Posts Tagged With: running

Amoozing times at Trentham Gardens parkrun!

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I feel all squidgy and nice inside thinking about this particular parkrun. It was just such a perfect parkrun day. The kind of experience you just wish you could bottle and keep with you to sniff – or indeed snort – in times of need. Such an inoculation of joy was received by all I bet we were still bouncy at the memory of it long after we had completely dried out – which for the record was a very, very long time indeed. Just the slightest whiff from that bottle and the most down cast of spirits would surely be revived. Lo! Even to hear the very phrase ‘do you remember that cowol time we had at Trentham?’ whispering through time and space as a half life memory will be enough to send positive ripples through the universe for generations and all will be well with the world. Good to know.

To be fair, though a bottle of the spirit of this parkrun day would be nice, some of us can go even better. For I left this parkrun not only with giddying, hilarious and positive memories, but an actual pocket hug to carry with me. I know! Amoozing! More of this later. Suffice to say this was truly a parkrun with ALL THE THINGS!

OK, but where to start. Erm, so much to say, so little structure in my head about how to get it out there. Oh well, let’s just dive in and see where we end up eh?

Through parkrun people get to know one another, that’s not really news, it’s a pleasing and almost inevitable consequence of communities coming together each week to run, walk, jog, volunteer, twalk (walk and talk) in their local spaces. That’s splendid, obvs. However, one unexpected consequence of lockdown was that the parkrun community for some moved online. Community cohesion not just survived, but flourished due to parkrun passionistas various connecting through things like the Quarantine Quiz (still happening if you want to virtually rock up) and of course the With Me Now (unofficial parkrun) podcast not only continuing its weekly broadcast but adding in Facebook lives, parkrunpedia, pictionary all sorts. There is a deep irony, that because no-one could go out anywhere, where you were located didn’t really matter, so new parkrun friendships sprung up from all over the place. All over the uk, and internationally too, particularly to Germany what with the quarantine quiz and all. Roll forward, parkrun returned (hurrah) and now we could all meet up again, there was renewed enthusiasm to meet up with friends old and new. Friends we hadn’t yet met even! parkrun tourism has always been a thing, but now it has taken on a more erm, collective focus. Individuals who are celebrating parkrun related achievements share their destinations and people rock up from near and far to join in the fun. It’s grand! It has always been possible to rock up at a new event and be welcomed by a parkrun team, but this sense of belonging is magnified when you can rock up at a new event and see a swarm of familiar faces up for a parkrun party. It’s pretty extraordinary. So it was, that when one of our number announced they’d be doing their Cowell run (100 unique parkrun destinations completed) on the 14th January at Trentham Gardens parkrun, with fancy dress, parkrun people and probably quality vegan cupcakes, it wasn’t the hardest decision of all time to want to get along there.

As usual, tediously, I was worried about the drive down as it was a long one. I’m working out that counter-intuitively perhaps, it works better for me if I have one full on long day rather than two consecutive demanding ones. If I go the night before then I’m shattered by the drive so parkrun can be a bit too far out of my comfort zone even walking it as I now do. On the other hand, going on the day means heading out in the dark, but if I can make it through the morning and then just faceplant on the sofa comatose for the next few days that can be more achievable. The other angst inducing consideration, was that there was an ominous clash of dates, with a Scunthorpe meet up mooted by northern parkrun buddies. I never have a social calendar so squished that I have commitments coincide so it was sod’s law on steroids that I was faced with this dilemma. Fortunately, the parkrun fairies worked their magic, happy chance brought a mini meet up at Sheffield Castle parkrun last week, and then actual fairies oversaw the Trentham Gardens parkrun gathering. Hurrah. All’s well that ends well indeed!

Honestly, I didn’t particularly research Trentham Gardens parkrun in advance, just focused on where it was and how to get there. I didn’t even properly register it was a one lap course, though I do like those. I just clocked a load of people I knew would be gathering for a special parkrunner’s graduation from being ‘just’ a cow to being a full on Cowell and that was good enough for me. Sheep like, I’d endeavour to be there. However, you dear reader are very much wiser, and perhaps will appreciate some of the usual website blah de blah, so let’s start with that:

According to the Trentham Gardens parkrun website:

The event takes place at Trentham Gardens, Trentham Estate, Stone Road, Trentham, Stoke-On-Trent, ST4 8JG.

and the course is described thus:

Course Description – A one lap route that circumnavigates Trentham Lake and takes you through the famous Italian Gardens on the Trentham Estate. The course is accessed via a footbridge close to Trentham Garden Centre. Please do not use the main entrance for Trentham Gardens (in the centre of the shopping village).

The start/finish of the 5k route is inside the Trentham Gardens estate but all participants must exit the Gardens at the end of parkrun. Access is granted by the Trentham Estate for the purpose of the event.

Facilities – The shopping village and garden centre offers a vast array of eateries and shops. The main entrance to Trentham Gardens is located in the centre of the village – charges apply for entry to the Gardens.

For those parkrunners travelling a distance, there is a Premier Inn on the site.

Location of start – The event starts in Trentham Gardens.

Free parking is available on the Trentham Estate car park. We would request that you park on the main car park (to the left of the main entrance) and not the car park next to Trentham Garden Centre if possible. It is about a 5 minute walk from the main car park to the start.

Post Run Coffee – Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee at The Rotisserie in Trentham Shopping Village – please come and join us!

and the course looks like this:

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Good to know. Also good to know, the parkrunner at the epicentre of this gathering was on track for this to be her 100th unique parkrun destination. The first parkrunner to achieve this feat was Cowell, so following in his footsteps has become known as achieving a Cowell, and so she’d be wearing Cow fancy dress for the first half of the name, and two L plates for the ells at the end. Clever she be! What I didn’t know at this stage, was there would also be a fine fellow parkrunning participant achieving her fiftieth unique parkrun so her half Cowell and therefore her cow, so moorvelously there would be extra bonus bovines in attendance. Various of their acolytes would also be in attendance, wearing parts of cows (maybe horns, or ears or monochrome outfits) or, as in my case, living the bovine dream with my inherently bovine demeanour and appearance. I decided to properly commit, by offering my services as a tail walker in advance. There was a gap and this looked like a fine way to relive the joy of the forest bathing gang that gathered at Chevin Forest parkrun last year. Yes, this was going to be grand. Hurrah! Oh, and I have a postcode to head to, all good.

The morning dawned. Dark and damp, very damp, a lot of rain to be fair. Sub optimal quantities of water falling from the sky. I left at stupid o-clock because I was up early anyway (occasionally insomnia delivers a benefit) and I wanted to have an unhurried drive. The drive from Sheffield was basically ok, I took it steady and there was only the one near death experience coming off the motorway when a lorry overtook me on the slip road just as we entered an enormous amount of standing water. Think less puddle and more lake. Or more accurately a great deal more puddle leading to essentially the biggest inland lake in the entire universe EVER (probably). I got such a tsunami of water over my vehicle that my windscreen wipers were rendered useless, I had zero visibility and it was properly terrifying. But I emerged into visibility unscathed and the surge of adrenalin certainly kept me hyper vigilant and alert for the rest of the drive.

I did my usual trick of missing the turning so had to go beyond and head on back. I’d printed out all the directions so knew to park on the left hand side in the main car park. There was LOADS of parking. Excitingly, I also passed a Premier Inn on the way in. Overnighters staying here prior to the parkrun could basically topple out of bed and onto the parkrun course. Well nearly they could. It’s not quite as close as the B&B at the start line of Buxton’s Pavilion Gardens parkrun, but hardly an arduous trek to the course either navigationally or by distance. It would have been fun to overnight there but it wasn’t essential for me and out of budget at the minute too to be fair. The choice of where to park was somewhat overwhelming.

I hadn’t done my research, or I’d have known to expect a full on retail centre and formal gardens with an entrance foyer and admission charges. I now know, if I’d read the blah de blah properly, that you are not supposed to go to the main entrance. I hadn’t so headed to the main entrance, to find it shut until 8.30 a.m. local regular dog walkers were queueing up in a good natured gathering waiting for it to open. I availed myself of some nearby loos, which mercifully were open, and then returned to find the entrance area opened. I limped in to the foyer, gesturing my parkrun wrist band, and was directed round to a side entrance near to the garden centre which is where I should have gone in the first place. This is opened especially for parkrunners to access the grounds prior to opening, and guarded by two parkrunners when I arrived, presumably one who always lies, and one who always tells the truth, but I can’t be sure, as I didn’t actually ask them, but was rather just waved through the very impressive double set of hugely high iron railings that were either side of a little bridge over a water course.

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Oh wow, this was going to be proper lovely. Though more than a bit wet.

Exciting though!

I followed the parkrunners ahead to the gathering point, and reported for duty. A very friendly RD welcomed me, and there was already a quite a gathering. Oh look, cows! Also mud. Extra slippery mud. The comedic slapstick started almost instantly, as people tried to take refuge under a nearby tree but needed to negotiate a mud slide to do so. Despite hollers of ‘be careful’ and ‘watch out it’s really slip… oh’ there were a few skidders and skaters and at least one full on backslide resulting in a mud covering worthy of a high-end, comprehensive full-body mud-spa beauty treatment, only with less lovely healing minerals and more grassy gritty bits. None the worse for that I’m sure. Quite a bit colder than the thermal mud wrap offerings though, and definitely no fluffy towels , but then again no actual injuries either, so all good. The only bruising was to personal pride, but dignity wasn’t big on the personal attributes of many of the participants today if the fancy dress efforts were anything to go by.

The volunteer team did their necessaries, lamenting the no-show of the weather marshal as cloud cover exploded into torrential rain. The parkrun fairies normally do better than this. Oh well.

The mandatory photo taking began early. Group shots, and then the more observant amongst us having our heads turned by what turned out to be just the first of many Trentham fairies. Ooh, this parkrun venue is really quite something! Oh, and we need costume shots, and vista shots, and selfie shots, and group shots and ooh another group shot because we missed some people out, and volunteer shots. Enough shots for a full covid vaccination programme for a small city at the very least I reckon. Here are but some of the many offerings. By the way, I’ve borrowed photos freely from all over the place and can’t honestly remember what came from where any more, so thanks to those I’ve lifted from, thanks for those whose images I’ve shared, thanks for those who have posed in pics and thanks for all who were there whether captured on film or not.

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After quite a prolonged period greeting each other in what must be the parkrun equivalent of dogs sniffing each other’s bottoms, we were distracted by the call out for the first timers’ welcome. Dear reader, I can report this was particularly excellent. Welcoming, informative, witty and shout out for the milestone parkrunners even if there was begrudging acknowledgement they might be ‘rather hard to spot!’. Joking, obvs. There were a few first time everers which was especially impressive. This is an amazing venue, but honestly, the weather was not conducive for making a parkrun debut for any but the most dedicated of first timers. I salute them all.

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The course was explained, a one lapper, but with a cattle grid. Uh oh. Our cow companions hadn’t entirely thought this through. But wait, it would be fine, kindly high vis marshals had laid across the grids sacrificing themselves so others may cross. Or if not actually them, then their high vis tabards, and if not the actual high vis tabards then maybe they’d got some proper cattle grid boarding to do the job for them. We’d fathom it out between us, and if not, I’m pretty sure it’s in the ‘any other duties’ section of the parkrun marshal job description that they will carry cows over cattle grids to help them negotiate when required, just as they will lift parkrunners aloft and trot over bridges to help them avoid trolls where needed. They are a helpful and self-sacrificing lot high vis marshals. They are the best.

