Posts Tagged With: Smiley Paces

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

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

small park BIG RUN

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

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

 

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

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

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

trev run for all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wait for it….

‘Youths clad so you cannot tell their sex

and smelling all of cop-y-dex’

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

copydex

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

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

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

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

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

trev cake

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

Palestinian runners

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

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

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

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

cometh the hour

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

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

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

spreadsheet day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

dawn runners

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

Lots of lovely marshals, and lots of lovely views:

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

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

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

My favourite shot of the night though is this one:

trev because hills are fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Basically, a grand event, in a fine cause.

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

JB rewards

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

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

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

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

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

laps

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

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

trev how to finish

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

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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

dscf2634

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!

dscf3955

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

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

md starting out selfie

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

 

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

Here are some Smiley moments. There will be more…

 

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

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

smiley award

I’m an especially Smiley Smiley today!

Happy Birthday to us!

Party on.

🙂

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

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?

181210163124-kilian-jornet-everest-training-summits-of-my-life-super-169

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

parkrun code

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

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

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

happy penguin awareness day

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

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

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

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

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

penguin power

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

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

knight in half a suit of armour

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

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

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

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

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

penguin pose

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

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

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

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

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

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

and it looks like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

conquered conkered conkers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

penguin awareness with event director

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

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

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

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All in all, we had an amazing time.

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

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

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

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

penguin posed

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

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

penguin refreshments

So that was that, job done.

A grand day out indeed!

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

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

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Bit of a time vampire, if you do, you might be stuck on the sofa for a while, ‘just researching options’.  Hmm.

Happy parkrunning until next time!

🙂

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

dancing penguins

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

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

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

smiletastic 2019

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

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

Smiletastic  2019 RULES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

seal penguin hug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jess ennis hill rep

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

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

penguins

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

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

penguin and seal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

saved penguins

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

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

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

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

pens-day-1

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

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

penguin_1f427

 

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

Sheffield Hallam parkrun 421, the Run Report that never was.

Digested read:  one of my intended projects for 2019 was to have a stab at producing a run report.  I have been gifted an amazing excel pivot widget thingamajig courtesy of the fine folk of Graves parkrun in general and Stephen Gilmer in particular.  Who knew what sorcery could be executed with parkrun results stats thanks to such a tool.  I never thought I’d spontaneously bow down in worship at the potential of a spreadsheet, but really, up til now I’ve never lived, Excel wise.  Now, well life feels different somehow.  A whole new world of possibilities. Smiley Elder, I finally understand!

So I’ve had a stab at a run report, but it’s not made the cut for the official parkrun page, however, as it’s done now, here it is anyway.  A one off special. A rogue run report.  Not so much rebel runner, as rebel reporter.  Go me.  Perhaps it is no co-incidence my finish position was 666 today, the devil in me will out!  You can embrace your inner anarchist by reading on if you dare.  Also, on the plus side, I can put in extra photos now, and indulge my own idiosyncrasies with abandon so every cloud has a silver lining as the saying goes, or is it every silver lining has its cloud?  Oh I forget.

clouds-2

Dear reader, I give you the run report that never was: Sheffield Hallam parkrun # 421 – 05/01/2019

Unabridged version:

Happy New Year!

Welcome back to Sheffield Hallam’s first parkrun of 2019.  It’s a new year, it’s a new dawn but it’s the same glorious parkfun at parkrun.

On a crisp and distinctly nippy morning, 711 parkrunners took to the park to run, walk, jog the 5k parkrun course at Sheffield Hallam’s 421st event.  Thanks to awesome volunteers, the event ran smoothly, inasmuch as nobody fell in the lake (as far as this run report writer is aware) nobody got lost and everybody had fun. Yay!

A special mention to our very own Finlay for his fabulous vocal power in gathering together the first timers for their briefing, which was actually delivered courtesy of Bernie, no artificial aids to voice projection were required there.  We salute you!

the voice finlay

Sandi was in fine form as the first Run Director to kick off the new year, and reminded runners of the few rules we all need to adhere to, to ensure the continuing of this parkrun.  We are a large and mainly cheery crowd, but it is important to avoid problems by following the parkrun code.

parkrun code

Also, Endcliffe park specific rules, keep right within the park, and left on Rustlings road. No running in the road or you will not receive a result, more importantly you might get run over, and jeopardise the future of the event by causing it to be cancelled, and where would be the fun in that?

Here’s a few parkrun resolutions for 2019 borrowed from our friends at Graves:

  1. We shall give way and be nice to other park users (no effing and blinding!)
  2. We will not run on the road under any circumstances
  3. We shall only bring one dog and it will be on a short lead
  4. We will remember our barcodes throughout 2019 – not mentioning anyone’s names…
  5. We will not funnel duck
  6. We will not knick tokens
  7. And lastly you WILL give volunteering a go in 2019 especially if you haven’t done it before!

By the way, re point 3, we are more relaxed at Hallam, you don’t absolutely have to bring a dog with you, parkrunners are allowed to participate without a canine companion.  One looks fun though:

However, re other rule breakers, the volunteer team now have a spade as part of their kit to help dig a hole to dispose of the bodies of miscreants.  I’m pretty sure it’s getting to be standard practice now, by which I mean it’s required kit,  along with a defibrillator for new parkrun set ups.

resized spade

Thanks to those of you who managed to contain yourselves enough to keep quiet during the run briefing, it is appreciated.  It is no mean feat to address 700+ runners, so even if you have heard it all before, please respect other participants and the RD by holding fire on your chit chat for those few minutes.  You may think you are whispering, but trust me you have a booming voice and besides, think how much more interesting your anecdote will be if the hearer has to wait another three minutes to hear its conclusion. The escalating frisson of excitement at delayed gratification will be its own reward!

Thanks to the volunteers

We are very grateful to the volunteers who made this event happen:

Tonia ADAM, Alex ADAM, Anurag AGARWAL, Anuvrat AGARWAL, Ananya AGARWAL, Mohammed AHMED, Lucas BILLINGTON, Ann BREWSTER, Sandi CARMAN, George CARMAN, Rebecca CARMAN, Finlay COOPER, Dave DARWENT, Will DAY, Cecilia DE NARDO, Nicole DONALDSON, Bronwen DOYLE, Fran GRACE, Bernie HARDING, Judy JOHNSON, Paul JOHNSON, Anna KNOWLES, Pamela LEON, George LLOYD-HUGHES, Fran MARSHALL, Annie Anthony MAYS, Jacob MCKEVITT FLACK, Oscar MCKEVITT FLACK, Conor O’BOYLE, Marianne PUMMELL, John RAFFERTY, John ROBERTS, Andy SHEPPARD, Derek SIMPSON, John TOYNE, Chris WALLBRIDGE

Thanks to all the volunteers, especially those who week in, week out, show up, smile and make this event the success it is.  This is not only the most desirable of clubs to join, but it’s an inclusive one too, so don’t be daunted, if you want to join the team of hi-vis heroes, you’ll be more than welcome.  Just send an email to SheffieldHallamhelpers@parkrun.com . You can also opt in to receive regular emails to let you know all about volunteering opportunities.   Simply open a recent parkrun newsletter, results email or volunteer email, click on ‘manage my profile’, then ’email options’, then select the events you’d like to hear from and click ‘save opt-in events list’.   Easy.  You might even get to brandish your own clip board one day!  I know, the sniff of power can make some quite giddy!  Exciting isn’t it. If you can handle a clipboard at parkrun, you can take on the world.

clipboard custody

A few fun stats to get you in the mood.

