Posts Tagged With: Sheffield running

Wait – there’s a hill? small park BIG RUN also penguins for Palestine, no really :) *

*Also gratuitous use of emoticon in title of this blog post

small park BIG RUN

Digested read:  took part in the small park BIG RUN again, in the early hours.  It was fun.

Undigested read:  It’s extra nice, when you get to do something that you allegedly like (ableit often in a type two fun sort of way)  – in this case running (badly), as part of an event that is aligned to your values.  Even better when it’s local, community based and gives you the chance to do a fun new thing.  That is, running round in big circles in a park in the middle of the night, which granted, doesn’t sound like an enormous amount of fun to the uninitiated, but it turns out it really is, especially if you get lucky with the company you keep on the way round. Oh, and another thing which adds to the fun, it’s also a ‘running’ event which doesn’t actually require you to run if you don’t want to.  Excellent.   Walking is fine, also uni-cycling and stilt-assisted circuits, though I’m inclined to think both of those approaches might have presented a few extra challenges along the way.  Possibly a case of ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ Still, nothing ventured eh? Or you could juggle, you might need to learn first though as I think that’s probably not intuitive either, but basically each to their own, that’s the main thing.

 

The event is proactively set out to be as inclusive as possible, and quite right too!  It actually put on a couple of  ‘Assisted Hours’:

ASSISTED HOURS During the hours of 4pm to 5pm on Saturday and 11am till noon on Sunday we will be offering help to anyone who would like to participate, but feels they need some support to make this happen. We want to help. Please contact us and together let’s try to work something out!

Genius!  There were times up that hill that I’d have quite appreciated some assistance too to be fair, but I never thought to get in touch in advance.  Looks from the photos that plenty did though and had a hoot going round.  This is such a good idea, parkrun in particular is waking up to doing a lot more to facilitate inclusion through e.g. promoting walking, training up guides for visually impaired runners and offering more signed run briefings at its events, but this is the first time I’ve been aware of an organised run proactively offering assistance as opposed to reacting positively to requests for adjustments.  It gives such a different feel.

trev run for all

Oh, what’s that, you have no idea what I’m talking about?  I do do that sometimes, get ahead of myself.  To be fair, I had no idea what small park BIG RUN was until about this time last year, so it’s fair enough if you don’t know what it is.  Erm, well it’s small park BIG RUN and it’s becoming an annual event for Sheffield.  According to the website blah de blah:

A 24-hour group challenge raising funds for Palestinian women and children Midday Sat 15 June – Midday Sun 16 June 2019 Meersbrook Park, Sheffield.

In 2018 we raised £7,000 the Khuza’a Children’s Play and Heal project and the Sheffield Palestine Women’s Scholarship Fund. Can we do better this year?

We will run continuous circuits of Meersbrook park over 24 hours with at least two people on the course at all times. Entrants will be able to run, wheel, jog, walk, hop(!) shifts from 30 minutes upwards. You can choose how long and at what time you would like to run when you enter. You can run as an individual or as part of a team.

At 12.15pm on Sunday 16th we complete the 24 hours with a free Community/Family Fun Run of one lap. ALL WELCOME.

So it’s a fund-raiser for Palestine on one level, but it’s much more than that, because as the event happens in Meersbrook park, parallel events are taking place in Palestine, so there’s a bit of symbolic solidarity there.  As the organisers said: ‘several runs are being organised in Palestine: In Gaza, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Nablus. … It is so exciting to think that whilst we are running here in Sheffield there will be hundreds of people in Palestine running too! In some small way these runs can help bridge the gaps that are put between people.’

The event is definitely about raising awareness of serious inequalities and injustices too.  It treads an elegant line between holding a positive and joyful event in Sheffield, whilst keeping the politics of Palestine central in the breadth of activities that happen alongside the event.  That included a photo exhibition : ‘building bridges’ photos from Sheffield and Palestine and an opportunity to contribute to a ‘wall of words’

There was also communal poetry writing – a high risk activity in my experience, but conducted with enthusiasm and talent here I’m sure.   I just struggle with this idea and need to qualify why… as I’m not just being rude, I’m processing previous trauma.  I think I’m over influenced by formative experiences in respect of this. I’ve never quite recovered from attending a ‘hard-hitting’ poetry reading that was to raise awareness around the horrors of and damage caused by drug addiction.  Which included the climactic conclusion of a rhyme that was…

wait for it….

‘Youths clad so you cannot tell their sex

and smelling all of cop-y-dex’

It was read out in a particularly laboured way to get the rhythm and rhyme emphasised to best effect by a woman with a completely deadpan expression.  I have never been in such pain drying to suppress laughter.  I applaud the earnest endeavour of the writer(s), but it didn’t for me at least, conjure up a vision of brutal realism and horror, thereby eliciting the intended response of shock and repulsion that would motivate me to action!  It wasn’t just the laboured rhyme, it was that I associated copydex with primary school and smearing it on your hands so you could peel it all off again – that worked on tables too by the way – very therapeutic – and not a glue you can readily associate with the worst ravages of solvent abuse.  That recitation has a lot to answer for.  Poetry can indeed have punch, but my first thought now is always of crying with suppressed laughter at the back of a freezing cold community hall, horribly traumatised by the realisation that my corpsing was massively inappropriate but completely beyond my control.  Nobody likes to be powerless… that’s why what is happening in Palestine matters.

copydex

There were also as plenty of pithy information posters around the course that gave a snap shot of the reality of life in Palestine.

And alongside that, during the daylight hours there was live music along the course, a community choir for the final flourish.  No, it isn’t Garfield’s choir, though I’d love to see that there too next year if there is such a thing, which there really should be if there isn’t already.

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Some took on the running challenge to extreme, treating the endless circuits – it’s  a one kilometre loop but involves a steep hill – as punishing hill reps. One hardy soul kept going for the entire 24 hours, doing a personal ultra.  Some just did one loop for fun, others carried flags or banners along the route, keeping the politics central to their participation.  You can run as an individual, you can run with friends, you can be part of a 24 hour relay, passing on a baton, or sash or just a winning smile as you hand over to the next participant.   You can run/walk/jog/juggle  for just one half hour slot or as many as you like; you can chat your way round or use the time for silent contemplation. ‘The choice is yours’ as Our Graham would say…

So basically, you can engage with event as you choose.

Imagine a Venn diagram, and the outer circles are politics; running; community; festival; solidarity with Palestine; music; craft; personal challenge; team challenge; bunting; lanterns; inclusivity and lots more probably, and where they all overlap with one another in the middle, that’s small park BIG RUN.  Oh hang on, forgot one of the most important circles of all – no, not the circle of life, the one with cake.  There was lots of cake too, apparently, but a daylight thing I learned too late!

trev cake

So are we all on the same page now, in terms of understanding what it’s all about?  Hope so.  I took park in small park BIG RUN last year, entering at the last minute on something of a whim having been very confused about exactly what it was.  I enjoyed it a lot, and resolved to come back and do a night time spot this year.  So that’s what I did, and no regrets… oh, well that’s not strictly true, it’s a lovely event, but it would be so much better if it didn’t need to exist wouldn’t it?  That aside though, very nice indeed thank you for asking.  This is little gem of an event, and it seems to be growing organically.  It was noticeably much bigger this year compared with last, and slicker with the organisation too – not that it was bad last year, it just has evolved more since.  Run by a team with principle and passion and it shows, in the friendly vibe evident on the day  even in the middle of the night.  And what’s more, that was also all going on in real time in Palestine.  I know, how cool is that.  small world BIG RUN to borrow a phrase.  Here are smiles from Ramallah, that’s pretty amazing is it not.

Palestinian runners

So that’s the background.  What, do you mean, you are horrified that’s only the background?  Are you implying I’m going on a bit?  Don’t get all accusatory with me! I never claimed to be concise, you could have stopped after the digested read, if you are still here, even if only lured on by the photos, then that’s contributory negligence.  Fact.

So onto what happened next.  I’d have got to this point a lot quicker if we hadn’t had that little squabble about how long I was taking by the way … just sayin’.

What happened next is that a few months back, small park BIG RUN came up again on the Sheffield running community’s radar.   Last year only a couple of groups got it together to organise relays of runners to cover the full 24 hours, so there would always be someone on the course from their team throughout.  This year  there was a positive flurry of team entrants, including…. drum roll… one from my very own Smiley Paces.  Yay!  Go us!

Of course, teams don’t just materialise by magic, sadly.  It takes a fine organisational mind to step up and show leadership.  Cometh the hour, cometh the smiley, I give you exhibit a), our leader.

cometh the hour

Now there’s a look that oozes leadership and inspires confidence if ever I saw it!  Hurrah!

I say ‘leader’ but really that might be pushing it a bit.  A leader only if you believe in the ability of a leader to herd cats.  A leader in the sense of being a facilitator, enthusiasm generator and clearer up of confusion perhaps, but not really in the sense of being able to influence the direction of travel of any individual member, or being worshipped by followers.  We are an idiosyncratic lot we Smilies.  And all the better for it I’m sure.

So the gathering of a team began with a shout out for anyone interested, and then evolved into the creation of a shared google doc on which people could sign up and bagsy preferred time slots.  Now, not going to lie, this was problematic.  Problematic for all sorts of reasons.  Firstly, Smiley Paces members are all lovely, so there was a lot of unhelpful politeness.  ‘No you take that slot, I really don’t mind’, ‘don’t worry, I’ll take whatever slot is left over, so I’ll not sign up til everyone else has‘, ‘you first’, ‘no you first’ and so on. Resulting in a collective holding back and indecisiveness that took a while to be overcome. Then, there was the information technology divide between those for whom a spreadsheet acts as an erotic stimulant in much the same way as catnip does to cats, and those for whom the very thought of a spreadsheet brings on cold sweats and shudders.  For the former it is a case of ‘Bring it on!’  Because spreadsheets means super-charged fun, and that reminds me, must start an excel sheet on how to prepare for the party to mark International Spreadhseet Day‘ – which is 17th October for 2019 by the way.

spreadsheet day

For the latter, being expected to contribute to a shared spreadsheet engenders much the same horror as if they were being told they’d have to perform open heart surgery on a loved one without so much as access to a YouTube video in order to advise them how!  It seems that, magnificent as my fellow Smilies are, in some respects it is a miracle that they are able to pursue challenging careers and indeed, even live independently and dress themselves if the messages following this post were anything to go by.  ‘How do I open the document again?’  ‘I’ve accidentally signed up my dog for 12 hours can you edit it?’  ‘ooh, I think I’ve signed up twice by accident’, ‘well I thought I signed up, I definitely signed up for something, wasn’t it this – oh crap’.  You get the idea I’m sure!  This is where leadership was needed, in the sense that ‘you’re the leader you have to sort it for me‘ not so much in the ‘you’re the leader, it’s fine to delegate’.  Still, all worked out in the end, somewhat amazingly. All slots covered, and eventually the penny dropping that this was but the first stage in the process, you were also required to enter the event online as well.  We were all set.  Hooray!  We got there in the end.  Only a couple of people signed up without having bothered to check out the route.  There was one comment along the lines of ‘what there’s a hill?’ the night before, which turned out to be a serious enquiry and not a hilarious and spontaneous spew of sarcasm.  Ooops, oh well, you live and learn eh?  Not just any old hill either.  One well worth of the descriptor of ‘hill’, and one which rewards the upward climb with a fantastic panoramic view of Sheffield at the top – if you can but see it through your still bleeding eyes after making the effort to run up it…

I enjoyed the event last year, but this year decided I fancied doing a night time slot, as I wanted to see the beautifully crafted lanterns created to light the course in all their glory.  I also wanted to see the sun rise over Meersbrook park.  That would be glorious.

I will admit though, the day before my enthusiasm was waning a bit.  Partly because in Sheffield we’d had a solid few weeks of rain of near Biblical proportions.  Not so much ‘singing and dancing in the rain’ rain, as ‘we’re all going to die’ rain.  Didn’t honestly fancy running in that.  Then I also had a bit of a wobble, when I spotted through a handy ‘heat map’ of volunteers and runners for the event, that for the 3.30 a.m. slot there were likely to be very few people about.  I suddenly thought maybe running in the dark in a park I don’t really know, on my own might not be so appealing after all.  Oh well, committed now.  Alarm set for 2.20 a.m. and early to be I went.

What the f*** was that!’  It was my alarm going off at stupid o-clock.  I don’t know if anyone is able to quite explain this to me.  But how come, whilst I’m a perpetual insomniac who makes Lady Macbeth look like she suffers from narcolepsy I still managed to be sound asleep at the moment my dual alarms starting screaming at me.  Being woken in this way wasn’t good.  It didn’t feel like I was about to embark on a grand adventure, it felt like this was a terrible idea.  I didn’t dare go back to sleep again, so got up and then blinking into space realised I had no idea what to do next. Normally, if I was pre-run I’d have something to eat and some tea, but my body clock was having none of that.  I had a quarter of a cup of coffee and felt sick.  How do those all-night ultra runners do it.  I can’t even dress myself at that time of night it turns out.  No really, top went on inside out at first attempt.  How the Nicky Spinks of this world navigate the Lakes on no sleep is beyond my comprehension.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to navigate the fells of the Lake District, I just had to navigate the registration process for small park BIG RUN.

No traffic on the roads, I found easy parking right next to the park, and through the railings could see Meersbrook Hall brightly lit up and all inviting. A short walk down the drive and there were welcoming folk around and in the reception area of the hall collapsed runners who’d finished their rounds as well as suitably appointed loos (i.e. toilet paper in evidence) so no fretful angst about accessing the necessary facilities for my precautionary pee.  Also, and this is VERY important, I learned from one of the posters on display there that it turns out, the land at Meersbrook belonged to the Gotham family in medieval times.  No way.  The actual Gothams of Gotham City for sure – you don’t know any other Gotham’s do you?  Well then, it must be so.  Without Gotham there would have been no Batman – unimaginable, so it must be that Meersbrook Hall is ground zero for super heroes.  What could be a more apt venue for this event showing solidarity with Palestine.  Everyone involved a hero today!  And just shows, getting up in the middle of the night can be most educational.  Hurrah!

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So it was, I arrived at about 3.15 a.m. announcing to the impressively WIDE AWAKE night-time marshals, that I was there for the 4.30 a.m. slot.

They blinked back at me, unsure how to break the news.  ‘Erm, you are actually quite early‘ one ventured.  I looked back confused.  ‘Ah, no I meant 3.30‘ I said.  Having identified that not only was I unable to dress myself, or drink I had lost power of rudimentary cognition as well.  Oh well, hopefully my legs would still work.  Sighs of relief all round.

I was furnished with the Smiley baton – a thing of beauty, and personalised for smilies in perpetuity by dint of being infused with the perspiration from the palms of each previous runner.  Not just our running memories, but our actual sweaty DNA is held within that twig.  A heart warming thought if ever there was one.  Shame it got lost at one point and so was bereft in the registration tent awaiting a new claimant.  Actually, that baton had quite a few adventures over those 24 hours, but more of that later.  Let’s just say though, like the ravens in the tower of London, we now dare not lose it ever again…

It was pretty dark, but not pitch.  I had my head torch with me, and could see runners’ head torches bobbing about in the gloaming.  Eventually, I espied my team buddy, Smiley Elder, desporting herself with a headlong sprint downhill to the finish as she completed her 90 minute slot at full tilt, shin splints notwithstanding.  Honestly, it’s a complete mystery why her injuries persist so unreasonably.  Some people are just unlucky I guess.

Not seen her for far too long, and it was nice to have a quick hello and photo op before she trucked on back to Wolverhampton.  There’s smiley dedication for you.  Right there.

And that was it, I was launched, onto the 1km circuit.  You know what, the park felt lovely and calm.   There was no rain, and there were people around, not many, but enough not to feel spooked.  Volunteers walked the course in reverse whilst runners ran round.  I half wondered if some of the volunteers might have ended up doing more laps than those allegedly running, as I only ever broke into a jog when I saw the photographer up ahead, it was hard enough being awake at that hour, let alone actually sprinting about.  Also, it was quite meditative doing some solitary laps.  The lanterns were plentiful and gorgeous, it does create a magical feel.  It was also quite exciting spotting the imaginative creations from the solitary (I think) penguin to the impressive prehistoric looking fish – it reminded me of what I think an angler fish looks like, though I’ve never actually met one.  With each circuit I noticed different creatures. I was also very taken with the pig.  Pigs are one of my favourite animals ever, well warthogs specifically, but I’ll still always perk up at the sight of a pig.  Brilliant creatures. … well I think it was a pig.  It might have been a dog actually, oh well, it was a pig to me in the moment.  So be it!

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I kept my head torch on for the first lap, but really there was a surprising amount of light in the park.  There was a noisy chorus of birds, I mean like REALLY LOUD, and the place looked gorgeous.  I exchanged pleasantries with other participants and marshals.  Agreeing with one at least that we should promise ourselves to be out in the open and see this time of day in a park or rural space at least once a month from hereonin. You know, I might actually try to do that.  It was pretty special.  The sun started creeping up and reflected back off buildings or back lit the tree line.  The early hours weren’t spooky at all, rather quietly meditative.

