandishing his enormous jolly roger in the woods, no worries – it’s a Sheffield thing, you’ll work it all out in time!

Hydration ready?  Tick.  Kit ready?  Tick.  Legs ready?  Well, as Mr Loaf says, two out of three ain’t bad.

And you know what was even better?  Whilst I was getting myself ready, the kandoo team were getting the park ready.  So exciting.  This was the night before the morning after.

RSR night before

Looking good, quite a logistical operation. It’s a well oiled team that pull it all together, but even so, must be a relief for the organisers to get to this point. Yay!

So to bed, and slept appallingly and woke up stupidly early.  Oh well.  I was up and about by 5.00 I didn’t need to be, but was awake anyway, and didn’t want to risk dropping off again.  Anyway, pre-race prep rituals won’t do themselves.  Learning the trick of smothering your feet with Vaseline to avoid blisters was a game changer for me, but there is an art to the application so you avoid greasing your entire living space with oily hand and foot prints.  Anti chafing precautions also necessary, and much pinning and repinning of my race number to ensure compatibility with my running vest.  All takes time.  I was in the 8.35 wave, and headed out to walk to Endcliffe about 7.00.  It was a gorgeous day pending, and I felt surprisingly cheery heading on down.  There was a bit of a breeze and sunshine pending, but that was OK, I had my hat, and my tomtom feebie sunglasses, plus the day had dawned, I was going, all good.

The park looked lovely as I approached, all dressed up for a party and swathed in early morning light.  Plenty of route signs along the way too.  It seemed to me that they’d gone to town with directional arrows this year, there seemed to be loads of them, also chalk markings on the road at critical junctions.  Inevitably someone will miss a sign along the way, but hard to see how.

Queen Vic was overseeing everything as always.  I wonder how many different runners, walkers, joggers and doggers she’s seen using this park over the years.  Bit late to start counting now.  It was quiet, but building.  Volunteers were congregating, the bag drop and number and timer stations getting into gear.  Exciting!

and here are some way better official pics capturing the behind the scenes vibe:

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I dumped my bag in the bag drop, got my dibber, and began a scout of the grounds.  I was struck by the sight of the ambulance bike, corralled behind crowd control safety barriers.  I wasn’t sure if it was being secured in this way to protect it from us or we from it.  I commented as much to a fellow runner who had also noticed it.  ‘I’m not surprised it’s shut up, imagine all the great drugs in that lot!‘  Whilst this is potentially a good point well made, and it says much about my lack of imagination that this had never occurred to me, it just shows what a law-abiding lot we good folk of Sheffield are that no-one would dare desecrate the sanctity of such a boundary, oh no, that barrier would be unhurdled and whatever lay within the enclosure was safe as safe could be.  Even though I bet there was at the very least some highly desirable compeed plasters and more than a token foil blanket there for the taking but for those formidable barriers!

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I was extremely flattered to be greeted by name by first the event director and then the dibber distributor, ‘my they must only use super-recognisers to staff the laptops here, I had no idea so many of them lived in Sheffield‘ I thought to myself… before remembering that my number had my name on it.  Oh well.  The novelty didn’t wear thin though, loads of marshals throughout the day shouted support by name to every runner.  Impressive!  It’s nice, it makes you feel like you matter in that moment, however fleetingly, it also meant that in honesty I might as well have worn my old Smiley vest, but hey ho, too late now.

The marshals were being briefed and kitted out with the equipment for their various stations.  Looked like everyone got a set of ski poles as a precautionary measure.  Fair does, you do get pockets of micro-climate in Sheffield, Graves park especially is notorious for being in snow whilst everywhere else enjoys balmy climes and you never know what will face you as you emerge at the top of Ringinglow, it pays to be prepared.

Managed to make contact with one Marshal who is such a regular at this event she has her own nominated spot in Nether Edge.  My how pleased I’d be to make it to her later on in the day.  Also spotted a fellow Smiley – who was rocking the new look with confidence and panache, we paired up for precautionary pee (no queue there yet) and to pose.  We were desperately trying to get snapped by the official photographer, being extra smiley and trying to look casually enthusiastic and photogenic, or at least photo-interesting.  Epic fail, couldn’t get his attention at all.  Had fun trying.  I have form on this actually, decades ago, one long hot summer me and a next door neighbour decided to try to get in as many pictures in the local paper as we could by turning up at church fetes in huge hats or doing hilarious placards at local demonstrations.  That was also an epic fail, not a single picture, not one, but we did also have fun trying then too.  It’s a cheap and harmless hobby – as long as you don’t take things too far and put kittens up trees and dogs in lakes just so as you can rescue them, which is a version of Munchhausen’s I suppose and not to be recommended.  Today, we made do with our own selfies.  Aren’t we lovely?

and my wonderwear ambassador and Hallam parkrun buddy too.  And it wasn’t even 8.00 a.m.  The people are coming!

Traipsed over to get a squirt of S20 sunblock.  I’d got my own on as well, but just wanted to allergy test for the other stuff, as people keep telling me its fab, but it’s expensive if I react to it.  Then, coming back, the queues had suddenly started to appear.  I was glad I’d picked up my number and dibber already.  The queue was immense, and although it was moving relatively quickly, it was daunting to behold.

I say it was daunting, but it was also apparently invisible to some, well, maybe not ‘some’ maybe just one actually.  Who came round the corner, breezed up to the first laptop operative she saw and was all dibbed up before she raised her gaze to see the queue of other runners snaking over the horizon and out of the park.  Oops.  Maybe her route to the park took her along Twentywell Lane and this sign entered her subconscious – it wasn’t deliberate, but it was nifty!  Again, discretion prevents me outing anyone here, this is just a completely random shot of another friendly runner in the vicinity of the start at about that time.  Just so long as we are clear.  Any association arising in your mind as a consequence of the juxtaposition of the billboard signage and the female runner alongside apparently holding a newly acquired dibber is purely coincidental.  Good.

Still a bit of time, so decided to go for second precautionary pee of the morning.  Oh my.  This is a gripe to be fair.  The queue for the loos were beyond your worst imaginings.  There are never enough loos for the RSR, and it is tricky I guess because you need loads all at once and then they aren’t much needed for most of the day once all the runners are on their way, but there weren’t enough.  Good 20 minutes queuing and they got longer all the time, like some alien regenerating snake, the more you lob bits off as people did their bit and exited the queue, twice as much new length would be added at the end.  Is that the Jason and the Argonauts film, the one with the skeletons that replicate the more you cut them up… hang on, just a google moment – nope it wasn’t that – though it is an epic fight scene, I’m thinking of the hydra, cut off one of its heads, and two grow back.  Shudder.  Ray Harryhausen was amazing though, wasn’t he just?  Wow.  The toilet queue was too, but not in a good way.  Maybe more runners than usual turned up on the day, what the weather being great and the RSR becoming a destination run and all, but, more portaloos would be boon for next year.  Might stop some of the alfresco seekers, for whom desperation trumped decency.  And better signage for the urinal portaloos might have sped things up too…

The toilet queue was exactly like that.  No wonder the wait was scary.

I could hear the build up to the start of the red wave – the elites, but they were underway by the time I was wending my way to the start funnel.   This means I missed the panic stricken face of the photographer who nearly got trampled as the runners stampeded through, fortunately, this was captured by one of the (other?) official photographers, hurrah!  Probably one of my favourite pictures from the entire day!  Though, in fairness, I too always feel completely panicked at the start of any race.  ‘What, we have to run now!?!’  I’m invariably astonished, then alarmed to be surrounded by so many runners and then finally swept up by it.  By the way, lots of excellent photos have been made available on Facebook by the RSR team, they politely ask that you consider a donation to Weston Park Cancer Hospital in return for use of the images. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr19

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Spotted a Graves Junior parkrun RD inhaling a banana just before off.   Brave move, these elites eh, they live life on the edge!

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So I scurried to join the pen for the orange start at 8.35.  Announcements came over the speakers, and the shout went up to ‘Runaroouuuuuuuuuund NOW!’ or possibly a count down and then ‘go’, I can’t quite remember, and we all shuffled through to dib out in turn under the archway, and then we were spat through and launched and on our way!

No we hadn’t finished, it’s just that you come through the funnel at the end as well.  This is a consequence of running round in a great big circle.  You finish where you started from.  Clever eh?

One slightly bizarre thing about the event being set off in waves, is that as you you set out, running purposefully up through the park, leisurely arrivees are strolling down to registration, so it feels a bit weird.  Also, some people sprint off, whereas I take a while to get going, so the immediate first emotion for me is not so much a surge of adrenaline as shock and confusion.  Also, because it’s on the parkrun route, it’s like you’ve cheated and skipped the bit at the start, all very surreal.  It’s still uphill though, and a long way to go to get round the whole thing.  However, not too far to the first crossing point and the first dapper dibbing marshal of the day at the road crossing.  Not gonna lie, slightly disappointed not to see our ‘usual’ marshal in situ – another Hallam parkrun RD who has her designated spot at this event.  Not the same without her there, but she had selfishly opted to go fly a helicopter or something instead.  Honestly, the lengths eh?  Never mind, the spot was ably filled with competence, flair and excellently authoritative traffic control skills.  Can’t really argue with that.  Thank you marshal!

Over the road, onwards and upwards.  The field was thinning about, but other runners were coming up behind.  The overtaking had started.  On the plus side, I got to exchange cheery waves with familiar faces, some in a blur of speed as they passed, others pausing for brief sweaty hugs, all with big smiles.  There is something about the RSR that is inherently joyful, right from the off, once you’ve got your precautionary pee out the way of course.  Obviously it’s going to be stressful until you’ve got that bit of body maintenance sorted 🙂

This did sort of set the tone for the day to be fair.  People I knew, or friends I hadn’t yet made, sprinting up behind me, shouting a greeting and then whizzing by, their ever shrinking silhouettes disappearing over the horizon ahead of me.  Still, at least it gave me something to chase eh?  Plus, you get a chit chat opportunity at each dib point. Some people pressed on through, others eeked out each wait for as long as possible, strategically incorporating recovery time into their race day strategy, which is both the point of how the event is set up, and entirely mysterious to me.  The social anthropologists amongst you will notice the culturally significant green and gold bobble hat being sported by the high vis hero.  However, for me, the real interest lies in the fine exemplar of team work.  The Smiley Paces pair are saving precious seconds by having clearly demarked roles, whereby one does the donkey work of dibbing in and out and being responsible for custody of the timing lanyard, whilst the other nails looking triumphant and getting the glory.  Ran like that the whole way round, no mean feat!

Loving your work Smilies, loving your work.

On you go, into the woods, over the next road crossing – ‘thank you marshal’ I have a theory you can spot the parkrunners amongst the throng as they have been conditioned into shouting thanks to anyone in a high vis that they run past even if it’s a worker checking the wiring for a BT phone cabinet.

After the next road crossing, more Smilies!  We get everywhere, and these two in particular are a fab partnership, pathologically smiley, as is the smiley way!  Oh and they’re off again, smilies disappearing into the distance ahead of me, also a smiley staple.  Not running away from me as such, just giving me a lead!

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and somewhere around this stage I think, another Smiley caught me unawares with some action shots – you have to push yourself to get results… thank goodness for the dark glasses, I’m sure no-one will recognise me.

and this was around the end of Stage 1, where I’d been promised a sweaty high-five which I duly claimed.  Great to do a run where you see familiar faces on the way round.  This was the marshal sharing his local knowledge by declaring that ‘flat section ahead – Sheffield flat’ as runners dibbed out and headed towards Forge Dam.   The locals know, the blow ins will find out soon enough.  …. it’s not like they are going to come back down the hill to query it later are they!  Or are they?

Grand to see you my friend, thanks for the gardening tips at parkrun, and the backing for lobbying for the perennial plant stall, I’m quietly confident!

The forge dam cafe was just opening, and there was the opportunity to join another toilet queue if you’d missed out earlier.  Now into the woods. More familiar people whooping on their way past:

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My lack of training gave me a wobble, it’s a lot of uphill.  I doubted myself.  Then, soon I heard familiar chuntering coming up behind.  Yay!  My favourite twosome of the day.  Storming it.

also, it was somewhere around here, I met a Chorlton runner walking back down – I was concerned that this meant one of us at least was going the wrong way – unless he was just doubling back to remonstrate with the marshal about the ‘Sheffield flat’ quip – turns out his knee was crook, so game over for him.  It made me appreciate how lucky I was to be out there and injury free.  I wasn’t ever going to fly round fleet of foot, but I was going to get round, I was confident of that, time to stop fretting about what I can’t achieve and be grateful for what I can.  Poor guy, gutted for him.  Mind you, one remarkable thing about the RSR, which I’m sure is to do with the option to take part in a more relaxed way, is how very few are DNFs.  Less than 10 I’m sure.  No idea about the DNS though.  That may tell another story.

Onwards and upwards.  Doing a rare bit of overtaking of those following the route somewhat over prepared for the run -much like me on the Dig Deep Ultra, where I took absolutely everything with me because I had no idea what to expect. Well, the breeze blocks might have come in handy if I needed to create some steps to stand on to get over a dry stone wall for example.  Oh hang on, they were Duke of Edinburgh Award Schemers – did think the sleeping mat was possibly a bit OTT even if it did have definite appeal…

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And so you emerge from the wood, into the glade with tables laden with jelly babies, bananas and bottles of water, and friendly chit chatting – like you’ve stumbled on some sort of impromptu runners social – which you basically have.  There was plenty of water, and it felt leisurely, they’d put out a lot more sacks to keep the recycling together, but there was a lot of plastic waste.  I wonder if this event will follow recent welcome trends of other running events and try to go plastic free next year.  It ought to be possible, especially with the feed stations being in recovery stages and with the growing awareness of the problem with single use plastic.  I reckon so.

Restored, there is a 15 minute or so walk past the alpaca place and to the top of limb valley.  I always think this event must seem so peculiar to locals, as the road sections all tend to be recovery stages, and that means that in this ‘race’ no-one appears to be doing any actual running.  Worst run ever in that respect!  So called ‘runners’ strolling past chatting to one another and exchanging cheery waves with other participants ahead and behind.

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Stage three.  Limb valley section.  Basically, fab views, firm terrain – corralled away from scary cattle thanks to last year’s crowdfunding initiative – and you get to ‘whoop‘ and ‘wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee‘ all the way down, going as fast as your little legs – or long legs where applicable – will carry you!  Always time to take some pics along the way though, even if they are somewhat pitiful by comparison to the official pics, nevertheless, they capture moments in time and memories too.   And you know what, I actually think this picture, which I took all by myself, is fab.  If anyone knows this runner I’ve got a sequence of her in high resolution she can have if she gets in touch.

The official shots for this stage are fab – some possibly tipped over into not so much joyful but manic, however, that’s understandable in the circumstances.  You can also compare and contrast effortless running style of super speedy smilies v my trundling efforts.  Also, alarmingly, one Smiley has been caught on camera, not smiling and seemingly mid altercation with another runner, note to self – need to carry out an enquiry within my crochet club to check out what really happened there… More importantly, check out that Vegan jumper.  Respect!

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Oh hang on, they’ve just uploaded another album!  It’s great that there are so many pics, but it does take a while to scroll through them all. Oh the excruciating tyrrany of trying to pick out just the best… Lots of late nights for RSR runners the week after the event, poring over photos and reliving it all after a long day at work.  Anyways, picked out a few favourites below.  Please note, the guy apparently playing ‘chief bunny’ which I thought was a game everyone was familiar with – much like the rizla on the head game – but it might have been a shared house thing back in the day.  So I’ll leave that hanging.  Also, kudos to the levitating man, that’s some height you got to there, and then I just really liked the happy runners having a blast in blue.  Nice jump shot too.  That’s another thought actually, really ought to incentivise the giant leaping, spot prize for best photo capturing such athleticism, to be shared between jumper and photographer obvs.  Still think the vegan runner above is winning so far though…

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Wait, another album, album 3 – hope you are making your just giving donations people – and more evidence.   They have to be playing chief bunny, see the guy using both hands, he’s the chief and then those on either side should do one hand up each – the one nearest the chief bunny, and they are so doing it.  I need to seek out a Marple Runner at the next possible opportunity to verity my suspicions, but it’s too much of a coincidence to be otherwise, surely?

Oh, and breaking news, vegan jumper isn’t winning any more, this guy is.  For now…. he’s definitely taking the concept of a sugar rush to new heights, hard to be sure, but he has to have ODed on jelly babies.  Thought he could handle it I daresay, and then this!

RSR jump jump

At some events they have a ‘photographer 100m ahead sign’.  Well, only if they are 100m ahead, it can be changed to say 50m or ’round the corner’ or whatever, depending on context.  That gives runners the opportunity to pretend to be running hard, or to get a run up into a leap, or wipe the snot and sweat off their faces and ensure they have their boobs on an upswing in readiness, or do something equally eye catching, hilarious and camera ready which is harder to achieve when caught unawares.  I like that.  Mind you, these are universally fab pictures from this event, thank you Mr Linacre, it’s astounding to take, literally thousands of shots, and them all to be this good.  I sense a hive of activity on Facebook with people updating their profile picks with RSR run action portraits over the coming days… also a post run tradition.  That and running club caption contests, of which there will be many, the suggestions for some of which it is fortunate will remain forever contained within a closed Facebook group!

Where was I?  Where next?  Oh yes –  then into the woods down towards Whirlow, lovely section, and cool under the trees.  The running conditions were perfect, a cool breeze and bright, but not hot, so lucky, especially after yesterdays scorchio and soul sapping parkrun.  I gather that faster runners might have preferred harder ground, but my arthritic feet appreciated the soft forgiving terrain.  Reet nice out in fact.  Lovely.

and you emerge out the woods:

cross the road, and back into the woods. Ecclesall woods this time.  It was ages before I worked out how this relates to the Ecclesall Woods Discovery Centre.  I love Ecclesall Woods, but I seem to get very disorientated when I’m there.  Totally get why Hansel and Gretel got lost in the woods that time.  Trees are beautiful, but a wood in its entirety can swallow you up quite easily.  In this section I got the most fleeting of glimpses of Smiley Selfie Queen, but she did pause for long enough for a fellow runner to get a shot of us together, just for the record, we occupied the same space at the same time. You get to look longingly across at the miniature train in operation just the other side of the stream, but no time to take advantage of that today alas.  So this is where you emerge onto Abbeydale Road South, and stroll down past the railway station, trying not to think about the steps of doom which await you once you’ve traipsed up Twentywell Lane…

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Twentywell Lane, did have a queue to get into the woods.  I felt a bit for the marshal here, as this is point that requires a lot of proactive traffic management, and to be honest looked like one of the more stressful locations to be based at.  He was doing a fab job though, directing runners and traffic to keep everything moving.  Once we were over the road and into the wood, the steps awaited.  Oh my life, they are killers, that climb, untimed or not, is brutal.  I like this part of the route if I’m running on my own, but it is a tad stressful for the RSR.  I try to give way to faster runners as much as I can, but there are one or two really narrow bits on this path and you can’t step aside without plummeting down a vertiginous slope so it’s a tad stressful.  Having said that, runners were universally courteous, I think enough people now know the route to recognise it is what it is, and with the best will in the world, sometimes slower runners can’t give way and faster runners can’t over take.  All smiles. Well, to each other, they may have been some unseemly cursing about the challenge of the actual terrain!

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Phew, was glad when that section was over.  You emerge onto a road and have to run on by Beauchief golf course.  If you are called Sandra, you get your own signage to help you press on at this critical stage.  Go Sandra indeed, you chose your supporters well!  I don’t know if the idea is they will only have signs for Sandra, as this was a new development for this year, maybe other random names will appear, or maybe she has special dispensation to have her own signage. Will have to rock up next year and find out I suppose.

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The end of stage 5 takes you onto Greenhill Avenue, and more uphill and you go through Chancet Wood.  This stage I always forget about and get confused and think I’m already in Graves park, which you aren’t.  If you are ever lost on a course, and inexplicably see me ahead of you – which is fairly unlikely – don’t follow me, I’ll be lost too.

I was flagging a bit by now, so it was a fabulous surprise to see a Smiley superstar in support mode at the start of the Graves park section.  Hurrah!  Obviously, any Smiley is a fine sight on any and every occasion, but for the record, best thing EVER to happen to me on a run was when she and a fellow Brutelles turned up on the Houndkirk Road to see me towards the end of the Dig Deep Ultra. It was brilliant, so chuffed they’d turned out for me.  You know what, if you are a supporter rather than a runner on occasions, or indeed always, don’t under estimate the impact you have. You are awesome. Support en route can make or break an event.  All adds to the party atmosphere.   Now after that tribute, it’s unfortunate that I don’t have a suitably epic photo to share, but I do have an offering at least. Thank you Doctor Smiley!  Plus, she not only had vegan sweets – which had run out when I got there – but took photos of other smilies, even those who’d apparently got dressed in the dark which would account for them accidentally put on the wrong running vest. AND, she saw a rather cute mouse whilst waiting, which I find worthy of note.   Check out that half of the Smiley pair who is still managing to keep her arms aloft in triumph – she’s kept that up for over 15 km by this point I’d say – bearing in mind she was doing it throughout the recovery stages as well as the timed sections, that’s real dedication for you.  I’d expect nothing less.

Oh and she did a mean selfie shot too, which ought really to be mandatory whenever two or more smilies meet.  Evidence suggests it pretty much is already to be fair, if previous evidence is anything to go by:

Incidentally, it occurs to me, albeit rather belatedly, there is a really good breakdown of each section of the Round Sheffield Run course with nice concise descriptors and thumb nail maps on the event website so you could save yourself some time looking at that.   They also did something clever with Strava, marking the recovery sections in blue, but I can’t work out have to steal that as it’s a webpage, so you’ll have to make do with my Strava map, which looks like this:

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Makes more sense now I expect.  That’s good.  No of course I’m not uploading the version with my times on it!  What kind of a fool do you take me for?  (Rhetorical question, no need for answers on a postcard on this occasion).

Now I’ve found the section summary, I’ll refer to that for help with describing the Graves Park bit, er hem, the blah de blah says:

Stage 7   :  1.4km Graves Park

A 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.

It only just occurs to me that the somewhat oblique reference to ‘another stage to take at a steady pace’ acknowledges that this is another bit with a long hard uphill trudge.  I don’t really like this section of the park.  Graves park is lovely, but this route misses out the nice bits like the Highland coos and Rose Garden cafe and sort of sneaks around a rather uncharacteristically dingy section.  Nearly said dinghy section, but I’m thinking of the boating pool at Millhouses.  Early runners in the elite wave, could in principle have seen junior parkrunners if not actually on their run, at the very least enjoying the post run partying.  One RD I met walking back home at the end of the event, said he was just sprinting past the back of the cafe for 10ish and could easily have joined the team in the cafe to help process the results if he’d but thought to do so on the way round.  I was probably still trying to cross Rustlings Road at that point.  Honestly, the elite runners inhabit a parallel universe.  I can’t imagine being that fast, even when I’ve taken advantage of deserted early morning airports to run full speed along travelators (doesn’t everyone), and even that makes me feel super human – these elite runners though, must be emitting sonic booms as they pass.  Well, I presume those booms are from breaking the sound barrier not for the food choices made on breaking their overnight fasts.

Graves park then, bit of a ho hum section for me.  A few people passing me asked if I was alright.  I appreciate their concern, but do wonder what this says about my natural gait, as I was absolutely fine, just choosing to strategically power walk, but I must look perpetually broken.  It reflects well on my fellow participants and the ethos of the event that people checked on me, but perhaps doesn’t reflect so well on my running style.  Not quite moving with the grace of a gazelle traversing the open grasslands of the savanna…. or wherever it is they live.  I’ve had worse.  The day after the London marathon, a next door neighbour rushed across the road to ask if I was alright as she thought I must have been in a car accident or something I was moving so stiffly.  Note to self, maybe other runners use rollers and recovery runs for a reason.

One good thing though, was as you come towards the end of the section, there was a couple of women doing excellent cheer leading.  Dear reader these two were ON FIRE.  Probably used more energy jumping up and down to motivate the participants to ‘just keep on running, it’s only 100 metres, don’t stop now’ then the actual runners did racing round.  No honestly, even the elite wave runners would have burnt up a fraction of the calories.  High five to you my favourite supporters of the day!  Liz is very lucky to have you 🙂 hope you hadn’t exhausted your mine of enthusiasm by the time she came into view.  Thank you for practising your cheering skills on the rest of us, you were awesome!

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As you come out of the park, you can espy an ice cream van parked up on the right hand side, quite hard to resist as you are clocking out ahead of the 15 minute recovery stage.

The temptation was in fact impossible to resist for some, who very sensibly, took time out to swap change for lolly – these two also knew how to roll!  Respect.  I wonder if they had 99s.  Not had one of those in ages.  I boycotted them for a bit once I discovered that they aerate them with air outside vehicle i.e. exhaust fumes (probably an urban myth) and that Margaret Thatcher, in her former life as a chemist, was partially responsible for developing the technique which led to Mr Whippy as we know it .  Probably also spurious, I might be able to eat them now…

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The next bit is

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.

The walk itself is unremarkable, though when you recce the route, I always think it feels a lot longer than it actually is.  The signage for the Round Sheffield Walk route is easy to miss here, though it was well signed for the RSR.  It’s a social section, I chatted to a few runners, some regulars at the RSR, some first timers, the lolly ladybird and lolly bee pair, and a guy who’d hoped to run as a pair with his wife but she’d had to pull out with dodgy knee or something, so he was going solo. Real shame when that happens, but it’s good that pairs who lose a partner can transfer to singleton status in such circumstances.

Eventually, you turn the corner, and then ahead is the sight of the next feed station. Wow, this was busy.  Excitingly, among the banana worriers was a familiar face from Graves junior parkrun.  Hurrah.  Oh, sorry, they were banana warriors, easy mistake.   Whatever, some nifty knife action, those bananas didn’t stand a chance.  Lots of people congregate here.  I’m sure this run was busier than last year, as I’m a slow runner, so usually by the time I come to feed stations things have calmed down a bit as the majority of participants have been and gone, but this was absolutely heaving.  Huge bags were to gather plastic bottles, though some had bizarrely chucked banana skins in amongst them which was hardly pro-social. It’s good that an attempt was being made to keep everything ripe for recycling, but it was a shock seeing such a mountain of single use plastic.  It’s good we are all more aware of it.  I can’t see that being allowed to happen again next year.  I needed to supplement my supply though, so was as guilty as any in taking a bottle.

I lingered only briefly, then it’s back down the hill.  This isn’t the most picturesque part of the route, but litter wise it was much better than last time I went down.  It was so bad once with litter outside the school gates I actually wrote to the school about it in one of my more pompous moments.  Never heard back.  It’s a bit of break neck section, if you take it fast you gather momentum going down, and it’s hard to stop.  I think it was no coincidence the bike paramedic was stationed in the undergrowth here, it was indeed a likely spot for rich pickings, though there were no discarded blood stained gauzes surrounding him when I passed, then again, he’d have put them in a proper biohazard waste bag probably, it’s not the done thing to leave blooded bandages lying around I imagine.

Oh hang on, the official description doesn’t mention the litter or the risk of injury or death if you take it too fast.

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

so where I experience fear, others experience ‘exciting’ I can see that actually.   I’m not sure about the views on this route, they really kick in in Meersbrook park.

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so the liaison stage here  is along the road in a straight line for about 500m, (more up hilliness) past the row of shops (a co-op you could nip into if you felt the urge.  I seriously contemplated picking up the bottle of wine I’d need for visitors later before my senses recovered sufficiently for me to realise that was a crazy idea, even if it would mean I wouldn’t have to go back out to the shops later.  Then you join the main road and up to Meersbrook park entrance.  Espying the amazing Bishop’s House as you approach.

This next section, section 9, is the best.  Well, maybe second best, Limb Valley (stage 3) is more picturesque and for me more forgiving terrain, but I love this stage too.  The views are extraordinary.  It’s quite moving seeing the city unfold in front of you – it helped that the skies were clear today, but on any day the horizon is amazing.  This park has a real community feel to it too, so it’s a well supported section, you’ll see friends probably, but failing that people generally out enjoying the day and offering cheers of encouragement too.  It’s down hill – always a boon, and has fond memories of small park BIG RUN too.   It’s just such a cool park, with a chilled vibe, I think it helps that, for me at least, psychologically I feel I’m nearly home now, that’s the bling in the bag near as dammit!

EVEN BETTER today at the entrance to the park were indeed buddies from small park BIG RUN, they were quite possibly still doing 1km loops of the park two weeks later – that’s dedication for you.  Also, pirate flag man.  So exciting.  I could see him waving his flag from the top of the hill, but he started to go round the corner out of sight, I genuinely put on an extra sprint for fear the flag would be all furled up again and out of sight by the time I got to the bottom of the hill. That would be unimaginable, missing the flag, when it was actually in sight, so near and yet so far.  Crisis averted dear reader.  The photos record I made it!  I also got whoops and hugs from my Smiley buddies, and the chance to see other smilies sprint on by as they had embraced more fully than me that this was actually within the timed section, so you shouldn’t really be stopping for a chat within it, though personally I don’t see the harm.  Also, I took some photos, quite pleased with the one with the Valley Hill Runners and the view, it’s just like that, it really is.

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Makes me so grateful that life has brought me to Sheffield, it really is the most extraordinary city to live in.  I felt weirdly emotional looking at that view of the city skyline.  It’s hard to say why, it’s not like I’m personally responsible for it or anything, and strictly speaking, I’m not even a ‘real’ Sheffielder, but I love this city I really do.  Admittedly mainly because it’s so easy to get out of and into the peaks, but I’m sure you know what I mean.  Bloody brilliant place

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Out the park, a very vocal marshal was encouraging every runner by name, which was impressive, if only for his speed reading skills!

You emerge, and it’s a bit of zig zag up towards Nether Edge for the next section.

Liason 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.

Apart from the novelty value of seeing your reflection in a mirror, this isn’t the best part of Sheffield, but you know what, it’s grown on me.  Let’s celebrate B&M bargains and LiDL.  Why not appreciate the mural and that community wildflower garden is now blooming, literally as well as figuratively.  More chit chat if you fancy it

The best bit though, for me at least, was seeing my  magical Hallam parkrun buddy in situ.  Again, when I’d visualised myself doing this event, I knew once I got to this fabulous smile and slightly sweaty hug, I was nearly home.  Best hug of the day.  Also a selfie op!

Then the mirror moment: 

and then the bit I always forget, because it feels to me like it should be a recovery stage, down those narrow Nether Edge streets to Brincliffe woods. I find it a killer, more hills, and the heat rising by now.  I always end up walking it, with a slight garumphiness, because it’s hard, and I feel self-conscious and inadequate because I ought to be running but can’t or more accurately won’t.

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 the duck into the woods onto the trail, contouring round, then up and down into Chelsea park, popping out in quiet surburbia on the otherside. A few quiet wide streets to negotiate on the pavement before finishing just before Psalter lane

Fortuitously, I came across a former Smiley and distance walking aficionado, who was also doing some strategic walking at the point, so we marched on together.  It was good to catch up, also I was able to pick her brains about using poles for walking/running, as she’s a fab advert for doing just that, although wasn’t using them today. She had them at the Hathersage Hurtle last year (2018), and was fair speeding round.

We stayed together until we emerged from Brincliffe Edge woods, then I waved her off as she skipped off through Chelsea park, the end in her sights.  Brincliffe Edge is a weird short sharp bit.  It’s nice and flat across the – you think – top of the ridge, and then just as you are settling in to that there’s a sharp right and more steep steps reveal themselves to take you up to Chelsea Park.  I didn’t witness this myself, but saw on Facebook that someone was alongside a non-local at this point – ‘and RSR virgin’ was the phrase used, and that poor soul caught sight of yet another set of steep steps unfolding before them they  just exclaimed ‘oh f$ck off!’ A sentiment other participants may well have shared!

Into the park, down the hill.  This is really near my home patch, although I don’t tend to go into the park that often, because frankly there are more open spaces within reach, but it was nice to jog through, and pleasingly I met one of my neighbours out walking her dog. She was a little bemused as to what exactly I was doing, but then again, so was I.  It possibly didn’t help that I was saying I was doing a trail run, but wasn’t noticeably doing a great deal of running.  I let that go…

You come out of the park, and again it’s still the timed section.  I feel it shouldn’t be, but anyway, that’s just voices in my head I expect.  Talking of which, I suddenly thought I could hear my name being called from the far distance, but I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it, and didn’t want to do that awkward thing of turning round and waving only to realise it was a shout out for someone else entirely.  It carried on.  I stopped.  I gazed about, and then look who sprinted into view:

DSCF2033

Another Hallam parkrun buddy.  Honestly, Sheffield parkrunners were like cockroaches on this run, they just popped up everywhere – only in a good way, obvs.  It was really nice to see a friendly face, and we jogged along and chatted and ended up staying together til the finish.

Past the last of the out of park marshals:

DSCF2038.jpg

Through the bright lights of Hunters Bar – trying not to notice the flood of runners who’d already finished and were strolling home adorned with the obligatory post-event metal wear!

And then back into the park for the final stage.  Can we have a moment please to appreciate the marshals at this stage who were particularly hilarious with their motivational banter.  Screaming at us to ‘run!  It’s not far, it’s a sprint finish, go go go!’  All the marshals throughout were epic, each had their own unique style to bring to the event and all are heroes, but this was a fun note to finish on for sure.  No-one was going to get away with nonchalantly strolling by this dibber point, it was do or die, and give it your all!

I therefore did dutifully run past, until I was safely out of view the other side of Queen Vic.  Then I did a bit of a walk to behind the hedge, before bursting out with a sprint finish.  Wasn’t going so fast that I missed waving at my Swiss Smiley friend – well met dear traveller, well met!

final flourish CS

I thought we did a reasonable job with our sprint finish – and thanks to Smiley Selfie Queen for capturing the moment even if it is a bit of a shame you aren’t captured looking into the camera in the front bottom corner of the frame as is usual for a selfie shot.  However, some really know how to tackle that finish or work the crowd.  The event ‘instructions’ state:

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!

and it’s at least partly true.  You can indeed get adulation from the crowd, but it is best if you work it!  Look and learn:

just the little formality of the medal – ooh, and another Graves junior buddy, one big love in, how nice, it was like a personalised medal award ceremony!

Final dib to get results, queue for crisps and banana and water

Thanks to Swiss Smiley for coming to say hello, sorry I was a bit post-run perplexed, was grand to see you!  And that was that.  RSR all done for another year.

Well, all done apart from the partying of course.

I couldn’t linger this time round, you know how it is, places to go, people to see.  However, did get lucky meeting the Monday Mobsters.  … won’t give a spoiler, but ooh, I’m soooooooooooooo excited about next weekend now.  parkrun dreams really can come true!  I’m not giving a spoiler, but I will give a clue, what’s the parkrun dream destination once you’ve already done your parkrun pilgrimage to Bushy parkrun people?  I think we know…

So I said my farewells, and started the long trudge back up the hill to Nether Edge.  Blimey.  The return voyage was made easier once I bumped into the Graves junior RD for some company with him and his pal for the walk back.  Don’t worry dear reader, I did remember to nip into the local supermarket for a bottle of wine – only I accidentally got a large bottle of gin instead, and some pasta.  Perfecto!

That’s that then, for now.  I daresay there will be some edits coming later, and I’ll probably keep finding even better photos, which is the challenge when you keep discovering new ones days or even weeks later.

Thanks once again kandoo team and everyone who took part in or supported another fab RSR experience.  Those of us who are lucky enough to live in Sheffield are even more blessed to have this great event on my doorstep.  If they’d only sort out the horticultural supplies issues for next year, it will remain perfect.

Incidentally, it would seem that for the most part, runners at this year’s RSR got lucky and got round.  It’s been a good few weeks for off road runners.  Did you know  Damian Hall just set a new fastest known time for the Paddy Buckley Round, running over 61 miles – across some of Wales’ most remote mountain tops, climbing 47 peaks and ascending over 28,000ft  in 17hrs 31mins.  And the other week Sabrina Verjee won the 268-mile Montane Spine Race – the first female athlete to win the Spine race outright.  That’s a 268-miles non-stop race along the Pennine Way which she completed in 82 hours, 19 minutes and seven seconds, leading from start to finish, about 6 hours ahead of the second finisher. Fab.  Obvs.

But can’t help noticing that poor Sabrina’s medal doesn’t double as a bottle opener and has a trashy plastic sash, and as for Damian – well!  No medal at all!  Just glory, where is the fun in that.  I think we Sheffield Runarounders had the best fun and best bling of all.

So thanks y’all who made it so, and special thanks to the energetic and engaged marshals throughout, and the photographers who shared pics from throughout the day.  You can find these photo albums froms the 2019 event all on the Round Sheffield Run Facebook page.  There are thooooooooooooooooooooooousands, ’twill take a while to scroll through those, but just think how much fun you’ll have reliving the day!

The team politely request that people consider making a donation to Weston Park Cancer Hospital in return for use of the images. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr19 Uploaded in high res for you to use.

and on intrepid runner, Daniel Harris put together this Round Sheffield Run 2019 Timewarp Youtube video, which allows you to complete the whole route in 5 minutes or so.  You could have saved yourself a lot of time if only I’d listed this link right at the start.   Ooops.

Cheers all who took and shared pictures, accounts and videos.  Sharing the love 🙂   MInd you, it’s a Herculean labour keeping track of them all, never mind slaying the hydra, the epic shots just keep on coming…

Same time next year then, ballot and fate permitting?

Start planning your perennial beds now in eager anticipation.  I know I will.  That plant stall idea is a shoo in.

🙂

*oh hang on, that bit isn’t true actually, but you’ll feel sunshine in your hearts on the day because it’s one big running love-in

For all my Round Sheffield Run related posts, click this link and scroll down for older entries.  Or don’t.

Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Round Sheffield Run 2018. Five out of five runs, and five out of five star rating too. Hurrah!

Digested read:  Round Sheffield Run fifth time round.  Still fun.  Would recommend.

You could read on, or you could save yourself a lot of time and trouble and just watch the RSR 2018 film of the day.  They aren’t mutually exclusive of course, but the choice is yours….

Oh, and thanks to everyone who made the RSR what it is and was.  I’ve used lots of photos from lots of sources, the RSR ones are freely available, but they do ask for a donation if you use them. They are hoping to raise some more funds for the fantastic Weston Park Cancer Charity – so if the photos please you, consider making a donation at  www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr18  Are you not entertained – I repeat, ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?  Those photographers work blooming hard, check out this perspective from Steve Frith, on his experience of the RSR waves of runners turning into a tsunami of potential picture subjects.  Sounds quite stressful!  Thanks Steve, and all the other snappers out and about.  You were/are awesome.  On a serious note, we are quite spoilt in Sheffield, loads of fabulous photographers document our every run.  We should never take this for granted.

Do I really need to explain what the Round Sheffield Run is?  For pities sake people, where have you been!  Hiding under a rock?  It’s half a decade old, surely it’s a given that this is a Sheffield running institution by now? Come the Summer solstice weekend – the Sunday to be specific – runners from near and far take on their annual migration to Endcliffe Park.  There is always early morning sunshine magically illuminating the event hub.  Rays of light giving dappled patterns to the paths as they shine through the trees.  Eventually about 1500 people will so gather, all to run round in a huge great circle together sharing thrills, spills (quite a few got spilled en route this year judging by the post run selfies of cuts and scrapes) and running bonhomie, before rejoicing together in the post event festival as they sit on hay bales, quaffing ale and regaling one another with tales of their micro adventures along the way.  What’s not to like.

YM smiley chilling

By the way, be careful not to mix up ‘bonhomie’ with ‘bon ami’, I nearly did, very embarrassing.  Whilst the former is a generic expression of exuberant friendliness and oozing good will, the latter is, of course, a household cleaner.  Good to know.  That reminds me, must have a go at being a domestic goddess later and tackle my household chrome…

Even so, in case you have been on the moon or something, or are just generally slow on the uptake (which to be fair is often my default position, still haven’t seen ‘The Wire’, but to be fair, I got scared off cult viewing after being erroneously sucked into ‘Lost’ what a lot of wasted hours of my life that turned out to be!  Once bitten, eh?) anyway, stop distracting me,  here’s the event blah de blah from the Round Sheffield Run website for those in need.

Described (correctly) as an ‘Epic *Multi-Stage* Trail Race’ through ‘The Parks and Trails of Sheffield’ on Sun 24th June 2018.  Not sure what the asterisks signify, probably referencing some sort of running masonic code, like the all-seeing eye, or maybe just for dramatic effect and emphasis,  anyways:

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 inbetween 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.

 Run as an Individual, Pair or even a Team see the prizes and categories tab for further details on the prizes and how each category works.

For the record, it is a race not a run, but I like it because it feels like a run not a race, just to be clear.  Elite runners head off ahead of everyone else so they can run so fast their eyeballs spontaneously pop out of their sockets without being impeded by other runners along the way.  Everyone else heads off after them in waves, to avoid the crush of a mass start.  That’s not to say people in later waves aren’t fast and competitive, but the probability is they are more likely to embrace (or at least tolerate) the social side of things, and be accepting of differently paced entrants.  What I love about this event is that it feels to me to be genuinely inclusive.  People like me can lope around at a sedate trundle if we wish, but enjoy being part of a run that includes a continuum of runners.  It’s like a mahoosive parkrun in some ways, except instead of post parkrun breakfast and cake there’s a post run huge great festival with pizza, and beer and artisan coffee.  Oh, and it is a bit further to be fair, but as it’s broken up into sections, the longest one of which is just 2.8 km, it feels doable.  You can always knock out a parkrun yes?  So if you overlook the fact this is basically five in a row, it’s very accessible.  Hang on a minute, I’ll find the hand instruction card –

RSR instruction sheet

See? It looks pretty innocuous doesn’t it, in terms of distance.  Especially if you are like me inclined to skimp a bit on the details and not inclined to do any voluntarily mathematics.  It’s easy to overlook the minor detail of having to add up all these distances that you are expected to run so you are able to comprehend the full horror of what you are embarking on.  All the better for that say I!  In fact, I honestly believe (albeit delusionally) that this event was created especially for me.  It encompasses all the things I like about running (beautiful scenery; camaraderie of being with like-minded people; different terrain; post run smorgasbord; medal at the end; cheerful marshals who give out hugs as well as jelly babies; friendly organisation; near enough to walk to venue; welcoming of all abilities; tolerant of fancy dress) and removes all the stresses like being intimidated by faster runners. Or, my speciality, being angst ridden about either getting lost (no navigation required), or limping in hours and miles behind everyone else only to find the event hub abandoned as everyone else has long gone home. All that remains as dusk falls is tumbleweed and overflowing bins.  The contents of which (pizza boxes, banana skins; jelly baby wrappers and plastic beer glasses mainly) serving as testimony not only to the tragedy of the extent of single use plastics and lack of recycling options; but also to the joy of the run’s after party which  have missed on account of not being able to run fast enough to make it back in time for all the fun.  My life in a nutshell.  Almost got to be part of the adventure, but didn’t quite make it. Shame.  Not so with the RSR!  I shall go to the ball!  This event welcomes all-comers.

Don’t get me wrong, it is challenging, many people actively train for it for quite a long time, but it is also doable. The stop start format which might be an anathema to other participants fleeter of foot is fab for me.  You can get your breath back, have a bit of a chit chat with fellow participants whilst having a drink/ banana or whatever before you rock on.  The social element means you get lots of encouragement along the way.  As a slower runner I especially benefit from this as practically the entire field overtakes me at some point, and for the most part they offer cheery motivational phrases or friendly greetings as they whizz by.  My only gripe is they still haven’t made fancy dress compulsory and it was a bit thin on rainbows and unicorns again this year, but I daresay it’s only a matter of time before these brilliant ideas are implemented.  Rome wasn’t built in a day – well, so they say.  Nor is much flat pack furniture, so we have to give the organising team the benefit of the doubt.  Much as I’d like to see these enhancements made, I concede I’m pleased they focused instead on shifting the cows.  Not all bovines are as docile as Ferdinand.  Fact.

The_Story_of_Ferdinand

So, you will understand why I still get excited about the RSR, it was the first ‘proper’ event I ever did – apart from a few parkruns and a truly lamentable Women’s Running Nottingham 10k which remains 5 years on the most dull and uninspiring event I’ve ever entered had the misfortune to enter, godawful route running backwards and forwards on tarmac whilst tantalisingly close to what looked like a perfectly nice park to run in.  Anyway, hence therefore, I inadvertently entered the RSR in its first year, before it was a thing, and when you didn’t have to fret about whether you’d manage to get a place before it all sold out.  I did so because I took very literally the blurb about this being an inclusive event suitable for all comers hence failing to notice the details re distance and ‘undulations’ and stuff like that. I’m so glad I was that naive, I’d have been way too scared to have entered otherwise.  Since then, it’s grown to be the ‘must do’ trail run for Sheffield.  Well, I think it has.  Not just because it’s inherently a lovely route, but because of the whole running carnival that goes along with it.  You will see everyone you know (running wise) at this event, whether you want to or not.  Consequently, there is not only fun to be had at the event, but also all the anticipatory build up.  Hurrah!

The build up, like the route, comes in waves.  It starts way back in February I think, when you have the first challenge of remembering to enter on the day registration opens.  Places go fast.  In previous years, people that weren’t lucky could be reasonably confident of picking up a place nearer the time as others drop out because of injury, or maybe having a life outside of running or whatever, but in recent years less so.  You can arrange to swap your number up to about a month in advance of the run, after that too late.  Once the event is full, there is a plethora of ‘oh no, I missed it‘ followed by emoticons indicating heart break and grief, or alternatively the ‘whoop whoop, I’m in‘ exchanges on various Facebook pages as people share news of their entry attempt fortunes for better or worse.  Then it all dies down for ages, apart from the odd post on the Round Sheffield Run facebook page reminding us all they exist, which is obviously good to know.

Wow, after the weather at the solstice weekend, it’s hard to imagine Endcliffe Park under a foot of snow.   These pics are proof positive though of the year round loveliness of the Round Sheffield Walk which, (in case it isn’t a self-evident truth), is basically the Round Sheffield Run Route.

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Then, in the final few weeks, the anticipation builds up like magma beneath a volcano, ready to erupt in a glorious and breathtaking display, which will be magnificent to behold but could result in injury and pain if you misjudge how you approach it.  We are drip fed newsworthy milestones.  The arrival of the jelly babies; the coming of the numbers (oh, they did take note of the request for more rainbows!  See what they’ve done there with the colours for the starting waves); a big reveal of the bling and wow, some seriously good tankards with the route engraved on for the various category winners.  Even I’d put a bit of a wiggle on if I was even so much as in shouting distance of getting my hands on that!  Fortunately, I’m not, so my usual trotting rhythm could prevail.

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The next stage of the anticipatory journey is the traditional skip round to Front Runner to pick up your race number in advance of the day.  It is part of the whole ritual, much like buying a Christmas tree or having a family row/ meltdown in the car park of Tescos is part of the whole yuletide tradition.  For authenticity, this should really be done after completing a Sheffield Hallam parkrun, so you can be slightly sweaty and flushed with that giddy mix of post-run endorphins and caffeine when you pop in.  You will meet loads of people you know there doing the same thing.  You are supposed to remember your race number to speed up the collection process, but tradition demands that many don’t.  I have a feeling it’s also an established tradition that it is mandatory to make slightly risque quips about the latest 60 second Front runner on line product review whilst you are in their getting your number if you can.  Hmmm, actually, I’m not absolutely sure about that one, could be a more recent thing, like slime.  That never used to be a thing you know, no idea why it is now. Sometimes this is hard, the quipping, not the slime, and sometimes it’s basically shooting at an open goal – a most appropriate metaphor given that we are amid the world cup football season.  I submit the Saxx Underwear Kinetic Boxer Briefs by way of evidence.  Really, how is anyone supposed to hear the phrase ‘famous for its ball park pouch‘ and not snort with laughter and demand the ritual humiliation of the salesperson for the merriment of the merciless hordes in consequence.  I’m pretty confident no-one else has ever suggested that the product should have been modelled for the purposes of the review though.  I got there first.   That’s me, both innovative and uniquely hilarious!  Laugh?  Thought my knickers would never dry!  They say you shouldn’t laugh at your own jokes, but if I didn’t who would?  Shouldn’t always listen to what they say anyway, that way madness lies.

Where was I?  Oh yes, digressing.  So went in to get my number, and whilst there marvelled at these.

Pictures by running ink – I lurve them!  He’s done some other prints of Hallam parkrun and Sheffield half.  They are in my view, genius.  Somehow they manage to capture both the spirit of the events and locations perfectly.   Christmas presents sorted for Sheffield runners/ parkrunners everywhere say I.  Well I say that, the Limb Valley one lacks verisimilitude due to the absence of aggressively stampeding cattle taking down the runners, then again, it does picture race day, and in fairness the cattle were moved to facilitate that this time around anyway.  Joking apart, the cattle in that particular field coming down the Limb are a bit scary.  I’m usually fine with farm animals, but I wouldn’t mess with them.

cattle down the limb

There have been a few incidents involving the same herd over the years, leading to runners or walkers being hospitalised by the cows, two in the last few weeks; as well as a marshal kicked at the RSR only last year.   For reasons I don’t fully understand despite the right of way going through it, the farmer apparently isn’t obliged to keep his stock clear of the path, it is farmland after all and animals have to graze somewhere. However, it seems logic is prevailing, it’s in everyone’s interests to get this sorted, and there is a plan afoot to crowdfund for a decent fence to keep cattle and people apart.  Hope it comes off, the farmer has I think agreed to maintain and in effect surrender a strip of land for this, if others pay for the actual fence, I don’t know really, something like that – but it essentially sounds like a grand plan.  I’m in.  Hope you are too.  Great good people, the greater good.  Mind you, can’t really blame the cattle for being a bit mardy, when you think how they end up being eaten.  The truth will out.

had a farm

So entry made, number collected, training either done or not done, and all too soon it was the evening before the morning after.

RSR event village night before

And so it begins!

The morning dawned. I know, you are still stuck here reading and I’ve not even made the start line yet. Sorry(ish) about that, but if you are still with me at this point you are either guilty of contributory negligence (you could have walked away at any point, reading this is not compulsory) or, you are carrying an unwanted childhood legacy of believing that once you start reading something (book, article whatever – not the actual phone book) you are somehow, for some unknown reason obligated to finish it.  Or is that just me? Either way, can’t help.  Sometimes people need to own their own decisions, your ability to ‘just say no’ lies within you, and you alone.  Just so you know.

Anyway, hurray RSR day!  I was a bit dejected that I wasn’t facing the day all fit and lean and fired up post my first every marathon. Have I mentioned yet in this post that I ran London earlier this year?  I struggle to believe that is possible too if it’s any consolation.  I was unsure whether or not to take Geronimo with me.  She was a star last year, but since London she’s been carrying a quite severe neck injury.  Not so much lopsided, but actually broken, I know some run brilliantly with a brace, but I don’t feel a neck brace would be appropriate for her just now, she’s earned her retirement.   Whilst I have had some physio for my poorly knee (I have patella tendonopathy apparently, which is why I’m not really running much at the minute, it’s got nothing to do with running apathy, although it’s easy to see how the confusion arises) she’s basically been resting…. in the back of my wardrobe.  It looks quite bad, and it was going to be a hot day anyway, too hot to take her out injured and untrained, don’t want to find myself featuring in the next series of Animal Rescuers SOS UK on Quest Red/ Animal Planet or whatever, I decided this year I’d be running naked.  Here’s a shot from last year though, looking fabulous!  Wow, she looks so much younger then, a fair few miles on the clock since, sigh.  What adventures we’ve had…

go geronimo 2017

Not that sort of naked.  Honestly, how childish.  You are the sort of person who is probably still sniggering about the saxx ball park pouches!   Grow up!

I was up ridiculously early because I couldn’t sleep.  Also I have my pre-run rituals, like eating porridge, and slathering my feet with Vaseline which is messy, but amazingly does keep my twinkle toes* miraculously blister free.  Then I was distracted because there was a rather cute mouse scavenging under the bird feeder.  I like having wildlife in the garden, it makes me feel special that they have chosen to co-exist with me somehow.  This meant I actually left later than planned, but it’s only a short hop, skip and a jump from my house to Endcliffe park. I did have my TomTom watch on, it’s basically a really expensive watch at the moment as it won’t upload anything, but it does still record what I’m doing and vibrate after every mile which I find pleasing.  I’m quite low maintenance in some respects.  I was dithering about whether or not to wear my ultimate direction waist pouch. It was going to be hot, hot hot, but one of the rare pleasures of doing a long run at a race is that you have water stations along the way and don’t need to lug everything along with you.  I took it anyway, preferring to wait and see what happened in the way of peer pressure when I got there as that’s always a deciding factor.

Look!  They were expecting me:

RSR starting pen ready

As I got nearer to the epicentre of the event, I exchanged nods with fellow runners making their way down.  Once in the park I met a spectacularly smiley smiley, who was all set to run in a pair with her other half.   Because she is pathologically good humoured and smiley she was beaming as she explained that they’d only managed one practice run together at Longshaw, the Trust 10 – he’d abandoned her after one 5k lap, in favour of a coffee at the National Trust cafe whilst she completed the second lap…  ‘but it’ll be fine‘ she grinned.  And it was.

RSR they did fine

I find the concept of running as part of a pair terrifying and hilarious in equal measure.  I did it as a pair in the first year – not realising until too late we were 118 118 and so missing out on a fabulous fancy dress op – and it was comforting having a running buddy at the time, but never again.

The problem with being a pair is that unless you are identical twins, and face it, most pairs are not – particularly the mixed pairs – one person is either being constantly held back and the other dragged along.  Although I suppose we might like to think the shared struggle might bind people closer together it can also fracture friendships and probably marriages too, as previously hidden tensions are exposed and exploded messily outwards for the duration of the route.   It’s pretty much make or break for relationships I reckon.   I know some pairs have worked out that it’s best to give the slower runner control of the dibber (you have to dib in and out of the various stages and pairs need to be within a few paces of one another) that way they get to dictate the pace.  The rumour mill has it that sometimes the faster runners sprint ahead and dib in then wait for their partner, but I’ve never seen that, I have seen faster runners sprint ahead and then wait for their partners cajoling them to ‘move their blooming arse‘ by way of encouragement.

Other practical suggestions for ensuring pairs stay as pairs include shackling runners together, or going with mandatory pantomime cow/ horse outfits- clearly my preferred option.  I mean it’s been done before, so there is precedent.  Newcastle race course I thank you… honestly, wouldn’t it gladden your heart to see this at the RSR as the elite pairs wave takes off?  It’s like my idea for more unicorns, you just know it would win hearts and minds if they’d only bite the bullet and make it so!

So I dithered, exchanged pleasantries.  Drank most of the water I’d carried down with me, and then decided I’d not bother with my belt as I’d drunk most of the water I had with me anyway.   There were two water stations en route I knew, and I knew a couple of marshals, I decided instead to carry money so if I was really desperate I could take a detour and go buy some.  In the end I found I didn’t need to.  I collected my timing device, dibbery thing, from the dib dabbery dispensing team

RSR collect dib dob

deposited my bag in the bag drop and then set about mingling on my way to the loos, which had already gathered quite a queue.  I can think of no event which has cracked the algorithm for calculating the appropriate number of loos for an event.  The RSR is no exception.   I did make it though, although my cubical was without toilet paper even at 8.00 a.m. I have a strong suspicion it had never been in possession of any.  I was OK as it was only a drip dry visit, I can only hope other takers were not caught unawares.

I was in the 8.35 wave, so early and it was relatively cool.  Loads of Smilies were about (other running clubs are available) so good to catch up with a few.  I ditched my camera with my bag so didn’t get many shots before that, but maybe there’ll be others later, or maybe there wont. Either way is fine, we have our memories.

It all went pretty quickly, we waved off the elites.  Fun watching them kick off at a sprint – they had to pause to dib in first though…

They are amazing. The first guy home did the route in 1 hour 10 minutes.  I mean that’s crazy fast!  I’m glad I wasn’t in their way.

The waves are organised by colours – colours of the rainbow in fact, isn’t that lovely.  So the elites were red, and my wave was orange. Once the reds were off, we oranges ambled into the starting funnel, and then sent on our way, you  have to dib your dibby thing in as you pass the start, so it isn’t a mass stampede, more like shaking tic tacs out of one of those dispensers.  Coming across in ones and twos.  Although there were loads of people I knew in my wave, I didn’t particularly run with anyone, and it was surprising how quickly we all spread out.  No worries, you are never alone at the RSR, always running buddies around to interact with as the mood takes you.

So far so good, but to be fair, but this is why I won’t wear strings of pearls.  Not only when running, but in life generally as a rule.  I think it’s a good one.  I was reminded of the wisdom of this at the Round Sheffield Run.  It’s the dib dobbery thing that they issue, it’s on a lanyard.  Wearing it gave me flashbacks to working in an office and having to be permanently sporting my id on a similar lanyard.  They aren’t the most elegant of accessories.  Essentially, unless you physically strap your boobs (or moobs) down to achieve a twenties  flipper flapper girl flat line silhouette the thing is in perpetual motion.  It bounces from one boob to the other before swinging up to hit you in the face periodically just to make sure you are concentrating.  It was a tad annoying, but you do sort of get used to it. It’s amazing what you can get used to, that’s why some frogs end up being boiled alive, albeit only very unlucky ones that are subjected to pointless experiments by sadistic scientists.   Unless that’s a myth, it’s probably a myth.  I don’t know.  Prefer the stories about the crabs and crayfish that escape though, even if they are the minority.  Those flappers though, didn’t they have a blast with their Charleston routines, no fly away beads were going to be cramping their style!  I’m expecting this image to be spookily similar to my action running shots.  I am also prepared to be disappointed, so all bases covered there.  My shoes will be a tad different for a start.  I was rocking my trusty innov8 s even though they are developing an annoying hole at the side.

charleston

Anyway, for better, for worse, I was underway.

Stage 1   :  2.9km Endcliffe Park to Forge Dam

A 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.

 Liason between 1-2

A short walk / jog up past the Cafe to the start of the next stage

I’m always taken aback at being expected to run at these events, and after 100 metres in I was quite relieved to see an early get out.  There at the sidelines was Smiley Selfie Queen – just arrived as she was in a later wave than me.  It is a rule that you can’t not have a selfie with Selfie Queen so naturally I departed the course to sort one – and very fine it is too!  Well, I thought it was at the time, but now I can’t find it, so I probably imagined the whole thing, still nice to see a buddy early on.  Oh, hang on, it’s been reissued, hurrah!  Here you go, yep, I do like it, happy days 🙂

selfie queen and me at start

I headed on with a new spring in my step, and it was only another couple of hundred metres to the end of the park and the first crossing point. I was a bit confused to find the ‘usual’ marshal wasn’t in situ, not that her replacement wasn’t totally delightful, but there are some traditions that I irrationally expected to be repeated year on year.  Over the road, along past the Shepherd’s Wheel, and up towards Forge Dam, where, much excitement, I took advantage of the first of the official recovery sections to avail myself of the loo, for which there was no queue, and there was toilet paper.  I would be able to concentrate now for the rest of the run.  Insider knowledge you see, helpful for race-craft planning on the day.

There was a stealth photographer lurking somewhere in the woods in Stage one or two, not entirely sure which as I didn’t spot them, fab pics though.  Nice to see a photographer the other side of the lens for a change too.  Thanks RSR for supplying these each year in return for donations to raise funds for the fantastic Weston Park Cancer Charity – you too can make a donation at: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr18

Somewhere around here, a fellow runner was asking how hard the uphill section really was compared to say the Graves park uphill bit.  She wasn’t that familiar with the route, despite being a Sheffield local, and was wandering whether to save herself or just go flat out as much as she could from early on. Tricky one. The uphill to Ringinglow is most definitely the hardest part, steep and tree rooty. The problem is, that then there are other parts which turn out also to be the hardest part later on – Graves park and Brincliffe Edge spring to mind, though spookily they are then immediately erased from it post race, so you forget how hard it all is and naively put yourself forward for it all over again the following year.  More than one female friend has compared the RSR experience to childbirth, by which I presume they mean agony at the time with a lot of pushing through to get the job down, rather than actually going home with an addition to the family.  Also, and I am just getting here, rather less cards on the mantle piece and bouquets of flowers subsequently.  On the other hand, after the RSR there is beer and bling, so it’s really swings and roundabouts.  Anyways, always good to make a new friend along the way.  Happy running new best friend!  Somewhat excruciating photo of me but hey ho, good to be snapped with a chit chat buddy along the way.

RSR new best friends

I love the social atmosphere of this event, it’s all pretty conversational at my level, and the camera never lies, lots of buddied up runners were out in force:

It was in this section that cheery marshal/ Hallam RD was in situ to dib us out and cheer us on.  I do like to see a known marshal, it’s very encouraging.  What’s more, somewhere around Quiet Lane there there was even our very own rock’n’roll Smiley.  She wasn’t doing the RSR as still recovering from the Liverpool Rock’n’Roll marathon from a few weeks back, but had planned her morning run to take in the atmosphere of the RSR. It was sooooooooooooooooo exciting to see her.  We exchanged sweaty hugs and went on our respective ways in opposite directions with shouted promises to meet again at the festival hub later on. Hurrah!

BA quiet lane crossing

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.

 Liason 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

Imaginatively, stage one, is followed by stage two.  They don’t miss a trick at the RSR!  For the competitively minded, this also incorporates the King / Queen of the Hill section, so a fair few would have put a sprint on up here.  Not me though. It’s been very dry, so no mud, though there were a few tree roots and scrabbly bits towards the top. I like this part of the route, is very familiar, but it must come as a shock to those who aren’t used to running it, it’s pretty darned steep.  This section is often referred to as ‘the hardest’ part of the course.  It is, whilst you are doing it, then you get to other ‘hardest’ sections and your perspective shifts. It is however picturesque, and there is much wildlife to enjoy.  Or more accurately, much wildlife to enjoy you, you could here the insects chomping down on flesh all around – I was spared to some extent by wearing full length leggings (on a serious note I like to protect my milky limbs from tics, nettles and bites alike) and also by having doused myself in jungle insect repellent, which is probably carcinogenic, but long term death wish aside, it’s use did spare me to some extent in the short term from the biting insect plague that surrounded us.

I can’t lie, I may have walked a bit here.  More than a bit, but I did also get some welcome encouragement as I did so.  A fellow parkrunner from Hallam stormed past ‘you’ve done London you can do this‘ he called out – I was both chuffed and touched.  And yes I did and yes I can.   Thanks for the support cardiac parkrunner super hero , appreciated 🙂

MH cardiac runner hero

It’s easy (for me) to feel defeated before I’ve even really started when running, I’m not a natural (in case you hadn’t already worked that out for yourself), but I can still crack on and participate in my own way.  At least I always get my monies worth at events in terms of time spent on course, practically mates rates costings the length of time I’m out and about.  Encouraged I put on a bit of a spurt, until the thundering of feet behind me led me to dive into the bushes and let a load of other runners come past.  I didn’t mind, I wasn’t going for a time, and so I do try to give way when I can, also it’s an excuse for a pause, and you can marvel at the speedos (not the shorts, the fast runners) as they effortlessly pass by.

It is steep that hill though.  I mentioned to a runner behind me who was similarly lamenting the gradient that it’d be a whole lot easier if someone would just give you a good old shove from behind.  Astonishingly, she obliged.  Now, I’m aware that retrospectively that might sound a bit weird, maybe even a little too intimate, but in the moment it was actually fabulous, and what’s more, it even works. It is way easier to get up hill if someone is pushing you.  If I’d bothered to notice who she was a bit more I’d have booked her again for next year. She did rather sprint off ahead though, once we got to the top, so unlikely as it might seem, it seems possible she isn’t holding out for a repeat booking.  Oh well, I still got the benefit this year.

At the top of the hill, you get the first of the two feed stations, groaning under the weight of jelly babies and water, staffed by happy looking marshals.  I reached over to get a bottle and managed to pretty much topple the entire table’s worth as they tumbled like dominoes.  My ineptitude was noted, but laughed off and forgiven, phew. Imagine the shame of being disqualified for messing with the water.  Still, it can happen to the best of us.  Me and Mo, indistinguishable in this respect, losing our bottles inexplicably.

mo bottle

This is the first major social stop though, you see loads of people you know as there was 12 minutes recovery before heading off down the limb, so plenty of time to chit chat to new arrivals or wave off those marching on to section three.  I found I met up with a Smiley buddy I’d bonded with first last year, at this very event I think, when I demanded to see inside her TNT top for sizing purposes.  Or it might have been at the TenTenTen, doesn’t matter, point is, we were able to have a catch up and companionable walk and talk to the start of Stage 3, where she left me for dust, obviously.   We have bonded through my short-lived foray into cross country running, I shudder at the memory, but hey ho, more new running buddies, and you can never have too many of them can you?  Like running shoes, always room for another pair, all have their own unique qualities, and idiosyncrasies, and you lay down running memories together for better or worse!  He she is, on the way to catch me up  – not that hard for her it seems…

RSR right behind me

However, I was then joined by Smiley selfie queen ensuring suitable photo ops at the top of Limb valley before our speeding descent.

Stage 3   :  2.5km Limb Valley Descent

Wide open grassy trail, leading into windy, flowing singletrack down through the Limb Valley, a real nice downhill section that everyone is bound to enjoy. Our personal favourite.

Liason between 3-4

A short walk / jog across the main road and down onto the playing fields to the start of the trailhead. 

Sadly I missed these tooled up smiley supporters at the Norfolk Arms area, but I’m confident they were there and doing sterling work!  Thanks guys!

CH aw missed this

There were a few people sat in chairs at the Ringinglow turn though, clapping us as we trudged past. They were most cheery, though to be fair they must have thought we were the least motivated and slackest runners ever, what kind of a race is it where everybody walks?  I wonder if anyone paused to tell them it was an official recovery stage.  Not that it really mattered, they seemed to be enjoying the sense of occasion, and smiled back as we greeted them on passing.

Time for a pair shot, courtesy of a multi-tasking marshal:

CS top of limb valley

and we headed off down together. She is a faster runner than me, but even I can enjoy a bit of a romp downhill.  We espied a photographer and it was our big moment, I say ‘our’ but actually, I was beaten at my own game.  No wonder Smiley Selfie Queen can run faster than me if she basically hover glides round the whole course on a wave of air like pyroclastic flow!  That’s my ‘it should have been me’ face.  I’ll own it.

limb valley descent jump

There were loads of other epic running down the valley shots – and not a stampeding cow in sight!  Thanks Mark Havenhand, the pictures make me happy, as does running down hill.  Go Monday Mobsters!  Go small park BIG RUN.

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We didn’t fall out over her high jinks, but she just out paced me and sped off, once we got to the style at the bottom of the descent.  Another photographer was handily positioned there and got some great atmospheric shots (thanks Steve Frith) I particularly like the black and white portraits, but there are some crackers in this set, including a few levitaters and jumpers.  One woman was clearly expecting the doggy dash, not sure that was quite within the rules…

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I loped onward, down through the woods.  I love this bit.  It was strange to think that last time I ran this path it was treacherous because of inches thick ice and snow. That doesn’t seem possible now!

Some shouted out as they raced by.  I wasn’t going that fast they couldn’t, only fast for me, which is different, everything is relative you know.  A few asked after Geronimo, I was slightly regretting not bringing her, she’d have enjoyed it, and would definitely have been first giraffe home this year.  If I get in for 2019  I think I’d like to run with a companion animal again, they are a reassuring presence, might see if I can even blag it as an emotional support animal and have one with me at all times, after all, they also cover a multitude on the tummy front, and sides also.  So we’ll see.  It’s nice that people cared though.  I kept forgetting I had my name on my shirt still, so some who greeted me by name I maybe really didn’t know,  hard to tell, they whizz by in such a blur, I can but dream of covering the ground so fast …

Down until spat out around Whirlow, a bit of concentration was required for the road crossing and onto stage four.

Stage 4   :  1.8km Ecclesall Woods

Having crossed Eccleshall road south on the liason 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.

Liason 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. 

There was a ‘regular’ marshal here, in  his usual spot, apart from one year when he missed it for some unspecified reason. It was a good one, with nice views, handy bench, before you turn into the cool calm of Ecclesall Woods.  I had a few speedy runners tear by me here.  They are fearless, I’m still cautious with all the tree roots, but they seem to be able to pick their way through like mountain goats.  Maybe not mountain goats, they do more hillsides don’t they, wood sprites then, yep, they sprinted through like wood sprites, they’d have given Puck girdling the world a run for his money, and he can put a girdle round the world in forty minutes.  Really, he can!  I think Puck might be more into OCR events though, he’s on record as being especially scathing about road runners I understand…

In the second part of the woods – the bit before you emerge onto Abbeydale Road and Dore Station, I spotted a doubled up runner ahead.  At first I thought she’d maybe got a stitch, but she’d fallen and was holding a pad against her bloodied knee to try and stem the flow a bit from what looked like quite a nasty gash.  I stopped and offered help, but as I had no first aid kit, and no medical insight, all I could really offer was companionship and helpful phrases such as ‘oh no, it must be awful for you’.  Other runners also stopped, until there was a little huddle, one of whom actually had some plasters.  I offered to stay but was assured there was no need, so I went ahead to let the marshals know.

The next marshal was an ally!

DW happy marshal

Hurrah!  Not running himself due to injury, he was nevertheless offering cheerful support and, on request, access to a stash of water.  I wasn’t too bad, but didn’t want to let the opportunity to rehydrate a bit pass me by knowing the killer steps that were just ahead.  I mentioned about the injured runner, but he didn’t have a first aid kit either. She emerged whilst I was chit chatting, no idea if she continued or not, I’m guessing not, but then again, these trail runners, they are a hardy breed.

So spat out the woods and on past Dore station, phew, it was hot now…

DW road trudge

and the next challenge was The Steps.

CS those steps

This is also ‘the hardest’ section of the RSR, even though they are no longer part of the actual run, they are brutal.  Even when they end and the next stage starts the incline is more than just ‘undulating’ and the paths narrow.  So we were into Stage five.

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.

 Liason between 5-6

A short walk across the main road and up the pavement and down into the next set of woods.

I love this stretch if I’m running alone, but it is quite challenging within the context of the RSR.  To be fair, many walk sections of this, it’s deceptive as the uphill goes on and on, but of course some do want to speed by and the narrowness of the path, and steepness of the hill makes it hard to move out of the way.  It was all good natured though.  I jumped off the track where I could, and put a wiggle on in other areas to avoid slowing up others too much.  Came across some woodrunners, and I told them how useless I’d felt when trying to help the fallen runner earlier. They ventured that they’d got a foil blanket which would have been of almost as much practical support as my offer of companionship – though I did point out they might have fashioned it into a cloak so they’d take at least the look of superheroes saving the day.  How we laughed.  …

a bit later I came across them, tending to one of their number who’d got something in his eye I think ‘what not using the foil blanket‘ I quipped as I sprinted shuffled on by.  In my defence, I still have a dodgy knee, so I’m supposed to be extra careful going up hill.  I meant to get that excuse in earlier to be fair, still, better late than never!  Soon enough she leapfrogged me again (not literally, I mean overtook me) and couldn’t see the injured party anymore. Presume the group cut their losses and left him for dead. It happens, it’s the way of the trails….

… not really though – in fact, post the event there were quite a few appreciative posts on Facebook from runners who’d fallen along the way, but been helped up and on by other participants who’d stopped to offer assistance.  The ethos of the event definitely encourages that, though I think it helps that Sheffielders are, on the whole, pathologically friendly anyway, or at the very least inquisitive enough to stop and find out what’s going on.  Plus maybe parkrun has helped build a sense of a supportive running community as well.  This will henceforth be known as a ‘Lucy fact’ that is, something I believe to be true, but am completely unable to evidence.  I daresay I hold a fair few delusions thoughts as a consequence, you just have to hope and trust that for the most part they are benign…

Some clearly whizzed through the road with the golf course on either side:

DW storming through golf course

The scattered trio?  Snapped together again later, so all good, well good-ish, looks like a bit of navigational negotiation is going on here, or at the very least something’s been spotted hiding in the woods.  We may never know 🙂

RSR caption contest

Time for some more official photos that pleased me.  Check out the woman who has totally nailed the ‘seen the photographer look’ one to beat surely?   I’m liking the pairs action shot too though.  The high-fiving smiley; the jolly orange team mates and, in the interests of random questions, did anyone else spot the Byzantine Pottery Club contingent?  Got to be a story behind those runners in red… or maybe they just really like Byzantine Pottery and associating with like minded people.  Much like members of Chorlton runners like chortling and running I suppose. That makes sense…

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Stage 6   :  0.9km Chancet Woods

A cheeky fast short section of flowing undulating singletrack.

Liason 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.

Yep, did that, nothing to report, crossing the road was a bit of a mare.  I had fell-flying Smiley join me on the walk section.  She was all smiles and storming it in a mixed pair too.  We were able to compare notes about who we’d seen where on the course, to get a steer on who else would be coming up behind me anytime soon.

Stage 7   :  1.4km Graves Park

A 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.

Maybe it’s because I’m always tiring by the time I reach this section, but I think this is also the hardest part. It just goes on and on, deceptively tough.  There are a few bystanders to gaze at you in bemusement, or proactively cheer you on, depending largely on the luck of the draw.  You know what, it’s well worth clicking on the thumbnail pictures on the description of the stages section of the website, you can see the elevation there, it’s brutal!  No wonder it’s hard going.

You bypass the back of the Rose Garden Cafe and exit the park at the bottom, then there’s another walkie talkie bit, before you end up at the second feed station, which was heaving.  Well maybe not when this photo was taken, those resplendent in their red numbers were the elite wave, by the time I rocked round it was ten deep at the water station – but good natured bustling rather than elbowing each other out the way vibe.  This was no open water swim at a triathlon, room for basic courtesy.

DW feed station

Just before we got to it, there was a woman standing by some recycling bins near to the pub car park in the shade of a tree. She had a few bottles of water and was clapping everyone with enthusiasm ‘hats off to you, don’t know how you can manage this in all this heat’ she was saying, apparently genuinely impressed.  Again, this was a walking session, but her enthusiasm was appreciated by me at least and others too I’m sure.  I wonder if over time this will become an event more people come out and support.  I mean it’s a trail race, so you’ll never get absolutely loads, but it did seem to me that there were far more spectators in the public areas (Graves, Meersbrook, Ringinglow village) than in previous years.  Who knows, it might yet become a thing, like the Sheffield half even, now that would be a.maz.ing!

It was like being at a party, with everyone jostling for the buffet in a good humoured way.  Jelly babies were piled high, the good gym team had a big banner up as they were staffing it.  There were also some novel proteiny snack pyramidy things.  Trek chunks I think?  Vegan and gluten free, and with 12 g of protein, which is a lot isn’t it.  In the interests of being able to accurately report back, I tried both types.   The chocolate and peanut one, which I thought vile  not to my taste, – though others reported preferring them, and some toffee and something ones which I really liked.  I do wish there were savoury options too though, that seems to me a gap in the protein/ energy bar market.  I saw smilies, Monday mobsters in their team sloth incarnation – always a treat, it was grand.  I’ve stalked you to get this shot people, is that weird?  Is it very wrong?  Any objection to its inclusion let me know.

team sloth

Any amongst the assembled scrum of runners with a penchant for squeam-inducing reality TV shows focused on blood and gore from gruesome accidents or DIY surgery say, were in for a treat!  This seemed to be an impromptu gathering point for people with bloody gashes, and there were some pretty impressive ragged-edge gouges being sported, and in one or too particularly spectacular cases prodigious amounts of blood.  Maybe I just got lucky but I was witness to more seeping, or even gushing wounds than I anticipated.  Astonishingly, nobody seemed to be complaining (though some were most definitely limping), injuries were more being worn as badges of honour – all smiles at the finish by the walking wounded – maybe they were just mightily relieved to have made it.  The nipple chafing sights were more evident on the finish line.  That’s got to hurt hasn’t it, imagine the screams of pain issuing out of the shower once the water gets turned on with them.  I’ve spared the blushes of those who didn’t adequately lube up pre race here, and resisted the temptation to include pictures of them without consent, they know who they are, crossing the line looking like they’ve survived being shot in the chest, not once but twice.  Not just hardcore, but apparently immortal… or maybe just mean with the sticking plasters/body glide purchases pre run.

But honestly, I’ve not seen so many skinned knees, grazed elbows and bloodied clothes since I was at junior school and the marbling craze coincided with the skateboarding one.  I think there were three concussions in one week before both were banned.  This was back in the seventies, and I don’t think my school was progressive enough to imagine that one day skateboarding would become an Olympic sport.  No really, it is, from 2020 according to the Skateboarding wikipedia entry.  I really hope marbling also becomes an Olympic sport one day, I don’t see why not, bowling is under consideration.  I’d like to see conkers feature too, but I recognise there are both seasonal considerations with that one, plus conkers is incredibly open to cheating.  I had fine conkers of mine taken out but others that I swear had been hardened by being dried in an oven or soaked in vinegar.  It would be a minefield to referee.  Still, point is, many gashes on show, if that’s your thing, I can’t absolutely guarantee you’ll be witness to this, but I’d say there’s a reasonably high probability you will.

After this feed station, you are nearly home really, though unfortunately the last bit of the run – with one notable exception as you whoop your way down Meersbrook park – isn’t my most favourite.

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 8 is a downhill stretch, but couple of issues with it.  Every single year, I’ve downed a whole bottle of water immediately before tackling it, so it sort of sloshes around and ends in if not quite the exact sensation of water boarding then most definitely hiccups. Also, there’s a lot of rubbish on this route, which is depressing.  This is also the stretch where bladder control fails runners, so you are treated to the sight of sheepish looking fellow participants going through the charade of trying not to be seen as they dive in and out the undergrowth in desperate search of a hidden spot in which to releive themselves.  Spoiler alert dear reader, there are no such spots, however, running etiquette demands that we all pretend not to notice, so that’s OK then.

Maybe it’s because people are tiring now, but I also seem to always see runners take a tumble here, I think the surface is not as reliable as it seems, it’s quite scree like when dry, not conducive to running headlong down in my view, though many do.

Some aren’t afraid to charge down through the undergrowth though, go them!

DW downwards

Not to worry, it is followed by…. drum roll… stage nine!

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!

Liason 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 liason.

Because Stage nine is Meersbrook park, past Bishops House

and into the park proper – which is where you get the now iconic views of Sheffield, they really are breath taking.  No wonder people were leaping for joy as the city skyline came into glorious view!

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You also get to run down hill, which is fun, and if you are a Smiley, you get to see and potentially hug at least one Smiley and often more, as this is a favourite picnicking and spectating spot.  I was bit puzzled as to why this particular smiley wasn’t running herself but it turns out it was her turn for childcare duty whilst her partner was running.  Inexplicably, you apparently aren’t allowed to put your children voluntarily into temporary care to enable you to participate in the RSR,  Like the situation with the cows in Limb valley this makes no sense to me, but fair enough, I’ll accept it as true.  On the plus side, it was nice to get some Smiley support.

There is  a drone video taken during the event from above Meersbrook, that’s fun.  Everyone gets to hurtle headlong downhill it’s weird to think only last weekend I was endlessly trudging up this very same hill for small park BIG RUN, don’t mind admitting coming down it is a lot more fun. Really, a LOT.

At the base of the hill was a glamorous looking photographer resplendent in floaty clothes, over-sized shades and a fabulous floppy hat.  Consequently, I completely failed to register her as a Smiley at the time – well she was practically in disguise.  Others were quicker off the mark, and she got some great coming down that hill shots.  Hurrah!

See nay sayers.  Running is super fun!  You just have to pick your trails and races carefully.

This section is all over a bit too soon, and is followed by, can you guess?  Stage ten.  Are you spotting the pattern yet?  Bravo!

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 the duck into the woods onto the trail, contouring round, then up and down into Chelsea park, popping out in quiet surburbia on the otherside. A few quiet wide streets to negotiate on the pavement before finishing just before Psalter lane.

Liason 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.

This section is also the hardest section.  I am not a fan.  Every year I forget just how joyless the urban trudge section is, I swear I blank it from my mind –  plus more uphill, savage up hill that makes you taste blood in your mouth as your lungs explode with the effort of dragging your carcass in defiance of gravity.  Worse still, as I moved house a few months back, the route now takes me past the end of my actual road, the temptation to nip home for a lie down is pretty strong, but my house keys were in my bag at the RSR bag drop, so I was going to have to retrieve them from Endcliffe park anyway, might as well run on.

One improvement for this year though, was prefacing the section  – which shall henceforth be known as the vile section – with a friendly familiar marshal and Sheffield Hallam parkrun stalwart who was conveniently positioned adjacent to a handy mirror, so you could check your look,  and smooth – or coquettishly ruffle – your hair, depending on your preferences and density of mane, before approaching the finish.  She was also game for restorative hugs, which, trust me, are much needed at this stage. Plus, it was mighty hot.  Phew what a scorcher some would say.  Lucky I have endured worse at London – did I mention that I ran that in record breaking heat this year yet?  Oh I did, just checking…

FM marshall spot mirror check

The liaison section before Stage 11 turned out to be unexpectedly jolly though, as I buddied up with another smiley for the walk down to Hunter’s Bar, and then finally back in to Endcliffe park, for the concluding stage.

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!

Tradition requires a sprint finish here.  Top tip though people if you are that rare breed who hasn’t done this event before and is thinking of doing it for the first time in some future year, you can’t be seen by the crowd until after you’ve passed the hedge line.  Unless you are going for the fastest sprint prize (I wasn’t) you might as well pootle that first last bit, and then only once you round the hedge and are in view of the finish funnel and adoring crowds, put on your sprint.   No-one will be any the wiser. Well, I say that, but this year I did get ever so slightly rumbled by Swiss Smiley who is over for the summer and was positioned next to the children’s playground so could espy me sneaking in.  No worries, I’m sure she won’t judge, rather she enthusiastically high fived me, so that was good, and I ran in. The finish stretch is quite a sight.

DW and so it ends

Inevitably, practically every smiley in the world had finished before me, but on the plus side they were lining the finish with beer glasses in hand, quaffing and cheering, so you do get a sense of achievement coming to the finish as fellow club runners cheer, and other randoms do also, just because.  I mean do, I always cheer other runners coming in, whether I know them or not.  I’m programmed to do so, partly I think it’s an inherent genetic trait, and partly because it’s been brought to life and honed by many a Sunday at Graves junior parkrun, which is the most joyful thing in the world ever.  Fact.  No inhibitions about whooping or cheering or high-fiving there!

The atmosphere at the finish is great, the support as you come through, the pop-up festival going on in Endcliffe park, and the broad smiles and air punching of runners as they complete their sprint finishes flushed with endorphins, what’s not to like?

and then suddenly it’s over.  That’s actually quite sad.  You dib your final dib as you come through the finish.  A marshal loops a medal (which doubles as a bottle owner as has become tradition with the RSR bling) over your neck and you stagger to the dibber dabber control laptop area where in return for your dib dab thingy, after a few seconds of angst in case you haven’t dibbed properly throughout, a little print out of your splits is spat out.

DW results processing

The technology is amazing.  Then you join the orderly queue for your goody bag.  Glad to see this year it was held together by a paper bag.  You get a banana, a choice of crisps (I draw the line at monster munch, others did not, maybe as a parent you get desensitised to such things and are able to regard them therefore as a legitimate food source?  I can think of no other explanation).  I think there was a trek bar, can’t really remember.  There was a bottle of water, and a chance to sign up for an organic veg box delivery service – the display ones did look really nice, but it wasn’t really the interaction I was anticipating, so I didn’t really engage.  Sorry about that.

I did however get chatting to a woman in the queue who it turns out ran the Hathersage Hurtle a couple of weeks back, in even greater heat than today, so kudos to her.  You can’t  move for making new running friends at the RSR, another reason for its complete fabulousness, or for needing to relocate to another galaxy if you do anything really shameless en route, there is nowhere to hide.  NOWHERE.

I said goodbye to my new friend as various Smilies appeared over the horizon, and I was distracted by the important mission of getting into as many post race photos as possible.  Always a challenge. Normally, I’m back so long after everyone else has finished I miss out on these. The RSR offers a rare exception, as the different timed start waves means I can actually be back ahead of a few and alongside many. Hurrah!

We actually managed to muster a fair few smilies for a group shot, and even commandeered a bystander to snap us.  Hilariously, one photo was taken with one of our number arse uppermost.  Not entirely inappropriate that she was facing the wrong way, as she had also done the whole event wearing her vest back to front . I’ve done that before truth to tell, it’s easily done – but you can’t pass over an opportunity like that to roll around laughing can you, albeit I like to think we did so in an empathetic and supportive way.  Who knows?  Can you spot the difference between the two shots though – go on, give it a go!  Herding cats springs to mind…

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Unusually for me, I was tempted by the post run beer offer.  I don’t normally ever drink beer, and I don’t drink alcohol much either anyway, especially not after a run.  However, on this occasion, due to a fortuitous cock up (ill wind and all that) which was basically I think a failure to secure an alcohol licence in a timely fashion, all race participants got a free bevy or either full strength of 0.5% alcohol beer.  Why not.  No queues, and at last, the I espy the mysteriously missing (in my view) marshal.  Worry no longer, she is not mislaid or a victim of misadventure, au contraire, she has been promoted to bar staff!  Phew.  She had a marker pen and struck through your race number as you passed through the barrier to secure your drink. An important job, and one she did with good humour and aplomb!  Didn’t even need to brandish a clip board to maintain authority – that’s leadership skills for you.  All’s well that ends well.

For the record, and to my complete shock and astonishment, the low alcohol beer was absolutely delicious, really light, and refreshing with a sort of elderflower tone I thought, though as I know next to zero about such matters I wouldn’t put too much store by my critique, nevertheless, I’d definitely have it again, which is high praise indeed from me as I’m more of lime juice and soda or possibly G&T kind of gal.  I think it was called Big Easy or something, which sounds weird actually, I’ll have to check it out next time I can be bothered.   Oh yes, it was, found a picture – also, is it just me who noticed the woman on the label seems to be pulling a Mo Farah pose?  Good choice Thornbridge people, good choice!

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Cheers though, great innovation. Here’s hoping they continue to mess up the licence plans so we can quaff at the expense of Thornbridge Brewery year on year.  Every cloud people, every cloud.  It certainly helped the post run party go with a swing.  Also, no queue for the bar as only runners got to quaff, which might well have been a shame for everyone else, but was very fine for me.  Hurrah!

Equipped with my Big Easy, or whatever, I positioned myself on the grass alongside my Smiley compatriots.  As a welcome bonus, we were even joined by some Smilies who hadn’t been able to run due to injury/ recovery but who came along to join in the fun, and very fine to was to see them too, even if it was a bit strange to see them in non-running attire, who knew they had parallel non-running related lives and wardrobes to dress them accordingly? I thought everyone just lived in their active wear.  It was lovely sat on the grass, chillaxing I think is the correct term.  I also got free pizza, by dint of my proximity to another smiley who was offering some around. Oh my god, that was good, thank you so much Dig Deep buddy, very welcome sustenance.  Incidentally, I can’t promise all runners will get free pizza, but I will say this is the second year running I’ve pulled off this coup of freeganism, another runner freely offered it last year too (thanks regal smiley), I must have sort of ‘feed me’ eyes.

I say it was lovely sat on the grass, and it was mostly, it’s just that sooner or later the realisation hits you that getting up from the ground has become unexpectedly challenging. All too soon I realised when I tried to get up periodically that I was no longer as agile as I had been on waking.  Still, it was companionable, and we got to cheer others in as they came tearing down the tunnel all smiles.  I actually felt quite emotional watching some of the finishers. There were teams tackling it en masse; a few walking wounded; some sprinters to the line and a fair few who, once they came into view were joined by family members, children or running club buddies who ran in with them.  I like that, I know in some events it’s disallowed, but it’s fun to watch and as long as it doesn’t impede other runners I don’t see the problem.  I tried to take some photos, but what with the struggling to get up from the ground and my innate inability to take a decent photo my offerings are limited, but they are well intentioned, so there you go.

Eventually, one among us with initiative and a grasp of time, registered that there would be a prize giving shortly.  I got up, and as I’d made that effort anyway, went and got a coffee (another RSR innovation, proper coffee available post run, and this year I didn’t even have to queue for it!), and made our way to a different set of grass to witness the awards ceremony.  This was pretty entertaining, though I don’t get out much and am known to be easily entertained.  It’s just nice to see who the winners were, and there were team prizes as well as pair prizes this year.  I have no idea how they were calculated, but why not.  There were loads of official photos taken, but they’ve not been uploaded yet, I might add some in later, or I might not, depends whether I maintain interest in this blog post, or must move on to the next shiny thing I espy in my line of vision.

It was impressive to hear the times of the fastest runners, but I can’t help feeling they didn’t really get their monies worth in terms of time on the course.  Mind you, loved the tankards.  The times for the fastest man (David Addenbrooke Sheffield Running Club 01:10:1)  and the fastest woman (Lauren Davies-Beckett in 01:20:31) are pretty stunning though.  How is that even possible.  I suspect they chat a bit less and do less sight-seeing on the way round, though I suppose they still get the recovery stages, so do get to pause for a jelly baby en route if the mood takes them.

Most prize winners were there to collect their trophies and goodies.   Pleasingly, in an act of complete spontaneity, that wasn’t at all staged for the forthcoming film of RSR the fourth sequel, which is coming to a Facebook page near you soon – the male category winner used his medal bottle opener to take the top off his Thornbridge bottle of beer, decant it into his etched tankard, downed the beer in one and then upturned the empty vessel on to his head in triumph and proof the feat was complete. It was pure chance that a whole paparazzi crew were on hand at the time to capture the occasion. The ease with which this sequence was executed garnered real respect from the race organiser, I mean, just look at his face – he was in awe

DW caption contest

and once he’d managed to compose himself once again, observed that this performance  boded well if ever the runner in question fancied his chances in the beer mile challenge, which is another relatively recent addition to the Sheffield running calendar, though I’m not entirely sure how you get to take part – maybe through being talent spotted at outreach events such as this Round Sheffield Run. Wow, I wonder if the whole event was not in fact put together especially for me, but is a recruitment drive for the beer mile?  I don’t feel too used though, it’s still fun.  And it isn’t humiliating like the X factor auditions, they don’t show you failing on national prime time TV being crap, you just don’t get the surreptitious tap on the shoulder. I can live with that.

So event run, medals bagged, beer and coffee drunk, pizza eaten and winners applauded it was time to depart for another year.  A few scattered people were still lounging around on straw bales or snoozing in a deckchair under the still scorching sun, but most went off, maybe to watch football, or to check the functioning of their bottle opener medal, count how many RSR medals they have now amassed in their collection or just to lie down and reflect on another fine day.

RSR medal set

So there you go wasn’t that just dandy and fabulous.  Hope we all get to run it again next year, but if you don’t fancy the actual running bit, and it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, you can always inhale the intoxicating vibe by partaking as part of the RSR event team volunteers! Go awn, go awn, go awn, go awn.  You know you want to!

Results?  You care about the results, anyone would think this was a race not a run.  For those who need to know RSR 2018 results were streaming live on this link, but historic results are on the main RSR event website here.  Go on stats geeks, knock yourselves out – that’s half a decades worth of data you can swim around in, and counting! 🙂

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

*I say twinkle toes, but it’s an open secret I actually have hobbit feet, even so, they are, for the record, blister free.

 

Oh and photos, loads of photos, squillions in fact.  If running the RSR doesn’t make your eyes bleed, then checking out all the pictures afterwards definitely will.  Actually, I’m not entirely sure what constitutes a squillion but I’m fairly confident that this number of photos would meet the criteria.  Anyways, they are freely available on the ROUND Sheffield Run Facebook photo page, you can scroll through albums of previous years too if you don’t mind been swallowed up by a time vortex and spending the rest of eternity gazing at race photos.  It might not be such a bad way to end your days, some of the pictures are epic, and whilst not universally flattering (though some are fantastic portraits) they offer up hilarity or caption competition potential by way of consolation.  Always a boon.

 

In any event, browsing squillions of  race pictures whilst reliving the RSR has got to be more than one up from gazing at you own reflection Narcissus like.   I can’t imagine any race/ run participant being so delusional as to be consumed and overcome by their own beauty on sighting themselves in a running photo if my own experience is anything to go by, but the law of averages requires there must be at least one participant taking part snapped en route with an Adonis like physique or Helen of Troy like captivating attractiveness.  Other genders and cultural reference points for beauty are available of course, but I’m sure you know what I mean.  The point is, speaking personally, I’ve never found myself unable to leave the beauty of my reflection, or unable to tear myself away from a digital image or me running captured on camera, to such an extent I’ve lost the will to live. Weirdly though, I have frequently lost the will to live mid-way through a run.  So maybe it’s true, that we do indeed have More in common with one another than we realise…

However many photos or albums you choose to browse, be aware that in return, the RSR are politely requesting you consider making a donation to the Weston Park Cancer Charity, as in previous years, by way of recognition.

Remember people, the request is photos from ‘the gloriously Sunny Round Sheffield Run on Sun 25th June. We are hoping to raise some more funds for the fantastic Weston Park Cancer Charity – if you do use any of the images do consider a donation at: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr18

Right, roll up the sleeves and here we go thanks to:

Same time next year people?

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Categories: off road, race, running | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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 )

 

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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!

 

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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).

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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

 

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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: , , , , , | 4 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!