With special thanks to Graves parkrun in general and Stephen Gilmer in particular for sharing the necessary excel wizardry to make such stats accessible.  The power of the pivot table was previously unknown to me but now?  So much fun!

For example:

Did you know that today we welcomed an amazing 86 people doing their first EVER parkrun!  Welcome to the world of parkrun, hope to see you all back soon.  I hope you all not only enjoyed your parkrun, but took part in the post parkrun tradition of coffee and cake or even brunch with friends old and new.  So a shout out to:

Adam LI Aidan HARRIS Alex HUGGAN
Alistair FLOOD Amy STREET Andrew John MILNES
Andy FREEMAN Andy SCATTERGOOD Ben HOLDEN
Calvin FEAKES Cariad WRIGHT Charlotte GRACE
Christine BAYCROFT Christine GLEW Daniel LONGLEY
Dave LUCK David SIMS Dean WHITTINGSLOW
Diarmuid CREHAN Eleanor HUGGAN Eliah WARD
Emma CHARLES Erin MERCER Esther GRAY
Esther SAMSON Ethan DENNIS Eve RAFFERTY
Faye GOODWORTH Francesca EASTMENT Georgina ROWSE
Graham ORD Hannah KIPPEN Hannah PATON
Heidi REDMOND Helen GRIFFITHS Helen JONES
Jack CHAMBERS Jack LONGLEY Jack OLDFIELD
James WALLACE Jennifer DRAKE Jenny SAWYER
Jeremy TAYLOR Jessica MOHAN Jill SCRIVENS
Joe GAUGHAN John BOREMAN Julian GOSLIGA
Julie SIMS Kate COLLINGWOOD Kate MAHONEY
Kate SALINSKY Laurie NICHOLAS Liz EADE
Louise HEATON Louise LUCK Mark LONGLEY
Matt ADAMS Megan CREHAN Mikey CHARLES
Nadia LAMBERT Nathan TIMMIS Oliver FEAKES
Oliver WOODCOCK Peter MARSHALL Polly NATYNCZUK
Rachel RIPLEY Richard HIBBERT Ruby CLARKE
Ruby JANDU Ruth FEAKES Salil DEENA
Sandy SMITH Sean DAVIES Seren ORD
Shengpeng LI Sophia PARKER Sophie HAYCOCK
Tammy HAGUE Theo FAIRBROTHER Thomas HOWARTH
Tim DENNIS Timothy LATHAM Tony LYELL
Vicky STOREY William FEAKES

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, can we also extend a welcome to the 37 runners who visited Sheffield Hallam parkrun for the first time.  Hope you enjoyed your run and the delights of Endcliffe park.  Did you manage to spot the heron on the way round?  Sometimes you’ll even see a kingfisher if you are lucky, we don’t just have ducks on the ponds here.  Thanks for gracing us with your presence.  Special shout out to the NewZealand visitors, didn’t catch your names, but thanks for coming:

Amy STREET Andrew John MILNES Andy FREEMAN
Calvin FEAKES Charlotte GRACE Christine BAYCROFT
Dave LUCK David SIMS Esther GRAY
Ethan DENNIS Eve RAFFERTY Faye GOODWORTH
Georgina ROWSE Heidi REDMOND Jennifer DRAKE
Jenny SAWYER Jessica MOHAN Jill SCRIVENS
Julian GOSLIGA Julie SIMS Kate COLLINGWOOD
Kate MAHONEY Laurie NICHOLAS Liz EADE
Louise HEATON Louise LUCK Matt ADAMS
Nadia LAMBERT Oliver FEAKES Oliver WOODCOCK
Rachel RIPLEY Ruby CLARKE Ruth FEAKES
Tammy HAGUE Tim DENNIS Tony LYELL
William FEAKES

Everyone who took part was magnificent however, here are some, captured (metaphorically not literally) by our near ever-present photographer genius George Carman.  We thank you.

The photos give many insights as to what goes on at parkrun.  This is the secret of barefoot running – stay airborne!  Impressive indeed, by any standard.

bare foot runner

Some runners even abandoned any pretence of not seeing the event photographer and gave cheery greetings, demonstrating impressive multi-tasking with running and arm waving and even the odd distorted grimace broad smiles of acknowledgement and appreciation as they sped on by.

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It is a run not a race, but in case you are interested, the first, second and third finishers were:

Women:

1 Sarah BURRELL
2 Celia NAYLOR
3 Tammy HAGUE

And men:

1 Thomas Denwood HARRISON
2 David MILLNS
3 Steve CANNING

But let’s have some shout outs for random reasons that please me.  Specifically, on this Sheffield Hallam’s 421st event, the 421st finisher was Colette White.  In 75th position was Mark Ansell. This year is the 75th anniversary of the crash of the B-17 Flying Fortress, known as Mi Amigo, which crashed at Endcliffe Park, Sheffield, in 1944.  Ten were killed, and they are memorialised by the monument behind the EPIC café which has been tended by eye witness Tony Foulds for decades since, he saw the pilot ‘waving’ as the plane came down.  You’ll see him out there several times a week, keeping the spot tended and clean.  Say hello if you do.  Here are some of this morning’s parkrunners, including two actual American visitors with Tony himself at the memorial.

In homage to Tony, a shout out to all the other Tonys at Hallam today: Tony HALL, Tony LYELL and Tony WILLIAMS

You can see Tony’s original story here:

There was also a Jessica Olympian sighting in the park today, so can we have a cheer for her namesake too:  Jessica MOHAN

Bravo to this week’s milestone runners:

Caroline HOPE 50, Candi LAWSON 50 and Yousef EZAYDI 100.

Congratulations all.  We’ll look forward to see you sporting your milestone t-shirts in due course!

Superwomen

Whilst all parkrunners are intrinsically awesome, FACT, can we have a collective gasp of admiration for the two parkrunners who exceeded 80% in the good for age rankings.  For those of you now blinking cluelessly at your screens, all parkrun events use age grading to allow athletes to compare results.  Age grading takes your time and uses the world record time for your sex and age to produce a score (a percentage). This score allows you to compare your personal performance against other people’s performances even though they might be a different age and a different sex to you – the higher the score the better the performance.

Not everyone is seeking to achieve ever higher age gradings, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the following percentages.  Wow!

Dot KESTERTON with an astonishing 93.51 %, and the ever smiling Kate SCOTT with 80.21 %.  To put this in context, at Cardiff parkrun today Charlotte ARTER broke the women’s parkrun world record with a finish in 15:50 for the age category SW25-29 and her age grading was ‘only’ 93.47 %.  Go Dot! Dot was faster than the speed of light, so initially I thought she’d not been captured on film today, but it seems Mr Carman’s shutter fingers were even faster.  Here are each en route, storming it:

Thank you both for giving us all something to chase!