We dispersed, and just as we did so, I was approached by a group with dogs, also arriving for their first ever parkrun but who’d missed the briefing. I did my best to explain the basics, which are basically follow along and ‘have fun!’. I learned the importance of communicating this only real parkrun rule from watching Mr junior parkrun himself, Paul Graham doing his junior parkrun briefings, and it really does distil down everything you need to know most succinctly. They went off to join the throng and then then there was a lovely RD briefing. Such a lovely parkrun, it seemed like even the heavens had brightened somewhat. Briefing completed, and we were awf.

It was quite a sedate awf to be fair. It was wet around the edges of the tarmac path, very wet, and with over 500 parkrunners a busy start area. As far as I could tell all were pretty patient and polite, why would you want to hurry round such a glorious course. Me and the cattle and the parkwalkers held back to enjoy the sight of the parkrunners peeling off, and then slotted in the rear.

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and then we were on our way, for a fantabulous jaunt round Trentham Gardens.

Can we just have a little parkrunpedia interlude for Trentham Gardens please. I had never even heard of them, but once again parkrun adventuring took me to a location I might never have otherwise discovered, and it was properly amazing!

Trentham Estate ‘Trentham is a special place. 725 acres of spectacular natural beauty and home to award-winning Gardens, glorious ancient Woodland, a unique outdoor shopping village, events galore and so much more. From the tranquillity of the garden and wildlife walks to the wonder of the Monkey Forest and the thrill of Treetop Adventures, there really is something for everyone at Trentham.

Having completed the parkrun I can confirm it is definitely a special place AND an area of spectacular natural beauty. We might not have seen absolutely everything, but the single lap certainly takes in a mighty portion of its wonders.

‘At the heart of Trentham Gardens is the spectacular, mile-long, Capability Brown-designed Trentham Lake. Studded with small islands the Lake is alive with the sights and sounds of a wonderful array of wildlife. The circular lakeside walk takes in views of the River Trent, ancient wildflower meadows and woodlands, through the cascading weir and along atmospheric nature trails. There is so much to explore and be inspired by, including the bold and dramatic naturalistic planting design; ‘modern meadows’ by Nigel Dunnett creator of the acclaimed plantings at the Olympic Park, London. Created for successional seasonal interest and environmental suitability’

Usually, it’s £10.50 admission for an adult in winter, or £13 summer prices, but as a parkrunner you can come in for free, do the parkrun and then exit by 10.30. This is an absolute bargain, as you not only see a lot of the estate, you also see it pretty much deserted apart from other parkrunners. Oh and Trentham Garden fairies, but both fellow parkrunners and Trentham Fairies are most delightful companions. I have to say though, I was sufficiently impressed by it all to think it would be well worth the entrance ticket price, there is much to see, do and appreciate. A happy place. Changing through the seasons too, I think you can get loyalty passes too if you are a local. Certainly there seemed to be a lot of regular dog walkers making the most of the place as we parkrunners assembled. There were a few raised eyebrows at the fancy dress, but all was good natured, the main reaction being laughter and a desire to take a selfie, it was companionable space sharing. Hurrah!

At the rear we were, the fun party at the back, and boy did we have fun. So much adventuring. The course is gorgeous. As a one lapper the bulk of the field weaved out of sight pretty early on, but that just meant we had a sense of having the whole place to ourselves to explore and it was amazing. The skies cleared and we gazed in wonder at the unfolding marvels, of which there were many.

As tailwalker it was my job to be the last finisher, and there was a fellow tailwalker to take on 50% of this responsibilitiy and a parkwalker too. We also had a bouncing tree hugger who is 99% border collie on speed, so that, along with the rather independent cow was quite a lot to try to keep in order. The thing is there were a lot of exceedingly magnificent trees, ALL of which needed to be fully appreciated, oohed and aahed over and/or hugged; and a great many distractions in the form of things to be photographed; spring flowers to be appreciated; fairies to be whooped over; marshals to be thanked; water birds to be identified; benches to be sat upon; mini tractors to be ridden; selfies to be taken; cattle grids to be negotiated; dogs to be petted; other park users to be chatted to. So many things to do at a parkrun! It’s a wonder we ever finished at all!

I honestly can’t quite remember the sequence in which marvels were revealed to us, so here are some highlights, in no particular order:

Heading out:

Whilst it is true that most of the field disappeared over the horizon pretty speedily, we party pack at the back quickly set about making our own entertainment. Not that parkrun isn’t adequate entertainment all on its own, but there is definitely added value in have twalking companions. We headed off by a lake side, and very quickly came across a dinky little miniature train track, and some coppery wavey things that were intriguing if somewhat inscrutable. Then there were trees to dally round and endless photos to take to capture the essence of the occasion.

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My personal favourite photo (which granted, does change quite a lot, I’m either indecisive or fickle or quite possibly both) is the one that makes us look like an ill thought through new band launch. Still, nothing wrong with a left field rock band offering. Nobody saw Gangnam style coming, and I am confident we have a greater diversity of appeal than that, excellent as it was. We do exude fun and know how to make our own entertainment, so all good. ‘The Bovine Beauties’ perhaps or ‘Cool with the Coos’? ‘The Merry Moon Jumpers’? ‘The Feisty Friesian Foursome’? Well, ok, we need to work on our name, and quite possibly our music content too, but everyone has to start somewhere, these are details don’t knock it. We are surely insta ready, and that is the important thing.

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Lovely as the route was, it was not without its challenges! Fortunately, cheery marshals were on hand to help us navigate the most testing of trails. Case in point. The forge! A proper water way, with a little bridge to one side. We wanted to forge the water course but having been explicitly instructed not to, behaved tolerably well. We did stop though to ooh and aah at the water cascading down the steps, to chit chat with the marshal and to examine the elfin figure which I thought looked somewhat Gollum-like or possibly Dobby the house elfesque. Nice punting skills though. The cow may have strayed back into the water, but did use the little bridge first. Phew.

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Spring flowers:

Our merry way took us to all sorts of delights. Venturing darn sarth from oop norf I was astonished at the flowers. Highlights included snowdrops, cyclamen, witch hazel, daphne, catkins, moss and the amazing sculptural dandelion clocks and metallic flowers. I abandoned any attempt at photographing en route today, out sourcing this to my energetic, photogenic and photographically talented parkrun companions. Good call I think you can agree:

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The witch hazel grove was especially wondrous. The parkrun route takes you right through an area of tall trees underplanted with a mass of brightly flowering witch hazel with the waft of a particularly fragrant single daphne tree cocooning us in it’s heady aroma. This route through the gardens is amazing, what’s more, it would be amazing in different ways at different times of the year and different times of day, I don’t think you’d ever get bored. We saw loads, but missed loads too, and those who actually ran round the parkrun, well, what were they thinking? They’d have properly missed out on so many excellent, exceptional and extraordinary things! Fortunately, they can come back and do it all again another Saturday if they wish, and I hope they will!

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Trees – so many magnificent trees!

Trees to hug, trees to gaze at, trees to sniff around and quite possibly pee up (if you are a dog or direly desperate) trees sufficient for mini forest bathing and maxi green wild swimming. Trees are brilliant though aren’t they. Granted, it wasn’t possible to hug each and every one, but maybe you could over time if you went back every week. Some of the trees had trunks so vast it would take a whole field of parkrunners to encircle them. Trees are the best. These trees you could not look on or up without being both calmed and awed. They brought perspective to the universe which was much needed and very nice to behold.

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There was even a tree sculptured into a family of otters, which was extra lovely because apparently the gardens are very popular with actual otters. If there is one thing lovelier than a sculpture of otters it has to be the prospect of actual otters being somewhere in the vicinity. The sculpture is diving otters apparently and was made from a cedar tree by Andy Burgess. Rewilding is important to the gardens, and I have it on blog authority that they plan to introduce beavers. BEAVERS! That is properly exciting.

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Plans have been submitted to house up to four Eurasian Beavers from Spring 2023 – In a bid to help re-introduce the species, Trentham is working alongside ecologist, reintroduction specialist and author, Derek Gow, who founded the Derek Gow Consultancy formed of a team of specialists in conservations, surveys, breeding and mitigation. The project is also being supported by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, The Beaver Trust, The Environment Agency and The Canal & River Trust.

Beavers are often referred to as ‘ecosystem engineers’ and their role in combating climate change is increasingly being recognised, as they make changes to their habitats, such as coppicing trees and shrub species, damming smaller water courses, and digging ‘beaver canal’ systems. These activities create diverse and dynamic wetlands – helping to connect floodplains with their watercourses once again. In turn, these wetlands can bring enormous benefits to other species, such as otters, water shrews, water voles, birds, invertebrates and breeding fish, as well as sequestering carbon.

In order to contain the beaver population and satisfy the controls required to try and save the species, while supporting the local agricultural community, Trentham has submitted plans for an enclosure around the perimeter of the lake and wider Gardens to keep the beavers safe and prevent them from escaping.

Alastair Budd, Senior Director of Trentham, comments: “Beavers are one of the most important species in our habitats and we want to help visitors to understand why this once extinct UK native should be back in the English countryside helping to restore our ecosystems and mitigate the impact of climate change.

OMG that’s so exciting. Beavers, beavering.

Even in this briefest of encounters with the grounds my heart nearly exploded with joy at all the wildlife habitats and sympathetic landscaping. A place of wonder indeed. Just look! Oh, and there were beetle sculptures too, love a giant stag beetle. My eyes were popping out my head there was just so much to see!

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This was just going to be grand! Off with a parkrun purpose. What larks eh, what larks!

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Fairies, so many fairies!

As we wended our way around, we were supervised by a flight of fairies guiding our way. They were everywhere. Some delegate, some fair(l)y feisty, some downright contortionists but all a delight, and many we attempted to emulate, with varying degrees of success. Not being rude, but not sure the cow has entirely the most favourable of physiques for re-enacting the gossamer winged poses, but straight As for effort, obvs. Do you know what gossamer is by the way? I just looked it up, and although used generally to signify light wispy fabrics, it’s actually the silken threads made by spiders. Isn’t that amazing? Rhetorical question, yes it is! Gossamer is a word I’m going to try to use more often, that and petrichor, though it smells not so much of wet earth round here as end of times flooding but even so. Some words and lovely and evocative. Some are not. Gusset for example? Does nothing for me beyond generating shudders. I think this is in part because tights are so poorly designed a drooping gusset is a traumatising thing, thank goodness for snag tights which I’ve only just discovered, game changer. You do realise if Superman had been able to access those, he wouldn’t have had to wear his pants on the outside of his tights. It would have changed history, or his story at least. Anyway, enough of my underwear fails, on to the fairy shots. Fairy good they are too! I don’t know if fairies have to worry about knickers particularly, or tights. #livingthedream

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As we followed the route and met up with marshals along the way like characters in the Pilgrim’s Progress or Chicken Licken if you prefer, it dawned on us this was a one loop course so we might as well gather up the course direction arrows as we passed by. It was a further enrichment activity for us. Joyously, we also seemed to gather marshals at various points too, so in a more the merrier sort of band we sashayed on around.

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The cows did a fair bit of cavorting, and one at least even some somewhat coquettish posing on the woodland chaise. In her defence, it’s quite hard to walk on by such a seductive item without laying out on it and declaring ‘paint me like your French vache’ anyone would have done the same, a great many probably have before.