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I say ‘quietly meditative’ but actually, after the first couple of laps, which went quickly, what with all the marshals to greet and sights to see, I was joined by another fellow Smiley for the sunrise stint.  Here we are together:

dawn runners

No, not just out for a stroll, actually power walking for Palestine very purposefully up a steep hill.  I can’t remember exactly why I’m gesticulating wildly, I like to think I was waving at someone not annoyingly emphasising a point, but I am known for my delusional tendencies.  What we can be confident about, is that as endurance events go, I think we did pretty well, managing to talk without pausing for breath for the next hour at least.  It was sort of like simultaneous broadcasting, which is a bit like circular breathing.  To the untrained ear we might have seemed to be talking over each other, but actually it’s a time efficient way to communicate if you can speak and listen simultaneously, and we had a lot to cover what with pond talk, gardening and running related topics to catch up on.

Lots of lovely marshals, and lots of lovely views:

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 And then, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better.  Another Smiley!  Honestly, we are like buses, suddenly three at once, and with what joy!

So then we had even more walking and talking and the route got busier and there was even an official photographer about.  Also, to my enormous joy, a couple of party goers, giddy from a night out were making their way home through the park.  One wearing vertiginous silver platform shoes, and both clutching tinnies and sporting slightly slurry, but warm and open grins.  They were fascinated by this spectacle of runners in the park in the small hours, and plonked themselves down on a bench to cheer us all by as they finished their cans and enjoyed the view.  It was brilliant, a really encouraging and mutually unexpected encounter.  So much good will in the middle of the night.

Some running occurred, but also quite a bit of important peer networking.  Also, a debate on how easy it was to convince smallish children who’d been ‘made’ to marshal the day before in torrential rain that type 2 fun does still constitute fun, and whether or not it is quite fair to explain to them the full horror of life in the Gaza strip as an example of what some children have to contend with.  It’s complicated….

My favourite shot of the night though is this one:

trev because hills are fun

We all know the camera never lies, and clearly this photo shows me cheerily sprinting up that hill, leaving our leader – and one might have thought the more resilient runner for dust. She maintains she has only been stopped by an over-riding compulsion to guffaw, brought on by my shameless ‘look, there’s the photographer‘ alarm call, which as all runners know, is a cue for making it look like you are really going for it.  Irrespective of who you choose to believe, I still think even if her version is true, she had fair warning and despite this instruction didn’t follow it, so, whilst I’m not entirely unsympathetic, sometimes it’s important for individuals to just own their actions, don’t you agree?

Also, that hill though, it’s ridiculously steep.  Some people got more representative shots than me, hang on, I’ll see what I can dig out:

If you are a Sheffield local, it’s the one your run down like pyroclastic flow as part of the Round Sheffield Run.  Yep, but going upwards this time, that is against gravity and, I would argue, defying the laws of nature too!

So a few laps as a cheery threesome, and then one peeled off to go home, and our leader decided to up her game and do some running, so I finished with a couple more laps on my own, just enjoying being alive and out on a beautiful morning, and enjoying a rare moment of positivity and calm in troubled times.  Basically dear reader, it was reet nice out.

I tried to get some atmospheric photos, they don’t really do it justice, but here they are for posterity in case of interest.

And then, after a couple of hours, I decided that was me done, though really, it does have a meditative quality, and it isn’t boring at all, I could imagine doing more laps, and – though I reserve the right to change my mind – at that moment, I had a brief fantasy of thinking how fab it would be to do as one did and just start at noon on Saturday and keep on going as long as you could.  So much to see and think about, it would be quite amazing.

Then again, the prospect of a cup of coffee was also quite amazing so back to the support tent where we’d been ticking off our team laps – as had other teams, Good Gym for one, and Striders for another – others too – and said my farewells and home I went.  Past the slumbering supporters and newly arrived, admiring the huge flag that had appeared – or maybe just come into view with the dawn – whilst I’d been out running on the course.

It was a bit sad leaving, as the fun was continuing. I actually felt really wide awake as well, which was strange, but also cold, despite my fleece, so time to go home. However, my leaving didn’t mean the event was concluded, oh no, Sunday morning was one big crescendo to the grand finale.

People gathered for a communal final lap, and for a link up with Palestine, and songs, and cake, and choirs, and poetry reading and basically a bringing together of all involved. Thankfully the weather was fair, and the mood buoyant.  It looked great in the pictures which I pored over afterwards.  Look how much fun they had!  Serious fun though, in every sense. This is fun in a serious cause.

and here are some stills of fun being had at the opening of the event, as well as the final fun run lap:

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Basically, a grand event, in a fine cause.

Alas, inevitably there were a few quibbles. I could of course let these go, but then again, wouldn’t want resentment to build up over the next year for things unsaid.  Firstly, never got to see these:

JB rewards

Now don’t get me wrong, obviously, participating was it’s own reward, but for those amongst us who need a bit of external motivation, cake promises and subsequent placement (or absence thereof) is a serious matter.

Gripe two.  Who nearly lost the Smiley baton?  I know it all ended happily in the end, but to think it was abandoned in the park and a party of small children had to be despatched to retrieve it cannot be Smilies finest hour.  No worries, we can learn from this, and we shall never speak of it again.  That seems fair.

Otherwise, all pretty much perfect in every way.  Hurrah!  So all signing up for next year yes?  And remember, marshalling is fun too – even in the rain – especially so, extra kudos to those that do!

So thanks to everyone who made this happen, and for keeping the message alive year on year.  Putting on the event was a labour of love, and very worthwhile, I’m already looking forward to next year.  It may only be a relatively localised initiative, but it matters, and the power in linking up with parallel events in Palestine is for me at least, genuinely thought provoking and moving too.

Oh, and for the record, the 24 hour smiley team clocked up approximately 269 laps.  Not everyone recorded every lap, and you’d be amazed how hard it is to count and run.  No really it is!  I’m not even exaggerating for comedic effect!  Not that the numbers matter, it was the opportunity to maximise participation that was the main thing, and a fine bonding experience it was too!  Special thanks to our great leader, who made it so!

laps

Lots of ace photos from the day by the way.  Many are brought together on the small park BIG RUN Facebook page under albums.  I’ve borrowed freely from them, alongside using some of my own.  Thanks for everyone who came, and snapped and shared.  Special thanks to Trevor Pollard for the atmospheric black and white ones, and to Kev Donnington for his colourful capturing of a fab event.  Cath Ager took loads too, thanks all for documenting the day(s).   If anyone spots a photo on this post they want removed, let me know and I’ll do so.  🙂

I’ll end it there.  Same time next year?

trev how to finish

For all my small park BIG RUN posts see here.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries.

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Hathersage Hurtle take two – show us your grit they said …

Digested read:  did the Hathersage Hurtle again.  It was long.  It was fun.  I reached my capacity in cake consumption.

Undigested read:

Brace yourself.  It’s a long one.

Provocative aren’t they?  These Hathersage Hurtle pictorial teasers.  All this awaits you.  The lure of the peaks, yours for the taking, if you’ll just head off from Hathersage round in a big circle for 20 miles and crack on up and over the 2,800 feet of ascent.

The event blah de blah on the Hathersage Hurtle website describes it thus:

The Hathersage Hurtle is an exciting event in the Hope Valley, covering 20 miles and 2,800 feet of ascent, a challenging course that you can run or walk. It will start and finish in Hathersage with walkers setting off before a mass start for the runners at 10am. There will be hot drinks available at the start and lovely home-baked cakes at the finish.

and the strava profile looks like this:

strava route hathersage hurtle.png

The thing is, it didn’t take much persuasion to get me to enter when the bookings went live way, way back in the depths of time.  I took part in the Hathersage Hurtle last year, and it was fantastic fun.  Fabulous scenery of course, more cake than you could shake a stick at (I’ve just realised, I have absolutely no real idea what that phrase refers to, a google interlude may follow)

more than you can shake a stick at

and, best of all, super friendly and inclusive.   Yep, naturally I’d want to come back and do it all again.  Might even go for a walk run strategy this year.  What the heck, I’ll properly train.  I’ll run the whole thing, I’ll manoeuvre over boulders with agility and confidence of a mountain goat, I’ll scamper up the ascents without breaking a sweat let alone a stride, my descents will exude the grace of an ethereal being, flowing effortlessly down vertiginous drops, what’s more, I shall have flattering race photos to document the occasion at the end.  It’ll be grand, what could possibly go wrong and what’s not to like?  What an opportunity!  I will join hundreds of others on the day who get to do something amazing just by dint of signing up and taking part.  Life is great, and the Hathersage Hurtle can once again be the gateway to the peaks and get me out into that fabulous landscape right on the doorstep of Sheffield.  You’ve got to want to dive in and explore when you keep being fed with glimpses of possibility and promise like this photo – one of many that kept popping up on the Hathersage Hurtle Facebook page.  If you’ve ever reaped the benefits of forest bathing, well, you should know that that experience can be turbo charged when you find yourself leaning into the wind and looking out from the top of Stannage Edge.  The scramble to the top of is an inherent part of the experience.  A day out in the peaks is never a wasted day, rather a rich seam of micro-adventures and awesomeness.  Yay!  Bring it on!  

HH go explore

That was the feeling on entering. Which, on reflection, I probably did sitting on the sofa clutching a mug of tea, possibly eating toast as I did so.  It’s ages away…  it’ll be fine.

However, in the interests of full disclosure, as the date came closer for this year, I found that life, the universe and everything had derailed a lot of things, including running training, or indeed any exercise very much at all, I had a bit of a gulp and reality check about my experiences on the 2018 event.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I did really enjoy it.  But, it does mean I knew what I’d signed up to.  Specifically, it turns out, 20 miles is actually a really long way, and 2,800 feet is actually quite a lot of ascent.  777 metres of ascent according to my friend’s Strava of the route (which I know isn’t a direct mathematical conversion but Strava never lies).  Point is, you need to respect them there hills.   Don’t be drawn in by the old ‘it’s just an uphill flat section‘ and definitely don’t buy the well intended but misguided comments from those ‘supporting’ en route  who cheerily declare ‘all down hill from here!’  as they point the route ahead which looks suspiciously like it might be heading upwards…  You might benignly decide these are well meant motivational phrases intended to encourage you onward. That might be true.  Indeed it probably is.  However, you should be aware that I can say from direct personal experience that I do hold a sneaking suspicion that some only feel confident enough to say this to you because they judge – correctly – that once you have confirmed just how misleading their guidance was, it’s too late to do anything about it.  Be honest, who’s going to retrace their steps 5 miles just to remonstrate with them about the accuracy of their advice on the terrain and topography ahead because then they’d have to hoik yourself up those ascents and repeat those 5 miles all over again.   Not going to happen.  Then again, they could probably have another dibs at the feed stations if they did so, so not an entirely pointless endeavour…  Point is, those hills are pretty unforgiving on the untrained calf muscles.  What’s more, when you do finally get to the sections from where it is indeed ‘all down hill‘ if not from here, then at least for a fair old bit, you find that actually going down hill can be hard on the legs too…   I think signs along the lines of these are possibly the way forward.  It’s all about managing expectations.

downhill-sign-road

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a great route, but it is tough, and whereas last year I’d done a fair bit of distance running and preparation ahead of the Hurtle, this year I just hadn’t.  Oops.  I do love the route, and it was such a positive experience last time round,  but I was having a few second thoughts about rocking up and trying to blag it on so little training.  Time to withdraw, maybe defer – do they allow that?  Don’t know, that would clearly be the most sensible.

But here’s the thing.  FOMO.  Fear of missing out. It’s powerful.  Also, it slowly dawned on me, that, as previously reference, you never regret a day in the peaks.  I might be a DNF – do not finish, but even then, probably nobody would care really (in a good way) and there’d still be cake, probably.  The real deciding factor though was this woman:

Nicky Spinks from inov 8 facebook page

Yep, that would be Nicky Spinks.  Fresh from an attempt at the Barkley Marathons (now entering that is genuinely hard to see as a rational choice, not even type 2 fun surely?). I read that the weekend of the Hurtle Nicky Spinks was/is attempting a Double Paddy Buckley Round.  In case dear reader it has slipped your mind,

The Paddy Buckley Round is a gruelling 61-mile circuit of 47 mountain peaks in Snowdonia (North Wales), that includes approximately 28,000ft of ascent (a fraction less than the height of Mount Everest from sea level). It was first completed by Wendy Dodds in 1982 and the current record is 17hrs 42mins, set by Tim Higginbottom 10 years ago. Although there is no official time limit set, contenders generally aim to do it in under 24 … If Nicky is to become the first person to complete a Double Paddy Buckley Round she will need to summit all 47 peaks twice (including two visits to Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales at 3,560ft), cover a total distance of 122 miles and ascend approximately 56,000ft (almost twice the height of Mount Everest from sea level).

I couldn’t even stay awake for 48 hours, let alone climb Everest twice in that time.  I mean, she has to tackle this hill, twice.

Tryfan-Nicky-Spinks-Paddy-Buckley-Double

Anyway, it sort of put in perspective my own self-indulgent angstiness.   Granted, it isn’t a fool proof logic, I am not Nicky Spinks (in case you were wondering or confused about this matter in any way).  However, she does inspire me.  And I do wear inov-8 shoes so that makes us practically interchangeable and indistinguishable from one another.  (Though I can’t lie, I’m quite relieved that her sponsors didn’t mix us up and pick me up and cart me off to the start of the Paddy Buckley and then look at me expectantly waiting for me to sprint off just after someone said ‘go‘!) She can’t have replicated doing this challenge in her training, it would break her.  My, possibly misguided, logic, tells me if she can take on that seemingly impossible, never previously achieved feat then maybe I can do more than I realise.  I’m over thinking it.  If I go, I’ll end the day with a great sense of achievement even if that is only consuming my own body weight in cake on the way round.   It’s just a long walk really, in a spectacular location, with support, and friendly marshals and, yes, cake.

After all, longer endurance events are, it is said by some, – basically about mental resilience and correct fuelling.  That is, ultra running in particular, is essentially an eating competition, according to Sunny Blende, who it turns out is a sports nutritionist and not a type of coffee at all.  Strange but true.  She gave this

definition of an ultramarathon, “An eating and drinking contest, with a little exercise and scenery thrown in.”

Maybe it’s indeed true that ultra marathons are easier than you think... therefore, 20 miles is but a stroll in the hills by comparison.  Take it slow, take in the view.  All good.

ultra running eating contest

I’m up for that.  Besides,  I’m only walking it, that’s just one foot in front of another, and endlessly repeat.   There are limits obviously, but there was a bit of me that thought if I don’t try I won’t know, I’m not actually injured, just embarrassingly unfit.  I am tenacious, and I’ve not been out for ages, so if I treat the event like basically a day out and a picnic I can probably get around, and even if I don’t it’s not life and death is it.  A missed parkrun opportunity granted, but there are other parkruns coming around again each Saturday, I’d have to wait another year for another Hurtle, and suffer the pain of seeing everyone else posting about how fab their adventures were, and muster the good grace to post appropriately admiring and supportive comments through a veil of tears of frustration as an inner voice screams in my head that ‘that should’ve been me!’  What the hell…. I’ll just do it.

what the hell

Or possibly not.  But I would turn up, and I would start, can’t say fairer than that.  If I don’t make it round, at least I know there will be lots of cake for comfort eating purposes back at the base afterwards. They think of everything at this event, they really do. Attention to detail is one of its many selling points…

Ok then.  Eek.  I’m in.  I was looking forward to the weekend ahead now.  All good indeed.

Clangers weekend ahead

That’s what these clangers are doing, looking forward to the weekend ahead.   I bloody love the clangers, times were simpler back then when the Clangers were new to tv.  Imagine that?  The test card didn’t rock though, some things are better now.  Not Trump obvs, and climate change for starters –  but I don’t look back fondly at that scary melting clown thingamajig, made me shudder, and having to wait 15 minutes for the TV to warm up after you turned it on.  I know, I’m back doing my oral history talk aren’t I.  I’m definitely ageing fast.

test card

Just the little matter of getting organised.  The event sent good instructions out by email.   A few tweaks on last year.  They set up a car sharing database which is a great idea, although I didn’t take advantage of it because I was clueless about my times and likelihood of completing and didn’t want the stress of worrying about someone waiting around for me on top of everything else.  They were cutting down on plastic, so you needed to bring your own cup for water stations.  Grand idea, and I was already sorted on this, having secured one of those collapsible cup thingies after doing Dig Deep carrying round a ceramic mug with me for 30 miles after only realising at the last minute that I needed something.  Honestly, I had soooooooooooooo much ballast in my back pack for that event a mug chucked in alongside the kitchen sink and satellite transmitter in case of emergency, was the least of my concerns, but clearly not ideal.   Shoes, easy, always my inov-8.

The morning of the event.  Slathered my feet with vaseline, debated endlessly over what top to wear.  Long sleeve or short sleeve.  I mean I’ll get hot with my pack and going up hill and everything, definitely short-sleeved.  But then again, can be cold up there – opening window and sticking arm out there was a distinct nip in the air.  Long sleeves that’s my default.  Wear that.  … But I got so hot just doing parkrun last Saturday.  OK, go with short sleeve, that’s the default, that’s what everyone else will be wearing, and you have stuffed you long sleeve rain jacket in just in case, so that’s your back up.  Short sleeved it was, phew, always better when a decision is made.  Went with my purple volunteering one from parkrun as it has good associations.