So well done everyone for turning out – what a great start to the year.  Here’s to a great year of parkrun fun for all in 2019.

I think we all deserve a round of applause for being awesome!  Here it is.

clapping conclusion

Rebel Run Report Writer Lucy Marris A448776

 

Also, self indulgent Smiley Paces wowzers moment:

WOWZERS! Three … yes THREE parkrun category records bagged today by the Smileys or friends of …. Hallam; Dot Kesterton 65-69 in a time of 22.21 age grading of 93.51% (😲!), Concord; Nicola Rafferty 55-59 in a time of 22.14 age grading of 81.41% and the legendary Kate Morris at Rother Valley; 50-54 19.32 age grading 89.16% which is also an all time parkrun PB! UP THE OLD BIRDS !!!

Gotta love parkrun!

Til next time

🙂

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. 🙂

 

Categories: parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Ta Da! Dig Deep Derring-Do: Dibber Dibbed, DD Dash Definitely Done!

Digested read:  been there, done that, got the Dig Deep 30 T-shirt and bling.  First ever ultra done.

dig deep 30 bling

Unabridged version:

Yes, well, I know I go on and on and on, but if you want to do an ultra, you’ve got to start building your endurance somehow, and it is all about mental strength.  Test yourself right here right now.  Or just watch Murder She Wrote, whatever, it’s up to you.

What happened there?  It’s so surreal.  I think they only give you the bling so afterwards you can feel its imprint on your forehead where you’ve slept on it by accident overnight  and know that really happened.  Like in Mr Benn, where he always got to keep some souvenir or other from whatever adventure he got up to in the fancy dress shop.  For those of you that are too young to remember, this was a TV series from my childhood, in the age before the internet, and when we had to watch a test card with a scary clown on it waiting for tv to start.  We also had to wait for the TV to warm up, an early foretaste of the subsequent frustration of watching the buffer symbol spiralling on a computer screen.   It was another age, sigh, you don’t want to get me started on slide rules.  Yes they were an actual thing.

test-card_1951702c

Where was I, oh yes, Mr Benn.  In it, our worthy protagonist, who presumably is wearing a suit and leaving the house each morning because he’s still pretending to hold down a job many months after being made redundant.  To fill his time, he has to do something.  Hence, Mr Benn, a man wearing a black suit and bowler hat, leaves his house at 52 Festive Road and visits a fancy-dress costume shop where he is invited by the moustachioed, fez-wearing shopkeeper to try on a particular outfit. He leaves the shop through a magic door at the back of the changing room and enters a world appropriate to his costume, where he has an adventure (which usually contains a moral) before the shopkeeper reappears to lead him back to the changing room, and the story comes to an end. Mr Benn returns to his normal life, but is left with a small souvenir of his magical adventure‘ without it he just wouldn’t be able to believe what he’d just experienced had really happened.

If you still don’t know what I mean, then you’ll have to get down to Frontrunner in Sheffield.  They’ve just remodelled their shop based on Mr Benn.  You choose your running shoes and kit, go and put them on in the changing room and when you emerge you find yourself on the actual terrain or at the actual event most suited to whatever tread of shoes you’ve gone for.  Choose carefully, the reality of finding yourself at the marathon des sables might be more than you bargained for, but worth a punt to save on race day entries and the faff and getting yourself there all the same.

Anyway, why are you banging on about running shops and Mr Benn?  You are distracting me.  I need to tell you all about my adventures doing the Dig Deep 30/intro ultra/ Peak Trails 30 or whatever they are calling it now.  In case you’ve not been concentrating, this was my first ever attempt at an ultra. Only just an ultra I know, at 30 miles, but with a lot of what we like to refer to affectionately as ‘undulation’.  The blah de blah on the website says:

The Dig Deep Peak Trails 30 (formerly known as the ‘intro ultra’) covers some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK. At around 30 miles the route takes in some of the finest trails in the Peak District. The route has roughly 1388 metres of ascent and whilst there are no monster climbs the continued hilly nature of the course earmarks this race as a tough one to complete. However, the distance falls just within the ULTRA category – so if you are after your first ULTRA scalp – this could be the one!

These words, and the generous cut off times (you have the same length of time to get around as the 60 milers, because the last 15 miles of the route are the same), plus the inspirational Smiley trio who ran it last year, inspired me to sign up. After all, what’s the worst…

To be honest, I just need to get it off my chest as a way of processing it, so, if you feel your eyes glazing over or are just generally bored, tired and in no way interested I won’t notice you aren’t engaged so feel free to do your own thing. In fact, I’d really recommend it, other people’s run reports can be particularly tedious if they go overboard in detail even if you are holding out to find out whether or not they successfully evaded illicit-substance testing at the end.  I won’t be offended, you won’t be bored, everyone’s a winner. Job done.

So where was I?  Oh yes, had my traditional pre-event angst during the taper so by the time it got to the day before when I had to go and register I was relieved more than anything.  Like getting to exam day, you can’t do any more, so no point in continuing to fret, you just have to get on with it or die trying. I knew I hadn’t done enough in the way of preparation through initial naivety mainly, underestimating the challenge, no idea about kit, bit directionless in training – I put the hours in for sure, but probably could have trained smarter with the benefit of hindsight – upshot,  I’d be winging it to a large extent.  Though whether or not you can actually ‘wing it’ over that distance was still to be determined.  Hence, I decided to step back a bit, treat it as a learning curve and just try to stay positive and cover the distance.  Incidentally, I’ve just googled ‘wing it, ultra’ to try to find a suitable image to break up this endless text, and got bodyform pantliners!  How pleasing, also, potentially apt, depending on the extent to which the whole endeavour triggers stress incontinence.  Gotta love Google*, full of surprises.

bodyform-ultra-towels-normal-wings

I’ve read somewhere that one way to deal with event angst is to have different layered goals.  The idea being, you can include an idealised aspiration/ best case scenario of course, but think of other secondary goals, that might be more achievable and would still be worth turning out for, so it doesn’t feel like you’ve totally bombed if you don’t hit the gold standard objective.  For some, the gold standard might be to win, or to complete within a certain time scale, or possibly to get a flattering photo of themselves en route.  Personally, I didn’t incorporated any ‘flattering photo’ objectives in my goal setting, as goals are supposed to be SMART, and that means ‘achievable’ amongst other things (Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic/ relevant, time bound).  No point in going for goals like winning or being photogenic in my case therefore.  Didn’t want to set myself up for failure.

NEW_SMART-graphic

Instead, in my case, my gold standard, number one objective was to finish without crying.  Failing that, my number two, silver standard, lesser goal was to finish with crying and my worst case scenario was to at least start out, learn what I could and come back better prepared next year even if this time round it was destined to be a DNF (did not finish).  That bronze standard would allow for full on sobbing with snot and everything and still be an acceptable outcome – a positive result even, since it was there on my unwritten staged goals in advance.  Good to know.  I wasn’t even going to think about times for this year, to just finish safely would be good.  Daylight would be a bonus.

