Posts Tagged With: strava art

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

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

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

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

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

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

strava art abbey lane cemetery

With the explanatory text as follows:

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

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

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

Perfect!  Pleasingly simple, brilliantly apt.

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

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

Pretty much like that anyway.

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

wacky races

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

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

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

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

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

queen dragonfly


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

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

circle of smiley loveliness

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

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

spring equinox run

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


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

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

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

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

Goodbye winter, hello spring!


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

We can run on in hope!

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

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

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

Bakewell smiley assemblage

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

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

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

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

really regret

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

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

smiley champs

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

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

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

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

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

Bakewell smiley assemblage

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

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

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

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

bakewell parkrun strava

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple more Smilies were cheered in

smiley coming through

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

bakewell smiley team shot FJ

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Running is great, gotta love parkrun!

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

bakewell cake supplies

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

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

smiley injured new friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hobbit Hashers Hurrying Headlong

Is it blood?  You know, that metallic taste you get in the back of your throat after you’ve run ’til you thought your lungs had burst?  Well I think it probably is, and that mine probably did, but it was all in the fine cause of Smiletastic betterment.  Let me try to explain…


So for the uninitiated firstly, where have you been?  Secondly, Smiletastic is a series of running challenges, designed by the All-Seeing, All-knowing, All-awesome, Smiley Elder Super Geek of the fabulous Sheffield Women’s running club Smiley Paces, to keep club members running throughout the dark and dank winter months.  Split into teams by date of birth – or witchcraft, I forget which – we individually and collectively have to complete various tasks month by month.  You might think this would be for some reward, but apparently not, running is its own reward.  (I know, not the most convincing of incentives, but stick with me).  The challenges have been unrelenting, strava art; timed races; long runs; monkeying around.  Imagine a running enthusiast with exceptional creativity, a slightly too keen interest in spread sheets and with a penchant for organising runners and you’ll get the general idea.  Be honest, if you had a group of 60 plus runners willing to carry out your every command and indulge your slightest whim, wouldn’t you start pushing out the boundaries as far as you could and then sit back and watch the fall out unfold?

Despite my initial grumpiness at being required to run, it has been fun on the whole, and whilst when each new challenge is unveiled my default reaction is despair, my more considered response is that you do get a sense of not inconsiderable satisfaction once they are achieved.  Plus it has definitely got me out and running loads more than I ever imagined possible, or possibly desired, but hey ho, serves me right for not reading through the small print in the terms and conditions when I signed up for Smiletastic in the first place.  Plus I have become a convert to Strava, though I did rely on a local running shop to set it all up for me.  I was a bit dubious at first, never needed it before blah de blah, but now I fear I have a growing addiction to its delights.  If it ain’t on Strava it didn’t happen, and it seems, that is never truer than when trying to bag some Smiletastic segments…  oh haven’t I said yet?  Well, this month’s challenge (apart from the Strava Art Easter Bunnies) was to re-run five selected Strava segments, but way faster than previously, to sort of measure progress over the year I suppose. Well, that was the official reason given, really I think it was the ultimate spreadsheet challenge, five segments, 60 plus runners, endlessly shifting times and alteration of table rankings, it’s a Geek’s paradise, surely?   Did you know that last year there was a Spreadsheet Day by the way?  I hope there is one this year too, I’ll look out for it.

Spreadsheet Day is usually in October apparently and in case you can’t summon the energy to follow the link because inexplicably you don’t really care about spreadsheets, let me enlighten you as to the history of this day with the following short but pleasing extract:

A holiday sure to appeal to some people more than others, Spreadsheet Day commemorates the date that VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet program for personal computers, was released – October 17th, 1979. Since its beginnings, Spreadsheet Day has grown to become a day for celebrating both the advantages and the aggravations of working with spreadsheet software.

History of Spreadsheet Day
The idea for spreadsheet day came about on February 2010, when the importance of spreadsheets in day to day business operations, and in fact living, became apparent to its creator. By the following October, celebrations were underway…..

How to Celebrate Spreadsheet Day
It all begins with recognizing how ubiquitous spreadsheets are in modern life. Every business uses them to manage their books, and data for everything including names and numbers of members and much more. Following on the heels of that, you could take the time to learn how to use spreadsheets and design them for your own lifestyle….

They’re surprisingly easy to use, and can help you balance your budget, prepare shopping lists, keep track of important dates and people, and just about anything else your imagination can come up with. So take Celebrate Spreadsheet day as an opportunity to get your life organized!

A holiday sure to appeal to some more than others indeed, as they say… and plenty of time to plan for celebrations if it is essentially a winter festival.  Could do it instead of Halloween, swap favourite spreadsheets door to door instead of going out trick or treating perhaps?

Anyway, up shot of all this was that for today’s hobbit hash, me and fellow hobbit decided we’d have a bash at a couple of the segments and take a bit of a detour from our normal yomp up the valley.  We had ground rules of course.  NO TALKING during the segment runs, (LOTS OF TALKING between them).  As much energy conservation as possible coming up to the segments, shuffling half heartedly up to the start points, then regroup before turbo charging off to Take Them On.  (In our dreams anyway).

We met at 8.30 a.m. in our usual spot, actually a bit before because we saw each other approaching it and got into step with each other lamenting the morning’s news (bombs in Brussels, blimey).  We were so absorbed in conversation that we headed off up the hill and then I nearly had a panic attack as I hadn’t set my watch.  I turned it on, and then it wouldn’t pick up a signal.  I actually retraced my steps in the interests of exactitude, and then floundered about waving my arm like a drowning Tai Chi practitioner’s last gesture manifesting the art, I was increasingly desperate.  It did eventually register with a pleasing buzz, and we could recommence our yomp with a more regular heart beat!

As always, we started up the hill with some aplomb, before recognising defeat and falling back into a walk with a half-hearted shuffling run in it now and again to show willing.  To a spectator, I wonder if we would have looked like those much reviled badminton teams at the Olympics 2012, who worked out that they’d do better in the event by losing their heat.  Both teams deliberately tried to do so, resulting in pitiful performances that rather brought the sport into disrepute.


Similarly, we were doing just enough to persuade ourselves, and maybe the casual and ill-informed viewer that we were trying to run, but not enough to convince a more critical eye.  Still, we needed to keep that fuel in the engine if we were to take on those Strava segments and smash our former times!

It was jolly enough to begin with, we shuffled upwards and onwards, putting the world to rights, eventually though, and with awful inevitability, we approached the mile long up hill stretch towards Ringinglow.  Eek.  It was almost comical really how we slowed as we approached the start point.  Our nerve failing us.  We stood on a corner in advance of the segment eyeing it with suspicion.  We each listed our various ailments and all the reasons why this would be really hard.  We also gave each other pep talks.  It wouldn’t matter if we were slow as it would only pick up any improvements, slower running could be our little secret.  No, it wasn’t a legitimate tactic to stop the watch en route and have a little breather before restarting – besides which that probably wouldn’t work.  We faffed about for ages.  It was a bit like waiting at the water edge before jumping into a cold sea.  You know it has to be done, and once you commit to the idea it probably won’t be as bad as you think, and also that ultimately, you just have to take the plunge and if you enter tentatively it will be way worse.  Three, two, one, we’re off!

taking the plunge

Unusually, and unexpectedly, I took the lead.  It was a bit alarming to find myself running alone, and up front as fast as my little legs would carry me with no-one to follow and nothing but a hill ahead.  On the plus side, I didn’t have to worry about navigation, it was basically a straight line, and although I was slightly unsure of the exact segment end, I figured we’d have it nailed.  Knowing my hobbit buddy was right behind me was quite motivating, as I was desperate not to let her overtake, and when we got to the only road crossing I took the opportunity to glance behind me and she was on my shoulder which gave me the motivation I needed to keep on moving.  Left to my own devices I’d have caved in and walked at that point for sure.  It seemed a long, long way up that hill, though actually I think it is pretty much exactly one mile, we finished in a heap, breathless, just ahead of the Norfolk arms.  I knew it had to have been faster than first attempt as we’d also done that together a few week’s back, and we’d been able to chat together whilst doing so. This time we couldn’t even talk at the end of it, legs a-wobble and panting hard, but we felt chuffed.  Neither of us knew how to extract that time from our watches, so we’d have to wait until we got back to check for sure, but we were confident we would have smashed our original Smiletastic times.  Yay, segment one, tick!  I will overlook the fact that we are on different teams so in some ways our efforts cancel each other out, we still did it, and we are therefore awesome, ninja etc.  Also, it suggests I do have another gear in my repertoire of speed, albeit one I intend to save strictly for emergency purposes.  Definitely felt the high on completion, definitely don’t want to have to run that segment at that pace ever again!

