Posts Tagged With: running

Yomping York parkrun in the company of (nearly) a world record holder. All coming up roses, well one anyway. Result.

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to York parkrun, that’s York, UK not York USA.  Made new besties and wanna be record breaker for three dimensional plant.  I know!  parkrun is indeed the phenomenon that just keeps on giving!

Undigested read:

Careful now, this could be a long one, might at least want to have a pee first, if not actually settle down with a cuppa.  That observation is advisory only though, you need to use your own skill and judgement to carry out your own health and safety risk assessment.  I’m sure you’re up to it.  Just believe in yourself, and all will be well with the world.

So, as every parkrunner knows, parkrun tourism starts with wondering where to head next.  I’m conscious the nights are drawing in, and my enthusiasm for early morning jaunts to far away parkrun destinations may wane as the season ends. Even so, late summer sunshine was forecast, and I’m vaguely working on my alphabet challenge, I mean it is actually impossible on account of there not being an x anywhere in the world – I mean cross flats and Exeter and similar are all well and good, and marvelous as creative solutions go, but they are not the same.  Then there’s the little matter of the Zeds all being in Poland or Russia or wherever which would be fab, but not going to happen any time soon.  There is a Zeds wholefood shop just down the road from me in fact, they are very nice there, but the shop is fairly cluttered, and I don’t know that they’d welcome having a parkrun within, which is a huge shame as that would be very handy, plus I could get my coconut yoghurt and decent bread afterwards. Oh well.  I’ve not got that many letters to go on this particular running challenge, but as I’ve already picked off all the low-hanging fruit so to speak, those I have still to get are increasingly elusive.  I’m holding out for an E and a J coming my way soon if the new parkrun rumour mill is anything to go by,  Queen Elizabeth is going to be an overnighter somewhere, as is the U, so that’s really leaves just the Y not accounted for.  York then, not even that far from Sheffield, I’m not sure quite why I’ve not been there before.  I’ll go there then.

First some research.

Ooh, well, I very much like their York parkrun Facebook page profile image – very classy and always a boon.

super cool york facebook image

Let’s just make sure it’s the correct York. There is a York in Pennsylvania which may or may not be quite delightful, but does not have it’s own parkrun – well not yet anyway.  These details matter, did you hear about the woman who entered the ‘wrong’ Worcester Half Marathon?  It was on the BBC website so it must be true.

Sheila Pereira booked a place at the Worcester City Half Marathon, thinking it was in her hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts.

But the event was 3,200 miles away in the English city of the same name.

Undeterred, Ms Pereira ran 13.1 miles on her own in the US on the same day as the Worcestershire event.

She has been praised by UK organisers, who are sending her a race finisher’s pack including a participation medal and T-shirt

Here she is after her run, all smiles, post run endorphins and  fresh faced, athletic loveliness:

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Why don’t I look like that after a run?  I am more inclined to rock the leaden, lumpy, purple-faced sweaty, ‘dragged through a hedge backwards’ look.  In fact I may well have cornered the market for it.  I’d settle for looking like that before a run to be fair.  Sadly, I think that aspiration is also destined to remain unfulfilled.  Sigh.  Maybe I just need to get myself a nice running visor, and it will transform me?  Probably not though.

That’s lovely – the organisers giving her a medal and all, but I don’t think it would work in quite the same way for a parkrun.  Not sure they’d add you to the results even if you had your barcode and a Strava record.  Mind you, I’ve not tried, and to be honest, if there was even a fleeting chance they might, I’d consider travelling the other side of the world to do that if it also meant I might be able to secure my outstanding parkrun bingo number at the same time. Well you’d have more control over variables would you not?  I’m on 223 runs now, and have had .20 outstanding for months and months now.  The frustration!  Mind you, I read a post somewhere that said 300 is around the norm. Seriously?  Ever wish you’d never embarked on something… although weirdly, one of the things I like about this challenge is that it’s so arbitrary, it’s just a waiting game, there is no advantage in being able to get yourself to some exotic location or other in order to bagsy it.  Level playing field and all that.  I’m not alone with my running challenges bingo despair though it seems.  Just seen a thread somewhere on the same theme.  Mighty parkrunners have been driven mad by less!  This is bad though – no idea where the original post comes from, but I’m sure it’s true:

bingo not

Anyway, you are distracting me with all these questions about running challenges, back to the decision in hand.   I would go to York parkrun in England, I would bagsy my ‘Y’ and probably not my solitary last outstanding bingo number (which is 20 by the way).  It would be fine.

Let’s check out the course info from their official website, erm, the York parkrun website blah de blah describes the course thus:

Course Description

1.5 laps (approximately) of the tarmac service road around the inside of the racecourse. Very flat, with few turns, making it a very fast course. On course map, start at green pin and head anti-clockwise round service road. Complete 1 full lap, then continue on round approximately another 1/2 lap to red Finish pin

and it looks like this: 

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Cool.  What else.  Whoooooooooooooa!  Wait, what cruel trick is this.  ALERT DEAR READER, ALERT!

Facilities
Please note that there are no toilets or changing facilities at York parkrun.

What!?  What about my compulsory pre parkrun precautionary pee?  How is this going to work, particularly after a long drive.  Uh oh?  This critical detail I remembered, is why I haven’t made it to York parkrun before.

I decided there must be something, there is a holiday inn near the start and I’d pass a garage en route.  As the only other alternative is Yeovil in Somerset, which is so far away it might as well be on the moon, I’d have to improvise if necessary.  You are supposed to do something that scares you every day anyway aren’t you?  The thought of no loos pre parkrun does terrify me, but hey ho, I’ll embrace the challenge.  Helps us to grow if we move out of our comfort zone.  Where there’s a will there’s a way as the saying goes.

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I’d do this dear reader, even if I had to wet my knickers to claim my Y!  It’d be OK, but just in case ‘having a will’ wasn’t enough to find a way, then plan b ensured that as I wasn’t using public transport and I’d have a plastic bag to sit on in my car for the journey home if required, I’d got this covered!  I may not have quite the ferocious tenacity of Lisa Nowak, but working towards it eh? 

So that was decision made.  Time to get excited about the prospect of a new destination.  To add to my frenzy of anticipatory excitement, I also was the recipient of a much coveted apricot tee.  It arrived on the Friday afternoon, all personalised with my home run and everything.  I’ve wanted one for ages, but am on a budget so couldn’t really justify it, but then I decided I wanted something special to wear to grace the 15th birthday celebrations at Bushy parkrun in a couple of weeks time.  What could be more perfect.  It feels lovely to wear, though the fabric is erm, flimsy and a bit, shall we say ‘unforgiving’ any  seam of clothing, any wobbly or undulating flesh, any erect – or even positively subdued – nipple will be highlighted once this garment is donned.  Oh well.  It’s a cheery hue, and makes me feel part of the club.  So yay!  When I finally rediscover my running mojo and sculpt my body into newly muscled contours I’ll be glad of the fabric I’m sure.  Shame that by that time the world will be awash with water due to the ice caps melting and so a) no one will care about what I look like in my official parkrun tee, and b) that extra body fat would have been a real boon to enable me to stay afloat.  It just goes to show one should always be most careful about what one wishes for.

That was Friday then, yesterday in fact, and then today’s the day!  A quick check of the York parkrun Facebook page to make sure that no unexploded ordnance would stop play as at Hogmoor Inclosure parkrun for example.  Not only is that a very dramatic cause for cancellation, it does sound like a made up place too, Hogmoor Inclosure parkrun, hmmm.  Now it’s accelerating to the top of my parkrun to do list.  Hippest parkrun in the UK I imagine (work it out).  No ordnance, all good, off I go.

There was bright late summer sun trying to break through as I headed off through the streets of Sheffield.

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Truly a gift of a day, one that rewards you for early rising, I was quite perky as I set off, then as I went through Sheffield centre, I remembered it was also arrival day for students, hmm, coming back would be interesting.  Oh well, I’d worry about that later.  It was a surprisingly straightforward drive to York, though the morning mist took on fog like density at times, I had my fog lights on as well as my headlights.  I stopped off for petrol and pee (I didn’t ingest the petrol, it was for the car) at a service station just on the outskirts of York, and followed the postcode that took me past the Holiday Inn York racecourse, and to Cherry Lane (YO24 1QF) where there is mention of a small carpark near to the start.  It was a battle of nerves the last bit, you go into seemingly a residential area, and I wasn’t following signs to the racecourse either – perhaps if you do, you end up parking on the Knavesmire Road where I think there is more space, and potentially – by negotiation – loos too.

For your information, hold your nerve.  I thought I’d gone wrong when I saw the drive down to Cherry Lane  car park, it was so narrow, it looked like it might just be pedestrian access and lead to a dead end.  I threw caution to the wind and hesitatingly crawled down there – not literally, but figuratively, I mean I drove down extra slowly.  You emerge from the dense tree lined path to the open expanse of York racecourse bathed in bright early morning sunshine. It looked spectacular, and vast.  There was parking, not much but I was early as always, so parked fine.  I was also sufficiently early I went to retrace my steps to take a pic of the entrance to Cherry Lane so you won’t be scared away, and also inspected the Holiday Inn.  It has to be the nearest accommodation to a parkrun start line ever!  I’m surprised it wasn’t heaving with parkrun tourists, maybe it was.  They had loos on the ground floor, but obviously it would not be appropriate for me to encourage anyone to use them without making a purchase.  Yeah, obviously not.

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So there I was.  Parked up and all ready to go.  The sun was coming out, and burning away the mist.  People seemed to be mustering just a few metres away from where I’d parked.  Back lit by the sunshine.

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I couldn’t see any obvious parkrun hi-vis heroes, but there were obvious parkrunners, and a mighty pilgrimage of people moving in a stream from the grandstand area of the race course.  This was going to be a busy one. They really did look like wildebeest on migration, resolutely moving in a seemingly unbroken ribbon across the landscape, only with fewer being picked off by hungry crocodiles en route – well, as far as I could tell anyway.

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Perhaps a few were lost, but not so many as would make all that much difference to the numbers.  parkrun would go on without them, it’s what they would have wanted I’m sure.  I’d want parkrun to continue without me if I fell en route.  There is at least one parkrun where it went ahead despite one of the volunteers being locked in the loo throughout.  I know this, I referenced it in one of my blog posts, can I find it now though?  Rhetorical question, no I can’t.  Let me know if you unearth it somehow.  Did happen though.  These things do, no point in ruining everyone’s parkrunday.    Maybe not being eaten by crocodiles en route, but sort of similar-ish barriers to participation can crop up unbidden.  I think Cairns parkrun routinely warns runners about crocodiles, but that could be a wind up for tourists – you aren’t going to risk ignoring it though are you?  They also have a Holiday Inn on their course route, so York and Cairns parkrun courses are therefore pretty much indistinguishable.  Did you know two Londoner’s a day call 999 because they are locked in a loo.  Strange but (possibly) true.

*EDIT*  good news dear reader, I’ve remembered.  It was Maureen, she got locked in the loo (by accident) at Whangarei parkrun, but was liberated by an international rescue team afterwards, so all’s well that end’s well eh!  Here they are trying to rescue her, takes a lot of parkrunners apparently…

international rescue whangerei parkrun

One run had a lion on their course.  A stuffed one admittedly (poor thing, but at least it’s usually used for educational pointers not stuck on some trophy hunter’s wall), but no-one told the runners that.  Hilarious!  Good on you iMfolzi Trail Run race organisers, what larks eh, what larks?  Not a parkrun though, sadly… bet there were a load of pbs anyway though!

There were a fair few tourists, you could tell, by the large number of us posing next to suitable landmarks for photos.  This was good though, as it meant I quickly identified my new BFFs for the morning, it’s grand to identify parkrun besties early on.  This was a fabulous fivesome from the brilliantly named Sole Mates (see what they’ve done there), they vacated a placard for me to photograph, after first querying if I’d like a shot of them there too.  Which set up a companionable photo fest for the run round later when we found we were at a similar pace.  They were a hoot actually (cheery wave if you are reading) and I always love seeing proper running club buddies enjoying each others company as much as the run out.  They also took a pic of me, looking pleased in my apricot tee and directionally pointing at the sign so you can tell where I am.    You can see others doing the same from the opposite side.  It’s a well photographed landmark it seems.  You know you’ll do the same if you make it there, has to be done… Some things we do at parkrun are almost reflex actions, instinctive.

More milling and chilling…

and then after a bit, someone in a hi-vis appeared and identified themselves as the first timer briefing person.  A little gaggle of us gathered around her for the briefing.

Key points was that there are some loos, but you have to ask to access them and they are over the grandstand side.  The course is one and a half laps basically, and can get congested at the start so stand clear unless you are going for a time.  Also, and I’ve not seen this before at a parkrun, they had some pacers who were specifically run/walk, one three minute run, one minute walk and one alternating walk one minute, run one minute, plus the compulsory tail walker too.  It seemed to be very genuinely welcoming of couch to 5k people, run/walkers everyone really.  The first timers’ briefing was still finishing off when the official RD briefing started, so we jogged down to join in that.  I noticed some high vis wearers had those flexi/ trug buckets  you use for gardening and mucking out stables, that kind of things – well I do anyway.  I think it was to gather together runners’ belongings so they could be carted from the start to the finish area by a willing volunteer, as they are at opposite sides of the racecourse.  I was actually warm enough to leave my fleece in the car, which is pretty much unprecedented, but it was heating up nicely.  Good to know for future reference.

Missed most of the RD briefing, but it seemed brief and to the point.

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and then it was awf!  Quite a fierce start, I just waited and watched until enough runners had piled past I felt safe to enter the back of the throng.  The path is wide, but there were a lot of participants, so it was congested at the front, the advice to hang back unless you were serious about going for a fast time was spot on.

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Quite a stampede!  It was a lovely sight ahead though, the ribbon of colour stretching round the rails of the racecourse and into the sun.

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It is a picturesque course, but as it’s all sort of laid out in front of you from the outset, there isn’t all that much to say about it.  There are landmarks along the way, the grandstand, the starters pens, poor gee gees, and an inordinate amount of seagulls, which was a bit surreal but made complete sense of the York parkrun Facebook profile pic, it really does say everything you need to know about the parkrun.  In fact, you could save yourself the bother of reading on and just have a good old stare at that pic instead, captures it all perfectly.  Then again, you’ve sort of committed now if you’ve got to this point, the running equivalent of being in blood stepped so far – maybe in bog stepped so deep on a trail run would be the nearest equivalent.  You’re here now, shame to bail now when you’ve already invested so much.

I just joined the throng and loped on round.  It’s a tarmac track, with grass to the side, but sufficiently busy that I found myself running on the grass for a fair old way before it thinned out enough for me to slot into the runners on the path again.  After a bit you turn round and are running towards the grandstand. It was quite exciting being at a racecourse, even though I’m not a fan of racing per se, it was just such an unusual and striking venue.  If you had a decent camera you’d get some amazing pics.

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There was a cute dog jogging along

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As I was running round, I suddenly spotted something weird ahead of me on the track.  No not a lion, but was that maybe a leek?  A fancy dress vegetable of some description away on the horizon for sure.   I wanted to put on enough of a sprint to catch that up and check that out.   And oh look, seagulls!  When not flapping about overhead, they line up and watch.  Loads of them, no idea why quite so many or why they are hanging out here, but it’s clearly a desirable location.

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Plus there were my new best friends coming into view.  Well, I was seeking to take some pictures anyway, might as well have my new besties in the frame – if you look carefully, you will see they are even acknowledging me in public with a cheery wave so clearly our friendship is reciprocated!  Good to know.  Is that a leek though?  Hmmm.

After you pass the grandstand area and the starting pens and the York racecourse posh stand entrance you turn the corner past a temporary tented encampment and there is the finish all set up with an abundance of hi-vis heroes in situ to channel everyone in.

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Belatedly, I noticed there seemed to be some permanent km markers on the route.  They appeared to align to parkrun, though as I didn’t spot all of them I can’t be 100% sure, but I can’t imagine what else they’d be… except that somewhat cryptically, I noticed on the York parkrun Facebook page that there seem to be a number of variant courses – as many as four I think, so it does vary, I don’t know on what basis, you’ll have to rock up yourself and find out.

Round again, back to where you started from.  It had thinned out quite a bit by now.  This parkrun is either ‘relaxed’ or anarchic depending on how you feel about parkrun rules.  I was very much at the back of the pack and the route isn’t really marshalled other than at the finish funnel, otherwise there are pacers and cones to stop you deviating from the fairly obvious route round.  However, I noticed leads came off dogs, and short leads were lengthened on others and at least one child on a bicycle.  It wasn’t so much that this caused any issues for me or other participants, but I did inwardly raise an eyebrow.  Particularly as just when we got back to the start area an older gentleman walking his dog was knocked to the ground by a parkrunners dog.  It was quite a tumble and I saw the aftermath rather than what happened.  The runner concerned stopped and was massively apologetic, though the man that had fallen insisted he was OK and it was his dog coming over that had caused the boisterous doggy greetings that had sent him flying.  It seems basically one or other jumped up and he got knocked over as a result.   I stopped too to see if help was needed, but he said he was OK and didn’t need any. It made me feel very uncomfortable running on.  I mean it was indeed just an accident, but falling over as an adult is no fun at all, and he wasn’t exactly  in his first flush of youth,  he’ll be stiff as anything tomorrow if not worse. It made me a bit nervous about other dogs not on leads and the lack of any marshals in sight.  I admit I’m getting increasingly wary of dogs these days, I don’t care if ‘they are just being friendly’ they do damage if they knock you down.  Still, it seemed a good natured mutually apologetic resolution, thankfully.  Could have been very much worse.  But it wasn’t, so back to happy thoughts and flowers and sunny days and sharing the parkrun love. I’d lost sight of the leek though, that was a shame.

All round again…

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and then finally, back to the finish, and the virtual embrace of the timers and the scanners and all that finish funnel jazz.  Thank you marshals.