On the Friday I headed out to pick up my number the day before race day. After a long hot, too dry summer, there’d been torrential rain.  I was so glad we weren’t out in that, although I wasn’t sure if it might make the surface slippery. Oh well, nothing to be done now other than get on with it.  I jumped over the puddle on the way to register and got my T-shirt and number OK.  I was delighted with my 202!  It has a pleasing symmetry, it is also a palindrome, and who doesn’t like one of them?  Also, it’s a bit like S.0.S, in my world anyway, and this also pleased me.  ’twas a good omen! Granted 505 would have been better – it was the height of secret messaging to put the number 0.7734 into my Casio College fx-80 scientific calculator (which I still have and use by the way), turn it upside down and pass it to a school friend.  The 202 reminded me of that.  Putting 58008 in the calculator was considered incredibly risqué – I was so anarchic back in the day!  My, we knew how to make our own entertainment.  You may scoff, but bet you go try it again yourself in a bit, just for old times sake….  and you thought no-one would ever know, but in fact I can see right into your soul!  I’m looking at you now, through your screen.  Did you know you have spinach caught between your front teeth?

Not overly convinced by the violet and orange shirt colour combo, but at least it’s distinctive.  I was also a bit overwhelmed by the responsibility of having to keep my dibber safe overnight.  That’s probably why I couldn’t really sleep much the night before.  No worries, insomnia enabled me to pack and repack my running vest a great many times, which I’m sure is a pretty much universal pre-event tradition for many runners.

It was hard for me to know what to include.  There was a kit list, and although the organisers said they’d relax it a bit because the forecast was really good (for the Saturday, Sunday was another matter) I felt as I knew I’d be slow out there I should be sensible and not cut any corners.  There was also the option of having drop bags delivered to two of the marshal points on the course, but again, this didn’t really help me as I haven’t got enough experience to know what I’d want when.  Plus I realised at the last-minute I needed to include a cup for the water stations (they are cutting back on plastic, by not providing single use cups at the water stations –  which I approve of, but this did create a need to carry something to use instead).  I didn’t have a proper collapsible one so ended up basically putting in one of those reusable coffee ones.  Not very minimalist, though it is very tasteful and robust.  Matches the event shirt even.  I may try to get round to taking a photo of it to show you if I can be bothered.  It’s a fine cup, just most definitely not designed with ultra-running (get me) in mind. Hang on – here you go:

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I ended up with:

Kit List (mandatory requirements)
Full body cover (windproof/waterproof)
Compass and full route map
Spare water and food
Whistle
Mobile phone

plus:

first aid kit including compeed and Vaseline
spare socks
foil blanket
toilet paper
reusable coffee mug
camera
sunglasses
peaked cap
stuff for the rock shop (more about this later)
prescription glasses
head torch
couple of breeze blocks as ballast, to stop me falling over

Oh, and extra cash in case I bail and have to get a taxi home, and extra map because the official one is too small to be any help at all.

I would have added in the kitchen sink if I could have managed to wrench it off the wall, but it was too well plumbed in.  In the morning I was hoping to include some sandwiches, but there was no room for my Tupperware set by the time I’d squished in everything else.  It was heavier than I expected when I lifted it, but hey ho, I’d least I’d covered all eventualities even if I knew blister wise, the compeed and Vaseline rather cancel each other out as you can’t get a compeed to stick on a thoroughly greased foot.  oh well, maybe I’d find another runner who needed them…  If you are thinking my packing was excessive, well at least I didn’t add in a fibreglass statue of Jesus Christ to erect at the top of Win Hill.   Some endurance runners apparently recently did exactly just that in Wales somewhere.  Even I have some limits.

I set my alarm for 5.30 I think, but was awake all  night anyway as far as I could tell.  Thanks to the Smiley buddy who reminded me via Facebook messenger that a sleepless night was probably inevitable and it would still be ok. 🙂   It was a cool morning, which was fab.  Heat is my enemy at the best of times, and I didn’t want a repeat of the London Marathon saga which was an exercise in being slowly scorched alive – from above by the sun and from below as heat came back up at you from the melting tarmac.  However, this seeming boon,  created more angst in my ‘what should I wear?’  decision making processes.  It can get surprisingly cool up the tops, and if I wasn’t sure how my body’s temperature control would be as I got more and more tired, maybe a long-sleeved top would give me more protection?  In the end pragmatism won the day,  I couldn’t physically squish any more stuff in my arcteryx running vest, I already had a waterproof jacket just in case.  I went with my parkrun volunteer 25 T-shirt, because it has good associations, and my Smiley Paces buff, because I wanted some smiley spirit along with me.  However, I did put a fleece in my backpack for the finish, which paradoxically could be left at the start, so I would be able to warm up again if need be at the end.  The forecast could not have been better, no rain forecast, some breeze and low double figures temperature all day.

I looked longingly at Geronimo Sky, my giraffe companion animal on so many running adventures.  It would have been nice to have her along, but even I baulked at the idea of mountain rescue having to come out and get me and my African ungulate.  I could see the incident report on Facebook later, about the ‘ill-prepared novice ultra runner who thought it was appropriate to take on 30 miles in the peaks in giraffe fancy dress’.  Also, she might not fit in the helicopter.  There is always next year…  what do you think?  I mean now I’ve done it, and see people are allowed to run in flip flops, I don’t see why not 🙂

geronimo at london

So getting ready rituals.  Lots of vaseline, changed my blistering life that.  Actually, I have a three-tier approach to anti-chafing products.  The expensive stuff, the lanacane anti-chafing gel – is for under boobs, I used body glide on my shoulders to stop the straps from my running vest and bra rubbing, and vaseline slathered on my feet like mulch, at least 4 inches thick to provide an effective barrier and stop weeds getting through.  At the risk of giving out an early spoiler, I can report I had zero chafing after 12 hours out.  That’s right dear reader ZERO!.  Only one tiny blister on the side of my foot which I think was where I got a bit of sand in my shoe at some point, as it isn’t anywhere I’ve ever had a rub before.  Not everyone will understand the significance of this statement, but anyone who has ever got into a shower after a run only to emerge screaming micro-seconds later as the water finds the raw patches on their skin in the most intimate of orifices, and hidden and awkward of places  will 100% recognise the importance of this revelation and what an achievement in represents.  Lanacane is amazing, my discovery of it has been almost life changing, running wise.  Actually, possibly genuinely life-changing, chafing injuries have prevented me from running before.  (Really hoping that’s not just me, if so, apologies for over-sharing).  My only blistering was of my lips, can’t believe I dragged all that stuff round with me, but never thought of lip balm.  Next time eh? I might see if I’m allowed either a pack mule or a Sherpa to help me round next year, it would make life so much easier.  Can’t imagine why no-one else has thought of this.  I can’t see anything explicitly stating you can’t,  so….