Smiletastic Ringinglow Segment – looks so innocuous does it not?  Ho hum.  Let the records show that I improved on my previous time by 25% whoop, whoop.  I will gloss over the fact that some of this remarkable increase is made less than remarkable if you knew how slowly I’d lumbered up it in the first place, nevertheless, progress has been made, let’s celebrate that!

smiletastic 2016 ringinglow segment

So, once we had recovered our breath enough to mutter mutual congratulations at each other, we turned back down the hill, along the footpath that cuts through the alpaca place (gawd how depressing that place is, collapsed shelters and over-grazed paddocks – lovely alpaca though who come across to check you out).  We recommenced our chit chat, loping along down the valley.  We noted the last lot of dumped rubbish had been collected and sighed with inward relief that for now at least there was no more. Oooh, how I’d love to put a camera trap up there and catch the perpetrators, I’m sure it’s the same people every time, it infuriates me the fly tipping.  It’s bad enough to put litter and rubble, but last time out it was detergent chemicals and sump oil that was perilously close to the stream.  Makes me mad, it really does.

Soon we found ourselves approaching Forge Dam, and so the next segment was in our sights.  My hobbit companion was asking me where it was, and I had to say that whilst I was really confident I knew exactly where it was she would have to understand that running based on my recommendation was entirely at her own risk for Smiletastic points, and also, at the end of the day we are in different teams.  She being a Rowdy Rooster and me a Fighting Feather, so each to their own eh?  On this understanding, we identified the start of the run – it was just adjacent to a higher route that was temporarily blocked off – we did briefly consider running our segment, then nipping back to move the diversion signs to prevent any other Smiletastic runners from coming after us subsequently and also improving their times. We abandoned this idea quite quickly.  Partly we thought we’d never get away with it, partly it would potentially disadvantage our own respective team mates and partly that we conceded hilarious as the idea was it might be deemed a tad anti-social in respect of other users of the Porter Valley footpaths. Plus, we couldn’t really be bothered.  What run full pelt and then voluntarily retrace our steps so we’d have to then run it all again?  I don’t think so!

We lingered at the start, each willing the other to take the initiative.  It was ridiculous how we had to somehow pluck up courage to do a section of run that we normally do pretty much every week.  Somehow though, the pressure was on.  Eventually, I took the metaphorical plunge and headed off, with hobbit two in hot pursuit.  This is a joyful part of our regular runs.  A gentle down hill gradient, lovely woodland location, pretty firm path (icy in winter sometimes) – I was a little hesitant about running it in my road shoes (which I’d put on in deference to the first smiletastic segment which was all on road) – but it had been dry and in fact I felt pretty confident haring off.  Well I say ‘haring’ that’s a relative thing, obviously.  I led the way and felt strong, it was further than I remembered, there’s a sort of false finish, when you can see some houses through the trees and I always think that means you are about to hit the road, but in fact it weaves away from you rather than across the track.  I/we had two points where we had to almost stop due to erratic passage of small dogs.  One forced me to brake suddenly as it looked scared and I thought it would be anti-social to storm by, so I jumped sideways and walked a couple of steps before picking up speed again.  Honestly, hard to know if that really will affect my time or whether the brief pause gave me new momentum afterwards.  I might try again next week just to see.  I finished and seconds behind was hobbit hasher buddy.  We both found a suitable stone to sit on for a bit, instinctively putting our heads between our knees for a bit, grimacing smiles at each other, but not able to speak.  When we did, we were truly proud of ourselves.  We’d done, it, really pushed ourselves, and we weren’t obviously broken and nor had we either fallen over or been sick – all of which had felt like very real perils as we ran.  We felt awesome.