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It is hilarious when you stop to think what goes on at the back of a parkrun. It is worth checking out the tiktok link for a parkruncam view. Penguincam has nothing on us. I think one of the many best things ever about parkrun, is that it gives you permission to play and play we did, whether that was hiding in the magic mushrooms despite there really not being very mush room at all, or checking out the mini tractors, or tree hugging or statue posing or just generally screaming with shared hilarity we had such a blast. Then we had to photograph the running duck and the robin and the sheep, so many distractions. Robins appear when loved ones are near, so that was extra special. I’m sure it wasn’t just hungry and opportunistic on the off chance. parkrun really is so very much more than a run in a park, it may have always have been about the coffee, but I think it is also very much about the shared experience of liberating your inner child. Everyone should have one! Were they sheep though, or were they cattle, not smol, but far far away?

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The next serious obstacle to negotiate, was the actual cattle grid. A friendly marshal was on hand to help negotiate this challenge. We had to keep to the left, and could use the pre laid covers to help cross the grid without incident. There was though a kissing gate which clearly also needed to be explored and experimented with. In fact, you traverse the cattle grid, and then loop round and come back over it all over again. Double the excitement!

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As if this wasn’t giddying enough, we were also joined at some point on this circuit by a bicycling marshal on the Trentham Gardens parkrun official bike. Isn’t that special and splendid, and what a cool role. I think officially he was a course sweeper, but I prefer to think of him as our personal outrider for the final section of the course. It was nice to have cheery company along for the ride. Well, he was riding and we were parkrun pootling but all good. Though there were fine hares to be seen, it isn’t the only way to approach a parkrun it seems, though hares are cool too! Look at this one.

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More Formally:

Juxtaposed with the managed wild areas were more formal gardens, Italian ones I think. This just gave another whole area to explore and discover, and came towards the end of the parkrun route.

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We paused to take in a fine statue with a figure holding a detached head aloft, I thought this was to serve as a firm warning for wannabe funnel duckers as they were nearing the finish, but turns out, it was a statue of Perseus with the head of medusa. Further more, accordingtogooglesoitmustbetrue ‘Sculptor: Benvenuto Cellini. This is a true copy of an original 16th century statue by the Italian master Benvenuto Cellini. The Trentham Estate’s statue of “Perseus with the head of Medusa” was made on the order of the 2nd Duke of Sutherland around 1840. It is the only copy of Cellini’s masterpiece, and demonstrates like no other work in this country the 19th century’s fascination with the Florentine High Renaissance‘. I liked our idea better, but either way, we took the opportunity to do our own re-enactment with uncanny realism if slightly more outer garments. Well it was somewhat nippy out, even though we dodged a lot of rain. I don’t know if it’s practical for us to embark on a career change as living statues or indeed historical re-enactment professionals, but the seed of an idea was certainly planted. Why not endeavour to re-wild our own lives with the same vigour we long to rewild our natural habitats? Quite so. I rest my case.

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and as if we hadn’t already had an embarrassment of riches, other parkrunners who had now concluded their runs came back to join us, so our guard of honour gathered strength and hard though it is to imagine, the atmosphere got even more intoxicatingly glorious, parkrun people are The Best. The weather was beginning to break, but the marshals remained cheery outwardly irrespective of degree of damp and cold that was penetrating them at this point.

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‘Suddenly’ we rounded the corner and there ahead, somewhat rain soaked, but still smiling, was a fully set up and serviced finish funnel. Hurrah! We enjoyed the same finish as everyone else, tunnel up, marshals in situ, hurrah!

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They really had been waiting til the cows came home, and that’s grand!

And our compatriots had saved us celebratory cake. I managed to consume half of one before being distracted resulting in the calamity of having a cupcake down emergency. But it worked in my favour in that I was given a reissue so it ended up being a 1 1/2 cupcake scenario instead of none. All’s well that ends well as the saying goes. parkrun cake is a serious business, no wonder Trentham Gardens parkrun very smartly arranged for a cake marshal on this occasion, a beautifully accessorised one at that. Which parkrun doesn’t need – or at least want – a waterproof cake carrier. Versatile bit of kit too by the look of things! Red Ted is also in need of some post parkrun ablutions, but all in good time, I’m sure he’ll scrub up well when the time comes.

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Even after all that, they managed to persuade us to pose – with some reluctance obvs, what with being so camera shy and all – for a group shot, well it would have been rude not to!

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Incidentally, as well as being a parkrun with all the things, it is also possibly one of the most comprehensively documented parkruns in history – and that includes Bushy parkrun birthday celebrations past and still to come! So much so this blog post is quite possibly entirely redundant, but then I’ve never let that stop me recording my thoughts before so why stop now?* Also, triangulation is a thing right? Always important to see things from different angles just to make sure all the accounts hold up. Spoiler alert, they do!

Case in point, a brilliant run report, that somehow distilled down all that loveliness into an excellent summary that exudes the loveliness of the day.

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And then we have the tiktok of the event which actually really and truly made me laugh out loud. I’d never really seen the point of tiktok before, having only recently come to first trust an now embrace electric blankets but now I believe I may be a convert! Check this out, and if it doesn’t make you smile at the very least, well you have a heart of stone and I pity you. Yes, in a really patronising and insincere way too!

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Finally, parkrun concluded, we were escorted off the grounds and through two lots of gates that were carefully locked behind us

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and to the rotisserie. This is the cafe of choice for the volunteer team and we were warmly invited to join them. The good news about this cafe is that it does do veggie and vegan options and has a huge back room where we did a parkrun takeover and basically had a pop up parkrun party. The staff and venue took all this in their stride. The less good news is that you have to run the proverbial gauntlet of roasting chicken carcasses to get there and it did smell of cooked meat which was a bit overwhelming. Even so though, a great choice and we had a fund time catching up with one another, sharing parkrun tales and planning new adventures. The core team head scratched over the results, and there was much jocular hilarity with some excellent post parkrun parkfaffery. We excelled even ourselves in our fun times.

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It was just lovely, practically perfect in every way. It was a parkrun punt to head out so far, but it was worth it. A little inoculation of joy to carry us through the week ahead, and affirming to meet people in real life when for such a long time they were just people who in lockdown lived in my laptop. It’s scary meeting people sometimes, but it turns out, most of them are lovely, and parkrun people are the loveliest of all. And as for the craic at the back of the pack. Best of all things. Thank you tail walkers, parkwalkers cow companions, walking and talking companions all. We did good!

But wait! There’s more.

As if it hadn’t been glorious enough what with having a parkrun, and adventures, and wildlife, an statues, and playing statues, and meeting friends, and fancy dress and all the things, as well as memories and pictures to take away I got an actual hug to keep with me! Two of our number, the cow and the tree hugger if you must know, had in a very literal labour of love, constructed some little yellow and gold hearts, each placed in a little bag of loveliness along with a mini pack of love hearts and on the back of the golden heart a hand written note ‘Always with me now, pocket hug’. Isn’t that just perfection. Because we can all have a wobble and having a hug in your pocket to squeeze in times of need is reassuring beyond your wildest imaginings. I may even laminate mine, to give it a little extra durability. It was the perfect end to the perfect parkrun morning. Sigh. Honestly though, what did we do for our physical and mental health and how did we connect with new people across the land before parkrun. I have no idea.

But now we can, and we do, and I wish you may always have if not a pocket hug of your very own, then at least a positive parkrun memory of your own or this virtual hug from me (extra covid compliant of course) to help you push on through. The world can seem a scary and lonely place at times, but we can still carve out pockets of kindness and there are more good people in the world than not. Also, we live in a land where we can still have parkrun play and over familiar squirrels and dance in the rain. So hope persists. Hang on in there.

There are surely enough yellow hearts and golden hugs for all. Purple hearts are something altogether different, best just say no to them in tablet form to be honest, the parkrun high is better altogether.. Mooving experience that it is.

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Oh, and if this hasn’t made you feel all lovely at the thought of parkrun, check out this parkrunner who has become the first woman to complete 24 parkruns in 24 hours. She knows a good thing when she finds it and can’t get enough of it down under it seems. Yay for Holly Ranson! Bet she still managed to complete her parkrun challenge in less time than it will take you to read this. Sorry about that. But like I said, Trentham Gardens parkrun has all the things!

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As always, I feel I should mention, you can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Also, you might just like to lean back in a comfy chair, close your eyes, and dreamily recall your happiest parkrun moments.  Bet there are loads.

Thanks though for keeping me company during my reflections from today. You’re The Best. May you always have a hug in your pocket to squeeze for comfort when in times of need, even if it is a virtual one. Thank you cow and cowell celebrants for bringing us all together, was great for us all to be with parkrun people in the here and now. Yay for my EWFM too, we are on a parkrun togetherness roll. #livingtheparkrundream

Still here? I won’t lie, I’m astonished! Thanks though.

Be happy. 🙂

**Clarifications and corrections**

Just one teensy tiny point of clarification. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about, nothing at all, but in the interests of full and fair disclosure, I feel there is one little thing I should mention. To one side of the course is a MOOSIVE, seriously mahoosive fence, with razor wire, and probably high voltage cabling etc. It’s slightly tucked to one side, and the distracting delights that abound may mean you pass by it without properly noticing it. However, once seen, it cannot be unseen. I think it is because as part of their rewilding initiative Trentham Gardens are doing a full on Jurassic Park kind of thing behind those fences. I’m sure it’s absolutely nothing to worry about, I mean, what could possibly go wrong, but felt a quick heads up was only fair. No wonder our otherwise energetic explorer is peering round this particular tree with a certain degree of tree-pedation. Probably fine though. Really…

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Isn’t it just great when nature finds a way!

*Rhetorical question, please don’t feel the need to enlighten me.

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

SURPRISE! Ups and downs and round and rounds in the rain at Sheffield Castle parkrun

It is a fact universally acknowledged that a parkrunner in possession of a barcode is always in search of a parkrun. Further more, such a person will never regret a parkrun. Sometimes you may think you will, in the small dark hours of a dismal winter day blinking up at the ceiling from under the fragile warmth of a tightly clutched duvet, but actually, nope, even the most inclement of conditions bestow bragging rights, and the most perilous of journeys can provide payback in terms of future anecdotes. It is always worth stepping out for a parkrun adventure. What is comedy but tragedy plus time after all. However, some parkruns you don’t regret even more than others. Sheffield Castle parkrun is one such event. It is an ostensibly modest offering, small by many parkrun standards, with an average number of finishers each week of around 60. It is an erm, let’s go with ‘unpromising’ at first glance Sheffield location, and has definite ‘Sheffield flat’ sections that give the course the illusion of being almost entirely uphill. In fact scrap that, it isn’t an illusion, it actually is entirely uphill. Think Escher painting with the endless upwards staircases and you’ll get the general idea. However, those of us who have experienced the event at its Manor Park location know of its secret delights. Dear reader, you should know that The Manor Fields park has burst forth phoenix like

“From one of the most rundown bits of wasteland in the city to one of the city’s most attractive parks, this place is a gem for wildlife and humans alike. It has to be one of the best designed wildlife parklands in the country and should be a shining example for all” (Andrew Stringer, 2019).

