Posts Tagged With: Smiletastic

Conquering Conkers parkrun and sailing the cees in an ongoing quest to save penguins

Digested read:  parkrun tourism took me to Conkers parkrun this morning.  It was great, one of my favourite events to date!

Undigestible Unabridged Read:  (also time vampire, recommend wine and comfy chair, read on at your own risk)

It’s been in the diary since last year this one. Me and Smiley Selfie Queen, co-ordinating our diaries and finding a mutual window for the 19th January 2019 months ago.  Crazy really.  I can’t even remember why we picked Conkers parkrun specifically, except it has a reputation for being lovely, it will help contribute to my pirate challenge (seven cees and an R as in aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarr) see what they’ve done there?

Did you know there were lots of women pirates as well by the way.  Maybe not lots, but here are eight female pirates you should maybe know about if you want to excel in pub quizzes and feel a bit smug about your pc general knowledge too.

woman pirate

Conkers parkrun is sort of within range of Sheffield, by which I mean, it’s actually quite a long way, but doable in the interests of parkrun tourism.   We are running out of nearer options that one or other of us hasn’t already done.   I don’t mind the distance in terms of early departure as I have lost the ability to sleep entirely, but do mind in terms of what if it’s icy or still dark on departure.  Plus there is all the inevitable angst about how long it will take to get there.  Unknown territory.   Oh well.  It will be an adventure we thought.  Me and Smiley Selfie Queen have form going on adventures together, it’ll be fine….    Conkers parkrun it would be.

Except, that the night before DISASTER, snow falling from the sky, messages popping up everywhere on Facebook pages for local parkruns basically doing the Facebook equivalent of sucking in air through your teeth and saying ‘looking doubtful’.  Me and Smiley Selfie Queen independently contacted the Conkers team to check out the lie of the land their end.  I was being confused about a note saying to everyone ‘remember we are starting at the Discovery Centre, not the usual Waterside’ and giving a new postcode so I had a momentary doubt about what to put in the satnav.  She posted on their Facebook page for weather check.  Well, dear reader, have to say, both of us got almost instantaneous and friendly responses. How impressive is that. The event team/ social media communications manager are on fire in terms of their reflexes. I learned that yep,

you will always get an answer. We are currently operating from a different car park but they are connected by a tunnel. If you are going to join us in the cafe use the 6GA one. Otherwise it doesn’t matter.   It will be chilly here tomorrow but no rain expected. Safe journey from up north.
Roger x

and she learned that it might be nippy in the morning, but no snow or ice was expected:

will we make it

How kind and awesome is Roger to soothe our worries last thing on a Friday night!  (Rhetorical question, clearly very kind and awesome, and more of this later).

This was reassuring, but blinking out through a gap in the shutters the night before the morning after it wasn’t looking good.  It might be the case that Kilian Jornet can skip up Mount Everest twice in a week with nothing but a 2 litre bottle of water ten energy gels and some mittens but I’m not venturing outside my house if it’s icy.  I’m near the top of a seriously steep hill, it can’t be done.  Kilean Jornet is clearly some sort of enchanted sprite that’s taken on mortal form.  Dual ascent of Everest is taking hill reps a bit far in anyone’s training plan surely, even for an ultra?

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Fretful that Sheffield weather might yet mean our target parkrun trip might not happen, I treated myself to a night nurse capsule to get some slumber and resigned myself to the hands of fate que sera sera as Doris Day would coin it.  Isn’t she marvellous?

after all, you can’t risk death on the roads just in the name of parkrun tourism… actually though, I said that line out loud to my tourist buddy after the event in an ‘I’m glad the weather was OK as ultimately, can’t really justify going to a parkrun as an essential trip if it really was a white out‘ and she definitely hesitated and couldn’t bring herself to speak agreement out loud.  What’s more, she may have a point… it’s so hard doing the right thing sometimes.

Anyways, woke up at stupid o-clock, peered out the window and …. hurrah!  Although there was snow on my car, the road was clear, and closer investigation reassured me that the road was ice-free and snow could be just wooshed aside and we were on!  As I said in a message to Smiley Selfie Queen pre 6.00 a.m. it is testament to her parkrun commitment that she replied immediately, can’t remember saying what exactly, but it was along the lines of ‘yay!’  So all good.

It was dark and cold though.  Seriously dark.   I was relieved that my satnav was operational, the weather was in our favour and off I chugged on empty roads until I was parked up outside my Smiley buddy’s house at stupid o-clock.  The lights were on, so that was good.  We left bang on our estimated departure time.  For the record, left mine at 7.00 a.m. and hers at 7.15.  It was an easy run, using the postcode DE12 6GA though the traffic was slooooooooooooooooow, and I was extra cautious.  There had been an earlier quite nasty looking accident leading to speed restrictions on the M1 and I’m cautious anyway.  Lots of other vehicles had proper snow coverings, so we got off quite lightly.

I didn’t get lost, but I did get confused at a couple of almost intersecting mini roundabouts almost on arrival.  Weird layout. The only confusing thing, directionally, is that the Conkers Park, where the magic of parkrun happens (I know, a happy coincidence that the parkrun’s chosen name is the same as that of the actual park – what were the chances? (rhetorical again) – must be mahoosive, because there were loads of signs to the park pointing in different directions depending on which bit or activity you were heading off too. So if you are touristing, check out the map and satnav to avoid parking up the other end of it.  It was easy to find though.

On arrival, just after 8.35 ish, we were greeted by an enormous car park with ample free parking. There was a huge centre with loos and you could spot the hi-vis heroes gathered together in an appropriately  penguiny huddle (more of this later) at the far end of the car park.  This boded well.   I love a parkrun with easy access to facilities for a precautionary pee, and good parking if touristing.  Top marks for Conkers parkrun and its host venue Conkers park for seriously ace facilities.

I say easy access, but actually, it wasn’t as easy as you might think.  We made our way to the Discovery Centre, pausing for the obligatory location-based photo ops …

and then stood blinking with incomprehension outside the door to the centre.  It had a sign on it saying ‘automatic doors’ but nothing happened.  We kept trying to activate the trigger by walking towards it at different angles.  Other parkrunners appeared behind us, and joined the non-plussed attempts to gain entry.  I’m not sure who it was who had the bright idea of just pushing the door to get in. It opened inwards without resistance!  That was embarrassing.  Top tip for other visitors who might come in our wake. Just because it says ‘automatic’ on the outside, doesn’t mean you can’t get in by just opening the door in the old-fashioned manual way using a handle and a bit of shove inwards.  Good to know. Humiliating it took us quite so long to work out!

Possibly even a bit more embarrassing that we then did a reconstruction of this incident in order to document it for this very blog post, causing a small queue of bewildered fellow parkrunners left wondering why it was exactly we needed to take a picture of one of us failing to get through a door.  Sometimes though, I think a little mystery in life is a good thing, we didn’t take the time to explain ourselves.   After all, the lovely other people were all fellow parkrunners, all signed up to the code to ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way‘.  Phew.

parkrun code

Once inside, I can report fabulous loos, lots of them.  However, in the interests of transparency I must report that one unlucky occupant was caught unawares due to a malfunctioning lock – not by me but in an adjacent cubicle – so just a quick heads up to check you are properly secured before settling in for whatever business you require pre- run.  Also, the doors in the Discovery Centre are hilariously tall.  I felt like Alice in Wonderland mid-shrink.  They tower over you.  I thought this sufficiently odd that it required a photo to indicate scale.  Having subsequently come to see just how tall the hi-vis hero doing the parkrun first timers’ briefing was, I wonder if the height is by way of being accommodating to all users.  It’s a thought.

Smiley Selfie Queen doesn’t always stand like that, by the way, her pose was on account of the Penguin Challenge…  She’d come tooled up for business.

So, about the penguins then.  Long story short, my Smiley Paces running club is once again doing a Smiletastic challenge, splitting members into teams to take on various running activities and challenges to help motivate them to get out and run during the long dark winter months.  This year the teams are walruses, seals, penguins and reindeer.  I’m not taking part this year, but lots of my running buddies wisely are.  This week’s challenge, is to do something to mark Penguin Awareness Day, which is actually tomorrow (at time of writing) 20th January 2019.

happy penguin awareness day

Hence my buddy, who is a seal (not an actual seal, but in team seal obvs) was on a quest to do something running related that would help raise necessary awareness of the plight of penguins. Clearly, once alerted to this great cause, I was on board to help as best I could.  Hence we had along with us penguin companions as emotional support animals, and a mission to raise awareness as best we could to all and any present by whatever legal means we could.  First off though, we needed to carb up.  You can’t take on a mission like this without a bit of pre-run sustenance, so we’d p.. p… p… picked up some penguin biscuits to fortify us for the adventures ahead:

We had ample time to faff about and wonder what to wear, and then dumped unneeded stuff back in the car before heading to the hi-vis cluster.  This was a busy parkrun.  A very busy parkrun.  A very, very busy parkrun.  But you know what, it managed to be incredibly user-friendly and welcoming as well, which is no mean feat.

We made our way to the hi-vis mob, where there was a welcome sign for new parkrunners from various GP surgeries- there has been a recent drive to get new parkrun/walkers along and I think today was their launch. It’s a practice parkrun initiative, of which Conkers parkrun is apparently one. This doesn’t mean you have to practice before you can go there or indeed any other parkrun au contraire, it means GP practices in the area are proactively trying to get their staff and patients to come along and give it a go.  Splendid!  Lots of smiley faces too. Also splendid.  I do like a well-judged emoticon.

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There was a token table set out in anticipation of finishing runners handing back hundreds of tokens.  Although, actually it may have been an unofficial swingers system or some sort of roulette/ bingo system, as at intervals people had left keys on certain numbers.  Sometimes best not to ask.  Good system though.  For sorting tokens I mean, not for arranging swingers parties.  They also are in possession of a yellow wheelie bin, the existence of such a thing of which I was previously unaware, and an item which now I covet.  Shallow, but true.  Also, I know in my heart of hearts it wouldn’t make me happy even if I got one, it would just be the gateway acquisition that made me long for ever more ostentatious waste disposal/ storage solutions.  It is pretty cool though isn’t it? It didn’t give me quite the elevated heart rate I experience on entering a really fine stationery shop, but I had a momentary flutter I must concede.  No defibrillator needed on this occasion, but lucky they have one thereabouts if they are going to shamelessly flaunt their yellow bin every week

We weren’t quite sure at what point to enlist others in the penguin awareness raising challenge. We went to the first timers briefing, which was helpful welcome and course description.   It was organised so after that bit for tourists, he did a more details intro for first time ever at parkrun, which was all very reassuring, mentioning tail walker and it’s OK to run/walk/jog whatever you like.  He seemed friendly and approachable and important looking, what with his authoritative air and placard holding technique. He’d do.  Smiley Selfie Queen made the approach, well, it was her challenge after all, and I’m happy to report dear reader, that it took very little persuasion to get him on board with penguin related posing. Result!

penguin power

As Smiley Selfie Queen remarked afterwards, that’s one of the many completely brilliant things about parkrun, you can rock up wearing penguin pictures and ask to be photographed with people eating penguin biscuits, or indeed posing as penguins, and that’s quite acceptable. Expected even.  Today at Conkers parkrun, there was a guy wearing half a suit of armour, and we didn’t even comment on it particularly… though I regret not getting a photo now, obviously, but then again, it’s only just occurred to me that yes, that is slightly unusual, even for parkrun.

Edit – don’t panic dear reader, the official Conkers run report writer was on it, and I’ve stolen the photo from them. Thank you!  See, these Conkers people, they pay attention to detail.  Epic.

knight in half a suit of armour

More usual are milestone runs and pre-wedding parties and superheroes, but really anything goes.  There were some of those two of course, and we had to get more of ourselves, because to be frank, what’s the point of travelling with Smiley Selfie Queen if you don’t make full use of her photographic talents?

From this gathering point, we followed the crowds through a tunnel (reminiscent of Bakewell parkrun) and alongside a mini railway line, over a level crossing (which had automatic gates again, they like them at Conkers apparently, and to the back of the start funnel which stretched seemingly for miles ahead of us (only not really).

Point of information, if we’d parked up at the other car park, which I think is waterside it is very literally the other side of the tunnel, so you end up in the same place though I think as a newbie, the assembly point was very much more visible at the Discovery Centre side, plus that’s nearer the cafe and loos, an important consideration in route planning methinks.

I was quite taken aback at how busy it was.  It felt a bit like arriving at an organised event. They like their signs here. I do too.  Volunteers held up huge brightly coloured signs with different anticipated run times to encourage people to organise themselves into appropriate speed groups. It was friendly, and not intimidating.  You go out and back along the same mile at the start and finish, so some parkrunners left bags on railings or hung from trees where they’d be in sight of finish funnel volunteers.  It was cold and grey and started to rain freezing, fat globules of water, but the atmosphere was warm and welcoming.  People spotted we were a bit confused and helped us know where to leave stuff.  We also very quickly enlisted participants to take part in penguin posing, always a win, thank you good people of Conkers parkrun, you are fabulous ambassadors for parkrun in general and Conkers parkrun in particular and I’m sure the penguins are very grateful too!

The starting area is in a dip, there are embankments on either side and a humongous ditch perfectly sited for inattentive parkrunners to tumble in to.  Also, the bank was quite good for posing as a penguin in the background of a selfie shot.

penguin pose

The track was hard compacted path, with some surface mud, but definitely OK for buggies.  It was fun milling around.

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but the best bit was when I had the genius idea of clambering up on the muddy hillside of the embankment to try to get some shots of the whole snake of starters.  I was spotted and people all waved en masse as I clicked away.  It was hilarious, I felt I was recording an epic moment of history, which in a way I was, because parkrun is always epic, and for some this would have been their first brush with it.  How there lives will change from hereon-in.  Unfortunately, my camera can’t really cope with this kind of sweeping panoramic shot, also it’s broken,  I’m trying to ignore this fact, but it keeps jamming, or not working or creating a blank picture, this injects an element of surprise into any photo taken.  The pictures aren’t that good therefore, but they are still memories, and maybe some people will enjoy playing ‘Where’s Wally?’ and trying to spot themselves in them, so I’ll post them all anyway, and that’s hours of your life you’ll never get back dear reader, if you should choose to peruse and pore over them all…

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Now might be a good time to mention the course.  Increasingly I find the running component almost incidental to the parkrun fun package, but I daresay purists will want to know more.  I didn’t know anything about the course before hand, the Conkers parkrun course blah de blah is, pretty minimalist to be fair:

The route is best described as an out and back loop but it is very scenic and takes in the Ashby Woulds and Donisthorpe Woodlands trail paths with a small section running adjacent to the Ashby Canal.

Location of start – The course starts and finishes just beyond the train track crossing at Conkers Waterside.  Address: CONKERS Waterside, Bath Yard, Bath Lane (B5003), Moira, Swadlincote, Derbyshire DE12 6BA

There is a very nice parkrun profile all about Conkers parkrun on the official parkrun pages.  Most impressive.

and it looks like this:

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So hard to get lost, but will have to witness faster runners thundering home whilst still heading out potentially.  Not necessarily a bad thing, who knows, some may even be up for a high-five…

The map of the route makes it look a little on the ho-hum border line dull side, but it really wasn’t, it was fab!

I’m not going to lie, the start was very congested, and when the cry went up for ‘awf’ or ‘go’ or whatever it was, absolutely nothing happened, and then there was a slow trudge forward.  You can’t overtake for the first few hundred metres because there is a huge bank towering over you to the left hand side and a deep ditch to the right. There was also the RD standing atop of, well I’m not sure what exactly, but he basically shouted ‘you can run from here’ as you passed him, and indeed you could.  The route is on good terrain and for speedier runners could potentially be a fast one, but you’d need to position yourself toward the front. I’m happiest pootling, so didn’t worry me.

You head out, you really can’t go wrong, there aren’t any alternative options.  You just follow the path, there are trees on either side, there’s a tunnelly bit, then you emerge onto more open ground where you can see runners ahead snaking round, it was really lovely, though astonishing just how far ahead some were.

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Towards the top of this hill, where the route bent round, there was a full on paparazzi squad with the most enormous telephoto lenses I’ve ever seen, all set up on tripods.  I presume this was part of the practice parkrun rather than we were all photo-bombing a twitcher who’d seen an extremely rare rainbow unicorn stork on a wayward migration stop or something and was trying to frame the perfect shot before we all came storming through, but I didn’t actually stop to ask so can’t be sure.