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I stopped my watch and it looked like I’d finished with a .21 bingo time, a tantalising one second off my single outstanding bingo number.  I’d have to wait for the results, but it was within touching distance.

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, I then saw my leek man up ahead, striding off into the distance clutching his veg (not a euphemism).  Aaargh, I sprinted harder than I had all morning to go find them.  I wanted to see what that was all about and thought they might want my few pics forwarding onto them too.  After all, we all love a running photo, however poorly framed…

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Caught them!

Turns out, it isn’t a leek, it’s quite obviously a white rose.   Silly me, a leek looks like this, entirely different.  I can’t help wondering if it was disadvantaged by being a leek in an onion class, therefore robbed of first place.

jacob leeks mogg

They filled me in on their project which is fund raising for York against cancer as fastest marathon as a three dimensional plant.  And why not?  What could possibly go wrong?  Exactly.  You can chip in here to Steve Gaughan’s just giving page if you are a white rose fan, and get excited about Guiness World Records, and why wouldn’t you.

Of course I took some more pictures:

Totally epic.  You’d have thought things couldn’t get any better, but dear reader they did!  Because along came my new besties and there followed lots of group shot taking in all possible configurations of leek white rose and new best friends and me and anyone else in the vicinity. You can have a lot of fun doing this apparently.  Running in this costume requires a guide and an ability to withstand significant dehydration, it had to be super hot in there, and probably quite stinky over time too, like the wombles costumes, they got ever ranker over the years so the story goes, not sure any of them ever ran a marathon though.  Jimmy Saville used to hide in them to ogle young girls apparently, and he ran marathons, I don’t know if that counts but it creeps me out and puts me off the wombles quite a bit which is sad in a way… Is nothing sacred?

Never mind, back to kittens and flowers, or parkrunners and a collective appreciation of a perfect white rose at least.  It involved a fair few of us, documenting this auspicious occasion.

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Just think, that means I may have been in the presence of a nearly world record holder.  Proud moment, proud day!  Sigh, I’m quite giddy at the very thought.  Meeting them AND a quintet of new besties all at the same parkrun, that’s quite a morning’s haul.  Go me!  Slow and steady naturally, but going all the same!

I know his official photo in the york press article is marginally better than mine by the way, but you have to concede mine has more atmosphere do you not?  (Rhetorical question).  I think capturing my silhouette pirouetting in the foreground was a stroke of compositional genius, and I don’t care who says that proves only that I’m guilty of either delusional thinking or cognitive dissonance.

So we tore apart from one another and waved each other on our respective ways.  Bye bye lovely parkrun people, I hope our paths cross again on the parkrun tourist circuit, I’m sure they will.

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I really hope he walked all the way home in that…

There is supposed to be a coffee van somewhere, but I presume it must have been the opposite side to where I was parked and honestly I couldn’t be bothered to go and look, although a cup of coffee would have been great.  Instead I wandered back to say goodbye and thanks to the volunteers and soak up the venue one last time.

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I did seek out the RD to mention about the dog incident.  I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do or if I was just interfering, but then I figured if I was RD I’d want to know, and it was a bad fall.  Older people do break things and accidental or otherwise best that such incidents are recorded surely.

I left the volunteers packing up in the autumn sunshine. Thank you hi-vis heroes!

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That was that, parkrun done and dusted for another week. Oh, apart from junior parkrun tomorrow of course, but you know what I mean.  Bye bye parkrun, bye bye York racecourse.

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Oh, and my time came in.  Ending in an .18 seconds.  I was pleased in a way it was two seconds out, just one second would have finished me off.  Also, it just shows how you have to surrender to fate with this one, the chances of getting your watch exactly synched with the time keepers and avoiding the hiccups of funnel duckers or whatever are pretty minuscule.  Maybe I should start to change my mindset, and see if I can be the slowest ever to attain that elusive running bingo challenge!  Now there’s a thought.

For now that’s all though, thank you lovely York parkrun people for putting a fab show on the road, and especially thanks for being my new best friends Sole Mates of Matlock, you are epic. Fine parkrun York, coming up roses indeed, or at the very least one fine white Yorkshire rose, I do hope that’s to be a permanent fixture… speaking of which, good luck Yorkshire Rose, I’ll be on tenterhooks awaiting the outcome of your record attempt.  Exciting times!  I say I’ll be on tenterhooks, but actually I believe in you, it will happen, you’ve got this!

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If you want to prolong your parkrun fix, 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.

Same time next week then?  A venue of your choice for parkrunday.

Good oh.

🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The bear truth about Congregating at Congleton parkrun

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Congleton parkrun.

Undigested read:

This could be another long one, so maybe have a precautionary pee first, before you settle down with a mug of tea or gin or whatever.  Not that I’m advocating having a mug of neat gin, that would be very ill-advisable, you should at least be supplementing that with some nibbles or consider adding in a mixer.  Though, for the record, I’m not medically qualified (astonishing revelation I know) so use your own judgement, but for what it’s worth, I’d go for a mug of Yorkshire tea myself, with unsweetened soya milk, no other beverage will quite hit the spot.  Each to there own though, I’ll never know.  Even if you don’t want to read any further, there’s always time for a sit down and a nice cup of tea.  Mrs Doyle was right on that score for sure.

cup of tea

and if you are procrastinating anyway, well, reading a blog might make a change from the usual four horseman of procrastination don’t you think?  It’s not social media per se, it’s parkrun research, that’s practically keep fit, which comes under the category of self-improvement.

procrastination

Where was I, oh yes, Congleton.  It’s still just about parkrun tourist season, the mornings are not yet too dark nor the weather too inclement to want to venture out in the car on an early Saturday morning. I was still in search of a final sea/c to complete my pirates running challenge.  Shallow but true, and a vague browse of the various parkrun location resources revealed Congleton as being in striking distance of Sheffield, about 45 miles away or so.  Hmm, didn’t know anything about Congleton.  More research revealed it to be in Cheshire.  Oh Ok then.

Because the interweb never lies, and is the font of all knowledge, my next stop was the official Congleton parkrun website course description, where the blah de blah reads as follows:

Course Description
Congleton is a pretty course consisting of 3 anticlockwise laps around the mere plus 100m to finish. It is flat, on hardcore and tarmac and should be suitable for fast times. There is a small section on an access road in front of the Watersports centre but there is a pedestrian route painted on the road. A marshal will be available here.

and it looks like this:

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which is obviously a cross section of an eel.  No doubt the course will also be electrifying, though whether it will reach the wattage of the newly discovered electric eel recently found in the Amazon.  As I’m sure you know, and will readily recall at the first possible pub quiz opportunity, the Electrophorus voltai can deliver a jolt of 860 volts, much more than the existing record of 650 volts.  I dare say that the Congleton  course will similarly light up its parkrunners with the joy of parkrun.  Still, no harm in going to check that out for myself.

electric eel most powerful guardian image

On the subject of pub quizzes, yes we were, did you know the electric eel is actually a type of fish and not a type of eel?  I know, remarkable, who knew? I’m allergic to fish actually, which is a shame on account of my being a Pisces, but I’m not allergic to parkrun so I expect it will be fine.  Anyway, in truth, it’s more likely to be a cross section of a conger eel at Congleton, that would make more sense.  Can’t wait to join everyone doing the conger conga on Saturday, bet it’s Congleton’s unique selling point, missed opportunity otherwise….  On reflection, I was somewhat surprised they don’t make more of this point on their website, or on the about us section of their Congleton parkrun Facebook page. Still, nowt as queer as folk, I’d best go check it out for myself.  Bit of parkrun themed ethnographic research to kickstart the weekend is always a good call.  Hurrah, decision made.

So my alarm went off at stupid o-clock on Saturday morning, it was still dark and I did wonder if it really was such a good idea to be venturing out early on a Saturday morning. Oh well, I was up now, and it was my plan, and I’ve always been conscientious if not keen, and I’d said I’d go, even if only to myself, so go I would.

By the time I stepped out of the house the day was dawning in gorgeous gloriousness!  I love this time of year and this time of day.  Mornings are awesome, pink sky, promise of autumnal sunshine, this was going to be epic. Off I went, and the drive was fantastic.  Heading off towards Bakewell, there was quite a thick mist which gave a surreal other worldly look to the drive.  Then as I ascended over moors in the general direction of Buxton the views were just stunning.  Bright sunshine illuminating huge expanses of moor and hills. Although the purple heather has died back to brown now, it looked like copper under the early morning sunlight, it was the sort of view that lifts your heart and makes you happy to have ventured out.  It was like going on an impromptu holiday. I didn’t get any decent shots because the roads were windy and there were a lot of warning signs that you could die because of a collision at any moment – well words along those lines, I’m not entirely surprised, although there was no traffic, the views were distracting and if you lost concentration you could ricochet off a bend with most unpleasant consequences.  Unless you were will be Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, she’d be fine,  what with her wing and boat conversion options – but I’m going to stick my neck out and take a punt that you probably won’t be, so drive with care.  I did stop and take a couple of snaps, but they make me feel inadequate as they don’t really capture the scene at all, however, I showed willing, and I took the blooming pictures so here they are, don’t judge, just go check it out for yourself sometime, think of this as but a teaser, like a peep through the key hole to whet your appetite for the feast for your eyes that awaits you if you make the trip in your own right.

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Not a route to be doing in winter though, you are high up, and those roads are twisty and steep at times.

I’d got confused (doesn’t take much) about where to park on arrival. There was mention of both the Nobanno Lakeside Indian Restaurant for parking and that car parking would be available at the Visitor Centre on Sandy Lane.  In the end, I saw signs to the visitor centre first, and went there.  Because I am always ridiculously early (about 8.30) there was lots of parking at that time, and you are incredibly near the start, so it was fine.  However, it did fill up, so I guess it depends when you’ll get there.  I’d arrived.  Hurrah!  Always a relief.  What’s more, there was a ‘caution runners’ sign already in situ, so I knew I was in the right place AND toilets which were even open!  Phew, on all counts.  It was just 50p for 4 hours parking, which is an absolute bargain and enough time for even me to complete my parkrun.  There was also a coffee place, and a map of the mere and, allsorts really.  Quite a hub, with far superior facilities than I’d expected from the website, which is grand if you are touristing.

Paid up and peed out I went for an explore.

The parkrun location is a bit of a surprise, because after all the moorland I’d been prepared for a more exposed and wild site. In fact it is indeed a very pretty location.  But, what they didn’t mention is….

can’t believe they didn’t…

the usp of this parkrun – well surely unique I’ve not seen the like before, even though Sherwood Pines parkrun has a Gruffalo, that’s not the same at all, and anyway it’s only in the general vicinity, it isn’t supervising the whole parkrun operation from above –

is that the Congleton parkrun is overseen by its very own bear!

YES!  A bear!  How fantastic is that.  Taking an overview of proceedings thus!

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They must be so habituated to their bear that they no longer even notice it.  I mean, quite frankly I’m beside myself with excitement if I just get a robin in my garden, and when I got little froglets emerging anyone that made eye contact with me in the street was dragged round to my back garden to appreciate them.  If I had an actual bear, well, I think I’d implode.  Still, Congleton parkrunners are apparently pretty laid back about the whole thing.  I wasn’t though, I think this is a major asset to the parkrun.  The bear is Sandy Bear apparently, making this parkrun a mandatory destination for any parkrunners called Sandy (or Sandi, just saying, you know who you are).  Also, the bear is the symbol of Congleton, and this one keeps watch over the mere at Astbury from his elevated perch, like a lifeguard.  That’s what is says on the interweb so it must be true.  I’m not sure you should rely on Sandy to rescue you if you fell in though, looked to me like the bear was more supervisory than hands on.  Super cool though. An actual bear!

I could bearly believe it.

So, once I’d got over that excitement, I checked out the view. Which was lovely.  Water sparkling under the morning light, and Congleton parkrun marshals congregating to get the event under way.

There was a sign for the first timers’ new runners briefing, and an enthusiastic and early to post marshal on hand, proactively asking people if they were new as they came within ear shot.  I was new!  I therefore responded to the affirmative, and got a personalised welcome, and course description.  Three times round basically.  A polite enquiry about whether or not I’d survived the crossing from Sheffield without getting a nose bleed – a valid point, it was pretty high up there, very close to Flash which I believe has recently been revalidated as the highest village in the UK – although this claim is not without controversy.  He was extremely welcoming, and up for a one to one intro, even though there’d be plenty of other first timers’ coming in my wake I was sure.  I also learned there was an injured badger nearby, but the RSPCA were on their way to rescue it, so I hope that ended ok, poor thing, as if badgers haven’t got enough to cope with what with being pointlessly  and painfully culled all over as well.  I got a picture of me and the nice first timer briefing marshal.  Here it is, and here is him on his own, holding the sign with panache and welcoming smile.  It is the hi-vis way.

I left him drumming up further takers, as other runners were starting to emerge from the various hedgerows and surrounding paths.  The core team were loitering with intent by the freshly erected finish funnel, and Sandy Bear was surveying the scene with quiet authority as is no doubt the Sandy Bear way.

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I meanwhile went back the short distance to the car park to dump stuff. By this time the car park was pretty busy.  They had some car park marshals on hand to direct traffic into extra little corners of the car park to squeeze in – safely – as many vehicles as possible.  I would like to take this opportunity to give a special shout out to the hi-vis hero who was literally, not just figuratively, sprinting about waving cars into position.  It was very impressive, and totally worthy of a special volunteering running challenges badge for being a car park marshal.  I declare a vested interest in this, as the following day, I too got this iconic purple badge for being car park marshal at Graves junior parkrun – I’ve done the role a few times before, but not been uniquely credited for it previously.  I’m not sure if this is a new badge, or just we’ve changed how we name the various marshals on the volunteer rota.  Whatever, it’s a beauty, and I have to concede this car park marshal in particular was grafting in the role.

Car Park Marshal – Keep everyone safe and organised in the car park

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Here he is, and there’s a pic of his companion hi-vis hero, who no doubt was equally proactive, but in this shot is demonstrating in between doing essential directional pointing as opposed to actually sprinting around.  Directional pointing is very important too, one of those roles that is perhaps undervalued until it is done incorrectly!  Thank you both!

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For the record, I didn’t run around when I was car park marshal, but I did give out a great many high-fives.  Every car park marshal role has its own unique vibe and context specific responsibilities.

So after observing the car park synchronised vehicle dancing, it was back to the start, through the little gateway and passing under Sandy Bear.  You don’t have to wave every time you pass Sandy, but I personally think it’s only polite to do so.

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I followed the migrating runners to the start funnel area.  There were more runners than I expected, and the start is a bit narrow.  People squashed into the funnel with good natured banter and outstanding spatial awareness.

Some waited til the last minute, warming up for their parkhop challenge.  Remember people, you have to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  parkrun code and all that.

The start funnel got increasingly intimate, and I wasn’t sure quite where to put myself.  I didn’t want to be too far forwards and be an obstruction to other runners, so in the end I slotted in almost at the very back, and outside the formal start funnel structure.  A few late comers were sprinting up, and excited anticipation continued to bill as the RD and team came down for the briefing.  New Runners marshal was waving his sign to try to attract the attention of anyone who might have missed him.  I approve of this actually.  It is daunting turning up at new venues and if you are a completely new runner to parkrun, nothing is obvious and everything can seem intimidating.  This proactive welcoming and identifying of newbies was great.  I mean, you weren’t actually stalked.  If you wanted to blend in unobtrusively you could without being hunted down and outed, leading to you being surrounded by an enthusiastic but alarming crowd of parkrunners encircling you shouting crazed good wishes in a cult like altered state – but no-one could have rocked up and taken part without knowing there was someone on hand who would willingly welcome then and answer any questions and calm any nerves.

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The RD briefing was completely impossible to hear.  Everyone around me was chatting loudly, and completely ignoring it, which made me inwardly squirm but not do anything.  I’m always staggered by how rude some parkrunners can be at this point.  Talking through the run briefing isn’t by any means unique to Congleton, but it was so frustrating.  I hadn’t heard any of it before even if they had, and I also think just a base line of respect to the poor RD who’s given up their morning to facilitate the run, keeping quiet for 5 mins isn’t really a lot to ask is it.  Anyway, I joined in the clapping at what seemed like appropriate points, and tried to remember to feel the parkrun love for my fellow parkrunners even if they were apparently incapable of of the briefest of silences.  It wasn’t even a very long briefing, extraordinarily brief, and the call to start was bang on 9.00 a.m. too.  Thank you RD, I think you and your team were awesome, I’m sure everyone did, even if they weren’t proactively demonstrating it in any very obvious way.

So, the cry went off, probably, didn’t hear it, and immediately nothing happened.  It was a sedate start.  This bothers me not one iota, because I’m not interested in times at all at the moment, just going round and taking it all in.  However, if you are a faster runner or going for a pb you’d need to position yourself further forward in the line up.  It has the potential to be a fast course as it’s flat and once the runners spread out the paths are wide enough for overtaking, but it took me a good 15 seconds to get across the start.  However, good news, they may be a noisy lot in the funnel line up, but they are good natured, and there was no shoving, it was all very sedate shuffling forward and honestly, it would have been an excellent opportunity for a nice big collective parkrun conga!  We were all squashed together and shuffling forwards anyway, a few high kicks and hip thrust would have added greatly to the occasion.  They should at least do that on their Christmas Day parkrun, if they have one, or maybe their birthday one, they must have a parkrun birthday, every parkrun does!  Or International parkrun day, that’s coming soon, what better excuse for a Congleton Conga, as if one were even needed!  As if an excuse were needed I mean, not a Conga, Congleton parkrun unquestionably needs that!