Porridge consumed, running vest packed, shoes on. Hang on a minute.  What new horror is this?  Definite hole in the linings at the back of each shoe, right on the heel, the fabric has given way and there is a teasing glimpse of the white plastic edge within like seeing a bone protruding from through the skin after a compound fracture.  Yes, I have seen that, and it’s not a pretty sight and it did make me heave a bit.  Same here.  I know from bitter previous experience that once that plastic is fully emerged, it’s edge on the heel is like a shard of glass sawing away at your achilles, you have to hope it satisfies itself with just drawing blood and doesn’t go the whole hog and severe your tendon.  Oh crappity, crap crap.  Haven’t really got other suitable alternatives, I mean it is a fairly roady off-road course, but I do want a bit of traction on the sections that are more technical.  My Irocks are amazing for grip but have zero cushioning, so too uncomfortable to wear for the long road bits, more the go to shoe when your life depends on it because of slippery stones and bog.  I’d risk my parkclaws.  I chucked some compeed blister plasters in my backpack as an afterthought, really though that was classic hope over experience.  I’d have zero chance of getting them to stick on my vaseline slathered tootsies.  Oh well, too late now, que sera sera…

Off and out the house.  Lovely morning, what a day.  I headed off towards Hathersage, one of my favourite drives.  The route took me down Ringinglow Road and out along Fiddlers Elbow which passes between Burbage and Stannage, both edges included in the Hathersage Hurtle route.  How lovely they looked in the mist, ageless and mystical. Hang on a minute, mist.  That’s going to be cold and damp up there.  Oh crappity crap crap all over again.  I should have gone with long sleeves.  What was I thinking?  Of course it will be cold up there, and I’ll be out for hours I’m so slow, days quite possibly.  I did consider turning back for my long sleeved top, but decided against it.  I would have had time, but I was sort of committed to my journey now.  Too much of a faff.  Made me think those arm bandagey things might be a good idea though, all eventualities covered, plus, easy fancy dress costume if you ever want to have a base layer for you mummy costume otherwise created entirely out of toilet paper.  Case in point, these mummy creations would have had greater arm mobility if they’d had separately clad arms.  Also, top tip, maybe best not to get someone else to wrap the dressings round you or you will indeed end up trussed up and unable to move, winding up (pun intended) desiccated and indeed mummified over time.  All completely avoidable, if you’d gone with the running sleeve option and used the loo paper for body wrapping purposes only.

Not sure why you would wear running sleeves and not bother with a top though.  That’s curious.  Fortunately I have found a whole article on why to wear arm sleeves when running, that takes in UV protection, warmth and making it easier for your running friends to spot you if you go for something especially eye-catchingly ludicrous, particularly when paired with matching clashing calf sleeves too.  Good point, well made.  I don’t have any though, and am put off by one description of them as ‘a bit like wearing old fashioned thick tights on your arms‘ not a strap line written by a top notch advertising exec I suspect, though it resonates truth.  Handy to know.  Maybe I should save myself the bother of picking a colour off the internet, and just get busy with a pair of pinking shears and some of the scrunched up, semi-decomposed old tights that are a legacy from office work days, and are probably to be found stuffed down the back of my drawers somewhere, if I bother to excavate.  Project for another day. I’m busy crocheting a blanket at the moment (long story) and it’s a close call whether or not it will be finished before I die, so we’ll have to see.  Turns out, craft activities aren’t my forte either…

arm-calf-sleeves-combo

I arrived, stupidly early.  The site was all set up though, and high vis marshals aplenty were in situ. Big signs directed you to the car-parking field, which still had sheep in it, and the first impression – as last year – was that this was a fantastically well organised event.

After a bit of faffing, I pottered over the road to the event HQ.  It was a hive of activity, even though it was only just 7.15 a.m..  There was a registration tent, loads of portaloos (big tick) promising looking coffee and cake areas, section for children to explore caving and all sorts really.

I hung back a bit whilst the marshals were getting organised, and then joined the registration queue once a few more people had appeared.  It was very well set up, you gave your name and were then issued with a watch – like tag which they scanned to register your arrival.  I don’t know whether I have particularly sensitive hearing or am just of a nervous disposition, triggered into hyper vigilance because I knew I’d not prepared adequately for the day ahead, but, it was THE LOUDEST BLEEP IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE EVER.  Blimey, there’d be no wondering whether or not your tag had scanned in this event.  I’m surprised the scanning marshals hadn’t been issued with safety ear protecting headphones.  Maybe that will be one of the tweaks for next year.  Oh, I should say about the photos I’m using in this post.  Basically, some are mine, and some are from the various expert photographers out and about on the day – who I’ve credited at the end.  It’s not too hard to fathom which is which.  Basically, if it’s a well-framed, in focus shot, perfectly capturing a characterful face, stunning expansive landscaoe or encapsulating some quintessential atmospheric moment that communicates the very essence of the day, then it is probably not one of my mine.  If it’s a slightly blurred snapshot that has inadvertently captured someone in the background in a stage of undress, then it’s probably mine – but not always.

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Next stop, tee-shirt gathering.  I had pre-ordered one, which was good, as I couldn’t remember whether or not I had, so it was nice surprise.  I couldn’t remember what size I had ordered though.  There were a few extras for sale on the day, so once they’d put aside the pre-ordered ones, those who came early enough could swap for one of the extras up to a certain point.

I really liked the tee-shirts this year!  They  were a technical fabric, and looked like this:

Last year they were cotton and looked like this:

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  Last year’s t-shirt had a certain idiosyncratic charm, but, setting aside the fact that orange isn’t really my colour, it’s design meant that really it was so special, that it was one I opted to save to wear only for very special occasions.  Indeed, occasions so exceptional, I have yet been able to wear it at all.  This year’s offer being technical fabric, a more forgiving colour and with a fab design was more my thing.  Of course, I hadn’t seen any photos of me wearing it at that point, and wasn’t aware of just how unfortunate the combination of my body shape, choice of bra and the mushroomy colour would look captured by the camera.  I’d like to say the pics of me are particularly unflattering, but of course I may have to face up to the horrific realisation I do actually look like that.  Running vests don’t help, they are designed for, if not the absolutely flat chested runner, at very least androgynous ones.  All that squishing of boobs into a letter box shape is especially unforgiving for pretty much any female runner.  Note to self.  Never go out in public again wearing a running vest, or if you must, do so only in the hours of darkness.  Despite this, the top was comfy enough I decided to wear it there and then, embracing the t-shirt over the long sleeve option, and as there was (astonishingly) no full length mirror on hand in which I could check my appearance before heading out on the trails, I had t-shirt on and number pinned and was none the wiser.  Probably for the best.

Oh, whilst I was waiting for the start, I checked out some of the pictures school children had come up with to create posters for the event.  Epic.

I still had some time to amble about and have a precautionary pee in the changing room block. This wasn’t entirely a good move, as the loo didn’t have a lock. What it did have though, was that ‘who gives a crap‘ toilet paper that I keep seeing advertised and have been vaguely thinking of buying, but I’m not quite sure about.  Not because it’s 100% recycled, I’m sure they aren’t recycling used toilet paper to make it… well pretty sure – but because that’s a lot of toilet paper if it isn’t up to standard.  Consequently, I inspected the rolls quite carefully, only to have some poor other punter inadvertently burst in on me mid inspection.  She was mortified, I was fine, I have way more humiliating experiences to draw on than that.  She looked a bit traumatised, and when I explained about the lock being broken, headed off to the portaloos to avoid being subject to the same levels of exposure I presume.

there was time to make new friends, and enjoy the general ambience.  The official photographer was busy taking group shots and risking life and limb to do so. I failed to get a snap of him doing a comedic stumble backwards over a low wall which culminated in a fairly spectacular somersault.  His preservation instincts kicked in, and his camera was held aloft in safety throughout, like you sometimes see when people fall over holding a pint, but spill not a drop. Impressive.  I wonder if professional photographers do training in that, or whether it is just a gift?

I hooked up with two companionable women who were also walking, and we agreed we start together but feel free to separate when it felt right to do so. It’s too far a distance to commit to doing it alongside someone else in my view, unless you have compelling reasons to do so, like, oh I don’t know, you like each other and wish to spend quality time together.   You need to be confident you share the same pace though otherwise I think it’s a recipe for frustration.  One person feeling dragged along, the other feeling held back over 20 miles might not end prettily.  I feel this particularly acutely, as I’m always telling people I’m slow, and they always say ‘that’s fine’ and then they always either try to hurry me or worse still offer patronising reassurance along the lines of ‘don’t you worry, I’m feeling injured / hungover/ really pathetic today so I don’t mind staying with you!’  Top tip people, that never goes down well and is not supportive, but au contraire dispiritingly undermining. I have lost count of how many times I’ve gone home in tears from events where people have done that.  Didn’t happen today though I’m glad to report, and it was indeed really nice to start out together with a couple of awesome and interesting women.

There was a bit of a briefing, not sure if the event director was taking on liquid pre or post briefing, but you do need to keep your vocal chords well lubricated to perform properly in that role, and they would have been up from stupid o’clock getting everything ready so 8.00 a.m. was probably practically supper time for the organising team:

and then off!  A fairly sedate start, as we all waited patiently to be bleeped LOUDLY through the gate

You do warm up pretty quickly, so you know what, the t-shirt option was fine.  The route was really well marked.  I was a bit unsure on that point, because last year I just trotted along with someone else (which worked well, because it was negotiated) and didn’t really notice the signage one way or the other.  You start by crossing the road, and it’s an uphill through fields, the photographer already in position to snap walkers heading out at first, and then later the runners, who start en mass at 10.00.  Walkers can begin anytime between 8.00 and 9.00.  All very civilised.

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You start up the hill, and quite quickly you can look back and admire the view, and then you get onto more obviously pathy part, and then tarmac, and then, I’m not gonna lie, an almost 3 mile climb upwards.  It was great that the weather was so much cooler than last year, but I think you’d have to have put in some serious hill training to sprint up that incline the whole way – though judging by the times of the first few runners who finished, they must have done just that, but then again, they are probably super human.  My photos inevitably don’t do the scenery justice, but they will give you the general idea.

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We walked and talked and tried to blag a piggy back from faster walkers passing us – or was that just me?  It was amazing hearing about what other participants had done, running wise or life wise.  One had worked in international aid in conflict zones.  Rwanda and the Congo I think.  It was great sharing stories.  One of the things I really like about running events (yes, I’m counting this as one) is that it reminds me of travelling in a way.  In that I mean, you meet people fleetingly, possibly only once – though it’s amazing too how familiar faces will keep popping up again at events if you but choose to look.  Anyway, what this means, is that sometimes you cut to the chase and have more intense, interesting and even personal conversations than you’d perhaps ever risk having with someone you might work alongside and see everyday.  I think it’s something to do with the productive cocktail of firstly, sharing an experience; secondly being with people who realistically you might never see again so there is no jeopardy if the conversation goes awry and thirdly the compression of time – there isn’t the time to build a relationship as such, so you may as well just get in there!  There is also something inherently therapeutic and open about walking alongside someone  in step that is conducive to talking.  It’s not potentially confrontational like a face to face exchange, and not impossible like if you are running and can’t spare the breath.

So, for the record, my conversations throughout today included the following illustrative but not exhaustive topics: global inequalities; nature of identity; qualities of endurance runners; the scenery; best place to get a coffee in Nether Edge; aphantasia  (the inability to conjure images in your minds eye); synesthesia (the phenomenon of e.g. tasting words or associating colours with numbers); the difficulty (inability) to read analogue clock faces which is apparently a form of dyscalculia; community theatre; complexity of global aid; burn out in the work place; nature of trauma; experiences of travel; difficulty of getting running kit to fit; self-confidence; the frustration of trying to help individuals when actually what is needed it societal/ political change or even revolution; self-consciousness; multi-faceted nature of homelessness and poverty; other running events; cake choices; why we run – timely article on ‘what does running do to your brain‘ here;

what does running do to your brain

mental health; the weather; safety implications of running wearing nail varnish.  No really, but I’ll come to that in time.  Favourite Sheffield trail race – the Round Sheffield Run; Red Bull Steeplechase experiences; gardening blogs; wildlife ponds; Nicky Spinks; Jasmin Paris;  and littering.  I didn’t talk about Brexit with anyone.  I mean, you don’t want to push things that far… and anyway, I can’t walk and weep.  It was much like having radio 4 on all day to be honest, but without the torture of ‘just a minute’  – surely that’s long past its ‘best broadcast before’ date?  One of the great advantages of being at a slower pace is that you can walk and talk, the faster runners are epic, but I’m guessing they don’t chit chat the whole way round, missing out on those random interactions as well as the full repertoire of cake choices at the feed stations, another great loss…

The photographer had relocated to the top of a hill by the time we got there.  I had already previously contracted with my new best friends forever  – or until our paces were no longer compatible – that unflattering photos wouldn’t make this blog post, unless their comedic element outweighed the impulse to censor. Case in point, here I am with my temporary besties, working on, if not our running technique exactly, then our ‘seen the photographer’ one.  Good work!  By the way I never said, if you are reading this 766, and need a place to stay pre Round Sheffield Run, message me, I’ve lots of room!

HH PS bit manic

They really are unforgiving those running vests are they not?

We weren’t the only people who saw the photographer out there though, there are some classics, here are just a few of my favourites from the day, also look out for inadvertent undressing person in the background shot, just to show it isn’t only me:

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Actually, on reflection, I reckon those two in their orangey yellow tops hadn’t seen the photographer at all, but went round the whole route like that from the look of things… oh well, still great photos.  And they look like they are having a lovely time, maybe that running style could yet catch on.  Plus, levitating for the most part has got to be kinder on the knees hasn’t it?  We can all learn from that.  Might give it a go for next time.

So onward and upward as the saying goes.  As I find myself falling further and further to the back, one bonus is that you get the glorious sight of the line of runners and walkers streaming ahead like a line of bunting.  All very picturesque.

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Reet nice views along the way, I kept being distracted by them, and stopping to take pictures, consequently we three who’d started off together naturally separated as our different hill strategies kicked in.  Two of the trio striding up rather more purposely than the third, ehem:

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Nonplussed sheep observed our progress.  Did I already tell you that one of the junior parkrunners who takes part in the Graves junior parkrun is convinced the black and white lambs in the animal park are actually baby pandas?  Wouldn’t that be great!

Marshals were at strategic intervals to bleep you by.  There is a map somewhere that marks all the check points, but I really don’t see how you’d miss them, as they tended to be positioned where paths were narrow and there was only one route, like at a gate or just before a feed station say.

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By this stage in the game, the walkers were strung out, and the runners had yet to lap us,  It was a long and lonely road, but in a good way. This path is very familiar from my Dig Deep recces, and I was glad to see a familiar face en route too.

DSCF0331t

You get some good views up here.  The Hope Cement Works may not exactly be a thing of beauty, but it is a landmark in it’s own right, and curious to see it from this vantage point.

DSCF0330

Views aside, it is a bit of a trudge this road.  The surface has quite loose chippings in places too, so although after a stretch of up you do get a descent, you’d need to be quite careful running down it. I did a bit of a jog, but wasn’t overly confident.  Oh yes, and also not overly motivated to do so.  Eventually, as the road curves, a marshal is on hand to direct you into a tree lined path to the right, it was nice to get a change of scenery.  I like the way a pink arrow on the road seemingly identifies the marshal for you, in case the wearing of a luminous vest was an insufficient clue!

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I picked up some new walking companions along the way for a bit here, and that was fine.  It was interesting doing this route a year on, when there’s actually been some rain, and the landscape looked lush and green.  Last year it was scorched and brown, quite depressing really, a relief to see it recovered and verdant.  With this couple I discussed relocating to Sheffield and new and pleasing eateries that are popping up all over.  Why have I not yet been to the cutlery works.  Need to moving it back up my ‘to do’ list.

Where was I?

Oh yes, en route of the Hathersage Hurtle.  Emerging from the paths, there was a little cheer squad proferring high fives, and then it was across the road to the first of the feed stations.

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There was an abundance of cake.  Vegan options also available, also bananas and bear gums and water in jugs.  It worked well with the no plastics rule.  You could buy a collapsible cup at the start if you didn’t have one with you by the way, and it looked like most walkers and probably runners too, were carrying their own hydration packs as well for the most part.  I had a sort of fruit cake but with bits of ginger in it. Yum.  I probably didn’t really require it for refuelling purposes at this point, but rude not too, and also, opportunism kicking in.  Why wouldn’t I?

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More leapfrogging (not literally) of walkers, and the start of speculation as to when we might be passed by the runners.  I also picked up a new bit of event terminology from some fellow participants when discussing the the pleasing proliferation of marshals on the course.  ‘Oh the custards!’  What?  ‘or lemonades‘, this it seems is their terminology of choice for the marshals in their yellow high viz.   I can see what they are doing there, and I quite like it in a way.  Mind you, as I was mulling this over later, after our paths had once again diverged, I couldn’t help thinking those aren’t quite accurate colour chart wise, maybe pineapple cubes would be more representative. Do you remember them?

pineapple cubes

A friend of mind used to sometimes by them from the newsagent on the way to junior school – surprised she had any teeth left at all, maybe she doesn’t now – in a little white paper bag full of the cuboid rocks for 1d.  She’d share them out occasionally at morning break, and the cubes would scrape the roof off the inside of your mouth, and the shock of the concentrated sugar would make your teeth vibrate.  My, we knew how to make our own entertainment back then.  Colour wise though, basically fluorescent.  They were probably infused with uranium radium to achieve that intensity of colour.  I wonder if you can still get them, or if, not unreasonably, they’ve been withdrawn from sale to minors on account of being basically a concentration of toxins, now available only on request in a brown paper bag from under the counter.  Only thing more destructive to the teeth and roof of the mouth than them was pear drops.  I can feel my mouth beginning to disintegrate just at the memory of consuming them.  Pineapple cubes were – possibly still are – the oral equivalent of stepping on a lego brick in bare feet.  I have no idea what possessed us to attempt to consume them.  Children are clearly more resilient than you might expect.   Anyways, whether the marshals were custards, lemonades, pineapples or hi-vis heroes, they were all fab.