It still suffers from that reputation in the minds of some. It had more than its fair share of fly tipping, burnt out vehicles, dog crap and yes, actual dead bodies over the years, as opposed to apocryphal ones. Yet now, if you just make the effort to trot along you’ll be greeted by possibly the most genuinely community focused of the Sheffield parkruns. The reclaimed land has been lovingly seeded to create amazing wild flower meadows in the summer months. Nature themed sculptures abound, and careful landscaping has created water habitats in abundance. It is the most fantastic space. Sheffield Castle parkrun is too often over looked. It’s proper lovely, always welcoming, always full of interest, and with stalwart volunteers that are such regulars at their spots it is almost as if they have merged with the landscape, if not actually grown out of it. Check out these photos lifted from the Manor Fields Park Facebook page:

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See! Reyt nice – though granted these pics seems to have been taken on an altogether sunnier occasion…

Despite all this insider knowledge about the giddy delights of the venue that awaited, I cannot tell a lie, the deluge of rain that fell from the sky like a giant sized ice-bucket challenge first thing in the morning did not imbue me with enthusiasm at setting out.

My EWFM bestie was up in Sheffield for the weekend. Today would make for a hat trick of consecutive parkrun rendezvous which is no mean feat given she is in London and I’m in Sheffield or ‘up north’ as my southern reader might have it. We’d been debating taking the opportunity to do some tourism a little further afield, I’ve done all the Sheffield parkruns many times now, about from Hillsborough for some reason. Too many laps and a bit bargy when I went though it has a great reputation and now a fab cafe too, so I really should go back. Anyway, for various reasons we decided to stay local. I’m always happy to go back to Castle and it’s been a while, and it would be a new to her parkrun. Everyone’s a winner. Watching the rain beating on the windows with such force they were like shards thrust horizontally at the panes by angry demons* we were grateful for our life choices. I would not have fancied a long road trip aquaplaning across the country to an unknown destination many miles away. I was even for once quite relieved to be a parkwalker. I have to fight back tears of frustration quite often at my restricted mobility these days, and parkrun days are all too often the most painful reminder of what I can’t do, that and the Round Sheffield Run which I also missed out on this weekend. Today though, I was quite pleased to be able to legitimately rock up to the event in a full length rain coat, hat and multiple warm layers. It was surely going to be a wet one. Even so, parkrun day, to parkrun we should head, and so we did. Taking a photo of us just before we set off to share with other parkrunners heading off in the dark on their parkrun journeys. I pity them, missing out on Sheffield Castle parkrun, but dare say they enjoyed their own respective parkruns in their own way…

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We drove across Sheffield, it isn’t that far, but I went some weird route because I couldn’t quite visualise the best way to get there and so let the satnav take us on a magical mystery tour instead. It did not disappoint. Negotiating the tram tracks on the way (I have never quite got used to sharing the roads with trams, it makes me nervous) we got to Manor Fields Park nice and early, nabbing one of the last few parking spaces in the modest car park.

Oh, I have written about Sheffield Castle parkrun before, but just in case you are late to the party, here is the Sheffield Castle parkrun website blah de blah:

The event takes place at Manor Fields Park ,City Road, Sheffield, S2.

Course Description: The course consists of three laps of Manor Fields park in an anti-clockwise direction. The Start/finish line is situated at the entrance to the park from the car park adjacent to York House, City Road. From the start head east following the tarmac path which descends gently and then takes a more north easterly direction. Take a right fork climbing gently on a curved path towards the Queen Mary Road entrance to the park keeping the houses to your right. Adjacent to the Queen Mary Road park entrance take a left turn following the tarmac path north east towards the children’s playground. Immediately prior to the playground, at the cross roads, turn left and take the gentle descent north westerly. Continue along the tarmac path following it north keeping rocks to your right and over the discreet, level bridge. Take the next available right and continue along the tarmac path in a generally northerly direction as it ascends ever more steeply towards the Raynald Road exit from the park. Follow the tarmac path left and north west as it descends steeply towards the Manor Park Crescent park entrance keeping within the park boundaries following the path as it bends left passed the entrance heading south in a steady climb. Stick to the main tarmac path as it bends south westerly and commences its steady climb past the cemetery entrance on the right back to the start/finish line. Complete three laps of the course for the 5km of the Sheffield Castle parkrun.

Location of start: The run starts at the entrance to Manor Fields Park, City Road (next to Premier Supermarket). The start line is visible from main road.

Getting there by public transport
Bus: From Sheffield Interchange City Centre 120 platform A, bus stops at entrance to park, City Road (Spring Lane).

Train: From Sheffield City Centre, Tram stops opposite park entrance on Spring Lane. Walk on to City Road to entrance to park.

Getting there on foot: The Park entrance can be accessed from City Road S2 1GF and is situated 2 miles from the City Centre.
Getting there by road: Sheffield Park Square Roundabout via Duke Street (B6070) then follow on to City Road (A6135) Manor Fields Park. The Car park entrance is just on left after Premier Supermarket. Car Parking Free.

Post Run Coffee: Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in York House – please come and join us!

and the course looks like this:

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but don’t let the picture fool you. It only looks flat because it’s a 2D image, the 3D reality is most definitely erm, let’s go with ‘undulating’. Fun for sure, but definitely a hump or two on the way around, a veritable caravan of camels worth, and bactrian camels at that! Mind you, personally I do like a camelid, under-rated and rather magnificent creatures in my world. Much like wart hogs. They are glorious beyond words.

It was definitely still raining on arrival. Even the wonkies didn’t want to get out of the car. To be fair, I’m not entirely sure my precious and rare parkrunning buddy did either, though she was putting a brave face on it at this juncture.

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We did a bit of sitting steaming in the car, reflecting on our life and parkrun choices, peering through the rainy car windows to see marshals wrestling with parkrun flags and cones as they set the course areas up, Then I suddenly remembered as I was a volunteer parkwalker, I probably ought to brave the outside and let the Run Director know I was there. Also, there was the inevitable issue of facilitating a precautionary pee. The good news is that Sheffield Castle has a loo right near the start/finish area, the bad news is that it is just the one, so inevitably there is a bit of a queue. Time to move. The wonkies – made of repurposed high vis in case you haven’t been concentrating and havent worked it out, for the most part decided to stay put, but Charley and Red Ted committed to getting out and about. Admittedly, Red Ted is strapped to my walking pole, as a sort of emotional support wonky. I had never really reflected on this particularly until a child at junior parkrun asked me why he was tied up in that way and I felt suddenly exposed in some act of vile coercion and cruelty. I couldn’t come up with an adequate explanation. One of the many unexpected challenges of volunteering at a junior event I suppose.

As we exited the car another car breezed in, we espied frantically waving shadows inside and reciprocated with frantic enthusiastic waves back before quizzing each other ‘Who was that?’. ‘No idea!’. We had only managed to clock the UK parkrun tourists Facebook page buff between us, and were each hoping the other had made a positive id through the grey rain and seemingly darkened windscreen. Oh well, we’d find out.

And so we did!

SURPRISE. And OMG what a FANTASTIC surprise. A contingent from Huddersfield parkrun, although inexplicably not all decked out in Super Mario fancy dress. We’d first met I think back in August at their 500th parkrun event which had been an amazing and welcoming occasion. That is an astonishing course, there are moments en route where if you look around it really does seem like parkrunners are going in all possible different directions and on all possible levels – over bridges and through tunnels below. You really should check it out if you haven’t already done so.

Through the rain, and brandishing AMAZING giraffe leggings and scrunchie for a synchronised tourism occasion still to come was a familiar face, hurrah! It is always brilliant to turn up at a parkrun and unexpectedly see a familiar face, but what was extra brilliant and bizarre about this particular reunion is that we had literally been liaising a couple of days before about rendezvousing at Scunthorpe parkrun next week. That is tricky for me because I’d already committed (health permitting) to join another parkrunning friend for their Cowell run (100 different events). I felt bad though, as we tried to go to Scunthorpe before Christmas but snow and ice made heading out too scary for me. I was feeling guilty and like I was being a bit flaky. This was especially depressing as I really want to go to Scunthorpe. Partly because who doesn’t like a parkrun by the seaside, and partly because, shallow and childish as it is, I do feel the urge to add Scunthorpe and Clitheroe Castle parkrun and indeed Sloughbottom parkrun to my Penistone parkrun result and achieve my personal Infantile Sniggering at Saucy Words challenge, I’m not sure what the virtual badge for that one looks like, perhaps best not to over think it. A chortling smiley face emoji perhaps? That would be family friendly and tasteful. The acceptable face of collapsing in giggles at hidden ‘rude’ words within parkrun names perhaps.

Anyway, the enormous irony of us actually being in Sheffield instead, today was hilarious, brilliant and perfection personified, or parkrunnerfied more accurately. I couldn’t have been more astonished if they’d all burst out of a gigantic super Mario themed cake to the accompaniment of a full size steel band and a troupe of acrobats. It was magnificent! They had the advantage on me having checked out the volunteer roster, but were also tail walking. The intention was we’d be joined by others, but they had car issues en route and ended up doing Hillsborough instead, so near and yet so far. Still, we could be whooping and amazed and excitable with enough demonstrative passion for all of us! A fantastic surprise. #lovetheparkruncommunity We managed a rendezvous and I know longer have to split myself in two across two far away parkruns in order to avoid missing out on or putting out fellow parkrunners, hurrah! It may have been raining on the outside, but it was all sunshine on the inside.

Quick pee, scamper to collect the blue high vis – it is massively the most flattering of the high vis options in my opinion, and then to the pop up banner, that was more blown down and saturated then popped up and perky and some photo options. Selfies and wonkies all needed to be captured on film. That’s me pointing with my surprised face, and that is surprise visitor looking pleased with themselves for being so surprising, and why wouldn’t she be? So much joy! Also, aren’t are hats splendid!

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The photo shoot required a certain amount of acrobatics and indeed contortion as unless held upright with some force the pop up sign did a kamikaze-esque collapse. Then wonky Charley did a faceplant as soon as left unattended, so there was much ducking behind signs and posing with signs and all sorts. It got very jolly in fact. I do love making my own entertainment, and was perfectly accessorised for such adventuring what with having both Huddersfield companions and my precious and rare EWFM which in case you haven’t been concentrating is sort of like a BFF but waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better, more enduring and more complex. A very good thing indeed, and very much for life not just for Christmas, much like parkrun. Are you following?

Anyway, we ended up directing a number of photoshoots of other parkrunners seeking a pic with the pop up. Initially they stood dripping and bedraggled like muddied survivors from a disaster moving, but with a bit of encouragement played up for the camera beautifully and provided much jolly pre-parkrun entertainment, hurrah! Making your own fun is highly recommended, it is always pleasing just how up for it other parkrunners are if you just set the playfulness in motion. I say up for it, maybe they were just particularly suggestable and have traipsed home full of regret that they didn’t nab their usual rigidly upright, solemn faced behind the pop up photo. Oh well, there is always next week I suppose. I like our photos, though somehow, we failed to get one of me and EWFM in all the confusion and merriment. Never mind, we have our memories and got one the next day at junior parkrun so all was not lost.

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With all the pre parkrun faffage, it seemed that really quickly we were called together for the Run Director’s briefing. There were the usual shout outs for tourists – there were a few, but mainly from Yorkshire although obviously my bestie from Londonshire was also present and correct if a little damp around the edges. Thanks to the volunteers. There was a full roster today which was good to see, but possibly largely on account of people resting their legs before the iconic Round Sheffield Run tomorrow. One person had a number up for grabs, and I endeavoured to get it for my lodger, however it didn’t work out as I was walking and the parkrunner concerned had long gone by the time I got back. Maybe just as well as I’m not entirely sure if it would have been possible to do name changes at this late stage. Darned shame though.