They could get even more ambitious with a bit of practice, and get an entry in for either the longest distance Conga dance like this Ipswich group, or the most people participating in a Conga line on ice like the good students of Oswego don’t know how often the mere freezes over, so that would be a challenge, but who doesn’t like a challenge eh?  The actual longest Conga, in terms of numbers of participants was  the Miami Super Conga consisting of 119,986 people gathered in Miami, Florida, USA on 13 March 1988, but I don’t think that would be practical.  They’d run out of tokens and it would be a nightmare adding those other results manually afterwards don’t you think?  I mean I know hi-vis marshals are absolute heroes, but I agree there need to be some boundaries.  Even so, that’s my constructive criticism for Congleton parkrun for what it’s worth – implement Congleton Conga parkrun protocol at the commencement of the parkrun, that would really put the fun in start funnel would it not!  (See what I’ve done there?  Genius.) Also, I’m sure it would make Sandy Bear incredibly happy, you could probably even do a ouroboros round the mere, quite something I’m sure you’d agree.  The mere was made for it!

Serpiente_alquimica

I suppose the hokey cokey would also be fun, but less practical for achieving forward momentum.  So many options to explore, so few Saturday mornings with which to experiment…

giant hokey cokey

So off we went eventually, in a good natured train of unfortunately non-congaring parkrunners.  There’s not much to say about the course, it is indeed three laps, as long as you can count to three, you should be fine.  There seemed to be a fair few slower back of the pack parkrunners which I personally find reassuring. It had a relaxed feel, although there were plenty of speedier runners sprinting off ahead, already little dots in the distance as the cohort of parkrunners I was in started to thin out.

So you keep the mere to your left, and away you go.  Although the water is ever present, it’s often obscured by trees or hedging, but the occasional glimpses across the water were lovely.  There were a few ducks, swans and even…  I think seagulls.

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Fishermen aplenty (they did all seem to be men) but then again, it is a fishing lake so I suppose that’s to be expected.  And a multitude of benches, never seen so many.  Plenty of opportunities for a quick sit down if the mood seized you.

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The first lap was about just getting into a rhythm really, and finding a pace, though of course I was stop starting to take photos whilst pretending to myself it was a legitimate jeffing parkrun tactic.

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After a short stretch, you emerge at the restaurant which was where it was suggested you might park.  There was some parking here, although some of it was fenced off too.  But basically, those directions work as well.  There is the potential for traffic here, but worry not!  In the absence of Sandy Bear, a friendly marshal is on hand to direct and supervise.  I know this, because I stopped to take a picture of him – I try to take a photo of every marshal I see en route at parkruns these days, because they are often overlooked when people are photographing events – but I misjudged this, as somehow another runner ran right into me.  Oops.  I’d thought I’d moved way off the path, but apparently not.  Embarrassing, ‘don’t worry’ said the marshal encouragingly.  Just one of those things.  I clearly need to work on my spatial awareness, as well as my personality, shortcomings in my social skills; risking being seen or out in public and running skills.  I’ll add it to the list.

Onwards, and round and round, glancing sideways at the views, and enjoying seeing Sandy Bear from directly opposite the water.

I’d describe the experience of this run as pretty contemplative, it wasn’t particularly chatty, not that I can talk and run anyway.  And being three laps it takes on a meditative quality.  I didn’t particularly interact with other runners, although I did catch snippets of conversation between others as they passed.  I think we should all give a particular shout out to Caroline who apparently bought ice creams for everyone.  Generous, and much appreciated.

Astonishingly, I got lapped on the first lap.  They are super speedy these front runners.  Mind you, three lappers are growing on me.  I like that you get to see the faster runners pass, and it also means you have more company on the way round, instead of running round in glorious isolation once everyone else has pulled away.

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You come back round to the mustering point, which is now in readiness for the finish.  What a fine sight and vision of loveliness this team were!  It’s always amazing to see how many people it takes to put on a parkrun.  It’s an act of faith everyone coming together week in week out to keep the parkrun show on the road.  Thank you parkrun marshals everywhere.

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And round all over again, this time for lap two.  Hope you are counting.  

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This would probably be a good training route if you were aiming for consistent splits or the giddy heights of a progression run – a feat of which I can only dream, unless I started a a crawl.  It is a very flat and consistent surface.  I didn’t find it dull in fact, though I’d thought the novelty might wear off a bit.  How Bob Becker won his ‘race for the ages’ ultra marathon did 230 one mile laps I cannot imagine.  Oh you don’t know about this?  Well, dear reader, FYI:

The race consists of a 1-mile loop in Manchester, Tennessee, and runners only have a certain amount of time to run it—and how long depends on their age.

For example, Becker, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is 74. Therefore, by race rules, he will get 74 hours to run as many loops as he can, whereas someone who is 67 will have to start seven hours after Becker. This gives the old timers a chance to win outside of their age group for a change.

Even so, that’s a lot of laps, way more than three.  I can only assume he entered some sort of altered state to do so.  Mind you, great advert for jeffing, it’s all a question of scale, maybe if I can jeff a parkrun I could do 231 laps jeffed nicely, as long as I live long enough to be eligible for loads of extra time to do it in, not sure I want to live that long though, I’ve not made adequate provision for my old age as it is, even so, as a hypothetical aspirational running goal fantasy, I could do worse. Also, I’d need someone else to be keeping count, even counting to three takes a fair bit of concentration.  Respect to BB though, fab achievement.

photo-by-john-price-2-1567786340 bob becker

So I kept on running(ish), and by the time I made it round to the finish funnel at the end of lap two, there were some speedier runners romping home.  I paused to try and capture the scene. Runners who’d already finished were milling and chilling, and Sandy Bear was watching on from above, it was a lovely colourful and cheery scene.  #loveparkrun

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And round again for the final lap, which, dear reader you will already know if you’ve been concentrating, was lap three.  Always is here at Congleton, for parkrun purposes anyway.  I think it was on lap three that I did have a bit of parkrun friendship with another runner, who was being really consistent and steady, and we were sort of the same time with my stop starts keeping pace with her romping on.  Cue some companionable leapfrogging until my pauses for photo ops made keeping up anymore impossible. Thank you new parkrun best friend!  Happy parkrunning.

For the final lap, I decided to check out the multitude of benches a bit more. I’ve never previously been to a parkrun with quite so many.  It was fun reading the dedications.  There was one for ‘Rush’ which seemed apt, for runners, but the next bench along encouraged you to ‘sit a while, rest and enjoy the view’ and another to ‘don’t worry, be happy’.  All approaches are viable options at parkrun – everyone’s right to participate in their own way, very appropriate.  Every bench a store of memories, as well as a statement of commemoration and an opportunity to dispense wisdom.  I wish I’d stopped to photograph them all now.  Each their own unique character, set aloft on a viewing mound or moss covered, a great way to keep a memory alive.  Also, very practical, not only for runners in need of a sit down, but for all the mere side users too.

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It was my last chance to capture car park marshal man, who posed beautifully for me with directional pointing and gazing into the distance that would be worthy of a catalogue man pose.  Wasted at parkrun – no scrap that, everyone should be at parkrun, it’s never a waste to give up your time to be there, what I’m really getting at is that there’s a whole new parallel world of opportunity available to him – he could start with workwear given his existing expertise in high vis and take it from there.

By the way, no alcohol at this parkrun, not round the lake anyway, and not in wine glasses either – presume swigging straight from the bottle is ok?  Anyway, it means you have to take your milestone celebrations back to the coffee hut area later I suppose, not such a hardship as all that!

So round again, taking in the view, taking some pics. Yes, I liked this parkrun, it wasn’t perhaps the most ostentatiously sociable one I’ve been to, but it had a friendly and comfortable vibe, and it was indeed picturesque and great for facilities too.

Round three, done and dusted.  Into the finish funnel and the virtual embrace of the welcome back.

It was very efficient, time keepers clicked me in and barcode scanners were on hand using the phone apps, which I think are increasingly becoming standard.  They certainly seem to be efficient, but I find they make the scanners harder to spot, the bizarre advantage of a bar scanner on a lanyard, is you spot the lanyard wearing marshal near the funnel and it’s usually the scanner.  Still, using my skill and judgement backed up with the directional guidance given to me by one of the finish funnel volunteers, I found the barcode scanner who cheerily obliged and posed for a photo too, always a win!

And, excitingly, I finished in position 222, this is not only pleasing in the number sequence, but today was my 222nd parkrun.  No really, it was!  What are the chances eh?  I’m not going to lie, I’d have preferred to get my last outstanding stopwatch bingo number, but as that apparently is never going to happen, ever, I’ll settle for the satisfying text from parkrun that read as follows:

Congratulations on completing your 222nd parkrun and your 1st at Congleton parkrun today. You finished in 222nd place

Little pleasures eh?  🙂

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What were the chance eh?  Very pleasing.  My birthday is 22/2 too, this pleases me, even though objectively I know it all to be very random, still, where’s the harm.  We have to snatch what joy in the world we can, we live in dark times.

The weather was lovely, so I lingered a little longer to watch some other finishers and try to get the perfect shot, which it turns out is a lot harder than you think.  Here are some of the finishers behind me:

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and here are some of my attempts to get the perfect shot to capture the spirit of Congleton parkrun.  Remember, I didn’t say I succeeded, only that I’d tried…  Check out the juniors token sorting though, great bit of team work there.  Also like the looking out across the horizon to seek out the last few runners pic.  Everybody matters, it’s still 5k irrespective of what position you cross the finish line in.

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So finally, off in search of coffee.  Once again, I can report this parkrun somewhat undersells itself.  The official blah de blah says ‘Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee at the mobile coffee van – please come and join us!’ and I’m sure I heard someone refer to a ‘hut’, like it was some kind of ramshackle wooden structure held together with optimism and string, I was imagining a sort of Victorian bathing hut, like these:

it was almost disappointing to find that in fact, there is a purpose built, rather chic and sleek coffee bar.  Spotlessly clean and doing decent coffee and snackery, including ice creams enabling Caroline’s earlier referenced benevolence.  You couldn’t get a cooked breakfast, but there were toasties.  If the posters are anything to go by, they are very hot on identifying potential allergens, though the crustacea on their posters look way too cute to eat anyway.

I had a coffee from them,  and a banana I’d brought with me.  People sat in the autumn sunshine catching up, it had a nice social feel to it, and I think if this was your local parkrun you’d soon make friends if you wanted to.  The glass panels did make it look as if the people eating outside were actually entombed in if not a glass dome as such, then at the very least a terrarium.  They looked happy enough though, but then I suppose parkrun is really it’s own self contained ecosystem when operating at its finely tuned best, as is clearly the case here at Congleton parkrun.

And that was that, time to go home, I departed just as the Dogfather (see what he’s done there) was gathering some hounds around him for some sort of instructional dog related activity.  It was all happening here.

Mission accomplished, because also, rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, I am now a pirate!  Hurrah!  Pirates! – Run seven Cs and an R (say it out loud).  I have this virtual running badge, courtesy of the running challenges chrome extension, that I can now admire, like Gollam, poring over my own private treasure, though unlike poor Gollam and his precious, no-one else can wrestle this virtual trophy away from me.  No wonder he was such a tortured soul, I can’t imagine how I’d feel if some blooming hobbit tricked me into losing this.  Poor Gollam, he didn’t deserve that really now did he.  The picture is of me, staring at my laptop, admiring my new icon on my runners profile.  That’s how obsessions start apparently, we shall see…

To be fair, it’s a bit weird, because I am pleased to have this badge, really I am, but it is also a bit anti-climactic.  Perhaps I should have dressed up as a pirate or something to make it more of a thing, or maybe it turns out it was the journey to get this that was more the point than the thing itself.

So parkrun remains fun, although whether it is as much fun as a rat has playing hide and seek I just don’t know.  I am pretty confident it is though, and you just can’t hear the parkrunners squeaks of joy because those sonic giggles are also at too high a frequency.  Yep, that’ll be it.  No other explanation would suffice.

happy hide and seek rat

Oh, and another thing, if you are feeling down, and you don’t have a rodent around as an emotional support animal with which you can distract yourself by playing hide and seek, and if it’s too long to wait until next parkrunday, why not just purchase an emotional support clown to accompany you for any important work meetings.  Like this guy did when they were being fired.   No really he did, took a clown along to his redundancy meeting to help break the tension!  It was on the BBC news website so it must be true!  The clown made balloon animals throughout.  Excellent.  I do feel if one is going to burn one’s bridges, one ought to do so in style!

Well, I say to break the tension, but really as an almighty piss take and give his bosses the finger, even so, we all know this is genius, and definitely now incorporated into my future fantasy leave my job scenarios.  Excellent.  And to think I previously regarded myself as a bit phobic about clowns, but now I see they can indeed really bring joy into the world.  Hurrah.  See, things seem bad, really really bad, but we can still find things to smile at despite ourselves!  There is hope yet, slim hope perhaps, but hope nevertheless.  And if clowns aren’t your thing, well, we still have parkrun, and there’s even a new one just started at Castle Howard!  How awesome is that!  Can. Not.  Wait!

But whatever your running goals, or parkrun goals, keep reaching for them.  Sometimes the struggle to get there is actually the best thing.  Case in point.  I’m pleased with my pirates badge, but also feel a bit flat.  It was both the whole point and pointless and actually, the real point, was using it as a tool for choosing which parkrun to go to next.  And there are still a lifetime of parkuns out there for the taking, with more every week.  Aren’t we lucky, aren’t we blessed, and isn’t parkrun a wondrous thing.  Enjoy the parkrun journey, don’t worry about it being a cliche, it can still be a thing, and we needn’t let on.  It’s a Woodland Trust picture by the way,  I know, a pic that’s epic!

keep reaching for your goals

and also, you know how I said I get super excited at seeing a robin in my garden or froglets, well check out this siting.  An eft!  I nearly burst!  You can’t tell in the picture, but it’s just over an inch long and super cute.  FACT.

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By the way,  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.  Hide and seek with your rodent companion  of choice might be more fun, but more energetic too, maybe some power napping in the guise of parkrun research is in order after all…

🙂

 

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Checking out the sea at Clifton parkrun.

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Clifton parkrun, Nottingham.  Sixth of the seven seas.  Result.

Undigested read:

I was contemplating going to Clifton parkrun anyway, it’s not too far away from Sheffield, and will nab me a sixth of my seven needed cs for the much coveted pirates badge.  I hadn’t particularly prioritised coming here, but was given a timely nudge by a recent parkrun blog post on alphabeteering challenges.  They featured Clifton parkrun as their possible ‘c’ to seize (c what I did there?  I know, genius!)  They pointed out:

Clifton parkrun in Nottingham is definitely one for you to ‘C’ – see what we did there? Clifton is a relative newcomer to the parkrun family having launched in January 2018 and involves two laps of the playing fields, followed by one shorter lap.

It’s already proved popular with the local community; in just seven months, almost 1,000 different women, men, girls and boys have had their barcodes scanned at Clifton!

Fair do’s.  I’ll go there then.  Never sure where / whether to put the apostrophe in fair do’s, I mean you can’t write it ‘does’ because that’s the wrong word entirely, whether as a plural of rabbits or referring to third person singular present of ‘do’. Nightmare, hope the grammar police are having a day off…

The other important factor about Clifton parkrun is that it is in Clifton Park Nottingham, not Clifton Park, Rotherham, although it wouldn’t be a disaster to go there by accident as they do in fact have a very nice parkrun there, but it’s Rotherham parkrun, so it wouldn’t be a ‘c’ (disappointing potentially for budding pirates) but would be a potential ‘r’ (cheering for budding pirates currently without an arrrrrrrrrrrrrrr).   Such is the yin and yan of parkrun life.  In fact, Rotherham parkrun may well have been where I got my arrrrrrr, now I come to think of it, although I have a feeling I wasn’t particularly chasing running challenges back then.  Those were simpler times perhaps, though I wouldn’t change a thing…  Or did I get it at Rother Valley parkrun?  Can’t remember and can’t be bothered to check the chronology.  Rotherham parkrun has better coffee and a museum on site though, and fits the Clifton park link best, so let’s go with that for the purposes of the narrative.   Sometimes you shouldn’t let absolute truth get in the way of a good story, or even, as in this case, a fairly mediocre one.  Where’s the harm after all?  There’s also Clifton Park in Bristol, but that doesn’t have a parkrun as far as I can tell so no point at all in a parkrunner to rocking up there for 9.00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, that way disappointment lies.

You may think I’m banging on about all these many and varied Clifton locations at boring length simply stating the obvious, i.e. check out your parkrun destination prior to departure, but confusion can occur dear reader, although the truly dedicated will ride this out.  Did you not hear about the parkrun volunteer, Ian Guest,  who

had intended to help at a run in Clifton Park, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, on Saturday morning.  But on Friday evening he realised he had signed up for the run in Clifton, Nottingham, 37 miles (60km) away.  Despite his error – and thoughts of backing out – he made it to the race after an early morning bike ride to his local train station.

So there you have it, Ian Guest, parkrun hero, though you have to hope not a travel planner adviser by profession.  He got his 15 minutes of fame and immortality in the parkrun annals of history, so not an altogether bad outcome there.  High five to him all the same.  Respect!  #loveparkrun #parkrunhero

I don’t really know how hashtags work to be honest, but that seems fair… 🙂

Ian Guest parkrun hero

So, I’d be going to Clifton parkrun, though not by bike.  Best check out what to expect from the course then, now I know where I’m heading.  Well, the Clifton parkrun, Nottingham, official website course blah de blah describes it thus:

Course Description
The start and finish are located behind the pavilion building and are a short walk from the car park. The course follows the perimeter of two Clifton playing fields and alongside Fairham Brook. The route is run mainly on grass and consists of two full anticlockwise laps of the perimeter and a further short lap of part of the large playing field.

Oh crap, ‘mainly on grass’ I shall have to steal myself for that – but on the plus side, an on site coffee option, not seen one of them in the last few weeks.

and the course looks like this – sort of Marge Simpson in profile if you squint a bit and get the angle right.

 

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Can you see, her hair, her head and maybe her shoulders, it’s not an exact science I admit, but have a go.  It’s partly the blue outline I concede.  Still can’t see?  Have you heard of aphantasia ?  No reason, just asking.

Stalking the Clifton parkrun Facebook page in advance, I can’t help but note there is a distinct lack of Hawaiian shirts (not good), but a lot of shout outs for milestones and interesting links posted (good).  Yep, this will be a grand destination.  There are some fab photos of running across a bridge which seems to be shaded by some glorious trees, that’s good, oh, and quite a lot of what looks suspiciously like a sports field.  Hang on, I need to check average times now.  Please let this be one that welcomes slower participants…  OK, just checked, not going to lie, bit worried about this.  It has quite a teeny turn out, between 50-70 each week, and although of course it will be ‘inclusive’ as all parkruns are, there aren’t enough regular participants to make me confident that there’ll be a cohort of others at my pace.  Gulp.  Oh well, I’m committed now.  What is it they say, feel the fear and do it anyway.  As long as there’s an amusing anecdote in it further down the line and access to a post parkrun coffee it’ll be fine.  At least there’ll be less pressure on parking and a shorter queue at the cafe.  …  Eeek.

The day dawned, and off I went.  No offence to Nottingham, but I’m really over the roundabouts now. There are a crazy amount of them en route, and I don’t find it a very nice drive, the road layouts are to me confusing, and there seem to be endless fly overs and re-routing.  I don’t particularly like driving anyway.  I did notice I went down remembrance road at one point, handy reminder for #dfyb (don’t forget your barcode) although it would have been a bit late for me by that point if I had forgotten.  Don’t worry dear reader, I have loads of them, spares in the car, in various bags, my back pack and I wear the wrist band anyway.  I have yet to experience the catastrophe of forgetting it, but I daresay it wil happen one day.  When it does, I’ll have to pretend to make light of it, after all, you can still participate without it, but inside a little bit of me would die.  Brave face outside, heartbroken within.  I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s true, why else are there all those parkrun themed memes?

Precisely.

Anyway, I was ok in that respect, and following my satnav nicely.  The annoying satnav voice confidently announced I’d reached my destination in due course.  Oh.

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Unfortunately I clearly had not.  I drove on a bit though, and big relief, just a little further on, a humungous parkrun banner adorned Clifton Park.  Phew, I was in the right place.  All good!

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The sign was not only reassuring, because it meant I was in the right place, but it is welcoming too.  It has the strap line walk/ jog/ run.  Inclusive.

The sun was out, the park deserted, I went to explore.

The most immediately striking unexpected thing at this parkrun, was the presence of poultry.  No really.  I arrived, parked up, and then it was a case of ‘oooh, what strange sound is this?’  A rooster, sorry, that’s American isn’t it?  Of course I mean a cockerel.  How cool is that, definitely the calming morning sounds of hens waking up and scratching about.  Further investigation revealed, or at least strongly suggested, the park is adjacent to some allotments, hence hens.  I do like hens.  I think that’s quite a fine USP for a parkrun location.  Not as classy as having a parkrun peacock I suppose, I bet there’s a parkrun somewhere that has one, though admit I don’t know where for sure. There is a parkrun in Australia that has it’s own emu, Fluffy, Nambour parkrun.  On reflection, I think an emu would be better than a peacock.  Don’t get me wrong, peacocks look amazing, but they are scavengers.  I spent some time working overseas, and have never quite got over the shock and repulsion of seeing a group of peacocks – what is the collective noun for them – oooh, found it an ostentation of peacocks (great choice of collective noun)  scavenging and squabbling over the putrefying carcass of a long dead donkey, picking maggots out of it’s liquefying eye sockets.  Couldn’t see them in quite the same light thereafter, even if I do fully appreciate that is a useful ecological function!  Shudder, the very thought makes me heave.  Lets have a lovely picture of fluffy obliging with a parkrun pic pose instead – personally I wouldn’t stand quite that close to him/her, but not my call!  I’d certainly be stopping to take pictures of Fluffy en route though, mind you, I have been known to stop and take photos of almost anything on parkrun routes, if the mood takes me.

A morning cluck of awakening hens, punctuated with a cock crow on arrival was a new and pleasing parkrun experience for me.  Of course, one must always be prepared for the unexpected at parkrun.  Not as unexpected as inadvertently landing on a shark whilst out surfing say – which has happened, but things that aren’t quite the norm based on your previous parkrun experiences.  Having said that, I have seen a volunteer eaten by a shark at Graves junior parkrun so it could happen again elsewhere I suppose…  Mr Blobby was scarier though, and more unexpected another time.  About the shark thing though, I thought the guy was just leading the warm up at juniors, but on reflection, I wonder if he was actually trying to escape.  Maybe with the benefit of hindsight we should have assisted.  Oh well.  Life and learn. You can also be swallowed by hippos apparently. That’s happened too.  Be careful out there.

I love that all parkruns are the same but different, and have twists on familiar themes.  For example, did you know that Bedworth parkrun had a guest artist at their parkrun this week, who did sketches in real time (a bit like a court reporter artist but without the suspicion around criminal intent with respect to those attending) and got a photographer’s credit from Bedworth parkrun for doing so.  Her pictures are epic!  Love these, so wish I could do something like that.

Anyway, I may be going a tad off topic here, back to Clifton parkrun, Nottingham.  As well as the pleasing (and soothing) presence of hens, there was ample free parking, and an old-style municipal pavilion. Actually, not old style, but actually from the olden days of my more extreme youth.  Any number of similarly designed building would have popped up at playing fields back in the day.  I couldn’t decide if this made me nostalgic or induced trauma, hard to tell the difference sometimes.  The building was old but well maintained and excellent facilities.  I can report bicycle parking, loos, and an abundance of instructional signs inside and out.  This covered how to open doors, what not to do – they really don’t like ball games here, even on the tennis courts apparently which seems harsh.  There was also a warning about not over-staying or you’d be locked in the park overnight.  I was hoping very much my parkrun time would be fast enough to avoid that, but you if not, I wouldn’t be able to claim I hadn’t been warned about this eventuality in advance!

There was an excellent flower display with fine container planting in abundance.  This appeared to be a lovingly maintained outdoor and indoor space.    That was good, less good was the sight of this: 

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Yes, yes, I know it looks lovely, but it is also very definitely an expanse of sports field.  I couldn’t really grasp the run route from the course descriptor, but it did sound like you’d be running round more than once.  I suddenly felt really anxious.  There wasn’t anyone about – I was early of course – but the complete absence of anyone else suggested a small cohort of parkrunners and therefore the impossibility of getting lost in a throng.    It’s an interesting one, really huge parkruns can be over-crowded, noisy, over-whelming and a bit shovey at times, but you can be anonymous in a crowd, enjoy a mass buzz of collective enthusiasm and embrace the shared experience.  Smaller ones are often friendlier and more intimate, and generally quieter literally so less overwhelming, but you can’t just disappear into a mass of other runners.  For the first time, seeing the field, and realising ‘no-one will ever know’ I did consider bailing.  I’m not feeling great about my ‘running’ at the moment, and didn’t want to feel under pressure to be faster than I can comfortably manage.  I know this shouldn’t happen at parkrun, but it can, being a tail-walker is an art not all pull off.  The vast majority do, but as with my lamentable experiences of cross country, I’ve had appalling experiences with sweepers on organised runs (though not parkrun) which left me feeling completely crushed and humiliated and which the memories of which have never really gone away.  PE teachers and judgemental others have a lot to answer for in terms of turning plenty of people off exercise in general and running in particular.  The vitriol poured on slower runners at some organised events that should know better – fat-shaming at this year’s London Marathon for starters, is very real and heart breaking really.  That’s another reason to love parkrun, it  seeks to be inclusive for all, but unfortunately, it takes more than a few parkruns – or well over 200 in my case, to erase those negative voices that tell you you have no right to be there.  You aren’t the right shape, the right speed or have the right attitude to take up space at an activity based event.  And to be fair, the actual voices that have expressed directly to me that ‘there shouldn’t be walkers at parkrun’ even if that isn’t the official line.  Gulp, to run or not to run.

aaaargh

Well, I’m here now, it’ll still be a ‘c’ and I’ve always been conscientious if not keen.  And there is always the parkrun code – respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  It’ll be fine, probably, and even if it isn’t fine, there’s already been the calming cluck of hens by way of consolation and there may yet be an amusing anecdote in it afterwards.  Anyhow, type 2 fun is till fun right?  Just kicks in later on.  All good 🙂UK 5k parkrun Code (With Dogs) JPG

So I made my way into the pavilion for my precautionary pee.  I couldn’t initially find the loos, there was an enormous sign directing me to them, but as it was back lit by bright early morning sunshine it was in silhouette so I couldn’t see it.  A nice parkrunner not only pointed the way, but led me to them, that’s good service isn’t it.  I felt better already and was soon relieved in every sense.

There was an area set up for post parkrun tea and coffee, and volunteers were assembling.  Outside the pavilion signs were going up and parkrun paraphernalia coming out in force.  I went to explore.  I tried to get some nice unposed photos of volunteers setting up, but am conscious I make it look like I’ve taken surreptitious photos of dodgy looking characters hanging around behind the back of a hedge somewhere, near the bins.  Spoiler alert, sometimes the camera does lie.

I wandered out in the general direction of what must be the course.  Some signs were already in place, and did little to dispel my sense of confusion, though on the plus side, I was confident it would probably make sense when you were actually under way.  I found the sweet little bridge I’d seen on earlier Facebook pages, and there were some lovely mature trees around it’s true.  The grounds were immaculate, no litter, no dog poo, bright early morning sun illuminated the space, and there was a slight nip in the air and the hint of a smell of autumn, fallen leaves, that kind of thing.

There was also the dinkiest finish funnel I’ve ever seen:

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For the purposes of comparison, take a look at this pic of the finish funnel at Bushy parkrun the same weekend.  Admittedly in use, rather than standing empty in eager anticipation of the parkrunners coming through.  It’s not an entirely fair juxtaposition, but of interest I hope, like I said, parkrunning at a huge parkrun of 1400 plus is a very different proposition to one of just around 70, each have to be experienced I think to get the full parkrun picture:

31 aug 2019 finish funnel

Clifton parkrun, Nottingham, also has it’s own variation on the Nazcan lines by the way, or possibly low-budget crop circles.  Good though, shows initiative, and but a short evolution from here to the Long Man of Wilmington further down the line. Nice.  Be sure to look out for how it’s developed when you go visit as I’m sure you will one day.

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Time was moving on apace, and there still weren’t very many people around.  I went towards the few who were.  Fair play to this parkrun.  Of all the parkruns I’ve been to, and it’s not hundreds, but it is a fair few 40+ this is the most proactively friendly I’ve been to.  People approached me to say hello as I was an unknown face.  It was a little like Sheffield Castle parkrun in that respect, and that is also a smallish community based parkrun.  I suppose the good thing about smaller parkruns is they get to know their regulars, and by extension, can spot newbies and welcome them personally if they wish to do so.  I started to feel better.  Someone explained the course, acknowledging it is flat, but the grass is currently on the long side so it might be that be tougher than usual/ expected.  One of the hi-vis wearers said she’d never actually run the course – because of volunteering always, I said to be fair I wasn’t sure I’d be actually running the course today either.  Someone said I might as well seeing as I was here, and I clarified that I meant I’d be run/walking, but they were all very encouraging and reassuring about that.   No problem.  It was a personalised welcome, and it did feel very friendly, inclusive and non-judgemental.  All these things weighed very much in its favour, though it wasn’t possible to reconfigure the route so it was less reminiscent of school sports days and flashbacks to the cumulative petty humiliations of taking part in those…

The start area was a little bit away from the pavilion, so I headed down to join the gaggle of others. There were a few other tourists, including some from Colwick parkrun, where weirdly, by coincidence, I was only last week – though I suppose it’s not that weird as that’s a Nottingham based parkrun too.  This included a father/son combo, who were writing the run report, plus, I was told, and have no reason to disbelieve it, the youngest ever person to reach the 250 parkrun milestone, impressive.  This parkrun might have but a small turn out, but still could attract parkrun royalty.  This was very fine!

Because they were doing the run report, they also took some photos, I’m in one!  Though it might not be that easy to spot me, I know I’m there though, and that’s the important thing from my perspective, close second to being on Strava to believing a parkrun really happened!  (to the left, behind someone in hi-vis and mid taking a photo myself, though I can’t work out which one).

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It was good to see IKEA bags making an appearance again. They seem to be the go-to receptacle for parkruns who provide storage and/or porterage between start and finish options at many a parkrun.  I’m sure they’d be very pleased.

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There wasn’t a first timers’ briefing as such, but many first timers like me were personally greeted.  There was though a Run Directors briefing which was a breath of fresh air.  It was delivered ‘in the round’ which gave an intimate and inclusive feel to it and was listened to in ….

… you won’t believe this….

a respectful and attentive silence!

I know, a first surely.  There were milestones, welcomes, quick summary of the course basically twice past volunteer ‘mum’ (did he really say mum, I must have misheard that, my mum was at her usual corner at Bushy parkrun) with ‘mum’ on your right, and then once with her to your left. This was a course summary I could retain for the duration of the 5k run.  Result!  It was nice, just felt friendly.

I asked about any overtaking rules, because of me being slow, but it seemed to be common sense.  Hilariously two other first timers (at Clifton, not parkrun per se) seemed to think I’d be overtaking them and said just call out as I pass.  In fact we ended up sort of leap frogging one another en route, and by the end they were my new best friends (I’m waving at you now in case you are looking).  They were much photographed on the way round, but I don’t want to put those pics in just yet, you’ll have to wait with everyone else.

I say complete silence, and that is true, but in the far, far distance, some canicross runners had very excited dogs plunging about with excitement.  From above, it may well have looked like we parkrunners had been corralled by these ferocious hounds.  In fact they were friendly, just exuberant, just as many parkrun participants can be!

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Oh, there isn’t really an overtaking rule, it’s grass, so you should be able to overtake if you want to, just common sense, and that seemed to be true.  I think this could be a fast course for them as like to run fast, though potentially muddy in winter, you’d need to pick the right time of year for short grass and hard ground.

And ‘go!’

Off we went.  A shortish scamper down to the first corner, and you do indeed turn right in the direction a marshal is helpfully pointing you in.

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Granted, she doesn’t appear to be pointing in this actual pic, but she was for the most part, I must have distracted her with my paparazzi impulses.

Round the corner, and you emerge from darkness, onto another playing field, this one with goal posts, and already the field of runners is thinning out, so you can see faster parkrunners on the far side, sprinting in the opposite direction.  The grass wasn’t too long really, it was fine, there was one nice bit where I actually got to kick through some autumn leaves which I’ve not done in ages – well, for about a year to be specific, made me think I must get out and find myself a woodland run sometime soon, I just love that evocative smell of leaf mold as fallen leaves become part of their landscape.  I fully recognise this might sound weird to the uninitiated, but to those of us in the know, it’s a giddy aromatic thrill!  Plus, running through leaves is always fun.  Fact.  Here you can see some early shots of my new best friends in action. They didn’t know they were my new best friends at this point, but we did start to chit chat a bit in between leap frogging one another (not literally, disappointingly) as we shifted our positions in relation to one another.  They were even paced, whereas I kept stopping to take photos and then sprinting (cough) on again.  In my head I was sprinting, to the untrained eye it may have seemed a bit less fast, streamlined, elegant and energy efficient than the word ‘sprint’ might imply.

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After a circuit round this smaller field -smaller than the larger one you have yet to run round – you exit alongside a gorgeous willow and over the little bridge.  Lovely!  A duck to the right and you run on a path in the protective shade of a mature tree line with the big field along side.

So you are running round a field, but not on the field as such, so that’s OK.  You can see faster runners ahead and alongside again, and there is a cheery marshal to point you round and prevent you (in the nicest possible way) from making a premature beeline to the finish funnel, don’t worry though, your time will come.

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Look, there are my new best friends again – we are on waving terms by now I think.  And ahead another cheery and cheering marshal.  I made a point of thanking marshals on the first time past, as I’m never sure I’ll still be smiling on my next time through.  Don’t want to sound like your spitting out a sarcastic ‘thanks‘ through gritted teeth, that can rather kill the moment.

Round the field, and before you know it, you are alongside the finish funnel, seen from the back, where marshals are on hand observing, and obliging parkrunners by posing for photos when required.  I think it comes under the ‘any other duties‘ section of the volunteering agreement, tacitly agreed of course, but agreed nevertheless, an understanding…  Aren’t they lovely?

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Rhetorical question, of course they are!

That’s one lap down then, and then I started to be lapped by the faster runners.  All very polite though, no shoving here.

Round all over again, right at the marshal point, and look there are my besties again, ahead of me this time:

And then once again over the little bridge, and this time I emerged in time to see speedier runners coming towards the end of their parkruns.  Smiley, energetic and feeling and sharing the parkrun love.

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and round we go, past the woman guarding the finish funnel again, but still cheering encouragement, it looked like most people had finished by now.

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Round the field, wave at the marshal at the far end still clapping, and paused to take a shot of the finish funnel in action from the back:

Then round and this time you get to turn left at the marshal you pass three times – she’s clapping in this shot, told you she was encouraging every runner every time.  Ye of little faith.

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And finally back to the finish funnel guard marshal.  I nearly had a bit of a panic attack as it looked like she was going to make the runner ahead of me go round again, that would be an extra lap, if she tried that on me, well, I don’t wish to be unpleasant or unreasonable (I am those things entirely by accident) but we might have had a falling out over that.  Dear reader, crisis averted, no extra laps required, she was just making sure no corners were cut and we went the correct side of the cones, that’s fair enough, rules is rules, happy with that.

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And but a short sprint to the finish, and the warm embrace of time keepers, funnel managers, bar scanners and marshals already returned from their spots.  I paused to get a shot of the runner ahead finishing:

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This was possibly a mistake, as when I got my result I found I was but 6 seconds too slow for my last remaining stopwatch bingo time (I still need a 20), oh what might have been eh?  Still, nowt to be done about that, I suppose it will happen when it happens, perhaps never.  If it’s this hard to get a single number between 1-60, it makes you appreciate the impossibility of ever getting lucky on the national lottery say, so it is educational if frustrating to be so thwarted.  It’s been said before but I’ll say it again, parkrun is always most educational, albeit often in quite unexpected ways!

Through the funnel, token received.  A fellow parkrunner offered to take my pic in their frame.  Yay, that was brilliant.  Spoiled only marginally by the fact the photo didn’t take for some reason. I’ve had this before with people using my camera, I think the off button is too near the picture taking one.  There is also the photo of me and Geronimo with Jessica Ennis that never made it, this no-doubt brilliantly framed photo of me all glowing and gorgeous post run, expertly captured within the Clifton parkrun frame is similarly lost to posterity.  Never mind, I know I was there, and it’s the thought that counts.  It’s a training issue and my fault, should have checked.  My best friends also took advantage of the parkrun location frame whilst another parkrunner did the honours.

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Then there was the lingering, parkfaffery of watching other runners finishing behind me (there weren’t many), cheering the tail walkers in (there were many) and having a quick chat with the RD and other hi-vis heroes.

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And then that was it, parkrun over, course take down commenced

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I followed the mown path back to the pavilion, thanking the tailwalkers when some of them at least came into view.  I’m always very grateful to see tailwalkers, especially when it’s a little pair or gang of them as that suggests they are going to walk round and chat and it’s social and chilled.

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I hesitated in the pavilion, partly to admire the tiled mosaics,

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and partly because coffee was calling, but I didn’t really have time, since for the second Saturday on the trot I needed to be back in time for visitors.  Last Saturday I got stood up, was really hoping it wouldn’t happy again.  I decided I couldn’t risk being late, and scoffed a banana in the car park, noting the cheery parkrun flag that I’d missed seeing earlier – they had their own cylindrical hole in which to shove the parkrun flag, excellent, many other parkruns lack such an innovation and the placing of the parkrun flag has tested the patience and ingenuity of many otherwise calm and clever parkrunners, rarely thwarted in achieving their goals in day to day life.  Yet another reason why running can be a great leveller!

And that was finally that.  Time to be waving goodbye to Clifton pakrun, Nottingham, and heading off back to Sheffield.

Oh, and I wasn’t stood up this week, so ego salvaged, phew.  Even had time for a shower before receiving visitors.  All good.

So in conclusion, despite my considerable apprehension about this parkrun, such that were it not for the rather shallow reason that it begins with a ‘c’ I’d have given it a miss, it was in fact a really nice parkrun.  Very, very friendly and welcoming, nice and chilled and one where you would definitely make friends if it were your local.   Small, but perfectly formed, proof positive, it proof were needed, that sometimes the best things come in small packages!

My only regret is that I didn’t have time to linger for a coffee.  I’m still not entirely sold on running round fields but that’s an issue in my hear and not a fair criticism, for them as like that sort of thing, it is the sort of thing they like. Thank you lovely parkrunners of Clifton parkrun Nottingham, for welcoming me to your fine parkrun and sorting out some late summer sunshine for the occasion too!  I hope our parkrun paths may cross again in the future, until then, happy parkrunning!  🙂

Oh, and the official run report is here if you want to see another tourist perspective.  It’s an excellent report for many reasons, but particularly because it mentions tourists ‘including from Sheffield‘ and that would be me!   Who doesn’t fall for external validation.  I exist.  I was there.  As I said, excellent!

Meanwhile, back at Bushy parkrun, my mum was getting her usual chorus of good morning cheers.  I got something in my eye watching this, but you’ll probably be fine(ish).  My favourite comment on this post by the way, was from the runner who said he much enjoyed shouting out hello as he runs by, but spent several months calling ‘good morning Mary‘ before someone pointed out to him it is actually Elisabeth.  Excellent.   I love a good self-deprecating but completely relatable anecdote.

So that’s it, parkrun day all over for another week, but don’t worry, it’ll come round again before we know it.

In the meantime, you can, should you wish to do so, 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.  Choose wisely.  🙂

If you’ve not started parkrun yet, you may be nearly 15 years late, but better late than never, find your local event here; register; print out your barcode and rock up there next parkrunday and your Saturdays will never be the same again…

but in a good way!

Just #dfyb

🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Well, aloha indeed to Colwick parkrun, which guarantees a Hawaiian welcome every time, or your money back!

Digested read: Colwick parkrun today for some tourism.  It was hot stuff.  We were transported to Hawaii.  Bagged the North Pacific too.  A good morning’s parkrun trawling.

Undigested read:

Put your feet up and get yourself a cocktail, it’s going to be a long one 🙂

feature colwick

I’m still on the parkrun tourism trail for now.  Making the most of the longer summer days to go a bit further afield.  Smiley Selfie Queen suggested Colwick parkrun for this saturday.  It’s within range of Sheffield and also handily starts with a c.  This is quite brilliant for getting one sea/ c nearer to completing the Running Challenges Pirate Challenge and with it the prospect of a virtual badge only I will ever see.  Sigh, what a giddy day that will be for me, when I have sailed each of those seven seas to complement my already secured arrr!, got that eons ago at Rother Valley parkrun.   If I do Colwick parkrun, as long as I don’t forget my barcode, that treasure will be within my reach.  For the parkrunning challenges seeker, the pirates’ chest of gold manifests like this:

Pirates! – Run seven Cs and an R (say it out loud).

You can see the appeal I’m sure.

Result.  Well worth interrupting the in any case unattainable parkrun alphabet challenge for methinks.   Colwick parkrun is it seems the parkrun which just keeps on giving.  As if these twin wins of being in reasonable travelling distance and offering up a much needed ‘c’ were not enough, it had even more joys up its sleeve.  With just a tad bit of Facebook stalking on my part (don’t judge me, that is what Facebook was invented for), I discovered by happy coincidence, the very day we planned to visit was their Hawaiian shirt parkrunday.  This would involve not only the donning of optional(ish) Hawaiian shirts (the clue is in the naming of the event) but also a ‘hotly contested “Tropical Fruit PBs” ‘ contest!  I know, don’t you just love the sound of this parkrun?  Go on, add it to your ‘parkrun to do’ list  right now before you forget. I was definitely up for Hawaiian shirt wearing, and whilst I personally don’t want to introduce any element of competition with others into my own parkrun experience, I can still enjoy watching on in wonder as others find an outlet for their competitive zeal.  There is quite a backstory to this contest it seems, and fyi, because it is important, a Colwick parkrun post in the build up to this saturday’s event informed interested parties of the following context in advance of the 2019 gathering:

2017’s pineapple and fruit basket records (set by Steve Shanks and SuperKev respectively) remain unchallenged, as does Dave Greenwood’s contentious watermelon record from the same year (he dropped it en-route and it broke in half!).

Notable 2018 PBs were achieved in the following categories: physalis (Jessica Shanks), double coconut (Steve Shanks), coconut relay (Ashton mother and son), orange (Adam Akbar), pomegranate (Arry Nathan), tomato (Karen Archer, showing excellent knowledge of what constitutes a fruit. Hopefully it didn’t end up in a fruit salad), and date (Claire O’Neill).

The pineapple category was well represented last year with solo pineapple (Lisa Chan), tinned pineapple (Sam Rickett) and plastic pineapple filled with jelly babies (the hopefully DBS-checked Bernard Jarvis).

Also last year, Marlon Dunkley (double apricot) and Lou Read (single cherry) abided by the rules of the sport which stipulate that you run around with your fruit in your hand rather than in your in your stomach, and refrained from tucking in until over the finish line. This rule was less well respected by Graham Moffat and Martin Phillips which saw them downgraded from the bunched grape to the single grape category due to on-course consumption.

The Wards (father and son) dominated the citrus fruit category, and high participation was also noted in the competitive fields of banana (Rupert Killik, Evans father & son) and passionfruit (Jacqui Measures and Hannah Roberts).

I could hardly contain myself.  parkrun is a run not a race, but who wouldn’t appreciate the inclusion of a tournament with a tropical twist to further heighten the intoxicating excitement of taking part in this iconic event.  That’s the great thing about parkrun, wherever in the world you rock up on parkrunday, as long as you rock up at a parkrun venue at the appropriate time, you are guaranteed a micro-adventure that will set your pulse raising and restore your faith in the world,  Fact. wherever in the world.  If you don’t believe me, check out some of the cool dudes from last year.  This is probably happening at a parkrun near you, and if it isn’t then you yourself can make it so with some minor tweaks to your running kit.  Just do it!  Be the change you want to see in the world.  It can all start with you and your expression of your individual style through parkrun fashion.

Who wouldn’t want to parkrun party with this lot.  It was going to be epic!

And yet there is still more!  I’m not gonna lie, in my quest to sail the seven ‘c’s in order to secure the pre-requisite number of parkruns beginning with the letter c,  to add to one beginning with r and with it the coveted pirates badge, I’ve not previously paid all that much attention to which particular sea each c in seaquence was covered by each respective run.  On this occasion though, game changer.  There was no doubt about it, Colwick parkrun‘s sea has to be the North Pacific (other seas are available) as the c in question was Colwick parkrun, an they are  an Hawaiian themed event, fact.  By which I mean that today was their Hawaiian themed event.  What’s more as I can confidently report back that at 100% of the parkruns I’ve attended at Colwick parkrun everyone who was anyone was sporting a Hawaiian shirt or clutching some tropical fruit, or at the very least wearing a sunny smile, so that puts it firmly on the map as the North Pacific sea c. Look:

This exactitude pleases me. It’s the first time it’s happened.  I don’t know if it achievable at other parkruns, I’ll have to mull that over.  I mean Crosby parkrun is at the seaside I suppose, but lovely as it is, not sure the Irish Sea has entirely the same gravitas as those named in the official seven seas.  No offence meant, just speaking my mind… it had other qualities.  Bare-bottomed statues and sand and all sorts of things.  But, bottom line with respect to my Colwick parkrun expectations was that this was all very exciting!

Out of interest, can you name the seven seas? I found it harder than I thought, which is embarrassing…

Anyway, enough of pub quiz question challenges, back to my pre parkrun research, facilities looked good, there’s parking, loos, yep, that’ll do. Oh hang on, I suppose you want to know about the course.  You usually do.  Well, the course blah de blah on their official Colwick parkrun webpage describes it thus:

The parkrun course at Colwick Country Park is 5km long and is made up of 1 lap of the main lake and 2 laps of the smaller West lake. The route is mainly on informally surfaced paths combined with short road and grass sections. The run starts alongside the Colwick Adventure Centre and the west lake and follows the main path clockwise around the smaller west lake. After approximately two thirds of a lap of the lake runners split off to the left through the woods to then complete a lap of the larger main lake. Following the lakeside path clockwise, runners will reach the main entrance and fishing lodge, proceed along the straight main drive and then continue clockwise on round the south shore of the lake and past the marina. On nearing the Adventure Centre again the route will split left and complete a further whole lap of the small lake before returning to the start.

and it looks like this, which I think is a bit like a chef wearing a hat, just the head and hat bit:

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Yep, bit confused about the course descriptor, but sounding like it’s not too much repetition, and so the stars were aligning nicely, this was going to be a cool parkrun.  Spoiler alert, it wasn’t cool at all, it was actually boiling hot, hot stuff in fact, but all the better for that as you shall find out if you’ll just stop interrupting me and let me crack on with explaining it all to you.

So the day dawned, over in Colwick Country park it was looking like this – I know this, because Colwick parkrun kindly shared a couple of early morning photos later on.  Nice, eh?

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Meanwhile, back in Sheffield, I donned my Hawaiian shirt, and pink feather boa, and pink fascinator and pink leg warmers and pink fingerless gloves, as you do.  Fortunately my neighbours already regard me as eccentric, so I didn’t need to cover myself with a blanket rushing from house to car or anything.  The drive to Nottingham was OK, in a ‘ohmygawd why am I going round and round Nottingham town centre sort of way’.  There was one bit, where I followed the sat nav and honestly thought I’d ended up in a Premier Inn carpark as I trustingly followed city-link signs.  Thank goodness I don’t drive an HGV, I was having a moment of insight into why big lorries get stuck on hills or end up driving over the edge of harbour walls because of blindly falling into line with what the sat nav said.  I didn’t want to end up going viral for a sat nav fail

Amazingly, it did seem to be the right way, and, as a bonus I got a nice roundabout surprise, not quite in the same league as the centaur en route to Isabel Trail parkrun, but some very nice gee gees that from a distance really did look like they’d just strayed onto the roundabout for a bit of an early morning grazing session.

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I’ve always been a bit sniffy about the idea of a calendar featuring favourite roundabouts of the uk, but I’m beginning to think this is au contraire, a gap in the market just screaming out for an entrepreneur to make it so.  No, hang on wait, unbelievably I’m not the first, this is already a thing.  Oh well, good to know that the organisation roundabouts of Britain already exists and has a shop dealing in not just calendars, but key-fobs coasters and probably fridge magnets too.  Catering for all your British roundabout novelty gift needs, that’s Christmas sorted and we are only just at the end of summer.

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Eventually, through late summer mists, I arrived at Colwick park.  Oh wow!  This I did not expect at all.  You dodge down a seemingly urban side street and come upon this lakeside park.  It was very impressive.  I was greeted by the most friendly ambassador ever on car park shed duty.  I’d read on the Colwick Country park website that parking is £2 for the day, and assumed it was an error on the Colwick parkrun page where it said it was just £1.50 but you needed the right change.  Anyway dear reader, it turns out that it is just £1.50 as a parkrun special rate, and the reason you need the right money is because the machine is set up for £2 which is the normal charge.  This was explained to me by the nice man.  He also explained the parkrun route, the park amenities – you can do open water swimming and kayaking and water boarding – no, wait, paddle boarding, which I think is different.  There were geese, and a waterside view, and it was all looking great.  I was given directions where to go to park and generally made to feel most welcome.  I have a feeling I was amongst the first to arrive, so whether or not he was able to keep up that degree of personalised welcome for everyone who followed on after me I just don’t know, but I was impressed.  Thank you nice Colwick park car park man,

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Incidentally, it was only as I pulled away I remembered I was wearing all my Hawaiian themed regalia and he’d barely registered it, let alone remarked on it, neither of us had.  I was increasingly forming the view that the Colwick parkrunners dress in this kind of gear all the time, why wouldn’t they, when it brightens any day.   What other possible explanation could there be for his nonchalance, other than having completely desensitised to the appearance of colourfully and flamboyantly dressed parkrunners week after week.

So I trundled down the road really, really slowly past the lake and taking in the sights along the route.  A veritable mariner at one point, TOILETS – always a joy to behold in advance of any parkrun, and eventually made it to the car park.  There was lots of space, and a few people already gathering.  A few minutes later Smiley Selfie Queen appeared with her companion of choice for the morning.  It was a weird that we’d not all come together from Sheffield, but she and her running buddy are way faster than me, and were in a hurry to get away after the parkrun, so it seemed the least stressful option was to go separately, but cram in our mandatory selfie shots pre-run if possible.

Pre parkrun proper cometh parkfaff.  An important and integral part of any parkrun morning, but particularly so when touristing.  It’s a busy time, that pre-parkrun parkfaffing.  You know what I mean yes?  You aren’t sure?  Well, let’s just say that as surely as parkrun takes place on a saturday, parkfaff takes place immediately prior (and post) to it.  We all needed the loo, so there was the what to do with our water, where was the start, what are you wearing faff to be conducted and negotiated before we went in search of our pre-parkrun precautionary pees.  It was back the way we’d come.  Smart parkrunners would have parked up briefly and nipped in the loos before driving down to the start/finish area car parks.  However, on the plus side, this would mean we would be having our pees nearer in time to parkrun commencement, always an important consideration on such occasions.  Also, the walk down gave us a chance to appreciate our surroundings.  It was promising to be a bright sunshiney day, and there was a mist that gave a glorious and magical ambience to everything.  Also there was a retro playground horse.  Bit of an equine them to the morning it seems.  Well, not to the same extent as an Hawaiian theme, but I daresay you’ll catch my drift…

Toilets were adequate, but no soap in the loos and the flushes gave up pretty quickly, but hey ho, so grateful to see them they were minor inconveniences for the conveniences.

We sauntered back to the start, heartened to see other dressed up and fruit-carrying runners arriving and hi-vis volunteers striding out on course set up duties.  Exciting!

So then we followed the arrows to the start, and a colourful line up greeted us.  A huge climbing tower that reminded me of the rigging of a tall ship towered over us.  Hi-vis heroes resplendent with floral garlands milled and chilled amongst parkrunners in their Hawaiian best, clutching optional tropical fruits.  It was chatty and friendly, and well organised too.  There were boats moored up beside us, the other side of a barrier of rather marvellous bulrushes.  It definitely had a party vibe.  Oh, and it was easy to find the start from the car park, if you didn’t feel comfortable tailgating the other arriving runners, there was always the directional arrow strategically positioned to guide you.

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After roaming about a bit, gawping at the other Hawaiian shirt wearing runners (I wonder if anyone in Hawaii does actually wear shirts like these at all), it was over for the first timers’ briefing.  A few of us formed a cheery gaggle, and were given an effusive welcome – signed, FYI, to this special day.  We were told that if any of us were without suitable attire and wishing to join the fun, they had a heap of lei garlands from which we could freely borrow.  More evidence that they dress themselves up like this every week why else would you have an ikea bag full of lei as part of your mandatory parkrun kit for the core team, along with the defibrillator, hi-vis tabards and inflatable dolphin?  Well quite, I rest my case.  In any event, the point is, if for some inexplicable reason you’d embarrassed yourself by arriving garlandless, or your dog had eaten your lei, they had some stuff put aside for you specially.  A bit like wearing old sports kit in school if you forgot your PE stuff, only much more fun, much more appealing and with less congealed second hand sweat presumably.  I can’t be 100% sure about that as I didn’t make use of this resource, but I’m reasonably confident.  Anyway, sunshine is a natural disinfectant is it not?  It’d be fine.  Way better than missing out.

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The course was explained, along with the visual aid of a map.  Courses never really make sense to me until after I’ve done them.  I just logged the key bit of information ‘keep the lake to your right and you can’t go wrong‘.  Right, just keep the water to my right, that’s easy enough.   Could see the water and the boats from where we were standing.  This was going to be a breeze!  There were a fair few tourists, but a few ‘real’ first timers, so they stayed behind for an extra parkrun tutorial, whilst the rest of us continued with our parkrun milling and chilling.

Then, it was the Run Director’s briefing.  This was signed as well, which was good to see, though I do wish I’d paid more attention to what the sign was for ‘Hawaiian shirt’, bet it was something cool.  The RD took advantage of the slope to position herself and she also had a megaphone as well as some hi-vis heroes waving ‘be quiet’ paddles.

Cp quiet please

It was a cheery briefing, and reasonably attentive crowd of parkrunners which made a change.  Inevitably some background babble, but not so much I couldn’t hear what was going on.  Welcomes were given and thanks to the marshals.  There were shout outs for tourists.  Whilst having hailed from Sheffield did get a bit of a cheer, those parkrunners who’d come from Italy won that part of the day.  It seemed a really friendly parkrun, just comfy.  There were shout outs for milestones and birthdays and cake.  Instructions re fruit pbs, and best of all, a presentation to two of their very own parkrun royalty, one Roy, has his own marshal point on the course, and has been absent for a while due to illness,  He and Jacqui were warmly welcomed back with a big cheer and a presentation package, which they received wreathed in smiles as well as lei garlands.  This presentation brought a bit of a lump to my throat because my mum has Elisabeth’s corner at Bushy parkrun, and she was very ill and missed some months, but was similarly welcomed back with a cheer when well enough to do so.  She gets a Bushy parkrun run report mention most weeks which brings me joy.  I never thought she’d have made it back to her spot again, it’s great that she’s still there and part of the action week in week out.

I know how traumatic that time was for us.  I wondered what Roy and Jacqui might have been through, but know how fab it is to be restored to your parkrun family.  Families of choice are the best!  They looked happy to be welcomed home!

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Yep, I’d say the locals are friendly.  It does seem to be that folk generally are friendlier the further north you get.  Pathologically friendly sometimes, if you get lucky.  I’ve never been more grateful for anything than finally settling in Sheffield.  Yes, yes, it is a stereotype, but there is some truth in the one about it being generally friendlier up north, and although it’s perhaps pushing it to call Nottingham ‘north’, even if from a southerner’s perspective it is north of Watford Gap service station which is the generally accepted cut off for the London centric.  Personally, now I’m a Sheffielder, Nottingham is basically ‘in the south’ but I still feel they gave northerners everywhere a run for their money in terms of their friendliness quotient.  This therefore qualifies sufficiently for me to use it  as an excuse for including this video about a northerner terrifying Londoners by saying ‘hello’, because it pleases me.  My blog post, I can do what I like.  I reckon this Northerner may have been misidentified, could easily have been a Colwick parkrunner instead. I can’t be absolutely positive of course, but they do seem to be that sort of proactively friendly type that couldn’t be trusted not to make eye contact on the London tube…

parkfaff continued briefly, and I noticed others bagging parkrun selfies prior to mustering at the start line.

Right, at the start, keep the water on my right, where’s the water again – oh right, there it is with the boats:

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So why is everyone facing the wrong way apart from me?  Why am I surrounded by faster looking runners than normal?  Something just didn’t feel quiet…

Cp start line up

Dear reader, learn from me, at the start point, there is water to the right of you and water to the left.  Basically, water, water everywhere – and not a drop to drink on account of the blue-green algae – but more importantly you can’t see the actual lake at this point, because it’s obscured by a big hill with the adventure centre on top of it.  Astonishingly, rather than being the only one in the right I was completely in the wrong.  Who’d have guessed?  Confused, when the cry went up for awf, I was swept up in a stampede of runners, and in amongst them I ran too, at what was for me a fair old sprint.

Cp awf

It was all good natured which was just as well.  There was a tarmac path which most stuck too, but as soon as there was a border of grass I moved out of the way and took some photos.  Due to my misunderstanding early on, I was even ahead of Smiley Selfie Queen, so got some shots of her as she sprinted by and left me for dust, not for the first time.

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So off we went, round the little diddy lake for the first circuit, you go along an open bit, through a tree lined bit, and then there is a turn tighter than a right-angle so you get a great view faster runners streaming ahead towards what I now know to be Roy’s split.

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The marshal at the split didn’t look all that much like Roy to be fair, but they were doing their best, and even though only deputising for the main man, the high vis superstar did a great job of directionally pointing, cheering and clapping the parkrunners by.  She had big boots to fill, but was doing great.  And this was just the first lap, she had to completely reposition herself for lap two! Quite a lot of responsibility to take on here, but dear reader, spoiler alert, she totally nailed it.  Bravo!

Obviously, I had to stop to take photos along the way, if I hadn’t I’m sure I’d have pulled a sub 20, but hey ho, priorities.  It was ridiculously hot out there, and the sunlight was so bright, even though it looked gorgeous, it was quite hard to get decent shots as everything was just bleached out.  Still, you’ll get the gist.  Here is a cheering and cheery trio of marshals on a hill for example.

and on we went

resisted the urge for a quick sit-down and a picnic on a handily positioned bench

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paused to check out the bat carvery.  Not that sort of carvery, you aren’t supposed to eat them, just admire the woodcraft:

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onwards, you can definitely see the lake properly on the right now.  Follow the run signs, was that a cormorant?

Try not to heave at the stench coming from the water.  At least I hope it was coming from the water, it was either that, or a not very well concealed corpse being left to rot by the wayside.  Is that a consequence of the blue-green algae I wondered?  You know what, it looked lovely, but personally I wouldn’t want to be taking a dip in that pool of water any time soon.

Then after a bit, you emerge alongside the entrance where I met the friendly car-park attendant earlier.  More marshals, operating in pairs for safety purposes I imagine.  I don’t know if they always do this, or if it was to have a witness on hand in case of any fruit-related disputes in relation to the competition taking place.  I daresay they don’t quite have the budget for Video Assistant Referees (VARs) to cover a course of this length, and this is a practical compromise.  There was no-one else in sight when I reached this point, so I took this to mean I must be in the lead, which the marshals confirmed for me, so that’s official then.  It is of course a run not a race, but each one of us likes to have our little moment don’t we.  Like running on a travelator in empty airports so you get to feel like you can harness superhuman speed.  We’ve all done that!  Haven’t we?  Oh, so it really is just me then?  Got it.  Feel shamed.

Was fun though…

On and on, sweating more than just gently glowing by now, to the next marshal, who could rock a garland as well as an encouraging smile.

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Back to the car park, where there was both a marshal and a photographer lying in wait.  I had to focus on my ‘seen a photographer’ running pose, so didn’t take any photos of them

Then back to the start/finish area, where I realised that it was in fact only the start area.  I’d left my water bottle on the parkrun start post, thinking I could collect it at the finish, and it was there still, in glorious solitude.  It would be fine, I’d get it later.  Two notable points here, one, this is the first parkrun I’ve been to, where there are permanent wooden posts marking the start and each kilometre on route, and secondly, the finish isn’t in the same place as the start, though they aren’t that far away from one another.

Off again, just the little lap to do again now.  Finally, I understood the course descriptor.  It’s a nice course, lots to look at, friendly marshals, and almost qualifies as a single lapper in that the bit you do twice is fairly minimal, it doesn’t feel repetitious at all.  In the time it had taken me to get to this point, other events had kicked into gear.  I could hear a veritable festival going on with tents and flags and a sound system like it was a jousting tournament or something – not an authentic one granted, doubt they’d have had the same sound amplification.  I wondered briefly if all the cheering was coming from the parkun finish funnel, but it was coming from the wrong direction.   I eventually clocked them the far side of the river water.

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Jogging on, and I could hear the splash of multiple oars working in synchronised harmony.  Presumably there was a galley ship in action the other side of the reeds, which were after all extremely tall.  Can’t think of any other logical explanation, then again, I do lack imagination.  It would fit with the tall ship rigging I’d espied earlier, sticking with nautical themes I mean.

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not too many people around as I was looping the second loop.  I did swap a few words with a fellow parkrunner who wryly observed that it was just possible we were rocking more of a club Tropicana than authentic Hawaii look, she had a point.  Not sure where Hawaiian accessories sit in the casual racial stereotyping/ cultural appropriation continuum.  I like to think it’s on the harmless end of the scale, sort of the equivalent of ‘kiss me kwik’ Blackpool tat hats (other depressing seaside holiday venues are available), but maybe that’s just because I’m not sensitive to what I’m doing.  The Hawaiian tourist board certainly projects a more sophisticated seaside paradise image…  Oh well, no offence intended.  Also, Club Tropicana sounds fab!

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Round you go, back to Roy’s split, where Roy’s stand-in had cleverly repositioned herself to shoo you the right way to the finish for your final (optional) sprint.  Some parkrunners were strolling home, already long finished, but they cheered me in as I ran on by.  Well I assume they were parkrunners, not just Colwick locals coincidentally out and about wearing Hawaiian shirts as well.  … though if they were, that would explain the earlier incident of apparent desensitisation to Hawaiian shirt wearing I had witnessed earlier.  Maybe it’s just what the good people of Colwick Country park do.  Like wearing a golfing jumper when playing golf, but way more expressive and fun.  If I ever find out this is an absolute truth, I’m going to start packing and planning my relocation to Colwick with immediate effect.

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And finally, as if by magic, the finish funnel appears.  Just ahead of it another parkrun photographer, on hand to snap you at the very moment of your glorious sprint finish.  The finish funnel was fab, not just inherently, because I’m always peculiarly delighted to see that, but because they’d recreated an actual Hawaiian beach there.  Not the plastic one, because that would be horrid…

plastic beach hawaii

but the one made of the stuff of tourists’ fantasies.  There was an actual dolphin, palm trees, a monkey and cocktail drinking revellers getting the party started whilst waiting for the last of us to finish.  Fab.u.lous.  Also a crocodile, they don’t mention them in the Hawaiian tourist board info, but I feel confident Colwick parkrun know what they’re doing.  The truth will out.

There was also a bell for ringing for just about reason at all, which is always welcome, and a trio of dinosaurs, because everyone knows there are always a minimum of three t-rexs at any one time on any one of the many Hawaiian beaches.

I’m glad they kept them in safe miniaturised custody here, under the supervision of the event team.  Other courses have been known to let their dinosaurs loose on the course, which sounds like a lot of paper work from a health and safety perspective, but I bet encourages people to get a bit of a wiggle on too.

junior parkrun

Desborough Green Space junior parkrun Tail Walkers, I salute you! 🦖 🦖

So time for a bit of post parkrun parkfaffery.

There was quite a party going on with cake and chatter and a lot of laughter too.  This just seemed like a parkrun where everyone was sharing the parkrun love.  Already finished parkrunners cheered in others still coming in.  Fruit accessories were compared and mutually admired.  A table groaned under goodies many and varied.  They know how to get the party started here!

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Aw, I love this parkrun.  I love the Colwick parkrun vibe!  Friends together, channelling the P S-H spirit ‘it’s all about the coffee’ not literally, but as in the meet up for a run is but a prelude to social bonding.

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It was all very heart warming, and very much in the parkrun spirit, though to be honest, I was already warm enough. Did I mention it was scorchio running in the heat, and quite uncomfortable at times.  In fact I was mafted.  Mafted is a new word I learned yesterday, and it means ‘too hot’, as in absolutely boiling hot.  Known in Hull apparently.   See, parkrun is always educational, even just reading about it.  Isn’t your life the richer for knowing that?  Unless you already knew it of course, in which case respect.  Your northern heritage can never be disputed.  I feel about being mafted, the way I do about being nesh, enlightened, now I know what the words convey, and delighted, because isn’t language a wondrous thing?  Still, we weren’t being delighted and full of wonder, we were being burned.  Still, let’s keep things in perspective.  Me being a bit burnt by the sun because I chose to sport a pink fascinator over a sensible running cap is as nothing compared the discomfort we will all feel further down the line now the rainforests are all burning down.  The phrase ‘hell in a hand cart’ springs to mind, but on the plus side, we can enjoy temporary distraction with the fine people of Colwick parkrun, Hawaii.  Try not to think about the fact the plumes of smoke can be seen from space.  You head will implode at the horror of it.  It’s going to take more than me and hopefully everyone else creating a wildlife friendly area in my garden to counteract this, though I hope people will still do what they can, at least it shows we care…

It was welcoming, but I didn’t avail myself of parkrun cakery as places to go people to see.  As I was leaving I had the privilege of meeting Colwick parkrun royalty in person.  They were on their way to join the party.

This is a happy place.  Full of inspirational people.

Other running related inspirational people are available.  Take for example Jennifer Smith.  JFDI as we say at Smiley Paces.  Anyways, she is the heaviest woman to complete a marathon, well, they say she is, I reckon there will be others who have quietly plugged away at it and achieved similar goals but without notify the Guinness Book of Records people, but I’m still going to celebrate her achievement and her tenacity, and yes, I do find such stories inspirational, She picked a multi-lap event taking place over many hours, so she could achieve her marathon distance without being timed out, this is why she has a cheer leader with her at Lap 9 of 12, with a sign to give encouragement, if not altogether practical advice.  I think it was more a question of running than swimming, but you’ll get the idea.  Bravo though, and good on ya!

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On the subject of swimming, (yes we were), maybe that was the point of the sign, and the error was in the choice of venue not the sign composition.  It was a random child, not associated with her brought into the picture, and they’d rocked up  in the wrong place, and were meaning instead to support the other super woman of the week, Sadie Davies, who has just become the first woman, and only the fourth person ever, to swim  from Hartland to Lundy Island.  Hooray for her too!  That’s 15 miles.

Sadie Davies

That’s a lot of swimming.  In a forwards direction too!  I mean, I’m brilliant at floating, my body fat comes in handy for some things, but I have more of a natural aptitude for bobbing about where the current takes me, rather than for actually progressing in the direction of my choice. I am in awe of swimmers, particularly those that take on the open water, or take up synchronised swimming.  Genius.

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But a late arrival at the run celebrants ball is this woman.  A big cheer for Karly Tardiff please, she may have a seemingly made up name that makes it seem like she sprung from the imagination of script writers for twin peaks or something, but nevertheless, she’s hardcore.  The co-leader of the Badass Lady Gang run group kicked off her wedges before taking up the chase and running down the thief who’d tried to steal her bike wheel.  High five and great kudos to her please.

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what do you mean I’ve digressed?  Surely you want to hear today’s random ‘strange but true’ feature is this, on the fierce competition to secure No.1 Customer status in a Melbourne coffee shop.  You’re welcome.  And I thought expressing loyalty with tattoos was just a parkrun rather than an espresso thing!  How little I knew…

So, the point I’m trying to make, is that there are little patches of joy in the world, you just have to keep your eyes peeled for them.  One such joyful place was Colwick parkrun earlier on today – I defy anyone to be miserable in the company of such a proliferation of Hawaiian shirts.  No wonder the mood lifted and it was party on!  That (biodegradable) confetti cannon at the end was an absolute blast!  (see what I did, hilarious).  Here are just a few of the bystanders cheering the runners through the finish tunnel at the end.  That confetti cannon was an absolute blast in every sense!

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Yep, that’s right dear reader, if you weren’t there, you missed out.  Sad but true.

And that was that.  All done and dusted, time to go home.  Just a last look at that climbing rig.  Amazing.

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It was pleasing though watching the inflatable dolphin swim by in the car park though as the volunteers too started to disperse and marine animals were presumably returned once again to their natural habitat until next year*

*You don’t seriously  believe that do you?  This ‘it’s only the once a year’ trope they were wheeling out.  There was just too much evidence to the contrary.  The parkrun man who didn’t react (like the mysterious incident of the dog in the nighttime – the dog who didn’t bark remember), the happening to have a shed load of spare garlands, the Colwick parkrunner sporting one in Canada… that’s a lot of evidence. Oh I haven’t told you about that last one yet.  Well, basically, even though they were trying to make out it’s just a once a year thing, it clearly is more of a Colwick parkrun uniform, bit like the Tralee parkrunners on tour who always sport their distinctive fluourescent TpoT beanies.  Tralee parkrunners have their bright orange hats, why shouldn’t Colwick parkrunners have their Hawaiian shirts.  Sometimes it’s good to know you belong.  And if you are dubious dear reader, well, how else can you explain the fact that one of the Colwick parkrunners on holiday in Canada was running at a parkrun over there in Hawaiian shirt and clutching a mango?  You can’t.  Exactly. I rest my case.

I don’t know why they are coy about it. It’s completely splendid, commendable, and to be celebrated.  Don’t be shy Colwick parkrun it’s your parkrun USP.  Somerdale Pavilion parkrun has its curly wurly, Woolacomb Dunes parkrun has its, erm, well dunes – the clue is in the name.

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You at Colwick parkrun however, have an aloha Hawaiian welcome and a tropical vibe that would warm the cockles of the coldest hearts at any time of year.

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Take it from me, if you are going to Colwick parkrun, put on a Hawaiian vest whatever the date, you’ll fit right in!  🙂 They’ll take you for a local, and into their hearts, or your money back.  Actually, you will get a very warm welcome whatever you rock up in, but I guarantee they will love you for ever even more ardently if you are in an Hawaiian shirt, particularly if accessorised with a flower garland and you have thought to bring along a brace of coconuts to carry with too.  Go awn, go awn, you know you want to!

So thank you lovely Colwick parkrun people, you were/ are fabulous. It was a great event and a lovely welcome too.  I’ve stolen taken some photos from your most excellent Colwick parkrun Facebook page and used them in the blog post which I hope you will see as a flattering tribute and reflection of how much I hold you in my esteem rather than crude plagiarism on my part.  Thanks in anticipation 🙂 Any objections though, please let me know!

I can’t conclude though, without giving a special shout out to this man, who the photo suggests, single-handedly correctly folded up the parkrun pop up sign.  This is basically a super power, there are very, very few people out there who have the particular mutation that allows them to perform this task.  It isn’t just a skill, it’s a miracle.  He must be some kind of savant.  Well done.  Superstar indeed!

Cp the real star ofparkrun

I wonder if he got it into its bag as well, or if he is still standing there, arms aloft in triumph still, but smile flagging a tad by now.

You can read the official Colwick parkrun run report for their 422 event here.  Think of it as a way to triangulate my version of events, and therefore legitimate parkrun related research, not unnecessary faffing at all, rather mandatory parkfaff, it is the parkrun way.

Oh wait, wait, come back!  Forgot to tell you the best bit!  When I got home and got my result it also wished me Happy parkrun Anniversary!  Yep, get that, get me, it was my parkrun birthday, that’s so exciting.  I got an Hawaiian themed birthday party courtesy of all my new best friends at Colwick parkrun!  Can’t think of a better way to have spent it. Thank you parkrunners all, for sharing the parkrun love!

happy parkrun anniversary

Happy parkrun anniversary Lucy! 🎈

Congratulations! On 2013-08-24 you took part in your first parkrun and during the past 12 months you have finished 49 parkruns, bringing your grand total to 218 completed – that’s pretty awesome! 🎉

Actually, I’ve done 219, they don’t count Hasenheide parkrun Germany one for some reason, but there’s no way I’m going to forget that adventure – that’s where I first properly encountered the TpoTs and their flourescent beanie hats, once seen, never forgotten!

By the way, if you are feeling bereft of parkrun stories right now, or just need to procrastinate a bit longer before taking the bins out or doing something about tea,  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.  Choose wisely.  🙂

Remember:

“The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance, and a small soy flat white.”

That’s all folks.

#loveparkrun

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Categories: parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I-catching tourism as I iccomplished Isabel Trail parkrun – Ay ay, that would be an ‘I’. A-Z challenge I’m coming to get ya!

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Isabel Trail parkrun.  It was very nice thank you for asking.

Undigested read:

That’s me, nothing if not I-catching!  See what I’ve done there, hilarious!

All a bit of a blur, as you can see.  I feel bad for saying so, but before I went to Isabel Trail parkrun to see it for myself I thought that Stafford was basically the middle of nowhere.  Now I see it is au contraire, the centre of everything, it’s all simply a question of how you choose to look at it. I will concede that sometimes the visions of loveliness that were the hi-vis heroes for the day were somewhat blurred, their busy perpetual motion meaning they were at times moving faster than the speed of light to keep the parkrun show on the road, but their cheery animated all round wonderfulness  shines through all the same I’m sure you’ll agree.  Look, aren’t they lovely?

featured image Isabel Trail parkrun

Rhetorical question, yes they are!

But I’m jumping ahead of myself, lets start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start.

start at the very beginning

Oh my gawd, those outfits are classic!  I am so going to make my own version out of repurposed curtains if a singalonga Sound of Music makes it to my neck of the woods anytime soon…  They would work as an alternative to the parkrun hi-vis too I think , certainly distinctive and hard to miss.  By logical extension the RD would have to sport the full Maria outfit, but that’d be OK, it’s not all that different from the distinctive RD outfit sported here anyway, not so much a radical departure from the norm as a welcome upgrade surely?

Practically indistinguishable.  Could catch on.

Right, stop distracting me or we’ll never get this parkrun tale related and I expect you have places to go, people to see, things to do, a life to lead even if I don’t, so let’s crack on shall we.  Agreed?

So, waking up in the small hours, it was still dark.  I lay blinking into the abyss of gloom above me and was overcome with foreboding and existential angst.  This did seem a bit desperate, setting the alarm for stupid o-clock to go to some unknown part of the world blooming miles away, where you wouldn’t know anyone, all on your own, to run a parkrun beginning with ‘i’ to get one stage nearer completing the Alphabet Challenge just to get a coveted – but pointless – virtual (i.e. not even real) running challenges badge…. eventually.  What’s more, any purist will tell you, you can’t even really do a proper alphabet, because there is no parkrun beginning with ‘x’ anywhere in the world – (Cross Flatts parkrun and Exeter Riverside / Exmouth parkruns show willing but aren’t the same) and a ‘z’ requires an excursion to either Poland or Russia.  Russia one sounds more fun to be fair – which would be a great adventure, but is pretty unlikely to occur.  What was I thinking?  The ridiculousness of it all nigh on engulfed me.  Maybe a duvet day would be a better option?

Hmm, dear reader NO IT WOULDN’T.  I did feel low, but when I fired up my laptop to check for any last minute cancellation notices by Isabel Trail parkrun on Facebook, I saw a post from a fellow parkrun tourist, who was already on a train station heading off to their faraway parkrun destination. Yay!  I’m not alone, there is a whole parallel universe of parkrun tourists, emerging from duvets, heading off into the night to board planes, trains and automobiles to join their parkruns of choice.  What’s more, a helpful exchange followed.  She was off to Newcastle, but had already done Isabel Trail, and revealed a handy top tip – the start is not easy to find apparently, but she shared an infographic photo she’d taken on the day to assist me in locating it:

infographic find the start

Ah, ok, the phrase ‘none the wiser’ sprang to mind on seeing this, I’m not gonna lie, didn’t feel fantastically enlightened, looking like a rather indistinct hedge mostly concealed by fog, but hey ho, it’s the thought that counts.  More helpfully, she said that despite having a minor panic about locating the start when she arrived, she was eventually greeted by a pink unicorn.  I’m thinking a pink unicorn would be fairly noticeable.  Also, that is grand to hear, what greater incentive could there possibly be to head out the door and make your speedy way to a parkrun than knowing that it has it’s own resident unicorn.  Other animals are also available there too apparently.  Things were looking up!  There are all sorts of reasons for choosing a particular parkrun on any given day  – since discovering Ross-on-Wye parkrun has individualised signs like this:

ross on wye parkrun sign

it’s shot up my ‘must do’ list, but the prospect of seeing a unicorn, a real one, and a pink one at that, that would be motivation for many a runner surely?

I’ve lifted other comedic sign shots from the UK parkrun tourists page, cheers for sharing people, you make the world a better place!

So I was not alone, after all what is the point of a Saturday morning if not parkrun.  Let the parkrun adventure commence!

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I’d already done a bit of research which I shall share with you.  The Isabel Trail parkrun course blah de blah  on the official parkrun website describes it thus:

The course is an out and back route on a tarmac path along the Isabel Trail. The start and finish is at the end closest to Sainsbury’s

so not overly complicated to be fair.  And it looks like this:

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It seems even if I can’t find the start, I am exceedingly unlikely to get lost on the course, unless I inadvertently take off facing in the wrong direction and there is no marshal on hand to shoo me back the right way again.  That seems pretty unlikely. At least, I hope it’s unlikely.  Running indefinitely might be a boon for the likes of Ellie Pell – who not only has one of the best names ever but just won a 50k ultra trail marathon outright – exposing the race organisers assumption that it would be a male winner.  To be fair, history suggests that has historically been the default, but times there are achanging – women distance runners are coming into their own.  Not me though, I can cover distances, but not at any pace worth making a trophy for.  Point being, if it’s all the same to everyone else, I’d prefer to be facing the right way at the start.  Here’s Ellie though, dual wreathed.  Well done.  I reckon she ought to be wearing at least one of those on her head, but I’ve not been in possession of a similar set of laurels myself before, so what do I know.  Well done though, excellent!

Ellie Pell 50 k winner

There is a bit of a worry re loos, the nearest are in Sainsbury’s 0.5 miles away according to the blah de blah, but there is a lot of pay and display parking.  Forewarned is forearmed, the precautionary pee would happen, just a matter of timing.  It’d be fine, yay!

The dawn began peeking out, and I headed out.  It wasn’t at all a bad drive from Sheffield, though it was rather long, though not as long as the parkrunner I saw recently stating they’d flown to Tasmania, Australia, purely to do a parkrun, returning the same or next day.  I’d struggle to justify that, not least, because to go all that way and not spend time in that amazing place seems criminal.  Even so, I recognise the shifting sands I inhabit, for a long time I didn’t even try the other parkruns in Sheffield because I felt if you couldn’t get to your parkrun on your own two feet, that defeated the object.  I suppose in honesty, for community, it is good to stay local, but to rediscover your running mojo and see the big wide world with serial parkrun micro adventures, parkrun tourism or voluntourism is definitely a seductive option….

One thing about the drive though.  Roundabouts.  I swear I went round every roundabout in the known universe getting to Stafford.  It was insane, there seemed to be not just a proliferation of roundabouts, but of those silly-isles type roundabouts with interconnecting ones as if the road planner was trying to create their own version of crop circles of the Nazca Lines.  Crazy.  On the plus side, towards the end of my journey one had a great big bull on it and another a huge centaur. It wasn’t a real one sadly, but a teaser for the unicorn that might be awaiting me.  Bring it on!

Yeah, yeah, they weren’t the actual roundabout signs, but I was hardly going to lean out and take pictures of the signage whilst trying to negotiate them was I?  I may live life on the knife edge with my dare devil parkrun tourism, but I’m not completely stupid.

So I arrived, the satnav took me to the car which is absolutely mahooooooooooosive.  It is split into short and long stay parking, and sort of morphs into the Sainsbury’s car park.  You can get 2 hours free parking if you spend more than £5 in Sainsbury’s and present the voucher you get with your ticket.  It is also split into flooded and non-flooded sections, which made sense of the negative reviews I’d stumbled across when I was googling Doxey Road Car park.  I never knew people felt sufficiently passionately about car parks to post reviews for them.  It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again, parkrun tourism can be very educational and mind expanding.  I have included some photos of the car park below, in case you aren’t familiar with what a car park might look like.  Also, you can see the parking lines over the humungous mound that spanned two spaces, I would not have been impressed had they been the last remaining spaces, but I couldn’t really have a rant about that in a review post, on account of the fact there were about 500 other spaces to choose from.  I paid £3 for 4 hours parking, which was more than enough, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be staying for post parkrun coffee at this stage.

On the way in, I espied a ‘caution runners’ sign, to the left of the car park entrance, and at the end of a footpath.  This made locating the parkrun pretty easy to be fair.  However, first things first, precautionary pee.  Over a little footbridge and into Sainsbury’s where there is a cafe for post parkrun dining options, and, more importantly, loos for pre-parkrun precautionary pee purposes.  Phew, was in need of them.  As you’d expect these are clean and fit for purpose, but the ladies loos have a mysterious left over bit of space next to the cubicles, like they measured the slots wrong.  It was just odd.  If you go with a friend to this parkrun, you could hide in this space and surprise them either going in or coming out of their cubicle.  Coming out would be fairer, if you jumped them going in, they’d wet themselves.  Also, best to do this if you are female and travelling with a female fellow parkrunner, a male parkrunner secreting themselves in this hidey-hole and jumping out at unsuspecting female relief takers would have a great deal of explaining to do.  And you think forgetting your barcode is the worst thing that could happen at a parkrun….  I don’t know if there is a similar use of space in the gents, didn’t check. The cafe was conveniently sited, but didn’t look all that inviting.  Still, it’s people that make a place, not their environs, so don’t be deterred!

Now I could concentrate on finding the start.  A few other parkrunners had appeared, and although many were tourists, there were sufficient locals, or people who knew where they were going, that you could just follow them.  Head to the end of the trail at the far end of the Sainsbury’s car park, hopefully, they’ll have the sign up as well, but if not, there is an information board about the trail, so head for that, then just follow the path down a couple of hundred yards.  It’s nothing like half a mile, and there is only one path to take so you’d struggle to get lost I think.

I pootled down the track, following others, and soon saw the cheery gang of hi-viz heroes busy about their work.  The RD was sporting an umbrella hat at this point, but disappointingly had removed it by the time I arrived on the scene.  There were a fair few other eyecatching ‘I’ catching tourists already there, and greetings were being exchanged and parkrun tourism tales shared.  There was no unicorn.  That was disappointing, but the warmth of the welcome more than made up for it.

Despite rain on the way down, the sun was shining, the start all set up, the parkrun buzz building up nicely.  A few innovations here of which I particularly approved.  A little pop up tent for keeping bags etc not only safe but dry and free from being peed on by territory marking dogs – or indeed other parkrunners now I come to think of it, though I like to hope think such occurrences are relatively rare, even when lack of toilet facilities necessitates wild wee improvisation.  Bottom line, it was a jolly scene.

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Isn’t that a cheery sight to behold on a Saturday morning.  I don’t know if perhaps it’s partly because it’s a relatively narrow path, so you have no choice but to mingle with other runners, but this was a noticeably friendly parkrun.  Marshals and runners seemed to know each other and, more importantly, be genuinely pleased to see one another.  This also seemed to be a truly inclusive run.  A good cross section of participants of all shapes, sizes, ages with and without buggies, dogs, children etc.  The finish times for this event ranged from 17.26 to 1.06, which I think is excellent, as it shows it is welcoming to and catering for a continuum of parkrunners.  Lately I’ve been very conscious of being a minority bringing up the rear, and although it’s true you can’t be last because of the tail walker and all of that, it is nevertheless reassuring to be part of group of slow and steadies rather than feeling like you are conspicuously slow.  Well, that’s my subjective experience anyway.  It’s just nice to feel a bit invisible.

People gathered, I made some new friends and checked out the start area.  One of my new friends is awaiting her purple tee, and we were agreeing that it is our favourite colour of the milestone tees and turns out it is her favourite colour anyway – her wedding dress was purple even, though she expressed regret that she only got to wear it the once.  Not that she was hoping to remarry, just that by convention it isn’t worn on a regular basis.  I tried to persuade her to give it a parkrun outing, it would fit right in, and be a great stand in whilst waiting for her volunteering t-shirt to arrive.  She didn’t exactly promise to do so, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before she sees the wisdom of such a clothing choice.   If not parkrun, then there’s always the Polish wedding dress run in September each year.  Another good option.  Actually, that might have just been a one off – but why let the truth get in the way of a good story eh?

Can’t see any possible down side, and it would even be a good choice for hiding blackberry stains, so a great option once they come properly into season.  Did I mention the blackberries?

There were indeed plenty of blackberries along the way – in a few weeks’ time you could gorge yourself with them along pretty much the whole route I reckon, powered by foraging.  Nice.  Kinder on the gut than sports gels too.

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It really couldn’t be much more straightforward, you do just literally run out and back along a flat, well surfaced path.  I was a bit worried that the path seemed very narrow, and I wasn’t sure how that would work with other trail users and faster runners coming back the other way.  Still, you have to have faith in the event team, I’m guessing they’d thought of this and done it a fair few times before so not my worry.  Also, I was distracted by the fine backside of the designated tail walker.

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I love the fact that you can ask to photograph someone’s bottom at parkrun and it’s considered not only acceptable but completely understandable.  Other parkrun bottoms have also been captured elsewhere this weekend, and quite right too.  Check out these offering from Chipping Sodbury parkrun apparently they have a selection from which to choose a tail for the day.  Yes, they do wear them all day, not just for the parkrun.  Well, I like to believe so anyway.

I met some voluntourists from Newcastle, at Graves junior parkrun the other day, well today actually, just got back from volunteering there and so even though I’m writing as if this is Saturday, it’s actually tomorrow Sunday now, so I’ve sort of been travelling in time.  Lord only knows when you stumbled across this.  Could be decades later for all I know, that would be really confusing.  I like to think parkrun will now exist in perpetuity so at no point will this be echoing around in cyber space and future generations are pondering ‘what is this strange parkrun phenomenon of which she speaks?’ that would be too depressing….  Anyway, hope that’s not overly confusing.  Bottom line point is, they told me that at their local junior parkrun they also have a selection of tails for the tail walker, and if a junior runner has a birthday on junior parkrun day, they get to select which tail is to be donned.  How brilliant is that?  That’s right, very brilliant indeed!  Now that’s class, right there, may it catch on everywhere.  They even have a dinosaur tail.   That would be really good…  If you can’t have an actual dinosaur, which would clearly be better still, and have the added bonus of motivating everyone to achieve a pb potentially too!  Not that everyone is necessarily after a pb, just being part of it is enough.  Having said that, I have a feeling even I’d put a wiggle on if a dinosaur was chasing me down.

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Anyway, got chatting with another runner about the it being ok to ask to photograph someone’s bottom at parkrun and how much fun the ‘anything goes’ ethos is.  It was pointed out there are other occasions when you can dress up as animals, and have fun too, but they aren’t necessarily quite so family friendly, and it may not be appropriate to take photos either.

Back to Isabel Trail parkrun.  People gathered and chatted and milled and chilled.  After a bit a call went up and a merry cohort trustingly followed the hi-viz wearers round the back of a hedge for the first timers briefing.  Amazingly, there seemed to be no first everers so the briefing was pretty brief.   There was however a focus on where all the tourists had come from, the RD acted as minute taker and the locations just kept on coming, she was going to need a bigger sheet of paper for sure – to coin a phrase!  That reminds me, have you seen the 30 second parody bunny movies?  You could just invest 30 seconds of your life on the Jaws one and take it from there.  Good in parts it’s true, but you are missing out if you don’t have a bit of a rummage around at the options available.  Your call.

were-gonna-need-a-bigger-boat

People had come from South Wales, St Helens, Sheffield (erm, well that was me) all over.  The RD dutifully scribed all she could fit on her paper, so everyone could have a shout out at the RD briefing later.  Nice touch.  I presume she had shorthand.

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The briefing was to the point.  A plea not to be a token magpie, and a warning that, although the trail is flat, there is one eroded patch of path which, despite being surrounded by cones, every week someone manages to fall into, we were warned not to be that person!

Back to the path. …. Did I really see a volunteer come striding back with a shovel?  What on earth?

And a few minutes later, all down towards the start, where the RD fought her way through to the starting point clutching a ladder and megaphone, to give the briefing.  Now, I had seen a proliferation of signs earlier imploring for quiet during the run briefing, including some that looked like paddles with which I would have cheerfully whacked the miscreants who talked loudly throughout the whole thing.  I couldn’t see them being deployed though, and it would have been good if they had been.  I really struggled to hear anything, which is a shame, as it was a nice welcome and run briefing.  I vaguely caught milestones being recognised and even birthdays.  It had a lovely community feel.  It enrages me that people won’t just shut up for this, it’s part of what builds a parkrun community, celebrating each others achievements, and noting who has a special day, as well as of course thanking volunteers.  I probably mind disproportionately about this to be fair, but this was such a welcoming parkrun, and it isn’t too much to ask for a bit of quiet during the briefing.  It was like people shouting over the sound system in a noisy pub round me at times.  I felt like as it wasn’t my parkrun so not my role to shush them, but I passively aggressively steamed inwardly, that would show them!  Rant over.  Until next time.

Still, I joined in the clapping when it seemed appropriate, and looking around, it was a jolly and colourful crowd.  And anyway, it was parkrun day, can’t be too pissed off for too long today!  I wonder how the shopping trolley was acquired, quite a boon for moving of stuff.  I’m sure it was legitimate, but even if not, there were alas, plenty for the taking dumped in the watercourses round and about the superstore.  Sad but true.  If they have retrieved it from being dumped, that would be a great public service, though I rather suspect it was willingly offered up by Sainsbury’s.

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So then, after a bit, a surge forwards.  Well, not too much of a surge, as I’d slotted myself in quite far to the back, and it took a while to get going.  I don’t mind that at all, in fact, I find it reassuring as it takes the pressure off and I’m never going for a time, just a positive experience.  However, I guess if you were a faster runner it would make sense to put yourself towards the front if you could.  It was a little bit congested going over the line, but all very good natured, and surprisingly quickly, the field spread out and it really didn’t seem to be an issue with giving way to other park users or taking over the path.

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I dodged to the side now and again to take some shots along the way.  I was trying to get one of every marshal I passed as well, which was made easier by dint of the fact you pass them all at least twice – on the way out, and then again on the way back! Who’d have guessed it.

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Although it’s ‘just’ a trail, the route was surprisingly diverse.  There were wooded bits, and you get to run under a couple of bridges which is a fun thing to do, and over a couple of bridges which is also a fun thing to do.  You can interact with clapping, smiling marshals – they didn’t do a great deal of directional pointing, but to be fair, there wasn’t all that much call for that.  You pass by a cemetery, which I suppose it handy for disposing of runners that are spent before they make it back.  Was that what the shovel was for earlier I wonder?

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They start ’em young as marshals here.  A pint-sized marshal was on hand to dish out high fives to passing runners.  Excellent work there!

And then soon enough, the front runners were flying back, homeward bound.  There was plenty of room for all, and it was fun watching them sprint towards the finish area. One thing which was really nice to see, was the number of returning runners, high fiving their friends who were still heading out.  Like I said, this was a friendly parkrun, I got the impression people knew each other, and were open to meeting new people too.

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The route is a bit unexpected in that you pass some open water bits that feel like full on countryside / rural idyll, and then other parts have a distinctly urban feel, complete with car grave yard – perhaps to complement the human one, and graffiti/ street art/ vandalism, depending on your point of view.  Ever felt like someone was watching you on a run…

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Each marshal and marshal spot seemed to have a particular USP, whether that was due to dress, responsibility, age, high-five deliveries or marshal buddying up system.  This one was responsible for raising bump awareness over a bridge.  It worked, out and back, nice chalkery.

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And don’t these two make a lovely pair?  I reckon they clapped the entire time, even when no runners were in sight.  That’s dedication for you.  Having said that, they have ceased applauding in this photo, but that’s only because I distracted them and put them off their game.  Sorry about that.  As you were.

The marshals along the way were really outstanding.  For different reasons I noticed a couple offering non-judgemental assistance to runners in need.  I’d have no hesitation in recommending this particular parkrun to a newbie runner, it was chilled and supportive and very good natured.  Just seemed a happy place, and we all need them don’t we.  Also, gotta love a parkrun where someone is donning a pink tutu.  Why wouldn’t you?  A pink tutu rocks at any occasion. Fact.  Try it for yourself if you are sceptical.  Go on, rock up at work tomorrow in one (unless it isn’t a working day for you tomorrow, that would be weird) they aren’t that hard to get hold of, or you could make you own out of a repurposed net curtain stained with ribena.  Someone, somewhere near you could provide them I’m sure.  You only have to reach out and ask for help sometimes, and friends and neighbours can make it so.

After a bit, well, more specifically, at the half way point, there is some fine cone positioning and a U-turn with a smiley marshal to ensure you don’t shoot on by and run to infinity and beyond.   Though strictly speaking, you can’t run to infinity in this direction, as this is pretty much the end of the trail and near to a handily positioned ambulance HQ if the overheard conversation between other runners near to me is anything to go by.  It must be a tight turn if you are going at speed, but if you are stopping periodically to line up photos, not so much of an issue.

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All good.  All smiley.  All going according to plan.  I trotted off again, and after a bit got to wave at the tail walkers coming up the path to the half way point in the other direction.  Always time for a high five and a cheery wave.

So homeward bound.  It always seems quicker on the return leg.  I spotted the big coned off hole this time, which I’d somehow missed on the way out, don’t know how.  At least I didn’t ankle turn into it, I wonder who did?  It did look a bit like a newly dug grave though.  Was that what the shovel was for?  Maybe they take talking through the run briefing more seriously than I realised.   Good for them!

Homeward bound, and there was a rather cute dog, with its walker still attached, watching from the side lines, desperate for someone, just one person, to stop and say hello.  I decided to be that one person, it was very pleased indeed that I did so.  It made me feel special in a good way, not something that happens to me all that often at a parkrun.  I must be going soft in my old age, I’m not really a doggy person, but this one seemed to be so genuinely delighted to meet me it melted my icy heart just a little bit…

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Past the last couple of marshals, still all in good voice and good cheer:

Then, there it is, the finish funnel, and the happy scene of welcoming smiling faces to cheer you in.  I wanted to take a picture, and paused to do so, securing  photo of someone photographing me as they did likewise.  We will probably now be caught in this loop for all eternity.  As they seemed up for it, I even did a ‘one, two three JUMP!’ for them, to secure an action shot, but they didn’t twig initially, and so we had to do it all again, when they obliged brilliantly.  A finely choreographed team I’d say.  Wish my camera had been quick enough to properly capture it.

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I wonder why I never seem to get any faster at parkrun.  Honestly, it’s a mystery.

That was me done, through the finish funnel, token secured, token scanned.  Marshals photographed, next few finishers cheered in, busy, busy busy!

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Done and dusted.  Just the little matter of mutual photographing with fellow tourists to get that all important ‘I’ve been framed’ Isabel Trail parkrun shot.

And that was that.  Time to go home.

I decided not to hang around for coffee in Sainsbury’s in favour of heading home, but I get the impression you’d be warmly welcomed if you chose to do so.

Overall then, have to say I was impressed by Isabel Trail parkrun.  I only really went there because of the ‘I’ to be honest.  Shallow, but true.  But it was such a friendly, supportive and welcoming team.  I think if it was your local you’d end up with over a hundred new best friends pretty fast.  They are rightly proud of their run, and it seems a well run event with a healthy pool of volunteers and a genuinely inclusive ethos.  I can’t promise you a unicorn, as that wasn’t my experience, but you do get a centaur en route if you come through Uttoxeter, and with all those mini roundabouts to contend with too, it’s really quite an adventure.  I wish Uttoxeter would start a parkrun, no idea how I’m ever going to get within touching distance of a ‘U’…

centaur uttoxeter

Why not add it to you to-do list, you will be welcomed, and if you are a speed merchant it has the potential to be a pb course as it’s flat and straight, but welcoming of the slow and steadies too.  Definitely a parkrun in the Goldilocks zone, and that’s grand!

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Hmm, maybe we should do an update of this poster for parkrun purposes, the ‘just right’ parkrun?  Oh wait, we have, here it is:

Isabel trail parkrunners in the goldilocks zone

See:  lovely, and practically perfect in every way!

Thank you Isabel Trial parkrunners, volunteer team, participants, spectators and all you were fab.  Hope to grace your trails again someday, but maybe I’ll see some of you out and about on the parkrun tourism trail in the meantime.  Thanks for sharing the parkrun love.  Only one teeny weeny, but heartfelt bit of I hope constructive criticism.  I really would have liked to have seen the pink unicorn, but then again, maybe it adds to the mystery and folklore of the run.  It has been espied in the past, and it may yet be glimpsed again, but only fleetingly, out of the corner of your eye, if you turn to stare, it will be gone again.  Fair enough, I understand, just another bit of parkrun magic mystery.

pink unicorn

🙂

So there you go, that’s that for another parkrun week.  Sigh.  If you are really desperate  you can relive some more 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.

Incidentally, can we have a random shout out for Elliot Line?  He just does great stuff week in, week out, and I don’t think I’ve given him any recognition for a while.  Would that be alright, to give him a shout out?  Oh we can, that’s good. He produces these ace parkrun stats, week in, week out.  I thought I had zero interest in statistics, but guess what?  Turns out I do, these are fun, check out the parkrun stats for this week by way of a taster, go on, go on, you know you want to!

And finally, if you are feeling like a can crushed under the jackboot of all the current inhumanity evident in the world, these might raise a wry smile.

You’re welcome.

 

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

parkrun perfection at Victoria Dock parkrun, a victorious parkrun debut, a V nabbed and everyone’s flying high!

Digested read: went to Victoria Dock parkrun for some parkrun tourism, nabbed a V and got to accompany a friend on her parkrun debut.  Hurrah!

previously known as

Undigested read:

Oh so much to share.  Brace yourselves people, could be a long voyage, though not a rocky one, apart from some early turbulence, but we’ll come to that in a bit.  I’m knot sure how long I’ll be able to keep going with the nautical references, it’s inevitable I’ll dry up schooner or later, but remember dear reader it’s the thought that counts.

Sooooooooooooooooooooooo excited!  I was heading to London for the weekend anyway, to assist a friend and my personal favourite EWFM* with the celebrating of her birthday. She has thoughtfully recently relocated to London, and, even more fortuitously if not proactively thoughtfully, found accommodation for which the nearest parkrun (as the crow flies) is Victoria Docks parkrun. BIG excitement.   What is most excellent about all this, is that this particular friend, whilst she has many and manifest redeeming qualities, she had not previously taken part in parkrun.  I realise increasingly, that friends, or indeed just people I know who aren’t parkrunners in some way, shape or form are quite a rarity.  I tend to live in a parkrun echo chamber, where people are either already converts to the faith, or just haven’t yet transitioned. This particular friendship however, predates my own encounter with parkrun so she is one of very few in my social circle who is allowed not to actively participate in it – I think friends should never require their friends to change or do new things unless they want to, each to their own etc – although inevitably she has been subject to my anecdotes about parkrun participation on quite possibly more than one occasion… and has been required to hang around for me whilst I was parkrunning when the situation necessitated this. That is, it was Saturday morning, and I was doing parkrun before we were going to do whatever it was we were going to go on to do.  All of this makes sense to parkrunner people, though possibly not to those as yet uninitiated into the joys of parkrun. There are some.  Hard to imagine I know.

Anyways, the point is, when we were planning my sojourn to the giddy delights of our great capital city, my only request was that I’d be allowed to do parkrun at Victoria Dock parkrun because, ‘it’s a V, and I really want to do a V‘.  Well, dear reader, not only did she agree to this, but also (drum roll) a couple of days before D-Day (or should that be V-Day?) messaged me a picture of her VERY OWN parkrun (allonewordalllowercase remember) BARCODE.  Yep, you’ve guessed it, she’d been following a C25K programme on the quiet in anticipation of joining me for parkrun by way of climax.   The big reveal, was sending me a picture of her own actual one.   OH MY GOD!  I was so excited. Best thing ever.  It would be her parkrun debut, and hopefully the start of a new shared life of parkrun playfulness together which will be massively enhanced by her having a London pad with proximity to a veritable treasure trove of parkrun possibilities.  parkrun has been so fantastic for me, the thought of being with someone as they took the plunge and had their parkrun debut was positively intoxicating.  Once she comes through that finish funnel at parkrun for the first time, her life will be changed forever.  Her Saturdays will be reconfigured, things will never be the same again.

never the same

Things would never be the same again?  Gulp.

Suddenly, I felt the burden of responsibility weighing heavily upon me.  You only get one shot at a maiden voyage.  I wanted it all to be perfect for her.  I wanted her to feel the parkrun love as much as I do.  What if Victoria Dock parkrun is the one parkrun in the whole wild world that is off with newbies and laughs and points at slower runners in between ignoring them.  I know, I know ‘ye of little faith‘.  I wonder if this is what it is like to be a new parent, feeling suddenly overwhelmed with how fragile a newborn seems to be and how it is up to you how they experience the brave new world which they have freshly entered?  I just really, really wanted her to ‘get it’ and cross over to the other side without regret.  If it was awful we wouldn’t be able to ‘undo’ this experience, things would never be the same again.  Tumble weed being blown about between us where before there was always chatting and hilarity.  Too terrible to contemplate.  I shuddered at the very thought.  I mean some things like broken noses, pets and EWFMs are for life not just for Christmas, but even so….

I was worried, not gonna lie, especially when I looked at the results and clocked it was quite a speedy one, with relatively small numbers so not many slow and steadies coming in at the back.  I also know next to nothing about his part of London, and therefore didn’t know how it’d be for practicalities like loos and leaving stuff, let alone for friendliness and scenery.  Ah well, it would be   a V, and parkrun always delivers, sometimes you just have to trust that everything will be alright in the end, and if it isn’t all right then it isn’t the end.  Just so.

Checking out the Victoria Docks parkrun Facebook page didn’t reveal a huge amount.  It’s clearly monitored but not super active, though top marks for team work and this offering on their 50th run, that’s class, right there, good job parkrun celebrants, it’s not easy doing those sort of shots.  I wonder how they got the shot, from a drone, from a very tall person, or from dangling from a cable car over head. Oh, have I not mentioned the cable cars yet – oh my you are in for a treat dear reader – they are magnificent!

victoria dock parkrun at fifty

So, did some research, according the the Victoria Docks parkrun website blah de blah the course is:

Course Description
The course is a horseshoe around Victoria Dock, entirely on the dockside path. Starting near the community hut in the Crystal gardens, proceed along the north side of Victoria Dock. When you reach the far (east) end of the ExCeL, turn around. Come back past the Crystal, then along the south side of the dock to the SS Robin. Turn around here and head back to the Crystal to finish.

hmm, not sounding overly exciting.  I mean dockside paths sounds a bit ropy… oh well, and the course looks like this:

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Also, hmmm, not the most inspiring, but you know what, it’d still be a V.

How to get there.  I had wanted to do something spectacular in honour of the first ever parkrun experience.  You know, sort out transport like ‘young people’ do to get to their proms which wasn’t even a thing for my generation.  Maybe not a stretch limo, too carsick inducing, but were it not for my awareness of the negative environmental impact of sorting out an arrival by helicopter that would have been good.  I understand it is traditional to have some sort of high impact happening to mark a participants first parkrun. Well it ought to be a thing.  Worry not dear reader, a bit of research, and things were looking up!  Literally, not just figuratively.  The best way to get from her house, to the Victoria Dock parkrun rendezvous point was to fly there!

I know!  A first for me too!  Not the city airport route, though I daresay some could, but by Emirates Air Line ….

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Yay!  We’d get to go on a cable car.  Hooray!  What could possibly go wrong.

OK, maybe not quite the same as an actual aeroplane, but just as much fun and less having to hate yourself for contributing to climate change and acceleration the rate of  extinction of life.  I mean, we won’t be taking it to quite the same level as Greta Thunberg in terms of forgoing home comforts for the greater good I know, but showing willing eh?

greta thunberg guardian

Everybody wins.  Except at parkrun, because it’s a run not a race, although all parkrunners are winners just for being there, though you don’t get a trophy as such every time, just the warm glow of satisfaction for being part of something so awesome –  so that’s a bit of a mind knot to be untangled.  I’ll leave it with you to ponder and get back to me…

So we’d get to fly in, and I’d get to be there alongside her at her first ever ever parkrun.  Like being there at the big bang, the starting point of the creation of the known universe.  It was going to be epic!

The day dawned.  Windy.  Windy in a blustery sort of way and wet too. Wet in a ‘we may escape it or we may be drenched’ sort of way.  Not enough to deter true parkrunners, but enough to wonder if the cable car would still run.  I hadn’t entirely thought through this aspect, as I was too excited by triple whammy of new parkrun, a V and my bestie having her parkrun debut.  We had an easy bus ride to the base of the cable car, and although it’s expensive to catch £6 or something crazy like that, because you can pay by contactless it feels like it’s free until you see your bank balance later on.  The cable cars move continuously, so you can recreate the giddy excitement of the first people to step onto those paternoster lifts by clambering on board whilst it is still in motion!  I’m actually quite blasse about extreme sports having both travelled in the University of Sheffield paternoster lift and indeed clambered over the Millenium Dome – though that was after not prior to Victoria Docks parkrun adventures, so I was quietly confident about taking on the cable car challenge!

paternoster lift

You do get sealed in before it heads off across the water, giving you a sense of being entombed just before the wind picks up and an error message appears on the computer screen in you cable car suggesting you are now in the opening sequence of some sort of London based disaster flick.  FYI you may find out at this point that your travel and  parkrun companion isn’t over enamoured of heights and turbulence in cable cars which swing about really quite a lot in gusty winds.  You may also find out at about this point that you aren’t over keen on these things either!  However, none of these momentary flickers of self-awareness will derail you sufficiently that you forget to take the obligatory over-posed slightly manic selfie shots during the voyage.