Incidentally, that reminds me, I’ve been meaning to ask was PPAP a thing over here?  The Pen Pineapple Apple Pen song?  When I was teaching in Cambodia, my students were completely obsessed by the hilarity of it.  They would therefore probably implode with explosive laughter if I was to refer to a marshal as a pineapple.  You don’t know it? Consider yourself blessed, a lucky escape… What, you are intrigued?  You want to know more you say? Do you know what an ear worm is?  Well, just saying, if you click on this link and watch the PPAP video you will be pursued with this as the inner soundtrack in your head from hereon-in. I really wouldn’t…

PPAP song

I’m guessing you just couldn’t help yourself.  I’m so very sorry.  Have to say though, contributory negligence, if you won’t abide by the health and safety warnings there’s little I can do to save you from yourself.  I do understand the temptation though, and it is  bizarre.  Travel is all about cultural exchange isn’t it.  I’d never have encountered this song had I not been working in Cambodia. Strange but true.  For the record, that wasn’t the most significant element of cultural exchange, but it was the most relevant here.

So the Thornhill path section heading towards Yorkshire Bridge. I was alone with my thoughts for this section.  Admiring the wild flowers, and mulling things over.

Highlights, in chronological order included the following:

A tractor!  I like to think this was laid on especially for me by way of compensation for the disappointment of this year’s Hathersage Hurtle failing once again to clash with the vintage tractor run.

I paused to let it pass, and turn down the lane ahead of me. Bad move, turns out, tractor fumes aren’t the best to walk behind.  I should have hitched a ride instead.  Nevertheless, I have a soft spot for tractors so all good.

Then there was a reappearance of the cheer squad, who seemingly had teleported from their previous position to this new spot.  They were looking out for another participant with whom I must have been currently in step, I parasitised the ginormous high five inflatable, obvs.  I think on a run route any proffered high five is fair game.  Also, every high five received boosts you for the mile that follows, guaranteed.  Excellent work with the cow bells there too.  Respect.

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Nice views:

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Next exciting sighting, was some of the event team, mustered all together at a marshal point.  Now, I don’t want to create dissent, but, in the interests of transparency, I will admit to taking advantage of the fact that we’d had got acquainted earlier on.  I like to think this is best thought of not as shameless nepotism, but proactive networking. Sometimes you have to just make your own luck!   I paused to be scanned, and then to my delight, based on this most tenuous of relationships, I was able to secure preferential treatment in relation to their dispensing of gummy bears.   I was offered my pick from a brand new pack of sugar fixes, instead of having to run the proverbial gauntlet of the jelly baby container being made available to the rest of the walking and running hoi polloi,  awash as it was with sweat, phlegm and an assortment of running related bodily fluids added by the many sticky hands of runners that had been diving into the mix before I arrived.  Same principle as contaminated ice cubes in pubs I suppose, best not to think too much about that to be fair. I felt blessed indeed.  It also gave me first dibs on the colour choices.   Thank you lovely event team.  All about who you know sometimes!  … of course it may have been a coincidence of timing and them being mid replenishing of stock, but why let the truth get in the way of a good story eh?

Here they are snapped together, this wasn’t the only photographer I papped en route incidentally, keep your eyes peeled for the other one later.

Aren’t they clever to line up so well in height order, I wonder if that happens instinctively.  The familial version of Ant and Dec, whereby identification by the casual observer is aided by everyone always standing in the same place.  Mind you, I still don’t know which is which from Ant and Dec, it’s not noticeably disadvantaged me in life to date, but it’s not game over yet, so who knows… I may yet come to rue the day.   The way things are going it may well be that being able to correctly identify TV celebrities becomes a necessary life survival skill in future, perhaps after all it is not a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’.  Shudders.  And I thought the mandatory ‘popular culture’ questions in pub quizzes was torture enough.  Enough of Ant and Dec, we are wasting time, we’ll never complete the route if we keep getting distracted.

So waved on my way, the next stretch took me down to Yorkshire Bridge.  You cross that, and then after a bit of an uphill, friendly marshals guide you across the road and then you get the long, long slog up New Road.

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Now, the good thing about going up New Road, is that you start to get the teasing view of Stannage Edge ahead.  It is however I think one of the toughest sections of the hurtle, because I find tarmac hard on the legs, and that road just goes on an on.  Never mind, views were great, and I was able to distract myself by trying to spot an online acquaintance with red hair, who would have set off behind me, but was run/walking so would catch up and overtake at some point. This meant, I basically propositioned all female redheads, who, it turns out, are like buses.  Because I did literally have three turn up at once.  Two were not my target, but the third saw me first and we were able to get the obligatory selfie before she strode on off ahead.

Found her

It’s great when things work out.  I had a similarly magical experience at Sheffield Half this year, I was only spectating, but did manage to finally meet in person a fellow runner who I’ve been communicating with online for a while after finding we were both running the London Marathon in 2018.  I was giddy with excitement to meet in the flesh.  (Companionable virtual wave just for you, if you are reading now – that was indeed a grand moment – next time, let’s see if we can manage an actual coffee as well as a catch up eh.   Your parkrun or mine?).

half marathon meet up

And then, amazingly, the front runner came through!  He was romping up that hill with an even stride, seemingly barely breaking a sweat.  He was significantly ahead of all the other runners, and looking strong.  I wondered if he’d be able to maintain that pace and length of lead.  Spoiler alert, he did, and what’s more, was snapped looking effortless in his running along the route, amazing running.

The next runner to pass was a woman, and again, so far up the field, and looking so fresh, that, to my eternal shame, I thought she must be a run / walker.  She just looked so relaxed.   If I’d known she was lead woman and ended up coming in second finisher and first female I’d have given her a mahoosive cheer, and set off a load of party poppers were it not for the fact that a) I didn’t have any with me and b) I wouldn’t want to litter our beautiful hills.  Fantastic running though.

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I enjoyed the views:

and I made more new transient friends.  Now, I now you shouldn’t really have favourites, but I have a special place in my heart for this trio, who actually stopped for a picnic on a bench on the way round, just at the point when the trickle of runners coming through had become a stream.  Classic.

 

as they chomped on their sandwiches, runners hurtled by:

Check out the Dark Peak Fell Runner’s vest in action there, another record was being set by a DPFR elsewhere today…

I tried to get a few atmospheric shots of the stream of runners ahead.  I know, I know, you need super human vision to spot them, but please do try to remember it’s the thought that counts, and sometimes, you really do just have to be there to experience things for yourself. Think of this as but a teaser to encourage you to enter yourself next year if you haven’t already done so.  Yep, those microscopic dots, they are actual runners.  I will concede that if I had the memory space in my blog that would allow me to upload a higher resolution picture then my claim might be more convincing, but I don’t, so you’ll just have to take it on trust.  Or not.  Up to you.

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Here are more random pics, because it’s just a place I can share them really, good in parts.  I cheered club runners with shirts I recognised, and I can confirm, that it remains true that Barnsley Harrier runners are particularly friendly and likely to respond positively to random shout outs from along the way. I mean, obviously Smiley Paces runners are the best, but we know one another, so that’s a given!

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New Road goes up and up, but eventually goes down, and takes you to Dennis Knoll, the second feed station and the dusty incline that takes you finally up to the Edge.  It was at this last section of the road that I was blessed with my most treasured memory of the entire day.  I glimpsed the Event Director from Graves Junior parkrun, being dragged around at full speed, compelled methinks, to keep stride for stride with his running buddies for the day.  I don’t think I mispeak if I observe he definitely wasn’t having type 1 fun at that moment.  Seeing me, he cried out ‘save me Lucy, save me‘ as he swept on by, his desperate call for an intervention being carried off in the breeze. He barely paused for long enough to scan his tag let alone face plant into the cake table at the feed station as he ran on through.  Well, his type 2 fun, was my type 1, hilarious.  Gift of a memory. This is what happens to runners when their competitive instincts kick in, fabulous running yes, but maybe not 100% fun within each moment. I applaud it, but don’t imagine myself ever embracing such run strategies myself. There is probably quite a strong correlation between my inability to push myself to my limits and my ever slowing event speeds.  Oh well, each to their own.  Great running though Graves junior friend, and you gave me a good laugh for which I thank you!

Whilst hard core runners sped on by, I was happy to pause at the feed station and take it all in.  It was a nice social spot, and I notices here, as elsewhere en route there was a lot of child labour support which was good to see.  I picked up another chunk of fruit cake the size of my head, which was a case of my eyes being bigger than my stomach.  Turns out I quite like fruit cake, I didn’t know I did.

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Even though this is a fair old up hill stretch, it felt like a relief to finally be approaching the edge.  The sun had come out, so it was hot, and the route was pretty social.  I had a slight panic on seeing this sign, just a bit on from the feed station:

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Wait, what?  This is the official start of the Hathersage Hurtle?  What were those previous 10 miles about then?  I know you can’t always get parked up close to a start line, but I’m pretty confident they could have done a bit better that that?  Oh hang on.  A vague memory formulated in my minds eye – because I don’t have aphantasia  I was able to do that – something in an email. Something about a designated Strava section to test speed across that chunk of the course.  Well, good luck to them.  They picked a brutal part of the course to make people run up.  And many did. Go them.  Respect.  A fair number of other participants took the strategic power walk option, saving their energy for the fun, flat bounce across boulders at the top of Stannage Edge.

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Once again, I feel the need to point out those are not soldier ants in search of new territories, but tiny runners.  Not really small of course, but far away.  You follow yes?

small v far away

I even started to see some familiar faces on the course about this point. That was fun, even though I was only walking, one of the real joys of this event is that it mixes together the runners and walkers in a companionable way, and that makes it quite social.  If you want to go for it as fast as you can, you are able to do so, but there is space too for more interactions along the way if you choose to have them.  Top sightings included my Smiley Buddy who I always seem to meet whenever I go out running in this part of the world, whatever day of the week or time of day.  She must be there all the time, like a heather sprite, scampering about, there can be no inch of that terrain across which she has not run!  Go you!  Well met Smiley, well met indeed.

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Also on this section, I was spotted by, and duly spotted in return, an off-duty, on-running photographer.  Normally, he’s the other side of a telephoto lens – not in a creepy sense, lurking behind a tree (as far as I’m aware) but at a vantage point to snap runners at local events.  Nice to get exchange a cheery wave before he too disappeared up and over the horizon.  Hope you had a grand run.  How could you not?

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I think this is my favourite part of the course, well it’s one of my favourite places, so it would be.  I just love that you can see so far, and that the landscape is so spectacular.  Usually, when I’m on this path I see no-one other than my ubiquitous smiley buddy who pops up everywhere, heather sprite smiley – but today obviously it was like a commuter belt.  Walkers and runners taking part in the Hurtle adding to the boulderers, rock climbers, solo runners and independent walkers, dog walkers all making the most of a glorious day.  Just as I got to the top of the edge, I espied the red heads I’d talked to earlier, paused for a picnic too.

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There aren’t many events that facilitate the picnicking on the way round option.  Way to go Hathersage Hurtlers!  I guess, the only way to improve on that would be to have a bespoke butler service on request, whereby you are met at the top with a white table clothed spread with the contents of a wicker basket and with champagne in a bucket of ice on hand to revive you before you complete the hurtle circuit.  Lest you think this might impede athletic performance, I’ll have you know that in 1908 athletes used Champagne as an energy drink to get them round the London Marathon (apparently).  Here is a picture of a competitor Dorando Pietri being helped across the finish line while holding a cork in his hand according to the caption in the article.  Splendid!

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Mind you, they also imbibed rat poison on the way round, so I think I’d draw selectively on the history of nutrition for running if I were you…

For a badly needed boost, a number of competitors turned to unlikely, but common-at-the-time sources: brandy, glasses of bubbly, and strychnine (best known now as rat poison). … Wild as it may seem today, people once believed alcohol and strychnine cocktails were performance enhancers. The drinks were doled out like Gatorade or energy gels to endurance athletes.

so now we know.  And I thought energy gels were toxic.  Actually, I think they are, I strongly suspect strychnine would be easier to keep down for me at least.  Also, much more decorative packaging don’t you agree?

strychnine

At last, on the edge.  Love it up there.  My though, it was heaving up there.  You have to pick your own route, but there’s lots of space. I suppose it’s vaguely technical, but I’m relatively sure footed along this section because it’s so familiar.   It’s also beautiful, no wonder so many people were wearing broad smiles along with their running gear.

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Somewhere along this edge I picked up a new temporary best buddy, who shall be known as kiltman.  He was great companion, full of good stories. He’d done some seriously hard core stuff, including completing the Red Bull Steeplechase when it was held in the peak district.  Just 500 start and then only a certain number are allowed to continue on through each of three checkpoints so only 40 get to the end of the 21 mile course.  It’s brutal.  I marshalled it once, and nearly collapsed with exhaustion just walking up to the marshal point, got a very nice hoody out of it though, so well worth the exertion.  Despite his obvious ability, he seemed happy to chill and go slow and soak up the atmosphere.  In fact, he said he likes sometimes to start at the back and pick off and pick up people as he passes.  The event photos suggest he made loads of friends on the way round!

He litter picked as we went, and also sported an awareness raising sign to check yourself for cancer.  All very public spirited, but that isn’t his unique selling point as a hurtle companion, no sorreeeeey.   What made our shared time together especially epic was one particular anecdote. Now this is where, dear reader, if you’ve stuck with me for the long run (or walk in my case) you are rewarded with the reason why nail varnish can be a safety hazard on a long run.  I believe the wait is well worth it, and I flatter myself that I’m not often wrong about these things.  Well, not in my world anyway.  Self-delusion is my friend.  Don’t disillusion me, everyone needs a friend.

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So the story went something like this.  He was doing some hard core, overnight challenge in the Lake District, and that necessitated using a head torch.  Personally, I’ve never really got the hang of using  a head torch off-road, possibly I need more practice, but it’s something about the way it makes tree roots and boulders cast huge shadows that makes me struggle to read the ground properly and I’m scared of falling.  Well, turns out, that’s not the only hazard they create.  So kilt-man was wearing some glow in the dark nail varnish for this particular run, and as it was pitch dark, he suddenly thought it would be good to check out how effective that was, so as he was running along he held up his finger nails in front of him to check them out, lost concentration and basically face planted as far as I can gather.  Amazingly, he wasn’t hurt, though he was soaked, but the worst of it all was that it didn’t even work.  Turns out, you have to sort of solar charge the nail varnish in sunlight for a few hours first.  Well, we all know now.  Point is, best race accident ever.  Can you imagine the incident report on Mountain Rescue’s Facebook page if they had been called out to rescue him?  I think it would have had a certain terseness in its account.  Anyway, bet they don’t cover that eventuality on the fell runners first aid courses!  Maybe they should… Thank you Kilt man, epic companion and great running tale.

More pics.  More familiar faces.  Motivational markings in the sand.  All good.   Kilt lacked stretch for the descents apparently.

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We said goodbye at the Fiddler’s Elbow/ Burbage Edge check point, I was waaaay slower than him, and coincidentally, we both saw people we knew there so it was a natural separation.

I saw my woodrun buddies, who’ve I’ve not seen in yonks, mainly because I’m not really running, it was nice to see some familiar friendly faces.  I even went in for a hug, realising too late that I probably wasn’t all that fragrant.  I don’t worry so much hugging other runners, we are mutually sweaty and dust covered, they looked a bit more freshly washed.  Still, they are runners themselves, and so forgiving.  Good to have a brief hello before heading off again.  We even bagsied another smiley, plus – though I didn’t know it yet, another online acquaintance.  Everyone (who was/is anyone) was out and about today!

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On I trotted, taking more snaps along the way.  The view is quite distracting.  Unwittingly, I see I was in the presence of the seen-a-photographer stick man.  One of my favourite photos of the day, sort of makes him look like he’s doing a hop skip and a jump a la wee willie winky or something.  In a good way, it’s a compliment not an insult just to be clear.  I think it was him…  There were some fluffy and relaxed cows too

no pandas though.  I’ve told you about the junior parkrunner who is firm in his belief that the black and white lambs in the animal park are baby pandas previously I think. I’d like to live in that world.  One where baby pandas can be seen gamboling in Graves park.  To be fair, I’d rather there were loads out in the wilds of China where they should be, but I’m sure you know what I mean…

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Best thing on this stretch though, was seeing this stupendous Smiley duo, who clearly just had a blast the whole way round.  There isn’t a single photo of them all day where they aren’t radiating joy.  They are batteries of concentrated energy, energising and enthusing all they encountered along the way I’m sure!  Love these guys!

Then a bit further along, another best bit, this route was full of them. Found another online friend I’ve not previously met.  Turns out, I also caught them at the feed station too, but didn’t make the connection.  Epic.  We walked and talked for a wee while until it was obvious their natural pace was significantly speedier than mine, and we parted company at the next feed station, which came round quickly.  No worries, we’ll reconvene at the Round Sheffield Run I’m sure!  Thanks for saying hello.

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This was another laden feed station, with smiling marshals to refuel and rehydrate you before sending you on your way.  Across the road and down through Padley Gorge.