All too soon, we were sent on our merry and puddlestrewn way. I didn’t have my camera with me and to be fair it wasn’t really photo weather, people were understandably loathe to risk their phones in such conditions. However, you can take my word for it that it is a really brilliant route. I love that the inclines mean you see the runners streaming away from you, and the twisty turny paths and open landscape mean you get great views of others ahead. The three lap bit means you get lapped as a slower participant, but that’s jolly too, a good opportunity to make new friends and share greetings as you pass one another.

There was another parkwalker which was good to see, they were power walking so a bit ahead of me and the two tail walkers. We had a little party at the back with walking and jeffing parkrunners. Both were regulars. We ended up having the familiar conversation about why is Sheffield Castle parkrun called Sheffield Castle parkrun when there doesn’t appear to be any castle as such. I sort of know this but couldn’t entirely remember the details. It is confusing, because this park, together with what is now Norfolk park was all once part of a deer park, and as I recall there was a fortified looking hunting lodge as part of the estate which was known locally as The Castle, even though it wasn’t an actual castle though it was where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner for ages and ages. To add to my confused history, there was a real proper Castle in Sheffield at one point, which is now long gone, but referenced as Castlegate in Sheffield City Centre. Oh, and actually, there was a dig a few years back which found some stuff of interest apparently, but the Castle reference for Manor Fields has a different origin, i.e. the turret house from Sheffield Manor Lodge:

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Hang on, let’s just Wikipedia Sheffield Manor Lodge shall we? Might save some time:

Mary, Queen of Scots, was held prisoner by the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury at both Sheffield Manor Lodge and Sheffield Castle (her ghost is said by some to haunt the Turret House building). Wolsey’s Tower was built to accommodate Cardinal Wolsey, who then died after travelling on to Leicester.

Mary came to England in 1568 after her defeat at the battle of Langside seeking the support of the Catholic nobility. Mary’s freedom was restricted after her cousin Elizabeth was advised of the threat that Mary posed to her own crown.

She was handed over to the custody of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury on 4 February 1569. Talbot had armed guards watching her constantly, however she was still able, with the help of the Duke of Norfolk and others of the Catholic nobility, to plot against Elizabeth. Several times Mary had to be moved to places of greater safety and stricter control.

On 28 November 1570 she was taken to the Earl of Shrewsbury’s castle at Tutbury, where, apart from a few breaks at Chatsworth and Buxton, and more regular visits to Sheffield and the Manor House, she remained for 14 years.

So now we all know. I shall make it my business to immediately half commit this to memory in the spirit of passing on partial truths in perpetuity, so next time someone asks me I can sound much more authoritative and confident, that would make a pleasing change.

I did sort of know most of this history, albeit it had got a bit mangled since I last looked it all up. What I did not know until it was pointed out to me today, is that there is a particular point on the course where you can see the silhouette of the turret towers on the distant horizon. This means you actually get three shots at spotting them, more if you include partial views. I think this is pretty cool, and also another boon of walking and talking – twalking – because it creates the time and space to have things shown and explain to you, hurrah! This is in addition to putting the world to rights, comparing parkrun stories and being excited about tomorrow’s Round Sheffield Run winter edition and sing the praises of this amazing event. Definitely best race ever, it is a race not a run, unlike parkrun, but in many ways retains a parkrun ethos being inclusive and social and altogether brilliant. A parkrun on steroids with a medal at the end, where you can eat your bodyweight in jelly babies on the way round. Coffee and pizza at the end and loads of photos of happy smiley people having the best time outside together. Just sayin… might not be free, or weekly, but it is timed and it is awesome. Even volunteering for it is a joy, much like junior parkrun, though takes a bit longer, might want to bring your own chair. You can tell this marshal is a parkrun ambassador, got lucky with his position adjacent to toilets in Bishops House where the volunteers provided hot tea. He had to bring his own chair and snacks though, and it is a long time to be out there cheering and clapping I know. Looks like he’s nailed it though, has sussed sitting about is way easier than running round in the mud, however lovely the route!

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Back to Sheffield Castle parkrun though, it was just lovely. The weather may not have been the best – though Warrington parkrun had it worse for sure

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and I can’t resist these pics of runners in action elsewhere too – check out The Holmfirth Photographer at the TNT and the puddle of doom at Temple Newsam 10 on Sunday. Fortunately running in the rain just makes you more hardcore.

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But walking round with lovely parkrun buddies is The Best. Plus, we got to appreciate the various sculptures in the space, and to thank the somewhat sodden but irrepressibly cheery marshals as we passed them. One had come with an umbrella which was not holding up well to the challenge, but still beaming at the self-imposed hilarity of the situation. Yay for the marshals, they are The Best. And yay for the naming of the radish leaves sculpture, it may not have actually been called this previously, but it is now. You heard it here first dear reader:

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So we walked and talked and put the world to rights, and laughed and shared stories and made new friends and rekindled old friendships. My EWFM bestie came to join us after completing her parkrun to walk us in. She was delighted with her number 69 finish place, I don’t know why in particular, but she was definitely chuckling inwardly more than grown ups are generally expected to do, but exactly the amount besties should, so all good.

The rain fell as we headed up the final hill past the cemetery, the last lap was pretty much just a couple of walkers and the tail, but none the worse for that. Unsurprisingly, by the time we came to the finish funnel, most other parkrunners had dispersed, but cheery hardcore finish funnel and scanners and timers were all very much in situ and hugely appreciated by all of us walkers. They were even still smiling. The RD was busy in the house token sorting, so I waved goodbyes to the stalwart volunteers who were busying themselves with final course set down and waved goodbye to my Huddersfield friends – the two of them who had run also circled back to join us again. I thought this was solidarity, but it may have been that they didn’t have the car keys which would allow them to get themselves to a place of dry safety as their driver was my tailwalking buddy. Still, we made a jolly troupe heading to the finish.

And then, suddenly, everyone dispersed. It is magical how people come together for parkrun and then vanish into the mist afterwards as if we were never there. Leaving nothing but footprints and taking nothing but memories, and maybe photos, and in this case, large amounts of rainwater soaked into clothing, but that was all!

If you like to see accounts triangulated, you can see the full results from today here and see the write up of the event below. Hurrah!

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So that was all properly lovely, even if my last outstanding bingo number still eludes me. Oh the frustration.

The best bit though, we can do it all again next Saturday, and for me and my EWFM bestie we could do it again tomorrow, at junior parkrun. We went to Sheffield Olympic Legacy junior parkrun on the Sunday, all tooled up with wonkies and had the best of times. I like to pretend the wonkies are primarily to give joy to junior parkrunners, but they have taken on characters all of their own and their joy radiates outwards far beyond juniors. Even so, it was fun to have them back in their natural habitat and en masse too. One of the frogs and one of the cats got carried round by two sisters taking part. I love it when that happens and the wonkies get a proper work out. The little things eh?

It didn’t even rain! I know, what are the chances? #loveparkrun #especiallylovejunior parkrun

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There we go, another parkrun weekend done and dusted. Thank you Sheffield Castle parkrun for being awesome always, small but perfectly formed, thank you lovely EWFM for being my parkrun bestie, and thank you Huddersfield parkrunners for the amazing surprise and thank you everyone who keeps the parkrun community alive and thank you RSR for being the best running event ever (apart from parkrun obvs) hopefully I’ll find a way to join you again at some point in the future. Yay to all in the Sheffield running community who make it so!

Same time next week people? Go awn, you know you want to!

Incidentally, you can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Also, you might just like to lean back in a comfy chair, close your eyes, and dreamily recall your happiest parkrun moments.  Bet there are loads.

*well, like I imagine shards thrust horizontally by angry demons would seem to be, not having actually experienced this personally to date

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shipley Country parkrun – making a splash on the parkrun map!

Another parkrun day, another destination. It’s not been the best of years for me parkrun wise, but I suddenly realised I can get my 3/4 Cowell done this weekend if I moved out of my comfort zone and braved a but of tourism. Although strictly speaking a parkrun tomorrow on New Year’s Day is in 2023, because it’s all this one weekend, it feels like I’ll nail it this year.

Yesterday, in some quite ingenious procrastination activities, I set about doing some parkrun research, trying to fathom which parkruns I haven’t yet done are in realistic driving distance from Sheffield. This is basically a bottomless pit of distraction as each unique parkrun can take you down its own wormhole of parkrunpedia factoids and individual loveliness or character at the very least. I need never tackle an unpleasant activity again now I have landed on the perfect vehicle for endless procrastination. You might find it handy too.

I can report this research was both interesting and faffy in equal measure. Throwing up loads of venues that had inexplicably dropped off my radar, and generating a very long parkrun ‘to do’ list, that didn’t even include the destination parkruns like Bere Island and Somerdale Pavilion. Various parkrunning buddies of mine have taken to filling in whole spreadsheets of forward plans and I begin to see the attraction. Sometimes these shared documents float by my eyelines and up until now I’d only ever considered them as having value as a stalking activity. You get to see where other people are rocking up and can either stalk them or not and often they have done all the lengthy background research so you are guaranteed maybe a fancy dress display team, a particularly scenic venue or at the very least a milestone celebration with associated cake. That reminds me, did you see the lovely animation of the Charlie Mackesy book ‘The boy the mole the fox and the horse’ over Christmas. It’s just so perfect. Check it out on iplayer or at very least get yourself a copy of the book from world of books or whatever.

Anyway, I’m now thinking creating your own parkrun spreadsheet may in fact have merit, as it seems there are relatively near parkruns that are most worthy of visiting that I’ve yet to get too. In amongst the rediscovered parkrun treasures was Shipley Country parkrun. I don’t know quite why I’ve not already been, it’s relatively near and easy to get to from Sheffield, and from a cursory look at the website blah de blah seems to have all the things, parking etc. Hang on, I’ll prove it:

The official website blah de blah declares:

The event takes place at Shipley Country Park, Slack Lane, Heanor, Derbyshire, DE75 7GX and describes the course and facilities thus:

Course Description – The course is run on a mixture of tarmac, trail and gravel paths. The route starts on the main path between the Visitors Centre and the events field, near the childrens adventure playground. From here the route heads down onto Coppice Hill Bridleway. Participants veer right and then at the end of the bridleway, turn right onto Bell Lane. After approximately 200 metres turn right on to a footpath. The footpath passes Meadow Farm and heads back to the back of the Visitors Centre. Participants take a short path back on to the main path, and head down towards Osbornes Pond. At Osbornes Pond, take a right turn and take a short sharp gravel path up the hill. Participants follow this path and veer right, following the path all the way back round past the Visitors Centre and will again follow the path down to Osbornes Pond, take the right hand path up the short sharp gravel hill again. Follow this path back round towards the Visitors Centre, where the finish funnel will be at the events field.


Facilities – The Country Park has good facilities including a visitors centre (including gift shop, exhibition and display area of leaflets), baby changing facilities, toilets, first aid room, wildlife garden, Ramblers Café, Derby Lodge Tearoom, a number of childrens adventure play facilities, dedicated disabled parking, cycle pathways, bridlepathways, nature trail.

Location of start – The event starts on the main path between the Visitors Centre and the events field, near the childrens adventure playground.