This year then, up, dressed, fully lubricated, breakfasted (porridge with added seeds – is there any other suitable pre-gig feast I wonder) and off I went.  As I’d already registered the day before I only needed to get there in time for the pre-event briefing at 7.40, but of course my fear of arriving late meant I got there just after 7.00.  Yes, ridiculously early, but also yes, there was proper coffee available.  There was event parking signposted up a little slope through the main car park.  Don’t tell anyone, but I did have a look, but I was worried my car wouldn’t manage on the slope and wet grass, and I was worried about getting my car out in the dark later.  It’s a senior, and not built for off-road.  There were very, very few cars on the hard-standing area, so I snuck into that, feeling guilty, but not guilty enough to change my plan.  The rule is to do just one thing that scares me every day, doing an ultra would tick that box, no need to traumtise myself the whole way round fretting about how I’d ever retrieve the car from a skiddy field without ricocheting into a dozen or so tents occupied by slumbering ultra-runners, probably now too stiff post-event to have any chance of making a speedy retreat to safety, even if they saw me coming.

Here I am, this is it!  Oh.  My.  Gawd.

I ventured into the farm, left my backpack for the end behind the registration desk, and had my traditional annual talk to the organiser about being really slow and was that ok. Yes it was, someone has to be last.  Yes they do, and that someone was going to be me.   As surely as night follows day.  I was going to own the final finisher slot, and not by sandbagging either.  It was mine for the taking.  Inexplicably, there doesn’t seem to be a trophy for that, but I do really like the awards for all the speedy folk. Aren’t they lovely?  Not quite in the league of the finishers ashtray for Sheffield marathoners in years gone by (1981, according to runners’ legends), but not bad at all.

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Pleasingly, I then almost immediately saw a familiar face.  One of the original Dig Deep sign ups who’d had to pull out because of injury but was still turning out to volunteer as a marshal.  What a hero!  Thanks buddy!  Not only did he sit and help calm my nerves with chit chat, but also he bought me a latte.  I haven’t had a proper coffee for weeks, this was very fine.  He was originally to be marshalling at check point one at Burbage, which would have meant I’d see him on the 30 mile route, but in fact he was now at Edale somewhere for the 50 and 60 milers, so I wouldn’t see him again.  Nice boost though.

People began to arrive.  I gulped a bit inwardly, as even though I know from bitter personal experience how unhelpful it is to compare yourself to other runners, I couldn’t help noticing they were all rather lither (is that an actual word) and more streamlined than me.  Some didn’t even let out an involuntary noise when shifting from sitting to standing say.  If you don’t know what I mean, lucky you, but you will find as you age, that stiffness does trigger such sighs and exclamations on movement.  What have I done?  They were all wearing compression socks and lean and hungry looks.  Some of them were even wearing shorts!  Lawks a lordy, they must be planning on actually running the whole darned thing!  Is that even possible?  I felt like a different species to them.  A one lesser able to tackle an ultra.  Gulp.

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Another Smiley rocked up, with dog, not just any smiley, but a Dragonfly Smiley from Smiletastic days (long story, check out the Smiletastic posts if you wish). She was out to wave off her other half, but came over to give support, which was really appreciated.

There was a pre-race briefing, which was indeed very brief.  An explanation of how to dib and what the dibbing points looked like, and a reminder that after Burbage there would be no signage so you’d be on your own.  Don’t miss out the dibbing points – especially CP3 which loads of people missed last year apparently – if in doubt dib!  And watch out for cows.  So glad I’ve done all those recces, I was confident about the route I’d be taking if nothing else.  Then, that was it, pee break and time to assemble at the start.

Then, good new and unexpected gloriousness, Dr Smiley!  She’d made the trek out especially to wave me off!  I was so touched.  I had zero expectation of being waved off by anyone, it’s not a very enticing prospect really is it.  Come and stand around in the cold at some ungodly hour on a Saturday morning  so you can be the focus of my pre-race angstiness and then ignored as soon as I go off en route.  Left desolate by the sidelines, probably in the rain. It made me really happy.  The training for this had been on the whole more solitary and demoralising than I’d imagined at the outset, it was just fantastic to have support on the day, and even better for being unexpected.  Also, this meet up necessitated a photo sequence, of course.  So here you go, happy smiling smilies:

Whether or not I’d make the finish, at least it was now an established fact on record that I’d made the start!  I chattered away about nothing, then Dr Smiley, because she’s medically qualified and also an experienced GB triathlete and mega runner in her own right asked if there was anything I needed to do, like go to the loo or something…  Oh my gawd, of course I needed the loo!  Everyone needs a last minute precautionary pee.  I sped off to attend to that.  Re-emerging into the scrum of the starting line up, I didn’t see her again, well not for a while.  I did see other runner’s footwear though. Look at these;

Wow, surely they’d rub?

As I was milling, there was a race official doing spot checks on kit bags, he took one look at my bulging sack of paraphernalia and said ‘I’m guessing you’ll be fine‘ and moved on.  I’m taking that as respect for my evident preparedness and not disbelief at the voluminous nature of my back pack.  Maybe I should have gone for a squeeze down minimalist sleeping bag on reflection, but there’s always next time.

‘Suddenly’ we were in count down mode.  Little beeps went off all around me as people fired out their watches.  I tried to fire up mine.  Nothing.  It was just searching for a satellite. I was mildly annoyed, I knew it was going to abandon me en route anyway, so I suppose it wouldn’t make all that much difference if I didn’t get the start logged from the off.  I slotted myself in pretty much at the back, and then before I knew it we were off, I was swept up in a bit of loping run too.  I was scanning the sides of the start funnel for a familiar face – the Frontrunner media team was videoing the start – I gave a wave just as he stopped filming and seemingly fell over into a hedge (don’t think there was a cause and effect there, more just correlation of events).  He didn’t see me straight away, but clocked me as I was sprinting (eh hem) off, and I heard him shout after me, I was determined to at least run until I was round the corner and out of sight.  Didn’t see Dr Smiley, but then she didn’t see me either, never mind, we’d shared a moment!  That was it, all the ultra runners through the funnel and underway, no turning back now.  How desolate the start funnel must have looked once we’d all vacated it.  Wonder what all the waver offers did next?  Coffee and leisurely breakfast if they had their wits about them.

DD start funnel

The course starts up an incline, I was a bit swept up with everyone else, so did jog along, though inevitably the few that were behind me overtook me in rapid succession.  A little further on, I found a couple stopped.  He was leaning against a fence, not good so early in proceedings.  I asked if they needed help, but they said they were ok, he just needed to regulate his breathing.  OK then, off I continued, vaguely aware of two couples still behind me, but just walking and adjusting their kit.  The race vest equivalent of hoiking your tights and knickers straight after going to the loo.  Blooming office wear, nightmare.  Tights are possibly the most uncomfortable, least practical garment in the known universe, after sports bras, though that should really go without saying.

Soon I was on Ringinglow Road, and then turning off it, and over the style and up the hill.   The weather was just stunning, and the views glorious, it was long after sunrise, but the sky was beautiful.  There was a promise of warm sun and a gentle breeze.  It felt good.  I caught up with a couple ahead who were adjusting shoe laces, and they let me pass.  I think that was the only overtake I did all day.  I offered to wait and let them go ahead as I was just on a day out, but they declined, saying they too had the same game plan and would fight me for final finisher.  I laughed politely, but  knowing inwardly they had no chance, they might battle all they wish, but that target was mine!