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Last year, this event was on the day of a heat wave, and this whole section was thick with families having picnics or splashing about in the water.  This time round, the section was pretty much deserted. The temperature started to drop and I suddenly started to feel a bit of a chill, some spots of rain came, but not far to go now.  I’ve only ever come to this section as part of a run, I really should come back and explore properly some time, it’s very, very picturesque.

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Unfortunately, my camera battery then died on me.  Well, I had been snapping away with abandon, so it’s not really a surprise.  I declare this to be a shame, as this part of the route is so very different from what has come before.  You descend through woodland glades through carpets of bluebells, past the weird stump into which passers by have stuck squillions of coins, past the little path leading up to Longshaw where you can see an ice cream van calling to you from the road side.  You of course, may consider this to be something of a blessing, as I’m aware I do go on, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, well, you’ll never get your life back to do with as you will if I keep on adding them to this post and you feel somehow obligated to finish what you started.  If you are still with me now, I salute your tenacity.  Sorry if it has led you to feel consumed with regret, we are however nearly at the end now.  …. just don’t kid yourself into thinking you’ve avoided them completely though, I have other sources you know.  Like this one.  Bluebells, nice.

RW bluebell woods

Idyllic even.

There is a tree rooty, quite dark section that follows.  I was tiring now.  And on my own for the most part of this section.  I started to wonder if I had gone wrong as there were few yellow strips to mark the way (biodegradable plastic by the way, in case you were horrified by the sight of them, and I’m sure they get removed anyway).  There wasn’t anywhere you could have gone wrong, so I think it was just fatigue creeping in. Also, I was having a knicker admin issue.  A bit of adjustment was needed.  Plus, perhaps I’d overdone it at the last feed station but I’d got a bit of a stitch.  Well, I say a stitch, but I think we all know it was actually trapped wind.  The thing is, you think a route is isolated, but they never are quite enough for you to throw caution to the wind by purging your own.

It was good to see another Graves junior regular!  Yay, who paused for a brief hello before sprinting off.  I knew she had another couple of friends coming up behind, so that was good. Nice bit of needed reassurance as I ploughed on.  Definitely feeling properly cold now.

strider buddies

Pleased my blister had not come to pass, but wishing my flatulence would.  I did some knicker adjustments along the way, but seemed to make things worse.  Oh no, chaffing was becoming a real possibility, and with less than a parkrun to go, so harsh!

At some point, not sure where to be fair.  You emerge onto the last section which is a gentle grassy downward incline, that then flattens out, and it is in fact invitingly runnable unless you have become preoccupied with knicker chaffing and trapped wind.  A few runners did still pass me in this section, many actually pausing to ask if I was ok.  I appreciated that, but it was a little disconcerting, as I was actually feeling fine – well apart from the aforementioned issues – and it is a worry if I was moving as if injured to the point of requiring outside assistance!

Right to the end marshals offered applause and encouragement, and then before you know it, you are back emerging from the path just next to the finish, and it’s round the corner and down the finish funnel that sweeps round the field, past the beer tents and to a flying finish!  Even though it was a bit cooler by now, and I was amongst the last trickle of finishers, there were still cheers for me coming in, and you get swept up into the welcome of the team, who do a final scan, remove your electronic tag and thrust you towards more coffee and cake.  Job done!

There was a finish photographer who got some classic finish pics of people working their last few metres home.  Excellent 🙂  Don’t know who 165 is, but he clearly doesn’t believe in letting youngsters win, fabulous sprint from both there.  Also like the umbrella hat, genius.   It’s good to come prepared.  Plus check out the flip flop runner – worked for him!  Impressive!

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Some emotional pair hugs, group hugs and reunions at the end – those post run endorphins doing their bit.

Plenty had finished before me and been milling and chilling and had their prizes and been and gone by the time I got back.  However, I can report there was still an abundance of cake, and some really, really good vegan burgers.  Only £3 and with a good kick to them.  There was a beer tent too, and straw bales to sit on.  Jolly nice.   There had also been quite a lot of activities laid on for any young people, to keep them entertained if they were having to hang around whilst one of their parents was running say.  In fact, I gather they mainly just ran riot in the field, rather than particularly using the lovingly put together activities, but to be fair, that’s what the hurtlers were out doing all day, romping round in a great big circle for no particular reason, and having a ball working off all that excess energy.  Everyone was happy!

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It was a good atmosphere, and I sat and chatted for a wee while with my Graves junior pal as we chomped on our burgers together and debriefed about our hurtling experiences of the day.  All good.

I didn’t find out until later, but the results were phenomenal, with three women in the top six finishers and some stonking times.   How fast? Just wow!  No wonder everyone was astonished.

The Hathersage Hurtle Facebook page reported that:

Absolutely fantastic results at the Hurtle this year – in first place was Dave Archer with a staggering time of 2.14.24, and in second place, also the first woman, was Zanthe Wray with an awesome 2.29.03

Bravo.  Fantastic performances indeed.

So debrief concluded and vegan burgers consumed, legs started to seize up.  Time to go home.  Before doing so, me and my junior parkrun companion went to say thanks and congratons to the organisers.  It had been another great day.  I also mentioned how much I liked the design of the t-shirt and was told the person who came up with it was in fact there, in a blue top under her hi-vis.  Great, I’ll seek them out.  Question.  Do you have any idea how many marshals were wearing blue under their pineapple?  Answer.  A great many.  I did however seek her out eventually, because it is a good design.  I think they plan to keep it for next year, but maybe change the colours each time.  Watch this space. Thanks said, I waved goodbye only to  be offered yet more cake.  ‘Are you sure you wouldn’t like to take any away with you‘ the marshal asked.  It was then I uttered a phrase I never thought to speak ‘you know what, that’s incredibly kind, but I think I’ve actually reached capacity with cake now.  Thank you though‘.  Because I had!  Who knew.

I hadn’t quite got rigor mortis, but my body felt like it was working towards that, so I sort of unfolded myself sufficiently to stagger back to the car park where junior marshals were doing awesome work waving us off home.

Thank you fine Hathersage Hurtle team, I’m loving your work.  I still hope to actually run it one year, but I may have to think again about wearing my running vest to do so…  perhaps fancy dress is the way forward.  Thinking about it, it almost always is!  Why didn’t I think of that before.

It just remains to say thanks to the many photographers who gave of their time at the event, specifically to Phil Sproson Photography, also Lisa Daniels, Rachel Rennie Photography and Chris Dainton, all of whom gave their services all day for free and have shared some fabulous photos from which I’ve borrowed freely for this blog post.  If you want to have a browse yourself you’ll find them here:

there are squillions to browse through!  You didn’t have anything else in particular planned did you?  That’s lucky.

Here are some of the tired but happy Hathersage Hurtle people.  They rock!

HH PS high vis heroes job done

Oh, wait you want to know about Nicky Spinks before I go?  You don’t know already?  She only blooming did it, the 122-mile Double Paddy Buckley Round.  Not only is that epic and awesome and amazing and all of those things, but I love that she finished it wearing her Dark Peak Fell Runners vest.  And I thought I couldn’t love her any more…  Read all about it here.  Ooh, and is that one of her crew sporting a Dig Deep tee-shirt?  I’ve got one of those, and I wear inov-8 parkclaws for trail running so basically that means I practically did the double Paddy Buckley challenge too!  No wonder I’m a bit stiff negotiating the stairs this morning, the morning after the day before.  We are so blooming lucky in Sheffield, Dig Deep, Hathersage Hurtle, the landscape opens up ahead of us, we have but to rush in!

nicky spinks completes dble paddy buckley round

Oh, and another thing, if you want to read my other posts about the Hathersage Hurtle, click here – you’ll need to scroll back for earlier entries.  But you know what would be even better?  Enter it yourself next year and find out first hand what a fun factory it is.  If you can’t wait that long, there’s always Dig Deep… or, you know what, you could just pull on your running shoes and head out on your own, what’s to lose?

See you out there on them there hills!

🙂

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Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Out of the mist, came forth sun… and runners, lots and lots of runners. Loving Longshaw Trust10 in the spring sunshine.

Digested read:  back to the Longshaw Trust 10k (Trust10).  Misty start, sunny finish.  Very nice to be back.

Undigested read:

Everybody loves Longshaw.  Well they should do. Just look at it, it’s spectacular, whatever the season.

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We all need to reboot our systems now and again don’t we?  Don’t we?  Please don’t let on it really is just me?  Oh you were kidding,  it isn’t just me who gets a bit ground down now and again and needs to be reminded to look up and out and breath in the air.  That’s good, otherwise you’ll have no idea what I’m banging on about and that will make for a very confusing mismatch in our conversation, and nobody wants that.

So, Sunday morning. Now normally Sunday is junior parkrun day, and I do really love junior parkrun, supercharged fun however you look at it, especially at my local Graves junior parkrun where you get to run through the animal farm and by the lake and everything.

However, fun as it is, I realised last year that I’d got out of the habit of going to the Longshaw Trust 10k.  This is ridiculous, because I blooming love the Trust10, it’s always super friendly and welcoming and mostly ‘proper’ off road.  I mean not completely hard-core, but enough to get your feet muddy and feel alive and a very long way from the grind of running on pavements or tarmac.

Anyway, longshaw story short, I’ve decided to try to prioritise the Longshaw 10k a bit more this year, after all I can still do junior parkrun the other three weeks of the month (the Longshaw 10k takes place on the fourth Sunday of each month- check website just in case, but that’s worked so far, snow and ice permitting).  This morning, it being the fourth Sunday of the month, Longshaw it would be.

The website says succinctly:

Enjoy a 10k run in the special surroundings of the Longshaw Estate. Free, informal and for everyone

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Join us on the fourth Sunday of the month for our free 10k run. Registration is on the day 8.15 in the café, and the run starts at 9 am. A number will be issued to you at your first run.

The route is two laps, and takes in some wide paths and some more technical off-road sections on grass, rocks and sometimes muddy ground. It is suitable for runners of all abilities.

Timing will be via paper and stopwatches, so if your time is important to you please use your own system.

so that’s all you really need to know, you could just finish here, I wont know, I haven’t a clue if anyone ever reads my posts or not, so no offence taken.  Also, you might have a life to lead, places to go, people to see, whatever. I don’t do concise though, so I’m not prepared to leave this account at that, read on at your own risk. Maybe have a precautionary pee first, and pour yourself a mug of tea or glass of wine in readiness. You’ll need something with which to fortify yourself if you intend to stick with me for the long run. Not that Longshaw is especially long by everyone’s standards, but I’ll make it feel long for you.  It’s a 10k route, but two 5k laps, so if you are unsure you could always do one loop and then bail finish at that point. You’ll be at the front of the cafe queue and have seen the route.  But you won’t get a time and you won’t know the fun you’ve missed out on by doing so. Your call though, nobody will judge you.   Really they wont.  In a good way, nobody cares what you do, as long as you are having a good time and stay safe.  Think parkrun, it’s that sort of ethos.   Good natured, celebrating what you do, and although there are definitely speedy runners pegging round at the front, there is nothing to stop you taking a more sedate romp round at the rear – as did I today.

Despite everything, I did feel a little disloyal to be heading Longshaw way instead of to Graves.  Also, it was freezing when I woke.  Really misty, and was that even a bit of ice on the car?  Possibly.  It was like that at Graves parkrun yesterday, so misty you could hardly see your hand in front of your face on arrival, but then it did clear enough later on the second lap for an en route selfie with highland coo.  Such selfies ought to be mandatory anyway at Graves parkrun, what’s the point of a parkrun going to all that effort of supplying highland coos if nobody bothers to do so, but it was made easier yesterday by dint of me being busy and important as tail walker for the day, no pressure to rush on by.  Oh and also having a smart phone carrying selfie wannabee to accompany me, result.  Hurrah!  Fab walk and talk yesterday.  I thank you. 🙂

Where was I?  You’ve distracted me. Oh yeah, not at Graves, but heading to Longshaw.  It was misty enough that I contemplated putting on my headlights, and cold enough that I considered wearing one of my deeply unflattering beanies.  I thought the better of it, though on reflection, my pink Trust10 bobble hat would have been OK, it’s more forgiving than my cow bob and TpoT offerings.  Too late, didn’t take one, wondered if I might regret it, blooming cold.

I won’t lie, I’ve not been feeling the running lurve lately.  My mojo has not so much temporarily departed as actually abandoned me leaving no forwarding address and only memories and dreams of what might have been.  Despite this, I do sort of miss what we had, and it is slowly dawning on me, that astonishingly, the only way to get back my running form is to actually go out and do some running. Harsh, but true.  Perhaps today would be the day.

I arrived crazily early at Longshaw, got my self parked up in ‘my’ parking spot. Yes, I do have a favourite parking spot at Longshaw, doesn’t everyone?  It was £3.50 for non National Trust members for up to four hours – was hoping that I wouldn’t take that long to get around, even allowing time for a fairly substantial cheese scone afterwards. You can park for free along the road outside the Fox House, but I suppose I feel paying for parking is a way of supporting the otherwise free event.  Also, less far to retreat back to the car on days when it is so cold your legs won’t work.  That might just be me though. You are probably so hard-core you’ll be incorporating the Longshaw Trust10 into your long run and jog out, run the 10k and run home again.  Go you!  Not me though, that wasn’t my plan, though I do have a bit of a fantasy that I might do that one day.  Maybe when the weather is a bit warmer so I don’t have to worry about getting cold in between running legs.

The air was still, the car park already beginning to fill up, and the views, as always, just breathtaking.  Of course my photos don’t do it justice, why would they? You’ll have to go check it out for yourself.

Keenie volunteers had already put the little pink flags up to mark the way.  I had my first precautionary pee of the morning.  The bolt on the toilet door wasn’t working, but that didn’t matter as the queue for the loo is always so extensive, someone will look out for you.  The gents of course just breezed past us, waving as they went to make free with their own more ample facilities.  Structural injustice strikes again.  I read a whole article about exactly this issue of why there are never enough female toilets (as in toilets for use by women, not for bathroom sanitation ware that identifies as female – I’m pretty sure most would be non-binary anyway), but now I can’t find it.  Bet you are gutted.  Worry not, I’ll add it in later if I do.  Hang on, you’re OK, I’ve found it, great article on the deadly truth about a world built for men You’re welcome.  Found this one on the American Potty Parity movement too, who knew?  Having said that, compared to other running events, the provision at Longshaw is pretty darned good.  Warm registration area, toilets- not just toilets, but ample toilet paper and hot running water too. Thrown in an informal bag drop, parking,  and post run coffee and carb options and that covers everything really.

Headed in to the cafe area to register, my camera can’t cope with interior shots, but you’ll get the gist. First timers have to complete a registration form, returners, wearing their own reused numbers have a quicker process.

It’s all very self-explanatory and pretty slick, though the volume of participants these days does make for some good-natured queuing. That’s OK though, it’s a chance to catch up with everyone you’ve ever met in the running community of Sheffield. This event brings loads out of the woodwork.  I went on my own, but bumped into many familiar faces.  Grand.

The high vis heroes were discussing tactics, being efficient and heading off to their posts, some of which are a fair old hike away from the cafe area:

Here they are en masse at the end. What a fine and photogenic lot they are. Hurrah for them.  That’s not even all of them.  It takes a lot of effort to keep the event running smoothly.  (Pun intended, I’m super quick-witted like that – less quick on my feet unfortunately.  Oh well, we can’t all be good at anything everything).

Volunteers are epic

Runners arrived and milled and chilled, some did some voluntary extra running, by way of warm up.  Respect.  Others did some voluntary extra running by way of sustainable transport options.  Also respect:

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The sun was beginning to peak through, and I started to see familiar faces from woodrun and even a few other break away-ers from Graves junior.  It was like big reunion!

It was definitely still misty, but the day seemed full of promise.  An air of eager anticipation started to build. It seemed busy to me, but then again, apart from the Christmas Tinsel Trust 10 I’ve hardly been to Longshaw Trust10 of late.  I decided NOT to wear my coat, which is quite a big deal for me, as normally I have to have it forcibly wrestled away from me pre run.  Now though, the air was still, and the runes seemed good.  It was one of those days where you really get why ancient peoples worshipped the sun, it seemed miraculous how it began to appear and burned through the fog to reveal a glorious landscape of wonder and promise. In a bit though, not straight away.

After a bit, there was a sort of collective move towards the start, as if drawn by a silent beacon, like in Close Encounters, only a lot jollier and with more visible Lycra. Honestly, I don’t know if Lycra was even a thing when the film Close Encounters came out in 1977, the Wikipedia entry inexplicably completely fails to mention it.  This is the problem with becoming over reliant on search engines on the interweb, the entirety of human knowledge becomes reduced to dust.

The Devil’s Tower is pretty much indistinguishable from Carl Wark in my view, and you can only differentiate the assembling of runners from the assembly of the alien seekers by the presence of tarmac beneath the feet of the non runners.  Spooky isn’t it?

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Once we were all assembled, more or less, bit of fraternising went on, I noticed the runderwear ambassador ingratiating herself to the tail walkers.  Well, she was trying to communicate something important anyway.  Also a few ill-advised selfies were taken alongside other reunions. You know, it occurs to me, maybe it isn’t the hats that make me spectacularly unphotogenic, maybe I actually look like this hatted or otherwise.  Horrible thought.  Oh well, this selfie is significant because the two of us have been Facebook stalking each others for some months but until this weekend never met, now two-day on the trot, yesterday Graves, today Longshaw. We’re properly best friends now!  Clearly Smiley Selfie Queen has more experience in these matters, or maybe a more forgiving filter.  I’ll never know…  I was slightly disappointed to see she was no longer wearing her sash from yesterday, when she celebrated her 100th parkrun with cakeage+, bunnage+ and a sash proclaiming her achievement.  Oh well.  At least I saw her on the day.