Getting there by road – The main entrance to the country park is well signposted from Derby Road (A608) and from the motorway M1, junction 26. The park can also be accessed via Mapperley Village.

There are two car parks available at Shipley Country Park. The main car park has space for 216 vehicles and entrance is accessed via Slack Lane, Heanor, DE75 7GX. This car park is located within the country park and has 16 dedicated disabled parking spaces. You can also park at Mapperley Reservoir car park- accessed through Mapperley Village on Shipley Lane. Please note all car parks operate a pay and display facility; payments can be made by cash or card.

Post Run Coffee – Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in Ramblers Café, Nr Visitors Centre, Shipley Country Park. Show your parkrun barcode for special offers – please come and join us!

and it looks like this:

I did a bit of a results check and saw a full rota – though some people doing multiple tasks, and a friendly facebook page which is always a good sign of a proactive event team. Plus, lovely photo AND they give the what three words for the visitors’ centre which are apparently qualify.grumbles.stylists a trio that pleased me somehow. Grumbles and Stylists in particular sound like they might be reindeers that didn’t quite make the cut. Nice picture too

Why wouldn’t you want to rock up at a parkrun venue that looks as lovely as that? Precisely. No reason at all. Game on.

I didn’t sleep much the night before, like Lady Macbeth (though not for the same reasons I hasten to add) I seem to have completely lost the ability to sleep which is really annoying. On the plus side, wide awake in plenty of time for a leisurely drive over. The weather was pretty dire going across, standing water on the roads was a bit scary, I slowed right down, but others were less cautious so there was a lot of spray and the possibility of aquaplaning at any point. I wondered what the course would be like. In fact, the jolly volunteers had already posted a Facebook teaser:

Well, the course descriptors do always warn courses ‘may accumulate mud, leaves and puddles after rain‘ so fair dos.

It was easy to find the venue from the postcode, and there are brown signs to the park too, which give you confidence since there is one turn off where you seem to be going through a very residential area before you emerge at the country park. I passed both a BP garage and a Tesco nearby but didn’t stop for my usual precautionary pee as I figured it likely there would be facilities on arrival and I like to live dangerously sometimes. Taking risks adds a certain frisson to events sometimes. They say you should do something that scares you every day to keep you feeling alive. I mean, this comes with the rider of exercising a certain amount of discretion, so talking to someone new say would work but jumping into a piranha filled river would be more sub-optimal, but whatever works for you. How can we know our limits unless we test them after all? Quite.

There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, What if you fly?” as the great Erin Hanson puts it.

So I arrived pretty early, and headed in to the first car park. In fact, I could have gone on just a little further and there is one even nearer the start right by the visitors’ centre, but I was fine where I was. I pulled up partly because I’d seen what looked like an Easter Island Statue and wanted to go check it out, but investigation showed it as a bouldering stone I think. Squidging over slidey grass to check it out I did have a moment of angst I might have over-faced myself. Although my mobility is improved my balance can be off if my leg starts doing weird numby, tingling, dead leg things and the surface was more suited for body slides than picking round a parkrun. Much mud, and much standing water. Quite a lot of water still falling out the sky – no wonder the wonkies opted to stay in the car, just Red Ted game enough to accompany me on this occassion.

On the other hand, exciting old mining bits and bobs, open spaces, and the building anticipation of a parkrun event as I could see trainer clad folk gravitating towards the visitors’ centre. I followed them, and what great joy, there were loos and they were open! There is also a café – you could see inside that prepping was going on for the later onslaught though it wasn’t open before parkrun I think. There was loads of seating, some nice features like water bowls for dogs (though any self respecting dog would have found itself a puddle today I reckon, though it is the thought that counts) a bear (quite bijous, not to scale methinks, mosaics, all sorts really. There were signs to various activities and trails, including an Elf trail, oh and I passed a mounting block in one of the carparks so horse riders also welcome on certain paths. Lots to do at Shipley Country Park in their 700 acres, play equipment, nature walks all the things, but only one thing for me today, parkrun!

I sploshed my way towards the area where volunteers were congregating. They were in a tight circle like a rugby scrum or a team motivational chat. All busy about their preparations, there was a good atmosphere. One thing they did which I really like is that they all lined up for a high vis heroes photo together before scattering to their various posts. I really like it when volunteer teams do this at a parkrun, I think it helps build the community and it’s just really nice to acknowledge that without the volunteers the event wouldn’t happen. My favourite parkruns are those where the volunteers get a chance to know each other. At Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun, where I regularly rock up, they always walk all the volunteers en masse to their marshal pints so you can walk and talk and familiarise yourself with the course and the other volunteers as you head round. It makes it really friendly and social. I think the group photo is another variant on getting a gang together and a brilliant way to connect with each other. They shared the photo of them from the front, meanwhile I was taking the shot from the back – tis for you dear reader to decide which is their best side. I have ever so slightly photobombed their picture in the doing, but not so as you’d really notice, just like a ghost on their photo. Which reminds me, I feel a need to apologise for my pics, my camera is slowly dying on me, but I can’t bring myself to actually part with it, and anyway, rubbish photos have comedic value at least, plus, you get more of a sense of the penetrating wetness of the event at times. Perhaps we can tactfully agree that this adds atmosphere, if not actual clarity, to proceedings 🙂

I had a little wander about and a wonder about the general slipperyness of it all. Setting foot on the grass was properly hazardous, but although there was standing water on the compacted gravel path, that was fine if you didn’t mind the ankle deep sloshiness of accumulated puddles. You shouldn’t really as it is an actual fact, that running in rain over head or through water under foot just makes you a way more hardcore runner, so now you know.

This parkrun had a great atmosphere, people greeted and welcomed each other, it just felt extremely – almost pathologically – friendly and very well organised.

There was a jolly and informative first timers’ welcome. At this four parkrunners identified themselves as first time everers which was jolly exciting, although in fact I think the results suggested there were seven. What a day to pick! It was a lovely venue for sure, but a brave choice given the prevailing weather conditions that can fairly be described as ‘inclement’.

The briefing was thorough. We were told to basically keep going to the right as if you veer leftwards you’ll probably end up lost. There were of course marshals aplenty though to stop you going wrong. We were advised there would be a muddy bit through trees, and there was a normally hilarious as well as helpful quip about remembering to skirt around the lake, but if you ended up with wet feet you’d know you’d gone too far. Didn’t entirely help on this occasion, but the sentiment was apt. The RD stood by and diligently wrote down the names of any tourists’ home parkruns and any milestones and things, that was good. Not gonna lie though, that notepad looked like it would be papier-mâché before he made it to join the timers at the start line. Still, I do value an optimistic outlook. It’s amazing where self belief can take you. Absolute first timers were scooped up for an extra bit of explanation about barcodes and all, and the rest of us shuffled about wondering if the rain would pass. I was glad I was wearing my actual raincoat, which I’d wondered if would be over the top. Another parkrunning tourist was in a plastic poncho thing, which to be honest was a fab idea. Add to cart at the next small hours accidental shopping foray I reckon.

Next was the actual run briefing. The RD risked life and limb clambering up on a bench to address the assembled active wear clad parkrunners. Huge respect for the RD who did that classic of just waiting for everyone to be quiet. And it worked! I find it so stressful when people talk through run briefings, it’s just rude, and if you are new to an event then there’s stuff you need to hear – particularly on a day like today when the weather might impact on participation. He did so with good humour but authority too, there was a little bit of distant chit chat, but for the most part people were respectful. Hurrah. Nicely played. Milestones were shouted out, newbies welcomed, tourists acknowledged. I wanted to locate the tourists from Beeston parkrun as that is one of the friendliest events I’ve ever been to, but to be fair this event was pretty darned friendly too – though no parkrun is ever going to ace the Beeston parkrun Boathouse café, there’s only room for one Tony in the parkrun universe.

After the briefing, a little amble up the hill to the start area, and once everyone had gathered, off we went. Amazingly, just as the parkrun started it seemed to clear up a little, and even reached the point of actual dryness after the first half hour or so. Well, dry over head, under foot was a different matter all together.

Helpfully, although it was exceedingly wet, the actual path surface was hard and fine, apart from a couple of brief sections under trees where leaves had accumulated. Also helpfully, this seemed to be a genuinely walker friendly parkrun. There were two parkwalkers as well as the tail walker to be final finisher. There were a couple of intrepid nordic walkers, some jeffers walk/jogging the route, and others companionable walking and talking or twalking as I like to think of it. I made an effort to walk a bit more purposefully than for a while. I’m quite down about how little I can still do. I just remember last Christmas imagining a year ahead that I’d be running and mobile again, and I’m just not, and it’s crap. I have raged at the world over this quite a lot, although disappointingly it doesn’t seem to help much. I miss being properly part of parkrun, just being able to show up and take part without being an outlier or worrying about holding people up or creating paper work from toppling over somewhere. Praise be for the Walking at parkrun Facebook page and parkwalk initiatives for normalising walking to some extent… honestly, my experiences have been mixed as a walker, it’s always chancing it to go somewhere new. Today however, I needn’t have worried, this particular parkrun was very walker friendly and I had a genuinely good time, the erm ‘ambient moisture’ just making everything all the more memorable. I was very glad of my stick though, and just wish I could fit into my trail shoes again as I think they’d have been what we experienced parkrunners call a ‘boon’ to my performance!

I did a sort of awkward shuffle in between walking. And stopped at intervals to try to photograph the marshals. Each was a vision of loveliness of course, with every new marshal seemingly even more photogenic than the one I’d just passed, impossible though that might seem to be. They were all quite up for being photographed and so it’s a shame my camera can never do justice to their outstanding directional pointing, exceptional clappery and – at one spot in particular – full on karaoke and dance based supporting. Oh, and there was a marshal hiding in the woods too to scoop people up in case they skidded to such an extent they failed to take the intended corner and needed assistance being extricated from the pooled water that awaited the unwary. Attention to detail you see, that’s what makes a good parkrun truly great!

The course is described as ‘undulating’ but it’s pretty flat, there is one hill that you do twice that was a bit of a heave ho, but nothing too scary. Also, the way the course works, even though you do one bit twice, the faster participants are long gone by the time I got there so there wasn’t much of an issue with overtaking that I was aware of. I got passed a couple of times but it was all friendly and not particularly congested as far as I could tell.

You do a first biiiiiiiiiiiiig loop, and then a little one, and as you emerge from that you come by the finish funnel, which was being enthusiastically supervised by proactive and cheery marshals, There was such a good atmosphere as you rocked on by. I paused to get a couple of photos to capture a sense of the action. I mean, you’ll have to use your imagination to some degree because, well, not the best camera at the best of times, and in my possession, it’s not the best of times either. Still, maybe the pics will be a teaser to get you down to join the fun.

and off again for the mini loop, by this time I’d fallen into companionable stride with the two parkwalkers who were excellent company, sharing stories of upsideydown parkruns in Australia and being cajoled into starting parkrun by running club evangelists. I love hearing people’s parkrun stories. We all have our own origin tales. I gather there is a really successful junior parkrun here too, and they even held one on Christmas Day for them, figuring that the next time junior parkrun day coincides with Christmas day will be so many decades hence this might be their only ever opportunity to do a Christmas day parkrun. Good point, well made. I queried why they’d both had multiple parkrun volunteer roles, wondering if maybe they struggle to get volunteers, but apparently not, it’s just that volunteering is super fun. Which of course it is! It’s like opening a packet of Pringles (other savoury snacks are available) once you are on the volunteer rota you might as well bagsy all the spots you can because it’s rewarding. As my walking buddies were saying at the end of the day parkrun is all about community, the people you meet, the connections you make. Inclusivity and the joy of seeing others achieve goals is just The Best Thing EVER! I’d not really thought about it, but as one of them said, they put off going to parkrun for ages because they didn’t know anyone, which is totally the wrong way round, get stuck in, and you’ll soon know lots of people at your local parkrun. The beauty of doing an activity rather than blinking at one another in the awkward silence of other possible contexts is that you have something to do, and you can build up the levels of interactions as you feel comfortable with them. parkrun is just so brilliant.

