Posts Tagged With: running

Making it Massive! Moving it at Monsal Trail parkrun

I do concede that to the untrained eye we might not appear to be doing a massive amount of actual moving around in the banner pic, but that’s just a quirk of when the picture was taken. We were moving it for an honest, 5km for starters, because that’s the parkrun route, and it was definitely parkrun ‘Monsal Maaaaaaahoooossive’ as yoof speak would phrase it, apparently, so all good. This I have been told by a reliable but confidential source, and who am to disagree with that pronouncement?

Join me for the Monsal Massive low down as my most recent parkrun fix.

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Monsal Trail parkrun this week – but I’m thinking you might have guessed that already? If so, well done. Have you also guessed that I’ve lifted many photos from other parkrunners again? My camera isn’t really doing the job these days, but I’m coming round to the view that just as I increasingly have my own personal escort at the back of parkrun events, so too, it is handy to have at least one dedicated official photographer around to document these adventures. Life is definitely easier if you have staff attending you I find. I’m really hoping for a personal chef and a personal trainer to rock up some time soon too, but it takes time to find the right people. parkrun day was sorted though, staffing wise, so that was good. Thanks to my tail walking companions and multi-tasking photographers both.

Another week, another parkrun, another week of ouchery.

Is it boring that I keep going on about my ailments? It must be. I’m so over it myself. Yet, I feel this context is helpful in terms of making sense of my current parkrun adventures, I can’t talk about my parkruns without reference to how my health impacts on how they go. It seems that I have entered that demographic that not only spontaneously makes noises when getting up and sitting down, but also has to do a mental physical assessment check each day on waking. It’s very tedious. Pain is lonely. Also annoying. Very annoying indeed.

The big medical adventure last week, was having someone inject steroids into my big toe joint. FYI this hurts just as much as you think it might, the numbing ointments and local anaesthetics doing little to make the procedure any more bearable. Well, I mean, obviously they must help, but OMG I’m not putting my body through that again. Apparently my big toe joint is a bit small, tight and arthritic so the person administering the injection had to have a bit of a jab around to get it in (they don’t just guess by the way, they do have an x-ray up on a screen to refer to as they plunge about with the needles) and maybe because I’m on blood thinners I got quite a bit of bruising and swelling and – of course – a rare but not that rare reaction – which cased my whole toe joint to flare up for 36 hours afterwards. It was beyond excruciating, I may have railed at the world, screamed into a void, sworn never to put my body through anything like that again and honestly, were I not vegetarian I’d have gnawed my own leg off to stop the pain. I was back to not being able to cover the foot with a sheet let alone get shoes and socks on. However, it did then ‘suddenly’ improve, so parkrun became a possibility again – well parkwalk at least. However, it all feels a bit tentative on the tootsies, you can surely grasp why it might. It’s hard to know if there has been any improvement as a result of the shot, or I just feel a bit better purely in contrast to the agony immediately post the jab. Oh well. Just goes to show pain is relative, and you have to try these things sometimes, even if only to rule things out,. The medical treatment equivalent of kissing a lot of frogs before you meet you actual love. Hmm, I’ve probably gone as far as I can with that analogy. I’ve subsequently seen a physio who said that you need to not do anything too much for a couple of weeks at least to allow things to settle as the procedure is basically a trauma to the foot, albeit for long term gain, so perhaps it’s unsurprising this turned out to be a particularly painful parkrun. Oh well, hindsight eh? Has a lot to answer for.

Where to go though? I was originally thinking Rushcliffe parkrun, but long story short (an unusual statement from me I know, and probably not even true) headed to Bakewell Monsal Trail parkrun instead. In essence, this is because I’d have the experienced, friendly and photogenic tail walking team from last parkrun day at Chevin Forest as my personal escort. A bit like having my own personal staff to carry me around, only they do this only figuratively, not literally, not having access to a parkrun endorsed sedan chair being part of the challenge. I do get that recruiting volunteers is a struggle these days, and even the most modest of sedan chairs needs quite a team to lift it aloft for the whole distance. I would happily forgo the extra folk with the fans at this time of year if that helped at all, but it’s still a bit labour intensive for the average parkrun. Reminder dear reader, if any is needed, that every parkrun appreciates volunteers, step up if and when you can.

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I’ve said a bath chair would do, but they ain’t biting. I don’t know why, buggies are fine at parkruns after all. Did you know that sedan chairs are also called palanquins? No me neither, I thought that was a perilously endangered trafficked animal. Every day a school day!

Whilst we are engaged in edutainment, I learned a brilliant new thing this week! I always thought the way to a builder’s heart was through biscuits, decent coffee and builders/Yorkshire tea, but guess what? Actually, don’t bother even trying, I don’t think you will be able to. The real way to their heart is though processed cheese triangles! I know! Who knew? Well, all of us now, obvs, but I felt it was in everyone’s interest to share the scoop. Such serendipity. Could be a game changer! You’re welcome.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I made the call to head to Bakewell Monsal Trail parkrun. Having made that call, it then materialised there would be other With Me Now pod listeners too, including Team Burrelli freshly sporting 250 tees following shared milestone celebrations last weekend. Wait there’s more – 50% of the tail walking team would be celebrating their fiftieth different parkrun location making her an absolute cow, which is tremendous news. There’d be an outfit for that for sure. Yep, I’d go there. Hurrah. Also, just a hop from Sheffield, so less ‘stupid o’clock alarm setting’ and more ‘just another 5 mins in bed’ before having to surface and face the day.

There was even talk of additional deferred fancy dress making an appearance this week – we have the outstanding pirate costume in need of an outing after all, as well as potentially an inflatable cow to be donned. In the event, the pirate got marooned en route to the parkrun (now that is a long and painful story) and the cow thought the better of fancy dress that some might thing a bit too jolly for a period of mooing mourning, which is understandable, though a bit of a shame too. Pirates in particular are having a terrible time at the moment, on account of the Queen’s Funeral coinciding with International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I’m thinking they won’t be conducting the ceremony observing that tradition, such a loss.

A weird juxtaposition of dates you’ll agree.

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Oh well. This further deferment will simply serve to build anticipatory excitement even further. Eventually the moment shall come when all those pent up fancy dress outfits shall surge forth from their bottle neck in one great tsunami of OTT costume couture choices at some future event, people will gather from near and far; high fives will be swapped; jumping in the air shall be the order of the day; photographers will flash their cameras; barcodes will be brought and scanned – there may even be cake – and it will be glorious. FACT. And it’ll probably be at York parkrun on 15th October 2022 if you’re interested.

Also, just so you know, lack of fancy dress, didn’t mean nobody dressed fancy. Au contraire! Check out the shoes and socks options flaunted on the trail today. Some excellent buffery and yellow heart accessorising too, and that custom Brooks t-shirt is The Best!

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That t-shirt! What’s more, it was an actual freebie! I’m so jealous. There are hoodies as well apparently. Wowsers. Brooks are one of the parkrun sponsors now, and attend various events unannounced, where you can test run their shoes and they also give out the odd freebie to random finishers. I’m not sure what this parkrunner had done to merit this honour, but to be fair, she’s appropriately delighted by it. I would be too. I genuinely like Brooks stuff, I got some freebie sunglasses from them at an event way back and they are absolutely brilliant, wore them for the London marathon back in 2018 and many times since and they are good as new. I’m totally stalking the Brooks Facebook pages now, in hope of the slightest of hints as to where they may descend next. I’m shameless #brooksrunninguk @brooksrunninguk #parkrunhappy choose me!

Hmmm, they are toying with us though. Playing hard to get – it seems we will have to not only stalk their social media pages, but also harness our psychic powers to find them. Oh well. I love my parkrun apricot too 🙂 and I have patience. My time will come.

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Never mind, where was I? Oh yes ouchy feet and parkrun touristing, I’ll get there in the end.

It wasn’t too early a start, and the drive over in early morning sunshine gave gorgeous light across the dying back heather. Expansive views to lift the soul. It was all going splendidly, until I came across an unexpected road closure and had to do a grand detour. I arrived at Hassop Station carpark after 8.30 and it was already really busy. There is a very limited amount of free parking, but I’d forgotten about those spots and was too late for it anyway. There seemed to be a field open over the road where many parkrunners had parked up, but I wasn’t sure if you had to pay for that, and didn’t want to add in the extra distance, so I coughed up the £3.50 for three hours parking. I don’t begrudge parking fees generally, but that does seem steep when you are probably going to use the cafe as well. This wasn’t a cheap morning. I’d hoped to be earlier as I was going to offer to be the tail walker having heard my original buddy no couldn’t make it due to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and rubbish garages relating to newly purchased cars. My logic was, I am sooooo slow everyone ends up waiting for me anyway, so I might as well be that person at the back, and then I wouldn’t have the agony of someone else trying to jostle me onwards at a pace more that I could muster. It’s so awkward when others try to jolly you along. I was counting on the other tail walker repeating her outstanding service last week and being content shouting support to other parkrunners and getting creative with the photos as we went. Yep, that’d work.

Except I was too late for that, tail walker sub was already in place. Which is good in a way, since it shows how parkrunners are happy to step up to cover for one another when things aren’t going to plan. I’d just be limping round at the back as usual then, with my personal escort.

The first thing to remember about Monsal Trail parkrun is that it’s actually Bakewell parkrun. Well, maybe not any more strictly speaking, but it definitely used to be, and now it isn’t, but the pop up banner is very much still saying Bakewell, so that’s confusing if you are touristing and are on an alphabet completing schedule and have lost track of what country, county or rural paradise you are in. Do you follow? People still call it Bakewell although really it’s not, it’s more Hassop, and Monsal Trail is more accurate still. Like Endcliffe is still known as Sheffield Hallam and Knavesmire parkrun is still known as York. Oh wait, hang on…. Whatever, the point is, it will play havoc with future Facebook memories, but for now, you have to improvise with the pop up banner that’s to hand, and that’s what happened. Those posed photos have to be taken, just as if it ain’t on Strava it didn’t happen, how can you be sure that any given parkrun wasn’t but a dream unless you have the pop up pic to proof it? Ooh, I wish we could have actual pop up photos, the way we used to have pop up books in the olden days. I suppose in the future we will, and they’ll be holograms. For now we have to make do with jpeg files, but fortunately they are lovely. We spent a while trying to get the making it massive moves nailed. It would help if I understood the whole concept a bit more, but I reckon I blagged it pretty well in the circumstances. What massively cool dudes we are. Hurrah.

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Foreground is official photographer, soon to be official cow and experienced escort, centre is me with White Ted on this occasion – and that’s the sub tail walker all smiles and raring to go. We are quite lucky to have her in the UK at present as she’s a world parkrun tourist prone to seeking out new adventures all over the place. Catch her if you can. Oh, and I’m crouching down in a futile attempt to stop my stomach from blocking out the sun, I’m not that short. I mean, I am quite short, but I can see over the pop up sign without standing on tip toe despite what the photo suggests.

The id explanations are just in case you are curious, but there won’t be a test or anything, so you don’t have to concentrate too hard on who’s who, in fact it’s probably better if you don’t. Just keep calm and carry on. We know each other purely through parkrun in general and the With Me Now podcasts and live streams of parkrun lockdown in particular, which is pretty remarkable really. I don’t think I’d know anyone at all if it weren’t for parkrun and the people who live in my laptop. Oh and the quarantine quiz too of course – more of which later, possibly. Depends if I remember. I have an EWFM* too, obviously, but that’s in an entirely separate category of gloriousness all of its own. Obvs.

Yay, for jolly planned meet ups of With Me Now tourists, and a selfie of the party at the back posse pre parkrun . I’m assuming it’s expensive to replace the pop up sign, and actually, I have a vague feeling that there might be a pause on new ones anyway because of the need to change the sponsorship names. I think that might be why we still have the Bakewell parkrun sign. The other – perhaps more obvious explanation – is that what with the hiatus in parkruns and a change in the event team, no-one has been able to pass down the necessary knowledge of how to fold up the sign. Hence, there it sits, in perpetuity, unless and until some gifted travelling passing parkrunner shares their secrets and normal order with respect to the tidying away of things is restored. The main thing is DON’T PANIC! Well, I mean panic about many things, heaven knows there’s enough catastrophes kicking off in the world – just not about that. Save your panic for scenarios like the planet burning and forgetting your barcode. It’s all about perspective.

So in all seriousness, this is one of the parkruns that during lockdown was re-routed and renamed but kept it’s event counter ticking. The start and finish remain in the same place, but the route is now an out and back in the opposite direction. I’m in the position of having previously completed this parkrun when it was still Bakewell parkrun, but it morphed into Monsal Trail parkrun on my stats, which wasn’t a problem but did mean my profile suggested I’d completed a route I actually hadn’t, only now I have, so problem solved. Be happy for me. I am generally in the mood for touristing as I’ve been so unable to do anything for years, but this is a new route on a familiar course so didn’t feel too much like a repeat.

Oh and I feel I should say more about our companion cow. Look! Here she is.

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Last week a Jill in the Box but this week a complete cow or just half a Cowell depending on how you calculate these things. The Cowell is a Running Challenges Chrome Extension thing by the way. Specifically, to join the Cowell club you need to Run at 100+ different parkrun locations anywhere in the world. Named after the first parkrunners to complete it. A quarter cowell is available at 25, half at 50, and three-quarter at 75. Those who have completed their fiftieth different parkrun venue can claim cow status, and this is what happened here. For my tail walking photography compatriot. One day, in years hence, she may get this virtual sticker added to her profile. A fine reward for many years of touristing i think we can all agree.

It seems 2022 is actually her year of fifty things – fiftieth birthday (I know, doesn’t look a day over 21, it’s a miracle); fiftieth occasion of her home parkrun at Chevin Forest and fiftieth different parkrn event. Does that make her 150 then, if she’s done all the things? I’m not sure, but it’s splendid anyway, and worthy of celebration. No wonder she was jumping for joy all over the place. As previously reference, she was supposed to be wearing an inflatable cow, because that’s pretty much compulsory for marking your 50th, but well, you know, period of mourning and all that, the inflatable cow will just have to wait for York.

The jumping about thing was set to continue though, because of course any parkrun has parkrunners jumping for joy, and to be fair there was something of a jump off occurring at intervals. High jinx all round one might say. Since we had a Jack outa the box giving our Jill outa the box a run for her money!

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Did you spot the 250 tee in the blur of bouncing? Hopefully yes you did. Jumpage is understandable but can make it hard to see the finer details of individual outfits, but I reckon that 250 top is pretty distinctive. Green team, dream team. Just so you know, that’s it being worn on it’s first ever outing after being achieved just last parkrun weekend at Burnage parkrun, alongside another person’s 250 volunteering milestone. More specifically their other/better half. Nice bit of carefully planned parkrun milestone synchronicity there. It’s taken a lot of organisation to nail that particular celebration, but oh so worth it! Check out the cake, that’s just outstanding. Apparently it tasted amazing too, not just an Instagramable option but a dietary delight! Oh and they had milestone capes too, which should be compulsory really, at all events, but aren’t quite yet. Capers with capes are so much fun!

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All things were being celebrated here. This had also been planned as a fancy dress option, with the 250th parkrun being completed in a particularly fine Mr Zippy outfit (no reason, do you need a reason?) but again, restraint was exercised in respect of donning the fancy dress. And then in a hat trick of missed fancy dress opportunities, my pirate buddy was thinking maybe pirate today, but then didn’t make it due to a series of unfortunate events, specifically relating to mechanical misadventures en route, meaning she ended up at Brierley Forest parkrun which is very much lovely and all, but not the intended destination.

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And the consequence was that there was no pirate and no Mr Zippy last week and no Cow this week. A lack of fancy dress might be a cause of disappointment but…

DON’T PANIC!

There is a plan. All these missed fancy dress outings will be reconvened on the same date at some parkrun in the future. There will be an explosion of fancy dress at the next midi gathering where missed opportunities will be made good. Not that this lot need much of an excuse to get the fancy dress on, but they can share their joy in donning it en masse and properly mark the milestones and arbitrary achievements that have had but muted recognition where they’ve fallen during these 10 days. Might be all the better for having a backlog of celebrations to mark all at once. A positive scrum of joyfulness. You think they’ve jumped high and dressed to the peak of fabulousness already? Pah! You ain’t seen nothing yet!

First though, back to today!

I arrived parked up, joined the queue for the loo which wasn’t too long and definitely not 5 miles, and no live tracking you just had to take your chances.

I did, and then was rewarded for this by bumping into a world tourist With-Me-Nower in the scrum of exiting it. How exciting! Turns out, they were everywhere today. Outside the loos; in the café; at the start on the parkrun; volunteering – all over the shop.

I made my way to the start area and we started to find one another. It was VERY EXCITING. People I actually knew, people I knew by their high ranking status as parkrun ambassador for example – there seem to be loads of them out and about at the moment we get one or two at Sheffield Olympic Legacy park junior parkrun most weeks- people I knew through Facebook but not through real life, and by reputation for example as uber tourists. It was great, and unexpected. There is actually a whole sequence of photos of ever growing numbers being gathered together for a group shot as new people we ‘knew’ kept appearing out of the crow, and we still didn’t manage to get everyone in to the one shot, nothing like. Well it is a bit like herding cats I suppose. Here’s a grand stab at the bulk of us though. Impressive isn’t it, remembering these were not all planned meet ups either, it’s just the parkrun community’s network keeps on reaching out and ever more connections are made, so every parkrun can feel like a reunion at times. It’s good like that 🙂 You are truly never alone at a parkrun. Unless you turn up as the only one who hadn’t twigged it had been cancelled, that can be discombobulating, but mostly, never.

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We busied ourselves doing the parkrun friends equivalent of dogs sniffing each others bottoms until we were summoned for the first timers’ welcome. According to the results there were 7 first time everers and an astounding 96 tourists, so that’s nearly 50% of the field of 203 participants. This is a tourist destination it has to be acknowledged, and it isn’t really that near a local population which I think contributes to the difficulty it sometimes has in getting enough volunteers. Fortunately, it’s not a complicated route so not too heavy on the number of marshals required, but it’s still hard for teams to manage at times. We were grateful for the warm and friendly welcome. We were reminded very much of the need to respect other users. It’s a busy path with cyclists, horses, walkers all availing themselves of the lovely route. That’s why it was also important to keep the trail free at the start, and remember to keep to the left of the path out and back to minimise the possibility of collisions, and also to facilitate more effective high fiving as you pass each other in a contraflow at some stage en route. He didn’t actually say that, but I’m sure it was implied…

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The Run Director’s briefing came next. Quite quickly in fact. I still have never quite got over the astonishment of having pre parkrun chatting interrupted by having to actually commence the parkrun. The poor RD had a cold, but gamefully stood atop her steps to brief us and send us on our way. I felt for her though, she definitely sounded a bit rough, and it was a nippy morning, beautiful yes, but nippy. Thank you lovely RD for turning out despite feeling rough, and thank you even more to you and all the high vis heroes for making all the parkrunners so very welcome, right to the end of the pack.

As is usual now, I took some photos at the start, then slotted in at the back of the field with my bouncy parkrunning friends. There might have been a bit of a jump off going on at one point, all in apparent jest, but I see a future rematch pending. I so wish I had a proper camera at times like this, they were awesome. Flying through the air like acrobats on acid. Cirque de Soleil has nothing on a pair of over-excited parkrunners soaring high. Never has leaping for joy been more literal or more inspiration to behold.

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But where were we going? Don’t worry dear reader, I can explain! Shall I wait for you to get a pen to make some notes, or will you just take a screen shot for later? It’s no problem I can pause for a bit…

Welcome back, ready? Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

The route is basically out and back. If you don’t believe me, here is the Monsal Trail parkrun route blah de blah from the website

Course Description

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

https://www.parkrun.org.uk/monsaltrail/course/

and the picture looks like this:

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Erm, that’s all you can say. You run away from the timers for 2/12 km when you are met by a wall of marshals. Well, two and their dog Nigel on this occasion, and a rather sweetly positioned cone to trot round, or skid round, or handbrake turn around as the mood takes you, and then you run right back the way you came. I belief it is fractionally downhill on the out and uphill on the way back, but honestly, not so you notice, this is properly flat. Hilariously though, if you run it in the other direction as the Bakewell parkrun used to, Strava doesn’t understand the concept of tunnels so will think you’ve done some epic and speedy ascents. That is, gone up and down those hills, rather than straight through the middle, this is excellent for boosting your bragging rights if you don’t let the truth get in the way of a good running narrative.

It’s compact gravel, and the only issues are really making sure you are respectful to other participants as you parkrun out and back.

Almost instantly the main bulk of parkrunners streamed out of sight, and we were but a few at the back. My two tail walking companions and 50% of the newly anointed green team who’d opted to walk and talk which was jolly sporting of him. I did feel initially some pressure to get a move on, which was challenging, but we did settle in to a more manageable pace.