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This part of the route was fastidiously marked, there were even cheery marshals to point the way.  After crossing the open fields (no cows, phew) then it was a steep descent into the woods. I’m a total coward on this bit, I just find it scary descending and I was worried about slipping on a surface recently wet after so many months of dry.  I tentatively picked my way down, conscious of the couple I’d over taken now right on my tail.  We chatted a little.  I asked them if they’d done this ultra before, and then cringed, because my intonation was all wrong and it somehow came out implying ‘because I’ve done it loads of times and I can give you lots of top tips‘ whereas my intonation was supposed to be reverential, not patronising.  Intoning in such a way as to imply ‘you’ve clearly done loads of ultras – how does this one compare?’ and then I couldn’t bring myself to explain I knew I’d got the sentence stress all discombobulated, because then I’d be a) drawing attention to it; b) delaying them even more on their run and c) demonstrate I was even odder than they’d probably already worked out for myself.  It’s so hard being me, life is just one excruciating social encounter after another. You dear reader, can have no idea what this is like, being an appropriately socially-adjusted individual with recognisably effective communication skills.  Just feel my pain, that’s all I ask.  Anyway, they over-took me soon after that, so on the plus side I was again the main (only) contender for the coveted thirty mile final finisher position.  Just 29 miles to get round safely and it would be mine for the taking!  (Insert evil cackling laugh here).

Next stage, Limb Valley.  This is the first time I’ve been up since they resurfaced the path.  It is so much better.  There were cattle on either side, so they would have been lying blocking the route for sure.  A couple of walkers were watching a couple of the cattle that were wading into a bog for mud baths.  I stopped to chat to them for a bit because it wasn’t as if I had anything else to do all day.  They were the first of many to ask what the event was.  I got stopped all day by interested spectators.  Still, this first interaction was fine, and it was nice to see the cows having a good time.  Normally, I’m too wary of them to pause and just appreciate them in all their bovine magnificence.  They are lovely animals, particularly when viewed from the other side of a secure fence.

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Onwards and upwards.  Just as I was reaching the top I came across the asthmatic runner, now walking back down hill.  We spoke briefly.  He just couldn’t get his breathing right and so had made the difficult, but painfully gutting decision to withdraw.  I really felt for him, that’s tough.  He was trudging back to the start.  One of the things I do to keep myself going on difficult runs is think of all the people who’d love to be able to be out there doing what I’m trying to do but really, absolutely can’t.  I resolved to think of him when the going got tough as inevitably it would, and keep on putting one foot in front of another until I was actually definitively unable to do it anymore.

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Emerging on to Sheephill road, past the hilariously named ‘cottage’, noticed a helicopter overhead.  I saw it a few times during the day, I wonder what it was out and about for.

There was a marshal to point me in the right direction into Lady Cannings plantation, I wondered if that might be the last person I’d see all day.  The other thirty-milers had long since vanished out of sight.  Into the woods.  I had a brief moment of confusion in here, wondering if I’d got the right turning as one sign was missing, but phew, I was OK.  A good example though of the importance of recces for me at least, it just seems incredible I could lose my nerve re orientation even though I was on a really familiar patch.  How people get around without recces I can’t imagine.  I heard there was also a mix up with on the day map issues, some on the 30 mile route had a map for the 50 and 60 milers, that could have ended badly!

I was soon out of the woods, and alongside the heather.  This landscape always lifts my spirits, even if, granted, this year the heather has been short-lived and less spectacular than usual.  Even heather couldn’t hold out indefinitely in such extremes of dry and the rain came too late.  I just hope it will recover next year.

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Skipping along, across Houndkirk.  I love this route.  The views are amazing, the landscape seemingly deserted and the gradient is on your side after just a little bit of uphill.  Glorious. The photos of course don’t do it justice.  I found myself wondering if and when I’d be making the return route along the same paths, but tried not to dwell on it too much, better to just live in the moment.

On I trotted, a few walkers, one man sped past me with a fine working cocker spaniel  sprinting along behind (that will be you soon Tilly, don’t fret).

tilly

He wished me well as he disappeared over the horizon.  I emerged at Burbage at the same time as the Thai shed pulled up.  This food stall is definitely enterprising, putting itself out there, but, much as I like good vegetarian Thai food, it does seem a bit of an anomaly out there in the Peak District.  Not the sort of food I’d be thinking of mid run.  Still, it must do a roaring trade as it’s out there a lot lately.

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I didn’t wait for it to open, I had an event to run.

This was the first of the marshalled check points, check point one.  I was so relieved they were still there, I had an anxious moment when it looked from afar like they guy was packing up, but he gave me a cheery welcome.  I dug out my super-practical (not) cup for water and had a bit of a chat.  I said I was pretty confident I was the last runner through, as I was, but didn’t want to claim 100% certainty in case someone had been hiding behind a tree when I passed, maybe on their own mission to bag final finisher without me knowing.  The guy said he’d had one runner through who wasn’t expected and was missing another if that was the case.  I explained about seeing a man withdraw earlier, which might account for it, he’d got a withdrawn down as female. I  wondered if as they were running together maybe their dibbers had got mixed up or something,  No worries, or at least no my worry, I felt I could relax now, this for me was the critical check point, if they got bored waiting for me here that would be run over, but now I had loads of time to get around.  If I was outside the cut offs from hereon-in I’d be begging for someone to come rescue me!

Through the car park, along the road and heading up to Stanage.  There were a few more people now, heading up to do bouldering, or maybe just for a lie down.  Why didn’t I think to bring along a mattress for a power nap en route?  Curses.  Still, that’s what this event was all about, a learning experience, I’ll know for next year.  If I have a collapsible cup, that will leave a bit more space in my running vest for other essentials, like this.

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I got to the top, and again, the panorama opened up. It’s just gorgeous up there.  It’s weird this 30 mile malarkey.  It was definitely physically much, much tougher than the London Marathon say, for me anyway.  But mentally, I think it really helps that you just look up and around you and your spirits soar.  It is such a privilege to be out in this landscape, and were it not for having the Dig Deep series of races to aim for, I’d never have got out and explored if for myself.  There were no bees on Stanage today, but there were views to explode your mind.  I could just make out some runners in the far, far distance, I wondered how long it would be before I’d be where they were now.

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This was type one fun.  Lovely.  I even ran bits.  This might sound like stating the obvious, but I’d actually planned on only walking the first half in case I ran down my reserves too much early on, but I felt great, and it’s so rare for me to spontaneously feel like scampering I figured I might as well surrender to it, there would be plenty of time later when I’d be longing to put on the brakes.

Much excitement when I got to the first un-marshalled dibbing point.  It was highly visible. I don’t know how it compares with last year, but there was no missing these as long as you were on the correct path.  A short jog on, and there was the next one, at the junction where you take the path off Stanage.  So far so good.

I was making better progress than on any of the recces.  I wasn’t particularly pushing myself, but just trying to keep moving and minimise faffing.  Even so, I had several people stop me asking what was going on.  I must look either approachable or just unlikely – the presence of a number pinned to my front suggests I’m participating in something, but what?  No-one else in sight, and I’m not immediately identifiable as any kind of an athlete from my outward physique.  Still, those I spoke to were encouraging.  Possibly my favourite encounter though was the couple just after the cattle grid on Quiet Road.  (I think). After you’ve descended off Stanage Edge.  They’d taken a ‘short cut’ which had led to the female half of the couple waist deep in a bog, completely stuck and crying with laughter.  Her male companion was also unable to move on account of being doubled up with laughter himself.  They were having a hoot.  Being up to your midriff in bog is apparently brilliant fun, infectiously so.  Those Bovines up the Limb valley were but early adopters of a trend that is sure to catch on.  You heard it here first!

