Posts Tagged With: Smiley Paces

Giving Sheffield the Runaround: Round Sheffield Run 2019

Digested read: Round Sheffield Run came round again.  Did that, got the medal, six out of six.  Yay!

Undigested read:

It’s a long one, but then who wouldn’t want to linger at a location like this?

Lingering location.jpg

Runaround NOW!!  Does anyone else remember that TV show.  No, only me?  Surely someone else is in my demographic.  It was a children’s quiz show, and they all had to run from one end of the studio to another to choose the right answer for some random quiz question and then there was a shout out to ‘runaround NOW!’ from Mike Reid and everyone ran around changing their mind about their answer.  Lots of running around basically, the clue is in the name of the show.  Ring any bells?  There was even a Runaround 1980 techno Christmas special in which an actual robot appeared as co-host.  Life changing AI on our TV screens, once the set had a chance to warm up of course.  You’ll be telling me next you don’t remember that, having to plan ahead and turn the TV on 15 minutes ahead of whatever programme it was.   Oh.  You don’t.  Sigh.  Did you really not even ever experience dispatching a household member to lean out of an upstairs window with a bent coat hanger, trying to improve reception on the aerial whilst you all shouted contradictory instructions at them?  Oh.  How times change.  Trust me dear reader. The past was another country indeed…. we did things differently there.

Hmm, granted, the caged children do in fact seem somewhat dodgy with the benefit of hindsight – anyway, you are completely missing the point.  The point is that come the summer solstice, near as dammit, cometh the hour, whilst the good people of Sweden are busy making their celebratory floral garlands – no really, they are – runners from near and far will be gathering in Endcliffe Park to commence the Round Sheffield Run, or … wait for it… the Sheffield Runaround!  See what I did there?  Because we all get to run-around Sheffield see?  Hilarious, not a laboured anachronistic niche buildup at all, just joyful, seamless expanding on a theme.

I’ll get my coat….

Phew.  That was hard work. It does rather spoil the overall affect if I have to explain it.  You know what, to be honest, if you aren’t experiencing being doubled up with laughter to such a degree that you fear your knickers may never dry RIGHT NOW, best walk away.  No honestly, that’s my humour at its peak, it doesn’t get any better.  For the most part it will get considerably blander.  You can just back away, and we’ll say no more about it.  You’ve not over-invested in reading this account, you can still scroll through a few photos if you want, I shan’t take it personally.  However, if you read on knowing what you know now, that’s contributory negligence, FACT. There isn’t a law firm in the country that will represent you whatever their ads may say to the contrary, so just don’t get drawn in.

Here’s a group sporting Swedish midsummer garlands by the way, just to prove a point.  This post may not amuse you, but you could learn something, nothing useful, but could save you come the compulsory ‘fun’ work quiz at Christmas. Your choice.

Midsummer_Sweden_09

Where was I?  Oh yes, cometh the summer solstice, cometh the Round Sheffield Run.  Not completely synchronised admittedly, which is an important detail, as it would have been a very long wait indeed if you hadn’t double checked the date for this year’s RSR and rocked up on the longest day.  That would have been 10 days early, but you get my drift – and at least that way you’d have been first in the toilet queue.

I lurve the Round Sheffield Run, and have been lucky enough to drag my weary carcass run round it every year so far.  It’s profile has skyrocketed since the year of its debut in 2014, when I’d venture it was just a few hundred from the local area rocking up to check it out.  Now it’s into ballot entry popularity territory and drawing runners from much further afield as a destination event.  Even so,  in my humble opinion it’s remained true to it’s essence of being friendly, inclusive, showcasing the best of Sheffield running and having a festival feel with guaranteed sunshine or your money back* and  it is also a flat one lap route, as in ‘Sheffield flat’ – the marshal at the end of Leg 1 was most conscientious and insistent on this point, alerting runners to the stretch of Sheffield flat just ahead as they approached Forge Dam.  Hilarious for the locals, potentially devastating for the out-of-towners of course, but what’s a bit of collateral damage to them set against the in-joke for them in the know eh?  Besides, all in good humour I’m sure!  You know who you are high-vis hero, but in case of ambiguity, here’s the body-cam footage I took en route.  Can also be seen keeping order at Sheffield Hallam parkrun, so has form on expert regulating of runners.  Hurrah! :

Personally, I really like events that are single lap as well.  It means once you set off you are basically committed aren’t you. You’ve got to make it back for tea at some point, so one foot in front of the other to make it so.  If you prefer the meditative quality of multi-lap offerings, then other options might suit you better.  There’s always the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence 3,100-mile race around a New York block. Yep, you read that right.  Not my bag to be fair, but people do it…  Some claim to have out of body experiences as they do.   Frankly I’m not surprised at all, out of mind might be more apt though…  At least you wouldn’t have to worry about navigation, though lord only knows how you keep count of laps. 5,649 of them you’d have to do.  What would happen if you lost count and had to start again from 1?  It would take a great deal of Zen calm to cope with that eventuality.

I’m not completely uncritical of the RSR though.  Where would be the fun in that?  I’m actually still quite peeved they’ve not taken on board my feedback at all about either increasing the number of unicorns cavorting about the wooded sections or having an archway of rainbows to get you through the finish – despite the latter suggestion clearly being way more reliable than the inflatable archway option (just saying), and probably more environmentally friendly too, now I come to think of it.
whatever it takes

Incidentally, do you think holding up the inflatable finish arch comes under the ‘any other duties’ line on the job description for Event Director?  There are worse unexpected tasks to be fair.  Only the other week I was a supporting artist on a film being made in Sheffield which I shan’t name but which is set in Sheffield and features a drag artist.  Between takes, one of the costume and make-up team was tasked with kneeling at the feet of the lead actor, who was overheating in his phenomenally impressive drag outfit – wig, heels, tights, the whole shebang – frantically flapping away with a paper fan to waft air up the drag artist’s dress in order to try to keep his nether regions suitably cooled.  When you imagine getting your lucky break as a dresser or in the costume department of a feature film I’m guessing this isn’t quite the scenario you’d imagined in your fantasy of a day tending to the stars on set… definitely a key supporting role though, and certainly encompassed by the ‘any other duties’ line, which all we serfs know covers a multitude.

Anyway, undeterred by the silent treatment my quite brilliant suggestions have received to date (I really thought the compulsory fancy dress suggestion would have been enthusiastically embraced at least, it’s inexplicable to me that this hasn’t happened – yet) I’m hopeful that my offering for this year will hit the mark.  Thing is, the after party is all well and good, but having recently discovered the joys of gardening, I feel the post run offering would be massively enhanced if they had a few plant stalls in between the coffee and pizza stalls.  Maybe even a horticultural swap shop, now that would be lovely.  Perfect end to a perfect day.   Just imagine, medal round your neck, pizza in one hand perennials in the other.  Bling and borders covered. Result.  I feel sure pop up plant nurseries are a thing, and if they aren’t, well clearly they should be, and it wouldn’t be the first innovative thing the RSR has brought into being now would it?

Anyway, look you really need to stop distracting me, this account is all over the place.  I want to get this post written up in time for next year’s run at least.  Still, best get the basics out the way.  For the uninitiated – apparently, there are still some of you out there who have yet to savour the delights of this splendid event and have still have no idea what I’m on about – the Round Sheffield Run website blah de blah explains the event thus:

The Round Sheffield Run is the original multi-stage trail running enduro.

​An original, unique, creative and social concept that brings all the best bits of running together into one exciting event.

A superb running journey linking some of the top trails and parkland Sheffield has to offer.

​It would be a tough task to find anywhere in the UK that showcases these kind of trails and scenery within its city limits.

​11 Individually timed Stages each with their own challenge and character make up 20km of racing over the 24.5km route.

The unique format breaks the route down into stages. Each stage being raced, and competitors receiving both results for each stage as well as a combined overall result. Plenty of opportunity for friendly competition!

​Between stages competitors have the opportunity to rest, relax, and regroup with friends (new and old) and refocus before the next stage begins. Competitors can walk or jog between stages. The novel concept creates a supportive and friendly social vibe.

The race format also opens up the course to a wide range of abilities. The support round the course is also something special.

​To top it all off a festival atmosphere at the end with draft ales, tasty food, and great DJ to ensures that everyone can celebrate in style.

Run as an Individual, Pair or even a Team with some top prizes to be won! Including beer!

Fancy yourself as an Elite? This years Elite wave has 250 runners going for top honours! See the entry form for the qualifying criteria.

On the way round, you can eat your body weight in jelly babies or even stop for a latte or ice lolly if the mood takes you if the pics on Facebook are anything to go by, and afterwards join in the big party in the park.

​Astonishingly, some participants choose to forgo the refreshment breaks en route, and actually run the whole thing crazily fast, like a proper race as opposed to a social run, but then again, there is some fine bling for the taking, and if you are sufficiently rapid to get yourself to the front of the queue for the beer tent, why wouldn’t you?  Kudos to those who can.  And, in deference to them as like that sort of thing and are speedy enough to do so, there is an ‘elite wave’ that departs first, so they don’t have to overtake slower runners on the trails as is inevitable if you are a fast runner in one of the following waves.  They have to demonstrate a qualifying time somehow or other.  Not quite sure how, but I think there’s a common sense rather than officious approach taken.