On a serious note, I’m finding parkrun pretty tough at the minute. I think because I look fine (bit podgy obviously, but I mean ‘able bodied) and indeed opted for walking poles rather than crutches precisely so I’d blend in a bit more, people over-estimate my capabilities and I seem to constantly have people cajooling me to get a move on and that feels really shaming. I totally get it’s unintended, but it’s crushing every time. I can’t ‘get going’ I need to pause, and sometimes I’m in a lot of pain. Feeling embarrassed because I’m holding everyone up is an extra pressure and at times I feel like bailing or opting out entirely. Even with supportive parkrun compatriots I feel quite vulnerable. My fear is that once I give up on parkrun, I won’t be able to go back at all, and that thought makes me sad. It can be a mixed bag walking at parkrun and I really hope that next month’s parkwalk initiative normalises this a bit more because speaking personally, I think that’s very much needed. I worry about being a burden to individuals and teams, of course I do, the official parkrun line of ‘walkers always welcome’ doesn’t always reflect what happens on the ground. I try to go to different parkruns so I don’t make the same team have to wait for me each week, and I have always made a point of volunteering regularly to ‘give back’ a bit as well, but that doesn’t quieten the voices in my head that are constantly making me feel inadequate and that I don’t have the right to be there. Every parkrun I go to is a battle lately, and I’m conscious it doesn’t take much to push me into despair. I guess partly because every parkrun I hope will be a bit better, that I’ll make some progress and although I have made progress if you look back over a whole year, I’m very far away from where I was before and it feels unfair, which is jolly surprising, because usually life is 100% fair is it not? (Spoiler alert, it’s not) I know I’m lucky compared to many, and I am still there at the moment, however insecure I may feel about it. Hanging on by my fingertips. One foot in front of another. Sometimes blinking back the tears, but not bailed yet.

It was a bit of a wobbly start, but once we were underway on a lovely crisp sunny morning, things were looking up. Just because it’s a straightforward out and back though, doesn’t mean you can’t have parkrun adventuring along the way. Au contraire!

It’s jolly pretty for one thing, the route has lovely trees creating an avenue along it, then there are open vistas where you get great views, and if you have your wits about you you might spot the rare Bakewell born and bred long necked sheep – oh wait, what’s that you say? Really? Shame alpacas adjacent to the path. There was a little wren, busying herself popping in and out of the gaps of a moss covered stone wall. There was a very junior marshal – taking it all in. All very lovely.

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So the scenery was lovely, as well as the the company, but we had other adventures too. Specifically, on this occasion there was a mass group of walkers taking part in a Fund raising 26 km trek for the charity Together for short lives – Helping families caring for a seriously ill child make the most of every moment together. It was pretty chilled by the time we at the back met up with them, but earlier may have been a bit of a challenge. Like those early gladiator sort of films, where thousands of extras were brought in to stage battles, running at one another and mingling as each fought to pass the other. Not that that would happen here though, because we’d all been briefed to give way, and parkrunners are polite obvs. Think more parting of the sea rather than riotous bunfight. Or gentle ordered contraflow, I’m sure it was negotiated with grace. They were an eclectic and jolly group of walkers, it was quite early in their walk I think, so they had a long way to go, but my what a lovely day they picked for it.

One warning though, this is not a route for arachnophobes, which, presumably erroneously, was not explicitly mentioned in the briefing. Fortunately, the spider people running round today were being shepherded by lovely With Me Now crew to keep us all safe. It’s so lovely when parkrunners look out for one another in this way. They even gave us a reassuring wave of acknowledgement as they breezed by, letting us know the whole situation was all under control. Phew. There were 23 personal bests today though, which seems a pretty high percentage of the field of 203 so maybe the spidery presence just made everyone else run just that much faster. Apart from me. I’m very much just walking still. Besides, I like to get my money’s worth at an event.

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One of the super fun things about an out and back course is that if you are a slower parkrun participant you see all the faster parkrunners as they come back, and if you are a faster parkrunner, you see all the slower participants as they are going out! Everyone wins. It made for a highly sociable and people spotting parkrun. Hurrah.

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What made it even more fun, was being part of a very vocal party at the back offering up bespoke motivational cheering at every opportunity. Our tail walking cow has an enormous amount of experience at this and was in fine voice. But better yet, we had some Welsh language cheering from the stand in tail walker, always a boon. Not that we restricted ourselves to cheering only those we knew, anyone was fair game, potentially whether partaking in parkrun or not, we were happy to be sharing the parkrun love! All of us at the back got on board with parkrun appropriate whooping. It’s not called the party at the back for nothing! When it works, walking at parkrun is therapeutic indeed.

and that works at junior parkrun too. This recently shared anecdote made me properly cry, because it’s just SO LOVELY!

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Tony Kenyon
I have told this story a number of times because to me it is what parkrun is all about. One week we had just one child at the junior parkrun where I’m now part of the core team. I was tailwalker. They didn’t want to take part by themselves. So I convinced them to walk with me. They only agreed if every volunteer walked with us. So we all took a leisurely 2km walk.
That same child now regularly runs, seeing a PB after PB, getting faster each week. Those who walk today may run tomorrow. Or they may not. We should embrace them all.

See comments section of https://www.facebook.com/parkrunUK/videos/1367426970452602/

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I properly cried. Snot and everything. It’s peak parkrun practice in my view. It also very neatly illustrates why for parkwalk to be successful next month, solidarity from plenty of walkers is needed. Consider walking one of your regular parkruns instead of running and experience the event quite differently. That junior parkrun intuitively knew that walking together was the way to go. How right they were.

Back to us. Eventually we made it out to the full extent of the 2.5 km and to the turn around point – that’s Nigel in the middle, supervising. Barkrunner par excellence! Not one parkrunner overshot the route turnaround point, so he did just grand.

We weren’t having a stand off, we were just having a parkrunny chat. Getting our Chat’s Worth at the parkrun nearest to Chatsworth was apt indeed.

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Cone negotiated safely, and we were coming home again. It was very quiet for the return leg, the charity walkers and other parkrunners having long since passed this way. But we could take in the scenes, and have companionable chats and so all was good.

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Finally, almost exactly on the hour, we were back to the start, which handily is also the finish. Where diligent marshals were still waiting and standing by to swing into time keeping and barcode scanning business on our return.

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The RD was in desperate need of a pee by the time we got there, a scenario for which I have enormous personal sympathy, and I felt mortified that she’d had to wait for me. Oh well. She was self deprecating about her plight, but it did catapult me back into the mindset of having spoiled the parkrun experience of others. Paranoia is devilishly hard to shift.

There was a bit more picture posing, trying to perfect the shot of the range of t-shirts on show, and also to get our lovely green team to pose appropriately with coquettish over the shoulder glances for maximum impact. Well we were entertained anyway. I never did get the perfect shot, but fortunately have been able to loot this one from elsewhere. Resource gathering skills come in handy at times.

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All done, back lit, we made our way to the Hassop Station Café.

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There is actually a special parkrun deal from a table area outside, with coffee and a variety of bapts/ breadcakes whatever including the double meat sausage and bacon options, veggie and vegan options – though I don’t know what the vegan option was to be fair.

A fellow with me nower and his family had already secured an outside table, so we queued inside (not five miles) and went for the more extensive menu. You just give your table number and order from the counter. The hot beverage situation confused me hugely, doesn’t take much. I asked about this and was told it would be brought out, but some said they’d been asked to collect if from the counter. In fact I think if you only have a drink you wait for it, but maybe if you are having food as well they bring it out. In the event this didn’t work particularly well for me as my flat white never came, although on reflection an unclaimed mug of tea brought out earlier might have been my order processed erroneously. When questioned they claimed it hadn’t been ordered, which was annoying as I’d paid for it, but hadn’t got a receipt, they were game for going through the whole till roll again to prove their point, and in the end my lovely tailwalking companion by passed the whole thing by just just buying me another one, which was kind of her and eminently sensible but somewhat grated in terms of customer service. Top tip, get a receipt. I know I’d paid, because I asked ‘and do I need to wait for my coffee now’ and they said ‘no, we’ll bring it out with your order’ so that’s not me not having ordered it is it? This aside, the food was amazing and the staff accomodating, in that we were able to customise our orders swappoing halloumi cheese for vegan cheese in toasties. These were pricey but came with a rather fine salad, some of which gathered on my top, but worth it. There was also amazing bakewell slices to be had, and an abundance of choice. Yum.

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Some were feeling the cold, but nevertheless, this brave duo braving the warm Bakewell slice or possibly Bakewell pudding with ice cream topping because, well it had to be done. They were worried about it being too cold to enjoy properly, but hard to justify being in Bakewell and not having someone step up to the challenge. In the end they were in it together, but took the safety precaution of getting a hot chocolate to warm themselves up afterwards, the yin and yan of post parkrun cakery I suppose. They are experienced like that. It’s really inspiring when other parkrunners are willing to make these sacrifices on behalf of others, brings a tear to the eye. I can report dear reader, they totally nailed it!

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We were quite an assembly, and there was loads of seating for post parkrun faffing and no pressure to move on beyond how much parking we’d paid for. More photo posing and parkrun story reminiscing ensued. Not too shabby a head count for what had been a pretty much entirely unplanned and arbitrary meet up! With Me Now pod listeners a-gathering.

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Alas though, all good things come to an end, and eventually people needed to disperse. There were hugs exchanged, but not without some discussion of appropriate hugging etiquette, still unsure what we can and can’t do these days, ,and also, you feel like you know people but don’t entirely so what to do? And then I worry about inadvertently thwacking people with my walking poles which is definitely sub optimal. I dodged that social faux pas on this occasion, but not the food down my front awkwardness unfortunately. It was only afterwards that someone helpfully pointed out the splattered tomato bits collected on my decoupage décolletage. Whilst a breast shelf can sometimes be handy for gathering assorted snacks together for later, it’s generally not a good post parkrun look, though pretty common amongst us more rounded runners. Nevertheless, I was glad of the tip off before any non parkrun interactions. Not sure if it saved me from indignity whilst recording the bonus question for the next quarantine quiz? Oh well, I’ve survived indignities enough of late that it will hardly register. I can only hope there was no spinach caught between my teeth either. Well, there won’t be spinach as there wasn’t any in my order, but there could have been rocket.

Others waved off, we hard core trio gathered by the Monsal Trail sign to record an impromptu bonus question for the awesomeness that is the Quarantine Quiz. I know, exciting! But you are just going to have to wait for the next quarantine quiz to showcase our collective genius to judge for yourselves! This is roughly where we positioned ourselves though, in case that teaser helps soften that blow. I know, delayed gratification is very annoying, but you’ve got this! 🙂 It’ll probably be for Quiz 85, in case you are interested, not sure when that will be, but do join the next one if you can. More the merrier. Oh you don’t know what that is? Erm, it’s an interactive, virtual quiz hosted by a German parkrun team –

RDs from Neckarufer parkrun, it is bilingual, featuring parkrunners asking the question and impressive fancy dress, some created by a 3d printer in the possession of an individual with a crazed imagination. It grew out of lockdown, and continues still, bringing an international parkrun community together. Oh, and the questions are sufficiently random there’s no shame in not knowing the answers, and in fact, being the tail walker (lowest scorer) is a particularly highly prized badge of honour too, and so it should be. Tail Walkers are the best! The literal translation of the German is ‘Final Accompaniement’ which I think is splendid.

Thank you Schlussbegleitung! You are The Best! In any language.

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And that was that. Time to depart. Others were heading off to Chatsworth which has THE MOST AMAZING EXHIBITION on at the moment, based around the burning man festival. I’d love to have gone, but too much walking for one day alas. I’ve enjoyed seeing the photos on line though. It’s worth checking them out. ‘Radical Horizons: The Art of Burning Man‘ That horse can gallop and fly! I know, impressive.

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As we departed, a parkrunner passed us his face etched with a look of absolute ecstasy. Rubbing his tummy he just uttered the words ‘sausage and bacon sandwich’ as he gazed skyward in bliss and rapture. Apparently it had been beyond exquisite. It had to be acknowledged, that even as two vegetarians and one vegan you could not acknowledge that exuded joy. A fine café indeed. Oh, apart from my coffee that never came – mouth watering vegan options also available.

So to conclude, the fine bits of today were very fine indeed at this parkrun, but there were a couple of wobbles for me personally. I need a walking at parkrun win where I can just ‘be’ without feeling slow shamed or a burden. Yep, it might be on me how I interpret things sometimes, but it’s also a reaction to cumulative interactions that leave people potentially sensitised to throw away remarks that reveal a deeper truth. One comment might not hit home, several at the same event can shade otherwise positive parkrun experiences. Fingers crossed for parkwalk in October. Hopefully as well as bringing more walkers to parkrun, it might raise awareness amongst teams about what creates a welcoming environment and what does not, unintentionally or otherwise. Just as I’ve learned so much from the deaf and hard of hearing takeover in Sheffield. Needs aren’t always obvious, but when known, sometimes they are really easy to accommodate where there is the will to do so. Still love parkrun, still grateful to my parkrun friends and although, yes, sometimes it’s complicated, it’s still worth it for me.

Are you still here? Aw, thanks for sticking with me 🙂 I know it’s a long haul at times but it is appreciated. Shared experiences can be bonding after all. Oh, and another thing, here is the link to the Monsal Trail parkrun event 152 run report in case of interest. And results for the record too.

For now, that’s all folks, time to pack it all away until next parkrun day.

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The End.

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But before I go, can we just have one more random adorable parkrun thing please? It is a lovely one I promise…

Yes we can. Check out this BEST EVER parkrun report. Hand written and fully illustrated. Love it! Thank you Great Yarmouth North Beach parkrun for sharing.

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I know. Cuteness overload, sigh #loveparkrun

Also – POST FAIL – how did I not spot the opportunity for Bakewell Tart punnage. The shame will never leave me!

*Erst While Flat Mate. Yes, I know it ought to be erstwhile flatmate, but I have my reasons.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Carefree Cavorting at Cheery Chevin Forest parkrun – where the wild things are!

Had a wild old time here!

A fine, fun, forest foray indeed! What’s not to like?

There is a reason why forest bathing has become quite the thing. Basically, it’s lovely, calms the soul, soothes the spirit and puts all in context. Add in a parkrun to the mix and it takes forest bathing to a whole new level of awesome. This was truly a parkrun of all the things. Acrobatic tail walkers; celebrity parkrun authors*; huge trees; forest trails; smiley marshals acing directional pointing; astonishing views; brilliant wood sculptures; chariot racing opportunities; warm welcome (probably axiomatic to state that) and a post parkrun café that I could happily take up permanent residence in. Who doesn’t get hugely excited at seeing halloumi on a menu? I’m jumping ahead though, but soooooooooooooooooo many things to share, where to start?

Choosing Chevin.

Hmm, where to parkrun. Always a dilemma, so many to choose from, but not all are accessible to me these days.

Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed a definite nip in the air on some mornings, and the days are getting shorter. Once the clocks change it’s going to be less appealing and less practical to venture too far afield for parkrun tourism. I am therefore trying to pick off some of the reachable but far away parkruns before the clocks change. I also have to factor in my bloomin’ uselessness at forward motion at the moment. It’s so frustrating. Chevin Forest is reachable from Sheffield and oh look! A friendly name I recognise as tailwalker. Two of them in fact. Phew, that takes the pressure off. I was advised it’s a ‘proper’ trail surface, mud in winter, but it looked doable and with my sticks it would be a good test of what I can and can’t do. I’m treading (literally) that fine line between trying to do a bit more to find my limits, without actually coming to grief in the process. parkruns are perfect for this when they welcome walkers as it’s a safe and supportive environment to try to increase my mobility without ending up having to call mountain rescue because I’ve toppled into a ditch up the top of kinder scout. This would be sub optimal for a number of reasons, not least that you probably can’t get a mobile signal up there, so I’d have to just lie in a star shape and hope the circling of vultures overhead would eventually attract attention. parkrun doesn’t require vultures to alert others to your needs, instead it anticipates them with Cheery Chevin Marshals (other alliterated parkrun marshals are available see Cavorting Castle Marshals; Marvellous Millhouses Marshals; Enchanting Endcliffe Marshals; Iridescent Isobel Marshals etc) to see you safely out and back.

What’s more, said tailwalkers will be pirating it! Yep, you read that right. Having already done their aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, this would be the seventh of their seven seas. It’s a Running Challenges thing – only 8 parkruns and you too can get a virtual sticker AND to dress up as a pirate (inflatable parrot optional but hugely hoped for) on your final parkrun in the set. Yep, pirate party at the back sounded just the thing, and lacking full functioning limbs would be a boon in such a gathering. Captain Hook and Long John Silver anyone? Though there were also fearless, fierce and female pirates past too, who hung onto their limbs. Not that we should be glorifying pillaging, obvs, but who doesn’t enjoy having a nice new badge for their virtual sticker chart?

Precisely.

That’d do.

Then the Queen died. Suddenly uncertainty about what might happen. In fact a great many parkruns did opt to cancel, some because it was out of their hands – the National Trust cancelled all on their properties, other event teams felt it was the right thing for them to cancel too. Personally I was grateful for the parkrun announcement that let event teams make their own call locally. I did not want to lose my opportunity to access a parkrun somewhere, I’ve been denied too many of late.

Much hitting the refresh button to see what this might mean for Chevin Forest, and checking the parkrun cancellation page I wish I’d taken a screen shot of it now, as it was interesting to see which way event teams made the call. Fortunately for me, Chevin Forest parkrun made the call to go ahead. Now I had only to stress about getting there and where to park etc.

Right, so the Chevin Forest parkrun website blah de blah says:

Getting there by road
The nearest postcode to the start/finish is LS21 3DD, East Chevin Road.

We recommend parking at Surprise View cark park, opposite the Royalty pub on York Gate (LS21 3DG), and walking to the start along the path which runs across the top of the valley and down, crossing East Chevin Road, to the Danefield side of the Chevin. It’s a pleasant 15-20 minute walk although unsuitable for buggies as there are width restrictions. There are three car parks on East Chevin Road itself. Please DO NOT park in the small car park directly next to the finish line, you will be asked to move unless you have mobility difficulties or a buggy. Alternatively there are several car parks in Otley, allow time to walk up the Chevin to the start. Please DO NOT park along the road, this can cause visibility obstructions and is regularly patrolled by the police, who issue fines.

https://www.parkrun.org.uk/chevinforest/course/

Hmm, was a bit discombobulated. I can now negotiate a parkrun, but didn’t think I’d be able to do the extra 20 minute out and back especially if it was a bit bushwhacking territory. I wouldn’t be able to carry a machete and my walking poles, and not sure what the etiquette would be for leaving a machete unattended as I set off for my parkrun. Then again, am I considered immobile enough not to be turned away at the car park. Would there be some sort of hierarchy of needs you’d have to satisfy to get a parking space or would it be on trust. I felt I needed to be near the start, but maybe not as much as some others might need that. In the end, I just did my usual of setting off at stupid o’clock and having done some google-based research, which has all but replaced any actual primary research these days, established that it looks like there are a couple of carparks nearby.

On arrival, hurrah! There is a diddy carpark right next to the start, but a second, upper carpark which is about 100 metres away. It’s not huge, but certainly enough for a fair few vehicles and if you arrive early enough space was fine. I was amongst the first couple to park. I’m finding though a minor frustration of early arrival at some of these carparks creates enormous confusion for me about where you are supposed to park. It would really help if there were some demarked parking spaces as I’m sure you’d accommodate loads more vehicles that way, still I was fine, so that was good.

It was also exciting already! I was a bit daunted by the steepness of the hills – I drove down one to the nearest supermarket to use their loos before returning. I was wondering if this was such a great idea. The trees were gorgeous, and it was lovely to be in such fantastic scenery, but ringing in my ears was the words of Ambassador Z from Millhouses who had warned me this was a trail parkrun course. I feel I need to test myself, but don’t want to come a cropper either. Aargh.

Oh wait, you want to know what the course descriptor is? Hang on, erm….

Course Description

This is two-lap anti-clockwise course with an additional point to point at the finish.

The course starts on Chippendale Ride, where it crosses the stream. Head east for a few metres and then turn right, up a steep hill. Follow this bridleway through Deer Park Wood and Memorial Wood, then continue straight on along the footpath through Quarry Wood (this section can get very muddy) at the end of this path turn left onto the bridleway and go down the hill to the chariot sculpture and gate, then turn left alongside Caley Wood, Keepers Wood and Stag Wood until you reach the first corner again. Loop around for a second time. On completion of the second circuit follow Chippendale Ride back up the hill towards the road to the finish line.

The route is all on trail or forest footpaths and the ground is uneven and often muddy, trail shoes are recommended particularly during autumn and winter or after rain.

Trail shoes, they want trail shoes. Oops. I only have one pair of shoes that my mutant feet can tolerate at the moment, with cut out bits so my foot can sort of levitate above the sore parts, which is basically all of it. I do have trail shoes, but I’d have to carry them, rather than wear them, and call me massively intuitive but – I’m thinking they expect them to be on your feet rather than randomly adorning your person. Oh well, I’ll have my walking poles to assist.

The map of the course looks like this:

It doesn’t entirely help, as basically you can see the route is entirely within trees. Trees usually mean tree routes and forest paths. Aesthetically pleasing, but maybe a little ouchy underfoot. Hmm, trail shoes territory indeedy.

Trees are lovely though aren’t they. They ooze other worldly soothiness. I love them, they just instantly transport you. I love the smell of trees and the sound of trees and all thing tree-like. I love squirrels in trees and the endurance of trees. It makes me sad when trees are under threat. An old tree is a thing of wonder indeed, but even a new sapling, exudes joy and manifests hope for the future. Planting a tree is a mark of optimism surely? Everyone should plant trees if they can, where the habitat is appropriate to do so. Just as everyone should have a water source in their outside space if they have any; wear fancy dress when the opportunity presents itself (not limited to parkrun venues); befriend a frog and a squirrel and experience parkrun as a walker. Just saying.

So I arrived, I parked up. I felt a wave of apprehension. Aargh, difficult terrain, unknown parkrun; new people; what if I didn’t know anyone? What if I did know anyone, and they didn’t know me? What if I did know lots of people and had to interact with them in some way? What if I was too slow? What if I needed the loo again? What if, what if? Maybe I should just get back in the car and drive home again right now, just to by pass all the social awkwardness and embarrassment, it could save everyone a lot of time. Not least at the end as they’d be waiting for me to finish.