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there was the run briefing.

Take care, be sensible, usual information about following marshals directions, but today was special, because today was also a day to sing Happy Birthday en masse in honour of stalwart volunteer Frances, soon to be eighty.  I think it’s fair to say that on the whole attendees are better at running than singing, but the rendition that followed this announcement was full of affection and enthusiasm.  Go Frances!  Excellent hat sporting as well as time keeping. We, who are about to run, salute you!

Birthday celebrant

It’s been a week of awesome octogenarians here in Sheffield.  Tony Foulds did good too did he not, getting his fly-by and all. Maybe that’s when life begins, at eighty, I can but hope… I’m post 54 and still don’t feel like I’ve made it off the starting block…

This is what runners look like whilst singing and waving in the start ‘funnel’ there are helpful signs to suggest where to place yourself to avoid congestion once underway by the way.  Also attentive looking runners during the run briefing.

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So then, pre run socialising and communal singing satisfactorily completed, we were awf, with that Longshaw staple the wolf whistle to get us underway!  You had to be there, but trust me, it’s true and it was audible and off everybody went.  It was somewhat quirky, like lighting a cigarette to start off the Barkley Marathons, but with more attention to Health and Safety.

And off we went.  It was fairly steady start from where I was at the back.  I daresay the front runners do speed off, but the mass of the back were happy to be more relaxed as we departed.  It’s a narrow path and a bit of a dog leg, and you are just warming up so no great haste.  Not on my part anyway.  The promise of good weather had brought along a fair few spectators to cheer us off, and no doubt then nip into the cafe for reviving coffee for a bit before the faster runners were back at the end of their first lap.

There was a bit of a bottle neck through the first gate, and then onto the compressed mud track where you run perilously close to a ditch, or more accurately a ha ha, presumably called this because that is the noise your so-called friends would make if you were to tumble into it due to either ice or a lapse in concentration.  Wikipedia doesn’t say.

There are many pleasing sights on the way round, but a fine marshal with psychedelic leggings and winning smile is always going to be a hit.  What’s more, on this route, you get to see all the lovely marshals twice if you do the whole 10k.  Now there’s an incentive to keep on running round!  Isn’t she lovely. (Rhetorical question, of course she is!)  Plus, I can personally vouch for her outstanding directional pointing, clapping and generally supportive whooping.  She’s always had a talent for this, starting way back at the finish line in the early days of parkrun, but totally perfected and finessed here at Longshaw.  Thank you marshal.  Top Tip, best to shout out your thanks on loop one, as by the time lap two comes round you may well be a) breathless and b) somewhat less enthusiastic about the whole thing, it all depends.

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Off we went, runners streaming ahead and round the lake, or is it a pond?  Not sure what the difference is, but it was all very scenic. You could tell the first timers who ground to a halt at the slightest hint of mud, not having yet learned the fun is in the plunging through it.  I heard one fellow runner explain to his running mate he would have done, but was getting a lift back and didn’t want to get mud in the car!  Can’t be a proper running buddy if they object to mud surely, but each to their own.

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Usually, the entire field has run out of my field of vision quite early on, but today I seemed to stay at least in sight of people for the whole of the first lap.  Others were also being distracted by the scenery, it was lovely, and getting lovelier by the minute as the sun burst through.  Handily placed marshals held open gates and pointed the way towards Narnia, and we followed the paths with delighted eager anticipation

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Through the trees, skipping through more open spaces, mud dodging or not, as the mood took us, thanking marshals, queuing at the kissing gate – good for a regroup, catch up and reconnaissance with other runners.

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Then into the proper woody bit, which is all tree roots and hobbit country.  It was surprisingly dry, and perfect for running today, it can be muddy and slippery, but today was fab, you need to pick your way a bit, but I enjoy this section, though you are a bit restricted to single file.  I tell myself this is why I made no attempt to overtake other runners, instead preferring to pause for photo ops en route.  Ahead of me, my parkrun buddy and Runderwear ambassador had befriended another runner, she does that a lot… takes other runners under her wing, it’s a good quality, and also a super power, it’s pretty much impossible to resist her advances – only this parkrun 50 tee wearing runner had just got swept up in the event and was doing her own run.  She wasn’t persuaded to join the fun this time round, well, no number I suppose, unless she blagged the number 50 – but I’m hoping next month she’ll be back.  She’d have fitted right in!  I am proud of my moody atmospheric shots.  The sky is moody not the runners. Well they may have been moody, I couldn’t tell from my scenic shot seeking detour standing in the bog.

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You emerge from the woodland section, through a gate, scramble over some rocks and you get spat out onto the ‘proper’ trail moorland section.  Sometimes when it’s wet this is really squidgy, but today it was easy running, apart from the little matter of being expected to run uphill.  I ran a bit, but pretty soon ended up power walking. They have ‘improved’ the route to minimise erosion, so there is now a clear path and even a little bridge so you no longer get to  have to launch yourself into flight over the little stream.

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A cheery marshal directs you and offers encouragement as you look upwards to the first serious climb of the morning, up, up skyward, into the blinding light of the morning sun. You can just make out the marshal standing astride the style in the wall at the top of the ascent, back-lit, like a super hero making an entrance.  Good work there, today Longshaw marshal, tomorrow deus ex machina at a theatrical happening of your choice!

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This marshal, as others, has commandeered this as his regular spot.  He is always friendly, and up for a chat, though it has to be said I do feel he has a somewhat unfair advantage in this respect as he hasn’t just had to drag his weary carcass up a steep hill. He is supportive though, and promised to see about putting in some sort of stairlift contraption or escalator in time for the second lap.  Top tip, don’t get your hopes up, it’s like at the Sheffield Half marathon when well-meaning spectators tell you at the Norfolk Arms ‘it’s all downhill from here!’  They are all well-intentioned, but they lie.  It’s inadvertent, but good to know.

He quipped at my Runderwear buddy just ahead ‘not last today then?’ in cheery tones. She most definitely was not. My job I thought silently, and so in time it proved to be.

So after the style and the wall and the chat, you have a long straight bit on a compacted service path.  Through a gate, and on a bit more, and then, just when your homing instinct is screaming at you to go straight on as ‘cafe ahead’ cheery marshals send you off to the right and up the second hill of the day.  This I find really hard, I don’t know why it feels quite as tough as it does, but it plays mind games.  I ended up walking and feeling pathetic for doing so.  Others ahead were walking too.  Blimey I need to up my game.

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Towards the top of this hill, you emerge alongside one of the other car parks, a marshal directs you – the route used to go through the carpark, but this route is better.  About this point the front runners started to come through, lapping me.  They make it look effortless.  Very impressive, they might be great athletes, but this is a good natured event, most shouted some sort of acknowledgement or encouragement as they passed.  I was a bit disappointed that unlike at the Tinsel Ten, none of the front runners were wearing a turkey on their heads.  Not one.  There was also a distinct lack of fancy dress.  Maybe they didn’t get the memo…  The pictures don’t capture the steepness of the climb, or maybe it really is all in my head.  The run is in fact flat, the earth is flat* and I have found a sports bra that is both comfy and supportive, and can also still fit into my interview suit.  All things are now possible.

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Over the hill, literally and metaphorically, and you are out on the exposed ridge and a flat track back to the start/ finish.  It was a lovely spot today, but I have seen marshals nearly frozen to the spot in less clement weather.  The marshal is ready to stop cars running you down – always a boon, and I think furnished with a first aid kit too, or maybe a very large packed lunch, I didn’t pause to check.  I’m sure I saw a big back pack somewhere.  It’s not in the photos, maybe I was hallucinating, or maybe some other marshal had that responsibility.  I’ll try to remember to look out for it properly next time.  On this stretch, you have to remember to take in the views.  They are spectacular.  I got overtaken a lot, but there are also walkers coming the other way.  The first lap is nearly complete though, so that’s a boost.  I have this weird thing that once I’m half way through an event, irrespective of distance, I believe I will complete it because I’ve only got to do the same again. This isn’t quite logical, but positive thinking probably goes a long way so I don’t want to challenge myself on this point for fear of my self-belief coming crashing down.  It is hovering quite precariously as it is.

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There is a narrow marshal-assisted gate at the end which you pass through into the comparative darkness of the woodland area again. I once saw a runner crash spectacularly into the stone gate post here, because there is a bit of an optical illusion going on.  There was a lot of blood, and staggering about, that’s probably why it’s marshalled now.

Once you are safely through, it’s a downhill sprint to the finish, unless you are on your first lap, in which case you cruise on through. Inexplicably, no-one has ever confused me for a finisher at the end of my first lap, even though I’m still behind a good number of others who’ve completed their two.  Oh well, at least I get my monies worth for time out on the course!

So I charged through the finish and round again for lap two. I  spotted the RD and one of her noble side-kicks and called out to them to take a photograph. Confusingly, they thought I wanted them to take one of me!  How bizarre, I have a lifetime’s supply of deeply unflattering photos of myself running, no, what I was after was one of them.  After all, runners are ten a penny at events like these, but the volunteer and organising team, well, they are priceless.  It’s a shame I didn’t get a better picture, but it is the thought that counts, and I was trying to think I promise!

Round again,through the gate into the woods again, this time I felt like I was the only runner left on the course.  There was one other just ahead, but it had definitely emptied out.  A family out walking graciously moved aside to let me pass ‘as I was racing’ which was gracious of them as I’m not sure I really was worthy of such a descriptor,  back to smiley marshal still in situ, doing a double wave just for me.

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I usually enjoy a steady solitary second lap more than the first at Longshaw, because it can be quite meditative. Today though, I heard frantic stomping of feet and breathless runners coming up behind me, it was like being hunted down! I thought maybe it was people who’d already finished doing a final cool down lap or something, but it turned out to be the two tail runners. They’d been with some other runner who’d stopped after one lap, and were now on a mission to catch me up at the back.  They were friendly and supportive, and darted about picking up flags and trying to engage in conversation a bit, but unfortunately, as my regular reader will know I really can’t talk and run so wasn’t as much fun at the back as  if they’d had the pleasure of the company of the Runderwear ambassador who’d been cavorting with them like long-lost friends reunited earlier.  However, today she was on fast forward the whole way round, the tail runners didn’t even have her in sight. So sorry lovely tail walkers, I just can’t cope with running with other people, it is my strange way.  I did my best to romp on ahead, but couldn’t quite catch and overtake the penultimate runner, however now and again I put enough space between me and the tail to get some photos of their awesome twosome tail teamwork in action.  Enjoy!  Oh, and she’s wearing a backpack under her hi-vis, no need to stare.

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Back into the woods, and oh, it was this marshal with the pack lunch/ first aid kit.  Phew, glad that mystery is solved… also nice moss, shapely trees, no time to stop, scared of being chased down, still, my polar watch was thrilled, I exceeded my exercise goals for today apparently.  That’s smugness inducing I must concede.

back onto the open hillside

past the deus ex machina at the summit – he was offering lifts back in his truck to anyone wishing to bail at this point, but no not I!

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Flat bit, puff puff, up the blooming hill, more puffing, flat and fast bit, through the gate, into the woods, down the hill, people at the finish, parkrun buddies and smiley friends shouting me in, I even managed a little burst of speed to the finish flag, though that might also have been because I tripped a bit going down hill and then couldn’t stop myself with all my substantial weight behind that bit of inadvertent forward momentum!

All done.  Phew.  Drank a full litre of water once I’d been reunited with my bag, which I’d just left in the cafe, you do so at your own risk, but it feels safe to me.  My rucksack is pretty distinctive, people know it’s mine. That’s not to say it means they would stop someone else from taking it, but I’d expect them to mention it later when it was gone ‘oh, I saw someone with your backpack disappearing earlier, wondered who it was‘.  Very reassuring.  FYI, I left my backpack in Jonty’s cafe a couple of weeks ago. When I went to pick it up they asked me to describe it, ‘it’s black and turquoise‘ I said.  ‘Oh dear,’ they said ‘we do have one, but it is black and aquamarine, so cannot possibly be yours!’  I thought that was funny.  I was reunited, panic not.

Joined the very extensive queue in the Longshaw tea rooms. I’ve never seen it so long, normally, because I’m slow, by the time I’ve finished, everyone else has recarbed up and yomped off home.  Maybe the warm weather brought more people out, or perhaps there was another event.  It didn’t really matter.  When I got to the front of the queue, I asked for an extra shot in my latte, but the server queried this as it already has two shots in it.  I think it’s good.  They obviously have and enforce an ‘enjoy caffeine responsibly’ policy, and I just didn’t look like I’d be able to handle it.

Sat outside in the sun for a post run debrief. Very nice it was too.

and then cheese scone (that was sooooooooooooooooooooo nice) consumed and coffee quaffed, it was time to go home.  What a fine morning had been had by all though.

Thank you lovely Longshaw people and fellow Trust10 participants for making it so.  Hope to be more regular in my visits in the year ahead.

🙂

By the way, if you are a fan of Longshaw and want to support them a bit more, there’s currently a big push for support for their Peak District Appeal, Woods for the Future A £20 donation doesn’t quite get you a dormouse named after you, but it could pay for a nest for a whole family, so that’s even better right?

£20 could get a nest for dormice

Also, just to be clear, a few footnotes for your edification and improvement:

+cakeage and bunnage refer to the practise of bringing large quantities of cake/ buns/ muffins etc to parkrun related celebrations or running related gatherings more generally.  Bunnage refers to any quantity greater than one bun, and cakeage to any quantity greater than one person can reasonably be expected to consume unaided.  Communal baking basically, and a very fine thing it is too.  Helped this one to a pb the following day, there’s a lot to be said for carbing up, clearly.

*FYI the earth is not flat.  Definitely not.  You’re welcome

So there you go, today’s Trust10 Longshaw 10k, Trust 10, call it what you will, done and dusted.  Nice wasn’t it?

For all my Trust 10k posts, click here.  Or don’t, it’s not compulsory.  You’ll have to scroll down for older entries

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or then again, don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll still need to scroll down for older entries though.

Happy trail running ’til next time.  Hope the sun shines on you wherever you are.

 

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

Smiley Paces, It’s Terrific Turning Ten as part of this epic running gang!

Digested read:  Smiley Paces are ten this year.  Hurrah.  So happy to be part of such an awesome running club.

smiley lakes 2017

Unabridged version:

It’s our tenth birthday this year.  Yay!  I don’t normally do birthdays, viewing them more as a cause of bitter reflection and regret about what might have been, compounded by the reality of having no-one with whom to celebrate whatever arbitrary age I may have unexpectedly alighted on.  Astonishingly tear-stained, slurring friends aren’t the best of company on their birthday or indeed any other day of the year.  However, it’s different when you are celebrating a milestone like this one. Ten years of collective and individual awesomeness from the members of the Smiley Paces running club of which I feel extremely blessed to be part.

In case you don’t know, Smiley Paces are eh hem (it’s on the website so it must be true):

The SMILEY PACES are an informal Sheffield based women’s running group.

We formed as a small group of like minded women up for a challenge and have morphed in to a large, diverse group with a wide range of ages and abilities.

and who doesn’t like Morph?  Plus Morph also enjoys running with running buddies, as do we Smilies.  Good to know.

 

So we are having a shindig of some sort at the weekend, and members have been asked to think about any little nuggets of Smiley gold they wanted to share that might go into a presentation celebrating the Smiley ethos and achievements over the years. So that got me thinking. What happened that I ended up being part of this amazing group of funny, talented, inspirational and strong Sheffield women?

I have no innate running talent, or indeed any sporting prowess.  It follows therefore that joining Smiley Paces was pretty much inadvertent, almost an accident.  I started going to parkrun, and obviously that’s a gateway drug to the ‘running community’.  There I came across members of various running clubs, but it just happened that my more immediate friends and acquaintances were Smilies.  I don’t remember making a conscious decision to join really, only that it was only £2 a year to join at that point (it’s now rocketed up to an eye-watering £7.50 a year), so I couldn’t really think of any reasons not to, even though I didn’t really know what a running club was even at that point.  I’m pretty sure meeting for coffee got mentioned more than the running before you get to drink it bit…  I think I got lucky with landing on Smilies (whether that feeling is reciprocated or not I shall not explore here).  There are loads of running clubs in Sheffield, that cater for any and all running fetishes enthusiasms. That’s great, but personally, I don’t think I’d have survived, let alone thrived in some of those with a much more competitive or ‘every runner for themselves on the hills’ ethos.  There are lots of friendly and inclusive running clubs out there I know, but I still feel quite emotional about having ended up part of the Smiley gang.  I know, I think on it and I weep.  Me and running, it’s complicated….

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not all great. For one thing, the Smiley vest is not a blessing to my particular physique, and I had to get a special size ordered to accommodate me which was pretty humiliating. However, on the plus side (in every sense) it is instantly recognisable, and whatever your take on comic sans, it has a cheery vibe.  One of the (many) best things about being a Smiley is that it is such a recognisable kit that you can take part in pretty much any event, anywhere and attract a shout of  ‘Go Smiley’, and that is super encouraging.  I remember doing the TenTenTen some years back, and seeing someone (I know now it to have been Dr Smiley) had put up some ‘Go Smiley’ placards through the woods. It was the best thing EVER.

So what’s so great about Smiley Paces.