EDIT and update:  just seen on the Conkers parkrun Facebook page that the man with the impressive lens was a certain Darren Cresswell. Ensconced with his camera equipment at the top of the first slope,  Darren was taking photographs and some footage for the National Forest for a future article about National Forest activities in the Winter, and what better than a Conkers parkrun.   So now we know. And here are some of his shots by way of illustration.  Somewhat better than my own offerings I concede, I can be gracious like that…

The route then went through some trees and we all yomped on puddle jumping when necessary.

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After a bit, we were rewarded with the first of the sign-bearers. These were cheery, helpful sign brandishers, not doom-laden bad-omen mongerers warning us to beware the ides of march or anything like that.  The first sign was advising us to keep to the side of the cones, now remember this  man, because he does something really unexpected later on.

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And it was indeed good advice to keep to the right of the cones, because very soon, the front runner was storming back.  Impressive.  It’s about a mile out, then you do the looping the loop bit by some water, and then you rejoin the trail for a mile back in.

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There is a sort of three-way junction point where runners coming back emerge and slower runners are still heading out.  Fortuitously, another friendly marshal is sited there to keep an eye on proceedings and ensure all runs smoothly.  Loving your work hi-vis hero, good job!

STOP PRESS EDIT:  So, bit of insider info for you hear dear reader, you are rewarded for being a later arrival at this post with an added morsel of information.  I have it on the considerable authority of a former core member of the Conkers team that, and I quote:

each of the major points on course has a name, as per tshirt we did years ago (attached). The ‘three-way’ point as you call it is ‘Stephen’s Gate’, but as your photos show there is no longer a gate, and I’m very rarely there, having been on the Core team for five years I shuffled across to the new (at the time) Rosliston – very much as friendly and welcoming as Conkers!

Now, clearly it’s a bold claim about Rosliston, and I shall be sure to add it to my ‘to do’ list of parkruns so I can go check that out for myself, but in the meantime, we can all benefit from this photo of the T-shirt map, and be enlightened.  Hurrah!  I feel much better informed now!  Thank you fellow parkrunner, for coming forward so graciously!

conquered conkered conkers

Shortly after this, you run on a bit, and the… and this is really excellent… there was another sign, warning you that you were about to encounter cheeky hill!  This is genius dear reader, informative, but also entertaining and motivating, very considerate hosts these Conkers parkrun people.

So you go up the Cheeky Hill, which I can confirm is a bit deceptive, as it isn’t that long, well not by Sheffield standards, and not even all that steep (Strava said the elevation on this route was 38m) but it was puff inducing for me anyway, and although many gamely hoiked themselves up, there were a few wise power walkers who were no doubt saving themselves for a sprint finish. What about me?  Well, I had to stop and document the course didn’t I, so that necessitated a stop start strategy, which I like to think of as a sort of hybrid between hill training and interval training and ethnographic research.

At the top, there is another marshal, to congratulate you on your efforts, and direct you round.  Again, some exemplary sign sporting in evidence here, they must train them. It’s actually quite hard, and quite a responsibility to brandish a sign for any length of time.  I know, I’ve been on loads of demonstrations.

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Then there was a watery bit alongside, and an al fresco pee point, judging from the person or person(s) unknown who took a little detour into the woods…  Also ducks, and dear reader, if you have been loyal to me over the years you will know that these have a soft spot in my heart. Gotta luvva duck.

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You then see another cheery marshal – lawks a lordy then were everywhere on this route, to stop you heading off to infinity and beyond and send you back en route, and, just in case you are flagging at this point, there is yet another genius sign pointing out you are lapping everyone on the sofa, as indeed we were.  They were very much into their motivational signage here.  Well judged lovely Conker parkrun people, well judged indeedy.  I thank you.

Then, to me unexpectedly quickly, ‘suddenly’ you were back round at the three-way meeting point and about to be heading homeward.  Recognise this cheery hi-vis hero?

You may well do… but the next volunteer marshal along was more challenging!  More challenging because?  Because, dear reader, he’d metamorphosed into a completely new incarnation, and was brandishing a different sign entirely! Wow, that’s upping the placard bearing stakes.  Has to do a quick change at a critical point in the parkrun pantomime of runners.  Genius.  I spotted what he’d done though. What I don’t know, and didn’t establish, is if I’d run back later to retrace my steps whether the sign would have been changed again.  I like to think so.  He probably had a whole stash of purple placards there, ready to brandish as appropriate on any or all occasions.  Sorry, out of focus, this is my camera in its death throes for sure, there is a fair amount of operator error I know, but not to the extent in evidence today…

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The surprises weren’t over though, oh no. If you could but resist the temptation to nip into the open cafe and carry on

you’d get to my favourite sign of the morning.  You are awesome!  It proclaimed. And yes we are!  I paused to take a photo and demanded a high-five – it was very uplifting. At this point on the course, other runners who’d already finished had come back up to cheer in fellow runners still out there, it was all extremely friendly and supportive.  I genuinely got the impression that if this was your local parkrun you could get involved and meet people really quickly if that’s what you wanted to do.  It was a great event.

and then, seemingly we were nearing the finish, through the tunnel and the end was in sight!

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Smiley Selfie Queen, long since finished, was there to cheer me in, as were a load of friendly and feisty hi viz heroes. They were like a well oiled machine, moving me through the funnel, anyone would think they’d done this before. Fantastic experience!

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but you know what, that wasn’t even the end of the excitement. Oh no, there were further climaxes to come!

We were still on a quest to do more for penguins, because whatever you do is never enough what with their habitats so threatened and all.  Then we were distracted by the sight of a parkrun bell!  Now, I have seen these before, but usually the ringing of these is reserved for those who have achieved PBs (or believe they have) and I haven’t for many years, and indeed expect to PB approximately never again.  I therefore reluctantly concede that bell ringing at parkrun was alas to be an activity that did not include me. Well, dear reader, Conkers parkrun is most liberal in its offer to ring their bell.  You can to it for a PB if you wish, but also for being a tourist, or being at your first parkrun, or for being happy, or pretty much for being whatever!  How very inclusive, and how very inspired. Surely we could ring the bell for penguin awareness, it would be most apt. However, much as a run on strava never happened, and a barcodeless parkrun disappears into the void of invisibility, a parkrun bell rung without being captured in a photo similarly never came into being. We’d need to interact.  Well, I haven’t quite got enough effusive words to communicate what happened next.  Long story short (not that short to be fair, I don’t really do concise, which may come as a surprise, or may not, depending on how good you are at skim reading…), we made a brilliant discovery!  Casting around for someone to act as official photographer, we settled on someone who asked directly ‘what’s with the penguin’ well, clearly this was just the shoo in we needed, we were able to give a brief lecture on the importance of raising awareness about penguins and it being part of a running  club challenge and all, and many further brilliant things tumbled forth.  It was a positive embarrassment of riches. First off, turned out, this was the fine person who’d replied so promptly to our enquiries the day before. Then, he submitted agreed to be videoed by way of evidence of our penguin awareness activities (though I don’t know how to upload the video here so you’ll just have to take my word for it and make do with this rather inadequate screen grab)

penguin awareness with event director

and best of all, revealed at the end that his son actually, my gawd, I can’t believe this really happens SPONSORS AN ACTUAL PENGUIN, and what’s more, hard to believe I know HIS SON WAS THE RUN DIRECTOR OF TODAY’S EVENT!  What were the chances – clearly photos were needed:

and what’s more (yes there is more) his penguin is called Pedro, which is an excellent name for a penguin and his dad, who we’d just been talking to, is Event Director for the whole shebang.  Basically dear reader we were hobnobbing with the elite of Conkers parkrun, and I would say it’s not beyond the realm of possibility penguin awareness day might yet get a mention in the Conkers parkrun run report for today.  Fingers crossed.  All in all, one of the happiest parkrun days of my entire life, and there have been many!

He even agreed to get us a few decent bell ringing snaps, and executed them amazingly.  We played it cool with the ding dongs, but I think the perceptive reader will spot we were secretly pretty goddarned chuffed!

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All in all, we had an amazing time.

UPDATE: Seems the event director was today completing his 300th run, so I hope he got to have a good ding dong with the bell once we’d vacated it, and I’m sure his hi-vis comrades would have carried him aloft to the Discovery Centre for celebratory coffee afterwards, but we missed that display of celebration unfortunately, preoccupied as we were with our own adventures.

Bell ringing done, we crossed to the other side of the tracks, espying an unexpected train as we did so

and then you walk down the path, under the tunnel, back to the gathering place, where a squad of hi-vis scanners formed a guard of honour to greet you and scan your barcode.  I’m quite surprised that they don’t lose a lot of tokens between the end and the scanners, but then again, they were quite a visible if not formidable presence blocking the exit route, so perhaps hard to dodge.

Also, despite their barcode scanning efficiency, they weren’t agin doing some penguin posing for the cause, so another good result there. Thank you accommodating barcode scanning team.  You make a fabulous penguin colony you really do.  Which is a good thing to be, and you huddle beautifully, which is an excellent way to keep warm in inclement weather, so well done all of you!

penguin posed

So we passed on by the token table, which incidentally subsequently teleported to the cafe where everyone could take a turn at the token sorting, a little like doing a large communal jigsaw each week.

and we went to the cafe for post run pee and then re-hydration with coffee (me) and hot chocolate (Smiley Selfie Queen).  I can report it was good coffee, and there were also jugs of water on hand too.  Only negative comment was that they use disposable cups and I regretted not having my reuseable one with me.  Oh well. The culture is changing. We had a post penguin parkrun debrief and felt happy.

penguin refreshments

So that was that, job done.

A grand day out indeed!

Thank you Conkers parkrun, it was a lovely, memorable, welcoming and hilarious at times morning.  You will have a special place in our tourism hearts and hope to be back soon.

Be sure to wish Pedro a happy penguin awareness day from we two Smilies.

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 though.  Bit of a time vampire, if you do, you might be stuck on the sofa for a while, ‘just researching options’.  Hmm.

Happy parkrunning until next time!

🙂

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PS  Thank you lovely Conkers parkrun people for the comments on my blog after you shared it on your Facebook page.  I am hugely grateful to anyone who stops by to read my posts, and elated if you comment too. However, there is a special place in my heart for the penguin puns and penguin emojis and penguin wit and wisdom many of you took the trouble to include in your feedback.  No wonder the penguins in Conkers park are dancing!

dancing penguins

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

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?

racebanner-hmwrbczh-bxvitn

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.

penguin_1f427

 

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

Spring Equinox Dragonfly Challenge – the art of the Strava flyby.

Digested read:  Elder Smiley sent out a directive for the Smiletastic March challenge, to create a team Strava Art flyby in celebration of the spring equinox. We did. It was a contemplative silent homage to both running and the spring equinox.  We Dragonflies did good.  Hurrah.

So, in case you haven’t been concentrating, this is a continuation of the Smiley Paces Women’s Running club winter challenge.  Alongside individual challenges, designed to make you go out and run in the most inclement of weather, even when you are silently weeping within are team challenges.  We’ve already had some dragonfly team segment bagging, and team alphabet run triumphs, but for this month we were tasked with a Strava Art Homage to the Spring Equinox challenge directed as follows:

Team Challenge: I can’t resist a Strava Art Team Challenge and this year I’d like you to do your interpretation of the SPRING EQUINOX using a team Strava flyby. “Older” smilers may have to explain this to the newer members!
There were a few things we learned from last year.
• You must all have the flyby option enabled before you do it (I think you can only do this on the computer)
• You MUST synchronise your watches! Anyone who has been abroad needs to check that they’re on UK time!
One person in the team should notify me that its done and send me a link and a screen shot of the finished artwork along with names of those who took part in any way. I will award points based on my opinion of how creative you’ve been and for participation. The deadline for these is midnight Sunday 18th March

I had not the faintest idea of how to go about this, but fortunately I was able to parasitize the expertise of those who did.  One of our number, Fell Running Smiley, had a genius plan, and as a supportive team member, rather than undermine her considerable initiative by coming up with another plan, I decided to just throw my – not inconsiderable – weight behind her one.  ‘Brilliant, just brilliant, where and when, I’ll be there’ I ventured, joining the chorus of other Dragonflies on our secret Facebook group page where we plot out how such schemes can best be executed together.

But look at the genius idea presented!  No one was going to be able to top that!

strava art abbey lane cemetery

With the explanatory text as follows:

Ok so we have a spring equinox run route planned and we’re thinking of running (or walking if you’re injured) this Saturday after the Bakewell parkrun.

It’s a very simple route in a sun shape so hopefully it should be easy to do. I’m going to try to share the run from my strava on this post.

It follows a circle that is in the Abbey Lane cemetery. We’re planning to meet at the entrance to the cemetery at 11am on Saturday. If there are people using the cemetery we have a backup route using a circular housing estate at Manor fields.

Perfect!  Pleasingly simple, brilliantly apt.

The follow up conversation on line went a bit like this:

ACT I SCENE I A closed Facebook page Dragonflies – Smiletastic 2018.
[Snow and rain outside, running confusion inside. Multiple Dragonflies make themselves known on social media in response to the Spring Equinox Challenge proposal]
First Dragonfly: When shall we all meet again
In thunder, lightning, snow or rain?
Second Dragonfly: When the Bakewell parkrun’s done,
When the milestone cakes have been eaten hun.
Third Dragonfly: That will be ere the set of sun, shall we say eleven then?
First Dragonfly: Where the place?
Second Dragonfly: Abbey Lane cemetery.
Third Dragonfly: There to meet with everyone who can.
First Dragonfly: I come, great dragonfly!
Second Dragonfly: Smiletastic calls!
Fourth Dragonfly: Me too!
ALL: Fair the plan, and fine the strava art:
We will execute this flyby with all our dragonfly hearts!

Pretty much like that anyway.

So many of us made it to Bakewell parkrun for the Smiley Champs outing first off, and then, after a somewhat comedic wacky races-esque departure in a fleet of cars, headed off to the rendezvous point. Some arrived in timely fashion, some overshot and had to phone to be talked in to the location, like when the pilot has a heart attack flying a plane, and some hapless air cabin crew has to land it talked in by air traffic control.  Exactly like that.  Or possibly like being driven around by Muttley.  Maybe that.

wacky races

We met outside the Abbey lane cemetery.  It’s a rather grand and splendid place. A proper cemetery, seemingly reasonably well maintained, with many ancient gravestones and memorials amid the green space.  Some people really don’t like graveyards, but I’m fine with them. We have nothing to fear from the dead, far more from the living.  I appreciate the green spaces they permit to flourish in the most urban of areas, and they can be peaceful places.

Once we were all gathered, we hesitated outside.  We felt that what we were doing was OK, but we didn’t want it to be perceived as disrespectful, so we agreed our strategy outside, and that we would do our ‘run’ as a slow walk, and in silence as far as possible. The idea was to start off together with one small inner circle, and then peel off one by one to walk each of the radial paths before regrouping. It was a small space.  There were some people around, but they were tending far off graves.  We did have  a contingency plan just in case, but didn’t need to implement it.

Graveyards are curious places.   Caution, pretentious story alert x 2.  When I was in Cambodia, many homeless people bedded down in the tombs that surrounded many temples, and the living and the dead co-exist in quite an active way. Every home has its own mini shrine ‘to the ancestors’ who are consulted on important matters and informed about family happenings.  I thought for a long time this was just that, a shrine, but in fact I learned that quite literally people put the ashes of their deceased relatives there.  I was taken aback, as I’d been admiring a shrine and asked to photograph it at one home I visited on Silk Island outside Phnom Penh.  However, the family were completely relaxed about the whole thing, there wasn’t the same disconnect between the living and the dead. Same in Vietnam.  At Tet – New year’s day, everyone goes en masse to visit their ancestors at cemeteries, which are vast.  I was taking part in a motorbike tour from Hue, and we went roaring into one such cemetery.  The whole world seemed to be there, partying alongside their deceased relatives.  It was a place of story telling, eating and celebration, with everyone dressed up in their party finery, and all generations represented.  There was nothing sombre about it as far as I could tell.  A curious exposure to a complete different set of cultural reference points.  You just don’t know what’s OK and what isn’t sometimes, just have to be alert to what’s going on around you I suppose.  Anyway, the upshot was, that we agreed what we were doing was OK, as long as we were discrete, so in we went and off we went.