As I was processing these thoughts, I found myself walking down towards the lower carpark, and then was greeted by a vision of loveliness incarnate, cartwheeling up in a blast of positive energy and freneticism (is that a word? It is now) the human tornado, core team, regular volunteer co-ordinater and rotational RD (that would account for the energetic spinning) and most importantly of all for today 50% of the tailwalking team; whirling her way up to the carpark to wave down the other tail walker. She greeted me warmly, explaining she was directing one fellow With Me Now podcast listener from the Surprise View Carpark to the start, and another from the upper car park to the lower, so in full-on organisational enabling mode, but still had time for enthusiastic welcoming and waving. It was all going to be fine. Also, this meant I had instant new friends from near and far. Hurrah, and we all found one another too, AND did I mention that as well as being RD; tailwalker (50%); With Me Now listener; parkrun acrobat and all round awesomeness this person is a selfie taking sensation? I didn’t? Well she is, check out the number of her shots I’ve lifted for your edification, enlightenment and enjoyment in this blog post. You’re welcome. With Me Now is a podcast ‘About parkrun passion by passionate parkrunners.’ If you don’t want to soil yourself by clicking onto their Facebook page, you can go straight to the With Me Now podcasts here and You Tube channel here. Go on, you know you want to, even more of a need for it now Free Weekly Timed is no more, not that that was any great loss to be fair, but if you enjoyed that, my, you will be properly MIND BLOWN by With Me Now. There are a log of podding and vlogging parkrunners these days. See also Nicola Runs – these vlogs have been a real tonic of parkrun joy in dark days when I couldn’t get out at all, as well as happier days when can relive parkruns past enjoy parkruns present and look forward to parkruns still to come…

Speaking of which, here we all are, just to get the parkrun party started:

The die was cast. I would be embarking on the forest bathing parkrun. My tailwalkers were in readiness, an entourage assembled, hurrah! I look like I’ve shaved my head. I haven’t. I forgot my buff though, if there’s one thing worse than running in the buff, it’s been caught parkrunning without one. Fortunately, my amiable companions were too polite to mention it.

Delighted as I was to see my tail walking buddies I couldn’t help but clock the absence of any fancy dressery. They had made the call that to avoid giving offence to others today wasn’t the day. It’s true, Fancy Dress in general and Pirate Fancy Dress in particular can go horribly wrong. So perhaps a sensible call. Do you remember the Colin Darch incident?

A former hostage has spoken of the moment he walked into a Women’s Institute meeting to give a talk on international piracy and found the group dressed as pirates. Colin Darch said he was amused that members of Parkham WI in North Devon had donned fancy dress for the occasion.

Darch, a retired sailor from North Devon, has written a book about his experience of being kidnapped by pirates in 2008 and often gives talks on the subject. The 75-year-old said his hosts had been “embarrassed” by the mix-up.

“Since I was released five years ago, I have spoken at a lot of conferences and serious events about the dangers of piracy and how to survive,” he said. “More recently, since writing the book, I have been taking to Rotary groups, Probus clubs and the occasional WI.

“When I arrived there were ladies with blue rinses wearing pirate hats and waving swords around. They had been led to believe it was a talk about piracy through the ages and not something right up to date.

“I think they were worried I might be a bit upset that they were trivialising it, but I thought it was funny. I just laughed and said it was like something from The Pirates of Penzance.

“They were more embarrassed than me and they asked me to judge the best pirate costume. They even bought a few of my books.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/02/colin-darch-piracy-womens-institute

Awkward…

Hilarious though, but definitely awkward.

Anyway, upshot was no fancy dress pirates at this parkrun, though there was a book signing, So that was exciting! More of that later

I remain hopeful that their fancy dress costumes, inflatable parrots and all, will see the light of day at a future parkrun. People do that all the time with their milestone tees after all. You can’t get them until after you’ve completed the event so they are inevitably only donned for the first time in subsequent weeks. I see no issue with doing the same for a pirate challenge outfit. It would be a positive boon to have them randomly rock up in fancy dress at a subsequent unrelated parkrun. After all, it is the parkrun ethos to allow each person to participate in their own way, doubt anyone would bat an eyelid, they might not even notice in the parade of other fancy dress themes; wedding parties; running club tees and wonky emotional support animals. Hardly worth raising an eyebrow for. It isn’t a lost parkrun fancy dress moment, merely a joy postponed, the anticipation will make the donning of the eye patches and companion bird even more exciting in due course.

Where was I? Oh yes, gathering, and then making our way to the start area. It was already distracting. There were wooden carvings already, and lovely inviting woodland pathways, and the buzz of assembling parkrunners, and the colourful collection of high vis heroes gathered in a glade like forest fairies preparing to do their magic under the directional spells of the day’s RD. Our attentive consort, the bouncy RD pointed out trip hazards – to help us to avoid them rather than implore us to make use of them. There are some uneven surfaces and the odd random hole about, which is to be expected on a trail route. It is the lovelier for it. Nature untamed. Photo opps with the pop up sign, with new friends and old. These pictures won’t take themselves!

And then, after a bit, we were called to the first timers’ welcome. We were especially honoured on this occassion to be personally welcomed by Chevin Forest parkrun’s Event Director Debbie. I can’t promise you’d be so blessed, but everyone in the team is equally enthusiastic and welcoming so you’ll never be left either unwelcomed or unenthused at this event. She has two dawgs herself; Winnie n Rosie I believe, so you are assured of a dawg friendly event if that’s important to you. This event is excellent for canines in terms of route and facilities, there is lots of space for parkrunners and barkrunners both.

There were a couple (well three actually) doing their first ever EVER parkrun, and about 35 of us who were touristing from elsewhere. Excitingly, I espied a Fell Foot apricot tee, sported by celebrity author Eileen Jones, who in lockdown, wrote The parkrun book, which has since been out on parkrun book relay all of its own. We’ve been Facebook friends for a while, but never met. I wasn’t expecting to see her out in the wild, so that was a very exciting spot. Turns out she’d been displaced from Fell Foot parkrun due to National Trust properties deciding not to allow parkrun to take place on their land this weekend. Their loss was our gain. Hurrah! I saved the sycophancy and recognition for later though, being attentive to the briefing instead, in between strolling around trying to take atmospheric photos. I don’t know why I bothered really, as mine are almost all universally terrible, and others took much better ones of the same event. Oh well, they do say it’s the thought that counts. I’d like to agree, but sometimes it’s getting the photo that counts for more. A variation on the ‘it it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen’ logic. Anyway, here we are, at the first timers’ welcome being attentive and excited and trying not to roll down the hill and crash into those already assembling at the start.

Check out the trees! See, lovely aren’t they.

After this welcome, there was a scamper down the hill to the start. Those that were able to scamper, scampered, I did my robotic shuffle. The surface was dry and although I can imagine it could get muddy over winter, it really wasn’t bad at all. Though gradients did kick in later.

Next stop the RD briefing. There was a moment when some walkers wanted to come through and the crowd of parkrunners parted to let them pass, all very amenable. The sloping start gives a good view of the Run Director and good acoustics too. So we could all hear the various announcements. I wasn’t quite sure how they’d handle the death of the Queen, but the event went for a one minute’s silence. It was serene and quiet in the woods. It is moving when people collectively gather and share experiences, that is the entire magic of a parkrun really, I mean in honesty there’s nothing to stop anyone, anywhere setting out on a 5k walk, run or jog on their own at any time – maybe standing on a street corner in a high vis timing people as they pass or shouting encouragement might be harder to explain – but it is the doing together and post parkrun faffery that builds the connections. The astonishing thing to me was that the silence was observed by all. It is apparently possible for a group to be quiet all at the same time – a lesson to carry forward to future run briefings perhaps?

Minute’s silence observed, a few more parkrunners than usual in black perhaps, choosing to wear 100 tees over other colours? I think that was probably about right. Those who feel parkrun should not have happened have the option to stay away. For me missing parkrun would be just another deprivation. I was glad that once the acknowledgement was made, it was parkrun very much as usual, but minus pirate fancy dress.

Here we are at the start

and here we are underway!

Off we trotted behind them. I say ‘trotted’ it was more of a laboured amble to be fair. It is alarming how quickly the field disappeared out of sight. Very quickly you are past the time keepers and volunteer team cheering you on your way – possibly even more quickly if you don’t stop for a group photo on your way past, but where would be the fun in that?

and heading off up a fairly steep hill. Not sure if these are the right sequence to be fair, but if you’ve been you’ll know the course anyway, and if you haven’t you won’t know any better will you. A bit of creative licence isn’t a bad thing, I want you to experience Chevin Forest parkrun for yourself unimpeded by accurate spoilers in advance of your visit. You’re welcome 🙂

Good news though, plenty of distractions and interludes en route. There is the sculpture trail which is jolly fun, but also interactive marshals which were even more fun – hard though that is to imagine, and the constant antics of our tailwalking RD to keep us entertained at no extra charge. One day, I’ll get a proper camera so I can capture such moments with the clarity and va-va-voom they merit, for now, you’ll have to make do with these:

I love how the marshal is so used to the antics of our core team member escort, she doesn’t even bother to look around. That ability to get airborne is astounding though, a super power basically. Very impressive show of defying gravity. It was like being accompanied around by a life size jack in the box, except it was a Jill-out-of-the-box, and quite right too. Women should not be stuffed in boxes and restrained. Nobody should to be fair. Also parkrun is inevitably exciting, one can’t help but jump about on such occasions. Try it and see.

As well as defying gravity, we got a guided tour of sites en route. There was the trig point – though they didn’t seem to be at the actual highest point which confused me. There were also viewing points. Chariot racing photo opportunity points. The old tom (?) marshal point with the rather broken and sad hunched carving of a man, even the presence of a cheering parkrun marshal was not enough to lift his flagging heart. I don’t think it is Tom actually, but I can’t remember. I’ll try to find out, or I might just leave it as a mystery, that would be fine too.

I’ve looked, can’t find out, but did find out the sculptures were make by a local called Shane, I don’t think I’ve ever met an actual Shane, still haven’t to be fair, but this is evidence they are out there somewhere in the wild so that’s good. It’s also well worth having a gander at his creative process, the history of the trail and the trees origins. These are not random carvings, they have a story to tell. More importantly they are really fun to encounter and brilliant for posing on, with and adjacent to.

Similarly, our passage through the forest trails was not random either. (Hope you appreciated that seamless segue back on to the parkrun theme). However, nearly a week later, my memories lack actual chronology, and have merged into images of meeting people, and laughing, and posing for photos.

Oh, and there is even one dedicated to parkrun for Run Directors, Event Directors and other local parkrun dignitaries to sit on to survey their view. Isn’t that a lovely gesture? Seemed almost cruel to drag her away, left alone, she would have morphed into the landscape, and no doubt be there still, her spirit urging parkrunners on and causing dachshunds to paws pause and ponder.

I think the elephant may have been my favourite, but so very hard to choose. And anwyway we couldn’t linger, so much to see, places to go, parkrunners to see priorities to discuss.

Here are some people we met – oh and a dachshund too, that was very cute – not that the people weren’t also cute, but this little fella was cuteness overload and some. Didn’t like the tailwalker scratching the ground though, very bad form apparently, good to know. This is a very dog friendly parkrun by the way. And don’t the dawgies know it? Rhetorical question, yes they do! There were many chilled, excited and generally happy and enthused pooches about. Some as barkrunners, some as Chevin Forest explorers sans parkrun, all were welcomed and accommodated. In the café afterwards too for the record.:

And here is a particularly fine marshal point for parkrunner spotting. In fact there were several – go spoil yourself and take a gander. We did, paused to cheer other parkrunners past; As a double lapper, slower participants will get passed as speedier parkrunners do their second lap, but this is a good opportunity for friend and celebrity spotting, and exchanging mutual cheers so a boon. The path is generally pretty wide so it didn’t cause any congestion as such, though perhaps in winter it might mean you’d need to brave romping through mud to overtake, but that’s a plus surely? You don’t feel like you’ve had a proper parkrun outing if you come home with clean trainers in winter!

Here you go:

I feel I should be more informative about the route. I was too busy gazing about to notice really. You do a sort of outy bit, then go round in a big loop, then go around the big loop again. Marshals cheerily waited for us, and for the second circuit we were just me and the two tail walkers and the remaining marshals really. Some marshals once stood down opted to head back, others carried on round the route to get their steps in and enjoy some quite forest bathing of their own.

As is often the way, we had some good chats at the back, in between our spontaneous partying. Fun stuff and serious stuff too. So topics covered fancy dress highs and lows, the nature of trauma passing down generations – yep, you might be surprised how powerful walk and talk can be in terms of opening up conversations. We also shared stories of parkruns we have known and loved and had quite a lot of talk about walking at parkrun. Next month, October is to be dedicated to parkwalk at parkrun. No it isn’t parkwalt despite the graphics, and I share the slight disappointment that it isn’t parkwaltz either.

Despite the weird graphic, I couldn’t be happier about this. It’s a tricky one. In theory all parkruns welcome walkers, but those of us at the back today have experienced walking at parkrun and as parkrun passionistas don’t wish to be critical of the events we know and love and appreciate the efforts put in by volunteers. Yet it remains the case that experiences of walking at parkrun can be erm, ‘mixed.’ I’ve had awesome tailwalkers see me round and RDs welcome me, and I’ve also been at the parkrun where the tailwalker walked ahead of me the whole time, telling every marshal as she got to them ‘you might as well stand down, this one’s going to be ages’ I was in tears after that one. Then there’s the well-meaning but misguided encouragement to skip bits of the route, cut corners – ‘no thanks, I’ve come for the 5k, but now I’m really thinking you want me to hurry up so you can all go home‘. The dismantled finish funnels. The celebratory cake long since consumed. These might seem small things, but they can be very alienating. Also the message from some that walking is the gateway to the ‘normal’ participation of parkrun by running, not an end and massive achievement in itself.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to run again, perhaps. But for some health conditions only deteriorate. What I do know, is that for a time last year, I didn’t know if I’d ever make it out of my house again, let alone back to a parkrun. Although I’m frustrated at my progress, I can walk now, and although it takes it out of me, I am getting better I think. There are others for whom walking is what only happens on a good day, it’s not the expectation that once you are ‘better’ you will suddenly be able to run. It feels like a guilty secret to admit there are sometimes issues with how walkers experience parkrun. People mean well, but don’t always understand the undermining impact of a throw away remark or casual inference that walking isn’t doing parkrun ‘properly’. ‘It’s called parkRUN‘ is a common refrain. Oh FFS, things can evolve. How would innovation ever occur if we didn’t try to do things differently, let’s not leave improvements to chance, let’s experiment with change. New beginnings are exciting. It’ll be an adventure – be open to its possibilities. It’s going to be grand.

Besides if others walk it doesn’t prevent people from running if they want to participating just as they do now, it simply opens up the event for others, I don’t see why it should be contentious. For me the joy of discovering parkrun has always been finding an environment of runners where as a slow runner I could join in – and then volunteering, well, that’s fab too obvs. Running clubs seemed just to feed my sense of inadequacy, the last straw being when the club vest was only available in a men’s cut up to a size 16. I’ve taken part in runs where ‘no-one is left behind’ and that meant people did wait, only to sprint off again as soon as you are breathlessly in sight, thus I was perpetually on my own, breathless, never getting a chance to recover with my mind battling ever more intrusive thoughts about my own inadequacies. Worst of all those who announce they are injured so feeling really pathetic so they’ll join the slow group, and still sprint ahead seemingly mocking those of us for whom their bad day is unobtainable. parkrun has been my safe place as a runner and now I can’t run at all, walking at parkrun has enabled me to participate up to a point. However, even as an experienced parkrunner, familiar with its ethos and with many scattered parkrun friends I can feel inadequate, apprehensive and lost rocking up at an unknown parkrun as a walker. I’d just so love that to change, to feel confident setting out. It takes courage to step out the door sometimes, and although I try to embrace ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ and I know that only be moving our of our comfort circles can we grow, I just long for a parkrun day to come round again when I didn’t have to pluck up courage to go. It’s the uncertainty about what you might encounter. I’ve pretty much never regretted a parkrun, but I have had mixed experiences and certainly there are some I’d be more likely to recommend to worried walkers coming for their first ever parkrun than others. junior parkrun seems to have nailed this. My local Sheffield Olympic Legacy park junior parkrun is fabulous in its capacity to welcome all comers without pressure or judgement. That’s as participants, volunteers or adult carers taking part alongside their youngsters but with their own fitness goals. The juniors who amble round at the back swinging a favourite rabbit toy by the ears, taking an occasional detour to circle a cone or high five a marshal bring extra joy to the event, it’s not a problem, it’s a total bonus. I think junior parkrun retains an innocence and inclusivity that some of the 5k events have allowed to slip away. There is no cynicism at junior parkrun, for the most part the times really don’t matter, and the important thing, the only really important rule as junior parkrun founder Paul Graham would say, is to ‘have fun!’ A mantra I try to pass on to all first timers I encounter. This emphasis is what needs to be restored to the 5k events. Walkers shouldn’t be a problem to a parkrun, they should be a joy, an asset and in honesty, it could be where the events have maximum impact. I know without being able to walk at parkrun I wouldn’t have had a safe way to increase my distances and experiment with new terrain as I try to recover mobility, I’m hugely grateful for it, but I also see how it has scope to be more welcoming still, and it’s fantastic if that initiative is coming. I can not wait! Bring it on! And if you are a bit dubious, maybe just try to keep an open mind…

https://www.facebook.com/parkrunUK/videos/1367426970452602

For others to be able to access parkrun as a gateway not just to being active, but much more importantly to being connected, to be able to cry with laughter sharing stories with people you’ve only just met. To discover new places; be given permission to play again and parkfaff with the best of them. Or even just to come, do you own thing and go away again, without pressure to interact if you don’t want to, that would be fab too. An exciting new chapter in parkrun, new adventures to unfold, a fresh page turned, it’s going to be great!

The real challenge of being a walker at parkrun is that it’s impossible to be invisible, you are often a minority, and can feel a burden on events. I don’t like thinking I’ll be making a team wait for me in inclement weather. I have done my fair share of volunteering, I know it’s hard in the freezing cold waiting for someone ages behind everyone else. But if the event was packed with more walkers that would be ace, plenty more people to cheer home. I’d just love to do a South African parkrun where I understand walking is almost the norm and numbers are huge so you are never alone at the back of the pack. How extraordinary that would be. To be central to a parkrun event, not an add on.

I really hope that this initiative to encourage walkers will make walking not just acceptable at parkruns, but more of the norm, so I and others like me don’t have to feel self-conscious, inadequate and a burden, but can just rock up and do it. No messaging ahead apologetically to say you’re sorry you’ll be slow, or scanning events’ results histories to see if they are used to slower final finishers. By the way, don’t get annoyed if we seem to be taking even longer because we stop to take photos and chat to marshals on the way round, that’s a coping strategy for pain management – though also a massive boon and enrichment on the way round.

If you are someone who normally whizzes round a parkrun, why not walk one in October? Properly walk it, right at the back, not trying to encourage walkers to run, that might not be realistic or their objective, but just to experience parkrun in a different way. It’s a revelation, much like volunteering, you will see the event very differently.

The irony was, we three at the back, weren’t witches, though we are most definitely wise women and to be fair, not much wrong with being a witch in the sense of having our own agency and power – we were are all comfortable with walking at parkrun, yet we did initially put a bit of pressure on ourselves not to dilly dally too much. No worries though, our tailwalking RD has it sussed, her marshals are used to her, it takes the time it takes. Walkers welcome! Chevin Forest parkrun welcomes walkers indeed.

and we did have a blast at the back:

So even though we were well over the one hour mark, the end seemed to come quickly. I went through the tunnel ahead of my tail walking companions who were like an official entourage. I’ve decided I quite like having them at a parkrun. Loads of stories and laughs to share, someone to navigate and act as official photographer as well as see you home safely. It was a bonding sort of a parkrun adventure, just lovely.

But wait, there’s more!

Yes, yes, that was parkrun done. Through the funnel, avoiding getting my final bingo numbers obvs, timed in, token given and scanned, but then it was celebrity meet up time, because there she was, The parkrun book author, hurrah. ‘How parkrun changed our lives by Eileen Jones‘ Appropriate adulation followed, and was taken in good humour, as all possible permutations of parkrun people and parkrun book and parkrun author were experimented with. Turns out Eileen is a hugger too (ask first), this makes me happy! I miss hugs:

I needed another pee and am slow, so ambled ahead to the café round the corner and associated conveniences. I thought at first the café must have a dress code as some pretty snappy dressers around, but turns out they were for a wedding party in an adjacent converted outbuilding. We got to descend into the old cowshed which was just ridiculously picturesque with lovely worn stone and a beautifully maintained informal cottage garden and loads of seating inside and out. Dog friendly, it that’s important to you and parkrunner friendly too, offering a discount on presentation of your barcode only I forgot about that. The cakes and breakfasts to choose from were amazing. The temptation to just faceplant onto the counter or have one of each was pretty enormous. post parkrun faffery, post parkrun breakfast, forget ‘it was always about the coffee’ this was a full on second – and possibly third breakfast scenario! Dear reader, I bring you the Mistal kitchen

We had such excellent faffing! It might look like we all knew each other but that was not so, it is testament to the bonding power of parkrun that we had connections everywhere. So Red Ted was spotted by someone who knew his creator, and then our author ended up doing some impromptu book signings, and then others of us found connections with parkruns we had in common albeit on different occasions and as if that wasn’t enough there was always the fact we’d just done this splendid one to bond us together. We are all part of one another’s stories now, a proper connection that will endure! It was really affirming and lovely and all memories of early morning starts and pre parkrun apprehension evaporated. The cafe brought out trays laden with steaming coffees and imaginative and beautifully presented breakfast options. I could happily have lived there were it not for my frog and squirrel guardianship responsibilities back home in Sheffield.

After a bit, some people with lives to lead began to disperse, but me and 50% of the tail walking team lingered longer in solidarity with the ‘it was always about the coffee‘ directive, we did move inside, and it might have even been a three coffee morning, I only ever drink coffee on parkrun days, I was buzzing for the journey home.

So morning morphed into afternoon, and then I too had to depart. It had been a fantastic morning. Chevin Forest parkrun is a truly welcoming space, and the forest gorgeous. The views out from the route promise a wider landscape that would be amazing to explore. It was a little overcast, but that made the light perfect for seeing into the distance. If this was your local walking and running playground you’d be blessed indeed. The vegan and vegetarian friendly café was the icing on the cake, a great deal of cake, not cheap, but for a treat pretty fabulous.

Thank you lovely Chevin Forest parkrun people, thank you celebrity parkrun author, thank you fellow parkrunners, thank you lovely tail walkers and brunch companion(s) – thank you all for a healing morning in the forest. Thank you all the high vis heroes who made the magic happen, Chevin Forest parkrun is gorgeous, joyful, spectacular and very wonderful indeed! Bravo!

#loveparkrun #walking at parkrun I’m not sure where next Saturday will take me parkrun wise, but you’ll be a tough act to follow.

How did anyone manage in a pre parkrun world? parkrun is a precious thing indeed. Nurture it.

Oh and if you are interested the full results for Chevin Forest parkrun number 52 are here and rather more interestingly, there is a fab run report from tail walking titan Ali here. Or will be, as soon as it goes live.

*presence not guaranteed, but in other news, every parkrunner is a celebrity in my eyes, all have a story to share and unique intrinsic value of their own.

Categories: 5km | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Sea, Sand, Sun, parkrun and someone doing an actual thing! Celebrations for a 250 milestone at South Shields parkrun.

I do like to be beside the seaside. I really truly do, and it’s been properly aaaaaaaaaaaages since I got to go there. Like everyone I’m skint, so mini breaks aren’t really compatible with my income, and anyway, with my mobility a bit hit and miss long drives and random parkruns are, erm, let’s go with ‘contra-indicated’. Set against this, I feel I’ve missed out on too much in the last few years. I knew that a parkrun friend would be celebrating her 250th parkrun this bank holiday weekend at South Shields parkrun and that’s an official parkrun milestone, big deal as clearly an actual thing. Should I go or shouldn’t I? On the one hand, long drive, expensive trip with an overnight thrown in, and I can’t even run when I get there – oh and social awkwardness, paranoia and angst on unexpected arrival. On the other hand, you get to see the actual sea, and touring is always fun, even when of type two, and 250 parkruns? Well, that’s a lot of running around, it ought to be celebrated. South Shields parkrun has been on my wish list for literally years. What better time to schedule it in my busy parkrunday diary. This parkrunday dairy is not an actual thing and a chart but probably should be. I’ve seen analogue parkrun charts that would look great on any fridge. I’ve so many parkruns on my wish list I’d have to be immortal to get round the all, but no harm in chipping away at the top contenders a bit more proactively, if not now, then when? But the cost, the drive, aaargh, what to do?

Fate then lent a hand as I got a lucky break with two days of extra work. One was a midnight wrap and the next day a 6.00 a.m. call meaning heading off at 4 in the morning to get there, so no sleep to speak of, but a bit of a cash windfall further down the line. Plus I got to play the part of nosy neighbour which I was basically born to do, and partake of some unusually fine onset catering, so a good way to end the week. I would make it so! South Shields parkrun here I’d come!

Only I nearly didn’t. On the Friday before my body went into rebellion. My face swelled up like a blooming asymmetrical chipmunk, only resulting in me looking significantly less adorable, cuddlesome and cute than I imagine chipmunks to be (I realise I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in real life) and significantly more like child’s recreation of a random star wars alien using plasticine, marbles and Picasso inspired placement of facial characteristics. Which, in case it isn’t already abundantly clear to you, is not a good look. Not one you want to leave the house with, plus everything hurt. Honestly, random grapefruit sized swelling. Is that too much information? Well, best abort now if you think so, because more follows, I also developed a huge abscess which sprouted up on my back like I’d been cursed or something. I could have wept. I think I did. It’s not fair, my body just can’t do anything more than potter about it seems. A couple of long days and it’s like my body just shuts down in protest. Everything malfunctions, I just can’t do stuff like I did before. I felt proper poorly. Maybe I should accept fate and just cancel. I was very self conscious too, I looked ridiculous, everything ached, this was sub optimal in the extreme, and although being half a hamster may offer comedic value for the viewer (as in comedy horror genre rather than pure comedy), my first hand experience tells me it’s miserable being the purveyor of such comedy gold. I’d rather be bland and in sound body, abscess free given the choice. No choice had been given however, praise be for the NHS.

Emergency appointment and penicillin script later, I was feeling more positive. I saw the nurse prescriber and it turns out she is a parkrunner too! She went to her first parkrun as part of the GP Practice parkrun initiative I think, although not officially part of the scheme, the practice are trying to encourage people to be more active and we the converted know that parkrun is fab for that. So although ironically her attendance was really aimed at encouraging patients to get involved, she now finds it’s she herself who got hooked in. Hurrah!

Anyway, it meant she sort of got where I was coming from with my tearful presentation and admission that I just wanted to go and do a parkrun, and some magic medicine to make me ok. I knew the infection wouldn’t clear on its own, and with it being a bank holiday weekend was worried about going away at all and most certainly without being seen by a medic first. Talking about mutual parkrun passions was a tonic in itself, and having a prescription gave me confidence the infection was in hand. Besides what’s the worst thing that could happen? People pointing and laughing at me is familiar territory, and what’s a bit of sepsis set against the joy of participating at a parkrun. Small price to pay.

Eventually, I hit the road, only about 8 hours later than planned. I figured as long as I didn’t eat anything the swelling would subside. I’d booked a single night’s accommodation at Athol House on Westoe Road The drive was uneventful, good even, and as I neared my destination I could hear seagulls, and then I felt properly excited. Seagulls mean the seaside don’t they. Or a massive rubbish dump to be fair, or both, but in this instance, it was the sea. Hurrah!

I drove straight past the guest house initially, and it was later than I’d planned when I arrived and initially it all looked a bit dead, the road was quiet and shuttered up at the end of the day, although it was just along from a really spectacular municipal building of some sort with a mahoosive statue of Queen Victoria at its front. It didn’t look promising and my sat nav was annoyed with me again. I’m getting to really resent my sat nav, she’s such a back seat driver. I parked up on a side road – loads of parking, and then took my spotted handkerchief of belongings to the front door. Up some steps and rang the bell.

It was answered by such a nice host! A really warm welcome to immaculate premises, newly refurbished. A room with en suite shower, which I never got to use, a fridge, a TV as big as a, erm, something very big, wardrobe maybe, and a double bed. I was given keys and told that if I got into any trouble at all during my stay, day or night, just to give him a call and he’d come and get me – charge for it, but rescue all the same. It was really nice actually, as a single traveller I do think about my safety in a background noise sort of way, so it’s good when that’s pre-empted. Would totally stay there again. Hopefully will do soon, I ‘need’ to do Jesmond Dene and there are lots of other parkruns around there too, not to mention GNR next year potentially. Oooh, so exciting!

There wasn’t anywhere around obvious to get something to eat, but then again, couldn’t really eat anyway, so I just spent an hour trying to find my mobile phone which I managed to lose on arrival but had actually just chucked onto the bed and thrown my coat on top of it. And so to bed, because the earlier you go to bed on parkrun eve, the sooner parkrun morning comes around. Also, I was shattered.

Then it was morning, and parkrun day! Hurrah. My host was busying himself in the kitchen downstairs and I had coffee – could have had a full cooked breakfast but I never eat before parkrun and then there was the hamster transformation risk factor to take into account. I wonder if what I was experiencing is an insight into what it feels like for werewolves as they enter the early stages of their nightly metamorphosis? Must ask the next werewolf I encounter and swap stories, could be interesting… My host was good company, filling me in on the history of South Shields and its marine engineering links and all sorts really. Very companionable. Seemed a waste to just stay the one night. I could even have come back for a late breakfast I think, but opted instead to head to the seaside ASAP.

It was about a mile away, and an easy drive. The post code I had weirdly took me to the overflow carpark not the Sand dancer pub, but it wasn’t hard to find. There was loads of parking when I went, I suppose it was pretty early still, and there were a few parkrunners mingling about, I couldn’t tell if they were tourists or team at this point, but the apricot tees acted as a beacon so I knew I was in the right place, or alternatively, wasn’t the only parkrun tourist in the wrong one. Oh, and little factoid for you, which I found on the interweb so must be true – ‘People from South Shields are sometimes referred to as Sandancers. This is a colloquial term is presumed to originate from the town’s beach and history with the Arabic peoples dating from a 19th Century music hall act of the same name’. I didn’t notice people dancing on the parkrun route particularly, but I was quite far back, maybe all the locals were sand dancing towards the lead of the parkrun pack?

Oh look, the seaside! It was a massive sandy beach as the tide was quite far out. Breaking waves on the horizon. A tractor thing was harrowing the sand to clean it all up. There were cliffs to the right, a ruined priory to the left, ferries and boats out to see. The sun hitting the sea looked glorious. Me and the wonkies (well I could hardly not take them with me could I now) had to venture down to the sea. I love the sea, I’ve missed it. I’d have liked to have gone for a paddle, but wasn’t sure if I would manage that and didn’t want to get into difficulty before I’d even done the run. I rather regret this now, but I’ll just have to go back. It looked like this though.

Not too shabby eh? Looking lovely in the morning light. Sigh. I do love the peak district and feel like Sheffield is home, but ooh, the sea, just love it. Puts everything into perspective. I’d love to spend more time by the sea. That reminds me, need to find out how to get a Vera gig, that really would be living the dream… Oh, unless it’s a documentary, maybe not so high up my wish list to be featured then. Falling from the clifftop onto the beach mid parkrun under mysterious circumstances, would totally distract from the 250th shebang, and not in the parkrun spirit at all. Apart from anything else, just imagine the paper work.

Back to the actual seaside, and being there. For real. At last.

I was SO EXCITED.

So what was in store:

The South Shields parkrun website course description blah de blah says:

Course Description
The run starts on the sea front promenade outside of the Sanddancer pub. From the start follow the promenade towards the Leas. At the gate at the end of the promenade run directly across the grass and join the coastal path next to the large rock. Follow the scenic coastal path up the Tarmac bank and along the cliff tops all the way to the Minchella & Co ice cream hut at the bottom of Marsden bank. Turn right onto the Coast Rd and trace the route of the last mile of the Great North Run along the pavement. The finish is on the Leas opposite the Bamburgh pub.

Wait, hang on a moment, what’s that you say, you get to do the last mile of the Great North Run. O.M.G. Do you have any idea how devastated I have been to have to pull out of the Great North Run for this year. Unbelievably I got lucky in the ballot, and then, well, what with nearly dying and everything, and being in a wheelchair and all, even walking has been sub-optimal to be fair and training not even an actual thing and eventually reality check got through and I pulled out. Strictly speaking, I’ve deferred but you have to pay again to enter next year, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to run again by then or not. Not gonna lie, might have screamed into the void and shed a few tears, but now I find I can do the good bit for free, just by turning up at a parkrun, what’s more accommodation will be a lot more reasonably priced, and frankly who needs the Red Arrows when you can be flanked by marshals? Quite. This was going to be fabulous. Also, the Red Arrows are a bit crap at the moment aren’t they, only seven instead of the usual nine, hardly worth craning your neck to look up into the sky for. Nope, don’t need the GNR, I’ve got the parkrun. #winningatlife

After a bit of a beach potter, and getting my leggings and wonkies and back pack all covered in sand, back to the car. Off in search of the loos – they were adjacent to a sort of public amphitheatre space, I don’t really know quite what I’d expected from South Shields but it certainly has all the facilities, and lots to look at, even a life guard hut of they type that I thought only existed in Baywatch and a certain genre of American horror films like The Sand. This is yet another thing I love about parkrun touristing, it’s very educational, edutainment at its very best. Oh and just to be clear, despite what you might think from watching the Vera documentaries, South Shields beaches do not have killer sand. Fact. Really confident about that Fact claim. It’s proper lovely out there.

Finally, after much pre-parkrun faffing; and exploration; and precautionary peeing; and getting properly excited when the car park machine attendant helped me out and when I said thank you replied ‘nee bother’ in a proper geordie accent proving this is an actual holiday; and sea gazing; and photo taking; and concrete mural gazing I made it to the parkrun start. People were now a-gathering, and I had the awkward paranoia about how to join in. I wasn’t sure if I’d be recognised out of context, and I hadn’t said I’d be coming, but then I espied some familiar faces, and hurrah, they seemed genuinely pleased to see me, as I was to see them, and it was all lovely and worth while, even without having yet embarked on the actual parkrun, it was all going to be fine! Oh, and what’s more, they have a gorgeous canine barkrunner about their person too! Brilliant. Maybe didn’t catch him at his best angle first off, but it’s the thought that counts

Even though I’d arrived a good hour early, I’d been so caught up in my faffing, it was almost start time. I parked at the start, but the finish is actually somewhere else, a good km away I’d say, and there is a good pub there for post parkrun shenanigans, so if you are visiting it probably makes more sense to park at the finish and then walk down to the start, but hey ho. I was walking anyway, so decided I’d wear my fleece and carry money for afterwards, but it would have been a pain if I’d been planning on a speedy one. It’s not that far, but beyond my limits of activity for the day at the moment to nip back at the end of the parkrun. As it happened, we got a bit of rain anyway, so I wasn’t entirely inappropriately attired. First though, first timers briefing. A small but perfectly formed gathering of first timers listened attentively.

and then it was mustering to the start

Then the actual run briefing from the actual run director and the actual 250th celebrant who was doing BSL interpretation. It’s great that this is becoming so much more routine of late. Or maybe I’m just more aware of it. I host people who work at the Crucible Theatre sometimes. At the moment they are rehearsing for a production of Much Ado by Ramps on the Moon, a company which ensures ‘every performance features the use of integrated creative sign language, audio description and captioning. Ramps On The Moon is the pioneering initiative committed to putting deaf and disabled artists and audiences at the centre of their work.’ One tenet they adhere to, is that for theatre to be regarded as truly ‘accessible’ you should just be able to rock up, without any warning, for any show and be able to engage with it. Not just the one tokenistic BSL signed production on the first Tuesday matinee of alternate months or have to book 6 months ahead for the one touch tour they are offering which require you to turn up three days early for the performance you’ve actually booked to see so you can make sense of what is being described to you on stage. This is interesting to me, it makes sense. There isn’t equality of access when so much forward planning is required. Sometimes adjustments do require forward planning, but sometimes relatively simple things can make all the difference. BSL at parkrun briefings as standard is brilliant, and I think for those parkruns fortunate enough to have BSL users amongst their numbers it is increasingly common to do just that. Have it as a default option and not only put it on because they know in advance someone might require it – commendable as that is. Oh I digress, sorry, never happened before though so…

Where was I? Oh yes, run briefing proper. I’d been advised that I knew the RD already from somewhere or other, but nope, didn’t register him at all. And with his commanding authority at the briefing I surely would have done? We were reminded of the course, of the last mile being that of THE ACTUAL GREAT NORTH RUN, to watch out for other users, dinosaurs, sand dancers probably, I forget the details. Milestone shout out for our BSL apricot wearing 250th celebrant and standing ovation for the volunteers. Well, we were standing already to be fair, but standing and clapping is a standing ovation as far as I’m concerned and the main thing is they were properly appreciated. They went through the route again I think, or maybe not, but at some point, someone said basically keep the sea to your left and you’ll be fine, marshals will stop you getting lost. Not wishing to be overly picky, but wishing to avoid future trauma for others, I must point out this is only is sort of true. In fact at some point it does actually swap since you cross a grassy bit and come back the other way with the sea on your right. If you miss this turn (admittedly hard to do on account of the outstanding directional pointing on the part of the marshals) you could in theory end up doing a complete round coastal run, and if I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure the batteries on the timekeepers phone would hold out long enough to guarantee you a finish time. So, consider that you’ve been warned. All parkruns will endeavour to remain til the last parkrunner is safely home in normal circumstances, but if you take a route detour of approx 2700 miles give or take a few then you do risk them stepping down in your absence. Good to know. Keep your wits about you out there.

And then we were off!

I say ‘we were off’ but really I mean everyone else was off, and I took some not very good pictures and then pootled in behind. It’s a lovely parkrun this one, but also somewhat weird. By this I mean the route on the promenade tarmac is, well essentially a rather bleak road run, but if you turn your eyes to the left you get this staggering coastal view. Although I do feel bereft at not being able to run, it is true that when you walk you see so much more. You soon move off the tarmac and up a bit of hill onto the cliff top proper. Guided by the first of the marshals who guide you way

Looking out you see breaking waves and boats and rock pools and also unexpected (to me) bits of coastal history, the gun thingy, notice boards explaining some of the history of the leas and the rock formations and nature. Barriers advise you to keep away from the edge of the cliff, with a running total of those who failed to follow that advice and no doubt perished for it. Harsh, but fair.

There was another walker early on. Turned out he was one of those who originally set up this parkrun. Even measured and designed the course. Unusually perhaps, the South Shields authorities were incredibly keen on hosting parkrun, did all they could to accommodate it, and even suggested the GNR stretch I think, if I recall correctly, so this was perhaps one of the speediest ever course approvals. It’s great when new parkruns are so welcomed. He soon disappeared off ahead, and I was left for a mindful walk. I could hear the tailwalkers companionably chatting together a bit behind me, and now and again got a glimpse of parkrunners on the horizon or on my right as they’d turned around and were zooming down the home straight to the cheering welcome of the finish funnel.

After a good stretch of the coast, you cut across a grassy section as per the course description, towards the GNR section. What the course directions omitted to mention, was that at this critical point would be a gorgeous troupe of marshals to cheer you AND photograph you en route. The quartet included fine mini-marshals, with their own bespoke high vis which is one of my favourite things. Upshot was, that I was in the giddily joyous situation of photographing them, photographing me. It was all very jolly, and very friendly. I was conscious of being a long way behind everyone else, but it didn’t feel uncomfortable at all, it felt fine.

parkrun photos are always grand aren’t they, but this photographer papped some real classics, how smiley and cheery and flying feety were all the parkrunners today! The sea air clearly does wonders for your parkrun times. Yay for parkrun pictures to capture the parkrun memories of seaside days and adventures.

One of the stood down marshals came past on his bike, all smiles, and before I knew it, I was on the homeward stretch of the GNR. By now it was drizzling a bit, and most people had dispersed, so it was cheering when some of my parkrun buddies came back to join me for the final march in. In fact others came back to join the tail walkers too, and there was barkrunner joy as well as parkrunners reuniting, definitely a back of the pack party going on there.

Supported in by my entourage, the finish funnel came into view in no time at all. Most other parkrunners had taken refuge in the Bamburgh pub at the finish line, but there was still a quorum for cheering and timing and scanning and results processing, and we did some more mix and match phots to capture the occasion. It had to be done. This, incidentally, is the actual finish area for the GNR. Don’t let on, but it’s actually a bit underwhelming on account of the fact it’s just a vast open bit of grassland, so you have to use your imagination to fill in the buzz of the crowd, the jangling of finish medals and the sound of celebratory claps on backs echoing around the area. Fortunately, I have a very vivid imagination, so that was not a problem for me. I got a genuine high from doing this bit. It was in a small way compensation for missing out on the Great North Run itself, and technically, as final finisher at this parkrun (before the tail walkers admittedly, but that doesn’t suit my narrative so I’m ignoring them) I am first finisher at the 2022 Great North Run. My logic being that parkrun is cancelled next week (probably) due to prep work for the event, and so the next run to take place finishing there will be the event itself. I’m not one to brag, but just putting it out there. I finished first. I imagine quite a few of you will be seeking out selfies with me in due course, I get it. I may not have sought out this degree of fame, but I accept it.

Then took sanctuary in the pub, which was noisy but spacious, with plenty of room for 250 milestone celebrations and general post parkrun parkfaffing. I had a chat to the RD and finally made the connection! Oooh, I do know you, you are the unicorn man! How I was supposed to recognise him without his inflatable unicorn and in the disguise of an RD high vis I have no idea, but now it all makes sense. Of course he is the unicorn man, he has the watch and accessories to prove it! We both listen to the With Me Now unofficial parkrun podcast and even met at the recent listener meet up at PERRY HALL parkrun, my bad. His inflatable unicorn is tapering ahead of the Great North Run, well, this is what I choose to believe anyway. It was all very jolly. There were even group photos and cake, though I skipped eating on account of my inflatable jaw. Isn’t that joyful though, parkrun friends all together, gathering from near and far, it is a wonderful thing the way parkrun continues to bring people together. Aw.