It was with my new besties we shuffled past a well behaved gee gee, and then once again came across karaoke marshal, I think karaoke should be mandatory at parkruns where possible. It was lovely as well, that the parkwalkers greeted everyone they passed by name. Like I said, seems to be a very genuine community here. Hurrah! Yay for the instant party marshal spot though.

round again, puffing up the hill. I am so unfit. Wobbly leg is only part of the challenge. Then ‘suddenly’ back to the finish/ start. Past the blue cone, clicked in a barcode scanned, hurrah, and still no rain.

Safely scanned, I took a couple more shots of my new besties, and the final finishers who had been walking round but did an impressive sprint finish. At about this time the heaens properly opened in comedic torrential rain. I had no idea that it was possible there was so much water still left in the sky! It was properly hilarious.

Huge respect for the RD who made the most of the opportunity to do some full on puddle jumping. This is why we have puddles at parkrun, to play in! Fabulous. I think there should be a video of this doing the rounds somewhere, but you can make do with this still for now, it sort of encapsulates the whole parkrun today I reckon. Joyful, but ridiculously wet! I imagine the video will go viral in due course, I for one will be monitoring the Shipley Country parkfun Facebook page.

I thought it had started raining, but then water just fell out of the sky like a water tank exploding, it was beyond hilarious, you just had to go with it. Not gonna lie though, I was very pleased of my mac and even with it, was wet through to my knickers from water sploshing upwards, worth it though!

The high vis heroes were busy doing final course close down stuff, so I said my thanks and farewell and squelched away. It had been a good morning. I was invited to join the café conversations, but was too wet to stay and needed to get back, but I slightly regretted this as it was such a friendly group of runners. I chatted briefly to some in the café who were engaged in some good humoured banter around the risks of being allowed out without their carers. I think it was banter. I think it was carers. Might have been minders. One of them seems to have dodged death on innumerable occasions and still got a small scrap metal yard worth of medals to his name. Though with all those medical emergencies and falling over I was quite surprised he was to be trusted with a hot beverage. It was properly lovely though, I got a real sense of a community that comes together for a parkrun party week in week out and frankly probably doesn’t feel the need to trouble themselves with other parkruns because they are living the dream here. Having said that, a local running club does weekly tourism together, with members ndicating where they are bound so others can join in if they wish. Isn’t that lovely? Rhetorical question deear reader, because yes it is!

As we were chatting a great procession of marshals marched forward, carrying the pop up sign aloft, possibly because they needed to leave it somewhere to dry, though we all know that’s just a cover story for the fact that probably nobody has ever been able to fold it up again since the day it first landed at their event. It happens.

It was like they were parting the Red Sea as they processed by, parkrun paraphernalia carried aloft and carefully stored away til next week.

and that was that, suddenly time to splish home, aquaplaning the highways.

This was a great parkrun to finish the year with though, thank you lovely Shipley Country parkrun, you are the best, a memorable morning for sure. Yay you!

Categories: parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mighty, Meditative, Marvellous & Magical: Markeaton parkrun

Another Saturday, another parkrun.

Reet nice out.

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Where to go? I wasn’t entirely feeling the parkrun love this week. As my regular reader will know I’m struggling a bit with walking at parkrun, and these days always feel quite a bit of trepidation about whether and where to go in my quest to find a welcoming parkrun. Some times it just seems crazy to drive far, far away just to traipse round a park in pain for 5k in solitude. Then again, I might get lucky, find a new amazing park, see smiling welcoming high vis heroes, have a micro adventure, maybe see someone I know. You never regret a parkrun as the saying goes. What the hell…

I picked Markeaton parkrun for this week. It’s quite near to Sheffield, and honestly, I don’t really know why I’ve not spotted it before, it being a well established parkrun, yep, that’d do. It seemed to have all the tourist things, loos, car parking, a full roster in advance to give confidence it would be happening, yep, that’d do. It was a last minute decision, but you know what, ’twas a grand one too!

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The official |Markeaton parkrun blah de blah states:

Course Description
The course consists of two clock-wise laps on a mix of tarmac and limestone path. The start is located by the stone bridge at the top of the lake. The course follows the lake towards the east side of the park then curves round to the right just before the park boundary and heads back towards the centre of the park. The course then crosses the main path in the park and passes the front of the south car park. At this point the surface changes to a limestone path and heads up a hill towards the wooded section. Just before the exit of the park the course takes a sharp right-hand turn and heads downhill along the south boundary of the park.

After another sharp right-hand turn and a small hill downhill to the left the course follows the west boundary of the park, a left-hand turn leads back onto a gravelled tarmac path with a right-hand on to a straight path. Half way along this straight is a left-hand turn and the path passes behind the old stable building and back past the start where runners begin a second lap. On reaching the straight for a second time runners continue to the finish in front of the stone steps by the Orangery. The course will be well signed and marshalled where available.

Facilities
There is a small fee for car parking. Details can be found on the Derby City Council website.

Toilet facilities are available at the Craft Village and the Mundy Play Centre. Radar Key operated disabled toilets are available at both locations. Opening times vary according to season.

The park has many additional facilities including a children’s play area, boating lake, pitch and putt, light railway and fishing.

Getting there by road
There are two car parks – the main car park (nearest to the start of the run) is accessible from Markeaton Island on the A38 and A52. The SATNAV postcode is DE22 4AA. It has a 2m height restriction.

The other car park, near the Mundy Play Centre, is accessible from Markeaton Lane and the SATNAV postcode is DE22 3BG. There is a small charge for both car parks.

Post Run Coffee
Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in the Orangery Café – please come and join us!

And it looks like this –

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Which I think you can agree, is basically a badly drawn map of Australia, that either completely omits Tasmania, oops, or just pretends they didn’t and it’s actually the roundabout! So feel free to come do this course dressed as a koala or other marsupial of your choice. Personally I’m more wombat than kangaroo, but I’d definitely have improvised a hat with corks on a string hanging from it if I’d only thought of it in advance. Now you’ve had my tip off you can go prepared. The team will appreciate it. It’s a cheaper and greener way to become an international parkrun tourist, and what’s not to like about that?

I think they should rewrite their course description with reference to the various states of Australia, not only because this would amuse me, but also because that would be edutainment at it’s best. Be honest, how many of the states can you name, and, what’s the capital of Australia whilst we are about it?

Really? Are you sure? OK, you might be confident about that, but what year did Scott and Charlene get married? Eh? And how about, how many parkruns are there in Australia? Clue, more than you might think! And last question: is the Bungle Bungles a real place or an imaginary one? Photos on the internet prove nothing by the way, you mustn’t believe everything you see there, ask yourself rather, does that geological formation look plausible? Quite. I rest my case.

Where was I? Oh yes, en route to Markeaton. It wasn’t too long a drive this morning, but as always |I set off paranoically early. Climate change being what it is, it was an extraordinarily mild day. Leaving the house I saw that as well as my lobelia still being in flower (not a euphemism) now my lavender has bloomed again and is set off beautifully by a backdrop of geraniums and fuchsia. My garden looks fantastic, but it’s hard not to be discombobulated by these signs that indicate the end of time. Oh well, I had a parkrun to attend, mustn’t linger dwelling on our world imploding.

Lovely autumn colours lined the roads for a super easy drive from Sheffield. Only at the last point did I somehow get lost. I had input the satnav for Mundy carpark, but although it did take me there pretty much, I lost my nerve as it seemed to be miles and miles away from where the park was and I didn’t think I’d manage to walk that distance back to the start. There were some runners around, but not obviously parkrunners, though I do always wonder why anyone would run around 9.00 on a Saturday morning at a parkrun location if not a parkrunner. I decided to head back and use the satnav for the other car park, which to be fair, was what I’d meant to do in the first place. Uh oh. Fail. The sat nav took me back to the big roundabout where there is an Esso petrol station and a massive McDonalds and an abundance of exit roads. Somehow, I ended up being directed off in another direction entirely, definitely no parkrun on the dual carriageway there. Reasoning the sat nav was off, I found a suitable place to turn around and went for a circuit of said roundabout. This time I saw huge ‘unmissable’ brown signs to Markeaton park, and an even huger ginormous one pointing to the main entrance to the park. I have no idea how I missed this first time round, but the moral is, be alert to your surroundings rather than slave to the satnav. I was glad I’d allowed some extra time to rock up there though.

Once I’d found the entrance, it was pretty straightforward. The car park was pretty spacious and there were helpful signs all over. There was a miniature railway, this seems to be a trend in some of the parkruns I’ve been to of late. Maybe I’m missing a trick in not taking advantage of them. There are loads of facilities, cafe, loos, sports courts. All the things. You do have to pay for parking (unless you have a blue badge) parkin was reasonable but the reference to ‘small fee’ made me think it might just be a pound say, whereas I think it was more like £1.60 for an hour and then going up in increments depending on how long you stay. So fair enough, but more than I was expecting. You can either go quietly insane trying to find the right app, downloading it etc, or just pay with cash (no change given) but the good news is that there was loads of space. There was also a growing number of arriving parkrunners with tourist buffs and slightly confused expressions as they tried to get their bearings, and some regulars, marching purposefully out of the carpark in the direction of the muster for the start.

Markeaton park is truly spectacular! I was amazed at the size and maturity of some of the trees looking stunning in their autumn colours. The sun came out – a bit too much to be honest, it was more than my camera could cope with, but I was astonished to find such a huge and lovely park next to the unpromising roundabout populated by two of my least favourite businesses. I think beyond the park I could see building from the University of Derby, but if you looked the other direction the green space seemed to go on to infinity. There were periodic public art bits and bobs, maps, lots of water all very lovely, thank you for asking.

I followed the people who looked like the knew where they were going. We’ve been through this before, it slightly concerns me how readily I’ll follow people who look confident, this is how you end up joining cults but hey ho, as cults go, parkrun is a pretty benign one. Oh, and there were these clusters of fairy toadstools too. It was a gorgeous green space. As per, the photos don’t really do it justice, you’ll just have to use your imagination. I really liked the figures pointing in opposite directions, though you do have to hope the marshals will be a bit clearer with their directional pointing (spoiler alert, they were). I guess the fun thing to do would be to poke your heads through the slots and get a picture, but my arms weren’t long enough for me to achieve the necessary contortions to make it so. To be fair, they still aren’t now, but maybe you could give it a go, especially if you have journeyed there with a friend. Go on, you know you want to.

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After a bit, the ‘craft village’ came into view. Oh my! It’s a full on historic building – Markeaton Hall, complete with blue plaque for the Mundy Family. ‘Who?’ I hear you cry. Worry not dear reader, let me google that for you. Oh, turns out there is quite a lot, and I don’t want to go full on parkrunpedia on you, the basics are:

Francis Mundy (bapt. 29 Aug 1771 – 6 May 1837) was an English landowner, Member of Parliament for the Derbyshire constituency and, in 1820, Sheriff of Derbyshire.