RSR fine trophy

That’s not my trophy by the way, in case you were wondering, though it is my age category for the record, which is why the Runaround reference made sense to me, but I’ve moved on now, I’ll let that go…   I just have to accept dear reader, that you may not even know how to use log books and a slide rule – possibly not even be familiar with colour factor, how you live independently I cannot begin to imagine.

colour factor

So you will have probably sussed by now that I have a huge soft spot for the Round Sheffield Run, I’ve run completed it every year since it started in 2014 and it’s always a joy.  Not even type two fun, but actually type one – in parts anyway –  which given the distance and elevation (1981 ft) is no mean feat!  I managed to enter and even get my preferred wave, the first one of the day!  No, not the elite wave obvs, but the one immediately after, which because you start off early, gives you extra time to get around, and, in my case, disguises my slow progress.  There was some shenanigans with the entry system this year, because of the increasing hype the event attracts. A veritable tsunami of wannabee Sheffield runarounders swamped the site as soon as the entries went live.  This resulted in a crashed site and a hastily introduced semi-ballot system in which I got lucky but others didn’t. There was some flack directed to the organisers which I think unfair. It’s hard when an event becomes so popular that it is over-subscribed, to come up with a universally approved and fair entry system.  However, in reality, as entries open so far in advance, there are always places that come up later on as injury or circumstance means others have to pull out. There is a waiting list that you can join, and you can always secure a ‘free’ place by volunteering to marshal at either the TenTenTen or the RSR in one year – or indeed, getting a friend to do that for you, and blagging their freebie.  Oooh, nice pic on the volunteering info link – am nabbing that – see the views that will unfold before you if you partake of this running banquet through the green spaces of our great city.  Yay, #lovesheffield 🙂  And it really is like that when you get there, there being Meersbrook park.  Stunning views.

panorama rsr

So you enter in, I don’t know, January or something insanely early like that, when you are sat on the sofa fondly imagining yourself having transformed your body into nothing but sinew and muscle by the time the event comes round ‘it’s ages away’ after all, and then you think no more about it.  Until, suddenly it seems it is upon you, and that rigorous training routine you dreamt of, well, in my case at least, spoiler alert – it hadn’t come to pass.  In my defence, I’ve had a particularly shite year, running, however badly, being way down on my list of priorities.  I did consider withdrawing, but then again, it wouldn’t be the first time I’d rocked up to a run woefully unprepared, and I do have the advantage of knowing the route really well.  Also, it is indeed true the event gets you round because of it’s supportive ethos.  It is also true that it is better to rock up under trained but uninjured than over trained and carrying some sort of running related twinging, better runners than me by far have been caught out by less.  This is unfair of course, but true.  As with much of life. But let’s not got too far down that line today.   Today is about positivity and all being well with the world, even if it isn’t at all really, and that’s just the running endorphins kicking in… we have to take what comfort where and when we can.

So I entered, and winter moved into spring, and spring into summer and suddenly the RSR Facebook page is commencing countdown, ooh look here are the t-shirts – here is a teaser of a run stage the week before.

Oops, this was becoming very real suddenly.  Then, after weeks of rain, it became scorchio.  Crappity, crap crap.  Heat is my running nemesis (oh, and hills, and roads, oh and the actually being required to run bits as well, also humidity – that’s even worse possibly –  but mostly heat.)  I am not good in the heat, this does not bode well.  Heat really stymied my London Marathon experience, and I really didn’t fancy doing the Round Sheffield Run under the glare of uninterrupted sunshine.  It didn’t help I got sunburnt on the Friday by accident.  I rocked up to Hallam parkrun on Saturday slathered in sunblock.  Yes, I know proper athletes rest up the day before a big event, but I’ve only really got one gear at the moment, so might as well do parkrun the day before – particularly as I had to go into Frontrunner anyway to make an emergency electrolyte purchase, I’d be near Endcliffe park anyway.  So at parkrun, a couple of things happened. First off, my thickly applied unblock sloughed off as I ran (cough), glooping in a sweaty pool of white stripes congealed in the deeply attractive folds of skin in my neck, giving me the appearance of a new born alien being recently ejected from my egg sac and still dripping afterbirth, or just been doused in ectoplasm or something.  Just to be absolutely clear here, this is not a good look.  Gloop pops up in many different guises, it’s hard to get the adjective that perfectly captures the texture, but you’ll get the general gist I’m sure.  That’s an actual picture of me post parkrun on the right.  Don’t use that look in the nivea sunblock ads now do they?

Some things, only a true friend will tell you, so special kudos to this fab friend, who pointed out this was not the best look, and promised to let me have a go with her non-glooping, but effective S20 the next day.  Wonderwear ambassador, once again I have you to thank for sharing your wisdom!

DSCF2072

Wiping the gloop off my turkey neck as best I could, I went on to Frontrunner in search of electrolytes.  Skip was in charge, effortlessly ignoring me as I went in.  I was thrown initially because they’d moved their display around, but then was informed in response to my enquiry that THERE WERE NO ELECTROLYTES! Well, not the tablets anyway. Oh my gawd, calamity.  This just did not compute.  I stared blinking at the alternative options but I know from bitter experience there is no point in using sports gels or drinks as they trigger my gag reflex more even than framing the tattooed skins of your loved ones for display in the lounge (other room choices are available) after they’ve died.  And trust me, that’s saying something.

Anyway, I used electrolyte tablets for the first time at London in the hottest marathon on record, and I’ve relied on them ever since when the temperature soars. They really do seem to help, they avoid that ‘inquenchable thirst’ sensation, and post run headaches, or have for me anyway.  The thought of doing a hot RSR without them was not the best.  I was annoyed with myself too, because I’d used the last one in my hydration pack for the Hathersage Hurtle, which was ages ago, and I’ve been meaning to nip in and replace them ever since.  Crap. Also, turns out, just blinking vacuously from time to time in between staring in disbelief at the space on the display stand where the electrolyte tablets are supposed to be, doesn’t make them magically appear.  Who knew?  I retreated.  I needed a plan b.  Plan b was maybe get some electrolyte sachets like the ones that are sold for tourists to re-hydrate after getting the runs in a different sense whilst on holiday.  Problem with plan b, was that I couldn’t be bothered to find a proper chemist, and they didn’t have any at the mini Sainsburys I pass on the way home.  Oh well…  eek.

Day before angstiness was well under way.   Things brightened up a bit when I dug out my hydration vest to get my kit ready.  There are water stations on the way round, but I knew I’d probably need more.  This route actually goes past shops during some of the recovery sections so in theory at least, you could nip into the co-op for a bottle of water en route if desperate, but best to go equipped I feel.  Anyway, good news, my slatternly habits are such that I still had an almost full reservoir of water in my running vest, and what’s more, one in which I had previously dissolved electrolytes for the Hathersage Hurtle.  Turned out, didn’t need as much fluid then as I thought.  I had been meaning to empty that out and sterilise it all for ages, but on this occasion, result!  I know it’s probably not the most hygienic thing in the world to keep the water thing filled and lying about for weeks on end, but my need for electrolytes outweighed any risk of near instant death by sepsis from being infected by my own germs.  Hurrah!  Anyway, clearly I’ve survived to tell the tale, so good to know, eh?

Just a matter of digging out my running top.  Erm.  Oh dear.  This was a problem too.  The thing is we have some new Smiley Paces kit.  Now, hear me out, I love my smiley paces buddies, and the ethos of this super friendly club crammed with awesome Sheffield women, however, the kit is not my friend.  The old kit was unforgiving to say the least, and so I was pretty excited when there was a prospect of ordering new kit, in a new design with a clean slate.  I ordered, it duly came.  Now granted, it looks epic on some, the new graphic design is fab, but the actual cut of the shirt.  It’s a no from me.  It only seems to suit a particular body shape which I do not share.  It’s best suited to a coat hanger, but failing that an athletic frame.  My frame is only athletic in the sense that a space hopper might be described as athletic, i.e. not really very athletic at all.

Space_hopper,_Walker_Art_Gallery

I ordered a size big enough to squeeze over my bust, but when it arrived it just swamped me everywhere else on account of being a mens’ fit.  Well, they call it ‘unisex’ but clearly this is bollocks – and I use that term advisedly, because ‘unisex’ always means designed for men.   I might as well run in a toupee teepee.  This garment doesn’t just belong on a coat hanger, but on a coat hanger popped on a rail hundreds of feet in the air.  Not being one to see the glass as always half-empty, I will say this.  Up until the point of trying it on I had thought my self-esteem had already hit rock bottom, but it seems I must have been feeling positively cheery, since the devastating effect of seeing my reflection in the glass whilst wearing this item suggested that in fact I hadn’t, there was still a fair old distance to fall.  I was beyond crushed, it made me never want to leave the house in daylight hours again, and no, I’m not posting a photo of me wearing it even for comedic effect.  It’s too humiliating.  It has been cast to the back of the wardrobe on the floor, never to see daylight again, unless I inadvertently ingest enough growth hormones through my diet to grow an extra three foot in height.  This is unlikely, as I’m vegetarian, so generally avoid ingesting growth hormone in my food.  The problem was, what to wear instead?

I dug out my original smiley vest, but this has endless variants of my name on it, as I personalised it for the London Marathon.  That’s a good top tip actually, if you have your name on your shirt, you get more shout outs from the crowd and it helps keep you going.  I don’t regret that, but such a highly personalised top seems a bit OTT to wear at a local run.  It just would feel a bit egotistical to head out on the RSR with my name front and back, and a bit misplaced given the speed with which I’d be progressing round the course.  Aaargh.  It felt bad, but I honestly didn’t want to be seen in public wearing either garb, so instead reached for my parkrun volunteering tee.  It’s the most forgiving of the running tops I own, and pleasingly, colour co-ordinates with my inov8 parkclaw trail shoes, which I love.  That would have to be the way to go, it seems my loyalty to my running club has some limits.  If only I were an international sporting icon – or indeed some other sort of celebrity, I could have my own kit custom made for my body shape and it would look and feel fab.u.lous.  Here’s hoping that I come to inhabit such a parallel universe comes to pass before the next time I venture out in public for a running event.  Not in time for this year’s RSR alas.

I felt sad not to have a Smiley Vest that I felt confident enough to wear in public, but hey ho, maybe it would be as well to go under the radar given my current fitness levels.  Wouldn’t want to bring the name of the club into disrepute after all, not so much with the requirement to run fast, it’s an inclusive group, speed isn’t everything, it’s more that if you have ‘Smiley Paces’ emblazoned across your front, there is something of an obligation to smile throughout any event when out and about.  Wearing a smile and wearing that new Smiley vest are mutually exclusive.  You can’t force a smile when you are blinking back hot tears of humiliation because what’s been seen in the mirror cannot be unseen. Also, I’d be out and about for rather a long time potentially, that’s quite an endurance test for smiling throughout, even if the smile came easily to begin with …  Maybe I could wear the top and distract people by, oh I don’t know carrying a giant carrot around with me for the duration?  That makes other people smile apparently, thereby potentially removing the obligation for me to do so.  It was a thought…  Mind you, timings a bit tight for making one overnight, that papier mache would too long to dry, and I have no orange paint either, still, there’s always next year.  It’s not Ken Livingston by the way, though possibly his doppelganger.

melbourne carrot man

I wonder how they did the leaves.  Do you think they are actual palm fronds, or made of plastic?  Hard to tell.  Will have to nip across to Melbourne and ask him in person sometime.  He is known for carrying a carrot with him by the way, it’s his thing. Maybe like our John ‘the man with the pram’ Burkhill with the green wig or Tony tending the War Memorial in Endcliffe park.  A known character, part of the landscape, with a particular USP.  We have running icons in Sheffield too.  Pirate Flag man anyone?  All Sheffielders know who I mean!  Spotted at the bottom of the Meersbrook Park hill by me today, but sure he will have popped up all over.  Always worth keeping an eye out for him on Sheffield runs – not that he’s especially hard to spot to be fair, but just so you know to be on the alert.  It’s like the notion of Sheffield flat – man brandishing his enormous jolly roger in the woods, no worries – it’s a Sheffield thing, you’ll work it all out in time!

Hydration ready?  Tick.  Kit ready?  Tick.  Legs ready?  Well, as Mr Loaf says, two out of three ain’t bad.

And you know what was even better?  Whilst I was getting myself ready, the kandoo team were getting the park ready.  So exciting.  This was the night before the morning after.

RSR night before

Looking good, quite a logistical operation. It’s a well oiled team that pull it all together, but even so, must be a relief for the organisers to get to this point. Yay!

So to bed, and slept appallingly and woke up stupidly early.  Oh well.  I was up and about by 5.00 I didn’t need to be, but was awake anyway, and didn’t want to risk dropping off again.  Anyway, pre-race prep rituals won’t do themselves.  Learning the trick of smothering your feet with Vaseline to avoid blisters was a game changer for me, but there is an art to the application so you avoid greasing your entire living space with oily hand and foot prints.  Anti chafing precautions also necessary, and much pinning and repinning of my race number to ensure compatibility with my running vest.  All takes time.  I was in the 8.35 wave, and headed out to walk to Endcliffe about 7.00.  It was a gorgeous day pending, and I felt surprisingly cheery heading on down.  There was a bit of a breeze and sunshine pending, but that was OK, I had my hat, and my tomtom feebie sunglasses, plus the day had dawned, I was going, all good.

The park looked lovely as I approached, all dressed up for a party and swathed in early morning light.  Plenty of route signs along the way too.  It seemed to me that they’d gone to town with directional arrows this year, there seemed to be loads of them, also chalk markings on the road at critical junctions.  Inevitably someone will miss a sign along the way, but hard to see how.

Queen Vic was overseeing everything as always.  I wonder how many different runners, walkers, joggers and doggers she’s seen using this park over the years.  Bit late to start counting now.  It was quiet, but building.  Volunteers were congregating, the bag drop and number and timer stations getting into gear.  Exciting!

and here are some way better official pics capturing the behind the scenes vibe:

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I dumped my bag in the bag drop, got my dibber, and began a scout of the grounds.  I was struck by the sight of the ambulance bike, corralled behind crowd control safety barriers.  I wasn’t sure if it was being secured in this way to protect it from us or we from it.  I commented as much to a fellow runner who had also noticed it.  ‘I’m not surprised it’s shut up, imagine all the great drugs in that lot!‘  Whilst this is potentially a good point well made, and it says much about my lack of imagination that this had never occurred to me, it just shows what a law-abiding lot we good folk of Sheffield are that no-one would dare desecrate the sanctity of such a boundary, oh no, that barrier would be unhurdled and whatever lay within the enclosure was safe as safe could be.  Even though I bet there was at the very least some highly desirable compeed plasters and more than a token foil blanket there for the taking but for those formidable barriers!

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I was extremely flattered to be greeted by name by first the event director and then the dibber distributor, ‘my they must only use super-recognisers to staff the laptops here, I had no idea so many of them lived in Sheffield‘ I thought to myself… before remembering that my number had my name on it.  Oh well.  The novelty didn’t wear thin though, loads of marshals throughout the day shouted support by name to every runner.  Impressive!  It’s nice, it makes you feel like you matter in that moment, however fleetingly, it also meant that in honesty I might as well have worn my old Smiley vest, but hey ho, too late now.

The marshals were being briefed and kitted out with the equipment for their various stations.  Looked like everyone got a set of ski poles as a precautionary measure.  Fair does, you do get pockets of micro-climate in Sheffield, Graves park especially is notorious for being in snow whilst everywhere else enjoys balmy climes and you never know what will face you as you emerge at the top of Ringinglow, it pays to be prepared.

Managed to make contact with one Marshal who is such a regular at this event she has her own nominated spot in Nether Edge.  My how pleased I’d be to make it to her later on in the day.  Also spotted a fellow Smiley – who was rocking the new look with confidence and panache, we paired up for precautionary pee (no queue there yet) and to pose.  We were desperately trying to get snapped by the official photographer, being extra smiley and trying to look casually enthusiastic and photogenic, or at least photo-interesting.  Epic fail, couldn’t get his attention at all.  Had fun trying.  I have form on this actually, decades ago, one long hot summer me and a next door neighbour decided to try to get in as many pictures in the local paper as we could by turning up at church fetes in huge hats or doing hilarious placards at local demonstrations.  That was also an epic fail, not a single picture, not one, but we did also have fun trying then too.  It’s a cheap and harmless hobby – as long as you don’t take things too far and put kittens up trees and dogs in lakes just so as you can rescue them, which is a version of Munchhausen’s I suppose and not to be recommended.  Today, we made do with our own selfies.  Aren’t we lovely?

and my wonderwear ambassador and Hallam parkrun buddy too.  And it wasn’t even 8.00 a.m.  The people are coming!

Traipsed over to get a squirt of S20 sunblock.  I’d got my own on as well, but just wanted to allergy test for the other stuff, as people keep telling me its fab, but it’s expensive if I react to it.  Then, coming back, the queues had suddenly started to appear.  I was glad I’d picked up my number and dibber already.  The queue was immense, and although it was moving relatively quickly, it was daunting to behold.

I say it was daunting, but it was also apparently invisible to some, well, maybe not ‘some’ maybe just one actually.  Who came round the corner, breezed up to the first laptop operative she saw and was all dibbed up before she raised her gaze to see the queue of other runners snaking over the horizon and out of the park.  Oops.  Maybe her route to the park took her along Twentywell Lane and this sign entered her subconscious – it wasn’t deliberate, but it was nifty!  Again, discretion prevents me outing anyone here, this is just a completely random shot of another friendly runner in the vicinity of the start at about that time.  Just so long as we are clear.  Any association arising in your mind as a consequence of the juxtaposition of the billboard signage and the female runner alongside apparently holding a newly acquired dibber is purely coincidental.  Good.

Still a bit of time, so decided to go for second precautionary pee of the morning.  Oh my.  This is a gripe to be fair.  The queue for the loos were beyond your worst imaginings.  There are never enough loos for the RSR, and it is tricky I guess because you need loads all at once and then they aren’t much needed for most of the day once all the runners are on their way, but there weren’t enough.  Good 20 minutes queuing and they got longer all the time, like some alien regenerating snake, the more you lob bits off as people did their bit and exited the queue, twice as much new length would be added at the end.  Is that the Jason and the Argonauts film, the one with the skeletons that replicate the more you cut them up… hang on, just a google moment – nope it wasn’t that – though it is an epic fight scene, I’m thinking of the hydra, cut off one of its heads, and two grow back.  Shudder.  Ray Harryhausen was amazing though, wasn’t he just?  Wow.  The toilet queue was too, but not in a good way.  Maybe more runners than usual turned up on the day, what the weather being great and the RSR becoming a destination run and all, but, more portaloos would be boon for next year.  Might stop some of the alfresco seekers, for whom desperation trumped decency.  And better signage for the urinal portaloos might have sped things up too…

The toilet queue was exactly like that.  No wonder the wait was scary.

I could hear the build up to the start of the red wave – the elites, but they were underway by the time I was wending my way to the start funnel.   This means I missed the panic stricken face of the photographer who nearly got trampled as the runners stampeded through, fortunately, this was captured by one of the (other?) official photographers, hurrah!  Probably one of my favourite pictures from the entire day!  Though, in fairness, I too always feel completely panicked at the start of any race.  ‘What, we have to run now!?!’  I’m invariably astonished, then alarmed to be surrounded by so many runners and then finally swept up by it.  By the way, lots of excellent photos have been made available on Facebook by the RSR team, they politely ask that you consider a donation to Weston Park Cancer Hospital in return for use of the images. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr19

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Spotted a Graves Junior parkrun RD inhaling a banana just before off.   Brave move, these elites eh, they live life on the edge!

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So I scurried to join the pen for the orange start at 8.35.  Announcements came over the speakers, and the shout went up to ‘Runaroouuuuuuuuuund NOW!’ or possibly a count down and then ‘go’, I can’t quite remember, and we all shuffled through to dib out in turn under the archway, and then we were spat through and launched and on our way!

No we hadn’t finished, it’s just that you come through the funnel at the end as well.  This is a consequence of running round in a great big circle.  You finish where you started from.  Clever eh?

One slightly bizarre thing about the event being set off in waves, is that as you you set out, running purposefully up through the park, leisurely arrivees are strolling down to registration, so it feels a bit weird.  Also, some people sprint off, whereas I take a while to get going, so the immediate first emotion for me is not so much a surge of adrenaline as shock and confusion.  Also, because it’s on the parkrun route, it’s like you’ve cheated and skipped the bit at the start, all very surreal.  It’s still uphill though, and a long way to go to get round the whole thing.  However, not too far to the first crossing point and the first dapper dibbing marshal of the day at the road crossing.  Not gonna lie, slightly disappointed not to see our ‘usual’ marshal in situ – another Hallam parkrun RD who has her designated spot at this event.  Not the same without her there, but she had selfishly opted to go fly a helicopter or something instead.  Honestly, the lengths eh?  Never mind, the spot was ably filled with competence, flair and excellently authoritative traffic control skills.  Can’t really argue with that.  Thank you marshal!

Over the road, onwards and upwards.  The field was thinning about, but other runners were coming up behind.  The overtaking had started.  On the plus side, I got to exchange cheery waves with familiar faces, some in a blur of speed as they passed, others pausing for brief sweaty hugs, all with big smiles.  There is something about the RSR that is inherently joyful, right from the off, once you’ve got your precautionary pee out the way of course.  Obviously it’s going to be stressful until you’ve got that bit of body maintenance sorted 🙂

This did sort of set the tone for the day to be fair.  People I knew, or friends I hadn’t yet made, sprinting up behind me, shouting a greeting and then whizzing by, their ever shrinking silhouettes disappearing over the horizon ahead of me.  Still, at least it gave me something to chase eh?  Plus, you get a chit chat opportunity at each dib point. Some people pressed on through, others eeked out each wait for as long as possible, strategically incorporating recovery time into their race day strategy, which is both the point of how the event is set up, and entirely mysterious to me.  The social anthropologists amongst you will notice the culturally significant green and gold bobble hat being sported by the high vis hero.  However, for me, the real interest lies in the fine exemplar of team work.  The Smiley Paces pair are saving precious seconds by having clearly demarked roles, whereby one does the donkey work of dibbing in and out and being responsible for custody of the timing lanyard, whilst the other nails looking triumphant and getting the glory.  Ran like that the whole way round, no mean feat!

Loving your work Smilies, loving your work.

On you go, into the woods, over the next road crossing – ‘thank you marshal’ I have a theory you can spot the parkrunners amongst the throng as they have been conditioned into shouting thanks to anyone in a high vis that they run past even if it’s a worker checking the wiring for a BT phone cabinet.

After the next road crossing, more Smilies!  We get everywhere, and these two in particular are a fab partnership, pathologically smiley, as is the smiley way!  Oh and they’re off again, smilies disappearing into the distance ahead of me, also a smiley staple.  Not running away from me as such, just giving me a lead!

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and somewhere around this stage I think, another Smiley caught me unawares with some action shots – you have to push yourself to get results… thank goodness for the dark glasses, I’m sure no-one will recognise me.

and this was around the end of Stage 1, where I’d been promised a sweaty high-five which I duly claimed.  Great to do a run where you see familiar faces on the way round.  This was the marshal sharing his local knowledge by declaring that ‘flat section ahead – Sheffield flat’ as runners dibbed out and headed towards Forge Dam.   The locals know, the blow ins will find out soon enough.  …. it’s not like they are going to come back down the hill to query it later are they!  Or are they?

Grand to see you my friend, thanks for the gardening tips at parkrun, and the backing for lobbying for the perennial plant stall, I’m quietly confident!

The forge dam cafe was just opening, and there was the opportunity to join another toilet queue if you’d missed out earlier.  Now into the woods. More familiar people whooping on their way past:

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My lack of training gave me a wobble, it’s a lot of uphill.  I doubted myself.  Then, soon I heard familiar chuntering coming up behind.  Yay!  My favourite twosome of the day.  Storming it.

also, it was somewhere around here, I met a Chorlton runner walking back down – I was concerned that this meant one of us at least was going the wrong way – unless he was just doubling back to remonstrate with the marshal about the ‘Sheffield flat’ quip – turns out his knee was crook, so game over for him.  It made me appreciate how lucky I was to be out there and injury free.  I wasn’t ever going to fly round fleet of foot, but I was going to get round, I was confident of that, time to stop fretting about what I can’t achieve and be grateful for what I can.  Poor guy, gutted for him.  Mind you, one remarkable thing about the RSR, which I’m sure is to do with the option to take part in a more relaxed way, is how very few are DNFs.  Less than 10 I’m sure.  No idea about the DNS though.  That may tell another story.

Onwards and upwards.  Doing a rare bit of overtaking of those following the route somewhat over prepared for the run -much like me on the Dig Deep Ultra, where I took absolutely everything with me because I had no idea what to expect. Well, the breeze blocks might have come in handy if I needed to create some steps to stand on to get over a dry stone wall for example.  Oh hang on, they were Duke of Edinburgh Award Schemers – did think the sleeping mat was possibly a bit OTT even if it did have definite appeal…

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And so you emerge from the wood, into the glade with tables laden with jelly babies, bananas and bottles of water, and friendly chit chatting – like you’ve stumbled on some sort of impromptu runners social – which you basically have.  There was plenty of water, and it felt leisurely, they’d put out a lot more sacks to keep the recycling together, but there was a lot of plastic waste.  I wonder if this event will follow recent welcome trends of other running events and try to go plastic free next year.  It ought to be possible, especially with the feed stations being in recovery stages and with the growing awareness of the problem with single use plastic.  I reckon so.

Restored, there is a 15 minute or so walk past the alpaca place and to the top of limb valley.  I always think this event must seem so peculiar to locals, as the road sections all tend to be recovery stages, and that means that in this ‘race’ no-one appears to be doing any actual running.  Worst run ever in that respect!  So called ‘runners’ strolling past chatting to one another and exchanging cheery waves with other participants ahead and behind.

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Stage three.  Limb valley section.  Basically, fab views, firm terrain – corralled away from scary cattle thanks to last year’s crowdfunding initiative – and you get to ‘whoop‘ and ‘wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee‘ all the way down, going as fast as your little legs – or long legs where applicable – will carry you!  Always time to take some pics along the way though, even if they are somewhat pitiful by comparison to the official pics, nevertheless, they capture moments in time and memories too.   And you know what, I actually think this picture, which I took all by myself, is fab.  If anyone knows this runner I’ve got a sequence of her in high resolution she can have if she gets in touch.

The official shots for this stage are fab – some possibly tipped over into not so much joyful but manic, however, that’s understandable in the circumstances.  You can also compare and contrast effortless running style of super speedy smilies v my trundling efforts.  Also, alarmingly, one Smiley has been caught on camera, not smiling and seemingly mid altercation with another runner, note to self – need to carry out an enquiry within my crochet club to check out what really happened there… More importantly, check out that Vegan jumper.  Respect!

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Oh hang on, they’ve just uploaded another album!  It’s great that there are so many pics, but it does take a while to scroll through them all. Oh the excruciating tyrrany of trying to pick out just the best… Lots of late nights for RSR runners the week after the event, poring over photos and reliving it all after a long day at work.  Anyways, picked out a few favourites below.  Please note, the guy apparently playing ‘chief bunny’ which I thought was a game everyone was familiar with – much like the rizla on the head game – but it might have been a shared house thing back in the day.  So I’ll leave that hanging.  Also, kudos to the levitating man, that’s some height you got to there, and then I just really liked the happy runners having a blast in blue.  Nice jump shot too.  That’s another thought actually, really ought to incentivise the giant leaping, spot prize for best photo capturing such athleticism, to be shared between jumper and photographer obvs.  Still think the vegan runner above is winning so far though…

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Wait, another album, album 3 – hope you are making your just giving donations people – and more evidence.   They have to be playing chief bunny, see the guy using both hands, he’s the chief and then those on either side should do one hand up each – the one nearest the chief bunny, and they are so doing it.  I need to seek out a Marple Runner at the next possible opportunity to verity my suspicions, but it’s too much of a coincidence to be otherwise, surely?

Oh, and breaking news, vegan jumper isn’t winning any more, this guy is.  For now…. he’s definitely taking the concept of a sugar rush to new heights, hard to be sure, but he has to have ODed on jelly babies.  Thought he could handle it I daresay, and then this!

RSR jump jump

At some events they have a ‘photographer 100m ahead sign’.  Well, only if they are 100m ahead, it can be changed to say 50m or ’round the corner’ or whatever, depending on context.  That gives runners the opportunity to pretend to be running hard, or to get a run up into a leap, or wipe the snot and sweat off their faces and ensure they have their boobs on an upswing in readiness, or do something equally eye catching, hilarious and camera ready which is harder to achieve when caught unawares.  I like that.  Mind you, these are universally fab pictures from this event, thank you Mr Linacre, it’s astounding to take, literally thousands of shots, and them all to be this good.  I sense a hive of activity on Facebook with people updating their profile picks with RSR run action portraits over the coming days… also a post run tradition.  That and running club caption contests, of which there will be many, the suggestions for some of which it is fortunate will remain forever contained within a closed Facebook group!

Where was I?  Where next?  Oh yes –  then into the woods down towards Whirlow, lovely section, and cool under the trees.  The running conditions were perfect, a cool breeze and bright, but not hot, so lucky, especially after yesterdays scorchio and soul sapping parkrun.  I gather that faster runners might have preferred harder ground, but my arthritic feet appreciated the soft forgiving terrain.  Reet nice out in fact.  Lovely.

and you emerge out the woods:

cross the road, and back into the woods. Ecclesall woods this time.  It was ages before I worked out how this relates to the Ecclesall Woods Discovery Centre.  I love Ecclesall Woods, but I seem to get very disorientated when I’m there.  Totally get why Hansel and Gretel got lost in the woods that time.  Trees are beautiful, but a wood in its entirety can swallow you up quite easily.  In this section I got the most fleeting of glimpses of Smiley Selfie Queen, but she did pause for long enough for a fellow runner to get a shot of us together, just for the record, we occupied the same space at the same time. You get to look longingly across at the miniature train in operation just the other side of the stream, but no time to take advantage of that today alas.  So this is where you emerge onto Abbeydale Road South, and stroll down past the railway station, trying not to think about the steps of doom which await you once you’ve traipsed up Twentywell Lane…

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Twentywell Lane, did have a queue to get into the woods.  I felt a bit for the marshal here, as this is point that requires a lot of proactive traffic management, and to be honest looked like one of the more stressful locations to be based at.  He was doing a fab job though, directing runners and traffic to keep everything moving.  Once we were over the road and into the wood, the steps awaited.  Oh my life, they are killers, that climb, untimed or not, is brutal.  I like this part of the route if I’m running on my own, but it is a tad stressful for the RSR.  I try to give way to faster runners as much as I can, but there are one or two really narrow bits on this path and you can’t step aside without plummeting down a vertiginous slope so it’s a tad stressful.  Having said that, runners were universally courteous, I think enough people now know the route to recognise it is what it is, and with the best will in the world, sometimes slower runners can’t give way and faster runners can’t over take.  All smiles. Well, to each other, they may have been some unseemly cursing about the challenge of the actual terrain!

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Phew, was glad when that section was over.  You emerge onto a road and have to run on by Beauchief golf course.  If you are called Sandra, you get your own signage to help you press on at this critical stage.  Go Sandra indeed, you chose your supporters well!  I don’t know if the idea is they will only have signs for Sandra, as this was a new development for this year, maybe other random names will appear, or maybe she has special dispensation to have her own signage. Will have to rock up next year and find out I suppose.

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The end of stage 5 takes you onto Greenhill Avenue, and more uphill and you go through Chancet Wood.  This stage I always forget about and get confused and think I’m already in Graves park, which you aren’t.  If you are ever lost on a course, and inexplicably see me ahead of you – which is fairly unlikely – don’t follow me, I’ll be lost too.

I was flagging a bit by now, so it was a fabulous surprise to see a Smiley superstar in support mode at the start of the Graves park section.  Hurrah!  Obviously, any Smiley is a fine sight on any and every occasion, but for the record, best thing EVER to happen to me on a run was when she and a fellow Brutelles turned up on the Houndkirk Road to see me towards the end of the Dig Deep Ultra. It was brilliant, so chuffed they’d turned out for me.  You know what, if you are a supporter rather than a runner on occasions, or indeed always, don’t under estimate the impact you have. You are awesome. Support en route can make or break an event.  All adds to the party atmosphere.   Now after that tribute, it’s unfortunate that I don’t have a suitably epic photo to share, but I do have an offering at least. Thank you Doctor Smiley!  Plus, she not only had vegan sweets – which had run out when I got there – but took photos of other smilies, even those who’d apparently got dressed in the dark which would account for them accidentally put on the wrong running vest. AND, she saw a rather cute mouse whilst waiting, which I find worthy of note.   Check out that half of the Smiley pair who is still managing to keep her arms aloft in triumph – she’s kept that up for over 15 km by this point I’d say – bearing in mind she was doing it throughout the recovery stages as well as the timed sections, that’s real dedication for you.  I’d expect nothing less.

Oh and she did a mean selfie shot too, which ought really to be mandatory whenever two or more smilies meet.  Evidence suggests it pretty much is already to be fair, if previous evidence is anything to go by:

Incidentally, it occurs to me, albeit rather belatedly, there is a really good breakdown of each section of the Round Sheffield Run course with nice concise descriptors and thumb nail maps on the event website so you could save yourself some time looking at that.   They also did something clever with Strava, marking the recovery sections in blue, but I can’t work out have to steal that as it’s a webpage, so you’ll have to make do with my Strava map, which looks like this:

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Makes more sense now I expect.  That’s good.  No of course I’m not uploading the version with my times on it!  What kind of a fool do you take me for?  (Rhetorical question, no need for answers on a postcard on this occasion).

Now I’ve found the section summary, I’ll refer to that for help with describing the Graves Park bit, er hem, the blah de blah says:

Stage 7   :  1.4km Graves Park

A gradual ascent through the mature woods of Graves park, this is another stage to take at a steady pace, up and over right across the park popping out at the main car entrance.

It only just occurs to me that the somewhat oblique reference to ‘another stage to take at a steady pace’ acknowledges that this is another bit with a long hard uphill trudge.  I don’t really like this section of the park.  Graves park is lovely, but this route misses out the nice bits like the Highland coos and Rose Garden cafe and sort of sneaks around a rather uncharacteristically dingy section.  Nearly said dinghy section, but I’m thinking of the boating pool at Millhouses.  Early runners in the elite wave, could in principle have seen junior parkrunners if not actually on their run, at the very least enjoying the post run partying.  One RD I met walking back home at the end of the event, said he was just sprinting past the back of the cafe for 10ish and could easily have joined the team in the cafe to help process the results if he’d but thought to do so on the way round.  I was probably still trying to cross Rustlings Road at that point.  Honestly, the elite runners inhabit a parallel universe.  I can’t imagine being that fast, even when I’ve taken advantage of deserted early morning airports to run full speed along travelators (doesn’t everyone), and even that makes me feel super human – these elite runners though, must be emitting sonic booms as they pass.  Well, I presume those booms are from breaking the sound barrier not for the food choices made on breaking their overnight fasts.

Graves park then, bit of a ho hum section for me.  A few people passing me asked if I was alright.  I appreciate their concern, but do wonder what this says about my natural gait, as I was absolutely fine, just choosing to strategically power walk, but I must look perpetually broken.  It reflects well on my fellow participants and the ethos of the event that people checked on me, but perhaps doesn’t reflect so well on my running style.  Not quite moving with the grace of a gazelle traversing the open grasslands of the savanna…. or wherever it is they live.  I’ve had worse.  The day after the London marathon, a next door neighbour rushed across the road to ask if I was alright as she thought I must have been in a car accident or something I was moving so stiffly.  Note to self, maybe other runners use rollers and recovery runs for a reason.

One good thing though, was as you come towards the end of the section, there was a couple of women doing excellent cheer leading.  Dear reader these two were ON FIRE.  Probably used more energy jumping up and down to motivate the participants to ‘just keep on running, it’s only 100 metres, don’t stop now’ then the actual runners did racing round.  No honestly, even the elite wave runners would have burnt up a fraction of the calories.  High five to you my favourite supporters of the day!  Liz is very lucky to have you 🙂 hope you hadn’t exhausted your mine of enthusiasm by the time she came into view.  Thank you for practising your cheering skills on the rest of us, you were awesome!

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As you come out of the park, you can espy an ice cream van parked up on the right hand side, quite hard to resist as you are clocking out ahead of the 15 minute recovery stage.

The temptation was in fact impossible to resist for some, who very sensibly, took time out to swap change for lolly – these two also knew how to roll!  Respect.  I wonder if they had 99s.  Not had one of those in ages.  I boycotted them for a bit once I discovered that they aerate them with air outside vehicle i.e. exhaust fumes (probably an urban myth) and that Margaret Thatcher, in her former life as a chemist, was partially responsible for developing the technique which led to Mr Whippy as we know it .  Probably also spurious, I might be able to eat them now…

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The next bit is

Liason between 7-8

Following the main road on the tarmac path up around 500m to the New Inn Pub, turn left onto road here, following to the start of the next trail.

The walk itself is unremarkable, though when you recce the route, I always think it feels a lot longer than it actually is.  The signage for the Round Sheffield Walk route is easy to miss here, though it was well signed for the RSR.  It’s a social section, I chatted to a few runners, some regulars at the RSR, some first timers, the lolly ladybird and lolly bee pair, and a guy who’d hoped to run as a pair with his wife but she’d had to pull out with dodgy knee or something, so he was going solo. Real shame when that happens, but it’s good that pairs who lose a partner can transfer to singleton status in such circumstances.

Eventually, you turn the corner, and then ahead is the sight of the next feed station. Wow, this was busy.  Excitingly, among the banana worriers was a familiar face from Graves junior parkrun.  Hurrah.  Oh, sorry, they were banana warriors, easy mistake.   Whatever, some nifty knife action, those bananas didn’t stand a chance.  Lots of people congregate here.  I’m sure this run was busier than last year, as I’m a slow runner, so usually by the time I come to feed stations things have calmed down a bit as the majority of participants have been and gone, but this was absolutely heaving.  Huge bags were to gather plastic bottles, though some had bizarrely chucked banana skins in amongst them which was hardly pro-social. It’s good that an attempt was being made to keep everything ripe for recycling, but it was a shock seeing such a mountain of single use plastic.  It’s good we are all more aware of it.  I can’t see that being allowed to happen again next year.  I needed to supplement my supply though, so was as guilty as any in taking a bottle.

I lingered only briefly, then it’s back down the hill.  This isn’t the most picturesque part of the route, but litter wise it was much better than last time I went down.  It was so bad once with litter outside the school gates I actually wrote to the school about it in one of my more pompous moments.  Never heard back.  It’s a bit of break neck section, if you take it fast you gather momentum going down, and it’s hard to stop.  I think it was no coincidence the bike paramedic was stationed in the undergrowth here, it was indeed a likely spot for rich pickings, though there were no discarded blood stained gauzes surrounding him when I passed, then again, he’d have put them in a proper biohazard waste bag probably, it’s not the done thing to leave blooded bandages lying around I imagine.

Oh hang on, the official description doesn’t mention the litter or the risk of injury or death if you take it too fast.

Stage 8   :  1.3km Lees Hall Golf Course

This is an exciting fast, flowing trail down between Lees Hall Golf course, down past the academy playing fields, opening up to some great urban views and then diving round to the left and back up towards Meersbrook

so where I experience fear, others experience ‘exciting’ I can see that actually.   I’m not sure about the views on this route, they really kick in in Meersbrook park.

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so the liaison stage here  is along the road in a straight line for about 500m, (more up hilliness) past the row of shops (a co-op you could nip into if you felt the urge.  I seriously contemplated picking up the bottle of wine I’d need for visitors later before my senses recovered sufficiently for me to realise that was a crazy idea, even if it would mean I wouldn’t have to go back out to the shops later.  Then you join the main road and up to Meersbrook park entrance.  Espying the amazing Bishop’s House as you approach.

This next section, section 9, is the best.  Well, maybe second best, Limb Valley (stage 3) is more picturesque and for me more forgiving terrain, but I love this stage too.  The views are extraordinary.  It’s quite moving seeing the city unfold in front of you – it helped that the skies were clear today, but on any day the horizon is amazing.  This park has a real community feel to it too, so it’s a well supported section, you’ll see friends probably, but failing that people generally out enjoying the day and offering cheers of encouragement too.  It’s down hill – always a boon, and has fond memories of small park BIG RUN too.   It’s just such a cool park, with a chilled vibe, I think it helps that, for me at least, psychologically I feel I’m nearly home now, that’s the bling in the bag near as dammit!

EVEN BETTER today at the entrance to the park were indeed buddies from small park BIG RUN, they were quite possibly still doing 1km loops of the park two weeks later – that’s dedication for you.  Also, pirate flag man.  So exciting.  I could see him waving his flag from the top of the hill, but he started to go round the corner out of sight, I genuinely put on an extra sprint for fear the flag would be all furled up again and out of sight by the time I got to the bottom of the hill. That would be unimaginable, missing the flag, when it was actually in sight, so near and yet so far.  Crisis averted dear reader.  The photos record I made it!  I also got whoops and hugs from my Smiley buddies, and the chance to see other smilies sprint on by as they had embraced more fully than me that this was actually within the timed section, so you shouldn’t really be stopping for a chat within it, though personally I don’t see the harm.  Also, I took some photos, quite pleased with the one with the Valley Hill Runners and the view, it’s just like that, it really is.

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Makes me so grateful that life has brought me to Sheffield, it really is the most extraordinary city to live in.  I felt weirdly emotional looking at that view of the city skyline.  It’s hard to say why, it’s not like I’m personally responsible for it or anything, and strictly speaking, I’m not even a ‘real’ Sheffielder, but I love this city I really do.  Admittedly mainly because it’s so easy to get out of and into the peaks, but I’m sure you know what I mean.  Bloody brilliant place

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Out the park, a very vocal marshal was encouraging every runner by name, which was impressive, if only for his speed reading skills!

You emerge, and it’s a bit of zig zag up towards Nether Edge for the next section.

Liason between 9-10 Out the park across the A61 following the permanent signs, across to Abbeydale rd and Edinburgh Cycles, turn left onto Abbeydale Rd, and then turn right by the mirror shop for the start of the next stage. Marshalls will be in key positions for this slightly tricky liaison.

Apart from the novelty value of seeing your reflection in a mirror, this isn’t the best part of Sheffield, but you know what, it’s grown on me.  Let’s celebrate B&M bargains and LiDL.  Why not appreciate the mural and that community wildflower garden is now blooming, literally as well as figuratively.  More chit chat if you fancy it

The best bit though, for me at least, was seeing my  magical Hallam parkrun buddy in situ.  Again, when I’d visualised myself doing this event, I knew once I got to this fabulous smile and slightly sweaty hug, I was nearly home.  Best hug of the day.  Also a selfie op!

Then the mirror moment: 

and then the bit I always forget, because it feels to me like it should be a recovery stage, down those narrow Nether Edge streets to Brincliffe woods. I find it a killer, more hills, and the heat rising by now.  I always end up walking it, with a slight garumphiness, because it’s hard, and I feel self-conscious and inadequate because I ought to be running but can’t or more accurately won’t.

Stage 10 :  2.2km Brincliffe Edge –  The end is getting close, this urban stage takes you up the road on a gradual climb to Brincliffe edge, keep going up the road and the duck into the woods onto the trail, contouring round, then up and down into Chelsea park, popping out in quiet surburbia on the otherside. A few quiet wide streets to negotiate on the pavement before finishing just before Psalter lane

Fortuitously, I came across a former Smiley and distance walking aficionado, who was also doing some strategic walking at the point, so we marched on together.  It was good to catch up, also I was able to pick her brains about using poles for walking/running, as she’s a fab advert for doing just that, although wasn’t using them today. She had them at the Hathersage Hurtle last year (2018), and was fair speeding round.

We stayed together until we emerged from Brincliffe Edge woods, then I waved her off as she skipped off through Chelsea park, the end in her sights.  Brincliffe Edge is a weird short sharp bit.  It’s nice and flat across the – you think – top of the ridge, and then just as you are settling in to that there’s a sharp right and more steep steps reveal themselves to take you up to Chelsea Park.  I didn’t witness this myself, but saw on Facebook that someone was alongside a non-local at this point – ‘and RSR virgin’ was the phrase used, and that poor soul caught sight of yet another set of steep steps unfolding before them they  just exclaimed ‘oh f$ck off!’ A sentiment other participants may well have shared!

Into the park, down the hill.  This is really near my home patch, although I don’t tend to go into the park that often, because frankly there are more open spaces within reach, but it was nice to jog through, and pleasingly I met one of my neighbours out walking her dog. She was a little bemused as to what exactly I was doing, but then again, so was I.  It possibly didn’t help that I was saying I was doing a trail run, but wasn’t noticeably doing a great deal of running.  I let that go…

You come out of the park, and again it’s still the timed section.  I feel it shouldn’t be, but anyway, that’s just voices in my head I expect.  Talking of which, I suddenly thought I could hear my name being called from the far distance, but I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it, and didn’t want to do that awkward thing of turning round and waving only to realise it was a shout out for someone else entirely.  It carried on.  I stopped.  I gazed about, and then look who sprinted into view:

DSCF2033

Another Hallam parkrun buddy.  Honestly, Sheffield parkrunners were like cockroaches on this run, they just popped up everywhere – only in a good way, obvs.  It was really nice to see a friendly face, and we jogged along and chatted and ended up staying together til the finish.

Past the last of the out of park marshals:

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Through the bright lights of Hunters Bar – trying not to notice the flood of runners who’d already finished and were strolling home adorned with the obligatory post-event metal wear!

And then back into the park for the final stage.  Can we have a moment please to appreciate the marshals at this stage who were particularly hilarious with their motivational banter.  Screaming at us to ‘run!  It’s not far, it’s a sprint finish, go go go!’  All the marshals throughout were epic, each had their own unique style to bring to the event and all are heroes, but this was a fun note to finish on for sure.  No-one was going to get away with nonchalantly strolling by this dibber point, it was do or die, and give it your all!

I therefore did dutifully run past, until I was safely out of view the other side of Queen Vic.  Then I did a bit of a walk to behind the hedge, before bursting out with a sprint finish.  Wasn’t going so fast that I missed waving at my Swiss Smiley friend – well met dear traveller, well met!

final flourish CS

I thought we did a reasonable job with our sprint finish – and thanks to Smiley Selfie Queen for capturing the moment even if it is a bit of a shame you aren’t captured looking into the camera in the front bottom corner of the frame as is usual for a selfie shot.  However, some really know how to tackle that finish or work the crowd.  The event ‘instructions’ state:

Stage 11 :  0.4km Endcliffe Park Finish – A final flourish, starting at the park entrance up onto the park itself where you will join the marked course for the dash for the finish outside Endcliffe park cafe. You will be greeted by fellow competitors, adulation from the crowd and if you wish a cold beer!

and it’s at least partly true.  You can indeed get adulation from the crowd, but it is best if you work it!  Look and learn:

just the little formality of the medal – ooh, and another Graves junior buddy, one big love in, how nice, it was like a personalised medal award ceremony!

Final dib to get results, queue for crisps and banana and water

Thanks to Swiss Smiley for coming to say hello, sorry I was a bit post-run perplexed, was grand to see you!  And that was that.  RSR all done for another year.

Well, all done apart from the partying of course.

I couldn’t linger this time round, you know how it is, places to go, people to see.  However, did get lucky meeting the Monday Mobsters.  … won’t give a spoiler, but ooh, I’m soooooooooooooo excited about next weekend now.  parkrun dreams really can come true!  I’m not giving a spoiler, but I will give a clue, what’s the parkrun dream destination once you’ve already done your parkrun pilgrimage to Bushy parkrun people?  I think we know…

So I said my farewells, and started the long trudge back up the hill to Nether Edge.  Blimey.  The return voyage was made easier once I bumped into the Graves junior RD for some company with him and his pal for the walk back.  Don’t worry dear reader, I did remember to nip into the local supermarket for a bottle of wine – only I accidentally got a large bottle of gin instead, and some pasta.  Perfecto!

That’s that then, for now.  I daresay there will be some edits coming later, and I’ll probably keep finding even better photos, which is the challenge when you keep discovering new ones days or even weeks later.

Thanks once again kandoo team and everyone who took part in or supported another fab RSR experience.  Those of us who are lucky enough to live in Sheffield are even more blessed to have this great event on my doorstep.  If they’d only sort out the horticultural supplies issues for next year, it will remain perfect.

Incidentally, it would seem that for the most part, runners at this year’s RSR got lucky and got round.  It’s been a good few weeks for off road runners.  Did you know  Damian Hall just set a new fastest known time for the Paddy Buckley Round, running over 61 miles – across some of Wales’ most remote mountain tops, climbing 47 peaks and ascending over 28,000ft  in 17hrs 31mins.  And the other week Sabrina Verjee won the 268-mile Montane Spine Race – the first female athlete to win the Spine race outright.  That’s a 268-miles non-stop race along the Pennine Way which she completed in 82 hours, 19 minutes and seven seconds, leading from start to finish, about 6 hours ahead of the second finisher. Fab.  Obvs.

But can’t help noticing that poor Sabrina’s medal doesn’t double as a bottle opener and has a trashy plastic sash, and as for Damian – well!  No medal at all!  Just glory, where is the fun in that.  I think we Sheffield Runarounders had the best fun and best bling of all.

So thanks y’all who made it so, and special thanks to the energetic and engaged marshals throughout, and the photographers who shared pics from throughout the day.  You can find these photo albums froms the 2019 event all on the Round Sheffield Run Facebook page.  There are thooooooooooooooooooooooousands, ’twill take a while to scroll through those, but just think how much fun you’ll have reliving the day!

The team politely request that people consider making a donation to Weston Park Cancer Hospital in return for use of the images. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rsr19 Uploaded in high res for you to use.

and on intrepid runner, Daniel Harris put together this Round Sheffield Run 2019 Timewarp Youtube video, which allows you to complete the whole route in 5 minutes or so.  You could have saved yourself a lot of time if only I’d listed this link right at the start.   Ooops.

Cheers all who took and shared pictures, accounts and videos.  Sharing the love 🙂   MInd you, it’s a Herculean labour keeping track of them all, never mind slaying the hydra, the epic shots just keep on coming…

Same time next year then, ballot and fate permitting?

Start planning your perennial beds now in eager anticipation.  I know I will.  That plant stall idea is a shoo in.

🙂

*oh hang on, that bit isn’t true actually, but you’ll feel sunshine in your hearts on the day because it’s one big running love-in

For all my Round Sheffield Run related posts, click this link and scroll down for older entries.  Or don’t.

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

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

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

small park BIG RUN

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

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

 

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

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

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

trev run for all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wait for it….

‘Youths clad so you cannot tell their sex

and smelling all of cop-y-dex’

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

copydex

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

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

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

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

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

trev cake

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

Palestinian runners

And here are some pictures from Nablus – looks like they  had serious fun day and night too!

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

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

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

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

cometh the hour

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

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

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

spreadsheet day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dawn runners

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

Lots of lovely marshals, and lots of lovely views:

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

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

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

My favourite shot of the night though is this one:

trev because hills are fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Basically, a grand event, in a fine cause.

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

JB rewards

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

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

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

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

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

laps

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

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

trev how to finish

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

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

Battling the Bluster round Bakewell, milestones aplenty at Bakewell parkrun

Digested read: I was a blow in at Bakewell parkrun today.  Hurrah.  It was very nice, thank you for asking. There were lots of milestones and therefore running plus cake. What’s not to like?  #loveparkrun

Undigested read:

Well Erik was irksome.

There were overnight gusts and gales forecast, but I was still quite aghast at just how many parkruns were cancelled the night before and on parkrun morning evening.  Still, not worth messing with Erik, you aren’t going to come off best.  Trees were down all over the place and wayward branches cracking and falling at will, tossed over parkrun courses everywhere, of course there were cancellations.  I don’t know why I was so surprised, since I can further report that my own weather analysis included being woken up in my attic bedroom in the small hours by what sounded like a wind-themed Armageddon going on outside.  That was dramatic.  Once I’d surrendered to the fact that any more slumber would be impossible with all that commotion going on outside and got up to go to the loo and look out the window, I bore witness to my wheelie bins tossed around the garden. Oh ok then, Storm Erik meant business.  Even so, there were really a lot of parkrun cancellations.  Sad for some, especially as snow and ice caused many to be called off last week too.

At least one parkrun was cancelled because of polar bears on the course, that’s right actual polar bears.  FACT.   It was Bradford parkrun, I like them, they have initiative.  They worked hard to keep the event on, even attempting to coral the polar bears into being marshals apparently, but it didn’t work out.  It’s important to remember being a hi-vis hero is a voluntary role, once mammals are compelled to do it, it just doesn’t happen in the same joyful way.    Good effort though, I’m going to try to visit you soon I think… might wait for the polar bears and low flying squirrels to move on by though.

bradford parkrun polar bears

I got lucky though.  Last week I was at Bushy parkrun which went ahead just fine – more than fine absolutely fabulous in fact – and this week, I had already planned to go to Bakewell parkrun, milestones a-plenty being marked there, so celebrations, Smiley comrades, Vegan friends oh yes and celebratory cake.  Would that be on?  Hmmm.  *Spoiler alert* yes it was!  I got lucky two parkruns on the trot. Hooray!

The cancellation list is sad, but also entertaining for how core teams choose to record their reasons for cancellations. Alongside the ‘usual’ gusts, flooding, trees obscuring the course, today Bradford parkrun reported, accurately I’m sure based on my own observations, as follows:

Bradford parkrun: Apocalypse in the park, low flying squirrels

It’s a shame they had to cancel, but I’m sure it will be a huge consolation to them all that I have chuckled at their cancellation entries on the parkrun cancellations listings.  Bradford parkrun communications officer, your talents are noted and appreciated, by me at least.

Some impressive cancellation photos doing the rounds though – check out Somerdale Pavilion parkrun course conditions, less parkrun more aquaplaning.  Didn’t happen though, can’t blame them.

Somerdale pavilion parkrun cancellation

Astonishingly, Haigh Woodland parkun went ahead despite a few hurdling/trip hazards!

haigh woodland parkrun trip hazards

Ormskirk parkrun published and shared its cancellation protocol for RDs to refer to in the event of high winds.  Most public spirited, and most enlightening too.

Ormskirk cancellation protocol

But back to Bakewell.  That was expecting to go ahead, but had to get there first though.  Oh my, they weren’t lying when they said on the news it was gusty out!  Fortunately it was mild outside my house, but whoa, hang on a minute, I could barely stand up.  I had a literal wobble in the wind, and then a metaphorical one as I wondered if it would be safe to drive.  I decided to start off and see, I’m quite high up, so if there was a problem it would be obvious and I could abandon my trip.  Off I went.  So many branches down everywhere, but the car chugged along fine as we headed out of Sheffield, once we got towards Longshaw though and the roads were more exposed it was like driving through the end of the world.  No wonder they shut the car parks at Longshaw first thing.  There was loads of debris was being tossed around and I could feel the car being buffeted about as I drove with incredible caution towards Froggart.  Fortunately, the cars behind me were being similarly careful and keeping a respectful distance, but I don’t think I’ve ever been blown around so much in a car, wouldn’t have wanted to be doing that in a high sided vehicle.

Easy run out, and I managed to park up in the free section of the Hassop station car park, coincidentally right by Smiley Selfie queen who’d rocked up for some parkrun tourism and to mark the milestones of friends various too.   I got out of the car for long enough to say hello, and establish it was blooming freezing there, and wet, with little shards of rain bearing down on me. That wasn’t expected. I’d only put my running jacket in as an afterthought.  I got back in the car for a bit, and then got out again for pre-parkrun precautionary pee and general hello saying – which took a while as a fair few familiar faces were rocking up as the start time approached.

Selfie time:

My expression on the left is because I’m cold by the way, not because that’s my intended running strategy to supplement the support offered by my current sports bra. Yep, still sporting the Juno.  I do like it more than any of my other sports bras, but I’m sure there must be one out there that is as comfortable and offers sufficient support.  My expression on the right is because it was taken within the warm confines of the roasty toasty cafe – which is open pre parkrun for comfort breaks and probably coffee too, if you don’t fancy hanging out in the wind and rain on the Monsal trail yourself of a Saturday morning (hard to imagine many would fall into that category though, with all the parkrun love being bandied around 🙂 ).

We were lucky, Bakewell was most definitely going ahead.  Hooray!  There were plenty of last-minute cancellations elsewhere, which is understandable – that happened at Graves junior parkrun once, had to cancel at about 8.50 because a branch fell down on the course just as the runners were arriving.  Not worth the risk. However, the element of surprise cancellations did seem to trigger plenty of micro-adventures around the country as parkrun plans were scratched and back up plans implemented. Some social heroics though, parkrun tourists heading to Graves this morning staying in a nearby Airbnb arrived at 8.40 to find it cancelled, but were scooped up and deposited at Castle by friendly Sheffield parkrun locals. Trust is a funny thing isn’t it, of course you’d assume an abduction by a fellow parkrunner to be benign, just a new adventure #loveparkrun!  Well done parkrun explorers.

parkrun tourist team work

Back to Bakewell.  We were assembled, parkrun was on.  Yay!

For your information Whangarei parkrun in New Zealand went ahead too, although they had ‘nice weather for ducks’ it was their 160th event, and loads of them were wearing shorts out and about on the parkrun course too, so draw your own conclusions about how they define inclement weather.  I have a soft spot for this parkrun though, because they have in the rather brilliantly, and showing initiative as well as dedication, run an extra parkrun at a time to coincide with it being run in the UK. Whangarei parkrun ran an unofficial parkrun at 9pm New Zealand time to mark international parkrun day in October 2017.  Everyone needs to be reminded of/ know about that!  So hello nice Whangarei people and high fives to your high vis heroes!  Happy Third Birthday Whangarei parkrun for next Saturday 16th Feb 2019, I’m sure you’ll party on with parkrun style!

whangarei volunteers

So Bakewell parkrun was going ahead.  That was good, obvs.  But the weather, aaaargh.  How did it get to be so cold and wet when it was all mild in Sheffield when I poked my arm out the upstairs window to do the temperature check first thing?  Me and Smiley Selfie Queen and her escort ventured to the start line.  Where we greeted by the sight of a cheery run director, wearing shorts!  What was that about?  I didn’t know whether to be impressed of horrified, in truth, I was both.  He said he is doing XC tomorrow so trying to acclimatize, fair do’s, but seemed high risk to me.  I went through a similar mental battle deciding when to leave the sanctuary of the Hassop Station cafe, head out into the cold early by way of transition, or hang on in there ’til the last moment. Tough call.

Here is the cosy interior of the Hassop Station cafe viewed from outside (thank you Denise Burden for sharing your photos, from which I’ve borrowed freely):

DB hassop cafe

and here is the cheery run director, sporting his above the knee number in the service of XC acclimatization.  I respect his position on this matter, but will not emulate.  Just to be clear.

shorts seriously shorts

The cheery run director did the first timers’ briefing.  I think we can all agree the body language in the photo from the briefees, betrays that it was most decidedly nippy out, whatever the misleadingly bright sky overhead may deceive you into believing.  Mind you, a lot of these people are sporting shorts, running briefs if you like, maybe that’s why it was called the first timers’ briefing?:

DP run briefing

I wasn’t a first timer, so went for a power walk up and down the Monsal Trail a little way to keep warm and check out the wind conditions.  To be fair, the RD did assure us that he’d sorted out the wind to guarantee it would be behind us all the way out and then helpfully reverse and be pushing us from behind all the way back too or we’d get a full refund.  It is true there was wind all around us, but not noticeably helping progress, more like whipping us up into a swirling vortex of arctic blasts.  Oh well, at least it made parkrun a micro adventure all over again, so that’s good, and the seals felt quite at home in the freezing conditions.  Smiletastic challenge people, if you don’t know, best not to ask, just enjoy speculating as to why else was this synchronised seal basking necessary post parkrun.  Has to be a Smiley Paces winter running challenge really doesn’t it?  Even if this photo isn’t really capturing the running part of the challenge, it’s getting the collective team effort bit… for better or worse!  Their likeness to actual basking seals is uncanny!  The Smiley Paces people are in the picture on the left… oh, or is it the one on the right?  One or the other though, just for clarity…

Oh hang on, you might want to know about the course.  So the Bakewell parkrun course blah de blah, describes the course as follows:

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

Which is basically all you can really say about it!

It looks like this:

You really aren’t going to get lost on this course unless you set off facing the wrong way.  I just couldn’t comment as to whether or not that’s ever happened. I  have myself started a parkrun facing the wrong way before now, so it’s not inconceivable, though it may not be on record, those people could still be running now for all I know.   …. Assuming you do head off in the right direction, then cheery marshals spin you round at the turn around the point 2.5 km up the repurposed railway path.  So that’s good.  Fret not.  This parkrun has it all. Coffee and loos pre-start, easily navigable flat course, and parking.  Some free if you get there early.  What else do you need to know?  Friendly marshals and parkrun love in abundance are givens, surely?

Where was I.  Oh yes, power walk, meeting and greeting of various people as they assembled for their fiftieth runs,

not a day over 49

two hundredth run and every possible variant forward and aft of those.  At first I thought this parkrun was going to be thinly attended, but of course people were lurking in warm corners or in their cars and emerged on a just in time basis, like the most finely tuned and responsive of logistic firms, to hear the pre-run briefing

and sprint off at ‘go’!

DB start line

OK. So that picture was obviously before they set off.  Plenty of bare legs though, no wonder they are jostling to be in the front, want this pesky parkrun in the cold over and done with as soon as possible so they can get back in the warm I’m sure.  The next photos do show some parkrunners, properly underway, charging through one of the fab tunnels that adorn the Monsal trail.  I love tunnel running, but been through that already (see what I did there?  Gawd I’m hilarious sometimes, love a good pun, and so what if I laugh at my own jokes, at least someone is thereby entertained).

I started in the middle of the pack as I think it is only sporting to give other runners a target to overtake, and most did take the bait to be fair.  Oh well, lucky I don’t do parkrun to get a pb.  It isn’t the widest of paths, so it was a little crowded at the get go, but it’s all very good-natured, and you soon spread out.  It was social, I liked eavesdropping on odds and ends of conversations, and this was my favourite pooch for today, in case you are interested.

DP cute dog

it headed out at a fair old lick, despite only having erm, well let’s be honest, short legs.  Whizzed by me with abandon. Then, seconds later, stopped a la Paula Radcliffe for an emergency poo, unlike Paula, this pooch had an attendant on hand to poo pick, so that was good, and then it trotted on again, by the time it got to the turn around point it seemed to be slightly regretting the early turn of speed, and had a strategic walk for a bit before picking up the pace again.  I empathised more than I probably should, I mean, I have short legs, and have also been known to regret heading off too fast … though I didn’t need a poo stop, my toileting habits having been impeccably timed for parkrun purposes, thank you for your interest!

I’m a slow runner I know, but one advantage of doing an out and back route, is you get to enjoy the spectacle of speedy runners charging home and to high-five and cheer your mates as they pass you by in the opposite direction, so I try to see this as a good thing rather than a mind game. Depends on your mood obviously.  Today, Bakewell parkrun had a photographer to capture people on the way back, right near the finish, so here are some of those who I got to exchange greetings with as they hurried homewards.

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So the vegan runners celebrating their fiftieths (and not looking a day over 49 as they did so) were amongst those charging round with abandon. Looks like they might have fallen for that old gag about ‘it’s a two lap course’ though, as one at least of them passed me again as I was coming in and they were heading out again.  That guy on the left with his hand over his mouth – see him?  He’s definitely in on the joke, think he’s trying to suppress a chortle there for sure!

DP fell for the its two laps gag

She still finished her 10km in the time it took me to do 5km apparently. Oh well, I don’t mind, those vegans had splendid cake.  So splendid, that I had to fight hard the urge just to face plant into once it came within my reach.  And you should have seen their bat-themed napkins. Epic!  If only I’d had my camera with me I’d have taken a photo…

Anyway, I trotted along, I was so far back it was quite spread out, and running along the trail was quite meditative.  Although it was cold in the wind, the rain stopped, and shhh, don’t tell, but I actually got too hot running, I think it helps that my jacket is pretty wind proof.  I got a bit put off the Monsal Trail because I ran it endlessly for marathon training last year (no need to splutter out your tea, I didn’t say I ran it fast, only that I did it, not impossibly apparently, unlikely yes, but not actually impossible for me to do the London marathon it seems) .  It was quite nice to be back on it today, the surface is so level you can run very rhythmically, and it’s been a while since I’ve had such an even and consistent run.  Maybe I need to start bringing it back into my training, just to get the continuous running in without bailing every time there is any elevation – which is basically all the time in Sheffield.  Even so, quite nice to see the finish, and supportive friends to cheer me in.

DP end in sight

Job done, barcode scanned, thanks said.  Celebratory parkrun milestone biscuit eaten. I actually ate mine before photographing it, but here is someone else’s biscuit, who showed more restraint and had the foresight to capture a snap of it first!  And a tray made earlier. Nice!

Impressive aren’t they?

Next stop, fleece retrieval from car, and cafe.  There I got a parkrun breakfast for a fiver. This is pretty good value, a granary or white bap with sausage/ veggie sausage and optional egg plus a filter coffee or tea.  In the circumstances we can perhaps overlook that their sign proclaims Park Run breakfast offer … who is going to pluck up the courage to tell them #aowalc – All one word, all lower case?  You go right ahead, I’ll be just behind you, holding your bap.  You’re welcome.

I was a bit torn because there were just too many people to socialise with.  I played my hand strategically, joining the bicentenary celebrants first as I munched down my veggie sausage bap, and then adjourning in time for the vegan half century shenanigans.  They were so buoyed up by success they were contemplating undertaking a duathlon next, but I don’t honestly think they’ve properly understood the rules. I mean having a pacer is one thing, but I’m not sure a rickshaw would make it under the radar.  I didn’t say anything, didn’t want to take away from their celebrations:

duathlon next

Obviously I did a bit of nonchalant circling around the offerings feigning indifference to begin with until I saw my chance…

great vegan bake off

Well, I didn’t want to seem over keen, and it was only fair to let the vegang have fist dibs!  Didn’t take long for me to make my move though.  I undertook some fairly lightweight expert photography duties to capture the speedy seals as above, which you have to concede I did with considerable excellence, so maybe that was some sort of exchange.  Hospitable lot the vegan runners though… I think their generosity was unconditional.  It is true though, on reflection, it does rather look as if that small child is just carrying out a citizen’s arrest on all those seals and putting them in handcuffs.  Not sure what the implications of that are exactly… best move on.

Plus, I think they had seriously over catered!  It was basically like their very own vegan bake off.  Seriously sweet delights on offer.  Yum!  Thank you bakers, very impressive, very impressive indeed.  I had the Victoria sponge.  No, not all of it, but a hefty chunk.  An excellent choice.

So all in all, a very fine, and celebratory parkrun morning.  The fifty celebrants were rightly chuffed by their milestone, and as I said to them, assuming bicentennial woman now ceases parkrunning henceforth, in a little over three years, as long as they don’t miss a week, they’ll have caught up with her too!  Very impressive. Well done all.

It was hard to tear myself away from the bonhomie and squishy chairs, but inevitably that time came when we needed to all go our separate ways.  Quick shout out for the cafe’s outside area though, it has an undercover space with sofas and play houses and all sorts, just right for bringing your own cake and pop up party!

DP squishy chairs

Special thanks to the Bakewell parkrun hi-vis heroes who made it so.  You are awesome.  It was a blast at Bakewell, the arctic blast bit wasn’t the best but the fun blast was epic.  Thank you!

Time to go home, but it was a very jolly parkrun morning, and a bonus that we’d landed on one that went ahead.  The gusts died down, the sun came out, and I was rewarded with clear and spectacular views, and no scary being blown off the road fright moments on the drive home.  I do like happy endings.

Hope you made your parkrun too.  🙂

Happy parkrunning wherever you go, just #dfyb

dfyb

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.

Categories: off road, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

smiley lakes 2017

Unabridged version:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

So what’s so great about Smiley Paces.

That’s so hard!  So many things.

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

smiley selfie queen

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

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

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

md starting out selfie

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

 

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

Here are some Smiley moments. There will be more…

 

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

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

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I’m an especially Smiley Smiley today!

Happy Birthday to us!

Party on.

🙂

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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.

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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.