Oh and did you spot the genius ‘ask me about volunteering at junior parkrun’ badge what a great idea! I love the different ways parkruns do things, that’s such a simple thing to try to get people on board, and we do need volunteers desperately. Endcliffe parkrun had to cancel for the first time ever due to lack of volunteers this week, it’s heart breaking, that’s a huge parkrun but has only a handful of regular volunteers who inevitably reach burnout, myself included if I’m honest. Oh well, maybe it will be a wake up call for more people to step up in future. There is still this sense that volunteering is ‘giving up a parkrun’ whereas it really isn’t. It’s just spending it in a different way. A new kind of joy and one that delivers virtual badges on the Running Challenges sticker chart. I mean, what’s not to like? And if you think volunteering at a Saturday parkrun is fun, wait ’til you turn your hand to junior parkrun! It’s a distillation of all that is glorious in parkrun, with extra high fives and fancy dress!

parkfaffery concluded, stories shared and then people started to peel away. There is loads to do in South Shields, but I was flagging so needed to get home. This is definitely one to come back for though, it would be super fun to actually run it, fast and flat, but with compensatory views on route if you picked a day with an icy headwind to slow you down. Even in the wind though, there is something energising and life affirming about being by the sea and at the mercy of the elements – especially when you know there’ll be a warm put to welcome you at the end should you survive it!

I knew I didn’t have the stamina for a full on day out, but I did have a mini explore on the way back to the start where my car was. I had a peer into the rockpools, checked out the big guns and just breathed the sea air.

Like I said, not too shabby. Oh, and if you want to look at some decent photos from the Bank Holiday parkrun, check out the Facebook post with the official ones, aaah, aren’t they splendid!

and that was that, time to go home and dream of parkruns again until next time.

So once again, congratulations on completing your 250 milestone, hope by now you’ve ordered you milestone club tee. Oh, and extra kudos for planning it so you did your 250 on the day when PSH and JSH both nabbed their 500. You are basically milestone triplets! Good work. Check out the results for that weekend from Dietenbach parkrun and allow yourself an aaaah moment. Lovely isn’t it? Don’t you wish you were the photobomber though #lifegoals

The end

Thanks for sticking with me. It’s good to know there is parkrunner support right to the end!

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A humdinger of a parkrun at Humber Bridge!

Humber Bridge parkrun

Event number 350

16th July 2022

This is actually a run report I did for Humber Bridge parkrun, it was shared on their Facebook page (thank you lovely Humber Bridge parkrun) but not posted on their news pages, so I’ve just added it to my own blog to store the memory. Indulge me 🙂

A humdinger of a parkrun!

Well, that was splendid.

What a humdinger of a parkrun Humber Bridge is indeed.  I can’t believe it wasn’t even on my radar until last weekend.

What happened last weekend I hear you cry?  Well, funny you should ask, last Saturday I was at Perry Hall parkrun, there for a gathering of listeners to the unofficial parkrun podcast With Me Now – worth a listen if you a parkrun passionista, as I’m sure you must be.  Turns out, Humber Bridge parkrun’s very own Ali CARTER was there too, blending into the background dressed as a unicorn as you do.  Despite her near invisibility, we struck up a conversation, I explained I was hesitant about trying new parkruns because I’m currently having to walk and my balance can be poor following serious illness last year.  Quick as a flash she suggested joining her today at Humber Bridge as she’d be celebrating her 250th parkrun and the weekend of her 100th volunteering stint with a spot of tailwalking, so she’d be more than happy to keep me company at the fun factory at the back on the way round.  I mulled it over, not for long, and then this morning, up at stupid o’clock and off to Humber from Sheffield.   I do love a parkrun adventure after all, and knowing the tailwalker was happy to take the time needed gave me the confidence to try an unknown venue.

My bad, but I hadn’t really appreciated before just how stunning your venue is.  On the way, there was a point when I looked out of my car window to the left and saw sparkling blue water and tantalising glimpses of the Humber Bridge.  It was absolutely stunning.  Literally jaw dropping.  How have I missed this?  It felt like being on holiday as I followed the signs to the Hessle foreshore.  I actually paused before going under the bridge to the black mill car park so that I could take in the view and check out the emergency rescue teams doing their life boat drills and take some photos too.  Then, back into the car, and following your website instructions (which were excellent by the way) on a little further to the carpark just adjacent to the foot tunnel heading into the country park.  Great news for a tourist, there were loos!  Not only that, they were open, and not only that they were literally just being cleaned.  This was going to be a good morning.  I always worry about having to go al fresco when touristing, a loo is always a huge boon, one that is clean and has toilet paper and soap and everything is like hitting the jackpot – and I’d not even made it to the gathering point yet.

This parkrun has all the things, loads of free parking, immaculate loos and of course super friendly volunteers, plus, as the morning unfolded, celebratory milestone cakes.  And the course is super lovely, the shade of trees, spectacular views, a sculpture trial, wildlife – if this is your local, you are winning at parkrun life, it’s properly gorgeous.

I’m always a bit awkward on first arrival, but I was so excited to enter the shaded woodland, make may way along the board walk and past various ‘caution runners’ signs into the open grass area where the finish funnel was already set up in all its glory.  A parkrun banner fluttered against the backdrop of the Humber Bridge, and people started to arrive and mingle.

I got chatting to another tourist.  He was here because his son’s graduation had brought him to the area, like me, he was blown away but the spectacular setting.  He helped me acquire a staged photo of the RD through the selfie frame, always good to have a willing accomplice when you are operating by stealth.   Love how the parkrun community always helps one another out. AND he took the obligatory photo of me through the selfie frame.  Hurrah!  I’m not sure why we call them selfie frames to be fair, you’d have to have arms the length of Mr Tickle to take an effective authentic selfie all on your own. Still, minor quibble, happy to have them 😊

Today’s run director was Matthew FISHER-GILL, resplendent in monochrome.  That’s the tourist’s hand in shot there, sorry I didn’t get his name, but at least he has had his hand immortalised in the run report, I hope that’s its own reward.

Matthew also did the first timers’ welcome.  Today there were 20 of us discovering Humber Bridge parkrun for the first time.  Not sure what’s taken us so long but better late than never, and my we were all in for a treat.

The biggest shout out of all though, should go to the duo of first time everers.  Yep, that’s right dear reader, people doing their first ever parkrun.  What a welcome they had!  Bravo to these terrific two, Jonathan HATE and Michael VESSIO I hope it is but their first of many.  I’m not sure if they came separately or together, but hopefully they’ll be back again soon.  Just imagine, their Saturdays will never be the same again, but in a good way, and their lives will be the richer for it!

The other first timers were an eclectic mix from those doing just their second parkrun to those who have already notched up a couple of hundred.  Various clubs were represented including: Coventry Triathletes; South Leeds Lakers; Selby Striders; Bournville Harriers (which sounds like it ought to be a sort of chocolate but disappointingly is not – as far as I know); Run Sandymoor and With Me Now.

After the first timers’ welcome, we were called to the start area, and parkrunners compliantly assembled with the Humber Bridge spectacular as ever in the background.  Nope, the photos don’t do it justice, but I’m trying to show willing.

So it was 104 of us assembled at the start area.  We were addressed by the charismatic Jamie PENN.  At other parkruns it tends to be the Run Director who does this address, but I can quite see why Jamie was put in the spotlight.  It was a very entertaining, and authoritative briefing.  Lots of interaction, reinforcement and clear messaging.  You can see why he’s on comms.  It is THREE laps we were told. THREE, which is not the same as one, or two, but THREE.  You have to keep to the LEFT, so faster runners can pass, they aren’t being horrid if they call out to you as they whizz on by, they are just letting you know.  LEFT is the right thing to do, oh no, scrap that, not right, always LEFT.  There are some steps on the way but DO NOT USE THEM, they are NOT PART OF THE COURSE, they COULD BE DANGEROUS, THIS IS WHY THEY ARE NOT PART OF THE COURSE.  Honestly, it says a lot about the style of delivery that I can still remember all these things.  It was terrific.  And people kept quiet throughout, that pretty much never happens.  All good.

There were shout outs for milestone Ali CARTER for her 250th – heads up for cake at the finish, a huge cheer for Kevin PENNY on the occasion of his 25th volunteering stint, and fine work he did out on the course today too.  Every person visiting from another parkrun was identified and greeted in turn, too may for me to remember, but Coventry, Hull – me from Sheffield, we all got a cheer just for being there.  It’s nice in life to be cheered for just existing, it’s validating and fun and much appreciated.  The bear hug was reserved for Ali though, I assume that’s traditional when you reach your 250..  Besides, we have to make up for all those weeks and months when we couldn’t even gaze at each other across a parkrun let alone touch.  Then when parkrun returned we could only do air elbow bumps which were never very satisfactory and high fives were a long time coming back, we are – for now at least – back into full on (consensual) hugging territory, and the world is a better place for it.  It’s important to make the most of it whilst we can.

The briefing was so thorough, I was half expecting a written test before we would be allowed to continue, much like doing the driving theory test, before you are allowed out in the car but no, it was straight onto the parkrun practical, ready and OFF!

The start was up a little hill, though generally the course was pretty flat, and the terrain even.  A few narrower sections, some tree roots, but nothing too technical.  Very doable with my sticks.  It was lovely seeing the mass of runners disappearing in a streak of colours ahead.  They looked like celebratory bunting as they ran up the incline and cornered to the right.  High vis heroes provided superb clapping, enthusiastic words of encouragement and outstanding directional pointing to help us all round.  There was an abundance of arrows too.  Even though all three loops are identical, I managed to entirely lose my sense of direction.  By chance, on this hot morning, it was a lovely shady course.  You weave beneath lovely mature trees.  I was distracted by the little carvings en route, the spectacular ‘cliffs’ of chalk, the views of the bridge (oh, have I already said about that?) the calls of encouragement from passing runners and the fine company of the fun factory at the back.  Plus, it was edutainment at its best, since we were joined by Helen PENN for a couple of laps, and she was able to fill me in on some of the venue’s history.  It used to be a chalk quarry apparently.  I had a Google later on to assist me with parkrunpedia, from this I learn that ‘the Humber Bridge Country Park, a former chalk quarry that once supplied the whiting mill with chalk. Known locally as Little Switzerland, the Country Park has been a popular family destination for generations. It is also a designated Local Nature Reserve welcoming more than 100,000 visitors per year.’ Also, more about the big black mill ‘on Hessle foreshore, in the shadow of the north tower of the Humber Bridge, stands Hessle Whiting Mill, a unique example of an early nineteenth century whiting windmill. The mill forms part of the Humber Bridge Country Park’s Chalk Walk heritage trail.’  And to think that less than 12 hours ago I didn’t even know a whiting mill was a thing!  Just goes to show, parkrun really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Helen was involved in setting it up Humber Bridge parkrun some 8 years ago now, and seems to do pretty much everything.  She was explaining that she originally did a parkrun at I think Peter Pan, and just wondered why there wasn’t one at the Country Park at Humber Bridge, expressed an interest in setting one up, and then before she knew it was Event Director and Run Director and made it so!  She has already joined the 250 volunteer club, but … get this… has completed an astonishing 2478 roles!  Even allowing for the fact she often takes on multiple roles on one day, that’s an extraordinary statistic, it surely equates to a whole year of parkrun volunteer days at the very least.

Today was Helen’s 333rd parkrun, though I’m not sure she appreciated this at the time.  I do love good palindrome.  This made her the most runny parkrunner in attendance today, the next up being Neil HERON on 288 parkruns.  Helen is also an international parkrunner having done parkruns in Australia, Germany and Italy as well as in the UK.  She’s even done Bunbury parkrun in Australia, which I didn’t know was an actual place despite being pretty positive it got a mention on neighbours back in the olden days when in was Scott and Charlene not Jason and Kylie.  Sigh.  Just goes to show, parkrun can open your eyes to all sorts of new worlds if you just step out and explore the ones on offer

I was impressed talking to the volunteers how committed the core team are.  It seems there are some regulars who go above and beyond to keep the show on the road.  Yay for Terry, Terence William PARKER, who has also been involved in the parkrun from the very beginning. His 288 volunteer roles isn’t too shabby either.  I’m constantly bowled away by how much time, and love is poured into parkrun by volunteers.  It’s important not to take them for granted.  Yes, they get to look fabulous rocking the high vis – who doesn’t look great in fluorescent pink after all, but they also do a huge amount behind the scenes.

The event today was made possible by 15 AWESOME & AMAZING volunteers:

Terence William PARKER • Helen PENN • David ROOMS • Ali CARTER • Jamie PENN • John RIDDIOUGH • Pamela TARBET • Victoria RIDDIOUGH • Susan ELDER • Graham NAYLOR • Fiona WALES • Matthew FISHER-GILL • Tony NICHOLSON • Kevin PENNY • Mandy SIMMS

Many events have really struggled to get volunteers since coming back after the pandemic, and it seems Humber Bridge is no exception.  Volunteering is not compulsory, but it is super fun.  You get to wear the parkrun high vis and look busy and important (some roles even involve holding a clipboard, and you don’t get more high status than that), you get the gratitude of passing runners; you get all the fun of a parkrun without the messy sweaty having to actually run bit; you gather virtual badges for your Running Challenges extension (think sticker charts for grown-ups) but best of all you get a lovely glow of inner joy as the feelgood consequence of being part of what keeps the parkrun phenomenon running (or walking or jogging).

If you haven’t volunteered before, do consider giving it a go, you’d be so very welcome, and you’ll find you aren’t really giving anything up, just experiencing and enjoying parkrun in a new way. You can find out more here https://volunteer.parkrun.com/principles/volunteer-roles If you have volunteered before then you know how brilliant it is!  Why not pick a future date, put it in the diary so you commit to do a stint on an actual day, rather than some vague ‘one day’ and email the team to offer a date and preferred role (if applicable) together with your name and athlete id.  Email: humberbridge@parkrun.com Imagine what it would feel like for the event team to have a whole rota filled up in advance?  Pretty amazing eh.  Or if you aren’t wanting to commit that far ahead, maybe at least opt in for the volunteering emails, so when the parkrun is in jeopardy due to lack of volunteers you could maybe save the day.  All contributions will be appreciated.  Every little helps as the saying goes, and it’s super fun.  Plus, it is a known fact, that volunteers are the most photogenic people at any parkrun. 

Case in point, yay for Kevin PENNY, on his 25th volunteering occasion.  He’s only four parkruns away from his 100th parkrun too.  He’s going to need a bigger wardrobe for all those lovely new milestone tees that I hope he’ll be indulging in shortly.  This could be you too dear reader, just imagine!

A Kevin factoid, is that his best time in 2018 was 22.00 a 72.88% age grading, impressive yes, but get this, in 2022 he has still achieved a time of 22:07 and his age grading has increased to 74.45%

Be more Kevin.  It looks like doing all that volunteering pretty much guarantees you an improved percentage age grading.  Well, it ought to, if there was any justice in the world.

Age grading takes your time and uses the world record time for your sex and age to produce a score (a percentage). This score allows you to compare your personal performance against other people’s performances even though they might be a different age and a different sex to you – the higher the score the better the performance.  Did you know that the Humber parkrun course record in relation to age grading was Jane Ruth MORLEY – 87.19% 22:54 – Event 80 (19 Dec 2015).  That’s pretty impressive.

So off we went, walking and talking.  I used to run parkrun, slowly admittedly, but a lot quicker than I am now.  Now I can’t do that anymore, I like to take photos along the way, I’m not much of a photographer, but the pictures remind me of each different parkrun.  Today however, I captured a fluke flying feet photo of which I’m very proud.  So, mystery runner, thank you for bounding by.

Ali as tail walker was keeping me company, but it was lovely that at various time we were joined by other parkrunners who’d either already finished, or were just pausing to congratulate Ali on her 250th parkrun.  For at least one lap she was joined by her birthday twin, Naomi.  Apparently, there are three friends who share the same birth date but as they are decades apart in age I am going to stick my neck out and venture they are non-identical triplets.  

Despite being smartly hatted and suited (I do appreciate a fine hat) Ali hadn’t in fact dressed in my honour as you might have first thought.  Turns out, she is a local (and probably international too) legend for her finesse at fancy dress.  She’s already completed one parkrun alphabet (run a parkrun beginning with each letter of the alphabet apart from X because that’s not possible) and is doing it again.  However,  this time, not only is she running them in alphabetical order, but with a fancy-dress outfit beginning with the same letter of each of the parkruns she attends. I did ask her if she could remember all the outfits and all the parkruns, and you know what?  She absolutely can!  She told me all of them, but unfortunately, I’m not so good at remembering.  I do know she has been some or all of the following: a penguin; a minion; a unicorn; Wally (or is that W’Ali?); Olaf; a fox; a frog (that was for leap year run nothing to do with alphabeteering though I think) and many more besides.  Oh, I do remember she did an x-ray at Exmouth parkrun though, see what she’s done there?  Clever.  That’s the way to do it.  And and ambulance, that was pretty fabulous, as tailwalker on the celebrating 70 years of the NHS day.  She picked up a timer dressed as a patient at the end.  Attention to detail you see.  Impressive.

This week 104 people ran, jogged and walked the course, 10 recorded new Personal Bests.  Which is especially impressive on a hot, hot day.  All are worthy of congratulations, but a particular shout out for Colin BOTHAM because he achieved the numerical finesse of a finish time of 27:27.  Nice.  Almost as good as Roby STYLES who smashed out a palindrome as a first timer with 24:42.  Loving your work.  Tim GREEN was also concentrating getting a 37:37, a Humber Triathlete no less, triathletes have to be on it for their timings so I’m going to assume that was intentional.  I need to get some input from these folk, I’m 262 parkruns in and yet to complete my parkrun bingo (that’s when you collect all the seconds from 00 to 59 in your finish time – one of many Running Challenges parkrunners can undertake.  Check out the chrome extension at https://running-challenges.co.uk/ if you want to get some ideas about how to choose parkrun tourist destinations, though warning, it can get a bit addictive.

Representatives of 19 different clubs took part.  Some were triathletes joining in the Ali CARTER’s celebrations for her 250th parkrun.  The The McGill’s Martletts were represented by Sian AUSTIN who was doing her 99th parkrun today, hope she had a celebratory flake ice cream somewhere afterwards.  Perfect day for it.  There were also three Lonely Goats, so hopefully not feeling lonely at all today.  Edward STEAD was the solitary Royal Sutton Coldfield AC representative but cracked his 42nd parkrun and therefore possibly the meaning of life too.  I didn’t get to meet him though as far as I’m aware, so therefore didn’t get the chance to ask him about it, and now that moment has passed.  Oh well.  The point is, there were many clubs represented, and that’s always great to see.  There was also a noticeable couch to 5k contingent, I think they were touristing from elsewhere so must have already graduated, but great to see so many people sporting their team colours.

I honestly feel quite emotional watching parkrunners assemble for and participating at a parkrun.  People of all ages, shapes and sizes, a healthy scattering of tutus, fancy dress, club t-shirts, it’s genuinely uplifting, and all that a parkrun should be.

Even though we walked round, and took just over an hour, cheery volunteers were still patiently waiting to cheer us home through the funnel of cones and to time us back.  It seemed to go quickly.  Yes, it was a three-lap course, but there was so much to see, and such good parkrun companions the time flew by.  We even got to see some of the speedier parkrunners come flying through the finish funnel as were finishing one of our laps.  Epic running.

Once we’d finished, and been timed in and scanned there was still sufficient patience in the team to allow for more posing for photos at the end.  All possible combinations of people and selfie frames with the Humber Bridge doing its thing in the background were accommodated.

Finally, back to the car park.  I wasn’t able to join the gathering for post parkrun coffee and catch up, though I was warmly invited and made to feel very welcome, but I did get to admire the cake.  Excellent.  Oh, and for the record, I may also have got not one but two almond shortcake biscuits in the shape of a milestone tee.  I might also have eaten these on the drive home, scattering crumbs all over my car and lap.  If I did, then just so you know, it was totally worth it.

Today’s full results and a complete event history can be found on the Humber Bridge parkrun Results Page, today’s results are here https://www.parkrun.org.uk/humberbridge/results/350

Just so you know, here are some general Humber Bridge facts, they may come in handy if ever you have a local parkrun pub or café quiz say, plus inherently interesting I reckon:

  • The male record is held by Kris LECHER who recorded a time of 15:40 on 2nd June 2018 (event number 210).
  • The female record is held by Della HATFIELD who recorded a time of 18:30 on 25th June 2022 (event number 347).
  • Humber Bridge parkrun started on 7th June 2014. Since then 7,957 participants have completed 44,721 parkruns covering a total distance of 223,605 km, including 7,501 new Personal Bests. A total of 526 individuals have volunteered 5,093 times.

Are you still here?  Thanks for sticking with me!  Just like with the tailwalker, you are here to support me right to the very end.  I appreciate that.

Thank you Humber Bridge parkrunners and volunteers one and all for making this such a fantastic parkrun tourist experience.  You are all STARS!  I feel lucky indeed to have chalked up this most excellent parkrun at long last.  It was just joyful.  What fantastic ambassadors you all are for parkrun in general and Humber Bridge parkrun in particular.  At the end of the day, parkrun is about communities, and bringing people together and this event does exactly that.  Be proud of yourselves, you are The Best!

Lucy Marris, A448776

Give me a wave if you see me out and about!  Happy parkrunning ‘til then.

and a bonus smorgasbord of photos just because, you’re welcome!

The End

Categories: 5km, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

RSR Returns – Round Sheffield Run – lace up for the seventh edition 2021

Finally, once again a Saturday morning when Sheffield runners could get laced up and ready to go! For some this would mean squashing covid kilos into Lycra and dragging their weary carcasses around the green trails of our great city. For others, toned from months of newly adopted training regimes that started with Joe Wicks and somehow morphed into backyard marathons and obsessive implementation of press up challenges this would be their moment to test their newly honed and toned physiques against the gradients of Sheffield. Those of us not running fit due to injury, apathy or lack of a golden ticket to take part in this too long anticipated and too oft postponed event could still (flabbily) muscle in on the action as volunteers or supporters. For this weekend, dear reader, Endcliffe Park was The Place. The only running destination on the radar. Prepare yourselves, the event is after all billed as ‘epic’, no-one wants to miss out on that – best get lacing…. And make an effort, it was after all this time surely going to be an extra special occasion. Super-sized epic, with an extra side of epicicity* for good measure.