Poor Francis only got to inherit the one estate, Markeaton Hall, but fortunately, it was and is a jolly nice one, so not exactly roughing it. Oh wait, hang on, that mahoosive building isn’t even the hall, that fell into disrepair, it is just the orangery which is all that is left. Wowsers, how massive must that hall have been. Nightmare to heat. Oh wait, this is properly interesting, I’ll do a cut and paste for you and hope it’s true!

The manor of Markeaton was held by the Tuchet family from the 13th century. Sir John Tuchet (b.1327) married Joan, daughter of James Audley, 2nd Lord Audley and heiress of his brother Nicholas Audley, 3rd Lord Audley of Heleigh Castle, Staffordshire, and in due course their son became the 4th Lord Audley.

Sir John Audley of Markeaton fought for Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

The Audleys sold the manor in 1516 to Sir John Mundy, Lord Mayor of London in 1522. The Mundys replaced the old manor house with a new mansion in about 1750.

Sir John Mundy’s descendants included a number of High Sheriffs of Derbyshire including Francis Noel Clarke Mundy who commissioned paintings from Joseph Wright of Derby to decorate his home and record the hunts that took place at Markeaton.

In 1929, the Markeaton Hall and twenty acres (81,000 m²) of its gardens were given to the Corporation by the Reverend Clarke Maxwell who had inherited the estate from the late Mrs Mundy, on condition that the whole area would be used as a public park and that the mansion would be maintained for cultural purposes, for example a museum or and art gallery. Unfortunately the hall was used by the Army during World War II and allowed to fall into disrepair after the war.

The Hall was eventually declared to be unsafe and was demolished in 1964, leaving standing only the Orangery, a Grade II listed building

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Fair play, that’s a lot of history.

Looked impressive too. Now the ‘mere’ orangery is still standing and still breath taking. What a backdrop for a parkrun. There was a whole courtyard behind, which I now know you could take a shortcut through to get to the start if you didn’t want to listen to the run briefing. Please do that instead of just talking through it, it does my head in that people do that. There were loos that were open and reasonable. They had the weirdest inside design though. The sinks being one side of the door way and the hand driers the other, so as there was a queue in the ladies there was a constant circulation of folk moving from one side to the other, or going with the frantic handwaving or the failsafe wiping washed hands on your leggings rather than barging back through the queue. No idea what the gents was like, but I’m going to guess that as usual they don’t have to queue and had no such formation dancing going on whilst having their comfort breaks and performing any necessary ablutions.

In the courtyard was the largest ornamental urn thingy I’ve ever seen, and towering around its edges were ornamental railings. I don’t really know what function this might serve, but it was definitely impressive and now I want one too. Even though I’d have to demolish part of my house to accommodate it in my garden, that would be but a small price to pay for such an astonishing bit of garden sculpture, though Markeaton Park authorities might not be keen to part with it. I got an early sighting of some of the volunteers, I thought they were just chatting, but now I’ve see them in action, I’m pretty confident these two were just working out the bell ringing synchronicity to make sure it was perfect from the off. Spoiler alert, they nailed it.

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After a bit of milling about, there was a call out for first timers to gather for the first timers’ welcome. This was thorough and genuine, though being told ‘just ignore any references to cardiac hill’ was somewhat mischievous. A couple of tourists were sporting 500 tees, don’t see too many of the in the wild, so that was exciting too.

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First timers’ welcome over, time to mill about and do some sign posing before the RD briefing.

One of the excellent features of the venue, is that the raised courtyard area has steps leading down to the finish funnel, which is the area where parkrunners gather for the Run Director’s briefing, so they can stand atop the steps and be clearly seen and heard which is great. The Run Briefing was extremely good. There was a Couch to 5k group that was doing their graduation parkrun. They were warmly welcomed. A volunteer with a milestone volunteer got an extra round of applause. Tourists were welcomed from near and far ‘from Leeds? Never mind’. There was a shout out for someone who was doing 7k every day for 7 days in a sort of relay I think, with someone else taking over next week. I didn’t quite catch what that was about to be honest, but the point is, I felt like this is a mature parkrun community. People know one another, care about one another and share each others achievements. The park walker was particularly identified as someone to walk around with and gave a friendly and vigorous wave, so that was lovely. I felt the welcome for parkwalkers was completely genuine. It was all very impressive. And yes, there was a noisy cohort chatting throughout, but at least they stayed towards the back. I’m definitely getting more intolerant in my old age.

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Run briefing over, there was a mass migration to the start area. I wasn’t expecting this relocation so was possibly disproportionately excited by the micro adventure of following the throng along the outside wall of the orangery and round the corner where there was a sawn laden water feature with it’s own feature bridge, and the backs of a mass of parkunners ready for off.

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It was only when we were all mustered at the start, that I fully appreciated how many people were gathered. It’s a large field, and the venue is such it could take still more. We were urged to keep left if walking so faster runners could overtake, but it never felt congested.

I watched the off, and then joined the pack towards the back. The first two marshals were busy bell ringing and cheering with great enthusiasm. All marshals are lovely obvs, but I do have a special place in my heart for marshals who accessorise appropriately and noisily to help not only get the party started but keep the party spirit alive. Hurrah for jingly marshals!

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I tried to put on a bit of a wiggle, my aim was to stay ahead of the tail walker, and I started off with a degree of confidence, but very quickly the field pulled away and my leg started playing up and I realised, alas, I’m not magically cured. It is so frustrating that my body just won’t do what my head wants it to. On the plus side, the route was absolutely gorgeous. It was a great sight to see the colourful stream of runners curving ahead like a string of prayer flags caught in the wind. All shapes and speeds and sizes. Some with pushchairs, some walking companionably with others. A group clustered with the very jolly parkwalker. There was even a tailwalker with an actual tail. A tail-wagger if you like, though strictly speaking I didn’t see them until the very end.

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I was my usual stop start taking photos as a way to pause and rest every so often. I tried to photograph as many marshals as I could, but it was harder than you might think. They were all really friendly and welcoming. It felt like a particularly positive parkrun community, with lots of shouting encouragement to participants by name. The two lap element giving lots of scope for interactions. It just felt relaxed and friendly. One marshal team near the car park included a young man holding a huge tin of sweets by way of refreshments on the way round. I resisted the temptation on lap one, but paused at lap two to say hello, and enquire what the was the occasion to merit such bounty. Well, get this dear reader. He has them EVERY WEEK, well every week he marshals that is. Isn’t that great? I took an opal fruit joyfully, although actually turns out this is now a starburst. Honestly, you’ll be telling me marathons aren’t a thing any more next! What an astonishingly photogenic lot they all are though, each marshal more decorative than the one before! An abundance of loveliness indeed. There is something about the high vis that makes all who wear it a joy to behold. Inner and outer delightfulness made manifest through the reflective power of the high vis.

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There were lots of things to look at on the way round. The mature trees were magnificent, but there were also random sculptures of wood, wire baskety things that looked like they might be for making beacons except they were too near trees and not especially high up so I couldn’t really fathom them. I was a bit taken aback by one carving that was of a miniature wooden tank. It just seemed in very poor taste as a piece of public ‘art’ or play equipment. I don’t know if there is a story behind it, but in the light of all that is going on in the world now particularly it jarred. On the other hand, there was another carving of a squirrel and periodically little houselets, fairy dwellings? Much to see and wonder at.

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As I walked I slowed, and got further and further back. The parkwalker and her merry band overtook me with cheery waves. They were a jolly sight indeed. I really wish my photos did them justice, they lifted spirits just by being there.

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From then on I was walking on my own, which is fine, but it was a little unsettling that there was no-one in sight. I could see neither the parkwalker ahead nor the tailwalker behind, this is why we need more people to walk at parkrun, to fill that gap at the back. I do long to be at a parkrun event where I don’t end up being quite such an outlier. But unless I relocate to South Africa where I understand there is more of a walking culture at parkrun, I think this is my parkrun reality now. I’d be lying if I tried to pretend it doesn’t profoundly depress me at times, but it is what it is. One day I’ll get to South Africa and in my head that means I’ll stroll through dusty trails espying journeys of giraffes on the horizon and watching jolly warthog families cavorting alongside. Whilst not South Africa, and therefore having fewer rhinos, and not Australia, so having fewer wallabies ths was nevertheless a really nice parkrun. It was friendly, picturesque and really well organised, but ultimately it was a bit lonely out there doing a lap alone, who wants to be stuck with their own thoughts really? Existential angst ever present. Fortunately, I could be distracted by the scenery and I was grateful to the marshals who stayed in place to over encouragement as well as cheered by the sight of runners passing me on their way through to the finish.

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As I finally came round towards the finish for the second time, I saw ‘my’ departing bell jingling marshals, who gave me a bespoke cheer as I was approaching the last few hundred yards, it was much appreciated. The finish funnel was still up and resplendent, and by the look of things every one still in place, so I did get to experience the same finish as all the other participants, which isn’t a given. That was nice.

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Oh wait, there was one teensy distinction, as it was just me, I was allowed not to complete the entire snake of the finish funnel and allowed instead to break through – or at least politely duck under – the parkrun tape. Do not brand me as a funnel ducker dear reader, this was absolutely consensual on all sides. It must be quite some finish though at it’s busier, as it was a long and impressive queue barrier. Think airport terminals or that sequence in Shrek where creatures are queueing to enter the theme park.

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I was scanned and then directed to pop my finish token in one of the little buckets on a faraway table. This was something I’ve not seen before but clearly actual genius! It seemed at first quite high risk to send people off with tokens, but there was not only a huge sign warning you not to pass that point without checking you’d surrendered your token, but also a little group of buckets each labelled for a different section of 100. This means that the token sorters can start their busy task earlier on, and grouping this tokens just makes that whole process a bit easier to manage. Actual genius. Why doesn’t every parkrun do this? I guess some do – now I thin of it Bushy parkrun has different containers for different numbers, but that’s huge. This is a respectable 3-400 parkrunners and the system seemed to work really well.

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I deposited my token, got a flat white from the orangery, and then, since everyone had waited for me, waited to cheer in the final couple of participants. It was a nice chilled and relaxed atmosphere, unhurried. In due course the tail walker and accompanying tail waggers were welcomed home.

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Final finisher safely home, the team busied themselves with course close down, and me and Red Ted weaved our way out of the park. He insisted on a photo op, and who can blame him. It’s a cool thing to do 🙂 I would have tried to recline in the circle too if I thought I’ve had had a sporting chance of squeezing in, but little point really as Red Ted can’t operate the camera either. Maybe next time.

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and that was that.

Time to leave the autumn colours of Markeaton park behind.

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Thank you lovely Markeaton parkrun team, your event is truly an asset to the parkrun family. A lovely venue and a welcoming parkrun indeed. Yay to all of you.

Oh and for triangulation purposes, the official run report for event 378 is here ‘You Ad Me At Hello‘ Loving the run report branding, plus it has a squirrel! Yay, what’s not to like. Oh and that Markeaton Park sign, it’s actually there, in the park, but my photo didn’t really capture it with the same pizzazz. Oh well, I tried, and it makes me happy that they have nailed it, so I get to share the image too. 🙂 Walk, Jog, Run, Read indeed!

If you have the stamina, don’t forget you can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though. Otherwise, bye for now, see you next time.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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.

You can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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. And you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice

*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: , , , , | 4 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