Shortly after I’d shared giggles with these two mud-hoppers, a bare-chested man ran by.  I trotted on, dropping back to a walk as soon as I hit an incline. A bit later, he came past me again the other way. This was a bit sobering, as I imagine he’d sprinted up to Stanage and back in the time it had taken me to trot just a kilometre or so.  He paused, and asked me what I was up to. I explained about the 30 mile challenge (I couldn’t bring myself to call it an ultra run because I was so self-evidently doing very little in the way of actual running) and he was really encouraging about the whole thing.  I promise you dear reader, not a word of a lie, not one person I encountered during this whole endeavour laughed in my face when I told them what I was up to.  Not.  One.  Amazing isn’t it.  People are more encouraging and supportive than you might think.  Whatever negative thoughts passed through my head later on, they were put there by me, sad, but true.  He skipped off, probably doing his own 50 mile ultra run before breakfast, but hey, good for him, we were each pursing our own goals, and that dear reader is as it should be. Thank you random runner.

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I left him running onwards whilst I turned up the road and up the hill, following on behind some horses

This road was a bit of a slog, though you do get some unexpectedly good views if you bother to stop and look at them.  Some cyclist passed, some puffing, some calling greetings as they cruised by.  After a bit, a few undulations and some twists and turns Win Hill started to come into view.  My nemesis.  Is it just me, or does it look a bit like Kilimanjaro from afar?  Certainly feels like it when you make the ascent.

See?  Practically indistinguishable!  It’s Win Hill on the left by the way. Or maybe right, hard to say.  I met someone who’d climbed Kilimanjaro once, I was dead impressed.  ‘What was it like?’ I asked him excitedly.  He shook his head ‘hell, it was like hell, in a Scottish mist, couldn’t see you hand in front of your face and couldn’t breathe‘ hmmm, not on my bucket list any more that one then.  At least with Win Hill, even if you can’t breathe, there are fabulous views.

Though this stretch had elements of sameyness, it went quickly, and heading down New Road was unremarkable apart from rising fear at the prospect of Win HIll and the presence of a healthy looking but extremely dead mole.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mole up close before.  It made me sad, but also, bizarrely, was reassuring because it must mean there are other living moles out there.  So here is the next in my series of random dead animals/ road kill.

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Whilst we are on depressing animal shots.  This popped up in my Facebook feed today.  A friend of mine is working in China, and came across people selling live baby turtles with painted shells.  The may look beautiful, but how sad and cruel is that.  I understand in some places you can even buy turtles sealed in plastic bubbles of water, used as ‘ornaments’ for key-rings.  There seem to be no limits to what we’ll do to animals.  Messes with my head…

turtles in Yangshuo

This concludes the depressing animal strand of this blog post.  Probably.

Moving on.  ‘Suddenly’ I was at Yorkshire Bridge!  Over the road down the hill and the check point and feed station was in sight!  However, I was thwarted in my endeavours to get there.  Another couple stopped me – whilst I was actually jogging this time – I felt a tad affronted.  They then said ‘is there anything interesting down there‘ waving vaguely towards Win Hill.  Erm, I didn’t really know how to respond.   Surely that would require some deep philosophical discussion about what constitutes ‘interesting’ and could that ever be an objective standard as opposed to a subjective experience.  I didn’t really want to have that debate right there and then.  I said basically, ‘ well, there’s a stream and a footpath and a big hill which is a tough climb but great views‘.  ‘Oh,’ they replied ‘what about the other routes?’  I got a bit exasperated at this point.  I mean, I’m all for being helpful and educating the public about the sport of ultra-running (cough), but that doesn’t extend to be a roaming tourist information service!  Couldn’t they see they were blocking the path of an ultra runner!  I bet this doesn’t happen to Kilian Jornet when he’s out and about.  I mumbled something vague and trotted off to be embraced by this vision of loveliness:

Now, I know you shouldn’t really have favourites, but between you and me, I think these were my favourite marshals of the day. They were funny and helpful.  They were also a gateway to a mountain of calorific snacks.  The two women helped me with faffing with my cup, and selection of snackery.  They took time out now and again to give a running commentary on the guy who was eating a pot noodle with a twig, having failed to pack a spork apparently.  There was some banter going on (don’t worry, he could hold his own) but I felt he should be celebrated for going for the biodegradable option.  Also for holding out against the earlier suggestion that he improvise with two ballpoint pens.  Anyway, this trio was friendly and funny and fed me – and you can’t ask for more from marshals at an event really can you?  Oh, by the way, the stuff that looks like lost property is actually bags ‘proper’ ultra runners had left for use at various stages.  Just so you know how it all works.

We were debating Win Hill ahead.  I was apprehensive. I commented I’d still rather climb up it from Parkin Clough side than try to descend, I just don’t see how you can come down a slope that steep and uneven without falling. (Unless you are a member of the Dark Peak Running Club but they are surely a genetic anomaly, imbued as they are with super human skills on the hills.)   At the very moment I was stating this, probably spitting crisps out between words as I did so, two women appeared as if from nowhere, mud covered and a bit shaky.  Guess what dear reader?  That’s right!  They’d just fallen down Win Hill.   They were in search of a sugar fix and a bit of TLC.  Well, they’d stumbled into the right place.  I left the marshals tending to them – they’d already put the top back on my cup for me, refilled my 2 litre bladder in my arcteryx and allowed me to eat my body weight in sugar loaded snacks after all, I loped on.

Finally I was there, at the base of Win Hill.  This would be the real test of the day, tackling the hill with tired legs.  Psychologically, I felt if I could get to the top, I’d finish the event.

Phew though, what a slog!   There seemed to be quite a bit of traffic as well.  I got overtaken by some walkers, which made me feel a bit inadequate as they weren’t even really dressed for trekking.  Yes, they asked what was going on too.  I wasn’t really feeling the love.  At one point I suddenly felt a bit dizzy, like that sensation you get if you stand up too quickly after bending down for a while. I’ve never had that before out running.  I took a moment to think.  I’d just eaten loads, I couldn’t need fuel, but I was sweating buckets.  I stopped and drank loads, and then, feeling better went on more slowly.  I was a bit perturbed though.  I feel the hardest bit for me for this has been nutrition, I’ve put on weight in training and just don’t know how to fuel properly.  Maybe I was getting a bit dehydrated.  I drank water from my cup at the stations, but had electrolytes in my running vest bladder.  hard to know whether the difference is real or psychosomatic, but I definitely felt better afterwards.  I gave way to others coming down.  At one point, I hung on to a tree as I moved aside to let a group past.  One of them lost her footing and practically landed on top of me, that goodness for that tree, without it we’d have both been lost in the crevasse alongside the path (well, it seems like a crevasse to me).