The nature of the route, going round in circles and walking out and back along the sun’s rays as they emanated outwards from the centre turned out to be quite a silently contemplative process.  It possibly sounds strange, but it was calming, mindful even (if that isn’t too pretentious). Each of us silently walking the route, lost in our own thoughts, taking in the fallen tomb stones around us, the bird song, the trees overhead, out and back, round and round, and finally rejoining.  Like a strange dance.  We moved organically and noiselessly, creating our silent homage to the Spring Equinox.  Watches stopped, we filed out and away from the cemetery, until outside we could check our stravas and marvel at this thing of wonder we had collectively created.

We couldn’t know how effective our Strava flyby was until later.  Not to worry, we could still do the compulsory group selfie – we are getting seriously good at these.  I think you can tell we are channelling our inner dragonflies here, and what’s more we have a clear queen who moves amongst us:

queen dragonfly

 

Talking of Queen.  Yes we were, we also took the opportunity to nab a  Queen tribute group selfie, Bohemian Rhapsody or Dragonfly Rhapsody, we have them both nailed.  Uncannily close to the original imagery, I think you’ll agree.  We were indeed in our own rhapsody of delight what with all our clever flybying.

Nice shoes too.  They look good in a circle of Smiley Dragonfly loveliness too.

circle of smiley loveliness

Didn’t take long, then we all departed our separate ways.  I actually felt a bit lonely saying goodbye, we’d shared a moment, we are bonded forever by our awesome flyby endeavour.  I like that.

Once home, after some angst inducing ‘usb device not recognised’ shouty warnings from my computer, I finally got my own Strava route uploaded.  It looked like this:

spring equinox run

Do you have any concept of how exciting that is?  Love it when Strava art comes good.  I’ve limited experience of strava art – previous rabbit encounter for Smiletastic 2016 being about the sum of it, therefore it was a huge relief it actually worked.  Better yet, another clever Dragonfly did whizzy things to make it display, and you know what dear reader, it was cracking!  How clever are we!

flyby

I say ‘we’ are clever, but really I mean other people were, and I got to hang out in the proximity of their cleverness and greatness.  Still, it shows good judgement on my part at least.

So there you go, final team challenge for Smiletastic done. Tick.  Phew.

Can’t wait to see what the other teams come up with, reckon we’ll be one to beat, but I genuinely don’t care about that, because we did good, and running our Spring Equinox Strava flyby was its own reward.

The official Spring Equinox is on 20th March 2018 at 16.15, which is very specific.  Right now it’s hard to believe that’s just next week, recent weather feels very much like we are still living through an eternal winter.  I wonder what running treats may reveal themselves on that time and date, hope you work out, execute and share your own homage, come on dear reader, you know you want to!  To get you in the vernal equinox mood, here are some interesting facts about the change in season, to get your going.

Goodbye winter, hello spring!

Hello-Spring

Happy equinox dear reader.   The sun will surely come out eventually….

We can run on in hope!

Categories: running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Smiley Champs with Smiley Champions – Running wobbles conquered (ish) with a little help from my Smiley friends…

Digested read: Running feels hard at the moment.  Marathon training is taking its toll. Fortunately I have Smiley Paces and I have parkrun. What more could anyone ask for to help them through their running wobbles!  It’ll be fine, probably.  Even if it isn’t it won’t matter in the grand scheme of things and there will still be parkrun the following Saturday and cake eating opportunities aplenty on the horizon ahead.  Thank you Smiley Buddies you are all wonder women.  Awesome as well as FGRs.  Hurrah!

Bakewell smiley assemblage

Mahooosive running wobbles today, for the past few days to be honest.  And I am not only referring to my midriff which wobbles most spectacularly when I run.  Point of information dear reader – in my experience it is a complete myth that marathon training will bring to you weight loss along with existential angst, au contraire.  I’ve put on a significant amount of weight partly because of being rungry to a greater extent than the calories I’ve burned, but more particularly because I’m an emotional eater, and training for a marathon, well, turns out it’s really hard, and for me, something of an emotional roller coaster.  It is the emotional wobbles that have been especially pronounced these week.  Mind games setting in along with doubts.

So, I am told at this stage in training it is normal to doubt yourself, your body is under stress.  With six weeks to go OH MY GAWD, SIX WEEKS!  KILL ME NOW! There is still much training to cram in and much to lose as well as much to gain.  Too little time to make much headway in terms of fitness (it’s really four weeks max and a two week taper), but plenty of time to blow everything with injury or over training or narcissistic melt down.  My problems have been building for a while, snow and ice have played havoc with my training plan, such as it was, and do you know what, even though the Beast from the East has affected much of the UK, they aren’t going to postpone the start date of the marathon by two weeks to compensate?  I know, outrageous.   Then I had a really terrible long run last week, wrong nutrition, felt ill, got cold and dehydrated and then spent the next two days completely wiped out.  I actually took to my bed and googled ‘is it normal to feel exhausted after a long run’, ‘heart attack early symptoms’, ‘what was I thinking?’, ‘marathon over training’, ‘marathon not trained enough’, ‘seriously, how many miles?’, ‘anaemia and running’, ‘marathon training fatigue‘ etc. You get the idea I’m sure.  Looking on the bright side, the alarming google advice in relation to the above search terms probably elevated my heart rate sufficiently to provide me with a significant work out despite my inertia.  On the whole, my findings were terrifying, and not helpful, probably not even accurate or applicable to me either.

Some training plans are saying that your ‘long run’ should be about 20% of your total mileage, but that would mean as I increased my long runs I’d be doing a massive % increase on my weekly mileage and doing 100 miles a week by the time I got up to a 20 mile run, and I don’t have the numeracy skills to work it out for a 22 mile run.  Just as well.   That can’t be right, surely? So I have been fretting about my mileage being too low. Then I wonder if I should force myself out even if I’m feeling rubbish, but then I remind myself that there’s a difference between tired, can’t be bothered and it’s raining and the total grey-faced white-gummed wipe out that I’ve been experiencing over the past few days, and on balance, it isn’t worth it.  I’m not an elite runner, I only want to get round, and actually, I don’t think that kind of mileage is either realistic or sensible for a relatively newbie middle-aged runner, that way injury and exhaustion lies, surely.  Plus,  I knew when I set out to do my 17 mile run last week I wasn’t feeling great, and I think I’ve paid the price. I am in the process of writing a misery memoir blog post about that even now, you can enjoy be dragged down by reading that account later, when I finally finish it.  Even so, whatever the intellectual, objective rationalisation of what I’m feeling, it’s not great, hence the wobbles.  I’ve felt completely drained since the 17 miler, and a bit unsure about how to move on from it.  Have a break?  Do more? Do less?  Aaaaaargh.  I’ll never be a runner, my running is getting worse and harder with this marathon malarkey not better.  I thought by now my inner athlete would have burst out, that I’d be chomping sprouting mung beans and buying progressively smaller pairs of running bottoms whilst dolling out unsolicited running advice to lesser mortals who hadn’t yet got a marathon in their sights.  On reflection, I was probably delusional right from the start.  I’m exhausted, my body is battered, my morale low, I am never running again.  Not ever.

Even so, today was a double Smiley Paces challenge. Firstly, Bakewell parkrun the first of the Smiley Champs runs for this year, and secondly a Smiletastic challenge, creating a solstice flyby.  Wouldn’t want to let my team mates down.  Aaaaaargh all over again.  Fear of missing out…  and you know what they say ‘I really regret that run said NO-ONE EVER!’

really regret

The Smiley Champs series, is basically  your best four performances out of a possible six runs in events throughout the year. They are chosen to be as inclusive as possible, taking in a parkrun like today, a shortish fell race, an off-road event with a choice of distances e.g. Dig Deep series that kind of thing.  I am never going to be a speed merchant, so don’t take part in the champs in any expectation of glory, but I do go in expectation of being able to bathe in collective Smiley loveliness; to get to be in a Smiley team shot and; last but by no means least; in the confident expectation that there will be cake.  What is a running club without communal catering?  Quite.  And if someone is going to go to all that trouble of combining their 50th parkrun with the Smiley Champs call out to hail to Bakewell parkrun, it would be rude not to go and ingest/inhale such sweetmeats as are offered up by way of recognition and appreciation and as an expression of mutual support.

Anyway, here are the Smiley Champs races for this year, 2018, in case dear reader you fancy coming along and shouting ‘Go Smiley‘ at any of us as we pass.  Or throw sweetmeats, that goes down well too, as a minimum offer up a high-five. We like them also. Just so you know.  All and any support, we’ll take it.  You’ll feel great, everyone’s a winner!

smiley champs

Like Lady Macbeth, I lost the capacity to sleep years ago (though unlike her I don’t recall being an accessory to regicide) so was awake by 4.00 a.m. anyway.    The rain was pounding down on my attic window, this was not the plan.  I lay in the dark, checking out how I felt. Yep, felt like my body had been completely steam-rolled and head was spinning.  What to do.  What will I do if I feel like this on marathon day?  I have always maintained, sometimes to my cost, that you can always push out a parkrun.  Maybe I should test that theory today.  If I didn’t get out and give it a go, I’d probably regret it right?  Plus, wouldn’t want to let my Smiletastic buddies down…  Nobody ever regrets a parkrun, ever, no-one ever regrets a parkrun ever, never ever, repeat, repeat, ad infinitum repeat…

There’s always a first time though, isn’t there…  Speaking of which, some Smileys who’d promised to turn out today were to be first timers at parkrun, can you imagine that?  Passing through the gateway to all that fun for the first time, it will be like entering Narnia for them, I should turn out to see that…

So, despite rain, and fog, and it being distinctly chilly although not actually arctic conditions, I had my porridge and I ventured out. It was a misty run out to Hassop Station Cafe where the parkrun meets on the Monsal Trail.  I was a bit apprehensive driving over, there was a lot of standing water on the roads, and I had a white van driving right up my arse which wasn’t good.  Still, I wasn’t going to be intimidated into aquaplaning off the road, intimidated yes, but not so much as to change my driving, though I did pull over where I could to let him pass.

I arrived about 8.45, and to my amazement, there was space in the car park despite a couple of spaces being out of action because of snow!  I know, I thought it had all gone by now.  There were a couple of handy – and crazily clean portaloos on hand, but many gathering Smilies had assembled in the gift shop, where there was much browsing of mother’s day cards going on in pre-parkrun preambles. There was also much Smiley meeting and greeting, and it was lovely to see not just fellow dragonflies (Smiletastic challenge team mates) but loads of other Smilies I’ve not seen all winter really.  It was an impressive turn out.

We collectively lurked inside, sheltering from the rain that was pretty much torrential, until a call went up for us to assemble at the start.   I kept my coat on.  I was not alone.  We trotted down the path a short way and there was a collective run briefing.  I did not have my camera with me, but fortunately Smiley selfie queen did, so captured the scene…  nice and casual we Smilies aren’t we.  Can you see the ladybirds?  Plague proportions I tell you, plague…  There is a hungover grasshopper in shot too, see if you can work out which one she is.  Also, at least one celebrity who doesn’t wish to be identified, her prerogative, respect the right of all parkrunners to participate in their own way.

Bakewell smiley assemblage

This was my first time at Bakewell parkun – it’s a relatively new one, with this being only its eighth run.  Normally they get around a hundred or so runners, this week the numbers swelled to some 150, Smiley Paces runners contributed largely to that rise, but there were also a fair few Steel City Striders in evidence, I think maybe they are still preoccupied with their annual parkrun cup challenge, but I’m not sure…

It is a run that is fairly light on marshals, the run director gave a cheery briefing.  Hands for first timers – loads of us; any milestones?  Yep, at least two fifties, yay!  I liked the briefing, high points included the observation that sub 20 minute runners should move to the front (there was not a stampede to reposition ourselves) and the observation that there was a tail walker (a super smiley no less) so if you saw her ahead of you, you were to shout ‘slow down!’  at her, which is a good point well made. The official Bakewell parkrun course description blah de blah states:

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

and that’s indeed exactly what it is! Look:

bakewell parkrun strava

Down the compact trail of the old railway line.  It was however very puddled – running water across the path in places which I hadn’t expected – this would be seriously icey if the temperature dropped below zero –  and had a noticeable camber, which is slightly weird, in that I didn’t notice it at all when I ran this part of the Monsal trail the other week, but then again, that day I had it all to myself.

The briefing was short and to the point, and pretty soon a cry went up and we were awf.  As predicted I found it hard.  My energy levels are completely depleted.  I struggled even though it is a straight out and back route. Weirdly though, I found it harder running this with other runners, it was sort of like being in a traffic jam as you couldn’t see much other than the back of the runner in front, and it was hard to judge distance travelled as landmarks aren’t that obvious on this route, especially for a first time. It was however a friendly cohort, and for faster runners you could definitely go for a quick time if that was your bag.  Also, as an out and back route, it was quite nice to see and acknowledge returning runners – basically the whole field in my case – as they ran back as I was running out.  Lots of mutual support, high fives, cheery ‘hellos’ and good to see familiar faces I hadn’t been able to spot in the pre-run mingling. Whether they were as thrilled to see me as I was them is a moot point, perhaps the mantra ‘don’t ask don’t tell‘ has its place in some contexts after all.

I love Smilies, all were indeed smiling as they rushed by.

The turning point was just beyond a bridge, there were two marshals to cheer you round.  There was one pleasant surprise here (well, three if you count seeing each of the two marshals as well 🙂 ), in that a solitary white cone positioned in front of the marshal was the turnaround point. This gave me a significant psychological boost, as I’d imagined the marshal was a human cone and I’d have to run round him, by running in front of him instead I saved a good 2 metres on that run.

Heading back, it felt tough, but a cheery Smiley as back marker shouted some encouragement as she was still heading out.  Ironically, our March challenge for Smiletastic is to run a Royal Flush – progressively faster miles over a long run.  My splits for this run showed I got progressively slower instead.  I tried very hard to put this in perspective, I’ve been feeling ill, I was 50:50 about coming anyway, it doesn’t matter at least I came, but I am all over the place mentally at the moment.  Who am I trying to kid I can run a marathon if I’m struggling to maintain a pace at a parkrun?  This can’t be right?

Eventually though, the end was in sight, a cheery Smiley with such perfect form that she is often wheeled out as the face of woodrun jogged out to run in with me.  As I reached the finish, there was a great wall of Smilies who gave a roar of cheers as i ran in. That was most splendid!  I felt like a super star. Sometimes it’s worth being a slow finisher as although oftentimes it means you miss the post run group photo because everyone has gone home, on this occasion it meant basically everyone else was already back and forming a cheer leading crowd to will you in.  I even did a (for me) sprint finish, so maybe my body wasn’t as broken as I thought.  Mind over matter indeed….

Super efficient funnel managers whizzed me through to the scanner.  I had a replacement barcode as one of theirs has gone walkabout, and it didn’t scan straightaway. I’m barcode scanning at Graves Junior tomorrow, hope the rain doesn’t interfere with the process too much there. The responsibility, the stress!

Thank you Bakewell parkrun marshals for the warmth of your welcome, the wit of your run briefing and the slickness of your logistics.

A couple more Smilies were cheered in

smiley coming through

And then it was to the important business of garnering Smiley team photos once the tail marker had made it through:

bakewell smiley team shot FJ

Naturally, we didn’t limit ourselves to just the one shot. We had to have all possible variants of smiley configurations.  Dragonflies, bees (genius action shot there, brilliantly choreographed by a very capable photographer who was that now?  Oh yes, I remember! Me!  Genius me!), grasshoppers, milestone 50th run – plus a few posing with the ‘caution runners‘ sign, because that’s what we are. Oh yes!  Go us!

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Running is great, gotta love parkrun!

So then cake was calling – I’d espied it earlier, it looked like this:

bakewell cake supplies

You might think that amount of cake would be daunting, but don’t underestimate the collective ability of a Smiley team to get a job done!  We focus, we can deliver!

As I was about to head back to the cafe, much excitement.  As the parkrun marshals worked their magic making all trace of the parkrun disappear for another week.   A previously anonymous Smiley came across to introduce herself.  She’s been injured forever ages, but we’ve met on the interweb so it was grand she came to say hello!  Hope you are running free again soon injured Smiley, but meantime, thanks for keeping Bakewell parkrun show on the road as a hi-viz hero.   Big virtual high-five coming right atya from here!  Til next time…

smiley injured new friends

Next stop, cafe, and queue for latte.  By my good fortune – perhaps less so for the Smiley I was alongside – I was sited next to a fellow London marathon runner for 2018.  She is a much, much more experienced and faster runner than I, so I was astonished to hear she too has been struggling a bit with fatigue in her training.  Not that I’d wish these levels of exhaustion on anyone, but maybe it is just ‘normal’ at this stage.  Interestingly, like me, she finds her legs feel strong and her aerobic capacity is fine, it’s literally ‘just’ a sense of extreme weariness, maybe this is the mental battle.

I also got to nab another experienced Smiley who was fantastically supportive and encouraging too as I lamented my lack of progress. She pointed out that actually, because of the cumulative build up of training miles there is also cumulative fatigue, so it is relatively usual (even is scary) to feel like I’m slower now than I was when I started, because you/ I/ we are making increasing demands on more and more fatigued bodies.  The benefits will only really be reaped post the taper – assuming training has gone to plan. These next 2-3 weeks are indeed the big mile weeks, and so some wobble is inevitable.  Anyway, thank you all smilies in general and those in particular for casting your pearls of wisdom and encouragement my way. It is appreciated.   Smiley Champs series is apt for us all, because all Smilies are Champions.  Even those who didn’t make the shindig today. One of those was being a hi-viz hero elsewhere.  Also champion.  Hurrah.  Top Dog for the day, I think Regal Smiley may fear her top dog position more generally is under threat. It isn’t of course, because there’s room for all.  Some can do the loving eyes routine a bit better than others it’s true, but all are super-talented, unique and valued in their own way.  New beginnings for you both. Bravo.  Let the new adventures in life begin, there will be no looking back.

It’s a weird thing this marathon training malarkey, because inevitably a lot of the training is on my own, and the run itself will be – apart from the other 49,999 other runners out there on the route of course – but I don’t think I’d have even made it to this point without the support of my running club buddies, parkrun buddies and virtual supporters I’ve picked up along the way.  I have to remember it’s supposed to be a challenge and it’s also supposed to be fun.  Of course I want to get round, but it is only a run, it’s not life and death, if I don’t it won’t matter in the grand scheme of things, what matters is that I give it my best shot and, in the words of the best advice I’ve had re running my first/ one and only marathon ‘remember to enjoy it’.  It will be an extraordinary day.  If I get round I get bragging rights on top, if I don’t I still get anecdotes and free tube travel in London for marathon day, as long as I’m still wearing my number and it hasn’t been washed away by my tears on the day.  Not a bad return on two years of angst really is it?

Is it?  Don’t you think?  Tube travel is really expensive.  And I don’t make a habit of running any distance up to 26.2 miles just to get around, so it can add up.

Lattes were drunk, cake was eaten and then it was running round two. The Spring Equinox Smiletastic challenge.  But that’s another story….

For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries.

Categories: 5km, motivation, parkrun, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Easy as ABC… implementing up and at it on the run in Attercliffe

Digested read:  our Smiletastic challenge for February was to do a run incorporating all the letters of the alphabet.  We dragonflies did this, in Attercliffe, which revealed hidden delights and adventures as we explored hitherto unknown (to me) hinterlands of north-east Sheffield.  It was an adventure, I followed up at the rear.  No change there then.

Did you read that amazing story in the news the other week? What do you mean ‘which one?’ is it not immediately apparent?  Sigh.  Keep up.  The one about the woman who could become disoriented within her own house.  It would seem both to be familiar, but unfamiliar, her world would spontaneously rotate and become unrecognisable, unmappable, as her internal ‘map’ flipped, due to some previously unrecognised neurological brain malfunction. This would mean that quite literally, she is/was unable to navigate her way even around her own house. To get to her front door, or bedroom or wherever she was heading, she’d need to breathe deeply, think hard and look for clues.  Lost, completely, inexplicably lost, despite being within range of familiar things.  The woman who is permanently lost.  Sounds terrifying, and, to be truthful, slightly implausible.  By which I mean obviously it used to sound implausible, but that was before today.  Today I got completely lost on the streets of Sheffield, to the point it felt like I’d been forcibly abducted, which in a way I suppose I had been.

Today, took me on a magical mystery tour of the delights of Attercliffe.  I was but a proverbial stone’s throw from familiar territory, and yet I had absolutely no idea where I was for most of the duration of the run.  In a twist on the original theme, I also had no idea what I was doing, as I scampered around desperately trying to keep up with my Dragonfly Smiletastic trail blazers like a dachshund trying to keep up with a pack of greyhounds.  Not pretty to be fair.  I tried, but I’m never going to manifest the athletic elegance and vigour or my Smiley counterparts.  Maybe I should start running only in the dark for a bit, until morale picks up.  Most definitely I should stick to running on my own.

dachsund running

Hang on, you don’t know what I’m on about?  Well, for those of you who have no idea what I’m on about, I have no idea how it is that mysteriously you have somehow missed out on all the Smiletastic shenanigans (what stone have you been hiding under) of late.  But, since you are not in the know, Smiletastic is basically a motivational challenge to help runners to keep up their running targets throughout the winter months.  More specifically, to help runners who are members of the friendly and inclusive women’s only running club in Sheffield we know and love as Smiley Paces.  There are various individual challenges, but the important thing about today is that it was a team challenge. There’s one of these each month.  There are four teams all together, bees, ladybirds, grasshoppers and lastly and most important, MY team, which is dragonflies.  The challenge for this month was:

alphabet run february team challenge smiletastic

So hard to do basically.  Fortunately, we’d had a Smiletastic Dragonflies alphabet run planning meeting, at which my main contribution was to turn up and nod earnestly, and defer to people who seemed to have a plan.  Now, as the logical extension of that contributory negligence in having shown up and shown interest in the collective endeavour,  we had to run the darned thing.  Good oh.  The stipulation was to run an alphabet in Sheffield.  However, to nab every letter of the alphabet, we were always going to end up in Attercliffe at some point, as along with its many other attractions, Attercliffe is the only area of Sheffield blessed with a street name beginning with Z.  To the glory of Zion we come.

Attercliffe gets a bit of a bad press locally to be fair.  It offers up faded industrial glory, and it doesn’t bode well that Wikipedia pronounces its attractions as basically the fact that it is located on the supertram route and used to have a lovely cinema.  Which is a bit like saying to someone they almost won the lottery, if they’d just had one more number, unfortunately, on this occasion they’ll be going home empty-handed.  Cold comfort indeed…

800px-Adelphi_Attercliffe

Attercliffe is also closely associated with a the Channel 4 TV show A very British Brothel which featured the daily life of business at the City Sauna, on Attercliffe Road.  It was quite a gentle documentary to be fair, more cosy than sleazy according to The Guardian so it must be true, but still not exactly the image the Sheffield Tourist Board would be keen to feature on the front of their ‘Welcome to Sheffield‘ webguide.

city sauna

So, upshot was, Sunday dawned, and once I’d had my marshalling fix in the white out that was Graves Junior parkrun I made my way over to Attercliffe for our Dragonfly rendezvous. I’d got so cold in the snow at Graves, I wasn’t brimming over with enthusiasm for a 7 mile run, it was freeeeeeeeeeeeezing.

25329872517_2138b310c9_z

Fortuitously though, the sun came out.  I found somewhere to park, and we rendezvoused at Accelerate on Attercliffe Road, which is handily very near Zion street so pretty much bagging the A-Z in record time!

Just to add an element of mystery to proceedings, I opted to park round the corner and lurk in my car out of the cold rather than stand shivering outside Accelerate.  Well, I had a lot to mull over. Which coat, should I wear my woolly hat?  What about dragonfly wings – fashion triumph or fashion tragedy?  I was relieved to see others arrive and park up too. Soon we were a fair old gang of dragonflies, I don’t know what the collective noun is for dragonflies.  A brilliance of dragonflies maybe – google says it’s a cluster of dragonflies, but I thought it was warts that came in clusters, and so I’m sticking with Brilliance.  It might not be strictly accurate, but sometimes we have to rewrite our own narratives to improve our lives do we not.  Be the change you want to make in the world, that sort of thing.  Mostly it’s pretentious nonsense of course, but I find I need to cling to what fragile hope I can in times of adversity. This seems to be one such time.

print-007-dragonflies

Anyways, after a bit, more of us appeared, and we did a bit of smiley greeting of one another, which involves collective faffing about what to where, who was supposed to be coming, whether or not we were all here, to fancy dress or not to fancy dress, that sort of thing.  There was some experimentation with new ways to wear a smiley buff, not sure that went all that well, but you have to try these things don’t you, before you can make an informed choice.

 

Then there was some excited posing for photos by the Zion Lane sign, just because we could.  Also, some concerned chit-chat about where our actual run leader was, she in possession of map and instructions, and later on we’d discover a tick list of required roads as well. Turns out, she was only waiting outside Accelerate in accordance with the rendezvous instructions!  honestly, and there were all the rest of us running amok in the presence of Zion. What larks eh, what larks.

 

Couple of things you need to know about our posing by signs strategy.  We spent ages trying to perfect the group selfie, and then just when we thought we’d absolutely nailed it, another dragonfly arrived, a bit belatedly and we had to do it all over again.  There was also more faffing what with pinning on wings etc.  It’s quite complex socially and logistically, this alphabet team run endeavour. Really, it is.

 

At this point in running proceedings we were all in the same place at the same time and quite motivated to do such group shots.  It would be fair to say our enthusiasm and ability to convene together at the same place at the same time depleted over the course of the next couple of hours.  Oh dear.  Still, bright and brilliant beginnings.  Also, good to see actual dragonflies are quite good at posing together too. In the photos alongside one another above a bit, they are the one’s on the, erm, let’s see, erm leeeeeeeeft, maybe?  You choose.

Some opted to rock the nymph look, with the added bonus of mortifying their offspring later when they find out they went out in public sporting their buffs in this fashion.  I did wear my hat.

 

So, once convened, and once me and one other had donned our dragonfly wings, what the hell, off we went…. not very far at all, as it seemed that the next couple of street signs came thick and fast, and we were still only metres from where we started.  Also, still up for group shots at this juncture.  Yes, this much fun!

lawrence street group shot

and this proximity from where we started:

 

off we shot and then another sign, good oh…..

DSCF0686

From hereonin, honestly it was a bit of a blur.  Our super-organised leader had all the necessary paperwork and strategy, and shot off at a fair old lick whilst the rest of us trailed in her wake. Some of us did more trailing than others.  I had no chance of keeping up, so it was all a bit surreal.

 

The route was quite remarkable.  As we were dipping in and out of fairly seemingly random side streets to nab various letters, we went down roads I’d never normally venture down  Taking in the delights of Attercliffe’s industrial past and present.  Joking apart, there is some absolutely stunning architecture in the area, but sadly it’s just been allowed to die away into dereliction.  Some of the building were only built about 100 years ago, and yet in that short time have been abandoned to rot all boarded up and abandoned.  It’s really sad, the area is crying out for regeneration. We must have looked pretty incongruous, running through with some gesture to fancy dress and periodically stopping to excitedly photograph street signs for no obvious reason to any passers-by.  In truth, there weren’t all that many passers by, Attercliffe is pretty deserted on a Sunday lunchtime it would seem.

Early adventures included the sighting of alien dragonfly egg on the pavements of Attercliffe. This possibly would have been worth an extra Smiletastic point, but we forgot to claim for it.  I’m not quite sure what it would have hatched into, as we didn’t wait around for long enough to find out, but once again google has delivered one option.  I’m quite glad we weren’t there to witness it.  Maybe an escapee from the Attercliffe exotics shop.  Who knows?  Exotic shops have more than one meaning in Attercliffe, but then again, I’m sure City Sauna caters for all sorts of niche preferences, this specimen could therefore have originated from either.  Sleep well people, sleep well…

 

In other news, our ophiophobic smiley colleague managed to cross by on the other side of the road to the snake shop, whilst we supportively took photos of her being brave.  One for all, and all for one, and no photo opportunity too small to bank for future reference.

 

Despite my scurrying along at the rear,  I was very proud to espy this sign on a bus-stop which I still maintain could have spared us all a great deal of running around, but the others were too far ahead to hear my cries at this point.

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We ran on.

There was childish giggling:

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An attempt to nab an X (there are no road signs beginning with X within the boundaries of Sheffield postcodes apparently)

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Attercliffe slowly revealed its many mysteries as we pounded its damp pavements on our mission.

 

There were some navigational adjustments to be made, it’s quite complicated doing a run with such obsessive focus on street names

DSCF0725

We tried to stop and photograph signs, but then we did a lot of running backwards and forwards to make sure we could truly claim to have run down each alphabet road, not just run past a street sign.  We also decided many of our shots just weren’t active enough, so we had to try again with actual running poses.  It’s harder than you might think documenting things for posterity.

 

Exploring is fun.  We took a minor detour to take in a bit of spontaneous track work, partly to honour Smiley Elder, it being her birthday and all, and partly because we fancied our chances in a one hundred metre dragonfly dash. We did, until we collectively decided it was too slippery to do much more than pretend to run, though one of our number did manage a complete spirit to the finish in fine form and fettle. Bravo!

 

Then, as there had admittedly been quite a lot of faffing, the pace picked up again, I just breathlessly followed on as best I could, whilst the lead runners performed the necessary navigational tasks, list ticking and photographic record keeping all in the time it took for me to get them back within hailing distance.  I didn’t feel I contributed much apart from ballast, but then ballast has a role to play, ships might sink without it.  I’m not quite sure how far that analogy extends to running contexts, but I’m prepared to let that go.  I tried to keep them at least in sight, for the most part…

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There was a brief moment of hope for me, when we found one of those ofo bikes, which pleasingly , was in my livery colours.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a smart phone, so was unable to unlock it, but good posing opportunity.  Likewise, found a gym that looked like just the job if only it wasn’t such a long way from where I live.   Syd sure has been working his biceps and not taking steroids at all.  Impressive!

 

Scampering on…  We went through soulless industrial estates, under old Victorian bridges, past sadly derelict once magnificent public buildings, and on through modern housing estates, where cooking smells rose out of kitchens, and we must have looked exceedingly out-of-place.

 

We occasionally gathered up, mostly when our leader got lost, and did some more random posing.  Jubilee road almost completely defeated us, and we did a lot of toing and froing before a local resident pointed us in the right direction. She was very helpful and friendly and didn’t even appear to register how incongruous we must have looked let alone enquire what we were up to. It felt a friendly place.

 

There were some opportunities for not very imaginative practical jokes.  Like when my fellow winged dragonfly lost her pink wings and another runner appropriated them. You wouldn’t believe how long it took for her to realise this had happened.  I think we may have been somewhat oxygen deprived at this point, as we found it disproportionately entertaining.  You had to be there.  Still, bodes well for post the apocalypse, if ever we have to make our own entertainment with limited materials and opportunities on which to draw.

 

Even though Attercliffe most definitely has its industrial heritage at its core, there were some welcome green spaces.  Including one where there wasn’t so much a trail of breadcrumb, as a road of white sliced bread.  I couldn’t help wondering if another Smiletastic team was even now on operations in the vicinity, and this was some ploy to help their less well sighted running buddies navigate their way home.  Lord knows I was completely lost.  I clung on for grim death at the back, if my companions disappeared out of sight completely I’d never have found my way home again.  Whilst Attercliffe was a great deal nicer than I’d imagined, I wouldn’t really want to end my days there running round the streets in ever decreasing circles, with my dragonfly wings becoming ever more battered and torn as hours became days and days became weeks and so on until I shrivelled away to join the skeletal frames lining the canal which we came upon later.

 

HOnestly, it was all a bit of a blur. What I do know, is that we successfully got all our alphabet, minus the ‘impossible’ x, within about 6 miles, but then we had a canal detour to bagsy our x.  This was a separate mission impossible, except it turned out it both was and wasn’t.  Wasn’t, because we did it, and was, because although we did it, there was no actual road sign, so massive anti-climax.  Oops.  It did involve dipping down onto the canal path, and running a straight mile to the city centre, emerging at Victoria Quays – another run route I’ve never done, but keep meaning too.  Before we did that, just a few more amazing  buildings to appreciate, it would be so great to see these brought back to their former glory..

 

The canal detour – once we’d once again resisted the temptation to catch a tram, and got directions from a local to actually get down by it, was quite impressive. For them as can run fast, this is a fast bit. I can’t, and was also thwarted by my choice of shoes.  I was wearing road shoes, but this was pretty muddy and slippery, trail shoes would have been much better.  oh well, next time eh?

 

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I’m always a bit dubious about tow paths.  I like the idea of running near water, but I’m not so keen on the being trapped on a narrow path aspect of it. Also, as one of my fellow runners was keen to remind us, it’s always runners who find dead bodies on tow paths. That’s not strictly true of course, it can happen to dog walkers too.  A friend of mine was walking her dog along a canal path in Leamington many years ago and she found a body. The worst of it was, this was pre mobile phone days and she had to stop someone to borrow a phone to call for help, the first person didn’t want to get involved and just left her.  Eventually she did get a phone, but was left alone next to a face downward floating corpse until the police arrived. Then, to add insult to injury, they wouldn’t allow her to walk back the way she came because it was a possible crime scene, she had to walk an extra five miles to get home.  Not a good outcome, and maybe this has contributed to my aversion to ‘lovely’ canal walks even if only in my subconscious. To be fair, the dead person had had a worse outcome, though for the record, there was no foul play detected.

We didn’t find any actual corpses, but we did find some that had apparently been boiled down to the bare bones and then displayed.  It was quite an impressive show with loving attention to detail.  I wouldn’t mind ending up here.  Then again, hiding in plain sight, it’s the classic ruse isn’t it, to get away with murder.  Obvious place to conceal a body if you think about it.  I suggest you just don’t.  I do like a good pun too ‘Musn Grumble’ hilarious, see what they’ve done there!

 

Then on again down the tow path

DSCF0853

and more delights revealed themselves.  Soppy valentine moments aren’t for me, but a group smiley hug, that’s nice!  Mind you, if hugs aren’t your thing, check out this handy video on how to take appropriate evasive action in a variety of hug ambush situations.  You’re welcome.

 

and then there was the white horse, and the red dragon, see what we did there, we were ON FIRE(ish)!

 

and there were pretty flowers – well one anyway also a dead rat, probably rather more than one of those, but only one that was especially noticeable:

 

And then, almost suddenly we were at Victoria Quays where a barge proclaiming itself ‘the kids’ inheritance’ welcomed us on to the cobbles.  These weren’t all that welcome for sore feet.  At least one of our number was suffering the after effects of a 17 mile fell run the day before, and cobbles today weren’t helping.

DSCF0865

So the climax of our run was to get onto eXchange street.  See what we’ve done there.  Unfortunately, despite adding a mile to our run, there wasn’t a single helpful road sign to proclaim our success, making it somewhat anticlimactic.  Though we were able to find a handy X scrawled across a board somewhere and a potential ‘valentine themed observation’ in keeping with the individual challenges for February so beloved of Smiley Elder who has many great qualities, but lacks a certain cynicism with regard to romantic love which is a bit of an oversight in my view.

 

And that was it.  Run concluded, just as the sky was getting dark and it was getting cold again.  We dispersed.  Just time to play chicken at one of the railings on the canalside,

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and then we were back in Attercliffe before we knew it!

 

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Magical mystery tour all done and dusted.  If you are interested in our route, and it isn’t one I’d be able to replicate, here is the strava map for your edification and merriment:

strava route

Check out the inadvertent dinky heart in the bottom left hand corner.

So to conclude, this is our alphabet gallery of gloriousness, all nabbed in S9 (pretty much)

 

Job done.

One future challenge might be to do an ultra and see if they can all be done in alphabetical order.  That would be a might challenge for someone else though, not for me.  This wasn’t a favourite run by any means, though I did like seeing parts of the city I’ve never espied before, it was just hard being reminded constantly of my running ineptitude as faster runners sprinted ahead.  On the other hand, at least I didn’t entirely miss out, and I have a new appreciation of Attercliffe.  The redevelopment that is already underway is impressive, maybe it will yet be a new sporting centre as it aspires to be …

It is home to one of the highest concentrations of sporting facilities in the UK with the Olympic Legacy Park,[6] incorporating iceSheffield and the English Institute of Sport – Sheffield, located in the area

according to wikipedia, which, as we have already established, means it must be so.

So that’s good.

Easy as ABC..  Now we know.

So who’s up for the ultra alphabetical order alphabet run?  Answers on a postcard please.  Bet it’s been done somewhere.

 

Categories: running, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blowing hot and cold about running? Beware both ice and fire on the Sheffield trails.

Digested Read: still doing my long walk for endurance, round Sheffield walk take two, augmented by a golden segment, ice and fire.  Unaugmented by litter and the casual misogyny of youth.  Progress is slow, marathon training wise, but I suppose slow progress is still progress.  Here’s hoping.  Hope over experience is sometimes the only hope you have to hang on to.  Also #votesforwomen still work to be done.

When I say todays’ yomping out on the Round Sheffield Walk involved encounters with both fire and ice, I am not referring to my tendency to blow hot and cold about what I laughably call my ‘running’ exploits, but I mean today I quite literally came across both.  Look:

Sheffield’s answer to a volcano erupted through snow.  All the spectacular scenery of Iceland, but none of the sulphuric gases and unpronounceable names.  See, practically indistinguishable.

holuhraun-volcano-eruption-guide-to-iceland

Though to be fair, both represent sub-optimal running conditions. Just as well it wasn’t really a running day as such. Also, I’m hard core, so lived to tell the tale.  Plus, I set out on my Round Sheffield Walk route march a bit better prepared than last week.  Every little helps.

Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about?  That’s not a first. Well, I’m allegedly in training for the London Marathon, but not so as you’d really notice.  Because I’m a run/walker/yomper rather than an actual runner, I’m building up my distances through long walks to build stamina, and adding in the running as a greater proportion of each walk, rather than doing continuous long runs of ever increasing mileages.  It’s not maybe a conventional training plan, and it remains to be seen if it will work.  All the same, I think it’s my best bet to avoid injury and get me round.  I’m not seeking a podium place, just to get round with my dignity in tact. Actually, I don’t really care about retaining my dignity, as long as I finish before the cut off point and get the bling and therefore associated blagging rights. This may sound shallow, but it is at least honest.  All this being so, you’d think it would be a commitment to my marathon training plan that got me out the door today to do my 15.7 mile route march, but honestly, it was probably more Smiletastic.  You know, the Smiley Paces running club winter challenge.  Soooooooooooooooo stressful you have no idea.

It wasn’t supposed to have worked out like this.  Today shouldn’t have been my long run day.  However,  I’d pledged to do a 15 mile long run this week for Smiletastic, so mission critical that I achieve this or my whole Dragonfly team suffers (and I thought collective punishment was clearly defined as a war crime under the Geneva Convention). The fact that I’m allegedly in training for a marathon so need to rack up the distances for that as well is almost incidental.  I keep forgetting.  I think I’m in denial about the whole thing.  Anyways, the point is,  I only have a limited repertoire of long runs on which to draw, and also very limited ability to run any long distance at all. However, not to worry, I had a cunning plan.  Unfortunately, as Baldrick  himself would vouch for me, the best laid plans don’t always quite turn out as anticipated, irrespective of the quality of the turnips used in their execution.

cunning plan

The cunning plan, such as it was, was brilliant in it’s simplicity.  One of the great boons of being part of a fine and friendly running club, apart from the access to a gang of awesome, funny and smart women with whom to eat cake obviously, is the access to a wide network of amazing runners. Not just any old runners (even the old ones are young at heart) but ultra-runners.  Excellent. All I had to do, was befriend a couple, throw myself at their individual and collective mercy, and parasatise all their run routes.  I worried a bit about exploiting their good will, because anyone who is willing to run with me, will end up doing a lot of walking.  I wasn’t entirely sure what I could offer in return for their time and navigational insights.  You might like to think it was the pleasure of my company, but that’s a completely implausible explanation.  Maybe they’ll get credits for their Duke of Edinburgh gold badge or something.  Or maybe they’ll agree by accident because of my grooming skills, be instantly consumed with regret,  and subsequently be motivated to join up for assertiveness classes. That would benefit them in the long run, (pun intended), so they’d not be entirely wasting their time acting as guides for me if it led to such important personal skills development.

Point is, I reeled a couple of them in, and we were going to go off and do a 14 mile explore round the reservoirs at Derwent and Howden and have a chat along the way and coffee on conclusion.   It was all set for Friday. Then (cue dramatic music) disaster!  One of my guides was declared ill with unknown affliction, and only able to venture out with an accompanying drip (awkward for walking long distances, those drip stands are rarely all terrain) and the other incapacitated due to foot injury, which turned out to be a stress fracture. She would therefore only be able to venture out if carried the whole way round in a sedan chair.

sedan chair

That’s fine, and I’ve even found a suitable one on ebay or whatever which is a snip at £9,900 but I just don’t think it would have arrived in time for our sojourn. Also, bit nippy out for minions to be carrying you round shirtless.  I wonder how you sourced sedan chairs before the arrival of the internet?  It’s a mystery.

sedan for sale

The upshot was, I’d have to motivate myself to go out, and once again the weather has been shocking, cold, snow, ice.  I decided to take the easy option, and just do the Round Sheffield Walk route again today instead, with the added literal and metaphorical bonus, that I could take in this week’s Smiletastic golden segment whilst I was about it.  I could still meet with my ultra running buddies to check if they are really incapacitated or just in cahoots to avoid going out with me just for coffee and a catch up. Granted, this is a slippery slope, as recently, when parkrun was cancelled due to ice I found you can still have a post parkrun brunch without doing parkrun firsts if you are all there anyway.  If I learn this latte minus the pre-run option is effective and available everywhere and in all circumstances, well, let’s just say it will be elasticated waists for me in perpetuity thereafter.  No Friday run, but Friday coffee, that’s not so bad.  My running tights have an elasticated waist anyway, so I can go prepared…

In the meantime, today was Round Sheffield walk, incorporating a new golden segment.  What could possibly go wrong?

clough lane smiletastic segment

As I cannot be trusted to run segments on my own (last week I had to go  back and do the golden segment round Chelsea Park all over again after inadvertently cutting off the beginning of it, mightily displeased about that) I took the precaution of enlisting the help of another dragonfly to pick up en route, so we could do the segment together.  Mind you, I felt I was being unnecessarily cautious in this respect. I knew exactly where this was and no mistake.   Just up from Endcliffe Park.

It was bitterly cold on waking, but mercifully dry, so as I picked my way down to the park rendezvous the pavements weren’t slippery at all, the sun shone, and my sandwiches bounced up and down in my backpack with a pleasingly reassuring thud as I went down.  I was first to the rendezvous point by the café, so sat in the sun watching the world go by, and marvelling at the Endcliffe Park Independent Café’s moss-covered roof. It is really stunning.  Should have taken a photo for illustrative purposes really.  Never mind, here is a parkrun one from the week before. You’ll get the idea.

epic cafe 27 jan

I did have the foresight to take a photo of the frog, or possibly toad.  I like this wooden sculpture a lot, it’s time it got a showing.  It wasn’t tremendously interactive to be fair, I think it might be hibernating, or if not actually hibernating, being dormant, which I think is more accurate in the UK context.  I’m sure Frog Life know their amphibians.

frog or toad

I think toad actually, frogs are more smooth-skinned.  Let’s go with toad.

So I’m sat in the sun, watching the world go by, and eventually my dragonfly buddy appeared.  We marched up to forge dam putting the worlds to rights, and then at the forge dam café, decided to get some take away lattes because we’d walked all of a mile and a bit by then, and were having a nice morning out so why not. The lattes were really good actually, and would have been improved only by our admitting to ourselves that it would have been nice to sit down and drink them at leisure, rather than carrying them round with us.  We asked not to have lids, in an attempt to reduce plastic a bit, but a sit down would have been more eco-friendly still, as well as more enjoyable.

We reached a bit of road where we thought the segment might start. Complete confusion.  My eyesight wasn’t good enough to read the map I’d printed out, and now we were actually there I was confused as to whether or not it was the right place. Critically, I’d also been planning to run it in completely the wrong direction.  After much dithering, picking our way through ice patches to read road signs (did I mention that as we ascended, there was a lot of thick and treacherous ice patches along the way) we reached agreement as to which way to go. Worse case scenario, we’d upload it immediately afterwards to check, and then run again if necessary.  I was so relieved I didn’t risk heading off on my own.

The first part was absolutely fine, but when we turned into Mark lane we hit a comically extreme patch of ice.  Even in broad daylight it was a nightmare to negotiate.  No chance of heading out after dark to bagsy this one without fear of instant death.  Water was still streaming under the ice, and adding to it, if the temperature dropped again, as forecast, it would practically be it’s own glacier, probably visible from space.  Or would be, were it not for the tree cover thereabouts.

I’m a bit disappointed by the ice photos, it looks less hazardous than it was.  The weird nondescript photo is of beautiful icicles that had formed where water ran out of a dry stone wall, so there are my photography credentials exposed for all to see, no wonder I have to borrow freely from others for so many of my blog posts.  Oh well.  You get the idea.

With all the faffing and chatting, the 1km loop took blooming ages to get round, but we had a nice time, so that’s the main thing. Then we said our farewells, as dragonfly buddy had important things to do and I had another 10 plus miles to tick off and (unfortunately) those miles weren’t going to walk themselves now were they.

I was in quite good spirits heading up the valley.  I think having a latte before I’d even really started was good for morale. The sun was bright, the air crisp, and the scenery gorgeous. Very few people were out and about.  I went a slightly different route, clambering up what I call Jacob’s Ladder, but which might not be. It’s a steep hillside clamber that takes you on the footpath through the alpaca farm (gawd those fields and field shelters look a mess and you emerge a bit below the Norfolk Arms.  I marched past there, and then crossed the road to head down Limb Valley. There was less snow, but a fair bit of ice.  I rather regretted not having nipped into the pub for a precautionary pee – maybe having a latte wasn’t such a good idea after all, so went slightly off piste for a  – well you get the idea.  This brought a new discovery. How have I not see this leaf man before?  A creature from the undergrowth.  I like it.  It’s sort of hidden, so not too intrusive, and the art work sufficiently impressive that I’d call this urban art rather than vandalism or graffiti, though perhaps strictly speaking it is both.   Actually, not really ‘urban’ either, so I suppose that makes me wrong on all counts…  Not a first.

You see this is what happens.  I head out on a Sheffield yomp, convinced I won’t do a blog post this time because it will all be a bit samey, and the Sheffield Round Walk, lovely as it is, has been done to death by everyone, and yet you only have to venture a few metres off the track to discover new hidden treasures.

Look how lovely it is out there.  Cold yes, but picturesque certainly. And this was just ice, not come across the fire yet!

Down through the valley, the ice was really bad. There were was one section where a couple of walkers from amongst a larger group had managed to traverse and ice patch, but those behind them were thwarted. It was like one of those action adventure films where the rope bridge has fallen down the canyon leaving some of the hapless adventurers stranded on the wrong side.  One older man tentatively stepped on the ice patch and we all looked on in horror as he slid helplessly in slow motion down the slope with gathering momentum.  I can’t have been alone in thinking he’d end up plummeting onward into the stream at the bottom of the vertiginous hill.  Somehow he used his walking sticks to brake, but the randomness of this approach did not inspire confidence in those behind.  In the end, I clung onto a nearby tree as sort of ballast, and linked arms with each of the walkers in turn so they could pass.  A bit like this, only I was clinging to a tree not a mountain side.

clinging on

It was all very companionable and community initiative based.  It was treacherous out there though.  I’d half wondered if I should don the running shoes this week and build my speeds, but there’s no way I’d have felt safe running this route again today.  I’m going to have to bow to the inevitable and find some lower level and even  –  heaven portend – road routes even, if I’m ever to pick up the pace.   Still, worry about that another day.

I emerged through Whirlow, which again was looking picturesque, and then stopped for sandwiches at the bench at the entrance to Ecclesall Woods.  Point of information, that I think is interesting, because this is all about me, even though I was out for ages today, my stamina was way better for having some snackettes on the way round. Who knew nutrition was an asset for endurance?  Granted, you probably aren’t supposed to actually stop for a picnic en route at a marathon (though wouldn’t it be lovely if you could) but keeping my blood sugar levels replete stopped mid-excursion grumpiness for sure.  Anyway, it meant I was having a nice enough time that I felt no need to abort my romp out and catch a bus instead, rather carrying on to explore the delights of Ecclesall woods and the secrets it had yet to reveal.

Through the woods, sharing hellos and greeting with the few others I came across.  After that blooming climb in Ladies Spring Wood (which did not feel any easier at all this time)

Fuelled as I was with my humus and watercress in pitta super food, I even had sufficient surplus energy to go and finally take a detour to look at Beauchief Abbey, which I’ve never bothered to do before. I couldn’t go in, which was disappointing, but I could admire the mossy grounds, golden weather vane and immaculate architecture, and try to memorise the guide board that was helpfully in situ.  It’s an impressive history to be fair.

The most amusing sighting of the day however, if by ‘amusing’ you mean jaw-droppingly outrageous, was on the Beauchief golf course.  I refer to the tees.  Initially, there was the simple disappointment of the misleading signs.  I didn’t get so much as a sniff of a cup of Yorkshire tea at any of the tee signs, let alone the fourth tee, and don’t get me started on their spelling!  But the real shocker was this:

It took me a while to comprehend this.  I note as usual the men are on top and the women covered in mud and being asked to go to the side whilst the men can crack on straight ahead.  Ladies and mens golf tees. What the? Has the world gone mad? Is this a known thing?  Do the men hang out smoking cigars, drinking brandy and guffawing at misogynistic jokes whilst the women pose on their tee eating lady-friendly crisps and discussing what to cook their husbands for dinner later on whilst trying to avoid getting their kitten heels caught on either their crinoline petticoats or worse still the green?  Or is this actually a progressive innovation, and the eleventh tee has extra toilet facilities for the ladies, who are usually ill-served in relation to such provisions at sporting events?  Is it that men running golf courses, like those organising cross-country events, fear women’s wombs will fall out with the exertion, or do they just fear women? It’s a mystery.  Some are campaigning for change in the XC running different race lengths ‘norm’  though the reasons some give against change are toe curling in their ludicrousness.  Marshals out for longer?  Seriously?  Apart from the fact it just depends how you time and order events, and that women marshal too, and many marshals are more than happy to support runners who finish at different times, have they not come across the phenomenon of super speedy women runners who can run the arses off their male counterparts.  Would that not add interest to the event. Percy Pud 2017 anyone?

First woman flying round AB

I have no idea why there are different tees, the Beauchief Golf Club website offers no clues. Though the ladies course is shorter than the men, and they refer to ladies and men as opposed to women and men which I find bizarre. They do have a very fine 1951 course map though, which we can all agree is quite splendid.

courseplan1951

So I pondered this as I plodded on in the sunshine.

Subsequently I would be informed, to some disappointment, that this is apparently accepted practise because the average woman cannot hit as far as the average man – I don’t know if that’s true.  I’m dubious, but it’s possible I suppose.  Fortunately sexism in golfing remains rampant in other respects, even if that particular example may have some basis in logic.  The world is mad.  Bro-go areas still exist though.  And it’s been said golf’s biggest problem is sexism however, I enjoy the reasoning given for in the Womens Golf Journal article Gentlemen Only which reports that – admittedly back in the 19th century.

a certain Lord Moncrieff who, would you believe, decreed that women should not hit the ball any further than 60-70 yards.
“Not because we doubt a lady’s power to make a longer drive but because that cannot well be done without raising the club above the shoulder,” he wrote. “Now we do not presume to dictate but we must observe that the posture and gestures requisite for a full swing are not particularly graceful when the player is clad in female dress.

Remind me again why adherence to ‘tradition’ is seen as a legitimate justification for discrimination, abuse, pretty much anything quite frankly.  It isn’t immediately clear…

The next cause of excitement was I think when I encountered a youth and his dog in I think Chancet wood, but actually I have no idea now. Could have been any one of the woodland trails with a steep slope towering overhead on one side, and plummeting down beneath me on the other.  Anyway, initially unseen, they lost their footing and tumbled down a bank and nearly landed on top of me. Oh dear. We all lived to tell the tale. I managed to embarrass myself by inadvertently shrieking as honestly, it was like he fell from the sky and caught me unawares. (Not like that). He was mortified at having so somersaulted, and in his anxiety to remove himself from the awkward social situation, promptly slipped again, arse first, down the remainder of the bank, shouting up behind me that he was ‘absolutely fine’, while his companion canine was having the most fun out on a walk EVER, as it jumped and barked around him as he continued his descent.   I think not, but on balance, was happier to be left to attend his own wounds, than have a middle-aged Smiley fussing round him.

The latter part of the walk, after Graves Park is not as interesting, and doesn’t really improve with familiarity. This time, as I was going down litter lane.  I don’t know whether to call it litter lane or dog poo pass.   I coincided with school children bolting out of the rear entrance of Newfield School at the end of the school day. The litter and dog shite in bags hanging from trees are really bad here.   One thing of interest though, just as I was getting really cold, was a sudden blast of heat coming from a huge but orderly bonfire.  It was extraordinary, like walking past a great furnace, so you see I wasn’t lying when I said today’s effort was about ice AND fire.  Unlikely as it seems, both were present.  If it hadn’t been behind a locked gate, I’d have lobbed some of the rubbish on it.

I noticed there is a particular accumulation of rubbish by the school gate, and I can’t lie, it does make me think that maybe a major source of the littering has to be from pupils making their way to and from school along this path.  Not exclusively, but it created a really bad impression.   I’d be ashamed if I was in the management of that school and pathways around it were knee-deep in litter.   Whoever is responsible, surely you’d want to clear up your own back yard, and you could involve the school community in it, as they would be obvious beneficiaries as many of them no doubt walk it every day. Some of that trash is faded and half buried in the ground, it’s been there for a long, long time.  Many months, maybe even years.

The children coming out were in big groups and boisterous, releasing pent-up energy, shoving each other as they negotiated the paths.  It was pretty unpleasant. I found my mindset shifted.  Only last week when I did this route I thought I’d come and litter pick it myself in better weather, but now I strongly suspect the culprits are some of the pupils and their littering is compounded by general apathy from the school in not clearing up even outside their own gate, I felt a bit differently.  Nursing  fantasy rage scenarios of strongly worded letters to the school. At the same time I recognise it might have been in part that I felt quite intimidated by the large groups yelling at each other, and as I passed by the co-op heading into Meersbrook Park, I witnessed some ‘friends’ shouting ‘bitch, bitch, ugly bitch’ at one of the girls who’d had the misfortune to stoop to tie a shoelace just where there was a dog typing up ring outside the shop.  It was a large crowd, and my perception was boys shouting ‘bitch’ at a girl, and encouraging others to do the same.    I lingered for a bit to see if I should intervene.  The language calling was certainly inappropriate, and I found it offensive, but the ‘victim’ did appear to taking it all in her stride and so I thought the better of it.  It troubled me though.  In a way it’s worse she appeared OK with it, is that sort of behaviour so normalised at that age?  Ganging up against a young woman just because you can, and it makes you feel powerful, and what can she do about it because you are ‘only larking about’.  Gender based assault masquerading as ‘just a bit of fun’ between school children?  Lawks a lordy we need MeToo.  Might yet contact the school.  Children can be cruel, but they can also have a wicked shared sense of humour, from the outside you can’t always tell.   Upshot was it did spoil my mood and my walk and I made a mental note to run round faster next time so as not to get caught up in Newfield School pupils pouring out the school and swarming the streets around on their way home.  That and raged at the injustice of the world.  I did quite a lot of the inwardly raging.

Not all were riotous of course.  There were some children rather sweetly gathering up tree branches in the wooded areas just playing.  Just ahead of me, two firm friends, one really tall, and one significantly shorter, walked purposefully along, deep in conversation.  I wondered if they were the same year, or neighbours perhaps of different ages.  I’ve worked in schools, and one thing that really struck me, especially with the boys, was how young people of the same age could be so physically different depending on when puberty hits.  Some clearly young men, others pre-pubescent and awkward.  Adolescence is a challenging time. Even so, maybe a strongly worded email, just to make the point.  I might start it with ‘Why oh why oh why‘ that would definitely add impact.  I won’t at all come across as a mad middle-aged woman with an axe to grind.   Even so, might just give my axe a good old grind, could come in handy, and you have to do something to bring about change sometimes.  Those suffragists and suffragettes did a bit more than a letter writing campaign to get the vote. Hurrah for them! One hundred years on from getting the vote for women, I do celebrate and acknowledge that, but I despair at how far we still have to go.  People don’t like to surrender privilege without a fight.  Then again, I do want to say about the rubbish and the ‘bitch’ comments, but I don’t want to either have to go on hunger strike or be force fed, which was basically state torture of women campaigning for the vote. It’s a dilemma.

political prisoners

Male and female tees

Men and ladies different XC courses

Calling your female class mate a ‘bitch’

Characterising women who raise their voices as frustrated, ugly, middle aged – not much changes does it?

Sound familiar anyone?

Everyday sexism, everyday misogyny.

I’m properly depressed now.  The walk that was to clear my head started well, ended badly.  My mood sure, took a nose dive after the school.

Oh well, I must think instead of the women who went on campaigning, in spite of the resistance, the hardship and the unknown outcomes.  They showed physical and mental endurance, as such, they too can be my marathon training role models.  If I can just channel my inner suffragette, I can nail this.  Maybe I should ditch Geronimo as my running companion for London and go as a suffragette.  Did you know that at the time a photographer Christina Broom documented a lot of their actions.  Me neither til just now, but any one of these outfits in Green, White and Violet would be splendid.  Now, who do I know with a sewing machine who might help.  I’m sure there must be a broken-toed Smiley somewhere willing and able to step up to the task..

and I do like a fine hat, so there’s a thought.

A thunk indeed.

So there you go, that was my endurance test for the week done and dusted. It was physically much easier than last time, having food on the way round helped.  The weather was better. The ice is an issue though.   I still haven’t done anything like enough actual running, but I tell myself the elevation and uneven terrain must help a bit from a cross training point of view. Also, it remains reet nice out, so all is not lost.  Yet.  Plenty of time to lose it before April.

Yep, I am confident I will definitely have lost it by then.  Definitely.

So that’s alright then.  Yes?

Oh, and this is the route, my slowest ever rendition of the Round Sheffield Walk, but hey ho, that’s more hours on the legs isn’t it, good for endurance.  15.78 miles and 2003 feet.  That’s good to know.  Not necessarily helpful or relevant, but the numbers please me.

strava route

So that’s still alright then.  Yes?

Hello?

Anybody there?

Hello….

 

Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

For the love of running in celebration of Valentine’s Day?

As if the run up to Valentine’s day isn’t stressful enough, the timing of Smiletastic (Smiley Paces Sheffield Women’s Running Club winter running challenge) overlapping with it spawns new horrors.  Our beloved Smiley Elder having incorporated a seemingly innocuous requirement ‘in keeping with the season’ to complete an individual challenge as follows:

1. Individual Challenge: By Midnight Sunday February 25th I would like each individual to submit ONE (the first one from each is the only one accepted!) run during which they celebrated valentines day. This can be by something like dressing up (easy peasy), making an appropriate Strava drawing, road signs/names, etc. Your choice! Extra spot points available for particularly inspired efforts, but everyone who submits an effort will earn points in Week 8.

This is a dilemma for me.  As with many Smiletastic challenges, I found myself going through a series of stages akin to the five stages of the  grieving process according to the Kübler-Ross model.  You know.  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression before finally reaching acceptance.  In fact, I’d go so far as to add in the shock and testing addendums to be honest.  I do appreciate and enjoy Smiletastic, it certainly helps me get out there and run in the inclement, dark and dismal winter months, but it is at times stressful.  And although I invariably feel fantastic once the respective challenges have been successfully concluded, I usually despair at the initial seeming impossibility of every task before eventually moving on to realise I need to face up to whatever it is, come up with some solutions and ‘make it so.’

All the same, I’m not a massive fan of Valentine’s Day. It is afterall basically a commercial capitalist conspiracy to make single people feel inadequate and anyone ‘coupled up’ pressurised to buy pointless, over-priced, trashy knickknacks, knowing if they ‘fail’ the appropriate purchase test then the relationship which they hoped was burgeoning will instead be doomed, because a pink fluffy rabbit and enormous smutty card didn’t quite cut it.  Or they committed the cardinal sin of buying their partner sexy crutchless lingerie when the knickers the recipient really wanted were in fact runderwear.  Not the same people, really not the same.

In the spirit of anger and denial, I was originally thinking of just composing a treatise on why Valentine’s day is simply a cynical marketing exercise to fill the coffers of multinationals and contribute to the plastic waste in the oceans as people exchange worthless gifts that will be discarded and end up in landfill quite possibly even before the month is out.  AFter all, the rules do state that all submissions would be rewarded.  I thought I might make it a bit more palatable to the reader by decorating it in glitter or something, maybe.  But then again, glitter is really bad for the environment too is it not?  Also, could I be arsed?  It’s a dilemma.

I wanted to participate and do my bit for the team achievements, but not over-enamoured with the whole romantic love theme.  What to do? So I was stomping round the Sheffield Round Walk route yesterday (an attempt to put miles on my legs as part of my marathon training – another challenge about which I appear to be in complete denial) with this churning around in my mind.

sheffield-round-walk-outdoor-city.900x0

What could I do that wouldn’t be too saccharin, but might meet the requirements.  Well, I’ll tell you what dear reader, just look about you!  Isn’t it always the way. A run can clear your head and offer up practical solutions to seemingly impossible tasks. No really.  As I made my way out of Meersbrook Park, a vision appeared before me.  A perfect manifestation of the complexity of Valentine’s Day.  Literally rubbishing the romantic ideal. Genius. What’s not to like?

Rubbishing romance (1)

There you go people, a bleeding, broken heart, shunted out onto the cold winter street along with the rubbish.  Rarely have I been so happy to see an over-worked symbol of romantic love sprayed on a litter bin. I’d go so far as to say ‘never’ in fact! That’s the individual Smiletastic challenge in the bag, I though, I need not write my treatise now, and waste glitter, so everyone wins. Yay!

But you know what dear reader?  This part of the Sheffield Round Walk just kept on giving.  Only a little further on and even more delights were delivered up as I was musing on my good fortune.  Look what I found next.  Not just another heart, but an anagram of our Smiley Elder’s own name, with the ‘M’ preface to emphasise her marvelousness, magnificence,  majesty, and mightily magnanimous nature, to all and sundry (as if that was necessary).  Things were most definitely looking up!

But you know what?  Valentine themed sightings are like buses, they come in threes.  Just a couple of hundred metres on, and another heartfelt sighting.  Now, this may not please the grammar police of course, I feel an apostrophe is needed somewhere, and personally I favour capitalisation in these circumstances, at least at the commencement of the sign, but even so, never noticed this place before:

My fathers heart

I was happy.

From the bottom of my heart.  Hearts everywhere, feeling the Smiletastic love.  Here’s another..  No really, it was there, under the bridge, near the muse heart.  Hurrah!  Not that I approve of graffiti, obviously, but don’t see why I can’t use it to my advantage if it’s already out there.

Love

Love Sheffield

Love Smiletastic. Never said otherwise.  Honestly.  🙂

Didn’t see this one out and about today, but endorse the sentiment.

i-heart-sheffield-1

 

Categories: motivation, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Up’n’at it at Attercliffe Alphabet soup run. Dragonflies are ready to go!

Digested read: wow, the Smiletastic challenge for February was a bit daunting.  Run a street for every letter in the alphabet, seriously?  Guess what, what seems impossible as an individual is achieveable as part of a team.  Go Smilies in general and Smiletastic dragonfly Smilies in particular. We’ve got this.  Run planned, just need to execute now. Eeeeezeee.  🙂

Did you know that the Air Guitar World Championships take place each year in Oulu, Finland?   Me neither to be fair, until recently.  But some things, once you know, can never be unknown.  On my bucket list now, just saying. The rules are here – I love that your air guitar can be either electric or acoustic. Very inclusive.

The thing is, whilst not disputing that an Air Guitar World Championships would be über cool, even if it wasn’t set in the super cool location of Finland, we do have some pretty cool contests happening here in Sheffield.  I speak dear reader, of course, of Smiletastic 2018.  Our Smiley Paces Running Club winter challenge, to keep us Sheffield women up and running in the cold and dark.   This is for the most part good, but can be stressful, as some challenges require not only the inclination and ability to run about, but also initiative, team work and creativity.  Fortunately, you don’t have to find all the skills within yourself, you can parasitise harness the skills of fellow team mates.  Thus, we achieve more collectively than might be possible for us as individuals. Such is the nature of teamwork, and the awesome power of the collective endeavour of any  group of motivated Smilies.  Together we are invincible.  Eventually.  Took a while though.

So it was, the new month of February, brought with it a new challenge.  Expressed as follows:

 

2. Team Challenge: By Midnight Sunday February 25th the team who has incorporated
streets/roads/lanes/tracks in Sheffield which start with different letters of the alphabet into the shortest number of runs will earn the most points. Here’s a website to help your planning. https://www.proviser.com/regional/towns/sheffield/street_maps
(there’s no X, but I’m sure that’s no barrier to your imagination!)
• A team’s submission can be made up from a number of runs from different people or you can delegate planners and runners.
• The distance of each run can be as long or as short as you want, but each one must be continuous – ie. You can’t run along a road starting with “B”, then pause your watch, drive to another area and unpause your watch to run along a road stating with “H”. That should be uploaded as TWO separate runs not ONE. However, if there’s a tie, then the team who did it in the shortest total distance will win.
• The team’s submission should come to me from ONE PERSON in a table form as shown in the
example (obviously, you’ll need more rows than this…. or will you?)
• I’m not going to check every street or even every run – again its up to your honesty.
As the month progresses you’ll be able to refine your first “full-house” and focus your team’s runs to “collect” letters. Please don’t submit your team’s result too soon – there are no prizes for the first. If you want me to check anything, then feel free to send it to me to ask questions.
Example:

table
etc… until you’ve “bagged” every letter
Happy Running!
Smiley Elder

(She doesn’t actually sign herself off like this, as ‘Smiley Elder’, but I think she should, so editorial licence here).

So that was the requirement.  I wasn’t overly enamoured with this.  Too hard, impossible even.  I could have wept.  Fortunately, very fortunately indeed, it wasn’t all down to me.  Rather there was a mighty swoosh of dragonfly wings, and by mutual consent, we agreed to collective action and collective responsibility.  As will all such calls for action, we would commence with a planning meeting. We would do this in an evening so we could multi-task and segment bag an after 9.00 a.m run at the same time.  We were on fire, we would be invincible, we were so on this, see us visualise and so achieve our own glorious success.

Well, something like that.  It was nippy, but we did gather.  It was very jolly to meet up with fellow Dragonfly team mates, but it is just possible, that our gathering together led to an element of colluding with mutual inaction in relation to go out in the cold and dark to bag a segment for example, rather than motivating us to act.  The problem was partly due to our host’s extreme hospitality.  I mean answer honestly – which would you rather do, stay inside drinking tea and gorging on giant chocolate buttons or venture out in the icy darkness and try to find a golden segment.  I mean golden segment bagging is all well and good, but the novelty does wear off.  We Smilies may love to run, but we are also mortal. Well most of us, quite clearly the ultra runners and GB triathletes, Smiley founders and Smiley elders are all basically deities in human form, speaking personally though, I am definitely mortal.   It is my job to make others look fabulous by comparison, I undertake this task quite brilliantly, if I say so myself. I’m not sure if that is quite the strategy this motivational quote is advocating, but I say, just do what works for you and yours.

be somebody

So where was I?  Oh yes, at our planning meeting which was cold and where we were not very good at motivating one another to go out segment bagging, but extremely good at eating giant chocolate buttons instead.  That, and planning fancy dress, which to be fair is very distracting, particularly when there are so many genius ideas, individually and collectively to be explored.  Mermaid leggings are a boon are they not?  How have I lived my whole life through to this point, that’s over half a century of possibilities, and not known of even the existence of these splendid clothing options?  I say ‘lived’ my whole life, but until now I had no idea what I was missing out on, now I realise I have just been barely existing, hanging on to the edges of life, moving through hours, days, weeks and years as if living in black and white.  A two-dimensional twilight world where mermaid leggings had never appeared in my frame of reference. Yet here we were, gathered in a Sheffield home gazing in admiration at this amazon acquisition made by one of our number.  We were in awe!  These were game changers.  I was seeing in 3d for the first time.  Oh brave new world that has such wonders in it.

mermaid leggings

Granted, only a doll could actually fit into them, or a particularly skinny pre-pubescent child, but even so.  Having said that, it disturbs me somewhat that infinitesimally sized metallic leggings are described as ‘sexy’.  That feels very wrong suggesting that the writer of the strap line could look at an underweight child wearing cheap see-through metallic fish scaled tights and objectify them in such terms.  Still, ignoring that, and focusing instead on the self-serving ‘oh my gawd, they are completely brilliant, let;s all splash out and buy two pairs each and wrap them round stretched out coat hangers to make dragon-fly wings‘ they were potentially absolutely fabulous purchases.  This is what eBay and Amazon were made for!  Supplying consumer items you didn’t realise you wanted, but now you know they are out there, it’s not so much a ‘want’ any more, but an actual raw raging desire. Mermaid leggings are no longer trivial fluffy take-it-or-leave-it flotsam, they have transitioned into purchases that are essential not only for mental health, but for the very continuation of life.  If we do not acquire these in bulk, with immediate effect, we will not be able to breath…

Then again, I’ve still not given up on the plan for sparkly tights and reused plastic cups to make the abdomen as an alternative fancy dress option. We still have work to do. We are working towards excellence though, for sure.  Cling film and coat hangers are always a boon too, lots of potential there.

dragonfly fancy dress sorted

So as you can imagine, despite convening at the agreed hour, it took quite a while to excitedly exchange fancy dress ideas and eat our way through the assorted snacking options.  Ultimately though, we did have to turn our hive brain to the task in hand.   This alphabet run, what are we going to do to ‘make it so’?

I had no idea.  I was feeling quite negatively inclined towards it, I’d imagined it would require trial and error, go out and bagsy as many street names as you could within our local vicinity and then add in the missing street names to fill the gaps.  In the circumstances, it was extremely fortuitous that the success or otherwise of this task did not stand or fall by dint of my efforts.  Even more fortuitously, it seems we had at least one smart, funny, creative and logical thinker in our midst.  Turns out, rather than doing the whole trial and error thing until you lost the will to live, there is a better way!  Who knew?

All you have to do, is first located the street names that begin with letters t;hat occur really infrequently, like Z say, and then look for routes near that. This took us to Zion Street, in Attercliffe, which is the single road name within Sheffield that begins with Z.  Then it was a simple matter of picking off roads in the same postcode area by simply using the street names index in our A-Zs.  It took a while, but amazingly, we found pretty much all of them. There are no streets beginning with X, but we thought maybe a trip to the cemetery would help us bagsy a cross and that would do it.  Hurrah.  In the end (spoiler alert) when we actually went out and did our alphabet run for real, we plumped for a different genius option, but that was later this was now.

I was hampered in contributing in any meaningful way to  this exercise by poor eyesight, poor initiative and, despite having had the foresight to bring along a Sheffield A-Z with me to the meeting, I spent quite a bit longer inadvertently staring at completely the wrong page  than I could reasonable explain away as a deliberate attempt at self-deprecating humour.  Once exposed as being this clueless, I subsequently limited myself to nodding earnestly at other people’s suggestions, and thrusting my A-Z under the noses of other runners with more seeing eyes. Well, sometimes it’s in the interests of the greater good to accept your limitations and instead bolster the efforts of others with more appropriate skills sets for the tasks in hand.  This is what I like to tell myself anyway.  I’m still working towards identifying and unlocking my unique skills set.  I’m really hoping I’m a late developer, and I didn’t really peak when I made that very fine caterpillar out of egg boxes in nursery when I was about three.  It was a very good caterpillar though.  Shame it fell down the back of the old Victorian radiator it had been left on to dry, impossible to retrieve, and never again to see the light of day.  I wonder if it might still be there?  Maybe future generations will some day find it, and think it was deliberately preserved because it was such a delightful and precious artefact?  If that was the pinnacle of my achievements in life, it would be quite a comfort to think that might be so.

Ironic really, I thought dragonflies had really good eyesight.  Not me though.

the eyes have it

Astonishingly, once we were focused on the task and agreed strategy, we had a list of the entire alphabet (apart from the non eXistent X) nailed!  Hurrah!  Gawd we are an awesome team!  Here are some of our workings, in case the point scoring system for Smiletastic requires this in the event of a tie. You know, like in maths exams, where you get credit for how you approach the problem even if you decimal point is a few places out at the end.  I think that’s why CEOs of major companies like BHS or Carillion or Barings Bank  get mighty payoffs despite bankrupting their businesses and running off with pension funds as long as they are able to wave some paperwork showing they were honestly trying and not at all just asset stripping and lining their own pockets as quickly as possible before doing a runner.  How otherwise did they pass their audits?  Quite.

road list

So there was an initial warm glow of enthusiasm and relief that we had our target road names in our sights, and then there was the realisation this somehow had to be converted into a runnable route.  Uh oh.  That seemed impossible all over again….  honestly (yes, I’m sorry team, I should have had more faith in our collective wisdom) I’d expected some awkward shuffling about and people avoiding eye contact, fearful that the slightest twitch might imply we’d volunteered to take on the task.  However, in fact one of our number just stepped up, immediately, with a can-do attitude and superhero cape.  Amazing.  Smilies are extraordinary.  I’d give a bonus point for that myself.

And you know what, she did exactly that, harnessing the services of bespoke technology to communicate the route intentions to us all.  Fair genius all of this.  It’s like a parallel wonderland, I had no idea you could do this. ‘You’ being the operative word, I’m still not quite sure I could, but then again, I didn’t need to, that task had been effectively outsourced, and here is the result.  Amazing.  plotaroute attercliffe alphabet run

plot a route alphabet

There remained however just one teensy issue.  Ophidiophobia.  I know, easy to say.  The thing is, none of us knew at the point of route plotting (or if they did, they weren’t letting on)  but there is a snake shop along the way.  I find this hilarious, but I’m not in the ophidiophobic category, which in some ways is a shame as it’s the most brilliant word I’ve come across in ages and ages.    On the contrary, I do positively like snakes.  I have seen some amazing ones in my time, from adders in Northumberland to snakes in Africa.  I like warthogs more though. They are the best animals in the world.  FACT.

The shop in question has an unambiguous name, so generally should be easy to avoid. However, not it seems,  if you are doing a scheduled Smiletastic alphabet run, we would be running on by.  Never mind, we dragonflies would protect our ophidiophobic comrade.  You can’t say fairer than that.  We would help her to feel the fear and do it anyway.

the snake shop attercliffe

Afterwards she would feel invincible, we would share high fives, there would probably be a group hug and everything, it would be fine and dandy.  We are so awesome.  All of us.

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As an added boon, our run would start at a running shop. Accelerate being a good location to meet up.  Unfortunately, we were going to meet on a Sunday, so we’d have to satisfy our lust for running gear by salivating on the window pane as our noses pressed up against the windows of the closed shop front.  Never mind.  There will be other days and other opportunities to splash the cash at our running shop second home.

Best of all, in a fit of synchronicity, we had near unanimous agreement to undertake the run.  All for one and one for all – well near as dammit.  We’d set about this run in two turnouts on consecutive Sundays.  We might even get a whole team turn out.  Surely, if there was any justice in the world (which alas there isn’t, see reference to CEO payouts above) we’d get heaps and heaps of Smiletastic points.

This would be greater even than The Poem.  The Poem, penned by one of our very own, in tribute to the Hill of Doom Golden Segment run, which Smiley Elder herself decreed to be – and I quote:

one of the best ever poems connecting running the Hill of Doom and Valentines Day

and we all know there are a great many poems on exactly that theme, I myself have an old compendium lurking that gathers together the many words poured out on the topic.

generate

I’ve only got the paper back, not the leather bound, gold embossed collectors’ edition.  I’m sure there will be a rush to print a new edition now, as soon as word of this new verse gets out.  In the interim here is a sneak preview, copyright of the author of course.

Hill of Doom?
Valiant and virtuous, we step out in the night
Arms feeling chilly in the waning moonlight
Legs moving slowly, then gaining speed
Energy rising at the thought of our deed
Nothing can stop us as we pound up the hill
Time becomes trivial, just driven by will
Injured ones resting, weight off their toes
Nurture recovery, no worries or woes
Elated and joyful as the end becomes near
Sophie and I, yes, we’re full of good cheer

Dragonflies, effortless, passed darkened trees
Along flightpaths of grasshoppers, ladybirds, bees
You never know what you might see, it is said
Segment uploaded, now get home to bed!

As she’s a dragonfly to the core, I expect she’ll end up using this as her author photo, isn’t she fabulous people?  Fabulous and awesome.

dragonfly to the core

Oh hang on, have I gone off topic?  I’m so sorry, I really don’t think that’s ever happened before, I just thought you might be interested.  And the hill of doom is quite steep.  You know what, in for a penny, we are on a detour anyway, so why not go the whole hog and let you see the Strava, then you can enjoy an interactive poetry experience, go run it yourself, and recite the poem in the great outdoors once you get to the highest point.

golden segment

You’re welcome.  After all, why should we smilies have the monopoly on Sheffield running joy?

I’m done now though, we had our plan for the alphabet run, we abandoned our late run plans, but you know what, what we achieved collectively was pretty epic.  We had a plan, just the little question of implementing it, but I had faith. What seemed to me impossible as an individual, was within grasp by dint of my amazing team mates.  Hurrah!  Team work is a wondrous thing.

We so have this!

Read about how we got on when we were up and at it in Attercliffe for real here

Read about all our Smiletastic adventures here – scroll down for older entries.

Or just don’t eat buns and watch telly instead, all are viable options.

Where are your running adventures going to take you?  Hope you have a team to watch your back, and I especially hope you have a penchant for collective fancy dress, everything running related is extra fun where that is concerned.  Ask a ladybird.  They can’t help themselves, they really can’t.

ladybird smilies cant help themselves

Just saying.

 

Categories: motivation, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Healing Botanicals – communal golden segment bagging by team dragonfly for Smiletastic 2018

Digested read: we dragonflies met, we ran a golden segment in the Sheffield botanical gardens together as stipulated by our running club’s Smiletastic challenge, we departed, but not before we’d taken some photos.

botanical dragonflies meaning

So that’s good to know. We, the Dragonfly Smiletastic team is pretty awesome if you believe everything that comes up in a Google search, which for the purposes of this blog post I most definitely do.  Whether or not other users of the Sheffield Botanical Gardens fully appreciated that witnessing us bagging a Smiletastic golden segment this lunchtime was an opportunity for them to move closer to self-realisation, and greater emotional and mental maturity that might bring an understanding of the meaning of life within their grasp I’m not sure.  To be honest, I’d go so far as to say I’m actually dubious.  I guess we running dragonflies were as pearls cast before swine.   We were a lovely sight to behold all the same don’t you think?

Botanical gardens dragonflies fly past

Not to worry, their loss.  Anyway, the actual meaning of life is now widely accepted as being 42, so perhaps they didn’t feel any need to engage with our running exploits. It’s a thought?

meaning of life is 42

The point is,  Elder Smiley stipulated that the Golden Segment to be run this week, was located in the Sheffield Botanical gardens, and because we Dragonflies are a social and supportive lot, those of us that were able to do so, congregated outside the Pavilion Glasshouse to run it together this Friday lunchtime.   This also involved quite a lot of companionable and nurturing chit-chat, and was followed up with a bit of a walk. But that’s OK, because walks are not only an acceptable strategy within the rules of Smiletastic, making it compatible with taking a buggy out with you, but walking is also highly recommended not just for marathon training purposes, but for actual marathon running,  so everyone’s a winner.  Hurrah!

So here we are assembling and being lovely and photogenic:

botanical gardens dragonflies

The Smiley youth movement rep wasn’t entirely feeling the love.

And here are some of us actually running it:

Which just goes to show that all:

Dragonfly

Runners

Are

Glorious.

Out

Nabbing

Fabulous

Little

Individual

Elusive

Segments

as companionably as they can. And this is where/ what we ran.  Only a short one, but by the time I’d run down and back and rambled through the Botanical Gardens it ended up being 5 miles.  Who knew?

botanical gardens segment and constitutional

The segment was the blue bit by the way, from the Pavilion, down, round the fountain at the bottom and back up to the top. Great place for doing hill reps…. in theory.  We didn’t entirely feel a need to check it out in practice.

That’s all.

Be seeing you.

Timitalia_-_dragonfly_(by)

😉

 

 

 

 

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Snow fun or it’s no fun? You decide. Nine after nine Dragonflies as the Smiletastic contest continues in the snow.

Digested Read:  nippy out, but we nine dragonflies nabbed after nine Smiletastic points.  I nearly got hypothermia and died out on them there hills, but that was but a small price to pay in the name of snow art.  Smiley solidarity saw me through.

Oh my life.  That was unpleasant.  Smiletastic has a lot to answer for.  I was practically hypothermic by the time I got home from my run last night, but needs must when the call goes out from team dragonflies. One for all, and all for one. Ours is not to reason why, it might be dark and snowing and treacherous out there, but type 2 fun is still fun after all… of a sort.

In case you are exceptionally slow on the uptake and haven’t grasped what was going on here, once again, me and some fellow Smiley Paces buddies were on Golden Segment banging duties.  The blah de blah for this in brief, is that basically, Smiletastic is a three-month team-based challenge amongst fellow members of the Smiley Paces Women’s Running Club. Smiley Elder, founder of the initiative, summarises it most succinctly as follows: ‘SMILETASTIC is a motivational challenge to help runners to keep up their running targets throughout the winter months.’ Alongside committing to doing so many runs a week, bonus points can be nabbed by entering into the Smiletastic spirit, running before 7.00 a.m. and after 9.00 p.m. at night, and also, as in this case,  for running specified Strava sections, known as ‘golden segments’ which, to be fair, makes it sound like nabbing them should be way more fun than it actually is.  There are a number of team, but I’m a dragonfly, so that’s the most important one and you don’t need to worry about those bees, grasshoppers and erm, can’t even remember the other team – oh yes ladybirds.  Those other insects are of no consequence in this context.  Generally speaking though, insects are massively important to the world’s ecosystem and should be nurtured not swatted away.

We are in week three of the Smiletastic challenge, and after we dragonflies stormed ahead in week one we were knocked into second place in week two.  Whilst we do all claim to be non competitive, nevertheless we clearly can be goaded into collective action.  Case in point.  The weather this week has been horrendous.  I mean, seriously vile.  Whilst pristine snow glittering under a starlit sky might be appealing to run in, here we have had driving bullet like blizzards and lethal slush and ice in abundance.  Being intrepid is all very well, but in honesty, were it not for the impetus of my Smiletastic team buddies I’d favour staying in and working on perfecting the art of embracing an absolute rest day, – which is actually a recognised and important yet often neglected part of any decent training programme –  rather than venturing out anywhere possibly never to return…

The ‘Golden Segment’ was announced. When it went up it sounded innocuous enough, appealing even, but that was last week when the weather was altogether more clement and less life-threatening. Smiley Elder cheerily posted:

The Golden Segment for the week beginning 15th January 2018 is slightly further afield but is one you should all know and is not too difficult to get to (unless it snows!!). The link is https://www.strava.com/segments/14206248 and its called “Ringinglow Road -going up” which just about sums it up. If you run uphill from Hangram Lane to the Norfolk Arms you’ll definitely go along it.

With a helpful Strava picture too, just in case:

ringinglow going up

Yep, that looked fine and dandy.  Bit of a hill, but nothing we Sheffielder’s aren’t all too familiar with.  Plus, classic stretch of the half marathon route, so not too complicated navigationally speaking, and it’s nice to make the effort to head out to the hills.  It would be grand.

I know it’s only 0.2 mile but remember dear reader we had to get up to it and back again.  For the record the snowy dash bit ended up at 3.1 miles plus I had to walk a bit over a mile to get down to meet my lift so I suppose I did about 5.5 miles out in the blizzard in total.  You see what happened was, the the weather changed, and every sinew in my body and brain cell in my head screamed at me to stay inside.  It went from being dank January to ‘run out of energy and supplies in antarctica‘ within a couple of hours.  No idea how that happened.  Vile is an understatement.  Don’t tell, but I was even thinking that I might duck out of this particular segment snatching session all together.  We’d prearranged to meet on Wednesday night last week, but that was before the ice storm came.  By Tuesday, there was a blizzard blowing and thick ice which meant I could barely venture out of the house on foot, let alone in a car to make the rendezvous point, and it’d be too far to run the whole way out there with my fitness levels even if I did think I’d survive the elements.  There was a bit of nervous chit-chat on our Facebook group (it’s closed, like a secret society, so don’t bother trying to find it anywhere to spy on us), but no-one really wanted to be the first to wimp out.  I think if anyone had though at this stage, there might have been an eager torrent of wussing out runners behind in tight formation.

And then.

This.

On the Smiletastic page, those pesky bees had only gone out in a blizzard being all smiley spirited and cheery against the odds.

bee’s braved the snow blizzards tonight to run the golden segment with an after 9pm finish 💪💪 thank you ladies for a lovely hill run with a muddy off road trial section added. #Teambees🐝

What’s more, they accomplished the task all solidarity and smiles, and returned a bit bedraggled and with a hood full of snow which was inadvertently emptied onto a hall floor in one case, but fundamentally not dead.  AND they were getting an extra bang for their buck by collectively achieving post 9.00 p.m. runs.

The bees are upping their game. Their fancy dress offering was a sight to behold.  Granted they may have done a bit of tinting post run with photoshop, but I believe this is how they rocked their look on the way round Graves parkrun last Saturday. Impressive, I mean some of those deeley boppers are pretty substantial, you’d think it would alter your centre of gravity, but maybe not as much as actually having your arms bound to your sides by black gaffer tape as at least one runner had to contend with.  Respect team bees.  Loving the personalised nature of the outfits too.   Can’t wait to see them all out and about again soon!

busy bees in fancy dress at Graves

One solitary grasshopper reported mournfully that they had limped out all alone along the segment and returned sodden.  Discovering en route that even her walking boots were insufficient protection against the elements as a previously unnoticed hole let a whole glacier pass through her footwear whilst she trudged up the hill.  It is testament to her great mental strength that she was still able to see a plus side, commenting ‘On the positive side I had a free microdermabrasion facial walking through the hail on Ringinglow road this afternoon!! #newrunner #illequippedgrasshopper #justaboutstillsmiling!‘  To be fair, I think that probably did merit a bonus point.  It’s hard enough going out in this, going out all alone is tougher still.  No wonder she was hearing voices from under the snow by the end of it.  Not sure who took these photos for her, she maybe was being tailed by a drone.

Well, that’s all very impressive and all, from the bees and one grasshopper (it’s a start) and it did rally our resolve.  We couldn’t cave in now could we, seeing as how the bees had been out in a blizzard.  Besides, we’d already agreed we would go for late points, and we’d already established most of us were free in principle at least and now we’d had the standard set by those pesky busy bees buzzing about … well,  we felt compelled to follow through what we started.  We would do this. We can do this!  What’s the worst…  Cue a flurry of ‘OH MY GAWD have you seen the weather out there!?’ posts.  And checks and double checks that we were all going through with it, no-one fancied heading off out up there on their own.

So urged on by a surge of ‘I will if you will‘ promises and counter promises, 8.00 p.m. came and I headed off on foot to a rendezvous point on Ecclesall Road at 8.25.  I was cold. It was freezing.  So cold in fact, that I abandoned the plan of running in a conventional running jacket in favour of a ‘proper’ walking coat.  I had a head torch and hi-viz and a bobble hat and also brought with me a bad attitude.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t too slippery underfoot, but then I was wearing my Irock shoes which are brilliant.  I stood shivering in the vicinity of where I thought we were meeting. I was a couple of minutes early but standing still even briefly brought with it a real risk of being frozen rigid to the spot.  As the seconds ticked by I started to lose confidence in whether I was waiting in the right place, which is better than losing consciousness due to cold I suppose but not the greatest of feelings all the same.  I don’t have a smart phone, so started to imagine ending my days here, collapsed in a foetal position outside the Trinity United Reformed Church – or whatever it is – whilst my dragonfly buddies were cavorting with cheery abandon in front of a cosy open fire somewhere, ignorant of my demise.  Fortunately, just as I was at the point of wondering what to do, always a worrying trend, the other liftee appeared and we shivered together for a few minutes.  Eventually, she had the bright idea of checking for messages on Facebook, and result.  We were indeed waiting in the wrong place, and our driver was similarly fretting in their car a short distance away, lamenting our absence.  A quick scurry across the road and we were all united and lift secured we were on our way, heading on up to the Hammer and Pincers.

Coming up the hill from Endcliffe Park, it was amazing how quickly the weather deteriorated.  You could hardly see out of the car as a combination of thick sleet, hail and snow tumbled out of the sky.  The roads which had been clear just a bit lower down were now lined with slush, and then piles of snow.  By the time we got to the car park, it was feeling ominous.  Good news, our fellow running buddies were already there, some waiting inside granted, but basically raring to go.  There were nine of us.  Yay!  That was heartening, team solidarity, go us.  I nearly had a tantrum as I wasn’t going anywhere without my GPS being picked up, but disaster was averted as my TomTom bleeped its satisfaction I was being tracked.  And that was it, off we went, heading out about 8.40 ish.

I was soon at the back, I’m always at the back anyway because I’m a slow runner, but on this occasion I wasn’t feeling too confident as it was so dark, and the mix of ankle-deep snow / slush combo meant I couldn’t get a sense of what was under my feet.  The others streamed ahead and I got further behind. This was not joy-filled running.  It was head down, teeth gritted, try not to get run over venturing out.  ‘You go on without me‘ I called after them, as my voice was carried away on the wind.

mawson-wind1

There were a few cars around, most were OK, but one or two roared past, crazy.  The pavements were so deep in snow we ended up having to run on the road at some points and I felt vulnerable. This is not a run I’d have liked to do on my own.  Onwards and upwards, it was a bit of a trek to get to the segment, but then we could heave ho up from Hangram Lane to the Norfolk Arms.  We paused only when we got to the top – and then we ran on a bit just to make absolutely sure we’d gone far enough.. and then turned back again as pretty quickly, away from the light of the pub it was like we were heading into an abyss.  We bottled it. Back to outside the pub and then…  we espied virgin snow.

What can you do with virgin snow? Well, it was quite obviously still there for our merriment and as an outlet for our artistic talents.  One immediately went for a daintily drawn dragonfly in the soft white snow. I thought it looked beautiful.  Dragonflies are supportive, but we are also honest, and have integrity and are prone to giving one another unsolicited feedback.  At least you know where you stand.  ‘That looks like a gnat‘ said one of our number, who shall remain nameless.  Harsh I thought.

Meanwhile, I was engaged in my own excavation endeavour.   I was pretty pleased with it:

CM genius dragonfly

As ever, I find the non-running aspects of Smiletastic challenges play to my strengths more than the actual running challenges.  An observation which has not gone unnoticed by Smiley Elder.  Still, where would we Smiley Paces be without Smiley Spirit eh?  The thing is, genius as my creation clearly was, you couldn’t really get a sense of scale, and it was a perfectly Lucy-sized construction.  The best way to demonstrate this would be to wear the wings, a la creating a snow angel.  To be frank, I was ready for a bit of a lie down after all that strenuous running, so it didn’t seem to be such a bad idea at the time, and the dragonfly fitted me like a glove!

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A couple of astonishing things though that I noticed in retrospect. Firstly, bizarrely, none of the other dragonflies wanted to have a go at lying down in 6 inch deep melt water in the interests of a photo-opportunity and the outside chance of a Smiletastic point. I know!  How strange.  Secondly, despite our shrieking, and me lying down spreadeagled and motionless with Smilies leaning in around me like they’d come across a corpse in Midsummer Murders, no-one in the Norfolk Arms pub came out to help/investigate or even point and laugh.  Missed opportunity for all of them. Still, it goes to show just how bitter it was out there, not the kind of night you’d choose to venture out for anything at all, unless it was an emergency such as the need to honour a pledge to nab a golden segment in week three of Smiletastic.

After a bit, we were bored with the photos and messing around in the snow, so we headed off again back down the hill this time.  I had a brief moment of feeling ‘oh wow, my running’s really improved now I’m all warmed up, I feel like I’m flying now we’ve done a couple of miles’ before I remembered that having gravity on your side is a real asset in this running games malarkey.  Oh well, it was still an improvement on running up hill into driving hail.  I was in the most spectacular hi-viz, that lights me up like I’m my very own solar system if headlights hit it.  I’m even spherical by way emphasis.  I therefore ‘volunteered’ to stay at the back as others in the group had less hi-viz about them.  This was a great cover story for me too, since it implied ‘well obviously I could sprint all the way home, but I’m prepared to martyr myself and jog at a leisurely pace for the greater good.‘  On a serious note though, at the back as I was, it was quite shocking how invisible the group looked, despite head torches and a few reflective strips, they just disappeared into the night sky.  It was a timely reminder that hi-viz is essential on night runs, especially when you are having to venture on to the roads because the pavements are thick with ice, snow and slush.  Scary.

We paused for photo opps by Hangram Lane to match the one taken outside the Norfolk Arms.  I concede reluctantly, the bees might have managed better with their photos, but then – and I don’t like to rub it in too much but I’m only saying what is true here – they had only seven bees to fit in the frame whereas we were nine dragonflies.  Much more challenging on the group selfie front!

By the time we got back to our starting point of the Hammer and Pincers, it was well past 9.30.  I was sodden.  I was inwardly cursing at how poor the ventilation and waterproofing was on my jacket, before it occurred to me that it might possibly be that lying in the hill-top slush earlier could be a contributing factor.  Some departed, some of us went into the pub for post run refreshments.

I haven’t been in there for ages. Some shared a bottle of wine, I opted for a lime juice and soda.  It came with a plastic straw.  ‘Oh no, why have you done that?’ I exclaimed with a bit too much passion to the bemused looking bar staff.  I tried to explain that I’d not asked for a straw, so it was complete waste, and as a non recyclable item it will probably end up in the ocean, so giving me a straw is basically like sentencing an endangered turtle to a slow and painful death. I felt a bit guilty that I’d been so abrupt, but I was hyped from running, and hypothermic from snow.   In fact, it was a good thing, as after me another dragonfly also ordered a lime juice and soda – no straw.  He asked her ‘what’s with this plastic straw thing’ and she explained in more measured tones, and afterwards he said he’ll ask customers in future if they want one or not, which is only a very minor change, but minor shifts in behaviour do add up.  Nobody really needs a straw more than the oceans need to be plastic free, and if they do, paper or bamboo straws could always be used instead.  To be fair, I think the Blue Planet series has really raised awareness on this, and that’s grand.  I just hope it isn’t all too little too late…

plastic waste

It was nice in the pub to begin with.  Despite plastic strawgate, it was friendly and welcoming with a flame effect fire and lots of places to sit.  However, quite soon I started to shake with cold.  I was quite pleased when it was time to go home.  I was dropped off by my driver at Endcliffe and by then there was a fair old blizzard going.  It wasn’t a long walk home by any means, but I was quite shocked at how much the cold seemed to take hold inside.  By the time I got to my house I could hardly hold my house keys, and once I got in my skin was burning and red as the warmth of the house hit my frozen flesh. Brrrr.  We better have nabbed both a segment, and some post nine bonus points and some smiley spirit or I’ll… well, cry probably, but at least the hot tears running down my cheeks might help my face to thaw out a bit, ill wind and all that 🙂

The things we do for Smiletastic.  It is my primary source of running motivation for the early part of the year.  Without Smiletastic, I’d basically hibernate.

So the conclusion. Mainly type two fun, but type one in parts.  Definitely worth doing, there’s no way on earth I’d have ventured out to do that on my own. I still have three more runs to do this week, and I wasn’t feeling the love for running today either, still chilled through from yesterday.  Oh well. Resting is also part of training.  At least I have that part of the regime cracked.

Oh, by the way, the grasshoppers have got as far as new book cover for their ‘grasshoppers guide to running fun’.  I like it.  I’m hoping it will include vegan nutrition ideas.

grasshopper FGR SMiley guide

No idea what the ladybirds are up to.  I think they are keeping their Smiletastic strategy under wraps.  It will all come out in the spreadsheets at the end.  The suspense is killing me!

So next week, we get to do it all again, with another segment.  I wonder where that will take us? New adventures ahead, new runs to explore.  You know what, running is fun, mostly.  Running buddies on the other hand – they are awesome always.  I thank you all, but my dragonfly comrades in particular. We can crack this!  Probably.

By the way, hypothermia in runners is no joke – this blog post by Simon Green – hypothermia as a lifestyle choice really hit home to me, even experienced runners just need one bit of bad luck and everything changes in an instant. Sobering thought.  Always pays to be prepared. Keep safe out there!

Don’t have nightmares.

Do have a nice time out running… though be prepared for type 2!

no such thing

For all my smiletastic related posts click here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

 

Categories: motivation, off road, running, running clubs, teamwork | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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