Posts Tagged With: Rustling Runners

Fake it to make it – a record breaking performance at parkrun!

Soooooooo, not sure if I’m exactly back in the zone, but I was back at my home turf of Sheffield Hallam parkrun today.  I have decided to embrace the ‘fake it to make it’ philosophy.  Wrist parkrun barcode donned, fixed grin in place, road shoes heaved on (hybrids still soaked from yesterday) and off out the door with a promptness that might have been misconstrued as enthusiasm unless you were in the know about the erratic nature of my running mojo at present….  I think though that this approach might actually work.  Look a photo of me running and smiling simultaneously!  A first in my running career (I use the term loosely), Mr Carman, I salute you and your skills with the tools of your trade…

Smiling at parkrun faking it and making it

Pleasingly, as I did my last-minute through the window weather check, a rainbow arching across the sky suggested it might not be just torrential rain all morning, and in fact so it turned out.   It was a pale and tastefully under-stated rainbow it is true, but a rainbow nevertheless, and you’ve got to appreciate a rainbow, just as surely as you have to always stop and admire a duck (or is that last one just me?) A bit of light drizzle maybe, but no actual soaking.  If anything a tad on the warm side for running I’d say.

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I was ‘punctual’ rather than early today. There was a good swarm of fluorescent jackets as people various had turned out in response to the last-minute Facebook appeal for more volunteers.   People are good like that, they came even though you are only guaranteed a hi-viz jacket and have to bring your own hat.  Some I think are seduced by the power rush you get from having a clipboard, but that’s a responsibility that has to be earned, it’s not a given.  Anyway, thanks volunteers one and all for turning out.

volunteer attire

So, I arrived at the start, dumped my bag by the equipment store wheelie bins and joined the scrum of the start funnel.  Pretty good turn out this week 466, with, what seemed to me, to be an exceptionally large first timer’s briefing.  It seems like a while since I’ve been at Hallam.  I’ve been away, it’s been cancelled a couple of times, I’ve been away, anyway, upshot is it was first time in ages that I’d seen a fair few of my running comrades.  Some were familiar faces others less so.  My first sighting was of a Monday Mobster who disappointingly was not wearing her new green hoody. They have just invested in some rather fine kit.  It was she, not I who referenced the possibility that it made them look like some gnome homage collective, I hesitated a bit too long before denying this, before adding that the gnome referencing is not necessarily a bad thing, and anyway it was more echo of gnome than re-enactment of the same.  They do need to avoid wearing red conical hats with these  though, that would be very high risk.  Oh,  and also avoid fake beards, as long as they follow those simple precautions I think they’ll be OK.

I asked hopefully of the Monday mobster if she was doing Whirlow tomorrow, she wasn’t.  She also offered up the returning comment ‘oh that’s the one that starts up hill isn’t it‘.  Seeing my crestfallen face, she said ‘well, think of it as undulating‘.  I appreciated the sentiment, but she didn’t sound very convincing.  It was worse when she commented that other people doing it would most probably be tapering today, so not likely to see them.  I weakly said my piece about as I only run at one speed anyway, tapering seems a bit pointless for me – though I would be taking it easy on the way round today.  I was beginning to wonder if it was such a good idea though.  I shared my angst.  ‘Oh don’t worry‘ she enthused, encouragingly ‘at least  you’ve made it to the start line, that’s better than many of us, good for you!’ Well, you know that scary phrase ‘tempting fate’?  Well, I suddenly had visions of doing a faceplant in Endcliffe Park and being trampled by the parkrunners behind them – my only consolation being that the speed I go at, there wouldn’t be all that many trailing in my wake to squash me in  a stampede of continuing runners!

Amongst the familiar faces was an unfamiliar but recognisable one.  A former work colleague, I didn’t know he was a parkrunner.  I’d seen him at Endcliffe once before, could be as long as two years ago, he was supporting a friend who was visiting and had wanted to do parkrun.  Turns out that a year or so later this colleague had a go at parkrun himself, and now, some two years on, he was doing his second one.  Still, good to build up slowly when you try new sports isn’t it, don’t want to risk injury eh?

Next in the line-up was regal Smiley, complete with speedy child. They were both wearing waterproof jackets.  Lightweight ones granted, but jackets none the less.  I explained to them about it being a rookie error to wear these, and that it would slow them down as they over-heated.  I’m sure patronising more experienced runners in the start funnel of parkrun is a great way to build popularity and impress other participants with your superior knowledge.  Only joking, obviously.  The Top Tip here really is that by alienating other stronger runners early on, you can end up improving your own performance.  Mortified by your own mistake, you will subsequently be too embarrassed to make eye contact with them, so put on a massive turn of speed in order to avoid them.  Voila, new PB!  Equally, you are doing them a great service too. Likewise they wont want to acknowledge you in public again either, so will access a similarly previously undiscovered gear that can drive them on to running excellence.  Everybody wins!  Yay!

regal smiley and offspring

Starting off happened a bit suddenly, but we were slow across the start line.  Lots of friendly marshals in evidence today.  Even the dog-poo bin had its own allocated staff member to stand by it this saturday.  I found myself running for a bit with Regal Smiley, I couldn’t help but note she had followed my expert advice and her jacket was removed and squished up into a fabric ball,  As we ran on she pointed out another runner who seemed glued to his phone and moving somewhat more erratically in his path through other runners than might be reasonably accounted for by the distribution of people.  ‘He’s doing Pokemon go!‘  I wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or horrified, I hardly know what it is, and have commented previously on the seeming similarity between bladder control product advertising and one of the Pokemon figures:

There followed some discussion about the relative merits of the game, which concluded with Regal Smiley saying she wouldn’t particularly encourage her children to do it before she squished her jacket into a makeshift ball – and with NOT A HINT OF IRONY nor ANY AWARENESS OF HER OWN HYPOCRISY – lobbed it at George, our very own parkrun photographer!  If that wasn’t her own reality version Pokemon go I don’t know what is.   I was shocked, not least, because I’m not sufficiently versed in the various pokemon characters to know which one George was.  Perhaps wiser readers/ parkrunners/ pokemon go players can enlighten me.  For now I’m going with magneton, because the picture looks like it might be some sort of camera thingy, but as I don’t play I apologise in advance if that’s an offensive assumption.  You can take your pick from this chart if you prefer:

pokemon-go-charactersilhouettes-complete

Anyway, this whole episode left me aghast.  I was particularly worried as Regal Smiley and our official parkrun photographer were to be hosting an annual BBQ event in the afternoon.  To be honest, I didn’t expect them to be at parkrun today as I thought they’d be at home grating cabbages for coleslaw or shooting squirrels for the BBQ from their back window or whatever.  If this display of target practice was anything to go by, then there was an element of real jeopardy re whether domestic relations would be maintained with sufficient decorum for the event to go ahead at all.  Oh well, I probably get things out of proportion.  To be honest, neither party behaved as if the lobbing of soft spherical items at one another was in any way out of the ordinary, so I think their social event was probably going to be OK, but you never can tell can you.  Each to their own though, each to their own…  Regal Smiley is a very good shot though, and our parkrun photographer had to take evasive action as the projectile arced towards him.  Bet he was really proud of her hand eye co-ordination display there and not in fear of his life at all.

So going round, I saw one Smiley Vest, donned by a Rustling Runners Founder – there were other Smileys, only one in the kit. She is still hard in training for a triathlon overseas in a couple of months time, and breezed by.  I was particularly slow and steady today, and so was lapped by faster runners quite early on.  I found myself alongside another familiar face as I approached the end of the first lap. We contemplated staging a sprint finish together, to make it look like we’d both finished our second lap and were fighting out for the finish line.  It was a nice thought, but the problem with being at your home parkrun is that it wasn’t very likely we’d get away with it.  Still, it was nice to have a chat for a bit, and compare head injury anecdotes as we romped round.  I’m not sure how we got onto mountain rescue, but she it seems had been rescued by helicopter on a skiing holiday after banging her head in a skiing accident.  Apart from the unfortunate necessary pre-requisite of having to badly hurt yourself half way up an inaccessible mountain somewhere, the rescue sounded very James Bond. She was suspended on a wire beneath the helicopter apparently, as it couldn’t land in the narrow path she was in.  How exciting!  Her postcards home would have been rather more interesting than the usual ‘wish you were here‘ level that year!

She too is running tomorrow, but doing the 12.12.  (I wonder what the significance of 12.12 is, it’s such a weird distance).  She was also a bit apprehensive, more about the navigation than anything else.  Once again, I was able to offer up unsolicited advice to help her back on track.  ‘If you get lost, you might end up doing a short-cut‘ I helpfully pointed out.  I was quite proud of my new upbeat positivity in relation to running. This ‘fake it to make it’ strategy might just work!  Thinking about it, it was shortly after this she broke with me as she wanted to stay with her son as it was his first parkrun.  I nodded with understanding, and glanced behind me expecting to see some infant struggling.  Instead there was a towering male, who looked far too old to be her son (or she looked too young to have a  son that age), it’s funny the assumptions you made.  For the record, at the post-parkrun breakfast, I learned of another running tapering term.  Strong fast runners, in order to discipline themself to run more slowly prior to an event, will take with them a human anchor to parkrun the day before.  Hence their strava updates are full of comments along the lines of ‘parkrun prior to ultra with son/ wife anchor’.  It made more sense when explained to me.  I thought they meant sun anchor, which is a harder and more mystical idea to grasp you’ll agree.

Also in the flood of runners passing me was my running buddy who has let me use her Whirlow place.  I felt a bit guilty, if she was doing parkrun faster than me anyway, maybe she should be doing the 10k herself after all.  She was most generous though, saying definitely not up to it.  She nearly wavered a bit when I suggested we split it doing 5k each, and my cheetah buddy (currently injured but volunteering with a clipboard today) suggested the ultimate team effort would be to offer a piggy back.  I nearly choked, and countered that this contribution to our negotiations was at best unhelpful.  She disputed this, pointing out that au contraire, a piggy back would be enormously helpful when trying to run up a steep fell side for example, and I was somewhat flawed. She has a point.  Definitely a point….  I’m still not up for giving a piggy back though – wheelbarrow race, well possibly.  Wait and see.

poorly smiley on good running form

Second loop nailed, I did a minor sprint finish towards the end of the pack.  I caught up with chats with a few people, needed to touch base with the runderwear ambassador for a start – her running seems to be on form at the moment, definitely no chaffing interrupting running action today!  And then there were waves of recognition to other random runners as is always the way.

runderwear ambassador in action - no chaffing here

Quite a few milestones today – I found out too late one runner had completed his 200th run today, that’s pretty darned impressive.  He must have been very fast because  I didn’t see anyone running with 200 balloons attached to them as is traditional.  I hope he went on to eat much cake and then rest on a huge pile of laurels with a smug expression for a bit.  That’s what I’ll do if and when I ever achieve that degree of parkrun awesomeness.  I then went to the end of the park to cheer the absolute final finishers home round the final loop.  Some parent and child pairings I think, who were pleased to have me whooping them from the side-lines, well appeared to be anyway!  It was fun, I enjoy that bit.  It is really inspirational.  There was a look of steely determination on the young runners as they completed their final few hundred metres to the finish.  I must be hormonal, I felt quite tearful watching them, in a good way, but slightly disproportionate.  The same unsettling effect can happen with certain TV commercials if you are particularly unlucky (John Lewis Christmas one or Andrex puppies for example) that emotional manipulation I resent, this slight lump in my throat felt rather more justified and wholesome.  Yay, go them!  Parkrun is great isn’t it, awesome runners, free to enjoy it in whatever way they will.