In other news, there was a photographer, lurking!  Ooh, that was unexpected.  I’m obviously not noticeably running at this point, but I am head down and trying my best.  Until I am distracted by the sound of the camera shutter clicking and am quickly morphed into ‘seen the photographer’ pose!  I can’t run, and I can’t hide either…

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The photographer was friendly and we had a chat.  Any excuse for a break by me quite frankly.  Turns out he’d done an ultra run earlier in the year at Dartmoor. Gave encouragement, smiles and a useful top tip.  If you do feel like quitting, never do so at a marshal point, make yourself walk away and then see how you feel after 5 minutes.  Getting going again after a pause is the hardest challenge, if you can do that, you might be able to finish.  Good advice.  He also did a portrait shot of me, because I explained it was my first ultra, and I wanted a memento.  I look happy, but cringe at my physique which can only be described as buxom, but you know what, I have to own it, this body got me round 30 miles so whatever it’s shortcomings in the aesthetic front, it works for me.  I’m lucky.   Plus, it is what I look like, and how lucky am I to be able to be in a beautiful part of the world, getting pep talks from other runners to help me round my first ultra.  I therefore declare this to be a happy memory… you can see why I think there is a gap in the market for running vests that cater for the erm, ‘fuller form’ though can’t you?  No denying it unfortunately.

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Thank you lovely photographer.  He said he’d see me again at Burbage/ Houndkirk, I was a bit doubtful he’d be out that long, but pathetically grateful he thought it was possible I’d make it round in daylight.  I continued onward and upward.  Puffing. Audibly.  Oh the shame.

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Once you emerge from the trees and start looking back, the views are amazing.  The summit was very windy and quite crowded.  I found out later in the day that Dr Smiley came up here to look for me en route, but we missed each other.  To be fair, judging from this selfie, I think I might have an inkling why.  The thought was very  much appreciated though:

breezy up win hill

I took a moment to admire the views, rude not to, seeing as I was there.  I knew I still had a long, long way to go, but that was the worst climb done.  Hurrah.

The marshal was a little down from the trig point where seemingly coach loads of people were gathered for photos

Must have been nippy out.   They are all hi-vis heroes for standing out in that.  Even more so the next day for the 12.12 when rain and wind made it feel like hail apparently, up at Burbage.  Brrrr.  Ironically, doing 30 miles in perfect weather was probably the easier option compared to that!

Coming off the summit I was in good spirits.  I met a lovely couple who again were asking what was going on.  They seemed genuinely impressed by my endeavour, which made me feel a bit better.  I don’t know what it takes to be a ‘proper’ ultra runner, but I was thinking perhaps doing some actual running during the course of the 30 mile route, and I’d done hardly any.  However, this couple didn’t care at all about speed, they were wide smiling at my attempt at the distance.  I’ll take that!  Thank you nice people.

I left them wending their way upwards, whilst I wended (is that a word?  Should be) downwards.  The next person I meant was out walking some beautiful, but rather wayward dogs that had set some sheep stampeding ahead of  him. I  wasn’t sure if he could see and didn’t know quite what to do.  Should I tell him?  They had returned to him by the time I got to him.  This walker is doing his first marathon in October, the Yorkshire Marathon so we were able to swap running training tales.   He had pulled a hamstring on a long run only a couple of days before, headed out for 20 miles but had to stop at 14.  Mind you, 20 miles seems to me to be an impressive distance this far out from marathon day, so if he does need to rest a week or so he still has time on his side.  It was a nice interlude to chat, I didn’t say anything about the dogs…

There followed one of my top three encounters of the day.  The next quartet of walkers seemed to be a family group, grown up children and their parents at a guess.  Again they stopped me to ask what I was doing – you know what, next year I might just print out some fliers to explain, it might be a lot easier and save a bit of time.  They were suitably encouraging, and impressed by how far I’d already come.  So impressed, that one of the group offered me some of his dried mango slices.  I hesitated for a moment, and then thought ‘you know what, sliced mango might be really nice‘.  ‘Thank you I will‘, I said, taking a chunk. It was posh mango slices too, high moisture content, all squishy and delicious, not over dry and chewy.  Went down very nicely.  Just as I gulped, the elder man suddenly put out his arm in horror and exclaimed ‘oh no! Are you allowed to do that?  Will you be disqualified for having had outside assistance?’  I thought a bit more.  ‘I don’t think they can test for mango, so I’ll probably be OK.  Also, between ourselves, I’m not going to be a top three finisher, I’ll chance it’.  Waving, I skipped off, chuckling.

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Hilarious, I honestly don’t know if he was joking or not.  If joking, I applaud him for his deadpan delivery.  Thank you lovely mango people, whoever you are.  Mind you, the joke will be on me if I find they do test me positive for mango at the end… I’ll be smiling on the other side of my face then!  Imagine the indignity in that.  To get round, and to indeed be disqualified for something as seemingly as innocuous as dried tropical fruit.  The perils of the event eh.  I wonder if this is the sort of conflicted temptation those misfit children experienced touring  Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, just waiting for the moment they might get offered the everlasting gobstopper the chocolate spies were prepared to pay highly for.  Take it, and pass it on, and you will be rich, but your moral compass will have imploded and you can never show your face in public again.  They didn’t know then it was but an entrapment device to test their ethical framework.  So too with mango slices, it might fuel you to the end of the ultra, but at what cost if you are henceforth shunned by ultra-runners, and worse yet, disqualified from future events.  Even if they didn’t know, I would, too high a price to pay.   I’d have the rest of the route to ponder whether and when to ‘fess up…  Surely if race officials were in the habit of using entrapment techniques to lure the weak – willed into ingesting illicit dried fruit slices I’d have picked it up on social media sometime before.

Too late now!

The next bit, trotting down to hope was pretty straight forward.  I managed to avoid the dangerous geese.

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Geese scare me.  I’ve been attacked by a gander once and it blooming hurt.  I did nearly get wiped out by a couple of cyclists.  I saw loads of other cyclists who were courteous and left me loads of space, but there were two coming up heads down just not looking, then when they did clock me, one wobbled and just veered right into me. He was apologetic, but I wasn’t impressed.  I hadn’t put that part of the route down as a dangerous section.

A scamper down into Hope.  Going past the Adventure cafe without going in for some soup was a challenge, but I headed on to the cement works.  I managed to locate all expected dibbing points, and also to avoid being hit by a train, because they are almost as dangerous as geese if the warning signs are anything to go by.

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Actually, the face of the man on the warning sign, is not dissimilar to the expression of the man worried about my mango consumption.  Doping is a serious issue!

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The next section was alongside the cement works.  I quite like the brutalist architecture of the place, it is a strange place.  You hear noises coming from it, and might see machinery turning, but I’ve never seen a human form. All very mysterious, and highly suitable as the setting for a budget horror film or indeed an actual homicide.  Just a thought.  I sped up a bit…

By dint of looking both ways, I managed to avoid being crushed by any unexpected large plant crossings within the quarry, and excitedly exited towards Bradwell.  This was another symbolic point for me, like I’d imagined myself at the top of Win Hill, I’d visualised myself here at the rock shop!  Just to help you out here, this is what the rock shop looked like last time:

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This is what it looked like today: