Posts Tagged With: running clubs

Battling the Bluster round Bakewell, milestones aplenty at Bakewell parkrun

Digested read: I was a blow in at Bakewell parkrun today.  Hurrah.  It was very nice, thank you for asking. There were lots of milestones and therefore running plus cake. What’s not to like?  #loveparkrun

Undigested read:

Well Erik was irksome.

There were overnight gusts and gales forecast, but I was still quite aghast at just how many parkruns were cancelled the night before and on parkrun morning evening.  Still, not worth messing with Erik, you aren’t going to come off best.  Trees were down all over the place and wayward branches cracking and falling at will, tossed over parkrun courses everywhere, of course there were cancellations.  I don’t know why I was so surprised, since I can further report that my own weather analysis included being woken up in my attic bedroom in the small hours by what sounded like a wind-themed Armageddon going on outside.  That was dramatic.  Once I’d surrendered to the fact that any more slumber would be impossible with all that commotion going on outside and got up to go to the loo and look out the window, I bore witness to my wheelie bins tossed around the garden. Oh ok then, Storm Erik meant business.  Even so, there were really a lot of parkrun cancellations.  Sad for some, especially as snow and ice caused many to be called off last week too.

At least one parkrun was cancelled because of polar bears on the course, that’s right actual polar bears.  FACT.   It was Bradford parkrun, I like them, they have initiative.  They worked hard to keep the event on, even attempting to coral the polar bears into being marshals apparently, but it didn’t work out.  It’s important to remember being a hi-vis hero is a voluntary role, once mammals are compelled to do it, it just doesn’t happen in the same joyful way.    Good effort though, I’m going to try to visit you soon I think… might wait for the polar bears and low flying squirrels to move on by though.

bradford parkrun polar bears

I got lucky though.  Last week I was at Bushy parkrun which went ahead just fine – more than fine absolutely fabulous in fact – and this week, I had already planned to go to Bakewell parkrun, milestones a-plenty being marked there, so celebrations, Smiley comrades, Vegan friends oh yes and celebratory cake.  Would that be on?  Hmmm.  *Spoiler alert* yes it was!  I got lucky two parkruns on the trot. Hooray!

The cancellation list is sad, but also entertaining for how core teams choose to record their reasons for cancellations. Alongside the ‘usual’ gusts, flooding, trees obscuring the course, today Bradford parkrun reported, accurately I’m sure based on my own observations, as follows:

Bradford parkrun: Apocalypse in the park, low flying squirrels

It’s a shame they had to cancel, but I’m sure it will be a huge consolation to them all that I have chuckled at their cancellation entries on the parkrun cancellations listings.  Bradford parkrun communications officer, your talents are noted and appreciated, by me at least.

Some impressive cancellation photos doing the rounds though – check out Somerdale Pavilion parkrun course conditions, less parkrun more aquaplaning.  Didn’t happen though, can’t blame them.

Somerdale pavilion parkrun cancellation

Astonishingly, Haigh Woodland parkun went ahead despite a few hurdling/trip hazards!

haigh woodland parkrun trip hazards

Ormskirk parkrun published and shared its cancellation protocol for RDs to refer to in the event of high winds.  Most public spirited, and most enlightening too.

Ormskirk cancellation protocol

But back to Bakewell.  That was expecting to go ahead, but had to get there first though.  Oh my, they weren’t lying when they said on the news it was gusty out!  Fortunately it was mild outside my house, but whoa, hang on a minute, I could barely stand up.  I had a literal wobble in the wind, and then a metaphorical one as I wondered if it would be safe to drive.  I decided to start off and see, I’m quite high up, so if there was a problem it would be obvious and I could abandon my trip.  Off I went.  So many branches down everywhere, but the car chugged along fine as we headed out of Sheffield, once we got towards Longshaw though and the roads were more exposed it was like driving through the end of the world.  No wonder they shut the car parks at Longshaw first thing.  There was loads of debris was being tossed around and I could feel the car being buffeted about as I drove with incredible caution towards Froggart.  Fortunately, the cars behind me were being similarly careful and keeping a respectful distance, but I don’t think I’ve ever been blown around so much in a car, wouldn’t have wanted to be doing that in a high sided vehicle.

Easy run out, and I managed to park up in the free section of the Hassop station car park, coincidentally right by Smiley Selfie queen who’d rocked up for some parkrun tourism and to mark the milestones of friends various too.   I got out of the car for long enough to say hello, and establish it was blooming freezing there, and wet, with little shards of rain bearing down on me. That wasn’t expected. I’d only put my running jacket in as an afterthought.  I got back in the car for a bit, and then got out again for pre-parkrun precautionary pee and general hello saying – which took a while as a fair few familiar faces were rocking up as the start time approached.

Selfie time:

My expression on the left is because I’m cold by the way, not because that’s my intended running strategy to supplement the support offered by my current sports bra. Yep, still sporting the Juno.  I do like it more than any of my other sports bras, but I’m sure there must be one out there that is as comfortable and offers sufficient support.  My expression on the right is because it was taken within the warm confines of the roasty toasty cafe – which is open pre parkrun for comfort breaks and probably coffee too, if you don’t fancy hanging out in the wind and rain on the Monsal trail yourself of a Saturday morning (hard to imagine many would fall into that category though, with all the parkrun love being bandied around 🙂 ).

We were lucky, Bakewell was most definitely going ahead.  Hooray!  There were plenty of last-minute cancellations elsewhere, which is understandable – that happened at Graves junior parkrun once, had to cancel at about 8.50 because a branch fell down on the course just as the runners were arriving.  Not worth the risk. However, the element of surprise cancellations did seem to trigger plenty of micro-adventures around the country as parkrun plans were scratched and back up plans implemented. Some social heroics though, parkrun tourists heading to Graves this morning staying in a nearby Airbnb arrived at 8.40 to find it cancelled, but were scooped up and deposited at Castle by friendly Sheffield parkrun locals. Trust is a funny thing isn’t it, of course you’d assume an abduction by a fellow parkrunner to be benign, just a new adventure #loveparkrun!  Well done parkrun explorers.

parkrun tourist team work

Back to Bakewell.  We were assembled, parkrun was on.  Yay!

For your information Whangarei parkrun in New Zealand went ahead too, although they had ‘nice weather for ducks’ it was their 160th event, and loads of them were wearing shorts out and about on the parkrun course too, so draw your own conclusions about how they define inclement weather.  I have a soft spot for this parkrun though, because they have in the rather brilliantly, and showing initiative as well as dedication, run an extra parkrun at a time to coincide with it being run in the UK. Whangarei parkrun ran an unofficial parkrun at 9pm New Zealand time to mark international parkrun day in October 2017.  Everyone needs to be reminded of/ know about that!  So hello nice Whangarei people and high fives to your high vis heroes!  Happy Third Birthday Whangarei parkrun for next Saturday 16th Feb 2019, I’m sure you’ll party on with parkrun style!

whangarei volunteers

So Bakewell parkrun was going ahead.  That was good, obvs.  But the weather, aaaargh.  How did it get to be so cold and wet when it was all mild in Sheffield when I poked my arm out the upstairs window to do the temperature check first thing?  Me and Smiley Selfie Queen and her escort ventured to the start line.  Where we greeted by the sight of a cheery run director, wearing shorts!  What was that about?  I didn’t know whether to be impressed of horrified, in truth, I was both.  He said he is doing XC tomorrow so trying to acclimatize, fair do’s, but seemed high risk to me.  I went through a similar mental battle deciding when to leave the sanctuary of the Hassop Station cafe, head out into the cold early by way of transition, or hang on in there ’til the last moment. Tough call.

Here is the cosy interior of the Hassop Station cafe viewed from outside (thank you Denise Burden for sharing your photos, from which I’ve borrowed freely):

DB hassop cafe

and here is the cheery run director, sporting his above the knee number in the service of XC acclimatization.  I respect his position on this matter, but will not emulate.  Just to be clear.

shorts seriously shorts

The cheery run director did the first timers’ briefing.  I think we can all agree the body language in the photo from the briefees, betrays that it was most decidedly nippy out, whatever the misleadingly bright sky overhead may deceive you into believing.  Mind you, a lot of these people are sporting shorts, running briefs if you like, maybe that’s why it was called the first timers’ briefing?:

DP run briefing

I wasn’t a first timer, so went for a power walk up and down the Monsal Trail a little way to keep warm and check out the wind conditions.  To be fair, the RD did assure us that he’d sorted out the wind to guarantee it would be behind us all the way out and then helpfully reverse and be pushing us from behind all the way back too or we’d get a full refund.  It is true there was wind all around us, but not noticeably helping progress, more like whipping us up into a swirling vortex of arctic blasts.  Oh well, at least it made parkrun a micro adventure all over again, so that’s good, and the seals felt quite at home in the freezing conditions.  Smiletastic challenge people, if you don’t know, best not to ask, just enjoy speculating as to why else was this synchronised seal basking necessary post parkrun.  Has to be a Smiley Paces winter running challenge really doesn’t it?  Even if this photo isn’t really capturing the running part of the challenge, it’s getting the collective team effort bit… for better or worse!  Their likeness to actual basking seals is uncanny!  The Smiley Paces people are in the picture on the left… oh, or is it the one on the right?  One or the other though, just for clarity…

Oh hang on, you might want to know about the course.  So the Bakewell parkrun course blah de blah, describes the course as follows:

Out and back course on the Monsal Trail. Start and finish are in the same place by Hassop Station

Which is basically all you can really say about it!

It looks like this:

You really aren’t going to get lost on this course unless you set off facing the wrong way.  I just couldn’t comment as to whether or not that’s ever happened. I  have myself started a parkrun facing the wrong way before now, so it’s not inconceivable, though it may not be on record, those people could still be running now for all I know.   …. Assuming you do head off in the right direction, then cheery marshals spin you round at the turn around the point 2.5 km up the repurposed railway path.  So that’s good.  Fret not.  This parkrun has it all. Coffee and loos pre-start, easily navigable flat course, and parking.  Some free if you get there early.  What else do you need to know?  Friendly marshals and parkrun love in abundance are givens, surely?

Where was I.  Oh yes, power walk, meeting and greeting of various people as they assembled for their fiftieth runs,

not a day over 49

two hundredth run and every possible variant forward and aft of those.  At first I thought this parkrun was going to be thinly attended, but of course people were lurking in warm corners or in their cars and emerged on a just in time basis, like the most finely tuned and responsive of logistic firms, to hear the pre-run briefing

and sprint off at ‘go’!

DB start line

OK. So that picture was obviously before they set off.  Plenty of bare legs though, no wonder they are jostling to be in the front, want this pesky parkrun in the cold over and done with as soon as possible so they can get back in the warm I’m sure.  The next photos do show some parkrunners, properly underway, charging through one of the fab tunnels that adorn the Monsal trail.  I love tunnel running, but been through that already (see what I did there?  Gawd I’m hilarious sometimes, love a good pun, and so what if I laugh at my own jokes, at least someone is thereby entertained).

I started in the middle of the pack as I think it is only sporting to give other runners a target to overtake, and most did take the bait to be fair.  Oh well, lucky I don’t do parkrun to get a pb.  It isn’t the widest of paths, so it was a little crowded at the get go, but it’s all very good-natured, and you soon spread out.  It was social, I liked eavesdropping on odds and ends of conversations, and this was my favourite pooch for today, in case you are interested.

DP cute dog

it headed out at a fair old lick, despite only having erm, well let’s be honest, short legs.  Whizzed by me with abandon. Then, seconds later, stopped a la Paula Radcliffe for an emergency poo, unlike Paula, this pooch had an attendant on hand to poo pick, so that was good, and then it trotted on again, by the time it got to the turn around point it seemed to be slightly regretting the early turn of speed, and had a strategic walk for a bit before picking up the pace again.  I empathised more than I probably should, I mean, I have short legs, and have also been known to regret heading off too fast … though I didn’t need a poo stop, my toileting habits having been impeccably timed for parkrun purposes, thank you for your interest!

I’m a slow runner I know, but one advantage of doing an out and back route, is you get to enjoy the spectacle of speedy runners charging home and to high-five and cheer your mates as they pass you by in the opposite direction, so I try to see this as a good thing rather than a mind game. Depends on your mood obviously.  Today, Bakewell parkrun had a photographer to capture people on the way back, right near the finish, so here are some of those who I got to exchange greetings with as they hurried homewards.

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So the vegan runners celebrating their fiftieths (and not looking a day over 49 as they did so) were amongst those charging round with abandon. Looks like they might have fallen for that old gag about ‘it’s a two lap course’ though, as one at least of them passed me again as I was coming in and they were heading out again.  That guy on the left with his hand over his mouth – see him?  He’s definitely in on the joke, think he’s trying to suppress a chortle there for sure!

DP fell for the its two laps gag

She still finished her 10km in the time it took me to do 5km apparently. Oh well, I don’t mind, those vegans had splendid cake.  So splendid, that I had to fight hard the urge just to face plant into once it came within my reach.  And you should have seen their bat-themed napkins. Epic!  If only I’d had my camera with me I’d have taken a photo…

Anyway, I trotted along, I was so far back it was quite spread out, and running along the trail was quite meditative.  Although it was cold in the wind, the rain stopped, and shhh, don’t tell, but I actually got too hot running, I think it helps that my jacket is pretty wind proof.  I got a bit put off the Monsal Trail because I ran it endlessly for marathon training last year (no need to splutter out your tea, I didn’t say I ran it fast, only that I did it, not impossibly apparently, unlikely yes, but not actually impossible for me to do the London marathon it seems) .  It was quite nice to be back on it today, the surface is so level you can run very rhythmically, and it’s been a while since I’ve had such an even and consistent run.  Maybe I need to start bringing it back into my training, just to get the continuous running in without bailing every time there is any elevation – which is basically all the time in Sheffield.  Even so, quite nice to see the finish, and supportive friends to cheer me in.

DP end in sight

Job done, barcode scanned, thanks said.  Celebratory parkrun milestone biscuit eaten. I actually ate mine before photographing it, but here is someone else’s biscuit, who showed more restraint and had the foresight to capture a snap of it first!  And a tray made earlier. Nice!

Impressive aren’t they?

Next stop, fleece retrieval from car, and cafe.  There I got a parkrun breakfast for a fiver. This is pretty good value, a granary or white bap with sausage/ veggie sausage and optional egg plus a filter coffee or tea.  In the circumstances we can perhaps overlook that their sign proclaims Park Run breakfast offer … who is going to pluck up the courage to tell them #aowalc – All one word, all lower case?  You go right ahead, I’ll be just behind you, holding your bap.  You’re welcome.

I was a bit torn because there were just too many people to socialise with.  I played my hand strategically, joining the bicentenary celebrants first as I munched down my veggie sausage bap, and then adjourning in time for the vegan half century shenanigans.  They were so buoyed up by success they were contemplating undertaking a duathlon next, but I don’t honestly think they’ve properly understood the rules. I mean having a pacer is one thing, but I’m not sure a rickshaw would make it under the radar.  I didn’t say anything, didn’t want to take away from their celebrations:

duathlon next

Obviously I did a bit of nonchalant circling around the offerings feigning indifference to begin with until I saw my chance…

great vegan bake off

Well, I didn’t want to seem over keen, and it was only fair to let the vegang have fist dibs!  Didn’t take long for me to make my move though.  I undertook some fairly lightweight expert photography duties to capture the speedy seals as above, which you have to concede I did with considerable excellence, so maybe that was some sort of exchange.  Hospitable lot the vegan runners though… I think their generosity was unconditional.  It is true though, on reflection, it does rather look as if that small child is just carrying out a citizen’s arrest on all those seals and putting them in handcuffs.  Not sure what the implications of that are exactly… best move on.

Plus, I think they had seriously over catered!  It was basically like their very own vegan bake off.  Seriously sweet delights on offer.  Yum!  Thank you bakers, very impressive, very impressive indeed.  I had the Victoria sponge.  No, not all of it, but a hefty chunk.  An excellent choice.

So all in all, a very fine, and celebratory parkrun morning.  The fifty celebrants were rightly chuffed by their milestone, and as I said to them, assuming bicentennial woman now ceases parkrunning henceforth, in a little over three years, as long as they don’t miss a week, they’ll have caught up with her too!  Very impressive. Well done all.

It was hard to tear myself away from the bonhomie and squishy chairs, but inevitably that time came when we needed to all go our separate ways.  Quick shout out for the cafe’s outside area though, it has an undercover space with sofas and play houses and all sorts, just right for bringing your own cake and pop up party!

DP squishy chairs

Special thanks to the Bakewell parkrun hi-vis heroes who made it so.  You are awesome.  It was a blast at Bakewell, the arctic blast bit wasn’t the best but the fun blast was epic.  Thank you!

Time to go home, but it was a very jolly parkrun morning, and a bonus that we’d landed on one that went ahead.  The gusts died down, the sun came out, and I was rewarded with clear and spectacular views, and no scary being blown off the road fright moments on the drive home.  I do like happy endings.

Hope you made your parkrun too.  🙂

Happy parkrunning wherever you go, just #dfyb


For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Bit of a time vampire, if you do, you might be stuck on the sofa for a while, ‘just researching options’.  Hmm.

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Easy as ABC… implementing up and at it on the run in Attercliffe

Digested read:  our Smiletastic challenge for February was to do a run incorporating all the letters of the alphabet.  We dragonflies did this, in Attercliffe, which revealed hidden delights and adventures as we explored hitherto unknown (to me) hinterlands of north-east Sheffield.  It was an adventure, I followed up at the rear.  No change there then.

Did you read that amazing story in the news the other week? What do you mean ‘which one?’ is it not immediately apparent?  Sigh.  Keep up.  The one about the woman who could become disoriented within her own house.  It would seem both to be familiar, but unfamiliar, her world would spontaneously rotate and become unrecognisable, unmappable, as her internal ‘map’ flipped, due to some previously unrecognised neurological brain malfunction. This would mean that quite literally, she is/was unable to navigate her way even around her own house. To get to her front door, or bedroom or wherever she was heading, she’d need to breathe deeply, think hard and look for clues.  Lost, completely, inexplicably lost, despite being within range of familiar things.  The woman who is permanently lost.  Sounds terrifying, and, to be truthful, slightly implausible.  By which I mean obviously it used to sound implausible, but that was before today.  Today I got completely lost on the streets of Sheffield, to the point it felt like I’d been forcibly abducted, which in a way I suppose I had been.

Today, took me on a magical mystery tour of the delights of Attercliffe.  I was but a proverbial stone’s throw from familiar territory, and yet I had absolutely no idea where I was for most of the duration of the run.  In a twist on the original theme, I also had no idea what I was doing, as I scampered around desperately trying to keep up with my Dragonfly Smiletastic trail blazers like a dachshund trying to keep up with a pack of greyhounds.  Not pretty to be fair.  I tried, but I’m never going to manifest the athletic elegance and vigour or my Smiley counterparts.  Maybe I should start running only in the dark for a bit, until morale picks up.  Most definitely I should stick to running on my own.

dachsund running

Hang on, you don’t know what I’m on about?  Well, for those of you who have no idea what I’m on about, I have no idea how it is that mysteriously you have somehow missed out on all the Smiletastic shenanigans (what stone have you been hiding under) of late.  But, since you are not in the know, Smiletastic is basically a motivational challenge to help runners to keep up their running targets throughout the winter months.  More specifically, to help runners who are members of the friendly and inclusive women’s only running club in Sheffield we know and love as Smiley Paces.  There are various individual challenges, but the important thing about today is that it was a team challenge. There’s one of these each month.  There are four teams all together, bees, ladybirds, grasshoppers and lastly and most important, MY team, which is dragonflies.  The challenge for this month was:

alphabet run february team challenge smiletastic

So hard to do basically.  Fortunately, we’d had a Smiletastic Dragonflies alphabet run planning meeting, at which my main contribution was to turn up and nod earnestly, and defer to people who seemed to have a plan.  Now, as the logical extension of that contributory negligence in having shown up and shown interest in the collective endeavour,  we had to run the darned thing.  Good oh.  The stipulation was to run an alphabet in Sheffield.  However, to nab every letter of the alphabet, we were always going to end up in Attercliffe at some point, as along with its many other attractions, Attercliffe is the only area of Sheffield blessed with a street name beginning with Z.  To the glory of Zion we come.

Attercliffe gets a bit of a bad press locally to be fair.  It offers up faded industrial glory, and it doesn’t bode well that Wikipedia pronounces its attractions as basically the fact that it is located on the supertram route and used to have a lovely cinema.  Which is a bit like saying to someone they almost won the lottery, if they’d just had one more number, unfortunately, on this occasion they’ll be going home empty-handed.  Cold comfort indeed…


Attercliffe is also closely associated with a the Channel 4 TV show A very British Brothel which featured the daily life of business at the City Sauna, on Attercliffe Road.  It was quite a gentle documentary to be fair, more cosy than sleazy according to The Guardian so it must be true, but still not exactly the image the Sheffield Tourist Board would be keen to feature on the front of their ‘Welcome to Sheffield‘ webguide.

city sauna

So, upshot was, Sunday dawned, and once I’d had my marshalling fix in the white out that was Graves Junior parkrun I made my way over to Attercliffe for our Dragonfly rendezvous. I’d got so cold in the snow at Graves, I wasn’t brimming over with enthusiasm for a 7 mile run, it was freeeeeeeeeeeeezing.


Fortuitously though, the sun came out.  I found somewhere to park, and we rendezvoused at Accelerate on Attercliffe Road, which is handily very near Zion street so pretty much bagging the A-Z in record time!

Just to add an element of mystery to proceedings, I opted to park round the corner and lurk in my car out of the cold rather than stand shivering outside Accelerate.  Well, I had a lot to mull over. Which coat, should I wear my woolly hat?  What about dragonfly wings – fashion triumph or fashion tragedy?  I was relieved to see others arrive and park up too. Soon we were a fair old gang of dragonflies, I don’t know what the collective noun is for dragonflies.  A brilliance of dragonflies maybe – google says it’s a cluster of dragonflies, but I thought it was warts that came in clusters, and so I’m sticking with Brilliance.  It might not be strictly accurate, but sometimes we have to rewrite our own narratives to improve our lives do we not.  Be the change you want to make in the world, that sort of thing.  Mostly it’s pretentious nonsense of course, but I find I need to cling to what fragile hope I can in times of adversity. This seems to be one such time.


Anyways, after a bit, more of us appeared, and we did a bit of smiley greeting of one another, which involves collective faffing about what to where, who was supposed to be coming, whether or not we were all here, to fancy dress or not to fancy dress, that sort of thing.  There was some experimentation with new ways to wear a smiley buff, not sure that went all that well, but you have to try these things don’t you, before you can make an informed choice.


Then there was some excited posing for photos by the Zion Lane sign, just because we could.  Also, some concerned chit-chat about where our actual run leader was, she in possession of map and instructions, and later on we’d discover a tick list of required roads as well. Turns out, she was only waiting outside Accelerate in accordance with the rendezvous instructions!  honestly, and there were all the rest of us running amok in the presence of Zion. What larks eh, what larks.


Couple of things you need to know about our posing by signs strategy.  We spent ages trying to perfect the group selfie, and then just when we thought we’d absolutely nailed it, another dragonfly arrived, a bit belatedly and we had to do it all over again.  There was also more faffing what with pinning on wings etc.  It’s quite complex socially and logistically, this alphabet team run endeavour. Really, it is.


At this point in running proceedings we were all in the same place at the same time and quite motivated to do such group shots.  It would be fair to say our enthusiasm and ability to convene together at the same place at the same time depleted over the course of the next couple of hours.  Oh dear.  Still, bright and brilliant beginnings.  Also, good to see actual dragonflies are quite good at posing together too. In the photos alongside one another above a bit, they are the one’s on the, erm, let’s see, erm leeeeeeeeft, maybe?  You choose.

Some opted to rock the nymph look, with the added bonus of mortifying their offspring later when they find out they went out in public sporting their buffs in this fashion.  I did wear my hat.


So, once convened, and once me and one other had donned our dragonfly wings, what the hell, off we went…. not very far at all, as it seemed that the next couple of street signs came thick and fast, and we were still only metres from where we started.  Also, still up for group shots at this juncture.  Yes, this much fun!

lawrence street group shot

and this proximity from where we started:


off we shot and then another sign, good oh…..


From hereonin, honestly it was a bit of a blur.  Our super-organised leader had all the necessary paperwork and strategy, and shot off at a fair old lick whilst the rest of us trailed in her wake. Some of us did more trailing than others.  I had no chance of keeping up, so it was all a bit surreal.


The route was quite remarkable.  As we were dipping in and out of fairly seemingly random side streets to nab various letters, we went down roads I’d never normally venture down  Taking in the delights of Attercliffe’s industrial past and present.  Joking apart, there is some absolutely stunning architecture in the area, but sadly it’s just been allowed to die away into dereliction.  Some of the building were only built about 100 years ago, and yet in that short time have been abandoned to rot all boarded up and abandoned.  It’s really sad, the area is crying out for regeneration. We must have looked pretty incongruous, running through with some gesture to fancy dress and periodically stopping to excitedly photograph street signs for no obvious reason to any passers-by.  In truth, there weren’t all that many passers by, Attercliffe is pretty deserted on a Sunday lunchtime it would seem.

Early adventures included the sighting of alien dragonfly egg on the pavements of Attercliffe. This possibly would have been worth an extra Smiletastic point, but we forgot to claim for it.  I’m not quite sure what it would have hatched into, as we didn’t wait around for long enough to find out, but once again google has delivered one option.  I’m quite glad we weren’t there to witness it.  Maybe an escapee from the Attercliffe exotics shop.  Who knows?  Exotic shops have more than one meaning in Attercliffe, but then again, I’m sure City Sauna caters for all sorts of niche preferences, this specimen could therefore have originated from either.  Sleep well people, sleep well…


In other news, our ophiophobic smiley colleague managed to cross by on the other side of the road to the snake shop, whilst we supportively took photos of her being brave.  One for all, and all for one, and no photo opportunity too small to bank for future reference.


Despite my scurrying along at the rear,  I was very proud to espy this sign on a bus-stop which I still maintain could have spared us all a great deal of running around, but the others were too far ahead to hear my cries at this point.


We ran on.

There was childish giggling:


An attempt to nab an X (there are no road signs beginning with X within the boundaries of Sheffield postcodes apparently)


Attercliffe slowly revealed its many mysteries as we pounded its damp pavements on our mission.


There were some navigational adjustments to be made, it’s quite complicated doing a run with such obsessive focus on street names


We tried to stop and photograph signs, but then we did a lot of running backwards and forwards to make sure we could truly claim to have run down each alphabet road, not just run past a street sign.  We also decided many of our shots just weren’t active enough, so we had to try again with actual running poses.  It’s harder than you might think documenting things for posterity.


Exploring is fun.  We took a minor detour to take in a bit of spontaneous track work, partly to honour Smiley Elder, it being her birthday and all, and partly because we fancied our chances in a one hundred metre dragonfly dash. We did, until we collectively decided it was too slippery to do much more than pretend to run, though one of our number did manage a complete spirit to the finish in fine form and fettle. Bravo!


Then, as there had admittedly been quite a lot of faffing, the pace picked up again, I just breathlessly followed on as best I could, whilst the lead runners performed the necessary navigational tasks, list ticking and photographic record keeping all in the time it took for me to get them back within hailing distance.  I didn’t feel I contributed much apart from ballast, but then ballast has a role to play, ships might sink without it.  I’m not quite sure how far that analogy extends to running contexts, but I’m prepared to let that go.  I tried to keep them at least in sight, for the most part…


There was a brief moment of hope for me, when we found one of those ofo bikes, which pleasingly , was in my livery colours.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a smart phone, so was unable to unlock it, but good posing opportunity.  Likewise, found a gym that looked like just the job if only it wasn’t such a long way from where I live.   Syd sure has been working his biceps and not taking steroids at all.  Impressive!


Scampering on…  We went through soulless industrial estates, under old Victorian bridges, past sadly derelict once magnificent public buildings, and on through modern housing estates, where cooking smells rose out of kitchens, and we must have looked exceedingly out-of-place.


We occasionally gathered up, mostly when our leader got lost, and did some more random posing.  Jubilee road almost completely defeated us, and we did a lot of toing and froing before a local resident pointed us in the right direction. She was very helpful and friendly and didn’t even appear to register how incongruous we must have looked let alone enquire what we were up to. It felt a friendly place.


There were some opportunities for not very imaginative practical jokes.  Like when my fellow winged dragonfly lost her pink wings and another runner appropriated them. You wouldn’t believe how long it took for her to realise this had happened.  I think we may have been somewhat oxygen deprived at this point, as we found it disproportionately entertaining.  You had to be there.  Still, bodes well for post the apocalypse, if ever we have to make our own entertainment with limited materials and opportunities on which to draw.


Even though Attercliffe most definitely has its industrial heritage at its core, there were some welcome green spaces.  Including one where there wasn’t so much a trail of breadcrumb, as a road of white sliced bread.  I couldn’t help wondering if another Smiletastic team was even now on operations in the vicinity, and this was some ploy to help their less well sighted running buddies navigate their way home.  Lord knows I was completely lost.  I clung on for grim death at the back, if my companions disappeared out of sight completely I’d never have found my way home again.  Whilst Attercliffe was a great deal nicer than I’d imagined, I wouldn’t really want to end my days there running round the streets in ever decreasing circles, with my dragonfly wings becoming ever more battered and torn as hours became days and days became weeks and so on until I shrivelled away to join the skeletal frames lining the canal which we came upon later.


HOnestly, it was all a bit of a blur. What I do know, is that we successfully got all our alphabet, minus the ‘impossible’ x, within about 6 miles, but then we had a canal detour to bagsy our x.  This was a separate mission impossible, except it turned out it both was and wasn’t.  Wasn’t, because we did it, and was, because although we did it, there was no actual road sign, so massive anti-climax.  Oops.  It did involve dipping down onto the canal path, and running a straight mile to the city centre, emerging at Victoria Quays – another run route I’ve never done, but keep meaning too.  Before we did that, just a few more amazing  buildings to appreciate, it would be so great to see these brought back to their former glory..


The canal detour – once we’d once again resisted the temptation to catch a tram, and got directions from a local to actually get down by it, was quite impressive. For them as can run fast, this is a fast bit. I can’t, and was also thwarted by my choice of shoes.  I was wearing road shoes, but this was pretty muddy and slippery, trail shoes would have been much better.  oh well, next time eh?


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I’m always a bit dubious about tow paths.  I like the idea of running near water, but I’m not so keen on the being trapped on a narrow path aspect of it. Also, as one of my fellow runners was keen to remind us, it’s always runners who find dead bodies on tow paths. That’s not strictly true of course, it can happen to dog walkers too.  A friend of mine was walking her dog along a canal path in Leamington many years ago and she found a body. The worst of it was, this was pre mobile phone days and she had to stop someone to borrow a phone to call for help, the first person didn’t want to get involved and just left her.  Eventually she did get a phone, but was left alone next to a face downward floating corpse until the police arrived. Then, to add insult to injury, they wouldn’t allow her to walk back the way she came because it was a possible crime scene, she had to walk an extra five miles to get home.  Not a good outcome, and maybe this has contributed to my aversion to ‘lovely’ canal walks even if only in my subconscious. To be fair, the dead person had had a worse outcome, though for the record, there was no foul play detected.

We didn’t find any actual corpses, but we did find some that had apparently been boiled down to the bare bones and then displayed.  It was quite an impressive show with loving attention to detail.  I wouldn’t mind ending up here.  Then again, hiding in plain sight, it’s the classic ruse isn’t it, to get away with murder.  Obvious place to conceal a body if you think about it.  I suggest you just don’t.  I do like a good pun too ‘Musn Grumble’ hilarious, see what they’ve done there!


Then on again down the tow path


and more delights revealed themselves.  Soppy valentine moments aren’t for me, but a group smiley hug, that’s nice!  Mind you, if hugs aren’t your thing, check out this handy video on how to take appropriate evasive action in a variety of hug ambush situations.  You’re welcome.


and then there was the white horse, and the red dragon, see what we did there, we were ON FIRE(ish)!


and there were pretty flowers – well one anyway also a dead rat, probably rather more than one of those, but only one that was especially noticeable:


And then, almost suddenly we were at Victoria Quays where a barge proclaiming itself ‘the kids’ inheritance’ welcomed us on to the cobbles.  These weren’t all that welcome for sore feet.  At least one of our number was suffering the after effects of a 17 mile fell run the day before, and cobbles today weren’t helping.


So the climax of our run was to get onto eXchange street.  See what we’ve done there.  Unfortunately, despite adding a mile to our run, there wasn’t a single helpful road sign to proclaim our success, making it somewhat anticlimactic.  Though we were able to find a handy X scrawled across a board somewhere and a potential ‘valentine themed observation’ in keeping with the individual challenges for February so beloved of Smiley Elder who has many great qualities, but lacks a certain cynicism with regard to romantic love which is a bit of an oversight in my view.


And that was it.  Run concluded, just as the sky was getting dark and it was getting cold again.  We dispersed.  Just time to play chicken at one of the railings on the canalside,


and then we were back in Attercliffe before we knew it!


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Magical mystery tour all done and dusted.  If you are interested in our route, and it isn’t one I’d be able to replicate, here is the strava map for your edification and merriment:

strava route

Check out the inadvertent dinky heart in the bottom left hand corner.

So to conclude, this is our alphabet gallery of gloriousness, all nabbed in S9 (pretty much)


Job done.

One future challenge might be to do an ultra and see if they can all be done in alphabetical order.  That would be a might challenge for someone else though, not for me.  This wasn’t a favourite run by any means, though I did like seeing parts of the city I’ve never espied before, it was just hard being reminded constantly of my running ineptitude as faster runners sprinted ahead.  On the other hand, at least I didn’t entirely miss out, and I have a new appreciation of Attercliffe.  The redevelopment that is already underway is impressive, maybe it will yet be a new sporting centre as it aspires to be …

It is home to one of the highest concentrations of sporting facilities in the UK with the Olympic Legacy Park,[6] incorporating iceSheffield and the English Institute of Sport – Sheffield, located in the area

according to wikipedia, which, as we have already established, means it must be so.

So that’s good.

Easy as ABC..  Now we know.

So who’s up for the ultra alphabetical order alphabet run?  Answers on a postcard please.  Bet it’s been done somewhere.


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

For the love of running in celebration of Valentine’s Day?

As if the run up to Valentine’s day isn’t stressful enough, the timing of Smiletastic (Smiley Paces Sheffield Women’s Running Club winter running challenge) overlapping with it spawns new horrors.  Our beloved Smiley Elder having incorporated a seemingly innocuous requirement ‘in keeping with the season’ to complete an individual challenge as follows:

1. Individual Challenge: By Midnight Sunday February 25th I would like each individual to submit ONE (the first one from each is the only one accepted!) run during which they celebrated valentines day. This can be by something like dressing up (easy peasy), making an appropriate Strava drawing, road signs/names, etc. Your choice! Extra spot points available for particularly inspired efforts, but everyone who submits an effort will earn points in Week 8.

This is a dilemma for me.  As with many Smiletastic challenges, I found myself going through a series of stages akin to the five stages of the  grieving process according to the Kübler-Ross model.  You know.  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression before finally reaching acceptance.  In fact, I’d go so far as to add in the shock and testing addendums to be honest.  I do appreciate and enjoy Smiletastic, it certainly helps me get out there and run in the inclement, dark and dismal winter months, but it is at times stressful.  And although I invariably feel fantastic once the respective challenges have been successfully concluded, I usually despair at the initial seeming impossibility of every task before eventually moving on to realise I need to face up to whatever it is, come up with some solutions and ‘make it so.’

All the same, I’m not a massive fan of Valentine’s Day. It is afterall basically a commercial capitalist conspiracy to make single people feel inadequate and anyone ‘coupled up’ pressurised to buy pointless, over-priced, trashy knickknacks, knowing if they ‘fail’ the appropriate purchase test then the relationship which they hoped was burgeoning will instead be doomed, because a pink fluffy rabbit and enormous smutty card didn’t quite cut it.  Or they committed the cardinal sin of buying their partner sexy crutchless lingerie when the knickers the recipient really wanted were in fact runderwear.  Not the same people, really not the same.

In the spirit of anger and denial, I was originally thinking of just composing a treatise on why Valentine’s day is simply a cynical marketing exercise to fill the coffers of multinationals and contribute to the plastic waste in the oceans as people exchange worthless gifts that will be discarded and end up in landfill quite possibly even before the month is out.  AFter all, the rules do state that all submissions would be rewarded.  I thought I might make it a bit more palatable to the reader by decorating it in glitter or something, maybe.  But then again, glitter is really bad for the environment too is it not?  Also, could I be arsed?  It’s a dilemma.

I wanted to participate and do my bit for the team achievements, but not over-enamoured with the whole romantic love theme.  What to do? So I was stomping round the Sheffield Round Walk route yesterday (an attempt to put miles on my legs as part of my marathon training – another challenge about which I appear to be in complete denial) with this churning around in my mind.


What could I do that wouldn’t be too saccharin, but might meet the requirements.  Well, I’ll tell you what dear reader, just look about you!  Isn’t it always the way. A run can clear your head and offer up practical solutions to seemingly impossible tasks. No really.  As I made my way out of Meersbrook Park, a vision appeared before me.  A perfect manifestation of the complexity of Valentine’s Day.  Literally rubbishing the romantic ideal. Genius. What’s not to like?

Rubbishing romance (1)

There you go people, a bleeding, broken heart, shunted out onto the cold winter street along with the rubbish.  Rarely have I been so happy to see an over-worked symbol of romantic love sprayed on a litter bin. I’d go so far as to say ‘never’ in fact! That’s the individual Smiletastic challenge in the bag, I though, I need not write my treatise now, and waste glitter, so everyone wins. Yay!

But you know what dear reader?  This part of the Sheffield Round Walk just kept on giving.  Only a little further on and even more delights were delivered up as I was musing on my good fortune.  Look what I found next.  Not just another heart, but an anagram of our Smiley Elder’s own name, with the ‘M’ preface to emphasise her marvelousness, magnificence,  majesty, and mightily magnanimous nature, to all and sundry (as if that was necessary).  Things were most definitely looking up!

But you know what?  Valentine themed sightings are like buses, they come in threes.  Just a couple of hundred metres on, and another heartfelt sighting.  Now, this may not please the grammar police of course, I feel an apostrophe is needed somewhere, and personally I favour capitalisation in these circumstances, at least at the commencement of the sign, but even so, never noticed this place before:

My fathers heart

I was happy.

From the bottom of my heart.  Hearts everywhere, feeling the Smiletastic love.  Here’s another..  No really, it was there, under the bridge, near the muse heart.  Hurrah!  Not that I approve of graffiti, obviously, but don’t see why I can’t use it to my advantage if it’s already out there.


Love Sheffield

Love Smiletastic. Never said otherwise.  Honestly.  🙂

Didn’t see this one out and about today, but endorse the sentiment.



Categories: motivation, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Lakeland Trails, missed the boat, but grand day out all the same. Ullswater Emergency 10k 2017

Digested read:  well that was hilarious.  The plan was a 10k round Ullswater, starting with a boat.  Alas, no boat and a shorter alternative route, but on the plus side lots more time for Smiley mingling, impulse purchases and then the actual run was gorgeous.  All’s well that ends well eh?  Home to Sheffield with renewed running mojo and consolidated adoration and appreciation for the collective joy and fabulousness that is the Sheffield women’s running club of Smiley Paces.

So this was Day Two, of the Lakeland Trails finale weekend.  Much anticipated by Smiley Lakeland Trails veterans, this particular run involves the added novelty of a boat crossing on a steamer at the start!  I know, how cool is that!  The boat looks like this, it isn’t a scam because there is a picture of it and everything:

ullswater steamer 2012

The steamer was last sighted in 2014 as far as I know, and most definitely does exist as the 2012 picture above stolen from the Lakeland Trails Facebook page demonstrates.  Alas, in subsequent years foul weather prevented sailings.  (Do steamers sail?  Probably not, but you get the gist.  ‘Launchings’ maybe?)  Part of the problem was perhaps the November timing of the event – not the best time of year to be counting on calm waters and clear skies. This year the trail weekend was brought forward to the potentially more clement month of October.  Much excitement bubbled amongst us. This was surely going to be the year.  There was even more of a build up yesterday when the weather was gorgeous and the forecast for today, Sunday, promising too. The back marker had said so.  What could possibly go wrong? What trail running event wouldn’t be improved by a leisure boat ride across the scenic.  We were collectively beside ourselves with excited anticipation.

Oh, you need to know the basics? Yawn.  Well, if you haven’t been hanging on my every blog post since, I don’t know, ‘whenever.’ then you’ll need to know that the Lakeland Trails website blah de blah for the Ullswater 2017 described todays event as follows:

Lakeland Trails in Ullswater, Sunday 15th October 2017

Starting from the Ullswater Pier at Glenridding (CA11 OUS), your journey starts with a beautiful half hour cruise aboard the Ullswater Steamer “Raven”, which takes you to the start in the hamlet of Howtown, whilst being serenaded by singer/songwriter Pete Lashley. The 10km Ullswater Trail Run, 14km Ullswater Trail Race and 14km Ullswater Trail Challenge follow well marked and marshalled footpaths and bridleways along the lake shore, giving panoramic views of Helvellyn and the surrounding peaks, finishing in Jenkins Field, next to the Ullswater Pier. Much of the course passes through ancient woodland, which will be at its autumnal best. Underfoot conditions can be tricky at times, especially if wet.

A carnival atmosphere is guaranteed for both spectators and competitors, with live music, race commentary, food and drink all available at the start and finish. So, whether you’re new to trail running, an experienced athlete, or simply looking for an unforgettable day out in the Lake District, a family-friendly, festival atmosphere and some amazing trail running awaits you!

You can enter and find out more about each event here.

Fancy combining it with the Helvellyn event the day before? You can enter the ‘Dirty Double’ weekend.

Oh my gawd.  How amazing.  And now the day had finally dawned!

It actually dawned in the small hours.  Blinking as I lay under the duvet, fretting over how to complete morning manoeuvres in the dark without disturbing those dorm buddies who were doing the afternoon run.  Three of us in my dorm had signed up for the 10k and that was a 9.00 a.m. sailing. Registration from 7.45 a.m. Working backwards, we’d need to be up dressed, packed for leaving the youth hostel as we had to strip beds etc pre departure – but also leave food somewhere (not in kitchen) for lunch, and a change of clothes somewhere (not in dorm) for afterwards.  We had negotiated with our obliging dorm sleeping-in buddies that we’d have to set the alarm for 6.30 and we’d have to put the light on at some point, but just because we’d agreed it, didn’t mean that we’d have the absolute nerve to go through with it. I mean it seems too cruel.  Like chucking a bucket of iced water on a rough sleeper or something, to knowingly cause a slumbering Smiley to be wakened.  Cruel and unreasonable treatment at the very least!  I suppose if we did cause provocation at least there would be an added motivation to run fast afterwards…

rude awakening

I went through my preparations in my mind.  Running kit ready all folded neatly stuffed in on top of my bathroom bits, dry running shoes at the ready for grasping, a swift and silent exit should be a shoo in really cometh the hour. I got up at 6.00 as I couldn’t bear just lying there waiting for the alarm, made it into the showers, all was going well, until I realised a fundamental oversight in my kit prep.  No knickers!  How did that happen?  I’m not running commando, I don’t care what anyone else does.  Curses, all my preparations counted for nothing, as it seemed I’d have to rummage noisily through my stuff in the dark after all.  Getting up is soooooooooooooo stressful.

Amazingly, I did discover my lost knickers, eventually espying them abandoned on the floor in the middle of the dorm, right near the door, where they must have fallen from my bag as I tried to creep out of the room.  I retrieved them, remedied my dressing fail, and then decided I couldn’t inflict light on my seemingly still slumbering buddies even though I knew in my heart of hearts I must have already woken them up with all my crashing around trying to locate my M&S five to a pack cotton rich briefs.  Do M&S sell anything else I wonder.  Indeed, can knickers be purchased anywhere else?  There is Runderwear of course – but apart from there, nope, I don’t imagine they can. I decided all further preparations would be more effective post tea and breakfast sustenance.

I made for the kitchen.  Oh joy!  My other two dorm morning running buddies were already there.  Better yet, they too were clearly traumatised by the stress of pre-run preparations, and had also decided better to brave the kitchen early on before the crush. It was very comforting, we were able to share our individual neuroses with one another and then were immediately massively reassured to find we were not alone. We were all disproportionately angst ridden by the enormity of our current first world problems, which required us to get up AND get dressed; AND pack; AND forward plan lunch and later changing options; AND have breakfast; AND decide on short or long sleeved tops; AND remember our compulsory kit – and that’s not even factoring the minefield of deciding what time to leave for registration and what to do about communal food that we’d finished with but our car buddies might want later but still needed to be packed!  At least I didn’t have the added angst of wondering whether or not to run at all due to blister progression over night.  It’s so stressful all this running stuff in a communal non-home context.  Worth it undoubtedly, but stressful all the same.  Also, both of them had spotted my knickers on the floor earlier, and respectfully stepped over them. That’s nice too isn’t it.  Supportive even.

Heartened and bonded through shared adversity, we three went back to the dorm and switched on the lights with abandon, then vacated the area to sit it out until it was time for a mass exodus to the event HQ.  I was thirsty though.  I needed a glass of water.  I went up to the kitchen area but it was absolutely heaving, I stood outside the door blinking for a while as Smilies busily circled back and forth somehow avoiding collision like in that amazing video animation of extraordinarily juxtaposed happenings that I think was a Talking Heads ‘Stop Making Sense’ one, but might have been Sledgehammer – nope can’t find it.  If you know it, you’ll know it, it has one person walk across a room, then a ball bounces in through the window, new things keep being added until every inch of space is full but somehow nothing intersects with anything else.  If that image is too hard, then think about what it was like when you are a kid and two people swirl a skipping rope, and you have to run in and join several  others who are already jumping in there.  You are waiting for the right moment to run in, but you get one chance only, and if you misjudge it, everything ends.  You could ruin it for everyone. Don’t mess up! It was like that.  Only more terrifying.  Talk about a jump into the unknown…

skipping games

I stood wide – eyed and hesitating outside the kitchen door, it’s was like I was looking through a window into a parallel world.  I literally made several abortive attempts to plunge through the shifting gateway and into this alternative universe, but kept losing my nerve.  Eventually, I realised I there was a good Samaritan Smiley alert to my dilemma and looking out for me – albeit in a pointing and laughing at my ineptitude sort of way, but supportively pointing and laughing and that is a good thing.  It broke the tension and made me laugh too as I saw the ludicrousness of the situation. We talked through options, and, to cut a long story short, acknowledging the extreme pressure on facilities at just that moment of time, and the mass of people milling around I agreed that the sensible thing to do was just to take refuge under a nearby table, and emerge some time later when hopefully this crisis had passed.  Good plan.  Felt safe there.

hiding under table

Even so, I had to emerge after a bit. I got water from a downstairs bathroom, and then sat very, very still on the sofa in the foyer whilst Smilies darted back and forth and all around me like a spawning of whirling dervishes (whatever they are). They were all making the trek to the drying room and each emerged in turn exclaiming the lament that their shoes were still soaked from yesterdays paddle along the Helvellyn paths.  I was quite pleased I’d brought my Irocks as a back up plan. They aren’t massively cushioned, but they are grippy, and I’d rather start the day’s run with dry feet.  As I sat, trying to be invisible and not in the way and just blinking. Magic Making Smiley Samaritan actually came over to see if I was alright.  I must have been manifesting physical signs of shock, with which magic making smiley was very familiar after with the broken wrist incident and the woman looking grey only yesterday. I was alright, I was fine.  Lesser mortals might have accused me of attention seeking quite frankly, but I was so touched at her concern. It just shows all over again that Smilies are delightful, individually as well as collectively.   For this I thank you all.


At last, and thankfully, it was time to leave.  Food bags were stashed in cars, single bags of stuff heaped up in the foyer and off we went once again in a loose smiley convoy, down the road towards the start.  It seemed a bit cooler than yesterday, but calm.  Still beautiful.  Still well hung sheep about and curious locals looking on…

Got to the event HQ and it was all reassuringly familiar.  Numbers collected; tags on; baggage dumped; T-shirt of the day admired. Good oh.

It was all very efficient.  I saw a group of runners making their way across the field to the boarding point for the steamer.  I joined a Smiley crowd and together we chatted joyfully about the forthcoming boat ride.  Only, then it emerged one of our number either had taken, or was about to take an anti-seasickness tab. What?  Why hadn’t I thought of that? This was another whole area of angst I’d not previously considered.  I’m terrible on boats, but I’m also knocked out by anti nausea meds.  Better to dehydrate from throwing up than pass out comatose perhaps?   Aaargh, I don’t know.   I had not even considered this, and now I was thrown into panic. Doh.

Just as my mind was racing through the pros and cons of knocking back a pack of puke-u-not seasick pills, word got out.  No boats!

What no boats?  Really?  I’d missed the announcement, so went to ask inside.  Yep, no boats, only in fact more accurately it was possibly no boats.  They were going to wait another 15 minutes and see how it went. Fifteen minutes later the announcement came.  An announcer read out the words from the Captain verbatim from a scrap of paper – like it was a royal decree of something, which in a way I suppose it was in that it was non negotiable.  The wind picks up on the open water and it just wasn’t safe, there would be no boats today.   The emergency race plan would come into operation.  An alternative route would be offered with a mass start, a bit shorter.  Marshals would need time to get into their new positions. Sorry and all, but there you go.

To be honest, although people were disappointed, there wasn’t any massive unrest at this revelation, more a collective shrug and sigh of ‘oh well’.  To be fair, what can you do?  I’m sure the organisers were more disappointed than anyone given that whether or not the steamer tripped happened they’d still had to do all the lists of sailings and logistics of sorting runners out and everything.

In fact, the event director put it this way at the later prize giving:

We can’t change the weather. But what can we change? Our ATTITUDE to the weather.

It’s our 10th anniversary of the Ullswater Trail, and 3rd time unlucky, yet we still have an overall 70% sailing record. That’s pretty good.

After last year’s feedback from you, we decided to do four things, in case poor weather forced the Ullswater Steamers to be cancelled again :

1. Move the event three weeks earlier into October. Fat lot of good that did us!
2. Look at the Steamer Cruise in a different light, as a bonus, and not include any additional contribution towards hire of the Steamer in your entry fees. IF we sailed, we would foot the bill as a way to celebrate our Season’s Finale
3. If we had to, implement a FREE park and ride option for those wanting to use it
4. To add an additional, longer emergency route in the afternoon, so that the 10K runners didn’t have to hang around in the cold all day, and the 14K runners could run a longer course 

We’ll always listen to constructive criticism and change our plans accordingly.

So there you are.  Not sure what else they could have done.

Besides, I was quite taken with the idea of an emergency 10k eh?  I love the notion of that, being made to run 10k in a collective panic with sirens blasting and blue lights flashing overheard.  To call it a wet-weather contingency 10k may have been marginally more truthful but face it, it would also have been a lot less exciting as an abstract concept.  Post the event I noticed some Smilies had referenced the route on Strava as the ‘no boat run’ I know what they mean but that is surely tautology of sorts, well, maybe not stating the same thing twice exactly, but certainly stating the seemingly obvious.  Running races don’t generally require boats after all, so why say that.  Unless you have accidentally signed up for the Three Peaks Yacht Race of course, in which case lord help you. Does this boat ride look fun?  Would you feel like a trot up to the summits of Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis after a stint in that? Quite.

2011 three peaks yacht race

You might as well say it was the ‘no balloon’ race, though to be fair only the other week I began with a balloon and ended without one, so perhaps that would be OK. Try again ‘no bike route’ I suppose Triathletes might use that for time to time.  Oh, for goodness sake, stop going on about it, it doesn’t matter!  The point I’m trying to make is that we didn’t run the intended 10k route on account of the fact there was too much weather for us to get on the boat safely.  The organisers therefore set us off on a shorter, alternative route, implementing their ’emergency plan’ (like you have for nuclear accidents or terrorist incidents) and hence we were running the Ullswater Emergency 10k.  Hope that’s all clear.

The cancellation changed the morning’s running dynamic certainly. A few injured runners who’d been tempted to run because of not wanting to miss out on the boat ride (which to be fair is taking on increasingly mystical status) were now feeling maybe what with having only one functional leg/foot whatever perhaps they shouldn’t.  One or two decided they needed to get home more than they needed to hang on to do a shorter route.  It was all pretty philosophical, no tantrums. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a Smiley tantrum about anything to be honest.  It’s not how we roll.  We are more likely to fall out because everyone wants to do the washing up, rather than because no-one will.  Even then there would be no falling out, only a graceful withdrawal, that’s as high as the stakes go in my experience anyway.   Well it was at this point in the day anyway, how things change…


In fact, at least one Smiley was positively euphoric at the prospect of a shorter run.  I encouraged her to practise sounding disappointed at the news.  Or at the very least, if she was unable to suppress her joyful guffawing she should at least try and save the situation by turning it into a disappointed ‘hah! how could they?’ sort of exclamation. We got there in the end.

I didn’t have strong feelings about the distance, but I was delighted that the delay to the start meant a cup of coffee was now a possibility.  I didn’t have cash on me, but no worries, I had a woodrun buddy on hand who paid for me.   I was a bit sad I didn’t have cash for a Lakeland buff, but maybe at ten pounds they were on the pricey side anyway.   Better yet, whilst I was in the queue I explained about the new shorter route to someone who hadn’t heard and who genuinely had a look like thunder at the news and then turned away and punched the air with an audible  ‘yay’!  She’d been on some sort of masterclass on pretend disappointment.  Very impressive delivery.

I supped coffee feeling cold and admiring my shoes.  I’ve not worn them much, but they are extraordinary.  I call them my Tardis shoes, because they look really small on the outside but are bizarrely bit from within.  They are definitely wide enough, I can’t really claim they are massively comfy, because they lack cushioning, but they are roomy enough and don’t have pressure points which is usually a massive problem for me (though not with my new innov8s either to be fair).  Miscellaneous Smiley bonding and milling and chilling continued. Non-running smilies turned up to check out what was going on.  It was fine and dandy.


Coffee drunk, I went for an amble and I’m delighted to report the organisers had laid on some impromptu entertainment. There was a bride and groom who’d got married earlier at the lakeside, and were now going to take on the 10k with their bridal party in tow.    Impressive. There’s a whole blog post elsewhere about how they built their nuptials around the Ullswater trail. That’s commitment for you!   They were there in their wedding regalia, and we were encouraged to form a circle to congratulate the newly weds whilst the MC put on their ‘first dance’ music so they could swirl around in front of us to roars of congratulation and approval. A drone camera flew over head and a multitude of photos were taken. It was lovely actually… if a little prolonged. The ‘happy couple’ did look happy, but it was hard even for them to sustain eye-contact, and feel so lurved up that there was not a smattering of self-consciousness  as it became apparent they were being subjected to the full long play 12 minute version of the song when they’d been expecting the 3 minute dance one. Hilarious.  The tension was mercifully broken by an invitation to go in for a communal hug.  It was all delightful.  They had another impromptu communal wedding dance session at the finish apparently, but I missed that.  My usual cynicism aside there was something joyful about all that hope and optimism laid before you, and going for a run together is a great way to celebrate any occasion. Though I did feel for the bridesmaid, her outfit didn’t look altogether compatible with being expected to run atop those exposed mountains later on.  Definitely on the flimsy side, and no cagoule stashing pockets anywhere!

So watching that was a welcome distraction and a nice bit of habitat enrichment to keep us entertained whilst we waited for off.   Once that was over, I roamed around a bit more and eyed up my fellow participants for the adventures still to come, seemingly I was eyed up in return.

In the absence of alternative entertainment, and as there was still time to browse – I found myself increasingly drawn to the sports clothing stand.  I am easily seduced by running socks.  I had no cash on me yesterday either, or card, so it was easy to reject them. Today I’d brought my card with me in perhaps a subconscious acknowledgement of the inevitable failing of willpower.  I circled round a few times trying not to cave in, but really, me and running socks!  It was like Dougal on the magic roundabout encountering a pile of sugar lumps and being expected not to succumb.  I believe the records wills how that was the undoing of him in Dougal and the Blue Cat.  Like him, it was inevitable I could only hold out so long.  Socks were bought. I had a card.  My woodrun buddy who stood me a coffee earlier was complicit in the offence.  She spotted a rather gorgeous innov8 top.  We had to wrestle a little with our inner consciences, as it always feels wrong buying from anywhere other than from our local running shots, but these were such bargains. We were made dizzy by the opportunity and not thinking either ahead or straight. What would it matter that we’ll never be able to wear them in Sheffield, for fear of being outed for our consumer disloyalty, we were living in the here and now.  What can you do… Technically, it was only I who was guilty, as I made both purchases on my card so we’d be quits after coffee sub earlier on. My woodrun friend was blameless.  Good luck wearing the top on a Thursday woodrun though – at your own risk and all that.


To be honest, this hour and a half of milling around was rather fine.  It was like being at some sort of Smiley social.  The run was almost incidental to proceedings after a bit.  However, inevitably, eventually the call went up to assemble. There was a brief anxious moment for me when I joined the start funnel facing the wrong way and was nearly expected to take off at the head of the throng!  That would have ended badly.  I nipped round to the back of the queue and then edged towards a little gaggle of smilies for reassurance.  I’ve managed to capture accurately their expressions of delight at seeing me as I joined them.  This was it, any moment now, we’d be off!

We headed out the field in the opposite direction to yesterday… and immediately hit a bottle neck as runners queued to go through a narrow gate.  Fortunately, a quick-witted marshal stepped up and waved a load of us round to a bigger gate so for the first  time in my whole life I overtook some super speedy runners still queuing by looping round ahead of them. REsult.  Then it was onwards and upwards.  A bit much road for me to be honest, but this was made more palatable by pathologically lovely cheerful marshals – also at this point I was just slightly behind the bridal party and could hear rousing cheers chorus up ahead as they passed by-standers.  This was fine!

I wonder if this is what they mean by a runaway bride?

We turned off the road onto more gravelly track, as I trotted along, a guy running alongside commented companionably – ‘so there’s a lot of you Smiley Places out and about – what sort of a club are you?‘  It wasn’t meant to be rude I’m sure, more an reflection on my less than apparent running physique – someone asked me yesterday if the Smiley Paces tops were in aid of a charity, so it seems that we aren’t immediately identifiable as a running group even when participating en masse at a running event.  ‘Erm, a running club?’ I said.  He looked mortified ‘erm, I just thought maybe… like cycling‘ he said with growing desperation, discomfort and trailing off a bit.  ‘Well we are very inclusive‘ I said, acknowledging that based on me alone it might not have been as obvious I was part of a running group as I’d have liked.  He looked relieved at this rescue ‘excellent, as it should be‘ he responded, and then dropped away.  I really wish I’d said ‘roller blading’ though or even ‘voodoo’, next time eh?

Then soon we were on an ‘undulating’ path that offered extremes of up and down.  It seemed to go on and on. The views were absolutely amazing, and the narrow paths for the main part made over-taking impossible, so it felt even more legitimate than usual to take some shots along the way.   I just felt really lucky to be out in such fantastic scenery on a blustery autumnal day, uninjured and in the company of Smilies.  What more could anyone ask for?

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The narrow paths my have limited overtaking but were great for buddying up.  Fortuitously I ended up in a gang of four Smilies caught up at the same stage.  Excellent mutual photographing action shots followed.  Team work you see. Very important, we were our very own Smiley Paparazzi Unit:

Running must be so hard if you don’t stop every five minutes to take a picture.  My way is loads better.

We inevitably reached the steep, steep steps others had warned us off.  Walking was the only option, with hands firmly planted on knees to help.   Finding myself at the end of a queue of people plodding onward and upwards I said jokingly ‘oh dear I was going to sprint ahead but my way is blocked‘ only to have horror of unnecessarily obliging runners in front offering to part like the red sea and let me through. ‘no, no‘ I insisted in a slightly too panicked toned, that was my bluff well and truly called!

After a seemingly endless climb, we were ‘suddenly’ at the top of the ascent.  Right at the highest point of the run,  a hardy (or more accurately cold) marshal was being buffeted about by the wind but still smiling and pointing us on. Marshals are always awesome at running events, but I do think at this Lakeland Trails event they really excelled themselves.  Everyone I passed was keeping up clapping and cheering throughout, many had quips in addition and some offered up visual aid (reference hi-viz sheep) or other props (reference cow bells) as well as encouragement and directional pointing on the way round.  Much kudos to all you hi-viz heroes on the day.

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Much of the terrain was technical, though nothing like as wet as yesterday, but rocky and steep.  Oh my god I lurve my irocks though.  Today was our first proper bonding outing.  I’ve only worn them out and about a few times before, this was their first race route. They make me feel invincible, they  seem tiny on the outside but astonishingly can accommodate my plate like feet.  They grip on anything, I felt safe skipping along. They lack cushioning but a necessary compromise on this route, plus they have little padding or soft stuff to get water-logged so I barely got my feet wet. Result.  No blisters either, despite fact I’ve not really worn them much at all.  I may start to sleep in them.  Then again I may not.  I have limits.


From here it flattened out a bit.  Then soon enough, there was once again the helpful warning sign to ‘smile’ in advance of encountering the photographer ahead.  Just as well we were warned as he was crouching in a ditch this time, looking a bit sodden to be honest, but still with professional focus.  We were a veritable train of Smilies at this point, creating the teasing prospect of a Smiley group shot.  One declaimed ‘no jumping’ as we bore down on our photographer friend.  I didn’t jump (never do, in fact the photos of me apparently levitating were achieved by undertaking the whole of yesterday’s trail by zip wire, and paying the photographer to photoshop out the wires at the end.  That way, no concerns about concussion, just don’t tell anyone).  As I was in company today, and there was the unexpected route change, the zip wire option wasn’t available, so I had to resort to running on my actual legs.  Hence a lot less bounce in today’s photo. I’m relying on you my reader not to let on though.  People like mystery in their dull little lives.  They must not have cause to doubt my ability to launch myself vertically into space once in the frame of a camera lens.  Let them keep that little spark of joy….

Anyways, we didn’t co-ordinate all that well to be honest, apart from in the sense of our fine matching Smiley tops –  but the photos are nevertheless a pleasing reflection of our smiley quartet. See if you can spot the one Smiley with manifest leadership qualities from within the montage below.  You can see that I respected the ‘no jumping’ directive, opting for the slightly over-excited and maniacal stare pose instead.  Totally nailed it if I say so myself.

The photographer took some pretty amazing shots of the great and the good and the glorious and the gifted storming round.  Here are just a few of my faves of the day, from viking warrior to team jumping shots, all of running fauna was there to behold against the stunning Lakeland backdrop.  Nice out innit?

There were plenty of other Smilies snapped on them there hills too you know. Here are just a few.  We were like cockroaches swarming across a kitchen floor when the light goes on, only more immediately likeable.  Maybe more like golden fallen autumn leaves, blowing about in the sunshine and bringing joy to the world. Yes?  See for yourself:

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We pushed onwards, it was flat, and then teasingly starting to go down hill. Whilst it was tempting to take advantage of the gradient and yomp on, I found it was essential to stop to admire the scenery when we came across a wondrous waterfall.  This beauteous site had potential to get us on cover of National Geographic magazine for sure, or at the very least Life magazine (though I concede that might be a challenge given it’s no longer published) … Women’s Running at a push.  In any event, the posing was essential, even if it alas it meant we became separated from one of our number who was too focused to notice and so sped on ahead.  She mistook our amazing find for but a hobbit hole (which to be fair would have been pretty amazing too) her loss.  Besides, we really had to stop at the waterfall to cool off because we were on fire running round!  Honestly. We are hot stuff.

As we continued down hill, there were three of us now, bonding, staying together.  We had noted the absence of one, and whilst we regretted her loss, we respected her decision. Besides, we decided that regrettably, ultimately it would be her loss as we’d be having soaring stats on our Facebook pics in recognition of our en route selfies, she’d pay a high price missing out on all of that frenetic social media recognition for sure.  Life is cruel like that.  I’m not saying it’s fair or right, that’s just how it is sometimes.  Validity of one’s existence through the Facebook ‘like’ button exacerbated by the tyranny of the emoticon.  It was so much easier before all of this, when you only communicated what you did when away by a solitary uninspired postcard that reached your intended recipient many weeks after your sojourn away was long forgotten.

We went onwards, down the steep path, rock jumping, and waving overhead at the drone that mysteriously appeared above us at one point.  I did wonder briefly if this was just the logical extension of woodrun leaders ongoing surveillance operations, but tried to dismiss that from my mind.  We bounded on, waving at the householder who was leaning out to watch us go past.  Considering how exposed it is out there, there was a lot of support out and about. We continued, skipping by the friendly marshals that we’d passed on the way out who had perfected the art of perpetual motion in their synchronised support.

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Eventually, we were back on to tarmac road, and by a cattle grid we espied another photographer. The more gobby assertive member of our party berated the poor guy for apparently wasting time busying himself wiping down his camera lens when he should be photographing us.  He gestured beside him.   There was another camera set up on tripod and a drone beside him ‘they’ve been filming all the time’ he countered. Uh oh. Captured on film whether we were ready or not!


The idea of sticking together for the finish was mooted, but I wasn’t sure.  Road was coming up.  Whilst my younger smiley compatriots would pick up speed on the more predictable terrain it stops me in my tracks as my poor feet start to shatter and I don’t have the stamina to maintain a constant running pace.  ‘You go on without me‘ I cried out, almost pleading them to do so.  They would not hear of it.  They even paused and walked for a bit to let me get my breath back.  We headed off again just as some fellow Smilies appeared at the sidelines to cheer us on.

Finally, we were back into the field, round the blooming keyhole again and then, well, we just  couldn’t help ourselves. Shout went up for a sprint finish, elbows and all. Friendly buffeting rivalry that’s all.  I can’t possibly have been in the wrong as I am middle-aged and she is but a young stripling, so let’s get that cleared up.  I have a bruise too.  It was quite a fight to the line though, and pleasingly we ended up with the same finish time exactly, and no doubt the same fear of throwing up on the marshals collecting in the ankle tags.  Fun though.  I was surprised I had that in me.

Another T-shirt, yellow this time, but not a horrible one, I haven’t tried it on yet, but it is a technical one and female fit, which is something of an innovation in running events, a pleasing one too.  All friends again for the photo anyway, that’s the main thing, keeping up appearances… 🙂


We gathered up our bags and fellow smilies, before heading off on the migration home to the hostel.  Alarmingly, I discovered my Cheetah buddy had had to pull out early on in the 10k due to a knee niggle. That’s harsh.  Quite a few missed out on the Sunday run for diverse reasons, I suppose that’s the frustrating nature of it.

My sprint finish smiley stopped off at the medical tent for advice on her knee – well I thought it was her knee, I’m told it was actually her ankle, but hard to know with Manchuasen’s.  It’s technically true she has had an injury for ages, but personally I think she was seeking an explanation as to why she’d failed to pass me in the sprint.  The medic seemed very thorough, and the advise seemed to be every runner’s worst nightmare ‘rest and monitor’.  Noooooooooooooooo!


Medical attention concluded, we started walking back. We thanked and said farewell to the still smiling marshals who remained at their posts.

Then, with a terrifying familiarity the woodrun surveillance team materialised in front of us.  They had some pretext of running the afternoon challenge, but well, you know.  What with the drone earlier, I’m not sure. They seem perfectly lovely, but they would, wouldn’t they, otherwise how could they move amongst us so silently and undetected?

woodrun spies

It was like being in Sheffield by the Lakes as walking onwards we picked up more and more Smilies heading back and met more and more walking out for their afternoon romp.  For our part we Smilies shared our race experiences and reassured one another there were no hard feelings left over from our hard finish.  We are all Smilies, we are bigger than that!  Probably.

It was nice to see Smilies gathering en masse.  I was a bit taken aback by the rather blatant transfusion of haemoglobin en route to give competitive advantage re oxygen levels during the race, by one of our number, but then again, it does explain her awesome finish times.  I think it was that, someone else said it was red wine in her hydration pack.  Well, whatever works for you I suppose…. you couldn’t accuse her of being underhand anyway.  Shameless rather.


It was lovely to wave the afternoon runners on their merry way.   At this stage they were exuding hope and joy, entirely innocent of the knowledge of the mighty hill to climb ahead.  Bless.  It seemed only humane to let her carry on ignorant of what lay ahead for as long as possible.  Disillusion arrives soon enough for all of us.

happy innocence

Back to the hostel.  It was somewhat chaotic, with the YHA staff frantically hoovering around our bags in the lobby they clearly didn’t want us to hang around, that cup of tea and change of clothes I’d be hoping for wasn’t going to happen.  No worries, I changed my socks and shoes, and ate most of the contents of a crisp multi-pack which was great actually, as I was craving salt.

Then, reunited with my car-pool buddies we piled back in and off we went.  A straight and scenic run back to Sheffield by happy chance of avoiding the M6 in favour of the A66 (I think) stunning scenery and Autumn sunshine accompanied us home.

And so it ended.  With unexpected suddeness.

It was like a mini-bereavement being dropped off home.  The weekend is over, we are left with nothing but memories.  Fortunately they are all fine ones.  Wonder if we really will do it all again next year?

If we do, any more for any more?  Here are the filthy foursome – once again, in case you missed them earlier. It’s definitely doable, and some of the Smilies out there have unfinished business I know!

Filthy Foursome

They only look slightly manic in the circumstances, and not really grubby at all. I’m a little disappointed they haven’t double bagged their T-shirts – you know green from Saturday, Yellow from Sunday and Smiley Vest because – well that’s only right and proper. But hey, great pioneering work their team.  Same again next year I take it?  Or are you seeking a Fetid Five by somehow weaving in the 5k sports trail that seems to have slipped in as a Saturday special?

Oh you want to know the route?  I knew I’d forgotten something.  Hang on…

Here it is, stolen again from my woodrun buddy.  It was the wet weather route, again a bit short at 5.3 miles and just 884ft elevation, though that was pretty much up a straight rock stair case to be fair.

Ullswater non sailing route

And you want the results too?  There should be a link somewhere to all the results for the Lakeland Trails Ullswater day, enjoy, or not, as you wish.

So that’s it for now.  A happy Lakeland Adventure and Epic Smiley Tour to boot.  Thanks to the Lakeland Trails folk for organising an amazing weekend of running and providing some brilliant over the two days too.   You can browse through all the Lakeland Trails photo albums here, but it might take a while.

Here are some more of the non-professional ones I can’t bear to leave out.  It’s making decisions you see.  Hopeless quest for me.

If you just want visual snapshot of the day(s), and you don’t suffer from migraines, this video fly by is quite cool. Cheers innov8.  The longer inno8 video of the Lakeland Trails Dirty Double weekend (which is officially brilliant because I say so by the way) is here.

For the organisers summary of the event and results see the newsletter here

Just remains to say thanks most of all to my lovely Smiley co-conspirators, running buddies and friends.  I feel so lucky to have found you all, and so very proud to be part of such a supportive, funny, smart and talented lot of wonder women.  Together, we can achieve anything. Go us.

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That’s all folks.

Happy running til next time.


For all my Lakeland Trails related posts, click here and scroll down for older entries.

Categories: off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Well that was one hellofarun up Helvellyn! Lakeland Trails Dirty Double Helvellyn 10k 2017

Digested read:  my the Lakes are lovely.  My TomTom didn’t work which means no Strava so technically I suppose this entire weekend of running never happened, starting with the Saturday.  Oh well, worse things happen at the seaside.  The run was lovely but quite rocky. Smilies are lovely and they rock too.  We get to do it all again tomorrow.  Hurrah!

You can see how lovely we are here.  The shot is courtesy of the fine photographer man James who took heaps of amazing shots throughout the weekend. This is quite brilliant, as it means we can browse the photos and relive fond memories of the runs at will.  So, as I was saying, here we are:

gaggle of smileys

And that photo isn’t even half of us.  About 70 of us made it up to the Lakes for this epic running weekend put on by the Lakeland Trails team – in fact it is the weekend finale for a whole season of trail running adventures.  If you don’t know what it is, it’s basically a choice of four events over two days.  You can choose just to run one, or two – hence dirty double, or if you are a Smiley on a mission you can get really filthy and do all four. Smilies have been patronising this event for a while now, so the event organisers though perplexed, will indulge outliers by letting them enter whatever they want, after all a fool and their money are easily parted are happy to cater for bespoke arrangements given sufficient notice.   I’d like to be able to make the point that this privilege was restricted to Smiley Paces participants only as a sort of VIP service in recognition of our unique awesomeness.  Alas, I can’t really. It’s true the offer wasn’t disseminated more widely, but I strongly suspect that is a reflection on lack of other takers rather than Smiley exclusivity. Who cares. Smilies are a rare breed all the same! Go us.  Or go them, the fabulous filthy four people, not me obviously. I mean why would I?  Here they are though, for ease of reference.  Maybe a somewhat manic look in their eyes, but I don’t think the lay person could necessarily tell by looking just how suggestible they all are.  Maybe a hypnotherapist would know?  I must ask my carpet cleaner.  He did a weight-loss hypnotherapy group session and it was really good apparently, well worth the minor inconvenience of having to bring your own duvet.   Lost loads of weight with no effort since.  His insight on how it works is that hypnotherapists can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do anyway, but they can sort of help trigger the will power to do so.  Even so, it seems to me strange how this quartet was running but the person whose bright idea it was to demand such an offering was mysteriously ‘otherwise engaged’.  Definitely dark arts at work there somewhere.   Oh well, ours is not to reason why….

Filthy Foursome

I was going along for two times 10k, one on the Saturday and one on the Sunday, involving a boat, a steamer to be precise.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  As far as Saturday goes, the Lakeland Trails website blah de blah about this event says:

Lakeland Trails in Helvellyn, Saturday 14th October 2017

Starting and finishing at Jenkins Field (CA11 OUS), on the shores of Ullswater in Glenridding, the NEW! 5km Helvellyn Sport Trail, 10km Helvellyn Trail Run, 15km Helvellyn Trail Race and 15km Helvellyn Trail Challenge follow circuits along well marked and marshalled footpaths and bridleways that take you into the foothills of Helvellyn, with elevated panoramic views of Ullswater, and dramatic vistas of Helvellyn and the surrounding peaks. Underfoot conditions are generally good for those used to off road running, but can be tricky in places.

A carnival atmosphere is guaranteed for both spectators and competitors, with live music, race commentary, food and drink all available at the start and finish. So, whether you’re new to trail running, an experienced athlete, or simply looking for an unforgettable day out in the Lake District, a family-friendly, festival atmosphere and some amazing trail running awaits you!

You can enter and find out more about each event here.

Fancy combining it with the Ullswater event the day after? You can enter the ‘Dirty Double’ weekend here.

Doesn’t that all sound lovely. But first things first.  Got to get to the start line from the dorm first of all.

sleep well

To be fair. The accommodation was good, even though there were eight of us to a dorm it is spacious, but I just don’t sleep well with other people in the room.  It’s not so much that I’m disturbed by then. Quite the opposite, I seem to spend the whole night in that half-awake half-asleep twilight zone fearing dropping off too deeply in case I snore like a train and wake everyone else up. I have been told on different occasions that I’m ‘completely silent’ and ‘oops, yep, bit noisy there to be honest’, so I suppose the truth is somewhere in between.  Even so, I’d hate to be driven out of the Smilies by secret ballot for anti social nocturnal habits not of my choosing.   Or worse yet, suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, manifested in averted eyes, spotting groups whispering in corners that fall silent as I pass. The shaking of heads, the pitying looks.  Smilies are too nice to be horrible to me because of any such failing, but I’d feel the burden of shame for having let everyone down. PBs missed because of collective sleep deprivation that was all my fault.  No wonder I can’t sleep in a dorm.  It’s a nightmare.  Ironically, because even with a nightmare you’d get some kip.

Then there’s the ‘I’m bound to need to get up for  a pee‘ angst, the horror of which was massively exacerbated by being a dorm with the squeakiest and bangiest door known to human kind. FACT.  Once I’ve had that thought, speaking personally, it is just a question of how long I can reasonably hold out before giving in to the inevitable.  I did have to get up in the night twice, and yes, it was just me.  I am clearly inadequate as a human being.  And even then there is the question of are you better off fumbling in the dark and risking even more banging about or falling over and on top of a slumbering running mate or do you risk sending a shaft of torch-light onto your dorm buddies even though the beam might cause them to recoil and vaporise into dust.  I decided not to take the risk.  I was quite near the door anyway, so that was OK.

Morning came, ready or not.  I gathered up my gear and forlornly looked at my TomTom which had chosen this day of all days to go blank.  It’s never done that before, and I stupidly hadn’t brought my charger with me as it only works through my laptop – which I also hadn’t bought) and I’d fully charged it before coming.  A hard lesson to learn.  Lovely smilies various did offer up tomtom chargers, but they seem to have new models, it was to no avail.  Tragedy. La la la la, it’s a tragedy. Etc.  Naked running for me this weekend then.


Amazingly, even though there was only two showers for a squillion people I managed to get one.  It was hot, but only a trickle, still, at least I turned up fresh at the start, I don’t know that everyone else did. It’s not good when you have to do a DIY sniff test in the event HQ field at the start.  Fortunately, we are all too polite and comradely to draw attention to any such miscreant behaviour at the time.  Much better to passive aggressively mention it in a blog post later on say, and make out that no-one else within the Smiley tribe has ever been guilty of such an act pre or post chosing of kit for a run.  I think so anyway, and I’m sure you have no reason to doubt me.  You can see I was particularly poker faced about the whole thing at the time.  Why would I lie after the event?

RW sniff test

The shower bit was a win, but the general trauma of having to navigate a multitude of micro human interaction on waking,  including breakfast was positively terrifying.  After a number of false starts and being thwarted by the enormous pillar which takes up about 50% of the floor space in the communal kitchen and yet lacks a sign to indicate which is the correct way to go round it (I begin to understand why roundabouts in the UK are so confusing to those who are not previously acquainted with them). Eventually I found a corner on a table near another shell-shocked looking Smiley who appeared to be manifesting a similar stress response to situation. We ‘no speaking or even eye contact pre my first cup of tea’ people intuitively can recognise and find each other.  We exchanged brief knowing looks and then sat in comfortable silence at opposite ends of the table ignoring one another. That true camaraderie when you need it.

Post tea and porridge, which was OK, but not as nice as at home in my own microwave in my own bowl, back to the dorm and communal decision making procedures regarding ‘what to wear’. Long sleever or short sleeve?  Will there be a water station (nope).  Shoes, which shoes?  An extra layer of interest was the inspection of a room buddy’s blister. It’s not so much a blister in the traditional sense, in that it exceeds the surface area of a conventional compeed plaster, the large ones.  It was such a significant expanse that a veritable collage of compeeds were required to cover the area. Think decoupage, or is it décolletage, I can never remember.  It was very impressive though. But that too threw up more potential for concern. What if the extent of the plastering makes the shoes too tight?  Nightmare. I may have been without my TomTom but at least my feet were currently unblistered.  Count what blessings you can people.  Take nothing for granted. Nothing I tell you.

After communal faffing had run its course, we started to head off for the morning. Well, those of us doing the 10k did, the others who’d opted for the 15km in the afternoon, well I’m not sure what they did, just didn’t I suppose.  Not until later.  They were probably still drinking gin, or maybe foam rollering, I have no idea.

It was ridiculously exciting walking down to the start.  It was unexpectedly warm, light drizzle made rainbows over head and it was just gorgeous.  This is an obscenely beautiful part of the world, it really, really is.  There was a lot of water, flooding threatening to lap across the road in place, picturesque scenes and distinctive characters along the way.  Also, some very well hung young rams.  You couldn’t really not notice to be fair.  Rather unusual colour too I thought.  The wool that is, not the sheep’s tackle, I wasn’t going in for that close an inspection. Fixing the ‘caution runners’ sign on a bus stop struck me as a cruel irony, but there you go.

We got to registration a bit after 9.45 I think (our race started at 11.00 a.m.).  The event HQ was all a bustle and very jolly in my view.  The location is absolutely stunning, with boats in the water, fantastic mountain views all around and shafts of light coming through dramatic clouds to light autumnal trees in vivid golds and oranges was like a wonderland.

There were boards with lists of runners, and a course outline, you had to find your number and then join the relevant queue.  We picked up numbers and were issued with ankle tags.  I wasn’t clever enough to work out how to put this on unaided.  To be fair, I think it did require training to become adept at this. Once you know it’s easy enough but it wasn’t obvious immediately.  Maybe it would be to those used to being electronically tagged but that didn’t apply to me. Also I have tiny ankles.  No I really do.  I just looked needy until someone offered assistance, by which I mean they did it for me. Thanks Cheetah buddy. Then minutes later I brazenly helped someone else with what I hoped was the sort of confident and authoritative approach that suggested I’d known all the time and was massively competent at this whole race prep malarkey.  Pretty sure I pulled that off.  She had to help  me pin my number on straight though, so I it seems I am still ‘work in progress’ regarding my safety-pin use NVQ.  One day I’ll get there maybe, if I really try to apply myself…

Numbers on, baggage dropped, there was plenty of time to go for an explore. There were lots of loos, but alas they were not quite like the luxury portaloos in attendance at the Sheffield TenTenTen last weekend.  At least one Smiley, who shall be nameless was horrified by them.  It is true, it was something of an act of faith to take a pew over the open-pit below, there was no discrete barrier between yourself and the effluent of a thousand previous runners.  You do have a somewhat irrational fear of falling in, but given I can hardly climb into a hoop these days it’s fairly low risk I’ll plummet down a toilet bowl.  Brilliant for the comedic value of hearing about the outrage of an exiting Smiley declaiming at inappropriate volume ‘never have I seen so much shit!  I have had to perform on someone elses shit! Can you believe the shit in there!’ and so on. Bit of a theme there.  I’m more of a half full person myself. At least we had the loos, and to be fair they were most definitely at least half full.  Still, it’s good that Smilies speak their mind, you know where you stand then don’t you? …  Or nervously squat depending on the context.

obligatory loo shot


It was pretty much idyllic if you stopped looking down the loos and instead took the time to look up at the sky.  A rainbow, absent Smiley smiling down on us we like to think 🙂

Absent friends

Naturally, the setting required lots of photos and the taking of a great many selfies, as well as asking for outside assistance for group shots.  Handily, the jauntily legged photographer was obligingly taking loads of awesome photos and happy to help us too.  He took this one of me.

smiley view point

At the time I was taking this picture I think:


He wins with his shot.  Not only because it has the captivating image of a Smiley within it.  He got my best side too.  I have a feeling he may have taken photos before.  We got him to take one of me and Cheetah Buddy, contemplating the muddy road ahead, but that is still to come, meantime here is one my Dig Deep buddy took of us instead.

get a grip eh

Nice photography man James Jumpy Kirby also had the best leggings ever.  A bespoke item of couture that is genuinely unique. I had running kit envy I will admit. Still, it’s not a look everyone can carry off, so maybe the world has been spared the sight of me flaunting them in public.

Anyways, after our private photo shoot, he said he was seeking a smiley group shot, so I undertook to try to corral as many as I could.  It’s not an easy task, but I achieved moderate success.  Unbelievably, this picture is only half of us who went for the weekend.  It is quite extraordinary when you think about it, that 75 individuals would make the collective trip from Sheffield to Glen Ridding for this weekend away.  It makes my heart swell with pride to be part of this amazing group of women. Smiley Paces solidarity and support is remarkable, infectious and life-affirming.  Go Smilies indeed.  We can be a force for good in this world collectively, we really can. Or at least have a lot of laughs along the way, which amounts to the same thing.

VP milling

It is a rare thing indeed for me to be in a Smiley group shot, as usually I haven’t got back in time from the run to join the after snaps, so this picture makes me especially happy.

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Then there was lots more chilling and milling and chatting and selfie taking as we made our own entertainment before the off.

As the starting time drew nearer the atmosphere built. There were drummers!

drummers drumming

Instant party, I’d have been up for strutting some funky stuff, but alas, didn’t realise the party was happening elsewhere until later. Still, there’s always next year I suppose….  I’ll know who to hang out with for the ‘dance like no one is watching‘ detail.   Happy to embrace being a part of that.   I really liked the drummers, I think they would be a boon at any event.  Note to self, must tell Round Sheffield Run people.  They can’t rest on their organisational laurels for ever.  A small army of drummers is clearly the way forward for future event village entertainment innovations.

party on

I’m not sure they should have been displaying this disinhibition quite so close to the baggage sign however. Bit of feedback for you for next time perhaps?


You’re welcome.

Eventually, the shout went us to get us to the start funnel, and there was a cheery count down to awf!

starting line up

It was fun yomping off across the grass. Music was playing, there were some supporters lining the route.  It was all very good-natured.  We yomped back on ourselves round the field, and then quick bolt across the road past waving marshals, and soon we were heading up hill. I don’t know why it is that I continue to be caught out ever single time I do an event by two particular things which are annoyingly commonplace, ubiquitous even. Firstly, you are expected to run! Right from the start.  No really you are.  And secondly, that it often necessitates running up hill.  Despite the alluring vision of the gorgeous mountains all around us, I still felt the element of surprise as the realisation dawned that we were being required to run up one of them.

I tried my best I really did. The surface under foot was quite hard for me.  I love my innov8 parkclaws but their cushioning is limited. The path was stones, and fractured rocks.   Often running with water.  Very little mud actually, and the first part was really a grit path.

One boon about a mass Smiley presence at an event, is that rather like rats in a city, you are never far from a Smiley on a run.  This is mostly fine, but it does mean you get caught out slacking rather quickly.  Quite a few overtook me early on, but I think I blagged it OK, but explaining I was just waiting for them to catch up with me so I knew they were ok and then I’d  let them get ahead a bit so I’d have something to chase. They are bound to have believed that line aren’t they?  A trusting lot Smilies, not infected with the bitter cynicism that generally infuses me.  I can use their good naturedness as cover for my dark inner soul, so that’s good.

The hill went up and up. One car cautiously pushed through down the road –  I think it was probably full of other runners going down to register for the afternoon race. They waved at us cheerily as they crept by.  I was naked running without my Tomtom so had no idea what was going on.  I don’t really think I look at my watch when I run, but I like to have it so I can see retrospectively the route and elevation.  However, I’d forgotten that my TomTom vibrates every mile, and that’s really good for knowing how far you’ve gone and how far you’ve still to go. It was weird having absolutely no idea of time or distance that had passed, especially on a completely unknown route.  Still, Smiley buddies in abundance helped rally the weak:

en route somewhere

There was lots to look at to distract me though. There was the cowbell ringing marshal, some random guests at a cottage en route, laughing in disbelief but cheering with enthusiasm as we sped (ahem) by.

One passer-by saw me slurping from my water bottle and thought I was having a drag on an e-cigarette mid race.  Not an easy mistake to make.  I think from his tone he was more impressed than judgemental to be fair!

Onward I went, trying not to be discouraged by sight of runners other side of gushing torrent of a stream, high up on the hill, snaking across the mountain side like a trail of soldier ants.

They looked amazing though, like a stretch of colourful bunting flags draped across the mountain side:

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We carried on alongside a bulging stream that raged past in a positive torrent. Then over a little bridge and turning back, but along the steep and rocky mountain path.  It was very beautiful, but extremely wet.  Running water basically.  As I pushed onwards, cautiously, I met a fellow Smiley turning back as vertigo had got the better of her.  A DNF is always a sad, sad thing, but we had plenty of photos early on so that’s a run really is it not?  And a DNF is way better than a ‘fell off the cliff edge’ or ‘remains frozen to the spot on a mountain ledge three days later’ which are the alternative options as I understand it.

The really narrow steep bit had to be picked through at a walk.  This was companionable, as you could chit-chat a bit with other runners as you were practically stationary anyway.  I met again the nice lady I’d been talking to in the loo queue earlier.

Then there was the super friendly marshal with his hi-vis wearing sheep who was a personal favourite of mine going round. That’s really making an effort marshaling wise isn’t it?

high vis sheep


It was pretty steep to be fair. Some runners ahead were holding bits of bracken for reassurance as they crept along.  Not sure that having your fingertips gripping the end of a frond of bracken would offer much in the way of brakes in the event of a fall, but it seemed to bring psychological comfort, so that’s grand!  This runner looks like he was managing without hanging onto foliage as he ran, but you can see some of the lovely colours of the burnt orange autumnal bracken, and that’s the main thing.  Obvs.

burnt orange bracken

As I yomped onwards, alas I came upon a sorry sight.  Two of the fearsome filthy foursome smilies had abandoned their run and were with an injured participant. They were walking her down, trying to cheerily chat with her having got her nicely wrapped up in a foil blanket. She’d had a bad fall and rather spectacularly broken her wrist.  I offered help but was assured there wasn’t much I could do beyond making sure the marshals ahead were aware of what had happened, which they should have been already.  It did feel wrong leaving them, but logic dictated there was no point in me staying too.  It was a harsh reminder of the need to respect the environment, and how quickly you can get cold if you  do have to slow or stop.  I decided to concentrate a bit more and left off taking so many pictures until the terrain was a bit more predictable.

Marshals came and went, views were consistently spectacular and the wind picked up and dropped. Water continued to gush from everywhere, like running across the deck of a sinking ship maybe… bolts flying out of the wood as the water pressure builds and the boards awash with white water.

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Ahead of me other running buddies were also pausing for selfies and nearly stepping backwards off the edge – how I laughed!  I shouldn’t really can end badly like that poor student at the Seven Sisters cliff edge the other week…  I did offer to take a photo for them too, before skipping onward myself, past the teasingly positioned bench placed at a handy view-point, daring any runner to stop and soak up the scene in favour or running onwards….

selfie buddies

Finally we started to descend. There was a brief interlude along a nice bit of woodland track before ae tell-tale but appreciated ‘Smile’ sign so you know what’s coming.

Quick pause to hoik my knickers and put my camera away so I could look ‘natural’ running round the corner and into frame …  I think I cracked it.  It’s all too easy for the shallow, ignorant and ill-informed to ridicule the running style of others.  I find levitating the more challenging sections of terrain reduces the chance of concussion related running injuries.  I do concede looking around seven years old as a consequence is an unfortunate side effect, but we runners are prepared to make sacrifices to achieve results.  Just so you know:

LT me levitating again

Whilst I went for the nonchalant and unaffected running look, others with more exhibitionist tendencies shamelessly played to the camera. There were a few contenders for the ‘seen a photographer’ award but these are my personal favourites.  I particularly like the departure from convention with the jumping with poles shot, the artistic challenge to conventional boundaries in personal space where the guy leans in to the photographer daring him to hold his nerve and the team shot. Glorious. Bravo all of you, and thanks to everyone who made the effort on the day.  Was great fun choosing my favourites, a fact which I’m sure will please you one day, if you ever get to give it even a moment’s thought in passing.

Obviously, Smiley Club members were all hard-core runners speeding by with awesome running form. Look at them go. It is a fact doing jazz hands makes you go faster, so does smiling and waving, that’s why we are all so awesome in our running performances:

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Run shots secured, the end of the run came quickly.  More cheery marshals and we were onto a section of road.

Up until this point I’d been running with two other women who I’d assumed to be friends what with their raucous laughter and joint selfie taking on the way round (women after my own heart).  However, as soon as we got onto the rough tarmac, one runner shot ahead abandoning her running buddy entirely calling out by way of explanation  ‘she’s a pain in the neck‘ as she did so.  I was shocked, and looked it. I mean only minutes earlier we were all looking out for each other – she even alerted me to the fact I’d got a bit of mud on my legs going round at one point.  That was sporting.


She repeated ‘she’s a pin in her leg’ it means I stay with her when the ground’s uneven but she’ll be Ok now’.  Oh Ok. That made more sense.  We all found our own rhythm and were soon separated once again.

There followed a bit of road running, never my forte, but I had to abandon all hope of slacking off as I espied woodrun leaders walking in nonchalantly.  The more naive Smiley may have thought they were there to offer support, and indeed they attempted to support this cover story by clapping and cheering as I passed – but I suspect we woodrunners were just under surveillance.  Those accelerate spies are everywhere!


A band of other Smilies were along the path and lined up to give me a high-five en masse.  Love Smilies.  They were horrified that I wanted to stop and photograph them afterwards though. Different priorities I suppose…

Suddenly the end was in sight. over the road, down the tunnel of innovate flags, arms outstretched for a glorious finish..,

RW me running in

What a misdirection of effort that was!  It wasn’t the finish at all, we were made to do an extra keyhole shaped loop round the field and back on ourselves which nearly ruddy killed me. I had to hide briefly behind the tree at the far point so I could get my breath back before coming back round to the finish tunnel.  I think I got away with it, phew…  That was a nasty surprise though.  I thought the hill at the end of the Wingerworth Wobble was bad, but at least we were forewarned about that! This was finish route by subterfuge.  Not good!

Oh well, it was worth it, cheered in, and into the arms of welcoming marshals to relieve you of your tag and placate you with a T-shirt.  It was green this time, different for each race.  This is an acceptable colour I think, though I have a great many race T-shirts I’ve never been brave enough to wear in public due to their fluorescent overtones. The lime green Sheffield Half T-shirt being particularly vile even amongst the vile.  TenTenTen from 2016 is probably the best.

Into the tent to get my bag and jumper and there to my surprise and delight I encountered the two saviour smilies who’d walked down with the fallen.


They’d pretty much had to come the whole way down, but then were able to race to finish.  TEchnically not the intended route, but well deserved.  Hurrah!  No need to write an article for Runner’s World explaining why methinks. I was delighted because I was worried they’d still be stuck out there waiting for mountain rescue and miss out on the chance to belt round the Filthy Four.  They were in surprisingly good spirits, so that was fine.

RW smiley saviours

I commiserated with them that they maybe hadn’t had the race they’d wished for.  This got onto the topic of ‘really annoying things other people do at races’.  Apparently, one of the worst things for one of these two, is someone running with loose change in their pockets, jingling away.  Capital offence at least in terms of its annoyingness.  This neatly segued into my suggestion of cheering the mood by indulging in ‘fantasy rage scenarios’ i.e. when you fondly imagine what you would have done if only it were possible, socially acceptable and/or legal.  Or at the very least you thought you’d get away with it undiscovered.  To my extreme disappointment, they initially misjudged my suggestion, taking it to be the altogether nicer ‘let’s change the subject’ and talk of ‘Fantasy Race Scenarios’.  As if that would be any good when you need to allow a fellow human being the catharsis of expressing their rage. Besides, we already have a fantasy race in the form of the aforementioned Round Sheffield Run – though even that could be improved with more unicorns and rainbows (which I’ve fed back every year to a wall of silence) and the attendance of a band of drummers.   I soon put her right, and we had a great time thinking of appropriate ways to act out ire.  It’s not appropriate to go into them all here, but the notion that loose change in a pocket might spontaneously heat up into liquid metal, run down the legs and reform into an ankle shackles was pleasing.  It would have the added bonus of preventing offenders from running onwards, so very practical also.  I was very glad to be able to drag down my fellow smilies to my pond life levels of social interaction.   My work is done.

By now I was feeling the cold, so I just cheered a few last runners in, and then began the walk home with two of my car share buddies.   We were in dire need of coffee, but decided to walk towards the Youth hostel to find some, rather than get further away into town where to be fair the options were much better but it would take longer to get back and changed.  The options weren’t many, but we found a post office come shop that sold pretty much everything, including surprisingly serviceable coffee, which you bought in the store and sat and drank in a sort of converted garage space next door.  Not the most salubrious of surroundings but acceptable all the same.

Coffee drunk, back to the hostel where we cleaned off our shoes and left them in the ironically titled drying room. To be fair it was warm in there, but nothing really seemed to dry. I suppose it was a tall order given the number of soaked items of footwear festooned around.  Enough to cure a shoe fetishist by sensory overload surely?

KH shoes

I was very glad of a hot shower whether just a dribble or not.  Lunch was bread and cheese and peanut butter yum. Then a snooze, pleasantly interrupted at intervals by returning smilies who could regale me with their adventures from the day.  There may have been a little bit of opportunistic T-shirt stroking as well now I come to think of it.  Well, it was a Les Brutelles one, you have to don’t you?

T shirt covetousness

In the evening it was one mass communal meal.  A practical option, if not the most inspired of menus.  Then there was chatting, sharing stories and general spreading of Smiley good will.  I opted for an earlyish night and dorm chats like a sleepover for grown ups, others revelled through to the small hours having come supplied. And quite right too!  I’m sure gin counts as a carb, and carbing up was needed if you were doing it all again come the morrow.

food for weekend

So that was it for Saturday.  For the morning runners anyway.  Other runners were available, there was a veritable plague of Smilies out on them there hills at times!  Even with some disguising themselves in mufti, we were still a force to be reckoned with, although thankfully a benign one in the main.

I’m not really fussed about times but full 2017 Helvellyn results are here for those of you who mind about or even notice such details.

Oh, and as for the route?  Well, as you know I had an epic fail where route recording is concerned so I’ve had to steal a Strava screen shot from a woodrun buddy – frankly from my point of view it’s  probably a blessing not to have my noticeably less impressive rendering of the route posted on-line for posterity.  Hopefully casual readers will assume this is me. Massively improving my running recently.  Inspirational stuff even.  Go me!  Don’t let on dear reader, please don’t…

Helvellyn route Lakes Dirty Double

It was actually a bit short of 10k, coming in at 5.3 miles (don’t know what that is in kilometers and can’t be bothered to google it) with 1,074 ft of elevation. So now you know.

Run one down.  And  you know what. It was glorious.  Tomorrow, you get to do it all again.  Fabulousness upon fabulousness, how lucky are we.

So exciting.

So well done Smiley Buddies one and all.  This going en masse to the Lakes malarkey is a very fine thing indeed.   How lucky are we to have one who moves amongst us willing to put in the work to make it so.  Smiley Magic Maker – we salute you!

Smiley magic maker

Who knows what tomorrow may bring… patience people, the time will come!

For all my Lakeland Trails related posts, click here and scroll down for older entries.

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

Token women! Hallam Heroines…*

*All parkrun volunteers are by default heroes FACT, so good to know we must be too!

Anyway, don’t be childish.  That really is very immature.  Clearly I mean token women and not toking women, as you would know if you bothered to listen and concentrate properly.   Those of you sniggering at the back know who you are.  Drugs are not tolerated at parkrun (apart from the previously referenced caffeine in chocolate covered coffee beans which is a different thing altogether and a quite legitimate pre-parkrun product.  Heavens, it is even a recognised running fuelling strategy inasmuch as there is some serious research relating to the link between caffeine intake and running prowess). Caffeine aside,  no post of mine will condone any illicit activities, including that of toking inappropriate herbal substances.  Should you wish to relive, reminisce about or simply romanticise your misspent youth you will have to make do with hoiking yourself around to watch tribute bands from the appropriate decade, reading alternative blogs, maybe even surreptitiously sorting through old faded Polaroids (from first time round, not when they were reintroduced as retro chic) and/or gazing wistfully at torn Riz+la packs unearthed from the back of your sofa.  You will find such fantasies have no truck with me!  I am referring to an entirely more wholesome sort of toking, I mean token women.  Glad we’ve cleared all that up.  Here we are, looking lovely!  Not under the influence or inappropriately giggly at all.  Rather a natural high!  This could be you too dear reader.  It could be you…  Read on to find out how.

token women

So, I wasn’t sure about whether I’d make it to Sheffield Hallam parkrun at all today.   I was really poorly last week, proper, ‘this is definitely meningitis this time‘ poorly, only it turned out not to be.  Even so, once my temperature had abated, and I’d surfaced from nearly a week under the duvet I was definitely decidedly wobbly on my feet.  Nipping to the co-op to buy soup reduced me to tears yesterday, so running today, just 24 hours later was never really an option.  Not to worry.  One of the great joys of parkrun, is that even when you aren’t running you can still have all the fun of participation in the grand collective community event that is parkrun, without any of the unpleasantness associated with actually running the course.   Yay!  ‘But how?  By what dark artifice and mysterious magic is this possible?’ I hear you cry .  To which I reply,  ‘dear reader, it is simple – you can volunteer!’

So, about volunteering.  Ideally, me in a parallel universe, would forward plan sufficiently to get myself on the rota in advance. This isn’t really my forte, forward planning I mean.  I like to think it’s because I’m a fun-loving spontaneous sort of person rather than just hopeless at personal organisation.  In fact I’ve been turned down from volunteering at Hallam parkrun on multiple occasions because of leaving it too late and being told the rota is full so there is no room at the proverbial inn.   This is ironic as often my home run struggles for volunteers, but it just seems that I always try to opt in when everyone else does, the day before a race or whatever.  Anyway, it’s been discouraging. Hence, I decided that today I’d just roll up and see if there was a job for me, and if not I could always be an independently operating unofficially sanctioned cheer leader, not too bad as a worse case scenario to be fair.  I woke up early, not deceased as a result of my terrible illness, so no excuses, there would be no surrender.  Oh no, so I wrapped up warm and headed into the wintry sunshine of Endcliffe Park.  Isn’t it lovely though – got to be worth getting up and out for in anyone’s book.  (Thanks Douglas Armstrong for the photos today by the way – he and George Carman are sharing the paparazzi load at Hallam these days, we’re pretty blessed with photographers in the Sheffield area – for better or worse, but more of that later…).

the gathering

By the time I arrived 8.30 ish, there were already a fair few donned in their pink hi-viz, and the run-director was doing sterling work in allocating other roles.  Hallam parkrun has just suddenly exploded like an algal bloom in terms of participation, which is great, but does create some logistical challenges.  I lingered hopefully on the periphery of his vision until a suitable role was found for me.   Previously  I’ve been both a marshal on the course, and a bar-code scanner, today though it was a new adventure.  Today, I would be token back-up! More accurately ‘Finish Token Support’.   Get me and my newly acquired awesome levels of responsibility.  The acronym FTS hasn’t entirely caught on, so best I write it in full for now, if I added the initials after my name without explanation I might be expected to deal with enquiries as diverse as those relating to the Forensic Testing Service or Floppy Trunk Syndrome, both of which are currently outside my areas of expertise.  Finish Token Support though – newfound competency in that area I think you’ll find!

Volunteering is a funny thing. All the roles are critical, in that if anyone is missing the whole event comes crashing down.  It is an accepted truisim that runners can’t run without the volunteers (well they could actually but they wouldn’t get a time) but it is also true that there’d be little point in all the volunteers turning out without some runners to organise.  The yin and yan of parkrun I suppose. I like volunteering, it’s a great way to see the whole field of runners, and it is way more fun than you might expect.  Good camaraderie and a whole different way of enjoying the event.  However, I have to be honest, I do find some of the roles a bit scary.  Shouldn’t really.  None are beyond the competence of most, and you don’t ever have to do anything you don’t feel comfortable with.  (Unless maybe you are a run director, but they don’t usually dump that on you if you just rock up without warning as far as I can tell).  If you are apprehensive about volunteering, please don’t be, you will be welcomed, you will have a laugh,  it’ll be fine.  In the unlikely event that something should go wrong, really and truly it’s a run not a race, it’s a free event, the world won’t stop turning, the sun will still come out tomorrow, and pretty much any error can be rectified.  Worry not…

Even so, I concede, it is curious to me as well which volunteering roles are (to me) stressful, and which are pleasurable.  Personally, I’d find the stress of time keeping a bit much.  I’d fear sudden tremors might result in my issuing a staccato of multiple clicks at a critical moment, or a temporary seizure would render me motionless and helpless with zero clicks registering just as a whole crowd came stampeding across the finish line like a cast reunion of Riverdance.  That would be my scary role – not so for everyone though. Fortunately, the pair allocated this responsibility today had no such reservations. Quite right too, basically you click a button.  Not too hard as long as you don’t over-think it.  A back up timer does the same, so you aren’t on your own with it anyway.  Kudos to those who step up to this role.  Each role has particular responsibilities.  I like being a generalist clapping and pointing marshal, but even then there is the worry about ‘what if‘ you are called on as first responder in the event of a medical crisis of some sort.  In reality, parkrun is a community, other runners are likely to help out too, plus there are radios issued to marshals at the more remote postings at parkrun these days.  Even so, whilst not wishing to be alarmist, I couldn’t help but notice in the post parkrun perusal of the photos that some runners ran so fast some of their fingers fell off whilst running.  In this instance, I’d have had no idea how to help!  I guess they had so many running endorphins and so much adrenalin whizzing around their blood streams they hadn’t noticed yet.  Hope they were OK about it when they got home….

Back to business.  The fun bit about getting there early is, apart from feeling busy and important in the way that only the donning of a hi-viz can bestow,  you get to see others assembling in all their many guises, shapes, sizes and celebratory accoutrements.  First timers querying the what and the where and the why of parkrun (amazing there are still some first timers out there to discover parkrun, lucky them)  and old timers adorned with balloons. Yay to the centenarians  single and dual.  That’s some serious running miles you’ve put on your legs. Go you. There were a fair few milestone runners at Hallam parkrun today, to be fair, awesome – forget how long it’s been going sometimes, it takes years to reach triple figures, that’s commitment – and commitment with style and sartorial elegance too if these photos are anything to go by!  centenarians I salute you!  You are rocking it.

milestone runners

There was a lot of milling about as people assembled.  There was the first timers briefing – all those bright expectant faces welcomed into the parkrun family and launched on the new adventure that is parkrun.  That’s their Saturdays sorted for the next few decades then, do they have any idea what they’ve signed up to?   Then there was the group briefing.  It was quite uplifting watching this from the other side of the tape. So much diversity, so many colourful tops, and to be truthful, the runners seemed a lot more attentive than it feels like when you are in the midst of it.  I’m quite short, and I can’t always see or hear the briefing if other runners are chit chatting in the vicinity.  It seemed orderly from this new perspective.  One of many surprises of the day.

It all seemed to be going swimmingly. There was the count down to the shout of ‘awf’, and off indeed they all went.  Like greyhounds out of the trap, but with more lycra.  I took it upon myself to do some clapping as the front runners came round the small loop chasing back towards the cafe.  It’s harder work than you might think clapping when there are 616 runners.  But I daresay it will be great for limiting the growth of my bingo wings.  As I clapped, and did the odd shout out to familiar faces or running club brands (Go Smileys, Go Vegan Runners, Go random club/event name that I’ve never seen before) the run director and others tried to do an approximate head count to get a feel for the numbers taking part.  I didn’t know they did this, I suppose it helped give a feel for what the challenge would be with the finish funnel, and also for how many are out on the course as it comes to a conclusion. Well, those are possible explanations, I think we all know the real reason is the weekly sweepstake on who can guess the closest figure to the actual number of completers.   I’m not sure if there is a cash prize for this or if it’s just for glory.  I strongly suspect that the run director has a bit of an advantage here though in that s/he has the authority to order snipers on the course and/or disqualify individuals at will.  I’m not saying that happens, only that I wouldn’t personally ever bet against the house in such circumstances.

Once all the runners had heave-hoed themselves past the playground, attention turned to funnel creation.  Now, it wasn’t all that long ago when the finish was but a flag and the funnel an understated strand of plastic tape, and that was about it.  Over the years it’s grown into an increasingly elaborate construction, with twists and turns and marshals in place to try to enforce ‘no funnel ducking’ regulations (to mixed success).  However, latterly, participation at Sheffield Hallam parkrun has exploded.  Like an unexpected and unexplained algal bloom, runners have just appeared as if from nowhere.  Such enthusiasm is great, but has created some logistical challenges, not least, how to stop a pre-finish bottleneck.   There have been some weeks where runners have been backing up way down the course, which is stressful for marshals and runners alike.  It is a run not a race, but who are we trying to kid, everyone likes to know their time as accurately as possible really don’t they.

Anyway, it seems that last week (when actually I hoiked myself over to Graves parkrun so didn’t witness it for myself) a new initiative was born.  A new funnel design was engineered, implemented and made its impressive debut, it was a success, as evidenced by the somewhat triumphalist expressions of this ‘made it happen team’ on 18 March – unfortunately, the photo doesn’t include much in the way of clues as to how they achieved this, only their delight at having done so. Their idea may have been genius, but it wasn’t documented for posterity.  No worries, the wheel could be reinvented. Why not?  What could possibly go awry?

funnel engineers

I can report a fabulous four-lane funnel was duly created.  I can take little (actually none at all) credit for this.  As planning conversations were earnestly debated and structures moved about I hung back.  It was one of those time-sensitive scenarios when you don’t really want to ‘help’ as you might unwittingly jeopardise all the progress that had been made to date.  I favoured hovering around in earshot, ready to leap into action by twisting red and white funnel tape around a pole at a moment’s notice, but resisting the urge to offer unsolicited assistance which quite clearly would have been in direct contravention of the ‘too many cooks’ ruling with which we are all I’m sure familiar.  Amazingly, it did come to take shape.  I salute the run director for managing to keep together (just) an outward disposition of cheery calm whilst this challenge was undertaken and completed  It is worth being reminded from time to time that the RD role is quite a responsibility, and we are lucky to have a team willing to step up to take it on week after week.  Anyway, the upshot was the creation of a thing of simple beauty. I tried not to worry too much about my overall incomprehension about how this might work in practice.  It wasn’t the time or place to be voicing doubts. Anyway, as has already been established, I was finish token support only, support.  The proverbial buck was not stopping anywhere near me.  (Collective glory by association though, count me right in!)

The funnel established, there was some time before the runners started crossing the finish, so  I was able to do some quality bonding with my Finish Token erm, well ‘Supervisor’ I suppose.  Pleasingly, she seemed to have at one time at least, shared many of my anticipatory neuroses, but had prior form in this role. Thus she had lots of useful advice and strategy pitches from which I could learn.  Also lots of reassuring damage limitation pointers in case of need.  (Abandon dropped finish tokens, they can be removed from the results later – always check you are taking tokens from the correct end of the pile, that kind of thing).  Key points, in case you fancy this role for yourself.  The finish tokens are all threaded carefully in number sequence on a piece of cord. This is kept safely in a snug little hi-vis bag.  The accepted wisdom is that you leave this bag on the floor at all times, removing only a small pile of tokens at a time, in order to avoid a token spillage catastrophe. This approach required some modification as we realised we were going to have to migrate between finish tunnels  in this new incarnation.  Not to worry, we were a team, we would overcome.  I have to be honest (I don’t actually, but I just can’t help myself), the thread of finish tokens we dragged around behind us reminded me of nothing more that a trailing tapeworm being ejected from a dog’s bottom.  I fully appreciate this analogy is both unwholesome and unwelcome, but it also happens to be absolutely true. Once seen, never forgotten.  Trust me on this. I will spare you a googled stock image picture to prove my point.

Let me replace that in your mind’s eye.    My regular reader will know I am particularly partial to a nice duck shot.  This one is classy indeed.  I thank you Dougal  (other photographers are available) for this offering, George may have pretty capacious shoes for you to fill, but you did pretty good today I’d say. Got to appreciate a finely turned out mandarin.  Bravo.

classy duck

So, back to finish tokens. The plan was this.  Basically, we took it in turns to distribute tokens. The first person would take a batch of say 30 tokens and give them out, as they got to the last couple they’d shout and the second person (me) would step in with the next 30 tokens and the first person would step back and collect their lot ready to go.  Easy.  However, a bit like rubbing your stomach and patting your head, to mix things up a bit, we also had to migrate between the finish funnels. The new system is that finishers fill up one lane of the funnel, and then once they are all squished in, someone at the finish point directs the next lot of finishers into the next line and so on.  It sounds really complicated, but worked surprisingly well. The only challenges were newcomers looking bewildered in a ‘why can’t I have a token now’ sort of way as they stood at the end of the lines waiting for us to get to them, but I’d say it was a success.  I felt we were a good team, and it was fun having a volunteer buddy. Plus we could even enjoy the looks of suffering on the first finishers, noting that just maybe they work way harder than I ever do out running. I can just about cope with getting out of breath when I run as normal now, but some of the guys in the finish funnel were practically crawling up towards us and dry retching as they did so.  Nope, that doesn’t happen in my world.  Impressive to see, but not my running aspiration, though it does remind me I probably need to push myself out of my comfort zone quite a bit more to improve.

It is a great boon of volunteering to get to see the speedier runners who have normally gone home ages ago by the time I get round, but it isn’t only they who impress. There are the buggy runners, the team players, the juniors, including some real tots who were full of smiles at their achievements.  It was also fun for me as I’ve been away for ages, so it was great to see and greet pretty much every runner and see so many familiar faces.  It did get pretty busy at some points, but not so busy that I didn’t get some extra hugs and high fives from friends old and new.  All very affirming.  There were runners coming back from injury, milestone runners, runners in new gear, runners in old gear.  The whole continuum was out there.  It is genuinely inspiring to see.

I also think we need to celebrate the slower runners and remember how important we are too – these guys look all speedy and at the front and everything, but they are only running that fast because they are being chased from the back.  And if they get close to lapping us – well, we are giving them a target to chase aren’t we. They’d be nothing without us to chart their progress by (eh hem).   Seriously though, it’s the inclusive nature of parkrun that is so awesome, I love that it’s an event that has such a broad continuum, inspiration comes from both ends of that colourful spectrum of lycra!

only fast because being chased

Is it a bell curve?  Anyway, after a flurry of activity, it levelled off a bit as the main bulk of runners had passed through. Time to chat with other runners and the photographer for the day alongside the runderwear ambassador who had knocked out another PB. Almost getting dull, she’s done that week after week for ages now!  We were debating the merits of being photographed at parkrun, and the extent to which it is motivating and helpful.  In summary, it is a marvelous thing to have photographers at parkrun capturing the occasion and sometimes the hilarity of our running endeavours.  All of us admit to a sort of addiction to reviewing post-run shots be they from parkrun or any other event.  The issue is our general appreciation of all the photos juxtaposed with our inner cringing at any that might be particularly unflattering of ourselves.  It’s a fine line.  This led to speculation about whether or not there may be a gender issue when it comes to photos.

Now, we all know Regal Smiley exercises considerable power of veto (which is not the same as editorial control) over the issue of which photos make the cut when Glorious George is operating the camera.  She has long been acknowledged as the real power behind the lens in that respect.  She has learned to pronounce on the acceptability or otherwise of photos,  with a skill, speed and judgement that is usually only associated with those who appraise diamonds for a living.  She can tell practically without even looking, whether or not an image is fit for public circulation. It’s about assessing whether the subject would, having seen this picture let loose on the world, ever be able to leave their house again without disguise, let alone continue to go running.  I cannot be alone in silently thanking her for undertaking this task so selflessly on behalf of photographed runners everywhere.  Today’s photographer does similarly jettison photos that are likely to mortify the object of his art, which is good to know but not the point. The point is we were debating whether or not there was a gender thing re vetoing of photos.  Is it the case that  relatively more men take some perverse pride in the gruesome ‘and here I am retching over the finish line‘ snaps whereas women may be more likely to favour shots at the less gurning end of the continuum?  This was one view mooted.  I don’t like to generalise, but I think there may be something in this.  On a good day I can guffaw along with everyone else at the comically bad running shot of me in action (and there are many of these), but there are some that are so unflattering (at least I hope they are unflattering and not reality of my appearance in motion) that I’d not only never run again if they made it into the public domain, I’d never leave the house again either. Fine line indeed.   OCR  (Obstacle Course Race) photos are particularly trophy-orientated in that respect.  ‘Look at me experiencing high voltage electricity charge through me whilst I battle through a pool of crushed ice‘ for example. Honestly, it’s not a look everyone can carry off, yet Facebook profiles are littered with such snaps.  And I can see why, totally, I’m perhaps as delusional as everyone else…

Anyway, there were plenty of happy sights to behold going round today though.  Not an arctic enema or mud slide in sight today at Endcliffe Park, as people sprinted round.  Joyful, each in their own way.  You’ve got to look on and smile at this slide show.  There were some amazing photos of juniors running too, some really adorable tots going round today, but I haven’t included those shots as I’m not sure it’s appropriate to do so, but if you saw them for yourself you’d have smiled too, maybe you did and you did.  I hope so 🙂  Run Happy indeed!

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It’s great to see how each and every one of us is motivated by our own personal goals – cake, running down cancer, or the simple joy of running for its own sake.  Each to their own.  The volunteers had their own stories too I’m sure.  I’d love to do that one day, get every participant’s back story for a single event (runners and volunteers) I think that would be awesome.

I’m pleased to report that today at least, nobody vomited at the end of this parkrun.  Elsewhere, it was a different story – at least one smiletastic contender (the winter running club competition for the Smiley paces Sheffield Women’s Running Club) threw up fairly spectacularly at the end of her tourist run at some random parkrun somewhere.  I know this, because she tried to claim a bonus point for this on the basis that this surely was evidence of near super-human effort in running.  I’m not sure on this one.  It might be of course.   But it might also be the aftermath of an inappropriate Bacchanalian frenzy the night before or just picking up some sort of unfortunate streptocooccal infection.  Even if it wasn’t, there was an absence of proof provided either in photographic form, or in carefully bagged and tagged forensic form. Whilst we must be thankful for such small mercies, it is a tricky area to judge on therefore.  I’m glad it’s one for elder smiley to arbitrate on and not me.  On the subject of Smiletastic (yes we were) the photos suggest badger action underway at Hallam too – but, whilst not wishing to absolutely cast nasturtiums (but also not wishing to allow such a fine opportunity for a malapropism to pass unused),  I suspect a bib-mule in action here – what with smiley paces being an all women club, but then again, perhaps it’s all gamesmanship in action. Who knows, the stakes are high as smiletastic 2017 reaches its climax for sure!  Far be it from me to judge, I am but a witness to history…

smiletastic badger perhaps

Anyway, back to funnel practicalities.  Erm, well, it was sort of complicated and simple. Complicated to explain, perilous at times, but yep, it did sort of work, this four filtration funnel system. The photo doesn’t really help but here we go.  Poetry in motion we were, go us!  Loving the Strider Bobble Hats too.  Classy.

Whatever the role volunteering was pretty awesome today.  Look at this cutey getting her love token at the end. Gotta love a parkrun that let’s you be part of this!

skillful token support

So if you have come to see that you have been missing out and are now craving a slice of the action?  Get yourself on the volunteer rota and you too could be rocking the hi-viz and counting down to your own purple T delivery day.  Yay!  Better yet, one day you might even be in possession of a clipboard!  I know, there is no greater authority on earth than that!   I can’t promise it would be every time, but it is a real possibility once you’ve proved yourself.

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Oh, and don’t you just love Endcliffe Park?  We are lucky indeed.  The backdrop to a glorious collective endeavour.

love our park

So that’s it really.  Hallam parkrun event 335 put to bed.   All it’s mini-adventures complete for another week.

Tomorrow is the Longshaw 10k.  I’m still not up for running so will head over and volunteer instead again I think.  Why not, sunshine is pretty much promised.  I’ve just got to remember the clocks will change (in the correct direction) and all will be well!

See you there.

clocks change

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For all my parkrun related posts – including Sheffield Hallam parkrun click here

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dirty Double Dispatches Direct from the DD Devastated Dropout :(

It should have been me!   I should have been here.  Curses.

Call it a ‘conscious uncoupling’ if you will, but the bottom line is I didn’t make it through the Darwinian selection process that had to be negotiated to make it even to the start line of the Lakeland Trails Dirty Double  this weekend.  You know the science, survival of the fittest and all that.  I failed. I am gutted.  Seriously gutted.  I really wanted to do this race, albeit as much for the social smiley takeover angle  as the actual running bit.  It is a measure of the extent of my mid-life crisis and/or evidence of how I must surely be a victim of alien abduction – what other possible explanation can there be as to how my sense of self has been so altered over time that I actually shed tears of frustration and disappointment about not making it away this November weekend to run around a lot in the cold.  Only a few short decades ago I went to quite considerable lengths to avoid any sporting endeavour, including regularly getting ‘lost’ between the changing rooms and playing fields whilst at school.  An act with which I can only assume my PE teacher enthusiastically colluded with, as I never once got caught.  How times change.  Now I feel deprivation and paranoia.  Why can’t I go?  It’s not fair?  Let me go and play on the fells?  Everyone else is going – why not me? Fortunately, I may be shite at running, but I can lay on a pretty darned indulgent pity party, so all was not lost!


I am fully aware of the ludicrousness of all of this.  I know other far more serious runners who have been thwarted in far more important running endeavours, but I suppose up until now I’ve been relatively lucky.  Spared injuries by my risk averse running techniques I’ve not really ever had to miss an event before, I can usually yomp round somehow.  Even if I don’t participate either with glory or dignity than at least I do so with a reasonable degree of confidence I’ll make it to the end eventually. I’m not even injured for goodness sake, just picked up some grim viral thing which has made me metamorphose from being an inspirational running blogger (ahem) into some sort of deeply unpleasant hybrid between a sweat-fountain and a phlegm factory.  One that can’t breathe to boot.  All of this is incompatible with being seen in public or walking to the chemist, let alone running anywhere or sharing a dorm.  So it is, rather late in the day and probably for the first time, I’ve come to fully appreciate it isn’t making it to the end of the race that is the real challenge, sometimes it’s just making it to the start.  For me, this weekend, in that respect, epic fail.


It seems that no sooner than I got my unlikely London Marathon Place, I’ve been plagued by illness.  This is doing nothing for my survivor guilt I don’t mind telling you.  Consequently,   I’m doing my training in reverse, almost completed my four-week taper with significant front loading in the carbing up strategy as a consequence of comfort eating.  At this rate, when my health is finally restored I’m going to have to start from scratch.  Fortunately though, today I saw by chance an episode of ‘This time next year‘ and people were telling Davina about the unlikely things they’d accomplish over the next 12 months, and what’s more apparently doing them.  (I imagine they edited out all the no-hopers/losers but let’s not dwell on that).  I hang on to the notion that I still do have time, worse things have happened to other people, especially at sea, and maybe, just maybe, this conscious uncoupling is all for the best….  It was my decision to pull out, but it was a bitter choice to make all the same.  Sometimes doing the right thing is hard, but I’m in it for the long game with my running journey (I was going to say ‘career’ but that is stretching the truth too far even for me!)

So, what is it that I’ve missed out on and why?   Are you insane?  I’m missing EVERYTHING, my life is now ruined.  I’m missing out on:

  • a fab run in the Lakes (twice – a 15k round Helvellyn and another 14 k round Ullswater);
  • a boat trip with music accompaniement;
  • hanging out with awesome women for a wise-cracking weekend;
  • the retrospective hilarity of forced communal living;
  • porridge prepared and served as if ambrosia for the gods;
  • fabulous scenery;
  • limitless amusing anecdotes;
  • carrying out ethnographic research/ method acting techniques in preparation for my forthcoming running-themed murder mystery novel;
  • pasta and prosecco parties;
  • material for my running blog post finale.  A write up of this event was to be my last post pre-departure for new lands and new adventures overseas.  Curses.  No chance that could happen now.

More specifically, for those of you who haven’t been concentrating, this is/was to be basically a weekend in the lovely Lake District that offers up a smorgasbord of trail races over two consecutive days.  You can choose from a 10k or 15/14k done as a ‘race’ or as a ‘challenge’ (same route, more time to complete).  All in an awesome location, with Saturday being based round Helvellyn, and the Sunday around Ullswater – including a boat ride with a musical accompaniment.  I don’t think there was karaoke or requests as such, but jolly appealing all the same…


An advance party of Smiley Paces scouts went off last year and had a lovely time – albeit much of the pleasure was retrospective.  They experienced apocalyptic weather conditions but pulled through with the sort of camaraderie that is only generated through shared experiences of adversity and too much prosecco (or gin).  Consequently, these pathfinders pronounced the event to be overall both anecdote generating and memorable.  A plan was hatched.  Next year (which is this, now indeed in November 2016) the whole Smiley Paces club membership should decamp en masse.  Patterdale YHA was to be commandeered, and a whole new Smiley Race Tradition born.  A Smiley Takeover of the Lakeland Trails with some considerable style and  pizzazz (a word which I’ve just looked up to check for its official definition to find it means: an attractive combination of vitality and glamour – how apt).  What could possibly go wrong?


Well, actually, quite a lot.   Despite some initial apprehension, I took the plunge and signed up months ago and had been really looking forward to this for a variety of reasons, not all related to running.  There was the whole physical challenge bit of course, the trails are set against a stunning backdrop, but more so, the appeal was for a mass outing in a gorgeous location, and a big positive and supportive Smiley Party.   I’ve only once before in my life been on a mass takeover of a Youth Hostel.  It was a New Year Party and we went to a remote loch side location somewhere in Scotland.  It was a surreal experience.  I didn’t know everyone in advance, but it made for quite an intense and memorable weekend, albeit one during which I had at times felt trapped with unstable others.  There is a reason why contemporary horror films always commence with a scene which demonstrates there is no longer a mobile signal available and you are surrounded by impenetrable forest.   It gave me the idea that it would be great sometime to write maybe a murder mystery based around such a premise – you know the type of thing, dark nights, no mobile reception; inclement weather and lost on them there hills.  Patterdale YHA and a bunch of unknowing Smilies would be the perfect way to do some background research for this project.  Jessica Fletcher does it all the time, and she’s a great role model.

Unfortunately, I’m not very good at coming up with plot, so I was thinking I’d have to adopt a method acting type approach in search of material – you know, experiencing it all for real in the name of authenticity.  Regrettably therefore, had I attended, there would have had to have been a couple of unexpected murders, or near misses at the very least, but I like to think this sort of collateral damage would have been a sacrifice worth making to help bring my best-selling page turner to fruition at some future date.  I’d donate some of the profits to further Sheffield Running initiatives in general and Smiley Paces endeavours in particular obviously, so that commitment to stumping up some blood money would make it all legitimate I’m sure.  Even if some are a bit less than sold on the idea, I’m sure slaughtering another runner in the name of art would be less anti-social than not washing for 3 months say, which is another illustration of (admittedly pointless) method acting in action.

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Sooo, everything to run for.  Except, as the time drew near, I was ill.  It was quickly apparent I wasn’t going to be well enough to do the 15k /14k  distances.  I began by contacting the race organisers to see if I could swap to the 10K (they said possibly, but only on the day as the participant lists had already been finalised), but as the days ticked by I realised I’d have to cry off.  Still, ill wind as the saying goes, I missed out on doing the method based research for my trail-running themed murder mystery, but on the plus side, everyone made it back alive… this time.

Nevermind, it was the only realistic option, armed with lemsip and a newly acquired inhaler, I could enjoy the event vicariously.  If I’d thought of it, I’d even have got myself a white cat to stroke whilst I observed it all unfold in front of me.  After all, it was more fun  than expected watching the olympics and Paralympics and I didn’t get my act together to enter those, so I’d just have to stalk the pilgrims that made it to the Patterdale rendezvous and experience the event through their eyes and my diseased and misinformed imaginings.

As for now not being able to do a post on the Dirty Double on account on not actually being there.  Well, sod that.  One should never let the truth get in the way of a good story, it might even be an advantage not having to nod too much to accuracy. It certainly helped with the write up of the Inaugural Doggy Dash 2017.  I’ll have a stab at it (though I’m not committing to using that as the murder weapon in the final version, running spikes or a moved checkpoint might be just as fatal when strategically utilised, you’ll have to wait and see….)

So back to bearing witness to the events of this glorious weekend as they unfolded.

It seemed as if even getting to the venue, let alone the start-line was rather more challenging than originally anticipated.   Committed participants had to battle past the four horsemen of the apocalypse to make it just to the start.   I was got by pestilence early on, but I was not alone.  Numbers dwindled.  Facebook posts increased in frequency as the event weekend drew nearer.  Wisdom was shared by previous runners, determined to help as many succeed as possible – albeit some of their words of wisdom were apparently valued as much as pearls before swine.  Incredibly complex logistical operations were mooted, negotiated, confirmed, abandoned and redrawn.   Rather than heading off in convoy, risking the whole running club membership being taken out in one act of sabotage, like the Royal Family, Smileys would travel separately.  They formed little break-away smiley groups and set off from different locations and at different times to confuse any enemies.  To ensure this cover was absolute, they also confused each other quite a lot, and there were relatively few passengers or drivers who had any concept of who they might be traveling with let alone where or when.  Bit like a secret santa.  You have a vague idea presents are to be exchanged, but don’t dwell too much on the details of their exact origins, just go with the flow, pretend to be delighted with the comedy christmas socks or thong and move on.


Packing plans were shared.  Prosecco seemingly taking priority for space over say running tights, with at least one runner only narrowly avoiding being made to run the whole two days in nothing but her school knickers.  A chilling thought – literally as well as metaphorically.  Authoritative advice to improve performance included not falling over in the shower and knocking yourself out on the morning of the race.  This sort of insight is I think particularly, helpful, because it wasn’t the most obvious, but when you come to think of it she definitely had a point there.  There was much angst over fell shoes versus trail shoes and sudden realisation that ‘essential kit’ involved hats, gloves, waterproofs, wellingtons, brrrr, it was going to be cold.  In fact it really, really was.  Early evidence showed SNOW up top.  I know it’s november, but I didn’t expect to see that.  Joyful, but slightly intimidating too!  The photo below was taken on the morning of the run, I’ve not yet seen an ‘after’ shot  – hope they aren’t still out there, disoriented by snow blindness, resorting to eating one another.  It would really mess up the Twelve Days of Smileys Christmas Challenge if loads of us are still yomping around having gone feral in the Lakes.  Oh well.


Not all made it through without incident.  Those who survived pestilence, had instead to tackle fire, as barricades of blazing lorries barred their way.  Persistence meant the occupants of the Fun Bus did make it through like fearless, invincible heroines in some post-apocalyptic road movie.  This was just as well, since without them famine would also have potentially knocked back the morale of the team. The Fun Bus occupants having been entrusted with the communal porridge provisions for the entire Smiley cohort.


Without these bulk porridge supplies, without them to prepare them, no breakfast for anyone at all!  No breakfast equals no carbing equals no racing.  FACT.  (Bit like the ‘for want of a nail’ proverb,  only MUCH WORSE!). They also were on some sort of mystery quest, having with them some magical lucky keys, that comprised (reading between the lines) a set of extra special ones namely: the key to happiness; the key to life; the key to survival and the key to running success.  Most critically of all, the key to cheetah buddy’s bike lock (I think).  There’d be no holding back those four  horsemen if the Fun Bus didn’t make it through with the keys.  They did though, so worry not.  Death and War were thwarted for now, but we haven’t had the American Election results yet so you might want to keep on working on your Anderson Shelter and get Ocado to do an extra delivery of bottled water; canned and dried food early next week, just in case….