What’s more, this dose of epicness was not because we’d all suddenly collectively woken up to the sound of a shower only to discover the entire pandemic has been but a bad dream, but because – oh still my giddy heart – it was true. This was indeed to be (sort of) The First** Major Sporting Event Back. It must be so, The Sheffield Telegraph reported it.

Bring it on!

Wait? Seriously? You still don’t know what I’m talking about? Only The Round Sheffield Run dear reader. Bringing that back on! I know, mega!

Even so, sequels are risky aren’t they? Not to the same extent of shot for shot re-makes, which are obviously an abomination of nature (why with Psycho, why?), but a risky endeavour all the same. Will there always be a nostalgia for the original and therefore the best, or will doing it all over again mean bigger, better bolder, ironing out glitches and embracing innovation? Not just incremental shift but exponential change. To date, the Round Sheffield Run has bucked the trend of bombing, disappointing literal re-runs (apart from the running bit, there has always been running – by some participants at least). It’s had a straight series of six impeccable (re)incarnations. Could it pull it off again? This time round the stakes were inevitably particularly high. I suppose on the one hand in the absence of any alternatives many of us might be quite grateful just to hobble round a litter strewn car park in horizontal hail if it meant we got in a little bimble followed by a nice bit of bling. To actually be in the presence of actual other people doing the same thing whilst a forlorn looking high vis marshalled clapped half heartedly at us from a distance would be more than enough after such prolonged abstinence. On the other though, this event had been not just once but twice postponed from its original due date. The weight of anticipation and expectation was mahoosive. That was a significant gestation period. Could it deliver?

Honestly, what do you think? Exactly that! Sometimes the predictable is what’s wanted.

The Round Sheffield Run, like pretty much every other happening of the last gawd knows how long, has been a casualty of Rona. It was supposed to take place June 2020, but put back (or is it put forward? I’ve never really understood how that grammatic sorcery quite makes sense) to a much anticipated inaugural Winter Edition. That was originally planned to take place once the pandemic was loooooooooooooooong over and we could look forward to skidding and sliding and slipping our way around snowy and icy Sheffield trails in January 2021. That would mean returning to base camp for no doubt hot roasted chestnuts, steaming mugs of hot chocolate and mulled wine. The mulled wine being compulsory even though everyone*** knows it to be absolutely vile because it would provide necessary evidence of being seen to get into the appropriate spirit of things. Spoiler alert. That didn’t happen. Postponed again. Instead, we had to wait until this weekend of 26-27 June 2021 for the RSR to return for its seventh incarnation. What a wait.

The event was slightly re-imagined to take account of covid compliance. So this time around it was happening over two days to help with social distancing along with other precautions. And I couldn’t help noticing – with a Kandoo Events characteristic attention to detail – the added precaution of omitting the actual year date on the medal at the finish. Doug is clearly a man who does not wish to tempt fate.

Well, that was my initial thought, on reflection, he probably is just like the rest of us, no idea what year it is any more, let alone what month or day of the week. Who cares anyway, these days, one decade is pretty much like any other, apart from us being that much closer to global annihilation as we continue accelerating our rampant destruction of the planet chucking facemasks into the sea, carbon dioxide into space, ripping out our forests and squirting glyphosate into our streets. Other than that, no consequences at all from the passing of time.

You must know about the Round Sheffield Run by now? I’m notoriously a late adopter myself, but even I got round to binge watching Breaking Bad eventually albeit it took the pandemic for me to do so. All the same, I’m bored of explaining all about how the Round Sheffield Run works, as really it should be mandatory for everyone to know by now. If you are any kind of a runner, or supporter of a runner or know a runner, or once saw a runner whilst out and about doing your own thing in Sheffield, then there is really no excuse. Knowledge of the RSR should be part of your DNA whether you are consciously aware of it or not. If you are unlucky enough to live outside of Sheffield you might not be quite so lucky or enlightened enough to have it on your radar, but basically think parkrun on steroids. Yes, it really is that much fun! It’s inclusive, joyful, all the best bits about running communities brought together in one magnificent whole whilst scampering around the green bits of Sheffield. The only real differences between the Round Sheffield Run and parkrun are that – for some people – it is actually a race not a run, the name of the event is capitalised and not one word, and it’s on a Sunday. This time though, it was even on a Saturday, and started off running round in a park too. So you have runners gathering in a park on a Saturday morning with hi-vis marshals to cheer the on. So EXACTLY like parkrun apart from it being a bit longer. Quite a bit longer, but that’s just more time out and about having parkrun type fun isn’t it? Yes it is! They even have post event faffery, which as any parkrunner will tell you, is not merely an integral part of any parkrun but a necessary precondition for any parkrun to occur. No really, it is. Even at the planning stages, proximity to post run refreshments is crucial It was always about the coffee after all…

The run is one thing, but the coffee is absolutely crucial to the whole thing so that people can connect, chat and in turn build community.

Just in case inexplicably you are still in the dark, you can read all about it on their website, the link for which is here: https://www.roundsheffieldrun.com but in case the link doesn’t work – and embarrassingly it doesn’t even for me right now because my computer says ‘no’ because it doesn’t like the security settings and is being hyper vigilant in this new age of viruses I think – the digested read is that:

The EPIC “multi-stage” running race linking the best trails and parkland around Sheffield, a social and memorable experience.‘ And you know what? It actually is. ‘The creative format allows the course to be accessed by all runners. Walking / Jogging is encouraged between stages to recover and refresh before the next challenge. The stages mean that the racing takes place on the best and beautiful sections of paths and trails on route. Taking in a fantastic tour of Sheffield. People who have never run this route will be surprised by the hidden gems that this uncovers! ….. Of course we are hoping for a pleasant summer’s day and on completion of the route, there will be a bar and BBQ to replenish and help with the celebrations!’

So, now you know.

Well, would the 2021 Round Sheffield Run experience be seventh heaven or the seventh circle of hell? Might depend on how much pre-event training you’ve done, but really only one way to find out…

I blooming love the RSR. I am of the view that it was basically designed especially for me. It has a special place in my heart because it was my first ever ‘proper’ event, other than parkrun. Naïve and new to (park)running, I saw the first ever RSR advertised, and as it was all expressed in very open and inclusive terms, and split into sections – the longest of which was just 3 km, I sort of thought ‘well, I’ve done 5k at a parkrun – how hard can it be?’ and sort of missed the bit of basic arithmetic that means you need to add all those little chunks together – oh, and the additional recovery stages too – so that gets you to around 24k, oh and maybe think about the elevation aspect (500m), and when you’ve done all of that, it’s actually quite a bit longer and more challenging than hoppity skipping around my home parkrun. But you know what, sometimes ignorance is indeed bliss. If I’d over thought it, or even thought about it very much at all, I’d never have rocked up, and you know what, that would have been a crying shame. Because it does what it says. It is indeed epic. What’s more, it’s an event which has created a format where people of different abilities can all take on the same route and have the same fun and because it’s friendly and supportive it’s fine. Really it is. I mean obviously way better to train and know a bit about what you are letting yourself in for, but much like a parkrun you don’t need to be elite by any means to get around, you’ll just have more time on the course and more fun interactions with others if you take your time. Plus, if you are slow like me, start early, and then pretty much the entire field will overtake you at some point so you get to interact with pretty much everyone. In each new iteration of the event, more and more people have discovered the event, and I’m sure for many it will have been for them, like it was for me their first baptism into trail runs and longer distances. You never forget your first time. I think the usp for the event though has to be its inclusiveness at both ends of the continuum. Whilst being accessible to newbies and steady runners, for the super speedy elite runners it offers up a truly challenging course and a competitiveness that would make the eyes of mere mortal (park)runners like myself bleed at the very thought. I really, really wanted to do this event again.

I really did.

Plus, I’d already done the online shopping order for the RSR slumber party. I’d be hosting some now critically endangered Tring parkrunners for the weekend. We needed to experience this event together somehow, it had after all been almost two years in the planning!

Alas, it was not to be. Over the last 18 months I’ve become increasingly immobile due to arthritis, and although I held out for ages in the vain hope of a miraculous recovery or at least period of remission dear reader it was not to be. Weight bearing is nigh on impossible at times, and the fact I’m bearing more weight than ever due to pandemic pounds hasn’t helped. What to do?

I have the complete set of medals, and I thought of the tees too – but maybe not them, as I was too stingy to fork out for them initially. I don’t know why I covet them so. I’m sort of Gollum like, I never wear the t-shirts or medals other than on the day of issue, but my I do like to stare at these my precious things. It is within the realms of possibility that I’ve come to over identify with Gollum living alone and bubble-less in lockdown, with only my running memories for company. I might have been known to lovingly stroke my collection of RSR t-shirts now and again. Well they are pretty special. It’s not odd at all, it’s entirely proportionate. Gollum gets a bad press. You do forge unlikely attachments if you spend too much time on your own, surely everybody understands about that by now?

Also, the tees pinpoint a particular time in history don’t they. I reckon most runners have a drawer full of tees somewhere, and be honest, don’t you get a little frisson of excitement if you see another runner wearing a tee you yourself have earned. Bet you do…. virtual high five to anyone else who perked up seeing this on the trails of the RSR weekend:

Then I had a thought.

I’d volunteer! I’d be snapped up, there were probably hardly any volunteers as everyone was so looking forward to running, plus two days to cover now. I duly emailed (you should too – ready for the inaugural winter edition or next summer even) https://www.roundsheffieldrun.com/volunteer-4-entry and got an almost instant reply.

Anti climax. The rota was full! Didn’t expect that…

However, all was not lost, not wanting to turn away any volunteers, a role was found. Not only that, a sitting down one, so the brittle and deformed bones in the joints of my feet wouldn’t shatter and explode like fireworks from the trauma of all that excessive weight bearing. Hurrah! I wasn’t going to have a gazillion bone splinters pumping through my blood, inducing septicaemia, and then almost inevitably gangrene with amputation to follow as sure as night follows day. All would be well. I was going to include an aside rant here about how much I hate it when volunteers are turned away from events, it takes some courage to offer sometimes, and it is nerve wracking doing some roles for the first time, and particularly after lockdown loneliness isolation really kicks in, people need to be included and feel included. I’m not going to go too far down the rant road on this occasion, but will instead say hurrah for RSR for extending inclusivity to the volunteer team too. I wish it were always so in other spheres. Yay for volunteering and extra yays for those who make volunteers feel welcome too.

Kandoo generally look after their volunteers, you get a t-shirt, glory by association, free entry to the event next time around at a time of your choice (worth a lot as it’s always oversubscribed), in previous years lunch and coffee, and best of all, avoid the appalling FOMO of being otherwise stuck at home sobbing in a foetal position on a cold tiled floor whilst EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WHOLE ACTUAL ENTIRITY OF THE RUNNING WORLD is having all that fun without you – probably without even noticing you aren’t there – with only passing tumble weed for company. For me, on this day at least, this was not to be. I would get to the RSR ball. I would be mingling with the royalty of the Sheffield Running Community and best of all, an RSR t-shirt would once again be within my grasp. All the hurrahs!

I was SO EXCITED! Also though, quite apprehensive. Not done social interaction at all for the past year or so, working from home, living alone, my only forays out were with Red Ted to Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun, which has been pretty awesome to be fair, but also quite contained.

I was therefore SO SCARED. Fortunately, I know a wise woman to turn to for advice. There are two things you need to know about this person. Firstly, she is a woman, and secondly she is wise. She advised that no-one else has had much practice with social interactions of late either, so we’d all be equally confused and hopeless. The main thing in such instances is to blag it and remember as long as there’s an anecdote in it then all will be well. Great advice. It would all be well

And so it was.

My Tring parkrunner friends arrived, and after some initially weird indoor social distancing dancing we got the hang of things pretty well, though forgot to do selfies in all the 2 metres apart excitement. Did remember to loving lay out parkrun tees and race numbers in eager anticipation though.

I limped down to Endcliffe park whilst they were still (just) slumbering as it was a 7.00 a.m. rendezous for volunteers. It was perfect running weather. Coolish, but dry – though there had been some rain in the days before making me wonder about path slipperiness and – for me more worryingly grass pollen and biting insect clouds.

It was weirdly ‘normal’ in the early morning light. As usual, the event village was already lovingly set up and signs of life were everywhere as organisers moved around setting up stuff and carrying stuff. It was a go go. (Unlike tough mudder the following weekend which had its plug pulled the night before. Good medical call I’m sure, but I feel the agony of those staring in the eyes of what might have been).

Early morning light, lots of tents, signs of life – also less familiar things, social distancing signs, gated areas for participants. Partly to stop them escaping, but also to keep others out. Attention to detail again. Impressive.

After meeting up with another parkrun volunteer who’d be heading up to the first feed station, we made our way to the rendezvous point to be issued with tee-shirts and hi-vis for the uniformed marshals – I myself was in the plain clothes technical support team. Responsible for Dibber Dibber Do Doling out. This is a bit like being the Yabba Dabba Doo section only less 100% authentic stone age**** and more state of the art dibber issue. I volunteered for this role alongside some Hathersage Hurtle compatriots. Yay to these two blasts from the past – it’s amazing how this event really does bring everyone and anyone together! The Close Encounters mysterious gatherings have nothing on this.

Daunting as it is to sit behind a laptop, it does instantaneously bestow a ‘busy and important’ air to be there. Our team got a fab view of the start and the ground, and being responsible for dibber issue meant between us we saw every single participant on the day. The role wasn’t too challenging to be fair. You had to dib a dibber into a magic box that generated a unique number on screen, ask participants their race number, type it in, check the name popping up corresponded to that given and if a pair that both were present, and if it showed green on screen then this meant ‘the computer says yes’ so you could click enter and hand them their dibber for the day. Wishing them well and encouraging them to pick up a stages card (like a dance card but not) which explained the length of sections and allowed recovery times before wishing them well. The main challenges were steaming up glasses, and the occasional CODE RED. If a red line appeared then you summoned help from the SI team professionals who would leap up and save the day.

Here we are doing our training:

See what I mean about proximity to a computer bestowing authority? Good isn’t it. Topped only by a clip board I’d say.

Clipboard denotes absolute power. Clearly.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, other volunteers were similarly setting up and getting their stalls in order. All across the route, tooling up then all eager anticipation for the first arrivals of the day. Oooh the suspense! Water bottles out? Check. Pompoms at the ready? Check. Bring. It. On.

Training nailed, we then had a suspenseful build up waiting for the first arrivals. The elite wave came first. At the risk of sounding a bit stalkery some of these runners seem to be an entirely different species to me. Lithe and light on their feet they seemed to ooze athletic ease from their very pores. I don’t normally get up close and personal to any runners of this elk. Dibber issuing was mostly straightforward. At this point in proceedings masks were donned and interactions good natured, the pace was not just manageable, but almost leisurely. I had a gnawing angst ‘what if’ in case I’d given out a dibber wrongly or something, but in fact the system can’t really go wrong without you noticing. A lot of Round Sheffield Runners are RSR veterans, so know the drill, and for the few that don’t, a timer gave a talk in the start funnel to explain the system, and setting out participants have to dib to set themselves off so can’t get underway without being in the know.

Even so, not going to lie, I felt a surge of pride on looking at the event photos later on as I saw for myself the excellence of dibbing done en route. Participants were nailing it, over and over again! The stats are amazing – some 2,500 people out and about on the course (only one number for each pair of runners remember), and I don’t know maybe 25-30 dibbing opps with road crossings as well, that’s an enormous amount of in and out. More probably than even at the the largest ever hokey cokey dance. That was 7,384 participants, and was organised by FRY Fest (USA) at FRY Fest in Coralville, Iowa, USA on 3 September 2010 – according to the Guinness Book of Records. I know, both stats are impressive. It would be even more impressive if I had a precise dibbing and participant count and the patience to do a calculation. Where’s Elliott Line when you need him? Still, let’s just accept that it’s a great deal of dibbery. It’s lucky it’s such a fun thing to do! Don’t this lot look ridiculously proud of their achievements putting a dibber into a box. And rightly so!

After the first few dibbers were safely issued, I found I could relax into it a bit more. My lovely Tring parkrunners appeared and they did think to do selfies. Hurrah. I really wanted them to have a fab time, they have hosted me at a memorable Tring parkrun for St Andrew’s day before, and I wanted them to have the bestest ever of times. They were decked out in splendid parkrun apricot. Yay. I also got an early practice group selfie shot, this was most timely as things unfolded…

I had been quite apprehensive about seeing people again, but it was surprisingly ok. In fact, some bits were positively brilliant. Throughout lockdown, as well as working on building up my subcutaneous fat levels so I will float better in the event of being caught up in rising flood waters, I have taken much solace from the With Me Now podcast community. This is a podcast all about parkrun passion by passionate parkrunners. It not only kept up a weekly podcast in the absence of parkrun, but also did daily lives on everything from downcount; parkrun pictionary, to parkrupedia (researching history and interesting facts about various parkrun locations which was amaaaaaazingly interesting and increased my trivia knowledge to an extraordinary degree) to lives linking up with restarting parkruns globally (Australia 10th bday anyone – or my favourite live from Pigisus parkrun in NZ when parkrun returned there A YEAR AGO – oh the heart ache that we are still waiting); a parkrun cafe world cup contest; and even parkrun and WMN specific sea shanties. Talented lot WMN parkrunners, plenty of transferable skills. It was With Me Now Danny who did the video of how to use the parkrun volunteer app by the way – check it out don’t stop there, keep this link to all the videos and WMN podcasts and check out the back catalogues when the next lockdown hits. … but I digress, hang on, that’s never happened before, must be a consequence of lockdown causing me to lose my train of thought as well as all reason and the ability to filter what’s in my head before putting it out there … Where was I? Oh yes –

I actually made new virtual friends through this community, which is a pleasing addition to my otherwise mainly imaginary friends. In the sense of both people who I imagine to be my friends but are maybe not, and those who are entirely a figment of my imagination. Virtual friends could turn out to be but an ethereal manifestation. Perpetually ever so slightly out of reach, or just out of my field of vision like some sort of phantom. Maybe they don’t really exist at all in real life, perhaps they were always but a product of my diseased imaginings. Or what if they do exist, but then it turned out to be all awkward silences, shuffling and wishing a hole in the ground would swallow me up. Or worse still, they existed, and were quite as lovely as I’d imagined, but realised I wasn’t and so I would be rejected by my own community. Oh no! What if they hate me? The stress, the pressure, how would it all end? Well, on RSR day I got to find out because MUCH EXCITEMENT a number of With Me Nowers who were expected to materialise at this very event did. I was on tenterhooks – who’d come, would I find them, what would happen the other side of these laden with expectation encounters?

Devastatingly, one got a track and trace ping just 48 hours or so before so had to self isolate, but his running buddy did make it, and using my cunning research and earwigging skills I flushed him out, and that set the selfies in motion for the day ahead. More merched up WMNers appeared, constituting a sort of mini gathering or micro pow wow in the WMN jargon. These people weren’t just in my head after all. They were physically here in all their individual and collective loveliness. And they didn’t have time to notice whether I was lovely or not, so that was another win! And that doesn’t include the Sheffield native WMNers out in force over the weekend, nor the one who shouted out the recognised call sign of ‘Dolly or Bev’ as he ran past me on Sunday when I was up at Brincliffe Edge marshal point. I was so excited I failed to do the return ‘arbitrary’ shout out – my cheeks are still hot with shame at this omission. Don’t know who it was, but maybe someone can identify him from the shot of him disappearing into Brincliffe Edge Woods. Social media is great for things like that! What with the power of the interweb and my extraordinary photographic prowess, I consider that puzzle solved, case closed. Hurrah!

But you know what WMNers look out for one another, a shirt was sourced for him and delivered. And this WMNer rose to the occasion, completing a kitchen social isolation half marathon instead. I can’t imagine the mental strength involved in that, or indeed in many of the really long distance challenges. So basically, he did the RSR twice, once vicariously through us and with us in spirit, and then all over again in his kitchen. I’m hoping no family members wanted a cup of tea for the duration of that challenge. Respect! No wonder he looks chuffed – good that someone taped out the route for him too – easy to get lost on long runs after the first few miles. All the boops to you my friend. Good job 🙂

Another WMNer spent the following weekend completing a 65 mile challenge in torrential rain to check it out for us all so we didn’t have to. It’s further than you’d like was the conclusion. The last 15 miles are unnecessary. Good to know. High five to WMNers everywhere, known or unknown.

Mind you, I wasn’t the only one overwhelmed with excitement to the point of confusion. Check out these line dancers who look awesome, but possibly got their event challenges mixed up. Loving the leg work. I thought camera gimbals were a bit more light weight though:

Meanwhile, back on desk duty, all was going swimmingly. We did have to do a bit of stern ‘put your mask on’ calling. The overwhelming majority were fine about this. I know the event was outside, but actually being at a desk with 2,500 people near enough standing over you breathing heavily pre and post event is quite overwhelming. The SI guys doing this every weekend are seeing literally thousands. I was mighty glad of my face mask. We were given the option of visors on arrival too. I was initially delighted by this, but found out quite quickly that really it’s function was more to provide a practical craft activity as you assembled it, rather than for it to be of any actual use. They sit quite close to your face and instantly steamed up and felt claustrophobic with glasses as well, so that was abandoned pretty fast. Returning runners, with post running brains were less compliant, and that felt uncomfortable sometimes, but I think only one out of all the runners got stroppy about being asked to put one on, most just weren’t thinking. So face masks were fine. The computers didn’t have any anti virus protection for some reason, but there was a lot of hand gel. The challenge was as always in my own head. Probably influenced by proximity to WMNers, I suddenly became acutely aware of the innuendo laden nature of my dibbing instructions. ‘That’s right, perfect, in there – you can tell you’ve got it right because everything flashes and beeps, no worries with going straight back in and out for good measure if you aren’t sure you’ve nailed it’. ‘Don’t worry – everyone is nervous first time, but most people come back radiant’. After dishing out several hundred dibbers all I could hear echoing around the issue tent was thinly veiled smut!

As this was the first event of size back in Sheffield a lot of special protocols had had to be developed. We were warned to expect an inspection. This gave rise to the novelty game of trying to spot the council official. We were vigilant anyway, because who wouldn’t want to be covid safe, but it was quite fun trying to guess. I don’t know if we did or not, but the guy in the blue jacket was a strong contender.

It was busy but not manic, and there was time for a little bit of chit chat. I found out a couple of mega things. Firstly, that there was a jelly baby emergency. RSR is basically fuelled by jelly babies. I’m a little conflicted on this as I’m vegetarian so wouldn’t partake myself, but seeing them on the course and hearing of their arrival at base camp is a measurable milestone on the Gantt chart that pulls the event together. I presume there’s a Gantt chart. Actually, I prefer to imagine a huge wall of glass in an underground bunker somewhere with loads of post it notes, string and dry wipe marker annotations. Yep, probably that. Well, apparently, this year RSR nearly had to be cancelled because, whilst the Sheffield Half can be launched by Rebel Runners without water, the RSR without jelly babies is actually unthinkable. Well dear reader, it seems that the much hyped shortages are real https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-57690505 Be it Brexit or be it Covid, either way it seems that just 48 hours or so before the event organisers were scouring the country to source jelly baby supplies. Yep, they had to go out of area entirely. I can’t remember if it was as far as John o’ Groats or Lands End, or it might have been Barnsley, but the threat was real. It’s quite extraordinary what goes on behind the scenes to put the RSR show on the road. Phews all round when laden with boxes skidding around their car they made it into event HQ by the skin of their teeth, just as the jelly babies were made by the skins of many cows and pigs. Not a good thought, but this event does have vegan options. Incidentally, all the jelly babies were portioned out in little paper cups this year to avoid sweaty covid laden hands from rummaging around in them in search of the black ones. Like I said, details.

The other thing I found out, was that I was in touching distance of an ultra running mega star. So were you if you were there. Not that you should touch because, that would be creepy and rude and an invasion of personal space even if it we didn’t live in an age where it would also be an unforgiveable breach of social distancing. This man is a distance running super hero!

He’s not asleep. He’s power napping. Pacing yourself is key to long distance running, and so is mental strength apparently. Ok, so in case you don’t immediately know, granted, identification is hard with face masks. This is the man who in 1987 completed the first – and until just last year I think – the only solo unsupported Mid-Winter Bob Graham in under 24 hours. Later the same year, running solo, he added a big extension to the Ramsay Round, and in 1989 completed the only Mid-Winter Paddy Buckley Round, also solo unsupported. All this happened more than 30 years ago……In 1992 Helene Diamantides and Martins Stone won the first ever Dragon’s Back race. O.M.G. I can’t even imagine all that. This is pre GPS and a lot of hi-tech running gear. They are extraordinary achievements. Why do we not hear more of such stories. Ooh a google search has thrown up an action shot of him at that amazing event:

Like I said, the RSR brings together a great spectrum of runners and you never quite know what icons you move amongst. Isn’t that the best?

But you know what, whilst some runners are beyond extraordinary in their achievements, others are pushing more personal boundaries. When they came back to have their dibbers thrust in the box one last time to print out their results, I got to hear some such stories. Elated runners, fancy dress runners, exhausted runners, runners running in memory of others, runners for causes, runners of all shapes and sizes and all clubs and none. Special shout out though to the woman running with a friend to complete a challenge she set herself last year whilst still having chemotherapy. RSR is a joyful event, but the individual stories of each participant can be extraordinary and powerful too. No wonder so many people got a bit giddy with all the excitement on the way round. I can’t possibly choose a photo, so you’ll just have to feast your eyes on the smorgasbord I offer up below.

Incidentally, isn’t it a great testament to both the event and the skill of the photographers capturing it that so many runners look ecstatic to the point of mania whilst actually running! No really! This is type one fun of the highest order. yay for running highs!

But the photos just keep on giving. Check out Llama man, who paused to pose with a handy alpaca (the difference is not just in the size but you can tell them apart by the banana ears of a llama – true fact) en route – same camelid family, and it’s not every event that would put itself out to that degree to ensure a photo op for a particular participant. I think he was running for a Peru based charity…

and then there was running the world man – would love to have heard his story. Also PANDA:

You can’t know everyone’s story, but you sure can have fun guessing. Sometimes my almost psychic powers spot subtle ticks that might be missed by the untrained eye. I can exclusively reveal this person was running on his birthday. I know – spooky! It’s a gift. Something you are born with that I can’t quite explain.

More speculative are the stories behind the team names. It’s worth a browse, so many secrets, so many dreams. I like to speculate as to whether team names evolve from year to year. Offerings included – with some options more imaginative than others:

The original official Steve and Dave; Maverick and Goose; The Cooper Payne Partnership; Andy and Dave; Lentil Stew – Stuart and Leni – see what they’ve done there; Byzantine Pottery Club (no, they really are and they have the t-shirt accreditation to prove it):

Rivelin Rent Boys; wondering if the ‘couples shouldn’t run together’ was the rebranding of last year’s ‘the newlyweds’; Not fast, just furious; Fat and Furious; (I do love a pun and here are some!) Scrambled Legs; FizzyWobbles; Legs Miserables; Chafing the Dream; Eat, Shit, Run, Repeat; Sole Sisters; Sweep Sisters (love that one); Married next week (well, fingers crossed for Roland and Pippa – see previous ‘couples shouldn’t run together’); Your Pace or Mine; Borrowash Jolly Joggers running as Lickety Split (now that’s just lovely); S10 wine club (not the one up at Ranmoor surely? I used to live near there and had assumed it to be a venue for swingers not that running and swinging are mutually exclusive necessarily, just hadn’t expected to find common ground); We thought they said rum ( one from north derbyshire running club, they were like colourful cockroaches out on the course on Sunday sooooooooooooooooooooooooo many of them. I love the team spirit of these guys.

Then we have the Pancakes; Frontrunner Should’ve stuck to parkfun; Team Squirrel (they rather hit the jackpot with the RSR tee didn’t they); The dirty Dibbers, (made me grateful for covid protocols on the dibber desk afterwards I don’t mind telling you); Hummus Harriers; Eat Pasta, Run Fasta; The Onion Terrors; Cirque de SoreLegs (personal favourite for me); Clowne Road Runners Club included a Flying Circus optiono – see what they’ve done there and Clowning Around; I will if you will; Ali Men; Saif Salih/Faith Salih Rhyming Couplets; It ain’t easy being wheezy; Madness; Step Brothers – though only one name so maybe a bit out of step on the day – much like last years’ ping pong team which only put out one of their pair in the end, pong presumably and ping couldn’t take it any more. Decades apart; Water Radish 3 – genius name for Rashid and Waterman – see what they’ve done there; Chuf and Chicken; Prematureacceleration – (guessing they’d over pumped the hills on previous attempts) and last but most definitely not least… Team Sloth!

I blooming love the Team Sloth guys. Do you know what, they literally – not metaphorically or figuratively, but literally – carried me round an Endurer Dash obstacle course many moons ago. These guys are heroes. Just proper team work, friends that support each other, and great athletes too. They’ve done a great many more challenges since, they’ve also shown true commitment in getting some rather swanky bespoke sloth tees. Respect. Happy to see you all romping round.

Lots of teams and running clubs – including the locally famous Crescent Runners, back for a re-run on the RSR

But then what about all the lovely pairs, synchronising their footwork, holding hands or just looking radiant with joy and being together on the way round. Can’t choose:

Some RSRers made an effort with matchy matchy outfits, best leggings and best tutus.

Some were forced to improvise with numbers on the day. So one paired runner who left his number at home created an ultra-realistic version on his day that must have Mr Kandoo quaking in his boots for fear of counterfeit entry numbers in future. I don’t think he has too much to worry about personally, there is a lot of good will towards the RSR, people won’t want to jeopardise it. Kate’s late substitution accepted it was too late to change the name on the number so changed his name by deed poll to come into alignment. Essentially, there was a great deal of initiative in evidence out and about over the weekend. No-one was going to risk being turned away after all that waiting. No sorree. Or is it no soiree? So confusing…

See what I mean, very like a parkrun what with the tutus, smiles and fancy dress. Also very like a parkrun in that there was a multitude of parkrun tees, as well as actual recognisable local parkrunners. Isn’t that splendid. Loving the cross over, one impossible thing at a time eh:

Oh and talking of cross overs, the venn diagram with parkrunners, WMNers, RSRers, and Beeston AC club members wearing theirt Christmas Tees just because they could had three participants at the point of intersection. How exciting is that. Here they all are, delighted to be alive! They didn’t just spontaneously strike a pose apparently, the photographer made them do it. I’m not convinced there was actual coercion myself, at the very least some festive contributory negligence, but I report this detail in the interests of transparency. You’re welcome.

As well as the obvious thrills and spills along the way, there was many a micro adventure to be have. Cheer squads en route, and assorted animal companions too – with cows safely behind fencing thanks to a crowdsourcing initiative a couple of years back, I like the cows, but I like them a lot more kept away from runners…

Oh, and on the subject of assorted animal companions, did I mention that one of the prizes was a sorsage dawg! don’t worry, with characteristic RSR attention to detail they’d have done a home check and made sure the winner understood that a dog, like parkrun, is for life not just for Christmas.

Where was I? I don’t think I’ve done very well in terms of producing an account in any kind of chronological order or indeed logical order of any sort, still we established quite a bit earlier that this whole timey wimey thing has gone a bit A over T recently. We are living in a post time age. Anyway, if you’ve any sense at all you’ll have scrolled down endlessly to look at the pictures and been dipping in and out at will anyway. This account will read like Woyzeck – play the scenes in any order in you choose, it may impact surprisingly little on how much you comprehend about the event.

So I’d done the doling out of dibbers, the researching of backstories and the people watching. There was a slight overlap of returning runners coming down the finish funnel into the yet to start starters who were shooed to the side. I’d have found it demoralising seeing someone finish before I’d even started, but then again amazing to see the elites coming home. I believe it was an RSR record on the day, with the top finish time of 01:01:15 – I can’t even comprehend that time. I’ve done parkruns slower. It’s a tough route, and although the inclusive format is lovely, the nature of the trails means runners don’t have exclusive right of way and road crossings aren’t closed. Amazing.

There was a slightly heart stopping moment as the first two runners home came over to do their last dib of the day. After dibbing into the finish they stopped to pick up medals, hug loved ones, hoik children over their heads (their own child/ren I believe, not just random children that happened to be in the vicinity as far as I know) and sauntered over to us. I had the honour of watching the screen as the dibber dibbed in. Uh oh! ‘Is it supposed to be all red?’ FAIL of the final finish dibbing point. Merciful it was the last point though, as no sooner had the fault been identified then a replacement was re programmed and put up. Anywhere else on the course would have been a catastrophe. To my amazement and relief, the two runner affected were very chilled and understanding about the whole thing. Much effort was put into trying to correct the results, working from the runners own watch times, estimates and reference to incoming runners final sprint times. It was impressive seeing the care the SI team put in to trying to get it as accurate as possible. After that hiccup, the results went smoothly. Over the two days there was only a handful of results that went awry, and one set was because the runner just said he hadn’t dibbed anything until about half way through! No, I have no idea why either?

Once that initial panic had subsided, watching people print their results was definitely the fun bit. Runners tended to have abandoned facemasks at this point, that was a problem. A box of facemasks was quickly emptied, and some runners just heaved their t-shirts over their faces. It was okayish, but sub optimum. The briefing did tell people they needed masks at the beginning and end, but the rest of the event had felt quite ‘normal’ and like any other year, so what with that and the brain fog that falls post run it felt like we were doing a lot of ‘masks first please!’ shouting and ricocheting backwards on our chairs away from too close for comfort heavy breathers. Did any of you watch the unexpectedly impressive ‘Together‘ on BBC 2 the other week – there is a bit to camera where the ‘he’ in a couple recounts his horror at watching someone lean in over a supermarket worker, maskless, and oppressively which will make you squirm. It wasn’t that bad, not by any means, but you can see why people snap or break under the cumulative effect of person after person after person thinking that ‘as just the one without a mask, it surely won’t hurt’. If you don’t have an exemption, and there are very few instances where that is needed (though needing to interpret for a lip reader and/or to avoid trigger of trauma are good reasons) then please do wear one. It is literally the least you can do, and will be appreciated. Waiting for people to ask you to puts a lot of pressure on whoever is around you. I’m in no way getting at those genuinely confused, who had forgotten in the moment, or couldn’t wear one. If you are the person who said ‘how were we supposed to know, to wear a mask, no-one said?’ and got really pissed off, yes I am getting at you – have you entirely missed the last 18 months, and you were told, in the notes and in the briefing at the start. Bet you talk through the run briefing at parkrun too. Unless you have indeed just woken up from a deep sleep to the sound of a shower running, you have no excuse. Still, out of 2,500 runners, just one stroppy one is really not bad. There is always one after all.

So my final task was to point at the important box, get RSRers to ‘just stick your dibber in there please for one last time, wait for it to flash and beep, and once it starts printing toss your dibber off into this bucket so I don’t have to touch it and take your print out of performance today, well done!‘. And well done it was. The dibbers on their lanyards went into a bucket to minimise having to touch them. Then another of our number gathered them all up, separated out the lanyards from the dibbers, and they all got put into washing bags for a service wash at 3.00 pm so they’d all be nicely laundered ready for the next day. ‘just think of how much covid is swimming around in that bucket of sweat, spit and lanyards‘. True, but I’d really rather not.

And then, by about 3.00 we were all done and dusted. Well, we volunteers were, the organisers had to strike the set, check all the equipment and do it all again the next day. The day went quickly. We never got any lunch or coffee this year though. I think that was a covid compliance issue about serving of food, it would have been handy to know that in advance, but to be fair I am not someone in danger of fading away. It was still a massive positive to be part of the event, and if I don’t ever get properly mobile again I’d totally want to volunteer instead. It’s a great way to experience the event in a new way and fantastic to see the breadth of runners that I don’t necessarily always get to see as a firmly back of the pack participant.

On Sunday, I hobbled out again, this time to the Nether Edge Brincliffe Edge marshal point to cheer on Crescent Runner and Millhouses parkrun ED as he took to the trails. It was good to watch people pass. It was a bit hairy on the course here though, with parked cars and runners taking shortcuts on the road, could probably do with an extra couple of marshals there, or even tweaking the route so there’s a walking stage as I was a bit concerned someone would be taken out by a car. Drivers were pretty patient really, and I did a bit of waving them down and directing runners, though to be fair, it seemed every time I called out ‘watch out, uneven surface, three steep steps and sharp right‘ I distracted them mid stride and they lost footing. Oh well. It was all incredibly good natured, good fun, and all round feel good. Would recommend.

It all went pretty quickly. Ending with Dad Karaoke slots if the photos are anything to go by, and lots of happily tired runners pouring over photos and sharing stories of thrills and spills.

So cheers all, another RSR done and dusted, and hopefully not too long to wait for the next time out and the new winter edition. Wowsers!

So how did the event go down? Pretty good I say, not just because of runner desperation despite the observation from one participant that ‘I even enjoyed queueing for the toilets‘. I’m sort of assuming that wasn’t the actual highlight of the day though, not when you’ve got views like this!

but as long as there’s a good anecdote in it eh? This runner looks delighted to have ended up at the ambulance. Result. Still, just like at parkrun, it’s important to let everyone enjoy the event in their own way. And they do. He might just be delirious of course, but giddy joy was the mood music of the day, so perhaps it was inevitable it would carry through to this moment too… The guys who succumbed to nipple chaffing weren’t smiling so much though, and I’m not posting those pics, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too graphic.

Some participants brought existing injuries along with them – takes a lot to deter people from turning out for this one!

Oh you want to know the results? For me that’s really not the important thing, but I will bow to public demand on this occassion, they are here if you require them 2021 RSR results. and there was a prize of bespoke framed PB vest prints for 777 placed winners. 666 placed would have made me laugh more though…

That’s it then, til next time. Still, nights are drawing in, winter is coming, not long now. Meantime, memories, yay for those. Not gonna lie, bit poignant not to have done the comeback RSR of 2021, but you know what, it’s still a great event to be witness to, just seeing it from a different perspective. Yay for RSR, and bring on the winter edition! Oh, and volunteers do get free entry at a start time of their choice for the next RSR – and that is a guarantee money can’t buy. Cheers Doug – well played 🙂

Bring it on!

Oh – and Tring parkrunner friends, same room ok for you next time out? Excellent. Always good to have a plan! And I know you a) enjoyed yourselves, and b) have unfinished business, because you put it out there in your own excellent account of the RSR running commentary blog – Reasons to be Cheerful – yay you!

Job done.

Can we have a shout out for all the organisers behind the scenes, volunteers on the day, supporters and the photographers too, who got some amazing shots that were shared freely on facebook. I do have Segway envy though. Add that to cart for sure given half a chance! Also, if my guess as to how you operate the thing hands free is anything to go by, it must be terrific for working your pelvic floor. Wonder if you can blag it on prescription from the nhs….

For all my Round Sheffield Run related posts, click this link and scroll down for older entries.  Or don’t. You might want to save it for the next lockdown. Yes, it might yet get that desperate. I got excited every time someone walked past my window in the first one – now I get why dogs and cats stare out all day. A day where you got dressed was not only novelty in the extreme, but exhausting. Getting dressed is definitely over-rated and don’t even get me started on the masochism of under-wired bras and being expected to wear shoes. Life is all a bit hard work sometimes.

Footnotes:

*er, yes epicicity is a word actually. I’ve just decided.

**I concede it is possible the Sheffield Telegraph may have somewhat over-reached themselves here if taken in a global context, but for those of us who are in Sheffield, it is pretty much the centre of the known universe, and for Sheffield Runners, the RSR is at the epicentre of that. Ground Zero of epic trail running, so the point stands. Don’t spoil it with a quibble over requiring evidence based claims with regard to this event, or you’ll be exiled from Sheffield faster than you can say Henderson’s Relish.

***when I say ‘everyone’ in this instance, I quite clearly mean me, but, point of information, my blog, my rules. You’re welcome.

****The flintstones may not have been 100% authentic stone age. More of a drama-documentary than an actual fly on the wall documentary to be fair.

oh – and check out the event video, Sheffield’s grand is it not? You have to click on the facebook link to make it work.

Watch | Facebook

You’re welcome!

🙂

For all my Round Sheffield Run related posts check this link out – or don’t, it’s optional, you’ll need to scroll up and down for newer and older entries though.

Categories: off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Having a right royal time leaping* round Queen Elizabeth parkrun

Digested read: long story short, parkrun tourism took me to Queen Elizabeth parkrun in pursuit of my Q.  Sub-optimum running conditions, but superb muddy fun and friendly too.  Nearly didn’t happen, but then it did!  Hurrah!

Undigested read:

For the short story made long, read onwards, but it’s not compulsory – or you could just idly scroll down to have a look at the photos in between eating crisps on the sofa wearing a walrus onesie**.  You choose…

I will say this though, had a filthy good time.  Mud, mud, glorious mud, what’s not to like?  Nothing quite like it indeed!

I’m half heartedly pursuing my alphabet challenge.  For a long time it seemed pretty unattainable, but now I’m down to just the last few, and finding myself down south again this weekend, it didn’t seem too much of a stretch to add on another hours driving, oh, and an overnight stay in a Premier Inn and get my weary carcass round Queen Elizabeth parkrun.  I was a bit nervous booking ahead, as the recent stormy weathers has led to many down south cancellations, but then when I looked at the Queen Elizabeth parkrun Facebook page I saw this event:

Leap Day Event – Fancy dress optional

leap parkrun

Where they helpfully explain:

This year is a leap year and February 29, 2020 falls on a Saturday, parkrun day !! The next time this will happen will not be until the year 2043, so the QE core team thought we would make this February 29, a special occasion and have a fancy dress event

So you could dress up as a frog, wear only green clothing, run in your frog wellington boots or an outfit that represents one of the many sporting events also happening this year the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Euro 2020 Football tournament, or the ICC World T20 Cricket tournament.

So two things, fancy dress – albeit they say it’s not compulsory, and if they are having a special event, then I’m guessing they’ll do everything they can to make sure it goes ahead.  I mean, you can postpone a parkrun birthday run, or even an inaugural, heartbreaking as that would be, but you can’t arrange for another 29th February to come around again on a Saturday for way more years than I can count.

In case it’s escaped you’ve not done the number crunching yourself, just to be clear, leap years happen every four years. I’m actually going to credit you with already knowing that. However, did you know the last leap day (i.e. 29th February) fell on monday 29 February 2016? A monday! I ask you, what good is that to a parkrunner? We are only interested in dates that fall on a Saturday parkrunday. This year (hurrah) it does. This means there is a total of 5 parkruns in February for the first time in parkrun history. (Wowsers). The last time 29th February fell on a Saturday was in 1992 – pre parkrun. I know, hard to imagine there was ever a world without it yet ’tis true! No-one in history has ever run a parkrun on leap day, so if you were part of the parkrun army that did so on the 29th February this year, you are a trailblazer in parkrun history. My doesn’t that feel good!

What’s more there won’t be another chance to run parkrun on leap year day until 2048! That’s ages and ages away, a literal lifetime for some, and if I’m still going then I’ll be hopping round in my frog outfit at the ripe old age of 83, and as I don’t really want to live that long because apart from anything else I’ll be in utter penury due to lack of adequate pension provision, that means for me, this is to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, because never before has the leap day falling on parkrun day. HOW EXCITING!  My, I’d better make it a good one.  Capturing a Q on a themed parkrun event would be just the job! That AND fancy dress all round, the intoxicating cocktail of excitement generated by these two opportunities appearing simultaneously was a seductive possibility.  Indeed, together they were the clincher, I’d be hopping off down to there then.  Hurrah!

Alas dear reader, when I came to check the forecasts a few days before it boded badly.  Gusts of 47mph and I know that the Queen Elizabeth Country Park close if the winds pick up above about 35 mph.  A Sheffield friend of mine – Smiley Selfie Queen – got caught out by just that when she was down there on 15th February. I naively thought it would be pretty unlucky/ unlikely to get such inclement weather again, hence had confidently booked and pre-paid for my hotel in advance.  Thus, I’d be there anyway, Q parkrun or no Q parkrun.  Undeterred, I went in search of a back up plan.

The handy ‘nearby parkruns’ information on the Queen Elizabeth parkrun home page gave me an idea of which were in reach, and then I used their historic results listings to see if they’d had to cancel a fortnight ago as I figured that would be a reasonable indication of whether or not they’d be vulnerable to inclement weather again.  It was with a bit of a heavy heart I scrolled through the options, until dear reader, I lighted on Lee on the Solent parkrun.  Not only was it looking like a goer, with a running club takeover but they were have a 250th number event; they have a super hero fancy dress theme. I sort of assumed in the circumstances if I should find myself a refugee from QE’s frog-themed event then Lee on the Solent parkrun would most likely be both accommodating and understanding. Besides, I could probably blag it that there is a frog superhero out there somewhere.  There must be, or am I thinking of ninja turtles?  Anyway, sounded good.

STOP PRESS – O.M.G. there is a frog superhero apparently!  Admittedly one I’d never heard of, though I suppose it is just conceivable I am not that particular superheroes target audience.  Anyways, googlesearch told me that:

Frog-Man is a well-meaning but often bungling superhero in the Marvel Universe and is the son of the villain Leap-Frog***.

Origin
Eugene Patilio was the son of the supervillain Leap-Frog, who had since reformed and retired. Eugene, deciding to clean up the family name decided to use his father’s old superhero suit to fight crime as Frog-Man

ok, maybe not a superhero to set hearts a-beating, but that’s 100% close enough for me.  Things are looking up!  I can totally blag this and will be a natural with my somewhat rotund form being an asset in the role!  This was meant to be!  I knew my frog costume would turn out to be endlessly versatile and become a wardrobe classic.  Result!

Even better, when I posted sheepishly on the Lee on the Solent parkrun Facebook page asking if they expected to be on, I got an almost telepathically instantaneous reply.  Yep, weather was even worse last week according to forecast and they cracked on.  Plus, there might even be cake!  Maybe the quest for a Q is over-rated, this wasn’t going to be second best at all.  What’s more, judging by the very fine profile picture (thanks to Paul Thompson) it looks like the sun always shines there anyway, or your money back, guaranteed.  Excellent.

paul thompson

There’s even a cool aerial video of the parkrun back in 2016 – sun was shining then too.  Brilliant!  Super excited now.  Might even make this the A- plan!

Wouldn’t be a Q though…. oh the tyranny of too much choice eh?

I decided to throw my parkrun destination into the hands of fate.  I mean in an uncharacteristic burst of forward planning I had booked the hotel nearest to the Queen Elizabeth parkrun on a non-transferable basis (aargh), so that would remain my first choice, but if it were to be cancelled Lee on the Solent parkrun was sounded like a fab option too.  Maybe one to come back for…

Oh, I was staying at the Premier Inn Horndean if you are interested.  Actually, that’s not strictly true, there is a farm that looks fab if you are camping or camper vanning Upper Parsonage Farm might be worth checking out.  I liked the look of the shepherds hut – Linda Snell would be impressed I’m sure – but you needed to bring your own linen, and that’s too much faff for me as I’m heading on elsewhere afterwards.  Still, you might like it.  Have a looksie.

So, the night before the parkrun after, I had two options to weigh up in between paranoically refreshing the weather forecast.  Lover-Lee-on-the-Solent parkrun or Queen Elizabeth.  No wrong decision, but I was twitchy.  This was the forecast dear reader:

weather

I was fully prepared to activate my back up plan, but then again, all this way to get a Q, would be a shame if it didn’t come to pass.

I filled my idle, angsty hours with a bit of research about the Q course.  And according to the official website blah de blah the Queen Elizabeth parkrun course is described thus:

The course is in Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean. …

The course is undulating and is run on a mix of compacted gravel paths, grass and forest trails. The course consists of two loops. From the start (green pin), head up a short incline on the gravel path. After approximately 200m take a right turn onto a grassy downhill section. This is quite steep at the bottom so caution is advised. At the bottom of the hill take a right turn and follow the perimeter trail back to the start at approximately 2km. This completes the first loop.
The second loop ascends the initial incline up the gravel path. This time instead of taking the right turn from loop one. Continue on the gravel path for approximately 1km. At the crossroad adjacent to Holt Pond take a right turn onto a downhill trail. At the bottom of the hill turn right on to the perimeter path. This will join the end section of loop one and take you back to the finish funnel (red pin).

Oooh, it’s in a country park!  Queen Elizabeth Country Park to be precise.  That sounds grand, not only worth visiting for an elusive Q then.  Also, and I’m hoping that unlike at Bradford parkrun this won’t be delivering false hope, the information on facilities declares that ‘Toilets are open from 8am‘.  I’m properly excited now.  You have to pay for parking though, which I don’t begrudge at all, but can’t see how much it is or how you pay. I’ll worry about that when I get there.  Actually, no I won’t I’ll look now.  … ok, bit of googling later, looks like you pay on exit, and you can use a card or cash, but if you use cash you won’t get change.  Fair dos.  Good to know.  Venue looks amazing.  This is going to be grand.

The course looks like this:

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Ooh, lap two looks a lot bigger than lap one.  Nice though, not too much repetition.  This is going to be fab – if it happens.  Oh no, it might not happen, weather forecast is properly shite!  Oh well.  Que sera…

and then parkrun day finally dawned…

I woke early, and stared out of the window.  It didn’t look too windy.  I’m the last person in the world with no smartphone and I was a bit twitchy about what to do, as at some point I’d have to tear myself away from the weak but just about detectable wi-fi of the hotel, and from thereon-in I’d be on my own.  No updates.  Like those disaster movies where the central characters have to establish early on why they don’t just get their mobile phones out for help, information or a google map to guide them on their way.  I’d have to survive on nothing but my wits and my parkrun locating instincts.   My only hope was that I’d have left a paper bag in the car somewhere so I’d have something to breathe into in case of emergencies…

Lee on the Solent parkrun was much further away, so I’d need to get a wiggle on to get there, but Queen Elizabeth parkrun had promised to post either way as early as possible.  In the end, I decided to go straight there, but early, as it would be obvious if the park was closed and I could just turn around and head back to Lee on the Solent.  OK, a plan.

I checked out of the hotel, where the receptionist took my key pass off me without passing comment about my green tutu.  She’s probably learned from years of experience that sometimes it’s best just not to enquire.  In the car I peered through the windscreen to establish current weather conditions.  My windscreen is almost as good at identifying current weather conditions as the met office or seaweed hung in a porch, I was thinking it was going to be wet…

DSCF1286

Fortunately I had windscreen wipers, albeit slightly squeaky ones.

I got to the park after an angsty satnav journey which appeared to take me to a random stretch of dual carriageway.  Eventually, big brown signs headed me towards the country park.  You arrive and go through barriers, which make you wait like a conscientious but slightly bored dog humouring his or her deluded owner.  You know, the ones who will insist on doing random and pointless obedience training drills with a less than enthusiastic hound, as some sort mindless power game,  in this case ‘sit’ and ‘wait’.  I didn’t even get a treat for doing so.  Not so much as a veggie jelly bean, or even an actual bean, I’d have settled for that, breakfastless as I was.  I learned later, that this is because big brother photographs your number plate as you go in, but takes a little while to do so.  Presumably because he is lining up the perfect composition, or getting your number plates best side, i.e. the one which has the numbers on – so when you exit the car park paying and entering your number plate in the magic machine, it knows who you are and how long you’ve been a-lingering.   Clever, but ever so slightly unnerving too.

DSCF1287

Now I’ve been, it was fairly obvious where to go – past the visitors centre, and to the next car park along, the gravel one.  But I am of an easily confused disposition, so therefore got confused.  I sort of assumed the barriers wouldn’t have let me in if the country park was shut, but it was very, very quiet.  Well, I suppose I was extra early too.  I finally spotted some people walking and asked them hopefully if they knew anything about parkrun. They had no idea.  Seemingly, they were there to lay tracks for a film crew.  Oooh, how exciting, maybe I’d get to be an extra, I expect they are in need of a super-sized frog wearing a tutu in at least one of the background shots!  No?  Oh well, worth a try, anyway I’d rather do parkrun…

Then a bit further along, I espied a familiar assortment of parkrun related paraphernalia and signs being heave hoed along by a high vis hero.  I paused to check with the person in charge of this bounty and learned, yes, parkrun was indeed on!  Better yet, I was in the right place!  Hurrah!  There was the little matter of being about an hour early but I hate being late, this way I’d be able to fit in a precautionary pee for sure, probably several, shame I’d not had any breakfast.  Premier Inn is fine, but super basic.  I did have a coffee in my room, but hadn’t thought to bring so much as a banana with me for pre-parkrun sustenance.  Fortunately, I had coincidentally brought along with me a quite extensive layer of subcutaneous fat, so that was both my carb reserves and my heat generation systems sorted.  Excellent!

By the time I’d parked, some helpful signs were already up.  The venue is gorgeous too.  Mature trees, huge ones, everywhere.  And lots of mud.  I like mud!  I’m a slow runner anyway so I’m not going for speed, I’m just in search of a micro-adventure, mud ticks that box gloriously, and the fact it provides an excuse for a slow and steady romp round is but a welcome bonus.  Weirdly, others don’t feel quite the same, this I don’t understand, if you want predictable terrain, there are always treadmills, but where’s the fun in that?

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Off for my precautionary pee. It was a shortish 5 minute stroll back to the visitors centre.  There was a single, unisex disabled toilet open, so I nipped in there.  It was deserted as I approached, but as I emerged, there was a little orderly queue of other parkrunners all standing directly outside like a pop-up guard of honour.  I felt they ought to have applauded me as I exited really.  It was slightly alarming though, as I hadn’t realised they were there.  On reflection though, this was just as well, since I have a bashful bladder, and the thought of a trio of parkrun tourists – however empathetic and friendly – outside potentially listening would have entirely negated the positive provision of precautionary pee facilities.  I left them to it, hoping I didn’t have toilet paper stuck to the sole of my shoe or anything similar…

Back to the carpark.  There weren’t many people around, I was in two minds about my fancy dress, I’d not seen anyone else wearing anything green, let along amphibian themed – yet.  Then again, they did say it was fancy dress, and to be honest, I’m not really expecting my frog outfit to become a wardrobe classic, so really I just needed to brazen it out.  Not very likely to be passing this way again, and anyway, the advantage of the head attire was that I’d not be recognisable in any other context, it’ll be fine… what’s the worst…

I headed up the hill, following the signs to the start.  A little assembly of core volunteers had already gathered.  Couldn’t help noticing a distinct absence of green as I approached.

What was lacking in amphibian costumery, was compensated for by the friendliness of the welcome, as the small, but perfectly formed team greeted me.  I outed myself as being a bit thrown by the lack of others in fancy dress, but was doubly comforted.  Firstly, because the Run Director, had in fact come along with a frog companion, which was most apt, and secondly by the cheery reassurance of two self-identifying ‘grumpy old gits’ (their words, not mine, I’d have said something like ‘convivial silver foxes’, if only to be polite… one of whom said well ‘of course we wouldn’t but that’s because we are grumpy old men, I’m sure others will, well there’s always someone anyway‘.  Ah, I was wondering if by extension of that logic, that ‘always one’ might possibly be me.  No worries, ice was broken, and it was all friendly, and I was here now, and the frog outfit was staying, too late to squash it back in the jiffy bag and despatch back to the ebay seller from whence it came now. Anyway, grumpy or otherwise, I couldn’t help noticing one had a green beanie hat and the other green shoes, so they were practically embracing the theme really, just with a slightly more subtle and tastefully understated nod, that’d do!  They were probably wearing frog themed speedos underneath.  I didn’t ask, so can truthfully report they passed no comment on the matter, which we all know means they definitely were!

Time to pose for some pre-parkrun photos.  I was too embarrassed to ask the RD if the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ on her high vis was because this was our monarch doing her bit incognito but with her name discretely embroidered on the tabard to assist her personal protection officers (the cunningly disguised grumpy old men for sure) in identifying her from afar.  Or whether it was bespoke for the parkrun venue.  I think we all know though.  I wasn’t too embarrassed to ask to pose for a photo though.  Have to document those memories somehow!

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Nice frog companion she had with her.  I like to think it’s an emotional support animal she has with her at all times, and her claim this was just a children’s bath mitt she’d retrieved from the bathroom in a pre-parkrun panic in an effort to show willing re the leap-day theme was just a quick thinking tale intended to put us off the scent.

This was going to be great.  Sorry Lee on the Solent, I’m sure you had an ace morning too, and I will come back to see you one day, but for now I was really excited by the route to come.

The location is absolutely gorgeous.  Weirdly, despite the appalling forecast, the air was still, and although it was distinctly wet underfoot, it wasn’t actually raining either.  Huge trees lined the route, and someone explained the course to me.  It was going to involve running up a hill and a section that was a bit muddy because of forestry vehicles doing track work.  That’s ok, I’m used to mud.

I mentioned about not being sure if the event was on, and having spoken to the film crew support earlier.  I learned two things.  Firstly, the the park authorities are pretty good about trying to facilitate parkrun and have on occasion said ‘do it, but don’t hang around afterwards’ so they can close afterwards if necessary.  I also learned from the RD, that on at least one previous occasion, another film was being made that featured zombie roman centurions!  The parkrun was potentially in the back of shot, and so negotiations took place to ensure lycra clad puffing parkrunners, or hi-vis wearing marshals didn’t mess with their continuity.  Shame, that would have been a sight worth seeing.  A bit of gentle googling has led me to learn this was a Canadian company ‘perfect storms productions‘ back in 2012, but they are committed to historical accuracy, and were recreating the Battle of Teutoburg Forest which took place in Germany in AD9.  Not gonna lie, this does rather make me question the ‘zombie centurions’ angle, but then again, I wasn’t there, either for the 2012 filming or the Teutoburg Forest original battle, so might be true?  Also, the country park has been used for other film locations, including at least one Dr Who episode, so maybe it’s constantly populated with zombie roman centurions, and they occur more commonly in film than I had previously appreciated…  Maybe it’s like pokemons, they are everywhere, but not everyone can see them…  How else can you explain how I omitted to notice this:

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I rest my case.

I went for a little bit of an explore, up towards the start, yep, that would be an upward flat section, and to check out some of the lovely trees.

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I kept the assembly area under surveillance, in the hop that others in fancy dress might yet still appear.  It was a colourful gathering.  One person did come sporting an American footballer outfit without explanation, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to him or take his picture so we’ll never know if he was dressed in homage to the Louisiana Leapers say, or if he just always dresses like that.  Still, man of mystery, whosoever you were, your efforts were noted, and appreciated too.

Actually, **STOP PRESS** mystery solved.  I only got as far as ‘frog fancy dress’ on the official event announcement, but now I’ve read it in full I see there is a catch all  or ‘outfit that represents one of the many sporting events also happening this year the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Euro 2020 Football tournament, or the ICC World T20 Cricket tournament‘, so it seems not only was I not the only one to read the memo, there was another who actually read it in its entirety.  Whoever you are, I salute you!  Sorry we didn’t get to team up!  You are part of QE history too now.  A legend in your own time.  Though secretly, I was rather hoping it is your regular parkrun outfit of choice…

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Amongst those gathering were fellow tourists here for the Q, but giving the cue for more photo opps.

I struck up conversation with a few people asking if they were local or visitors. Most had come a-touristing.  One commented ‘oh god no!’ in response to my innocently posed question ‘so is this your local parkrun then?  Adding… ‘If this was my local parkrun I’d have to move house!’  I think this was a reflection on the terrain not the welcome by the way. I guess some love the tarmac, whilst others like the call of the wild and the giddying possibility of seeing a zombie centurion on the way round, or at least a gruffalo…  Here are some of us milling and chilling and pre-parkrun faffing:

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So after pre parkrun parkfaffing, there was a call to order and the first timers’ briefing.  There were a fair few of us.  ‘Before I start, I have to ask, why the frog?’  Oh, guess no-one else got the memo then.  ‘Erm, because it’s a leap day, and you are having a fancy dress green-themed/ frog parkrun‘ I croaked awkwardly.  ‘Oh yes, that makes total sense‘.  On to other business.  ‘Who’s here for the Q?’  Pretty much every touristing hand went up.  In fact, I don’t think there were any others present for any other reason.

It was quite a useful and comprehensive briefing.  We warned there would be ‘MUD’ lots of mud, not a pb course I think is the generic euphemism. Yeah, whatever.  Forestry vehicles had also contributed to path erosion so take care out there.  I didn’t really concentrate too much on the route description as I just follow everyone else, and as for the mud – well, I was just so relieved and delighted parkrun was ON, that wasn’t a cause for concern beyond vague registering of its existence.  All good.  Here we are, attentively listening to our hi-vis hero explaining the idiosyncrasies of the route ahead…

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Next stop, run directors briefing, she found a useful bank from which to address us.  Usual thanks and milestones and mudfest warnings.  Also, the usual chit chat from the assembled company.  It does my head in when people talk through run briefings, but it seems it’s a problem everywhere.  I’m never sure of etiquette as a visitor, is it ok to ‘shush’ others when you are only passing through.  Equally, at my home parkrun I wonder if ‘shushing’ seems officious, but really, it’s soooooooooooooo rude.  I couldn’t even give paddington stares, because my eyes were on the top of my head due to my choice of attire, just had to accept couldn’t really hear what was going on.  Got the gist, clapped when everyone else did, and hoped it wasn’t to endorse anything incompatible with my moral compass.  Always a concern…  Still, at least one person knelt in reverential homage to the RD at the front of the pack, so it wasn’t everyone being disrespectful.

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and then run briefing over, it was a mass troop up the hill to the start.

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then timers’ ready?  Yep?  Go!

And awf we went.  Or more accurately, off went everyone else, I lingered a bit to take some pictures of the start, and then just slotted in behind.

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I’m not sure what the red thing is, some sort of fungus, but it just caught my eye near the start and deserved to be immortalised, and why not.  I’ll look it up later and let you know what it is, it will be most educational!  DONE!  It’s a scarlet elf cap apparently, so that means some poor elf has been out in all that stormy weather capless.  Oh well.

I was at the back, and I was going up a hill, and I suddenly twigged that I was still wearing my coat, and my frog head gear – which would have been an asset in torrential rain – was less advantageous today, and was rather acting as somewhat OTT thermal insulation.  It was like I was running with my head in a pressure cooker.  Well, like I imagine that would be, not actually tried that, and not sure if it would be possible even with a gas operated one, you’d have to find a way of carrying a canister round with you I suppose.  Look just take the analogy with a bit of suspension of disbelief, the details aren’t important, the point I was trying to make, before you so rudely interrupted me with all these tedious questioning of the details, is simply that I was absolutely boiling, should have jettisoned the coat before.  The ground underfoot was pretty solid, but I was way too hot, and it was more uphill than expected.  A cheery marshal was on hand a bit further up, and waved us to our right,

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and down a hilariously slippery mud slide.  Brilliant.  No really it was, completely hilarious.  It was properly muddy.  Many parkrunners ahead of me ground to an almost halt, definitely walking, trying to pick their way through.  I think some may not even have had trail shoes.  I had mid-shoes inov-8 parkclaws which I love, but could have done with something much grippier.  Some tried to stick to the sides a bit.  I tried to do a bit of a zig zag to stay upright, but I’m not sure it helped.  Ahead of me was a woman who acted as a sort of early warning system, giving out little involuntary shrieks each time her feet threatened to disappear beneath her.  I didn’t witness any full on face plants or mud slides, but feel sure there must have been some.   It wasn’t just the stickiness and slippery of the mud you had to contend with, but the downward gradient, it was quite a slope!  It was great, my favourite sort of thing. I’m very slow at parkrun, so for me mud just offers enrichment rather than any further delay.  Having said that, most parkrunners around me anyway, seemed to abandon any attempt at going for a time in favour of picking a route through and so it was bonding, friendly and mutually supportive.

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One fellow parkrunner even stopped to take my photo for me mid course.  That’s a first, I thought it was just me that actually stopped to take pictures on the way round, so, this new development especially pleased me. Thank you parkrunner David Bailey much appreciated.

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and on we went, each of us negotiating the terrain in our own individual way!

At the bottom of the hill, you turn right again, and go along quite a firm chalk path – sploshing through a few standing puddles, on a long straight haul back in the direction you started from.