So that was that, parkrun done, slightly worried I’ll be stiff tomorrow, but at least I didn’t do a face plant and it was good for morale to see some friendly faces again.  Back to Jonty’s for first post parkrun breakfast in ages (not too busy today, friendly service, but those portion sizes keep diminishing) then home for copious cups of tea and strategy planning for tomorrow. Well, maybe not strategy planning if I’m completely honest, but I did put my running kit through the wash which is essential pre-race preparation I’m sure. I may not be speedy going over those hills tomorrow, but at least I shall have aroma de Bold all-in-one, rather than aroma de left-it-too-late-to-wash-my-kit.  You have to do your bit for the public good when out and about running I feel, especially if you are intending to wear your running club vest as a torso compression garment for the duration.  You have to think of the community you are representing at times like these!

Oh hang on, you are probably wondering about the ‘record-breaking’ reference earlier on.  I know, I’m such a tease!  Well, I have exaggerated a little in my heading, but not overly much.  Today was a near record breaking performance for me at parkrun.  It was, dear reader, wait for it, my third most worst performance at parkrun.  That’s a bronze in Olympian terminology for personal worst run since I started.  Surely worth a mention!  I think that conclusively prove you can fake it to make it, just there is not absolutely certainty in which direction in relation to ‘making it’ (towards or away from) that the pendulum will swing.  Still, that’s part of what makes running interesting surely?  The element of the unknown.  Anyway, as we all know, I was tapering, so naturally I could have run faster had I wanted to, I just didn’t feel the urge…  Even without trying, I still got my bronze.  I can do anything!  Hey look – the image on the bronze medal even looks like me, it must have been fate that got me to this point!

The Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medal is pictured during the medal launching ceremony in Rio de Janeiro

The Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medal is pictured during the medal launching ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 14, 2016. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

 

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

Trust me. Who you gonna call? Trail busters!

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I think I know now, why it is that superheros and heroines wear always their knickers over their tights.  It’s taken me over fifty years to work it out, but I’m pretty confident I’ve got it sussed.  I mean it can’t be just a coincidence that the first time I get a number directly associated with an emergency response reflex I get chafing.  The irony is, that only yesterday I was talking to Fell Flying Smiley who related a tale about a fellow fell runner who’d suffered a chafing related wardrobe malfunction mid race.  She’d ended up accosting a marshal for help in getting her knickers off up in the hills somewhere.  (No, not like that – lawks a lordy you have a smutty mind!).  She commandeered some scissors, and with a bit of a discrete snip on either side of her hips and the offending knickers were whisked away with the skill of a stripping pro aided by cannily situated velcro (apparently).  I never asked what she did with the offending briefs now I come to think of it.  I don’t know if she had to finish the race running clutching them in her hand; brazened it out with the knickers relocated to her head as an improvised buff; or sheepishly passed them to the aforementioned marshal for safe-keeping.  I do know that she continued the race commando.  Anyway, point is, I was a bit mystified.  Who suffers from knicker chafing on a run I pondered?  My situation today was a bit different, I made it round the 10km of the  Longshaw trails without any need to recourse to direct action at the time.  In fact I thought I was just fine and dandy and tickety-boo during the Trust10 event, and even afterwards, scoffing my scone, I was in oblivious ignorance of what was lay beneath (so to speak) but by the time I got home.  Ouch.  Not a problem I’ve had before, could slight misalignment between my leggings and pants be at the bottom of it perhaps?  Well, I suppose that’s technically possible.  However, very much more likely I think you’ll find, was that this was more accurately attributed to being a direct consequence of my run number for today.  It seems that you cannot be a superhero/heroine, nor indeed masquerade as a member of the emergency services, and expect to escape a chafing injury, unless you correctly position your pants on the OUTSIDE.  Learn from me dear reader, learn from me.  The only other possible explanation is bad karma (devious appropriation of a run number using underhand means)  but more of that later.  What I do know, is that if I get this number again, my pants are going over the top!  Though this is a pretty unlikely scenario, so no cause for public panic just yet….  Anyway, below you can see the evidence for your own eyes (not of the chafing) but of my number.    In the picture I may look about 12 years old, but I am also looking pretty self-satisfied because of my BRILLIANT run number 999.  Yay!

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So today was the fourth Sunday in May. so Longshaw Trust10 day again.  (Free 10k run at 9.00 a.m. on the Fourth Sunday of each month across the trails of the Longshaw estate).  Hooray.  It seemed to come around quick.  In fact, it came around especially quickly for me because I had it on my calendar for next weekend for some reason, and so did lots of others.  I wonder if it was on some promotional literature somewhere with that date at some point, and those of us who can’t count as high as 4 went with that date, rather than ticking off the Sundays as perhaps we should.  Anyway, good news.  Sunshine forecast, and a positive flurry of enthusiastic Smileys up for an outing.  It’s always fun when we are a little gang out on a mission together somewhere.  I nearly got a lift, but wimped out because 007 Smiley had to do some secret ops immediately after the run and would be making a speedy getaway. Whilst the idea of rocketing off in her open-top sports car, wheels spinning and hair flying as we hit the high road was most definitely appealing, a disappointing reality check dictated otherwise.  Given, the speed I run round accepting the lift might mean forfeiting post-run coffee (and what’s the point in running 6 miles if you can’t have a latte afterwards?  No obvious motivation there that I could work with in a meaningful way).  I couldn’t compromise on this point so drove myself in the end.  Cheetah buddy who I’d hoped might join us for her inaugural Trust10 is STILL indisposed with bone breakages (well a stress fracture times more than one, which amounts to the same thing) so in the end I went off on my own.  I did feel guilty for doing so – not very environmentally friendly way to travel –  but hey ho.  These things happen.  Yawn, you know the drill by now surely? Nice marshal to wave you in, park in Longshaw cafe car park, £2.60 for up to four hours.  Beautifully fresh and green everywhere, the landscape has transformed itself since I was last there.  Verdant spring has surely sprung!

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I’m never quite sure who I’ll spot at these gatherings, but I’m pleased to report that immediately I saw compatriots from Smileys.  Both our familiar Hallam photographer and his royal escort/ power behind the lens, surely the celebrity running couple in these parts?  We skipped together to the cafe from the car park.  Well, I skipped, they are both a lot taller than me, so that was the only way I could keep up.  As we made our way down we compared training plans for the Round Sheffield Run. (RSR)  I confessed that many of my training yomps with hobbit buddy have had a tendency to fall back into walking and talking as we are so easily distracted on the way round.  ‘Look, a pigeon!’ or ‘look at that funny shaped twig/ bit of moss‘ one of us will shout, and suddenly we are both paused staring into the middle distance trying to work out what wildlife wonder we have before us.   It is companionable, but not conducive to improving our performance.  Regal Smiley admitted to having faced some similar issues of being easily distracted on her training runs with her RSR pair.  It is so true isn’t it, about running being as much in the mind as in the body. Focus, that’s what I need..  now, where was I?

Oh yes, Longshaw.  So traipsed into the cafe which was already filling up.  It was however lots warmer than the last few times out, so nobody minded to much about spilling outside after signing up.  I went to sign in and collect my number.  Now, I don’t know if I should really admit to this, but what the hell, I’ll feel better if I do.  The etiquette is, if you’ve been before you are ‘trusted’ (first mistake the Trust makes with its runners I fear, in my case anyway), to find your name, sign beside it, and then take a number off the top of the pile (yes, that’s The TOP of the pile) and write this number alongside your name so you can be identified in the event of any emergency.  Well the thing is, the next number on the pile was 994 or something like that.  I couldn’t help myself.  ‘I wonder…. ‘ there were lots of people about, but nobody actually looking.  It wouldn’t hurt to have a bit of shuffle through I thought.  I hesitated, not because of any moral scruples, but because I couldn’t decide which would please me more, being adorned with the number ‘1000’ or the number ‘999’.  I decided that whilst one thousand has a certain satisfying wholeness to it, 999 definitely has more comedic value. Plus, it might be even funnier if I put it on as 666 now and again, so a versatile number choice too!   I snuck it out of the pile, and then evened the heap up a bit, to cover my tracks, before signing the registration sheet with a look of as much innocence and meek compliance as I could muster.  Seconds later, at my shoulder is Regal Smiley.   She was shameless – brazen even!  ‘Oooh, I’ve got an idea’ she exclaimed, reaching over to the pile and having a shuffle through herself.  ‘Oh!’ I had to ‘fess up.  Well, I could hardly do otherwise as minutes later I’d be wearing the number for all to see.  I thought it was hilarious though, that we’d both identified this as a legitimate source of making our own entertainment, and she was most gracious about being pipped to the post in this way.  Well outwardly anyway,  who knows how she will wreak her vengeance when next exercising her power of veto when reviewing parkrun shots in future.  Still, that’s a risk I’m just going to have to take… Maybe now she knows about the associated chafing she won’t mind so much.  I live in hope.

Back outside, my number on I got a few quips almost instantaneously, my bad etiquette being instantly rewarded.  ‘Who you gonna call?’ and ‘Hey, emergency cover!’, that kind of thing.  I smiled and shrugged it off with a nonchalant ‘I know, who’d have thought it/ what were the chances!‘ sort of demeanour.  It was fun outside in the sun.  a fair few Smileys had gathered.  Here are some of us, aren’t we lovely?  Actually, one of those pictured is strictly speaking a woodrunner, (not to be confused with a roadrunner, which is a type of American bird – a ground cuckoo to be exact).  She is on this occasion to be awarded honorary Smiley status, because she is on the cusp of joining, so that’s OK.

Whilst we were posing for photos (thank you marshal who obliged), a few other happenings occurred.  Some more tense than others.  Turns out that there is a ‘friendly’ (pah, yeah, like really we all believe that) rivalry going on between Gentle George (our personal photographer at Sheffield Hallam) and the feisty Smiley non-Smiley who is now in fact a Smiley after all.  She may have a winning smile and a fabulous collection of running leggings, but she is also a formidable runner, and she and George battled it out at Longshaw last time round.  Keeping pace for pace much of the time.  One swift and light on the flat, the other powering up them there hills.  Today was a rematch.  The tension was palpable.  I wanted to get a photo of them eyeballing each other at the start, but felt it was a bit high-risk.  Did manage to pap the papper though, in his club colours.  I feel his agreement to pose for this picture is a gift to the running community.  It is not quite as good as the one of him in the turkey hat, but it is a running-related one.  In fact there are two, but one wasn’t taken by me… He’s the one on the left by the way.  Sorry the action photo is a bit dire, but you are so rarely on the other side of the lens its the only action shot I’ve ever seen.  Your public needs to know what you are capable of.

Because I was early, there was quite a lot of social milling around.  Large Steel City Striders contingent. Smiley non-Smiley who is in fact now a Smiley tussled with me re my fleece, but in fact I was quite willing to give it up on this occassion.  Partly I’m resigned to peer pressure now preventing me from running in my preferred gear of a duvet, and partly it was genuinely hotting up.  Also saw a Rustling Runner buddy I’ve not seen in ages (grand to catch up my friend), though in my excitement at seeing her I just talked at her without breathing for 5 minutes, and then we had to go to the start.  I must book myself on to one of those ‘how to interact with people in a socially acceptable way‘ courses, surely they still exist somewhere?  Oh well, by way of distraction, here are some mingling at the start shots.

And here is a photo of a planted up wheelbarrow that was just outside the cafe, because someone put a lot of work into getting that done, and it deserves some recognition:

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On time, we ambled down to the start.  About 169 of us according to the results, of whom about 10 did a one loop 5k and one DNF.  There was the usual safety briefing, and we all clapped at the point it seemed to be appropriate to do so even though we couldn’t really hear.  I made my now rather stale quip to anyone who would listen about not knowing what we are clapping and hoping it isn’t someone declaiming ‘Trump for President‘ or something similar. The random person I shared this with laughed appropriately, but I had a sudden panic.  Not only is my attempt at a joke conceivably wearing a bit thin now, what if one day I say this to someone and they look nonplussed and declare themself a Trumptonite or whatever.  I maybe need to review my pre-run quipping strategy.  Food for thought…

At the shout for off, the collective torrent of GPS devises being turned on beeped as one.

theyre off Longshaw trust 10 22 may 2016

I was further ahead in the start tunnel line up than usual as I’d been encouraged by Regal Smiley to give it a go at a new point and stand with her.  I felt a bit of a trespasser, and very short.  Well, I am pretty short I know, but I found myself amongst Amazonian people.  Maybe they really do only cover the ground so much faster than me because they have longer legs?  To be fair, these unfamiliar surrounding runners definitely did make me start off quite appreciably more quickly than I do usually, I was so scared about being trampled I put on quite a spurt.  I didn’t want to revert to being ballast too quickly.  Thanks lovely Longshaw team for the photo 🙂

fourth emergency service

Off we went, like soldier ants in search of a dead animal.  Despite the heavy rain of the last few days the trails were surprisingly dry on the whole.  Lovely and bouncy in fact.  I boinged off with the best of them.  Off on the road, sharp right onto the tarmac path, through the little gate and sprinting past the flowering rhododendrons (I think that’s what they were).  Onwards, past the lovely lake, hopping over a couple of puddles en route.  An injured Smiley was on gate duty at one point, it was sad that she can’t run at the minute, but nice to have her encouragement ringing in my ears as I passed.  Through an open grassy area along a pretty decent footpath, and then into the wooded area where it was a bit muddier underfoot, but basically fine.  You have to pick your way a little bit more cautiously as there are a few tree roots and rocks, but it is quite manageable.  The route is well-marked with little pink flags, and the occasional more prominent sign if you need to turn off  the main path at any point.  In the wood, our multi-talented marshal who had earlier been besporting himself with my camera obliging us by taking photos was now pointing towards where we needed to exit the wood and head up to the hills. – By the second lap he was saying (with some justification)  ‘hurry up, my arm is hurting!’  ‘Good point well made‘ I called in reply, because it was.

Then there is a short (but doable) scramble onto a new path – you do need to watch your balance there a bit where the route opens up onto ‘proper’ off road.  There is a sort of sheep track type path across the moor.  This bit does have a couple of boggy sections, and if it’s been raining (as earlier in the week) you will get wet feet at some point for sure.  There is one brook that requires a mini jump or a complete stop so you can take a longish stride across.  However, although it is definitely across moor, it isn’t technically challenging and it is fun!  Hard core runners no doubt sprint up here effortlessly like mountain goats on speed.  I have no idea, they have never still been in sight of me as I reach this point.  I prefer to consider it a legitimate tactic to walk up these bits, and so save my energy for the flatter bit which follwos.  Also, this way you can chat to other runners whilst walking.  (I was passed by almost the whole field of other Smileys on the run at this juncture, all of whom said encouraging things to me as they yomped on by).  If you really don’t care about times, then it is worth turning back to look at the view too.  It was gorgeous today.  You could always pretend you were looking out for one of your other club runners that you were concerned about if you feel self-conscious about stopping altogether.   The photo that follows was lifted from the Peak District National Trust facebook page and was taken at a different Longshaw Trust 10, but shows the route and terrain beautifully:

hill running

At the top of this hill is a cheery marshal who I have a feeling always has this spot.  He has a friendly word of encouragement for everyone who passes, and is a runner himself (did the half-marathon earlier in the year).  He always remarks on the Smiley Paces vests, memo to self, Smile, always.  You are representing all smilies when you wear the club vest, no room for Ms GrumpyMcGrump face if you are!  After this rather deceptively savage climb, you get onto a woodland service track, so if you have any energy left you could pick up speed. It is flat and even.   It is straight for a while, then marshal man with bike (who was wearing shorts today) was there to point you up hill again.  This bit feels steep, and today anyway, was probably the mudiest part of the course, but it isn’t all that long.  You emerge at the top and again can pick up an easier even path, that leads to another car park where friendly marshals shout encouragement.  From here it really is only one tiny bit of uphill before you get onto a lovely wide flat, well-drained grassy footpath that means the end of the first loop is in sight.  From here you just dive through a narrow opening by a gate and down the gravel path to the car park where you will be met by a guard of honour (a squad of timers at the half-way/ finish point) and you can do it all again.  Yay!  (or not, some people do the 5k as one lap, but I dont think you get an official time for that, though your participation is recorded).  Here follows a shot taken from the Longshaw Facebook page of the long flat final sprint bit, you can see why I like it – look at that view!  At about this point a marshal was coming towards us clutching a takeaway coffee.  I was rather hoping it might be mid-point refreshments, but apparently not.  That innovation has yet to happen…

NT photo

Up until this point I felt I’d been running pretty well, (though later Strava told a different story).  I was scampering along the home run, and chatted a bit to a woman who was walking the same path and asking me if I’d remembered to look at the view, which I had, and it was indeed spectacular.  However, just as I had the gateway in sight I saw a runner grounded.  Two other women reached him before I did.  I didn’t see what happened, but he’d taken a hell of a fall and was quite bashed up.  A faster runner whizzed by and said he’d get help, while the three of us offered assistance as best we could.  Eventually he said his wife was in view – it turned out it was she I’d just been exchanging pleasantries with –  and that he was OK.  I was about to continue running when an extremely polite girl appeared like an enchanted sprite out of the mists (except she wasn’t a sprite and there wasn’t any mist) and said ‘if you are a Smiley, can you tell me if you have seen my mum?’  It was very sweet, and I was quite chuffed that uncharacteristically a small child hadn’t run away from me screaming like I was the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but rather was spontaneously engaging with me.  I felt bad that I couldn’t help.  Her accompanying adult appeared and so I explained it was a two lap course and we were near the end so hopefully the family was reunited somewhere round the route.  I can’t believe any other Smiley’s were behind me at this point though.  So after this delay of a few minutes, I picked up speed again, and continued, passing the organiser sprinting out to attend the injured runner.  She was armed with a backpack that was so huge it must have contained not so much a first aid kit, as a National Trust sponsored mobile medical unit ready for deployment, so that was reassuring.  If it turned out he’d not  fallen but rather needed an appendectomy for example, I reckon she had it covered.  (He was fine by the way, so happy ending, I like them).

Although delayed by events, the adrenalin meant I picked up speed and whizzed (relatively speaking to my usual pace anyway) round.  Some spectators on a bench applauded me as I did so, which was heartening. I  made a bit show of running as fast as I could and called behind me ‘I’ve been running like this the whole time!’  They laughed appreciatively, a bit too appreciatively possibly, but I’ll take whatever support I can!  I got into a rhythm on the second lap, for a long time I wasn’t in sight of any other runners, so just went at my own pace, enjoying the scenery.  I knew my time would be slow even by my standards because of stopping, and it was a relief in a way not to push on furiously against the odds.  After a bit I caught up with some other runners who it turned out were first timers.  ‘Does it get any easier?‘ they asked.  I told them my secret.  That basically I’ve given up trying to run up the hills in favour of power walking them, so I can save a bit of energy for the flatter bits.  I suspect this means I get a faster time than otherwise I would, although I do freely admit the only way to get quicker at running up hills is probably to run up them ever more quickly which clearly I don’t really do.  I did explain though the necessity of running when in sight of a marshal/ slash photographer, and they seemed satisfied with this run plan.  We yomped off quite companionably for a bit of chunk of the route, though inevitably they did pull ahead of me in due course.

The second lap seemed to go really quickly.  I was even hot running despite running with my arms exposed for the first time in living memory.  Practically naked!  As the finish came into view I got the full benefit of Smiley Support.  Every available Smiley it seemed had hung on at the finish line to applaud home the final finishers.  It was splendid!  I felt like a celebrity rushing back to  a chorus of people cheering my name.  There are some adantages to being slow, fastest Smiley back would ironically enounter a wall of silence I presume?  I felt so chuffed to be a Smiley.  It is great being part of a supportive club, and fun to share running tales afterwards as well.  We cheered back the last few, not many more behind me, and time to pose for a finish shot (containing one injured Smiley, one honorary Smiley pending joining,  and one who wasn’t wearing her Smiley vest and needs to bring a note with her by way of explanation if that ever happens again).  Nice photo though!  Courtesy of our official photographer though devoid of his usual lens he had to rough it with someone’s mobile phone.  Performed pretty well in the circumstances I thought.  He was probably feeling pretty good about himself to be honest as he’d won this latest round of The Battle of Longshaw in the race with Smiley non-Smiley who is in fact now a Smiley (just so you know). There will be other matches to come though I feel sure!

Smiley finishers

So, all assembled, next stop was mandatory visit to the cafe, because that is what running is all about surely?  I was going to have just a latte, but then Regal Smiley ahead of me in the queue was getting a scone, and that looked tempting.  And then she got a little pot of clotted cream to go with it, and whoosh, that was the sound of my will-power vanishing into the wilderness.  I had a glass of water, my latte (naturally) and a scone with clotted cream and raspberry jam.  Yep, they even had a choice of jams, I mean really, that’s class isn’t it.  Personally, I thought the coffee was a tad bitter today, burnt even, but nobody else seemed to notice so just me then.  A few more end of events shots as we squashed onto one of the outside tables.  I was a bit unsure about whether or not to share this photo as I don’t want to expose the identity of 007, but she’s disguised in sunglasses (or is she?  Could be a double bluff…)  as are a number of us so I reckon that’s OK.

what running is all about

So we did some putting the world to rights, but not so as you will have noticed, as we were a bit distracted by food, and coffee and running anecdotes, you know how it is.

Eventually, coffee drunk, scones scoffed, and a new stream of National Trust visitors in the form of an eleven a.m. organised walking group arrived and so we dispersed our separate ways.  Another really glorious yomp out at Longshaw (apart from the chafing).  I can’t believe we are so lucky to have this on our doorstep and for free really (I don’t begrudge the parking charge and no run is complete without coffee afterwards anyway).  If you’ve not been, well why not?  If you don’t fancy doing the 10k, quite a few do only one loop and that’s a 5km, perfectly respectable, plus you will be at the front of the queue in the coffee shop.  I’m just saying…

So thank you lovely Longshaw folk for putting the run on. Special thanks for the cheery and cheering marshals along the way.  Your efforts are much appreciated, even if sometimes runners pass you looking less than enthusiastic leaving little more than beadlets of sweat and curses in their wake as they pass on by, it’s just our little idiosyncracies in how we express our appreciation manifesting themselves.

Here is my (now traditional) shot of the impressive view from Longshaw, which I like to think will illustrate the changing seasons.  Don’t disillusion me, please, I know it’s too dark so you can’t really tell what the vegetation is doing, let’s just pretend it’s helpful shall we?  Thank you.

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So happy running ’til next time y’all.

Also STOP PRESS crime pays.  I get to keep my number.   Everyone can! Well, not MY number 999, but whatever it is you end up running in. Save it, pin it on, reuse next time out, just don’t forget to write it down next to your name when you sign in.

The End.

Categories: 10km, motivation, off road, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

It’s a wonderful world – Longshaw revisited

lovely longshaw

The shorts were unnecessary, I felt.  Not ‘unnecessary’ in the sense that the wearers should abandon covering their nether regions altogether, but ‘unnecessary’ in the sense that it was flippin’ freezing out there and bare legs were at best inappropriate – and indeed ‘unnecessary’ – and at worst reckless exhibitionism.  I’m not saying this just because the last time I sported a pair of shorts I ended up looking like a cross between an Oompa Loompa and a Jumbly, (though admittedly there is more than a smidgeon of envy in my judgementalism) but also because I think runners have a duty of care for themselves.  All that exposed flesh was surely just a snow-flake’s width away from hypothermia.  There are hard core off-road runners and there are the adrenalin junkies who seem to embrace living life on the edge of human endurance.  Judging by the numbers of those in shorts out and about today, Sheffield is home to more than it’s fair share of such people who taunt the elements with their naked knees.  Honestly, what were they thinking?

Reader, I am of course remarking on one of the many and wondrous sights to behold whilst at Longshaw last weekend for the Trust 10 off road running event.  Alongside the beanie hatted runners, were a few in skimpy shorts and T-shirts.  I was shivering in my long-sleeved top with running vest over it, leggings over thermal tights and my generously proportioned bobble hat.  Whilst I concede they may get warmer by running a bit harder, surely there is a limit to how much heat anyone can generate by running alone, these few seemed to defy the laws of physics as well as near enough those of common decency in the winter months.

For the record, I did pluck up the courage to ask a guy on one of the Accelerate Thursday Ecclesall wood runs (a snip at £2 a throw) why he was wearing shorts in sub zero conditions.  To his credit he said he was miserable doing so, and it was only because he didn’t possess any longer runner tights, being more a gym bunny of late who hadn’t been running outside all winter due to injury (or apathy, I forget which now).  He is therefore exempt from my incredulity, having a perfectly reasonable explanation for his state of undress.  For those hardy few at Longshaw last weekend looking like they’d turned up to take part in a summer fete’s Dad’s fun run (and it was all men in shorts to be honest, we women apparently either know better, or are more self-conscious about our cellulite and wobbly bits) how could you do it?  More to the point, will you do it again?  You must have been absolutely freezing.

Hey ho, I’m ahead of myself though.  So, last Sunday, was back to lovely Longshaw for their monthly Trust10 10km trail run through the estate.  For those of you who are knew, or skim read that bit last time I posted on the topic, this is essentially a free event held on the fourth Sunday of the month at Longshaw (apart from March and December when confusingly they are on the third Sunday due to the inconvenience to the running community caused by Easter and Christmas – tell you what, best just check their website each time to be on the safe side…).  You have to register to participate, but you can do this on the day, and it is an inclusive 10km route on trails and a bit of off-road, well marshalled and very friendly.  You do get a time, but they don’t guarantee it will be accurate, so if you are fussed about that take your own GPS tracking device with you.

This is one of my favourite local running events. It’s off-road – or at least traily, so you feel sort of adventurous, but actually it’s very safe.  It is also highly social, and a good progression from parkrun for the likes of me.  You can rock up on the day, and enjoy novel facilities such as warm interiors for registration and toilet paper in the loos prior to the run, and then afterwards catch up with running buddies from near and far as well as sip a decent cup of coffee.  I say it is amongst my favourite runs, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have pre-performance angst every time the day comes around, and last Sunday was  no different.

I’d done parkrun the day before, with a bit more gusto than planned due to an extended sprint finish (not my idea and one I couldn’t sustain thank you for asking), and then the day of the Longshaw 10km dawned and it was bitterly cold. On the plus side this meant I’d get to bag a sub-zero bonus point for Smiletastic, on the down side in order to do this I’d have to go outside and run in the freezing cold.  I was shattered before I’d even started.  It did not bode well.   Nothing in life is free it seems.  I’d agreed to scoop up a running buddy en route, so headed out to get her around 8.00 ish.  Even though I know where she lives, I used satnav to get there.  This meant I went the most bizarre route ever to her house, discovering back streets of Sheffield that hitherto I had not realised existed.  Leaving the house is always an education.  My buddy was waiting, and clambered in. She doesn’t have a car, so has to submit to my driving and navigation which must do wonders for elevating her heart rate.  She is too polite to say so, but I fully appreciate being picked up by me is a little like being forcibly abducted, because I never really know where I am going and so can end up taking some more obscure routes if I lose concentration and ignore the satnav.  She has got a bit better at politely forewarning me when I seem to be about to breeze past a turning and I think we are evolving a team driving/ navigation ethos which will have us competing in off road rally driving competitions before too long.  Whilst I’m talking about scaring passengers into thinking they’ve been abducted, the last time I ever picked up a hitch hiker I did just that.  It was a long time ago, and I was a bit naive, driving north from London I stopped to pick up a hitcher just before going on the M1.  He climbed inside and expressed both gratitude and surprise that I’d stopped.  ‘Why are you so surprised I stopped?’ I asked ‘well, he said, rule number one of picking up hitchers, don’t pick up hitchers without luggage, and rule number two don’t pick up hitchers without a destination sign, and rule number three, don’t pick up a hitcher if you are driving on your own.’  ‘Oh‘.  So that was three out of three. He went on to explain whey each of these rookie errors could be so catastrophic. ‘So should I be worried?’ I queried lightly.  ‘No,’ he said, ‘I’m fine honestly, but I am jumping bail.‘  ‘Oh‘.  I said.  Anyway, it was all fine, but it turned out I was going to Leamington, and he wanted to go to Coventry, and I knew a back route to where he was heading.  Long story short, once I pulled off the motorway and started going cross country he started looking really, really nervous.  The power dynamic entirely shifted as I realised poor guy was completely lost and feeling really vulnerable.  He was ever-so pleased and relieved when I finally deposited him by a road sign saying 2 miles to Coventry.  I’ve not picked up a hitcher since, but I am more mindful of the power dynamics of being both a lift-giver and liftee so to speak.  I did once hitch a ride with an alleged murderer, but that’s a tale for another time too.

So me and running buddy bounced on the uneven roads of Sheffield wending our way to Longshaw.  It was funny driving across, at that precise moment I just couldn’t imagine my legs doing any running at all.  I sort of knew I would run the 10k because that is what happens when you turn up at these events, but I didn’t feel remotely enthused at the prospect and felt like there was nothing in the tank.  I always wonder if ‘proper runners’ ever feel like this.  Is it hard for them to muster the motivation too.  I know there will come a point at which it is enjoyable, but right then I was most definitely not feeling the love.  Oh well.  We were sort of committed by that point anyway.  The scenery was spectacular though, I wasn’t quite sure if it was actual snow on the ground or a deep frost, but my, it was beautiful.  Cold, but bright and wintry in a gorgeous Christmas cliché sort of way.

We arrived early.  I’m delighted to report that after last times shenanigans with not knowing where to park, (too much choice of spaces) this time the lovely people at the National Trust had left nothing to chance.  A marshal with a very fine pink flag was on hand to direct us to a parking place. This was great, I didn’t have to expend useful brain energy on early morning complex problem solving.  I could save that for the running later on.

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It was fun already at the point of arrival.  It wasn’t fun that I realised I’d left my running coat at home, but I was sporting both my Smiley Paces vest and my newly acquired thoroughly splendid pink Trust10 bobble hat (for which I thank you nice Longshaw NT person).  As I was faffing about getting out of the car, my buddy got us a ticket for parking and I struck up a conversation with the driver of a monster truck in the adjacent parking space.  He was friendly, and noting my Smiley Paces vest made a comment along the lines of ‘I didn’t realise that this event was attracting hard core proper runners‘ I was a bit thrown, as I clearly don’t really meet any of those criteria.  I explained about being the one in the club who makes the other Smiley Paces feel great because they get to overtake me.  He turned out to be a Steel City Strider, which was even more confusing, because they really are hardcore, and what’s more, probably the ones most likely to be wearing shorts in the snow to be completely honest.  Still, this guy was friendly enough, and claimed to be like me one of the ‘also runs’ so who knows, could have been bluffing, but it was a friendly enough exchange.

I didn’t do any selfies this week, for which you must be grateful, however, I do feel compelled to include a photo of my fine hat, which is being modelled in the picture below by my bear Fraser.  He isn’t really a runner, and I couldn’t persuade him to wear my Smiley vest as it is so unflattering, but you get the idea of the overall effect I think, for better or worse…

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So we did some car park faffing, getting tickets, picking our way over the frozen surface and marvelling at one or two arrivals who appeared to have run to the venue from over hills and vales far far away.  I felt almost pathetic fretting at the prospect of a measly 10k.

When we arrived in the Longshaw Tea rooms to register it was already heaving with people and lovely roasty toasty and warm.  This was good, apart from the fact that prizing yourself away from it to go outside into the cold again was made even harder by way of contrast.  I don’t think there were quite as many runners overall as last time out, but there were heaps and heaps of Smileys.  In Smiletastic terms (our running club.s winter challenge) all of the five teams were represented.  As we would therefore each bag a bonus point for our own team, we effectively cancelled each others efforts out.  However, it made for a very social gathering.  I met a few Smileys I hadn’t seen before, only as names on Facebook, so that was fun.  I also had the rare experience of having some insider information and therefore (admittedly short-lived and tenuous) expertise, as some of the youngsters (get me) from both the Squawky Chicks and Clucky Ducks hadn’t actually done Longshaw before.  This gave me the chance to dispense words of wisdom, which doesn’t happen all that often.  I was able to reassure them that it was eminently doable (lawks a lordy – look at the sight of me, and I manage to drag my weary carcass round) plus, I shared my secret Top Tip for attainment tactic.  It is simply this.  There are a couple of really steep hills.  Now some will attempt to run up these, but exhaust themselves and that is poor for morale.  I suggested not ruining a perfectly lovely walk with an opportunity to take in some lovely views by forcing yourself to run up a near vertical incline.  Treat the run strategically, conserve your energy for the top!  They seemed satisfied with this legitimate running technique, and I felt a certain surge of contentment at having led the youngsters so easily astray.  (Though really I maintain walking up the really steep hills is indeed a legitimate technique to avoid injury and tears on your first time out.)

There were so many Smilies to catch up with, and even a couple of Rustling’s Runners (a group I used to go out with before I came to realise they are way too speedy for me to keep up with them, but they are a friendly duo), it was a shame to have our chit chat interrupted with a call to the start.  We shuffled into position.  I didn’t wear any kind of a coat, but I did have gloves and my hat.  I put myself sort of in the middle of the bunch this time, didn’t want to get stuck behind walkers too early on.  Couldn’t really hear the briefing, but it was presumably along the lines of look out for each other, watch out for slippery bits, have fun, that kind of thing, and then we were awf!  Yay!

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One advantage of the cold, is that it is actually a bit of a relief to get going.  Now I am more familiar with the route, it feels a bit quicker.  Also, because the ground had been frozen, it was hard and not as muddy as last time out.  Although it was white underfoot in parts it didn’t feel too slippery. I was in my ‘proper’ off road shoes, and I was glad of them, but I think I might be getting a bit more confident on my feet now.  It was lovely.  I don’t feel the same lurve running on roads, but it was stunningly beautiful out in the countryside.  The sky was initially dark and a bit broody, but it made for breathtaking scenery.  It was cold, and apart from us runners and the hardy marshals – who have been highly trained to smile apparently continuously, without even a moment’s lapse – there didn’t seem to be many people about.

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It was very pleasing to report that our  Extra Smiley Smiley (200) Formerly Known As Smiley Non-Smiley was amongst those marshalling.  Not only did she hold that gate open early on with real dedication and aplomb, it meant I got to be on first name terms with one of the marshals.  It does make it more fun running when there are people to cheer you round.  Even more pleasingly, she then relocated to the half-point/ end point so could cheer again at the mid-stage and ending.  Great value out of her volunteering skills there.  It didn’t feel too crowded today, and I got into a rhythm early on, a slow one granted, but a rhythm nevertheless.  It was gorgeous, the trails felt springy, the woods were lovely, and if you remembered to look up when you got to the steep hill not only did this help your breathing but you got an awesome sense of place.  I had a few broken exchanges with people on the way round.  Nothing too much, (regular readers know I feel VERY strongly about not being expected to talk and run at the same time), but enough to touch base companionably with others, and shout acknowledgement.

At the hill point, I came across another backwards runner!  What’s that about?  I know I saw one at parkrun the other week, but I really thought that was a one off.  I asked if it made the uphill easier if you couldn’t see the summit.  ‘Yes‘ was the enthusiastic reply ‘especially second time around!’  I didn’t really want to think about the second lap at that point to be honest, but it was an observation worthy of consideration.  I heave-hoed up the hill, and did cave in to walking, though I can truthfully report I was not alone in this.  My relationship with hills is complicated, I still can’t run up with them, but the views at the top are joyful and then there is always the thrill of the descent to come…  Living in Sheffield I feel cheated if ever I go for a run and there isn’t a hill somewhere.  Mind you, can’t really think of any occasion when that’s happened round where I live to be fair, you can’t escape them!

reward for uphill

 There was a friendly marshal at the top though offering cheering words of encouragement.  It is nice once you get over the wall to be on a flatter forest path and quite soon two marshals came into view, one in the gateway acting as a decoy presumably, whilst another appeared to be in hiding behind a stone wall, but had her presence betrayed by her fine pink bobble hat.  My own bobble hat got a bit of attention on the way round.  One passing runner told me she’d been eyeing it from way back, focusing in on it to catch me up and then overtake me.  I was quite delighted at her observational skills and compliment, particularly as she herself was sporting a sort of Peruvian three bobbled hat creation, that truthfully might have incited a bit of bobble envy had I been of such a disposition to mind.  Truth is, you don’t really care about anything very much when you are running, well I don’t.  It looked a bit like this, only more colourful, it you are struggling to visualise it:

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I was worried you might be imagining more of a jester’s hat, which would be silly, obviously.

The route seemed to go quickly today, I was cheered round the half way point by name (nowhere to hide) and yomped onwards with renewed vigour.  The field scattered out a bit, so for the second lap, although I was in sight of people throughout, I was more or less on my own.  I was aware of my running buddy (the abductee from earlier) just behind me, and although we’d agreed mutually that there would be no talking and running, I wanted to avoid getting shoulder to shoulder with her in case we ended up chatting.

On the second lap you really need to remember to make a point of looking at your surroundings.  There are gorgeous mossy tree roots, lovely rock formations on the horizon, and in the woods, some fabulous fantastical configurations of trunks and branches that make alluring dens.  I saw one parent with two small children clambering around the magical roots, it looked like a parallel universe, it really did. I could quite happily have ditched the running and gone to join them, but if my body is ever to be a temple to running, then I need to keep on running in my asymmetric, minimalist way.

Also on lap two as I went through one of the smaller car park areas (no, don’t know what it’s called) there was a nice couple (well I say they were nice, they may have been axe-murderers  for all I know, but it wasn’t obvious that they were, so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt) asked how far we were running. I said breathlessly ‘10km‘ and they ooohed and aaahed in a ‘gosh, how impressive‘ sort of way as they heaved on their walking boots and let their dog out of the boot of their car.  That helped me pretend to run on with a bit more enthusiasm than I was actually feeling at that point, I didn’t want to let the side down, and in a hundred metres or so I knew I’d be comfortably out of their line of vision so could heave into the undergrowth if necessary.

In the last couple of kilometres I suddenly noticed ahead of me a Rustling Runner, she is training for the half-marathon, so I was wondering if I could somehow catch her.  Not out of competitiveness, but more to see how my running is comparing with hers.  She was/is a much better runner than me, and has done half marathons before.  I reasoned if I could catch her, then maybe it is realistic for me to at least start the half in a few weeks’ time.  It was an effort, but I did catch up with her.  Then though, I could hear another runner behind me right on my shoulder, and it sort of spurred me on.  I didn’t want to be overtaken at the last 100 meters.  Disaster, her partner (presumably) appeared at the gateway to the finish, and started cheering her on ‘come on, you can do it, you can beat her‘.  I don’t know if I felt outraged exactly, but being aware I was someone  else’s target made me really want to hang on.  I gave it super-human effort, found my turbo sprint button and charged onward.  I did think I might either be sick, or fall over, but I did make it.  Whether I’m ever going to have enough in my tank to do the Sheffield half, I really don’t know…  I have to get to grips with running up some hills at some point, and not long to go.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.  Maybe my insurance policy should be just to get one of these, and run in that, job sorted.  How do you think it compares to my usual running vest?

The organisers and marshals at the end were in fine form, voice and had great commentary and organisational skills.  ‘Second dog home‘ they called out to the runner just ahead who was accompanied by her pooch and ‘ooh smiley‘, and then ‘come on Lucy‘ as I was recognised by my pink hat (which I can report had stayed on throughout) and presumably, matching pink face and puffy cheeks as I charged into focus at the finish.  Afterwards I spoke to the woman behind me who was most gracious about my determination to stay ahead, from her perspective I think she wasn’t too fussed about catching me anyway, it was motivator at the sidelines who was being uber-competitive, but to be fair that made me find reserves I didn’t know I had.  I still wasn’t that fast mind, but I was a good 5 minutes faster than last time out.  A lot of that to be fair is due to the firmer footing rather than any improvement in my inherent athleticism, but all the same that’s good for morale.  (But NOT good for Smiletastic, for which PBs only attract points next month, and I doubt now I’ll be able to improve on this time, very poor gamesmanship on my part there I’m afraid.  Best not tell the other Flying Feathers, I’ll be drummed out of not just the team, but Smiley Paces too.  Driven into exile I’d have to join another running club instead… somewhere flat!  Fate worse than death.)

It was pretty cold once we stopped.  My running buddy was very close behind and about five Smilies all crossed the finish line within a few minutes of each other, so that was companionable and nice.  We did lots of mutual congratulations, before retreating to the warmth and comfort of the tea rooms for coffee and run de-brief and Smiletastic tales.  It was really, really nice.

Another triumph, thank you marshals, for clapping, smiling, pointing, holding gates open, and offering cheery commentary as we passed.  It was and is much appreciated, you must have been freezing out there!

There were long queues in the cafe, but it was all good-natured.  I felt a bit for the 11.00 o’clock walking group that were probably not expecting to find themselves in the middle of a pack of steaming and slightly over-excited runners, but hey ho.  Refreshments eaten and drinks drunk we performed the super human feat of getting up after stiffening into a sitting position, and hobbled back to the car park, newly crippled.  I spotted an abandoned cross in a tree en route back.  Hope it wasn’t in memory of someone who didn’t quite make it.  The snow scattering had almost vanished, giving way to bright sunshine, but it was still distinctly nippy out there.

Back at the car park, there was a random woman roaming.  Turned out she was on a mission to spot the next vacated parking space, so as we reversed out, she was frantically gesturing in another car.  We did fine, but there may be some logistical problems ahead for Longshaw if the running contingency start overlapping too much with other activities.  Speaking for myself I couldn’t imagine being fit enough to run up to the start from Sheffield, but a fair few runners do.  Maybe when the weather is warmer and days are longer I could give it a go, as long as I can take a picnic with me for emergencies.

happy pace

Meantime, thanks again lovely Longshaw, it was gorgeous out, worth the effort, and I like having another number to add to my collection.  Wonder if we can get even more Smilies along next time, it was like a club outing, but even so, the more the merrier I say, reckon we could easily double it next time.  Now that would be a treat…  Till next time, happy running y’all!

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Home, dropping off running buddy en route.  I did a quick detour laying bait for rabbits, more of this later.  It’s not easy doing Smiletastic, first Elder Smiley Super Geek wanted our hearts, now she wants hares.  I can’t find any, so I’m resorting to laying out organic produce for them in a possible vain attempt to lure them hither.  Will it never end…?  It’s an organic one, which is why it isn’t very symmetrical.

rabbit lure

If you wish to compare and contrast with previous Longshaw experiences you could check out mud, mud glorious mud and/or lolloping Longshaw, but really I wouldn’t take any notice of what I have to say, just if you are tempted get out and do it.  I would recommend trail shoes, but apart from that it’s eminently doable, fun, friendly and free.  What’s not to like?  Plus, if you do decide you need to bale at the half way point (and for the record I did see one runner do just that as we passed the tea rooms first time around) you absolutely can, no-one will care, or even notice probably, and it’s not like they’ll put it on a blog and tell the world or anything, so keep your worries in perspective.

run-hard

 

Categories: 10km, motivation, off road, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mud, mud, glorious mud – the trials and trails of Longshaw Trust 10

This is another long one, make yourself a pot a tea or crack open the wine, and then you can be multi-tasking by drinking and reading at the same time so it won’t feel like such a waste of time.   (Though maybe not the wine if you are sneakily reading this at work in your lunch break or something).

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I hate getting up in the dark.  Fortunately, I do like a good yomp in the mud, so today these two opposing forces sort of cancelled each other out.  Today was Trust10 day – the now monthly off-road 10km run held at the Longshaw Estate, and other National Trust properties too. Frankly though, I’m shallow and self-centred, so I really only care about the one that is local to me, and it is that one, at Longshaw, that had me up and about today.  I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to head off – my enthusiasm for running is always much greater at the end of a run than at the beginning of it, but it was enough to get me out from under the duvet, which was a start.

Truthfully, I was a bit torn about running venues for today.  It was the Longshaw 10k, but also today was one of the monthly off-road runs for my running club (drum roll) The Smiley Paces!  My dilemma is that I’ve struggled to keep up with the last couple of Smiley off-roaders, and whilst they are inclusive events, I still think I’ll get more out of them if I’m a bit speedier, I decided to work on my fitness for a bit before rejoining them.  I am comfortable with this decision, apart from the fact that today was/is also my buddy Cheetah Smiley’s birthday, so I did have a sense that it would have been fun to join them on a Smiley yomp for the day.  As a compromise I headed off to hers to drop off a card for her birthday en route to picking up my another companion Smiley for the morning, who I’d lured into joining me in doing Longshaw.  She is coming back into running so just building up her distances at the moment, so also cautious about joining a longer off-road until she’s got a few more miles under her proverbial belt.  She doesn’t actually wear a belt as far as I can see.  We shared a quick ‘Happy Birthday’ hello, which is very much like a normal ‘hello’ but with more hugging and expressions of effusive good wishes.  Then I headed off, having wished her well, really hoping that the other runners would remember to sing her happy birthday at some point on the run, so that she could experience that exquisite discomfort of being simultaneously massively embarrassed and secretly pleased.  In fact, I gather this is indeed what happened, though from the Facebook posts I think there was more than one birthday celebrant present.  Smiley twins how very splendid!  So I was sorry I missed out on the cake, sorry, I mean celebrations, obviously, but pleased the occasion was suitably marked.

Smiley birthday

I chugged my little fiesta up the steep hills of Sheffield to pick up my other Smiley companion who was game to tackle the 10k with me. I took a spare Smiley vest so we could fly the flag together so to speak.  It is definitely more fun doing these events in Smiley kit, and also more fun doing them with other Smilies, the more the merrier generally speaking

I am always paranoid about being late to thing, so have a tendency to get places ridiculously early.  My Smiley buddy hadn’t been before so would need to register, and you can hang about in the warm so I hoped it wouldn’t be too bad to be early.  In the event it was just as well we did.  We got to Longshaw about 8.30 a.m. (registration is from 8.15) and on arrival, we found the car park uncharacteristically full, in relative terms.  There were still plenty of parking spaces though.    I did that thing (that I have a horrible feeling might be almost unique to me) of becoming almost paralysed by indecision about where to park because of the vast array of options still on offer.  How are you to choose?  Near the start?  Less far to get back to the car at the end of the race when stiffness has set in, but might be a bit congested trying to get out later.  Near the pay machine?  Less far to walk to get your ticket.  Avoiding a slope, easy to exit?  In the end I just opted for any old one, but only after some unnecessarily indecisive circling around in the car first.  We then checked out the parking costs and opted for the £2.60 for four hours offer, we were hoping we wouldn’t need all that time to get around, though to be honest, with the queue for coffee at the end of the run it was touch and go at one point.  I think it’s a fair bet the turn out took the organisers by surprise – I hope in a good way, but who knows.  Here is a picture of the car park, filling up, in case you don’t know what that looks like.  All my pictures today seem to be blurred by the way, I’d love to pretend this was deliberate, either to protect the identities of the subjects of my photos, or to create an impression of casual artistry.  Actually, it’s just because I’m not a very good photographer, and my camera only allows me to point and push, performing all focusing and light adjustments as if by magic.  Magic that doesn’t always work very well, maybe they’ve changed the magic word.  I have no idea really.

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In the short time it took to faff around with parking tickets and what to wear, the car park became absolutely packed.  I couldn’t say why (New Year resolutions, deliberately widened publicity, or just word of mouth) but clearly the news is out, this is a great run, and a good example of ‘if you build it, they will come‘ (I know it’s a misquote, but I’ve never actually seen the film, so I honestly don’t care).  It was most definitely a great deal fuller than on the previous two occasions when I’ve done this run.  People were coming from all around.  Thinking about it, we’d even seen some hardy souls running up as we drove to the venue.  Impressive, they were mud-splattered and sweaty before they even got to the start line, proper hard core.

It seemed really dark, and a bit drizzly, but fairly mild.  I decided it would be a coat off run.  Though for the records, I did start off wearing gloves, which I took off half way round.  We found a Rustling Runner to take our photo as evidence of Smileys on tour again.  We also need the documentary evidence to be kept in reserve for the Smiley Paces Running Club spring challenge (points available for turning out to timed events).  There were loads of people milling around, it was quite a scrum to get your numbers, albeit a very polite one.  As a returner (or did they say repeat offender?) I was already on their records.  I just had to help myself to a number, then find my name on a sheet and write the number next to it, this was neither complex nor arduous.  My buddy had to supply basic details (email, emergency contact number), but its really not much to ask is it for a free event?  I squished my fleece, and phone and car keys and everything else into my backpack and abandoned it in a general pile of stuff which looked like a creative cross between a sports-specific jumble sale and a lost property box.  I have become quite relaxed about leaving stuff unattended in this way when I run, maybe too much so.  I’ve got used to the idea from doing parkruns, and I think runners are an honest lot on the whole.  I do periodically wonder if I should take more care, and then I realise all over again I can’t really be bothered.  I’d change my tune pretty quick though if I ended up having to walk all the way back to Sheffield without my fleece at the end of a run though.  This is despite the fact that I met someone whose partner had apparently voluntarily run from home all the way to Longshaw, from an address not 100 yards from my house. That’s ridiculous, it’s MILES!  Here are people gathering for the start of a running event, in case you don’t know what that looks like either.

I quite like having an official number, it makes you feel important, like you are taking part in a serious running endeavour rather than a hobbit yomp (much as I love them as well).  I did struggle with the pinning on though, why is that so hard?  I’d brought my own safety pins with me, which was a good move, as they only had a limited supply on hand which quickly ran out.  I don’t quite know how the National Trust are funding this initiative, numbers and extra staff and safety pins and all, it isn’t cost free, though I dare say runners storming the Longshaw tea rooms afterwards helps generate something in the way of  collateral takings.  I heard later that 180 of us yomped round today, their previous maximum attendance was 120, quite a jump in numbers.  I hope it doesn’t get too popular for its own good…

Although promoted as an event for all, the Trust10 at this venue at least, seems to have been embraced primarily by the running community (if there is such a thing). I couldn’t help but notice there were lots of ‘serious’ runners present, notably the Steel City Striders were out in force, and some of them are brutal (and quite possibly lethal) lean, mean running machines.  I’m not going to say they are using performance enhancing drugs, because I don’t believe they are, but I do wonder about genetic engineering of some sort, or at the very least their runners out today are the progeny of some sort of secret captive breeding programme that must have been going on for decades.  They are a well-established club, so this seems to me to be an entirely possible even probable scenario.  They are all pretty friendly, but they most definitely take their running seriously.  They are also very well organised, they had their own photographer capturing the occasion, and so thanks to Steel City Striders’ Douglas Douglas as I’ve used a couple of his shots to make this post more visually impressive.  Basically, if the shot looks like it’s on a quality camera and in focus, it’s probably one of his.  Also if it is of runners, running, it’s his, because I wouldn’t have got back ahead of those runners.  You’ll see what I mean…   I saw one lovely cani-cross runner with an amazing looking dog, but not so much (no) Nordic walkers, or people with buggies.  I think you have to go with the flow a bit here, I’m not sure it would be quite accurate to describe this as anything other than a ‘run’ now, it would be quite scary if you tried to just complete it at a leisurely stroll, you might get trampled by a stampede of runners coming up behind if you didn’t start right at the back of the pack.

There was a friendly start line briefing, warning of the mud and potential slipperiness of the route, especially in the tree root section of the wooded areas.  You were asked to alert a marshal if you saw someone fall – they didn’t actually say whether you were expected to stop and help the fallen or just laugh and point on your way past kicking mud in their face and shouting ‘see ya, loser’, so I presume that would be down to individual discretion.   Repeat runners were reminded that the route involved two complete laps, first timers that there were two laps – I think the inference was that you might be forgiven for cutting a few corners first time out, but that would be cheating yourself really if you’ve been before.  I’m not so sure, I didn’t spot any short cuts – if you randomly started heading off cross country you’d be just as likely to end up at Surprise View or in Manchester airport as back at the start, and that strikes me as a high risk approach to running to say the least!  I started towards the back of the start ‘funnel’ (actually it was just a huddle of people on a tarmac path behind a red flag) I didn’t want to get caught in the frenzy of more competitive runners sprinting off right from the start.  There was time to exchange pleasantries with other runners, and then I could hear a distant and faint voice counting down to the start and then we were all off.  Tomtom on, and we started to move.  First of the Steel City Striders shots – The Start:

and theyre off SCS shot

Because of the massive turn out,it was a crowded start, quite quickly bottle necks formed and you had to pause to walk through gates and to go single file over styles.  I don’t mind that too much, it’s part of what it is, the tracks are narrow, and if you are that bothered about speeding round you either need to be at the front or recognise maybe this isn’t the event for you.  I found it all very friendly, and a chance to talk to some of the marshals on the way round, who did sterling work of smiling and clapping continuously for over an hour and a half as far as I could tell!  I suppose maybe they could look at organising the start a bit, so they encourage faster people to be nearer to the front of the people train at the start and slower ones to position themselves further back, but I also think that will naturally happen as people become more familiar with what to expect.  Here is another SCS shot of the start heading off -you can just make out two Smiley Paces vests (me and my buddy) heading off:

smiley paces in the throng from SCS

I love this route.  The varied terrain takes you on some firm almost gravel paths; woodland tracks; muddy cut-throughs; spongy mossy areas; bogs; a couple of streams to leap (or scramble) and steep uphill climbs.  You have to remember to look up, because the views are great.  I’m not wild about the steep hills, but there is some satisfaction in having got up them without being sick or crying.  The scenery is absolutely stunning.  My photos are from afterwards, but you get the idea-ish.  No substitute for doing it yourself though!

Early on once we left the track and got to proper off road mud, a young girl a bit in front of me landed sprawled face first in a puddle. I was worried about her, but undaunted, she just instantly sprung up again as if she was doing some sort of off-road parkour trampolining trick, it was astonishing!  Her accompanying adult checked she was OK to continue, which apparently she was.  They are hardier than they look these child runners!

In one muddy section where I sort of hopscotched through from foot to foot rather gingerly, I could hear little squeaks and clicks of exclamation behind me – it was like I was being pursued by an over friendly dolphin!  I offered to let this runner pass, but she said she was actually following in my footprints quite literally and that was her tactic, a concept I found to be both astonishing and rather alarming!  Anyway, that was OK… except I almost immediately heard her give out an actual shriek as she clearly took a stumble, and I sort of felt responsible, I didn’t dare look back….  She must have been OK though, because once we’d emerged from the mud of the wood she quickly overtook me going up the killer hill which is quite exposed and involves stream jumping.   I asked if she’d repay the favour of me having provided her with a lead through the mud by dragging me up the hill in return.  Inexplicably she declined with a ‘maybe next time‘ as she sprinted off like a hare onwards and upwards into the distance.

This is the route by the way, it look so innocuous viewed from above…

Towards the end of the first loop I ended up naturally falling in step with my Rustling Runner buddy who’d taken the photo for us earlier on.  I used to join her for runs on a Monday night that met where – you guessed it – Rustlings Road in Sheffield, but they got too fast for me (spot a theme here yet?) so I’ve not been for ages as I can’t keep up.  It’s a shame really, because they are a friendly and small bunch. Anyway, she was encouraging me to think about giving them another go.  Temporarily having lost the capacity for clear thought, on account of running and talking simultaneously (which I can’t really do) I found myself saying that I would indeed do so, perhaps in a couple of weeks’ time, once my fitness levels have picked up.  It dawned on me afterwards, as she sprinted on and away, that this concept is essentially flawed.  Even allowing for the possibility that I do pick up fitness over that time scale, the problem is so will they, they have upped their training regime for the new year too!  I will no more catch up with them in turns of my fitness training, than I will catch up in age with someone who is older than me, or catch the moon.  (This picture a) doesn’t count and b) isn’t me, but I quite like it, so it gets included).  Anyway, I did feel dumb, it was a hard lesson to learn!

catch the moon

For the second loop, the field spread out more, I found it better and less tiring, because you could go at your own pace, not have it dictated by having to stop and slow for other runners, or feeling pressurised to speed up because of heavy breathing on your collar from behind.  There were some cheery families offering support from the sides which was good.  I don’t know if they had expected to be caught up in the run or not, but they seemed happy enough to be so.  I paused to get a couple of high fives from toddlers as I passed, they may not have actually turbo charged my running (I told them it would help me go faster) but it did cheer my spirits on the way round, I felt like a celebrity some of them were so chuffed at this interaction!

More photos of general loveliness: Thanks Douglas Douglas, whoever you are.

We need to give a heartfelt, albeit virtual, cheer for the marshals at this point.  I think most were volunteers, and the were a mix of National Trust volunteers and some with links to running or runners.  They were all however, fantastic. Positive, cheerful, encouraging and clapping every time I passed them.  Apologies if they don’t all get a mention, but those that stuck out today included:

The woman holding the gate open as you came out of the woods, she had a huge smile and words of encouragement as you passed.  Actually, I really hope she was a volunteer, and not some poor random walker, who had courteously made a call to just wait and let a few runners through, before attempting to go through the gate herself and ended up stuck behind the gateway right until I passed her for the second time.  She did look a bit trapped to be honest, now I come to think of it.  Would be a terrible thing if she got punished for being nice and giving way.  Trapped for all eternity by a constant stream of runners, destined never to pass through the gate herself…

Then there was the guy at the top of the killer hall, stood on the stone wall, watching us creep up the hill like a chain of soldier ants from a distance probably.  He was very cheerful too – mind you, I’d have laughed at the sight of us negotiating that hill, especially second time round, when you couldn’t help but notice how many more of us had slowed to a walk.  He was all smiles and positive thinking, ‘all done now‘ at the end of the first time, and then the second, acknowledging the slower pace he gave a wry get out ‘too churned up to run up now is it?’  Genius!  Of course that was my reason for going slowly, not apathy, mud!

There was man with bike and pointing arm at a junction point, who encouraged us not to cut the corner.  Thanks for that… I think!  I was pleased I’d done it all ‘properly’ when I finished, less so at the time. He also hailed us with good wishes as we limped (in my case) on by.

Then there was the amazing clapping marshal, who honestly just appeared to smile and clap the whole time.  There was a long haul of incline getting up to where she was standing at a sort of hole in the wall (not one of the ones that give money out, there are no cash points in the wilds of Longshaw, in case you were wondering), but she clapped every single runner from the moment they came into sight, to the moment they disappeared from view.  I commented to her as I passed her after lap one ‘I hope you’ve got the energy to still clap me round lap two?’ ‘Of course‘, she responded brightly ‘and I hope you have the energy to still be running’, she seemed more able to carry out her side of the equation than I.  Great clapping on her part!

At the finish line, there was a fair cluster marshals who were sporting bright pink National Trust 10K bobble hats and armed with clipboards and stop watches. The hats were completely fantastic, made them stand out certainly, and probably necessary to prevent freezing as well.  It didn’t seem too cold running round, but I imagine if you had to stand still in the wind for a couple of hours it would be quite a different experience

With the size of the turnout I have no idea how they will manage processing the results.  As an aside, I think if you are really bothered about an exact time, you need to take personal responsibility for that.  Personally, I was just delighted to have made it round.  Just seconds behind me was my Smiley compatriot, that was nice and companionable, and confirmation that we are well matched running buddies –  for now at least – I know she is definitely going to out pace me once she’s got back to running fit.

Having finished, we recovered our coats, and as the queue was so massive for coffee, I pottered back to the finish to watch some others coming back and take some snaps.  Don’t worry too much, I’ll get bored of all this photography soon enough.  It’s dawning on me increasingly that I will never be able to capture images in the same league as that of our ‘official’ Smiley photographers (they know who they are) but I keep hoping that the law of averages demands I’ll surely eventually get at least one half decent one if I take enough –  Even though experience suggests otherwise.  We did find someone who could take an ‘after’ shot of us running, for the record.  So the aftershock after shot looks like this – you can see what I mean about me finding the pinning on of the number a bit challenging, definitely lopsided!

Post run January 2016

I also got chatting to another runner who has apparently been contemplating joining Smilies for some time, but was worried about being too slow.   I gathered that she had taken heart on witnessing my own less than intimidating performance in my Smiley vest, so made first contact. We had a good chat, and so we shall see what unfolds.  She sounded to me like she’d done a fair bit already, parkruns, night torch runs, Bolsover 10k for a start.  It’s amazing how many people will talk to you if you don the Smiley vest, it makes us look highly approachable, it must be the comic sans typeface…  Here are some of the late finishers fighting their way home, and the lovely marshals cheering them back.

Having waited for the massive queue to subside we ventured into the tearooms and had latte (me) and pot of tea (Smiley compatriot).  We joined another fellow Smiley and her friend from parkrun.  They had come along together.  Only it turns out this Smiley isn’t one at all.  I was amazed, she knows all the Smileys, turns out at all the same races as Smileys (though admittedly now I come to think of it I’ve never seen her in the Smiley gear), she has to be an honorary Smiley of sorts.  I’m going to call her the non-Smiley Smiley, which will become confusing at some point if she follows through on her professed intention to get around to joining Smilies at some point.  I’ve seen her around so much I just assumed she was, but apparently not.  She’s another one that’s naturally gregarious and appears to be pathologically friendly too, so would fit in just fine.  Still, we had a very happy chat.  Though I did wonder if outward appearances could be deceptive when she ‘fessed up to having gone out with one of our Smilies yesterday, but broken her.  Our poor Smiley friend had turned quite badly on her ankle, triggering an old injury, so now out of running for a while.  Not only was she too damaged to run Longshaw today as planned, she wasn’t even up for marshalling.  I’d have been even more concerned about this had I not deduced that said injured Smiley is not in my Smiletastic team (Smiley Paces winter challenge) so sad as it is every cloud eh, every cloud.. (Get well soon though, all the same, we Smilies need to look out for each other when push comes to shove).

There was also the curious incident of the disappearing top.  It had vanished from the unofficial bagdrop area (sports-jumble/ lost property), I was pretty confident that if it had been taken, it would have been by mistake.  Runners are a trust worthy lot, and even if they weren’t they hate carrying more than they need. That is why post run everyone pays with a £10 note they’ve been carrying for emergencies, who wants to run with heavy change jingling and bouncing around?  Anyway, I can report the missing top was successfully retrieved, it had indeed been handed in. So you don’t have to worry, you can just admire the Smiley Non-Smiley heading to the finish (thanks SCS).  Can’t help noticing SCS finish shots are rather classier than mine.  Oh well, I suppose it’s because my focus is my running…

smiley non smiley SCS shot

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After a good old natter, which was lovely.  We got up to depart, and I realised that stiffness was most definitely setting in.  Oops.  We passed new groups arriving for various organised walks, cycles or clean ups.  It’s a busy place at the weekend Longshaw it seems. We waved goodbye to the organisers who had done a great job and were still smiling, pretty impressive eh?  Thank you nice National Trust Longshaw team for doing such an awesome job.  It is a hard job, but I hope not a thankless one, your efforts are most definitely massively appreciated!  Sorry it’s blurred (did warn you) I think you get a sense of the hats though don’t you.  Fabulous, absolutely fabulous!

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I realised I was actually very stiff getting up to walk back to car.  My new best friends, Non-smiley, Smiley (I’ve just realised that makes her sound like a sort of Grumpy Smiley, maybe I should call her Smiling Non-Smiley instead?), and her parkrun pal also made a move.  They practically skipped off ahead as me and my official Smiley buddy laboured our way back up the track to the car.  Also, just to rub it in, did my eyes deceive me, or did I see her jogging up the road later, apparently merrily running home to Dore?  She’s a machine!  Of more concern, I couldn’t help noticing her parkrun friend was no longer with her…. It makes you think doesn’t it.  To lose one running companion may be regarded as a misfortune, but to lose two looks like carelessness…  I hope it was just carelessness, and nothing more sinister still, there is certainly a pattern of mysterious disappearances correlating with person last seen with.  Makes you think doesn’t it?  This might be the last image of that woman, leaving apparently willingly enough in the company of the Smiley non-Smiley…  I shall be watching Look North all week most avidly, just in case of any ‘missing persons’ reports.  Better safe than sorry…

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We drove back, chatting about the run, how brilliant it was, how brilliant we were, usual post-run endorphins fuelled euphoria.  It is so true what they say about the addictive nature of that buzz.  (Though I have to concede I find the new evidence from boffins that ‘runners high’ is actually caused by smugness escaping from the body rather than endorphins to be entirely plausible) I’m sure it’s just as great for me with my time as for the more elite runners who whizzed round in a fraction of our times.  Slightly disquieting though was that on the way back, mysterious noises of something rolling around in the boot of my car became more and more obvious.  Eventually I felt compelled to tell my running buddy that I didn’t have a body in there.  Or at least, I certainly couldn’t recall putting a corpse in the back, and I’m sort of counting on the likelihood that I’d have remembered if I had.  I shouldn’t have worried, she was fine about it actually, basically taking the line that as long as it wasn’t anyone she knew personally, it wasn’t any of her business.  That’s what friends are for.  Anyway, let’s be honest, a body wouldn’t roll around that much, on reflection, a much more likely explanation is that someone must have dumped a decapitated head in the boot of my car whilst we were out running round.  After all, I had left my car keys unattended whilst I was out for a run.   I forgot to check the boot when I got home, and I can’t be bothered to go back outside to look now.  I’ll try and remember to peak in tomorrow.  It’s so easy to forget though isn’t it.  Cheetah buddy left some running leggings in the boot of her car for so long that all the reflective strip came off, they were fine otherwise though after a whiz through the washing machine.  I think a detached head might not fare so well if left undiscovered for months and months, but maybe we’ll find out.  I’ll keep you posted.

Phew that was a long one.  Didn’t realise there was so much to comment on.  No wonder I’m stiff, despite the hot bath earlier.  I’m wondering if I ought to finally do something about that by getting out the foam roller.  I found out quite recently that apparently they don’t in fact work by osmosis.  It is not enough to just have the in the same house/ flat or room as you, you are supposed to actually use them in an interactive and considered way!  I suppose that means I’ll have to take off the polythene wrap.  I thought it was like joining a gym, once you’d paid your membership fee for the year that was a sufficient commitment to getting fit to start to see results.  I attributed the fact my foam roller wasn’t really getting results was because it was a cheap and cheerful purchase got in a sale from an already discount sports shop. You get what you pay for sometimes.    Now I find out otherwise, truth hurts almost as much as using the darned thing probably will.  Maybe I’ll have a go  later, or maybe not.  Perhaps it’s time to follow the best possible advice for avoiding running injuries that my very own Cheetah buddy shared with me today.  It was an image on one of her birthday cards, awesome choice!

how to avoid running injuries

For now, pot of tea I think and maybe some Sunday night telly.  Perfect end to perfect day.  Thanks running buddy, thanks National Trust, thanks other runners, and thanks especially marshals.  Goodnight y’all.  Over and out…

getting ready jan longshaw 10k

Categories: 10km, motivation, off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Monday Mob Muster

This post will be photo free.  There is a very good reason for this.  The Monday Mob are essentially an underground secret society.  They have been around for quite a while, years in fact, lurking in the shadows, furtively whispering messages to one another to agree a rendezvous.  They emerge from winter shadows at the designated time and place, head out for their companionable slow and steady run, and then once again disappear into the mists and trees of Sheffield.   That’s what I’d heard anyway.  A mysterious gathering, other runners would speak of them, but no-one seemed to have actually seen them or run with them.  Like a sort of benign urban myth, you know the kind of thing, a friend of a friend met someone whose neighbour’s hairdresser’s post-person had seen them out running together… once… allegedly.

There was little to go on quite frankly, until, unexpectedly, back at Halloween parkrun at Sheffield Hallam they seemed to quite deliberately out themselves.  Admittedly they were disguised to look as inconspicuous as possible, wearing lime green witches hats, and rattling collection tins in aid of parkrun as they gamely sold cake (good call) to the runners of Sheffield.  To be completely fair, they may not have intended to be publicly identified and outed in this way.  What happened, was that the race director alerted parkrunners to the Monday Mob’s fund raising initiative, and that was that, cat out of the proverbial bag, not going back in not for anyone.  The group now had  a name, and members of the group had recognisable faces.  They were well and truly in the open and in the public domain, ready or not!

cat-out-of-the-bag warning

Clearly, I did make a donation and have some cake (just to be polite) and so put some faces to some at least of this elusive gathering.  They all had big smiles and a welcoming demeanour.  I also recognised at least a couple as regular parkrunners, and more importantly, parkrunners of about my speed and running temperament.  That is, happy with the slow and steady complete rather than compete approach.  Got me thinking.

So it was a couple of weeks ago, having done some shark like circling of those I recognised back at parkrun for a few weeks before,  I approached one of the Monday Mob directly, and asked if they were up for a fresh face.  The person I spoke to was incredibly friendly and welcoming, and immediately gave me her contact details, perhaps it wasn’t going to be quite as hard to infiltrate this group as I’d first imagined, would there be a catch?  Apparently not.  Upshot of all this shenanigans is that tonight, I headed off to join them.  Venturing out in the dark and cold to embrace whatever initiation may await me.  How I levered myself off the sofa I’m not entirely sure, but I’m very glad I did.

I strapped on my TomTom and again by jogging to the rendezvous point in an attempt to up my mileage, was ridiculously early, and had to hang around feeling self-conscious in the dark wearing my builder’s tabard (all reflective stripes and luminous yellow in extra extra large).  Eventually another runner appeared and was really encouraging.  Others emerged from the gloom, and all were so friendly it was like being swamped in a really sincere (but not inappropriate or claustrophobic) hug.  I was made to feel really welcome, it was genuinely lovely.   I’m not sure how many of us there were, maybe 8 or so?   I was a bit worried that by prostituting myself around other running groups in this way I might be being a bit disloyal to Smilies, and come across as flaky and/or disloyal to this new group, but actually at least a couple were also Smilies, and many do parkrun and other stuff too.  The woman I paired up with said on one occasion only a couple of them turned up, and they ended up hooking up at the back of a Frontrunner escorted run which had coincidentally just headed out from their shop.  Wow, Monday nights are positively congested around Hunters’ Bar!

I’m coming to the conclusion that the running community in Sheffield is really a complicated Venn diagram or spirograph of overlapping circles.  Lots of us toy with a variety of groups, and I think maybe it doesn’t matter too much – we can simultaneously embrace multiple identities without developing multiple personality disorders as such.

I will always be primarily a Smiley, but I think there’s room to be a Marshal Mudder at an Endurer Dash; an Accelerator on a Thursday wood run; a Hobbiteer out in the woods with my yomping buddies; a parkrunner on a Saturday; an intermittent Rustling’s Runner (if I ever get fast enough to keep up with them) – so why not a Monday Mobster now and again too?  I guess if I was out their winning national or international races it might be a bit more complex, but I can’t see clubs fighting to retain sole rights to sponsor me.  All good.  One day if I can be bothered I might do an actual Venn diagram of Sheffield running clubs, but I have a feeling it will always be a project for tomorrow, mañana, as the saying goes.

I wanted to join the Monday group because I think the steadier pace will suit me, the Rustling Runners who also head out on a Monday, but a bit later are way too fast for me to keep up without feeling like either my chest will burst or I will cry, possibly both.  Also, although I have significantly upped my running mileage in the last couple of weeks, I haven’t been doing any road running at all, because I don’t like it frankly, but it will do me good to get some miles on the clock on tarmac, how else am I ever to even get to the start of the Sheffield Half?  The Monday Mob do road running at this time of year.  Most importantly, they seem a companionable and friendly group, what’s not to like?

So greetings were exchanged, introductions made.  I couldn’t believe quite how nice and inclusive everyone was, really encouraging and apparently genuinely pleased to have a newcomer join in the fun (though I know from personal experience, that the novelty of having me in the  midst may wear off quite soon, I’ll enjoy the honeymoon period whilst it lasts…)  I found out a bit of history of the group, it started as part of an Active Sheffield (or something) initiative, and that meant led runs for a few months.  Once the funding dried up, the group continued under its own steam, which is a pretty impressive example of sustainability and capacity building of which any public health initiative should be proud.  It was great.  There was a bit of discussion about where to go, and then we headed of towards town (Waitrose to be precise), I never run that route, it was reasonably lit, and we did go at an easy pace, I was able to chat away with my running buddy.  A fellow Smiley I recognised her, but haven’t really spoken  at length before.  It was really nice and companionable.  We swapped tales of how we got into running and why we do it, most bonding, and inspirational too – for me at least.  She is coming back after a pretty major injury, such tenacity to get fit again is very impressive.

It was quite an urban run (though not exactly parkour to be fair, in my head this is sort of the stuff we were doing-ish), and it made a change.  We even went under an underpass at one point and  alongside the dual carriageway before we turned back towards are starting point at the Hunters’ Bar roundabout.  I really enjoyed it, much more than I’d hoped, it was a comfortable pace, atmosphere and welcoming group.  I’m sure I’ll be back.

So I thanked my new Best Friends Forever, and after hugs of farewell and promises to do it all again soon (although not next week as they’ll all be at the pub instead – this group gets better and better)  we dispersed through the park.   They were a little apologetic about this ‘not running’ aspect of their running diary, but personally, I think team bonding, and group nurturing is fantastically important and a very sensible approach to maintaining motivation in my book.  It may take cake to entice a Smiley (or prosecco), the Monday Mob are apparently more hot chocolate/ pub people.  It’s good to do cross training, I think my running Venn diagram will find room for both!

why are you running

We said our proper goodbyes by some of the cars parked in Endcliffe park, and  I set off at a gentle jog to go home.  I didn’t have a head torch, so bottled out of running through the park itself, instead heading off down Rustlings Road.  I found myself at the corner just in time for the rendezvous with the regular Rustlings Runners Monday group.  It was a bit surreal, as they at first assumed I’d come to join them, whereas I was actually all garlanded in smiles because I’d got endorphins flowing post run, and because I knew I would not have to do any more running until tomorrow,  they on the other hand, being stronger runners than me were all garlanded in smiles at the prospect of being just about to embark on a run in the cold and dark right now…  I had been caught red-handed, moonlighting with another group.   Uh oh…  Even so, it was really nice to see them, and we ran together up Rustlings Road where we paused for a quick catch up before they sprinted off up the hills in the darkness and I loped home at a rather more sedate pace.  I am very fond of these running buddies too, but I am not in their league, I was puffed just doing the 1 km or whatever it is,  up Rustlings Road to the corner, though it probably did me good to have to push on a bit.  Definitely at a speed where I could no longer comfortably talk and run though.  There was plenty of time however to identify future running challenges.  Longshaw next weekend is a possible, though clashes with the Smiley off-road, the half-marathon coming up too of course.  Get me and my running calendar insights!   I did my usual thing of being really enthusiastic as post run I feel invincible, it is sometimes hard to recapture this enthusiasm the following morning…

monday mob initiation run

So, this is what I ended up doing despite myself, once again a triumph for my ‘conscientious if not keen’ gene.  I said I’d go, and go I did, and that ended up being a respectable extra 5.6 miles on the mileometer, and my first road run in months.  I don’t really count parkrun, as those footpaths are a bit more forgiving than the pavement slabs of the roadside.  Hooray!  All in all, a very positive Monday Mob initiation.  Also a great end to the day which started catastrophically.  Oh, why was that I hear you say?   Well, I wouldn’t want you to think I’m being a drama queen or attention gaining or anything, but it was pretty dire I can tell you.  I’d woken early, and had a blast of energetic hoovering, washing up and tidying, before settling down at my laptop to do some writing work I’ve been putting off for some time.  To reward myself for my domestic goddess like achievements, I made myself a really perfect cup of coffee.   As I sat down and put the mug down beside me, by some freak of gravity, combined with the ill-judged juxtaposition of my over-full desk tidy to the mug, I somehow knocked not one, but two permanent marker pens.  They sort of catapulted out of the desk tidy in a perfect arc, landing upside down right in my mug of coffee.  I was really, really displeased.  I wish now, I’d had the foresight to take a snap shot of this accident, it was rather newsworthy after all.  However, at the time, I was way too upset.  Not only was my caffeine fix ruined, I had to do quite a lot of both mopping up and pen salvage.  Those permanent marker pens cost more than you think – or would do, if they hadn’t mysteriously found their way back to my house from an unspecified work place some years ago.

My desk tidy is fabulous though, I made it myself hoping to submit it as a ‘top tip’ to Take-a-Break magazine as it’s made out of an old poster tube, decorated with the cover of take-a-break and then sticky backed plastic.  I made a set, one for me, and one for each of my most favourite work colleagues, four in total.  I’ve had mine nigh on 15 years I should think, and it’s still quite as lovely as the day it was created.   I like to imagine my friends/colleagues have similarly treasured theirs for all these years, but then again, I harbour a lot of misjudged fantasies.  Don’t we all?  You know what, I’m going to go and photograph it now to share with you – I won’t do an absolute dramatic reconstruction of the incident itself, but you will get to see the desk tidy, and the ceramic coaster that was the landing point for my  mug.  I fully accept I could probably have done a better risk assessment in advance of this manoeuvre, but I need your support with this, not your contempt.  I did submit this brilliant and practical idea to Take-a-Break as intended by the way, but for some bizarre reason they never snapped it up for their top tips page.  Their loss.

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So that’s my running done for another day, thank you Monday Mob for the welcome, I’ll be back, yes indeedy I will!  Now I just have to review the Smiletastic stats, the highlight of my week for the first quarter of the year.  This is living, it really is, here is an upbeat motivational quote to prove it!

dude run run

 

 

Categories: motivation, road, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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