That’s so hard!  So many things.

It’s about opening up the peak district to me as an outsider.  Stunning routes across Stanage and Burbage and further afield.  It’s about taking on challenges I never thought I’d be capable of.  It’s about having a network of hilarious, inspirational women with whom you can cry with laughter or yomp through bogs.  It’s about coming to understand that everyone has their own goals and that’s fine. It’s about feeling supported.   It’s about friendships and shared adventures.  It’s about finding your limits as well as the ultimate non-chaffing gear.  It’s about people who bring out the best in you, and yes, making a snow-dragonfly as part of a Smiletastic challenge most definitely fulfils that criteria.

 

I was so intimidated by ‘proper runners’ when I started out, I’m still in awe of them, but would say inspired rather than intimidated these days.  What has been so extraordinary to me is that even though I’m not in the same league as many Smilies, I’ve had nothing but support when embarking on new challenges.  Nobody has ever laughed in my face when I’ve dared to venture the beginnings of an idea to do something I previously considered impossible.  Instead I’ve had advice, time given, kit lent.  When I’ve been downcast and confessed in a blog post about e.g. chaffing injuries or my quest for a decent bra of how to find my way off a ridge I’ve had a little flurry of messages offering practical advice as well as empathy.  How awesome is that.  I’m grateful for all of these things, and it’s really difficult to pick a single outstanding moment because there have been so many.   For illustrative purposes:

Smiley London trip, and having my Smiley buddies not just once, but twice, interrupt their parkruns at the parkrun Mecca that is Bushy parkrun to say hello to/ high five and/or get a photo with my mum. Love you guys!

 

Smiletastic challenges – running in the snow, chasing down the alphabet in Attercliffe trying my hand legs at Strava Art.

A mass Smiley exodus to the Lakes for the Dirty Double.  My that was an adventure.  Love my Smiley Buddies.  Oh, that was the year before, but still vivid in my memory

Getting to the London Marathon, and en route, spotting Smilies shouting support from the sidelines.  Most brilliant thing EVER.

 

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The Hathersage Hurtle in a heat wave, walking it was a good move and way more fun than the collapsing with heatstroke half way round option which was also available to running smilies

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Smiley Selfie Queen, who has entirely nailed the in motion selfie, almost single-handedly creating the Smiley photo mid-race archive.  That’s class, right there:

smiley selfie queen

Bottom line is, having Smiley Paces buddies around is an asset on any occasion, running related or otherwise.  Life is always better with a Smiley on hand to share the moment.  Also, even when you go out running on your own, you are pretty sure to come across a Smiley, I keep meeting this one – she’s always covering twice the distance at four times the speed, but not too busy to stop and say hello!

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However, if you are going to make me pick just one, it would be when I embarked on what may be my first ultra, the Dig Deep 30.   I’m hoping not my last, but really, who knows?

So many memories for me from this.  It trumped the London Marathon in so many ways. All the smilies that helped me with route recces and advice, and then on the day having Dr Smiley come and wave me off.  Couldn’t believe it, best thing ever!

md starting out selfie

I was not a promising candidate for this, I had Smiley buddies out recceing sections with me, pointing out sections on maps and recommending kit in the build up to it.  On the Day of the Dig Deep 2018 itself, I didn’t even run it, just walked it for the most part, and I was out for days hours after all the other thirty milers had finished, packed up, had tea, and possibly even gone to bed.  The most amazing sight ever then, was coming back across Houndkirk and being greeted by supportive Smilies.  I honestly thought they were there by co-incidence at first, but no, they’d been out there looking for me and waiting too.  I just couldn’t believe it.  They ran with me for a bit before heading off to cheer me through the finish.  Then coming down through Limb valley in the evening dusk there were more messages of Smiley origin scrawled into the mud to keep me going til the end.  It was just astounding to me that my Smiley buddies had waited out so long and were so encouraging.  I actually feel quite emotional remembering it.  When I came through the finish to a Smiley cheer in the gloaming it was just fantastic.

 

Basically, being part of Smiley Paces is like having on tap access to a collective supportive hug. Whether that’s celebrating achievements, motivating each other to try new things; commiserating through injury or swapping tips on where to access the best coffee and cake options you can’t beat em.  Can’t beat ’em, so may as well join ’em. Glad I did.

Here are some Smiley moments. There will be more…

 

It is also about an embryonic smiley offshoot dragonfly book club, and it may even one day be about completing a crochet woodland blanket, but that chapter of this metaphorical book is as yet unfinished.

What’s more just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, we had our awards do last night and this!

smiley award

I’m an especially Smiley Smiley today!

Happy Birthday to us!

Party on.

🙂

Categories: running, running clubs | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Smiletastic 2019 – seals on a running quest in support of penguin power, penguin awareness day January 2019

Digested read: Smilestastic again, I’m not signed up, but ironically, it’s still working its magic and getting me out running more.  Penguin challenge took me to woodrun for example.  Lovely!

smiletastic 2019

Undigested read: (you may need a resolve sachet to settle your stomach afterwards)

It’s that time of year again.  This keeps happening.  What can you do to keep your running mojo during the long, dark, cold days of Winter?  Well, if you are part of Smiley Paces (lovely Sheffield-based women’s running club) then you may have previously – or indeed currently – have been seduced into signing up for Smiletastic.  A team based challenge described this year as follows:

Smiletastic  2019 RULES

The purpose of Smiletastic is to motivate EVERYONE to run throughout the winter months.  

No one is expected to do any more or less than they would usually do and if following a training plan, should use this for their pledges and only do challenges that fit in with their plans.

 •There are NO points associated with pace or distance – ie.  This is a challenge for ALL abilities and ALL runners at ANY stage of their running career.  

 •There are NO points for winning races or age categories.

 •There ARE points for keeping to your schedule and for doing the long runs you PLAN to do already.

 •There ARE points for running races and/or marshalling races

 •There ARE points for elevation, but as you live in Sheffield…..!

 •There ARE points for doing things with your team and supporting others in your team.

 •There ARE points for getting a PB in a timed run/race (only in March).

 •There ARE points for “Getting into the Smiletastic Spirit” in a variety of ways!

I’ve done it twice, and it is fantastic, but also quite stressful as the challenges build and the tension mounts, so this year I’ve decided to have a year off, and enjoy the experience vicariously.  I think that will lead to less sleepless nights, whilst also enabling me to be motivated to do extra running by proximity to those engaged in the various weekly quests.   What’s more – and this is clearly an unexpected bonus – it will be at times be most educational, even consciousness raising.  Case in point, the individual challenge that kicks off the Smiletastic season is all about Penguin Awareness Day, which fortuitously (and previously unknown to me) falls within the date bands of Smiletastic being marked as it is, on 20th January each year. I know, who knew?

The challenge is/was therefore ‘What can YOU do to be “aware of a penguin” whilst also connecting your awareness to running?… AND keeping it legal please!!’

penguin-awareness-day-fun1

Oh, and it’s probably helpful to mention that this year the teams are reindeers; penguins; walruses and seals.

Clearly, I’m just a by-stander for all of this, but it seems to me that such a challenge is likely to especially hard for seals, who are natural predators of the poor penguins.

Seems to me, it’s quite a big ask for seals to have to start embracing penguins… makes the challenge especially onerous for members of the Smiletastic Seal team.  Just sayin’.

seal penguin hug

Also, I have a dilemma, as I do really like seals – my recent sojourn out to Donna Nook with a fellow smiley is testament to that

– and I like penguins a lot too.  Split loyalties you see… Another factor, and it seems only reasonable to be transparent about this one, is that I do have a certain predisposition in favour of the seals team, since some former dragonflies (my Smiletastic team for 2018) have morphed into seals for 2019.  I’m therefore particularly susceptible to being brought on board by any former dragonfly buddies.  Not gonna be able to lie about that one.  Not saying I’m not open to other offers, I’d never want to disappoint a fellow smiley, just that you have to recognise that some ties are stronger than others.  Ask the Badgers from years back, they are bonded for life, and I think all other smilies respect and admire that.  It’s heart-warming, not exclusive isn’t it.  Friendships are I think, always inspirational when they are genuine.  Well, it’s the same with dragonflies.  One thing Smiletastic does guarantee is that you will meet fellow smilies, share adventures and make new fabulous friends, and you can never have too many of them.  Granted, some of the bonding is through shared humiliation; type two fun and extreme cold, but then again, many of the best adventures in life fall into those over-lapping categories.

So, what’s the point?  The point is dear reader.  Smiletastic has delivered again, motivating people to run, including me, and I’m not even doing it this year, because seal Smiletastic participants put out a call to p… p…. p… pick up a penguin,

and join them on the Thursday Accelerate led woodrun session in Ecclesall Woods. Well who wouldn’t jump at the chance to get on board the fun-train with that offer!  Yes, there’d be an expectation I’d have to do some running, but there would also be PENGUINS.  Actual penguins(ish) what’s not to like?  Besides, I like woodrun, just have completely got out of the habit of going, it would be my first time in ages.  Why not?  What’s the worst…. well you know the rest.

Now, it was really good we had made such a plan the day before, because overnight ‘wintry showers’ meant my car was covered with a sort of snow/hail hybrid and the ground was frozen solid.  Eeek, I am terrified of venturing out in ice.  Aaargh. Fortunately, as my regular reader knows I’m conscientious if not keen and a commitment had been made, plus, although it was bitterly cold, it hadn’t been too wet, so although there were patches of deep ice where there were old pools of water, and ponds were frozen over at the discovery centre in Ecclesall woods, the actual roads weren’t too bad.  Phew.  Hence I ventured out.

I was going to say I ventured out in arctic conditions, but actually, whilst ice is apt for penguins, the arctic reference is not. Penguins don’t live in the arctic – though other cute animals like arctic polar bears, arctic foxes and arctic reindeer do:

Penguins live in the antarctic.  Along with other remarkable creatures including minke wales, wandering albatross and leopard seals.  I know, interesting isn’t it?  Got this from this website on which creatures are where for antarctic and arctic, they are trying to sell us trips, but nice pics and most educational, so fair enough.

We therefore headed out in antarctic conditions, to assemble in a penguiny waddle at Ecclesall woods.  Did you know there are lots of different collective nouns for penguins, depending on where they are and what they are doing?

group of penguins in the water is called a ‘raft’, a group of penguins on land is called a ‘waddle’. Other collective nouns for penguins include rookery, colony, and huddle

We were waddling therefore, though it did feel like running drills at the time.  Strange but true.  It was quite exciting gathering.  There was quite an abundance of penguins on hand to join us, a veritable smorgasbord of options, catering for all penguin personality preferences.  This meant seals and non-smiletastic participants alike were able to buddy up with the one with which they felt the most affinity.

Some penguin partnerships were more ostentatious than others… I went for a more modest sized companion that would fit nicely down the front of my running jacket.   Unfortunately, with the dubious benefit of hindsight, I realise the discrete dimensions of my penguin buddy stuffed down my cleavage just makes it look like I have more ballast than usual up front and you can hardly make out my penguin pal at all, which is a shame, as I thought we really excelled in our subsequent run moves together…

I would say you’ll have to zoom in to spot it, but actually, I’d be quite uncomfortable with the notion that you dear reader are zooming in on my cleavage, so I’d rather you just took my word for it. Thank you.

So we gathered, chortling, and set about the important task of befriending a penguin and working out how best to keep our buddies about our person for the work out ahead.  We then bounded out en masse to Jessica’s corner in the woods.  So named, because one time only, when we were doing some drills there, there was a sighting of Jessica Ennis going for a walk there, and we all played it cool, but totally clocked her.   So the link is a bit tenuous, but the name has totally stuck. To be fair, I think she may have clocked us too, because she’s been sighted more recently since doing hill reps and her running form is exemplary, she must have picked up a few tips from the Accelerate team in the woods that day…

jess ennis hill rep

The penguins attracted a fair bit of attention, I don’t think it was just that those of us sporting them were showing eye-catching and astonishing running techniques. Well, it’s possible I was attracting some attention for my form, but maybe in not quite such a good way.  The penguins joined in most drills with poise and brilliance:

The thing is, sometimes you can learn about running technique by observation too, so they also formed a judging panel to analyse the running technique of each and every member of the woodrun crew for the day, and gave scores accordingly as we delivered repeated high-knee run-bys, which are a bit like fly-bys but with less environmental impact, which is important, as aircraft flights contribute to carbon footprint, a factor in global warming and climate change, which will have a catastrophic impact on penguin habitats indeed is already.  Something to ponder on penguin awareness day dear reader, I’m sure you will agree.

penguins

My penguin was quite overwhelmed by the responsibility, and isn’t sleeping through the woodrun, oh no dear reader, merely suffering temporary collapse through exhaustion.

Climate change isn’t the only thing to imperil penguins just at the moment though.  Oh no.  There was an anxious moment when some boisterous hounds came bounding by, and we feared they might make a grab the seated penguins who were at that moment unattended.  Fortunately, some people do care enough about penguins to proactively protect them, which as this incident demonstrates is much needed.  A seal duly sprang into action and sprinted over to the penguin huddle rookery, and with scant regard for either her own safety or dignity, she put herself bodily on the line, placing herself between the vulnerable penguin colony and the canine jaws and legs acock.  It was quite inspirational.  Brought a tear to the eye.  Also, fair old sprint, so definitely running and penguin awareness brought together with near poetic beauty!  Penguins are cute looking, but they are vulnerable, here was a seal, sacrificing all to show they need our help.  Awesome.  One seal, protecting all those penguins, and not because they were being eyed up as lunch either!

penguin and seal

The thing about supporting causes and standing up for what you believe in, is that not everyone will get it and be on board.  I think it’s only fair to point out that participatns in this endeavour had to endure a certain amount of ridicule from other woodrunners at first.  Only at first, because that’s the point dear reader, despite initial scoffing and inappropriate comments along the lines of ‘I wish I’d known what you were doing I’d have brought a seal along‘ (yes, potentially amusing, but not really helpful or appropriate in this context) our co-woodrunners were by the end won over by the penguin knowledge tenacity and commitment of the penguin peddling runners.  Hurrah!    Such was the conversion, by the end of an hour of running around in the woods, a communal penguin drill was incorporated into the training regime alongside the flamingo feet and bunny hopping displays.  It was a thing of wonder to behold.

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Honestly, I’m not quite sure which part of the running cycle this particular drill most closely correlates too, but I do know that awareness around penguins was truly raised.  The seals’ work was done.  Hurrah!  It was a fitting climax to the challenge and to the woodrun too.

Time then to jog back to woodrun HQ, drink coffee from the Ecclesall Woods coffee place and contemplate the joys in store at the Big Running Weekend coming to a wood near you (if you live in Sheffield and March 22-24 2019 haven’t happened yet) soon, and the fun on the trails ahead with Dig Deep Trail Races secured for September now too.  An embarrassment of running opportunities.  It isn’t just Smiletastic that will get us out and about, or Jasmin Paris who can inspire us at this time of year, it’s the incentive of getting to take part in all these fantastic peak district based running adventures.  How blessed are we.

Mind you, lets have a special moment for Jasmin all the same.  Wikipedia says, correctly:

Paris set a new race record in the 2019 Spine Race along the Pennine Way, finishing the 268 miles (431.3 km) on 16 January in 83 hours 12 minutes and 23 seconds. Becoming the first woman to win the event overall, she surpassed the previous record of 95 hours 17 minutes set by Eoin Keith in 2016 and the previous female record of 109 hours 54 minutes achieved by Carol Morgan in 2017

I mean, it is quite something isn’t it, just in case you are late to the party, or have been sleeping under a rock or something, her innov-8 sponsors Facebook page proclaimed her victory thus:

16 January at 19:22 · Ultra-running history is made!
inov-8 ambassador Jasmin Paris has smashed the 268-mile Montane Spine Race, becoming the first-ever woman to win the race outright and setting a new overall course record. She ran a time of 83hrs 12mins (TBC) to obliterate both the previous mens and women’s course records.

The Spine Race, first run in 2012, sees runners complete the full distance of the Pennine Way in winter conditions, carrying their kit throughout and sleeping only when they chose too. It is dubbed ‘Britain’s Most Brutal’ race.

35-year-old Jasmin, who gave birth to her daughter just 14 months ago, juggles ultra-running with being a first-time parent, working as a small animal vet and is currently completing a thesis!

Jasmin, who is still breastfeeding and understood to have been expressing milk at race checkpoints, was reunited with her daughter at the finish line.

Read more: www.inov-8.com/blog/spine-race-preview-jasmin-paris/

 

Her record breaking achievement has deservedly had coverage from the The Guardian the BBC ‘Nursing mother smashes 268-mile Montane Spine Race record it’s been great to see her achievement get mainstream news coverage.  I was ecstatic she made it onto Women’s Hour even… though there is a bit of me that thinks really she ought to be allowed to have a bit of a lie down and a nap after all that running around.  A wiser woman than me pointed out she’s no chance of getting that with a 14 month old anyway, so she might as well be doing the media rounds… good point, well made.

So she’s really very impressive, but wasn’t running with a penguin though was she?  Wouldn’t have got any Smiletastic penguin power points for that run.  If only she’d thought to pop a penguin bobble hat on her young daughter, that might have helped…

Which just shows, the woodrun penguin take over was indeed inspired.  Far be it for me to try and influence Smiletastic proceedings (heaven portend) but those points seemed pretty decisively earned!  What more could one do to mark the day?

The only way to top this would be maybe to secure a place for the antarctic marathon or half marathon to take place on 17/18 March this year, I think it’s safe to offer up that top tip as honestly, I think it’s now a bit late to enter that, you could have a go at getting on the waiting list I suppose but if it is anything like as popular as this year’s Round Sheffield Run I don’t reckon your chances.  That’s a shame because that would indeed (according to the event website) .face-to-face with Antarctic gems such as glaciers, icebergs, penguins, seals and whales.‘   Ooh, actually, looks like it even has penguins to marshal the event, and there’s a photo of me doing it, I must have forgotten.  One white out run merges very much into another after a bit, but that number most definitely has my name in it.  Hang on though, I forgot, I’m not doing Smiletastic this year, only penguin awareness running by association.  …

In fact, the event is sold out til 2021, so not really a goer, although I suppose were you to enter for 2021 and provide proof of entry that might get you an ‘in the spirit’ point.  Blimey, you need not so much the wisdom of Solomon as the wisdom of Smiley Elder to work out how to allocate points for these quests!

Penguins are having a tough time, along with many of the other creatures with which we share a fragile planet.  There is the occasional timely bit of good news though, check this story out! Police pick up penguins 

saved penguins

Two penguins have been found by police officers two months after they were stolen.

The pair of Humboldt penguins were taken in November last year from a zoo in Nottinghamshire.

It’s nice to get some good news, but let’s face it, that’s a rarity these days.  The point is, running and penguin awareness raising are both mightily important.  It’s a race against time to protect them all.  Will they make it to the finish?

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So dear reader, it just remains to wish you all Happy Penguins Awareness day!  Make it a good one.  Plan your celebrations for 20th January, for whatever year it comes round for you next, right now!

pens-day-1

For all my Smiletastic posts see here, or don’t it’s up to you, but you’ll need to scroll down for older entries.

Just remember dear reader, do what you need to do come 20th January, the penguins will thank you.

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Categories: motivation, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Extra parkrun Day! Christmas Concord parkrun 2018

Digested read: Christmas Day means Happy Extra parkrun Day!  More options than ever, but Concord parkrun it was, and all the threes for me. Not just three hos, but three 3s – I finished in position 333, which pleases me.  Yay!

parkrun merry christmas

Unabridged version:

It may well be that all I want for Christmas is EU, but as that isn’t available the best gift ever for Christmas is an extra parkrun just for Christmas Day.  I can hardly remember a time when it wasn’t a thing.  What’s more it’s getting increasingly more ginormous.  Some have even worked out that the most valued present ever is a free pass out to take part in this 5k frolic on Christmas Day, or even a promise to accompany a parkrunner en mass to the same.  Look:

 

Those of us without families around them can head off with abandon, legitimately wear fancy dress, just because, and see all their favourite people in the running world at one fell swoop. Yay!  What’s not to like?  There were increased options available near to me this year, and I cannot tell a lie, I did flirt with the idea of breaking away to Bakewell or even Poolsbrook this year, some of my parkrunners did do this – the adventurous types, and/or the ones who live nearer to them anyway … still reet nice out everywhere though, don’t you agree, and more Santa hats than you could shake a stick at:

 

but in the end, Christmas at Concord prevails.  It’s sort of become part of my own yuletide traditions, such as they are.  It’s delivered before, why not?  Plus they set out a suitably enticing Christmas invite, always a boon, rude not to:

christmas concord some year or other

What’s more, I’m sure I saw a post somewhere from a runner intending to go there asking ‘would it be alright to give out mince pies/ chocolates to other runners after the run?’  I’m all for adherence to basic manners, but surely a no-brainer for anyone.  Heavens, even when post Christmas (yep, I can time travel when it suits me) a young athlete Alex got the second fastest parkrun time EVER, his picture on the parkrun UK Facebook page was captioned above with the – no doubt accurate –  observation ‘Alex was clearly in a rush to get to the cafe! 😂☕️’

Alex speedy

Kudos to him, the post added:

🚨 Since the very first event in 2004, so far there have been 40,605,326 completed parkruns…

Today (29 Dec 2018) Alex Yee ran the second fastest EVER!

Alex ran a time of 13:57 at Dulwich parkrun in London 🔥

And we may infer, that also, pleasingly, he was not in too much of a rush to remember his barcode.  Respect.  Athletics weekly focused on other aspects of his run achievement.

Astonishingly, we, the good parkrunners of Sheffield weren’t the only people to congregate at our nearest available parkrun, other parkrunners across the land had the same idea.  Stats geek alert (courtesy of parkstats.wangy.co.uk)

A remarkable 67,744 people started their Christmas Day with a U.K. parkrun, over 50% of the previous Saturday’s attendance. Scotland is the most enthusiastic Christmas parkrunning region (64% of previous Saturday), and Wales the least (36%).

For the first time ever two-thousand was reached by a U.K. event, with Bushy Park registering 2,011 parkrunners to smash its own 10th anniversary record (1,705). Also among the massive 30 new records were Norwich (1,104) going above a thousand for its first time and Forest Rec (738) seeing four times as many parkrunners as the previous week.

The total attendance on Christmas Day was 67,744 at 231 events.

stats

You know what, you should totally go play with that website link for parkstats, through some sort of number and web-based sorcery you can click on the various icons and find out even more cool stuff, hard as that is to imagine.  This means, that whilst we may all like to think we are unique and who knows, even ‘special’ in our own ways, those who ran on Christmas Day are more accurately described as one in 67,744, but that’s OK.  Great club to be a part of.

Bushy parkrun cracked the two grand turnout point though, wow.  I like to think this is all down to my mum rocking up on the day, she always pulls a crowd.  She had a queue of well wishers apparently.  Quality not quantity you may say, and I agree, but check out the quality of the fancy dress rocked at Bushy and you can see indeed why it’s become a place of parkrun pilgrimage. Not going to lie though, I still find dolls make me shudder, even so, memorable.  Quantity wise, check out the video of the start and beyond for Bushy parkrun Christmas Day, epic.  Thanks Keith Riding.  There is a Bushy parkrun Christmas Day run report too, even a podcast for goodness sake.  Ho ho ho indeed. All such revels thanks to our very own Paul Santa-Hewitt.  Hurrah!

 

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Still, enough of other parkrun shenanigans, glorious as they are, let’s get back to Concord parkrun in all it’s festive cheer.  You know, I’m not sure I’ve ever done the course blah de blah for Concord, so for you as would like to know, their parkrun page describes the Concord parkrun Course thus:

The course consists of two counter-clockwise laps, all on asphalt paths suitable for mobility aids including wheelchairs. The course starts with a flat of 500m then a slight downhill of 500m levelling out at the far end of the course. Passing through a gate and returning with a slight uphill of 400m before levelling out to complete the lap. On the second lap the finish is 400m before the start line, ensuring a total of 5km.

and it looks like this:

 

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Not really the point though.  Good to know perhaps, but for festive fun, what you need to know is that there is a warm welcome, a cheery vibe and lots and lots of Santa hats – plus at least one pleasingly traditional Bah Humbug offering, albeit on this occasion its wearer inadvertently almost cracked a completely atypical smile, which was somewhat at odds with his choice of festive dress.  Don’t judge him for this though, it is totally out of character, and I’d put good money on the fact he’s been grumpy and kicking himself about that infuriating loss of control ever since, and this moodiness will prevail well into 2019 – all being well of course.

happy smiling concord faces

First things first though.  Woke up and remembered it was Extra parkrun Day.  Yay!  Did some under duvet texting of friends to find out which of them had already had their Christmas Day meltdown.  A fair few had, not sure if they were getting it out of the way early or just practising for even greater showdowns later on.  Both are fairly traditional ways to spend the day.  This makes Christmas parkrun even more essential, where else can people run down their rage and release suppressed seasonal tension and be set up pumped full of feel good endorphins as a reboot to face the challenges of the day to come?  Precisely.

I have two American guests staying, quite reasonably (in my world) their stay has been conditional on them embracing parkrun, which to be fair they have, wholeheartedly. Even making the Graves junior parkrun report and succesfully ingratiating themselves into the one for Graves parkrun report for the last one of the year too (thanks Laura! 🙂 ) quite the grand finale to their parkrun year.

29 december 2018 graves

Ask and you shall receive really does seem to work sometimes.  That’s why some children are made to visit scary Substitute Santas or write letters each year.  No really.  How else is he to know what’s needed.   So it was we three donned our home knitted (not by us) Santa hats and fancy dress offerings and piled into the car on a gorgeous morning to head to Concord.  As is traditional, we were ridiculously early.  I always fear being late, getting lost and having nowhere to park, set against these angst-filled thoughts, was the angst of needing a precautionary pee on Christmas day when facilities are shut and when the venue lacks suitable cover.  Thankfully we were OK on that front, which was unusual for me, but quite marvellous. Honestly, this was the Christmas that just kept on giving!  Also, I did get one accidental shot that at least is proof they were there, even if not wishing to be in a photograph with me, which is fair enough, now I’ve seen how that hat looks…

parkfunners

Oh, and I forgot to say, the elf came too, but no barcode, and we all know the rule.  No printed barcode, no result, no exceptions, and as not even registered, can’t really kick off about that one.  I wasn’t sure if he’d still be here at Christmas, expected him to head off back with Santa, but it seems he decided to stay as Sheffield is so much better than the North Pole, well it would be wouldn’t it?

 

The only real problem I had, was too much choice of car parking spaces.  I find not only does lack of choice terrify me in a car park – don’t like pressure of reverse parking into only available space whilst a queue of other wannabe parkers eye me with disdain – but also too much choice paralyses me.  Should I go up to the upper car park, is that against the rules or savvy parking to be near the start?  Which space will offer best view, smoothest get away, closest proximity to parkrunning buddies yet to arrive?  It’s a nightmare isn’t it!  Isn’t it?  Oh, just me then… In the end, I threw caution to the wind and parked in pretty much the nearest one, and we gazed out at the view, such as it was, waiting for others to arrive as the sun rose ever higher above us bringing the gift of a gorgeous day.

My American visitors have many attributes, but bringing a camera along to parkrun events is not one of them,  and I didn’t either on this occasion, so there aren’t many pictures of today, others than those I have sourced through other informal channels* or by photo bombing other people’s photos, intentionally or otherwise.  I like this one though a lot, an infamous Sheffield parkrunning family choosing to celebrate Christmas Day in the car park of Concord Sports Centre, rather than miss a parkrun.  Quite right too!  I’ve not seen them since, they are probably still there, hanging on for a New Year’s Day Double.  I wonder if someone should let them know Concord aren’t hosting one…

christmas carpark greetings

We emerged from the car, donned our fancy dress, and excitedly watched other festively suited parkrunners appear from all directions.  It wasn’t even cold, not really, we made our way to the assembly point, and kept an eye out for familiar faces.  There were many.  Some sharing Christmas horror stories of nights passed entirely devoid of sleep but all delighted, or at very least relieved to have made it.  If you can just get to parkrun, the rest of the day will be the better for it.

Selfie Queen panicked me for a bit by not arriving ’til the very last minute, but mercifully we did achieve a selfie before she disappeared off in a spin of Christmas busy-ness at the end.  Look, here I am, with Geronimo too, she’s not run out with me in ages.  I think the hat suits her rather well too.  Alas, my Santa bobble hat does me no favours at all, well, at least I hope it does me no favours, otherwise I’ll have to accept I really do look like that,  heaven portend I’ve actually been going out in public up to this point blissfully unawares, with or without festive headgear.  I shudder at the very thought.

concord selfie

We all gathered dutifully for the run briefing.  There was the usual welcomes, applauding of volunteers etc, but to be honest, what struck me most was the hue and cry of excited dogs plunging around barking like hell hounds about to be unleashed to run down their quarry to the ends of the earth.  Some might find this unsettling, but I found it hilarious.  Their enthusiasm was boundless, and in many respects but an outward manifestation of the building excitement many of we humans held hidden within.  I so wished I’d had my camera with me. Surely that wasn’t Lily the Wonder Dog catapulting about on the end of a leash with an elfin friend somewhat helplessly hanging on to the other end?  Love fancy dress parkruns.  No photo of her on the day – serious omission, but here she in action at Graves for the final barkrun of the year and her 250th I think.  Impressive eh?

 

Eventually, the cry went up unleash the hounds for ‘awf’ and awf we went.  It was most jolly.  Not a speedy start, with so many of us on course and novel fancy dress to negotiate, but all extremely good natured.  Plus, I was extra delighted to see some yuletide first timers come from Hallam, hurrah!  Somehow we lured her to the Trust 10 Tinsel run and now she’s spontaneously come along to this too – there’ll be no stopping this force of nature in 2019, this makes me exceedingly happy. I can’t lie though, I do have massive donkey onesie envy.  Not often you see an outfit like that which is comfy and versatile enough to don on any occasion – note to self, check out eBay for adult size donkey onesies come the new year…  Plus, they aid speed, they must do, as this one got a mahoosive pb out on the course today (well, thought so at the time, which amounts to the same thing).  Bravo!  Shooting ahead under the guardianship of a suitably speedy adult.  Impressive.   I think they are in possession of a post parkrun mince pie there, rather than pre-run carbing up, but clearly both are sensible options.  That wasn’t just a mince pie by the way, it was a home made, post parkrun most excellent mince pie.

parkrun yuletide first

The romp round was lovely.  Friendly people – lovely punning from my light-headed friend with fairy lights in her hair, and Christmas greetings from parkrunners cruising  past me – which was basically the entire field. I must have started further forward than I meant to.  Cheery marshals, suitably attired in Elfin outfits amongst others clapped and directionally pointed with considerable aplomb – methinks many of them must have done this before.

concord runaround

It’s a really good route, I really should come and do it not on Christmas day sometime.  There were some motivational phrases chalked on the path from previous runs.  It had more uphill than I choose to remember.  Those uphill flat sections do take their toll.  It’s a jolly good thing you can run/walk/jog parkrun and demand respect for participating in parkrun in your own way, as my running parkruns are getting ever slower.  There was someone walking parkrun in reverse at Concord on Christmas Day, that could be me soon, running has definitely gone into reverse.  I’m hoping next year I’ll be back on it, and doing more than going through the motions, still lapping those on the couch though, and it was a lovely day for it…

Being slow is not all bad though.  Apart from getting my monies worth by being out on the course longer, I got to really appreciate the extent of the fancy dress offerings, I think people are upping their games as the years go by, and, as faster runners pelted home I got in some extra mutual cheering and high fives as we passed each other with me still heading out for lap too.  Love parkrunners, they are all awesome and each and every one of us is practically perfect in every way, so that’s good.

The views around the park are fun, I find it a bit of a strange looping the loop course, so have never quite fathomed quite where I am at any point, but lots of green and marshals to cheer you round just when you most need them.  Christmas marshals the land over are known for being especially awesome.  Here are some I came across earlier, whilst trawling for photos:

HERE ONE DAY THERE MAY BE A PHOTO, AWAITING PERMISSION TO USE

See, practically perfect in every way.  I was going to say the slightly manic look is optional for hi-vis participants, but it isn’t really, not when you are spreading the parkrun love.

I might not have taken photos out and about, but others did, well, I say others in general, and I’m sure they did, but I remain loyal to smiley selfie queen on such occasions for furnishing the pictorial accompaniment to my blog post offering.  It was fab out there I tell you!  Fun for all the family.

 

Finally, I was homeward bound, and pulled out my sprint finish (ahem) to race through the finish tunnel.  I was pleased with my 333 finish token, not pleased enough to keep it, that would be rude, but just pleased with the pattern of the numbering, if not the speed of the parkrunning.  I didn’t manage to secure a mince pie or chocolate, though my American friends did. One was lovingly carrying a home made mince pie in cupped hands as this is a novelty to her, and to be treasured.  I was impressed at how game she was to be fair, as their only previous encounter with a mince pie was a freebie whilst decorating Magic Magid’s Christmas tree (another story and a lot of fun, we can’t take credit for all of it, but we player our part) but that resulted in contorted faces and spluttered out pastry and mince meat.  This mince pie looked a classier offering altogether, and worth giving a tasting another shot.  I can in fact report that it was very nice indeed, properly made and served warm with brandy butter a much better ambassador for the mince pie tradition.  Phew.  Thank you master pastry and mince pie maker.  That was how it should be done.

 

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We lingered to cheer the final finisher home and thank the hi-viz heroes for turning out on Christmas Day to facilitate such parkrun fun and shenanigans.  Looking around, the place was suddenly deserted.  parkrunners scattered to the four winds, all set up to plunge in to whatever misadventures might lie ahead.

Ho ho ho, etc.

Thanks parkrunners and parkfunners everywhere.  It’s been grand.  Hope it was with you too.  Wherever in the world you found yourself.

 

And then, if that wasn’t all fun-filled and indulgent enough, there’s still the extra, extra parkrun day to come on New Year’s Day. That’s next year though.  A whole long year away.  Who will be lucky enough to do the Nordish Noir Denmark and Sweden NYDD turn I wonder?  Not me alas, on my wish list for years to come though.

So happy parkrun Christmas y’all, yuletide felicitations or wondrous winterval, whatever greeting you will.  Well done to those of you who now find another icon has appeared on their parkrun challenges chrome extension widget for the first time.  It’s a thing of wonder is it not.

running challenge christmas day

 

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries

*basically stolen from friends or other Facebook pages, well they are in the public domain… that’s OK isn’t it?  Seriously though, any objections peep, let me know, the photos can be removed and we will still have our memories.

Categories: 5km, parkru