We got our breath back and continued homewards at a gentle self-congratulatory jog.  We said our goodbyes at the corner of the road where our paths diverged, and jokingly quipped how annoying it would be if the runs didn’t show up on strava after all our efforts! Ho ho ho, oh how we laughed!  As if that would ever happen!

Porter brook smiletastic segment

Hobbit buddy made it home before me, so as I fired up my computer and was waiting for my Tomtom to do its mysterious syncing, updating and transferring of data, a message pinged up to me through Facebook from my buddy?  ‘What happened to segment two?’  Uh on, this is more than a little ominous….  surely a wind up?  I anxiously uploaded my run – for me, result.  Phew, both segments recording,  both showing a significant improvement (25%) – there is some weirdery at work.  Specifically, although the time is correct for my Ringinglow segment it doesn’t say it’s a PR (no big crown/ medal thing alongside the time by way of celebration).  On reflection, I think it might be because it has recorded a PR for a longer section that subsumes the shorter bit within it.  However, hobbit buddy, though her run is shown as taking place with me on Strava, hasn’t had her Porter Brook segment recorded.  To us, and our collective brains this seems unfair, inexplicable and wholly mysterious.  We consult with others, we learn of new phenomena such as satellite drift, we try to think up options.  We may feel small in the great universe, but we have a strong sense of justice and an internal streak which is either annoyingly stubborn or impressively tenacious, depending on your perspective.  This situation does not compute, how can the run be visible on the Strava map, but not appear within the relevant segments section?  In the end, I discover a help link for Strava  which covers exactly this scenario Strava Segment Matching Issues  – better yet, there is a link to get support.   An email is sent, and within an hour, no really, incredibly quickly, all is not only explained but resolved:

Miko Tron Chase (Help Center) Mar 22, 12:58 PM

Hobbit (actually, they did use her proper name, but I’m protecting her identity for security and confidentiality reasons),

Sorry for the trouble. I’ve corrected the minor gps tracking error that caused the mismatch. Take another look over things to make sure it looks right.

Best, Miko Strava Support Team

This lifted our spirits.  Better yet for hobbit buddy, the correction actually brought her down the valley faster than me  … no worries, I’ll get it back off her next time…. and we were deliriously and quite possibly disproportionately delighted at how it all unfolded.  Thank you Miko at Strava, you can never know the joy your tweaking efforts (no, not twerking) have brought to we two in the age of Smiletastic.  How amazing for you to be in a job that is so transformative to the lives of others.  You must sleep well at night thinking of the good you have spread through the world…

So, as the bard himself reminds us ‘All’s well that ends well‘.  It ended well for us.  Segments smashed AND recorded as such.  Plus, we discovered our inner strength both literally and metaphorically.  After all, who would think two hobbits could overrule a satellite and influence Strava?  Shows that through the Smiletastic challenges we have come to understand that we can do anything, we are invincible, we have grown as runners and as human beings.  Today Strava, tomorrow (or thereabouts) world peace… we can but hope… meantime we would all do well to remember, we are more capable than we know!

more capable than you know


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

Hopping Mad? Run Rabbit, Run.

I want it to end now.  The challenges are getting more and more extreme, but we have become so conditioned by our Smiley Elder Super Geek that we can’t even entertain the idea of failure.  The only option is to rise to face the new dawn and find out what it is we are really capable of. Of course, I’m back to Smiletastic, will it never stop?

So it seems our hearts are not enough. We are now required to conjure up a vision of an Easter Bunny for, well, Easter actually – you might have been ahead of me there.  I thought a heart was hard enough, but a rabbit?  Seriously?  I turned to Strava art to get some ideas:

They didn’t really help to be honest.  I think an element of lateral thinking will be required to execute this command on the streets of Sheffield.  I briefly considered submitting one of the above rabbit offerings as my own, but whilst I’m confident I could blag the creativity aspect in terms of shape, I don’t think our judge and jury Smiley Elder Super Geek will be buying the 63.1 miles in distance covered in 4:22:23 of  moving time along with 2,285 feet of elevation.  I may have improved somewhat during Smiletastic, but I have to concede Super Geek might consider that to be a statistically significant jump in performance and promises to take our Strava submissions on trust on the whole, might be tested…  I needed a better plan.  The better plan, was to have first a minor tantrum about the intrinsic hardness of it all, then a major meltdown because there are absolutely NO RABBIT shapes to be found in the whole of Sheffield.  Then finally, the germ of an idea….  Rabbits are shy creatures, even an Easter Bunny  needs to be given some sort of an incentive if it is to make an appearance.  The solution, when it came to me, was actually exquisitely simple.  I would lay bait.  First option, carrots.  All rabbits like carrots right?  Admittedly, it is a somewhat mis-shapen one, but that is because it is organic, which makes it both healthier, and hopefully more appealing too.  What do you think?  Personally, I think it is a respectable enough offering, if a little lacking in symmetry at the top, it nevertheless has an appetising chunkiness.  A reasonable start I’d venture…

rabbit lure

I also figured, possibly with naive optimism that would soon be knocked out of me, that by laying out my bait early on in the challenge, I could thus lay claim to any rabbits – be they Eater Bunnies or March Hares or otherwise, that subsequently appeared within a say ten mile radius of the epicentre of said organic carrot within the month of March.  This could conceivably give the Fighting Feathers a needed competitive edge, it’s all feeling a bit precarious what with various members of our team selfishly breaking body parts through stress fractures of the ankle or exploding calves and such like, thereby diminishing our collective resources.  I don’t mean cattle that explode by the way, that would be silly, I mean calf muscles as in back of the leg, just for clarification.


So, after much agonising poring over Google maps on an over-heating laptop, I finally had a cunning plan!  It would depend on being able to access inaccessible areas, it will also require an appreciation of what may loosely be termed ‘primitive art’ on the part of our arbitrating Smiley Elder Super Geek – but these are desperate times, desperate measures are called for.  Reader, meet my bunny:

Genius rabbit

It was quite hard coming up with this genius creation. I think it might be true that Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  After getting into the zone by bunny hopping drills with Accelerate as part of their Ecclesall Woods session earlier on, I decided to act whilst the muse was upon me, and headed off to Crookes post session to execute my plan  I maintain that even carrying a map around these Strava Art projects are really challenging. You (or I do at least) get really confused as you have to sort of back track on yourself, it’s quite disorientating.  It is also quite anti-social/ somewhat embarrassing to execute.  Now this is saying something as I have developed quite a high tolerance level to social embarrassment due to having over half a century’s worth of experience of being seen in public despite my many and manifest physical inadequacies compounded with my highly advanced and honed tendencies for more general social ineptitude.  However, even I have found this tough.  It seems it is indeed true one must suffer for one’s art…

genius quote

The problem is once you set upon a path, you need to stick to it, so social niceties like say, giving way to people pushing buggies, or smiling to drivers who are gesturing to give way so you can deviate from your route and cross the road in front of them for example, are abandoned.  No.  I DO NOT WANT to take up your offer of crossing the road.  NO!  I will not step aside and spoil my Strava line, even though I can see you are a loved up couple holding hands (well, especially then to be fair), and NO!  My bunny demands I must shun the etiquette book that suggests it is polite and indeed usual to give way to the OAP shopping group all clutching their sticks or gripping the bars of their zimmer frames.  It is  a tricky one.  Yet, I must keep my resolve, undaunted that people are surprisingly unsympathetic and uncomprehending when you try and explain about Smiletastic and Srava Art and the burning necessity of creating a rabbit just now, but last time it was a heart.  People are strange aren’t they?  I’ve since Googled ‘etiquette’ and it seems that I’d have been OK if I’d been wearing a bustle, as people tend to give way to women so attired.  Seems I need to invest in some new running kit for future Strava art challenges, will check out wiggle just as soon as I’ve finished this post:

street etiquette

The hardest bit, but also the least effectively executed in the resulting Strava shape, was the eye of the bunny.  Which is a bit like the eye of a Tiger only not the same thing at all.  I turned off my TomTom, went to the middle of the road in the face shape, turned it back on  and ran backwards and forwards loads of times in the same spot to try and create the eye.  Then turned it off, returned to the outer perimeter of the face, TomTom back on, and continued.  It just didn’t work, for some reason the Strava trace has linked that all as one bit.  I wouldn’t mind so much, but there was a woman carrying shopping who walked really, really slowly by as I was executing this particular bit of art work, and she was definitely looking at me askance throughout.  Oh well, I still think the effect was a gesture in the right direction, and I’m not putting myself through that again, especially when the forecast is for heavy snow and also I want to drink tea now and not go out again until I’ve warmed up at least.

Anyway, I’m feeling pretty confident, compare and contrast, my Strava Art rabbit, and an actual rabbit. My Strava Art is the one on the right, just so you know:

You’re welcome.



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

Have a Heart..

Have a Heart shaped balloon

I am so excited at my own creative genius here you have absolutely no idea!

Whilst the design skill and judgement are all my own, I can take no credit for the scheme to utilise Strava for artistic purposes, nor indeed the theme.  Nope, that lies entirely with our Smiley Elder Super Geek and her now (hopefully) familiar Smiletastic challenge.  This being the moniker of the cunning plan designed to keep members of the Smiley Paces Women’s running club motivated to get out and up and running during these hard, dark and cold winter months.

It started off as an apparently benign initiative.  Pledge to run so many runs within a week, with compassionately awarded bonus points to recognise those runners undergoing particular hardship in pursuit of their run (sub-zero, anti-social hours, timed runs/races blah de blah etc.).  However, as is often the way with good intentions, the way to hell was soon extensively paved by (over) eager participants seeking to play the system.  Deliberately putting themselves in harm’s way in pursuit of the bonus points.  Blizzard warning?  Yay, get out there and do that run!  Middle of the night?  Perfect timing for a quick sprint up the hills – that’s what head torches were made for!  By the way, did you know Karl Marx (amongst others)  is attributed with this saying?  No me neither ’til quite recently.  (The saying about ‘the way to hell..’ not the one about running in a blizzard).


Our Smiletastic challenge setter has thus felt it necessary not only to arbitrate on pursuits (apparently a walk on a glacier is not equivalent to a run, and elevation obtained by use of ski-lift has been disallowed also) but also to increase the complexity of the challenges on succeeding months.  February requires Smiletastic participants to pay homage to the Fire Monkey in honour of the Chinese New Year (though I prefer to think in terms of Vietnamese New Year myself).  In addition, and of relevance here, we have each received a directive as follows:

To be submitted by 8:00pm on Monday 22 February

Feb 14th is Valentines Day. Strava Art provides us with a new artform.   Your job is to draw a heart by running.  Each person can submit the Strava address/URL for ONE run where they think a heart shape can be CLEARLY seen.  

  • Only ONE submission per runner will be looked at and only accepted if the run information is sent by email.
  • The run MUST have taken place in February 2016
  • The Strava Address MUST be given for your drawing run or I won’t be able to see it!  No address = No point.
  • If I can’t see the heart, you DON’T get a point!  Sorry – I realise that’s a bit subjective but there has to be a limit.
  • These points are individual points, but I’m afraid are only available to those who use Strava – unless you can find a different way of showing me what you ran!!
  • “Best” drawings will be published to all participants.

So naturally, my first instinct on seeing this challenge, was to be intrigued enough to start googling street maps and see what might be possible.  This initial curiosity quickly turned to despair.  It is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay harder than you might think to find routes to replicate even the most simple of shapes.  Serious respect to those Strava artists  who create dinosaurs and all sorts.  It was beyond frustrating… I felt a bout of petulance brewing, this was stupid, who wants to do Smiletastic anyway? It’s impossible, not only impossible, pointless…. apart from the indisputable fact you get awarded a point for doing it.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.  My head hurt…  and then I had that elusive Eureka moment, when I thought I might have cracked it. This challenge is completely brilliant.  I can do it.  It is hilarious, what fun it will be to try and how exciting to think of others out there pounding the streets of Sheffield (and America too actually, but that’s another story) trying to execute their heart shapes too!   In what can be accurately judged as cynical self-interest, I then couldn’t wait to get out and give it a go!

So it was I bounced out of bed today, espied the sunshine, winced at the snow laden cars (where did that all come from) and trotted out.  Never have I been so nervous about the functioning of my Tomtom and the accuracy of my footfall.  I had in mind a heart-shaped balloon on a string.  I was worried about key points of the image coming out clearly on the map, so had to submit to some particularly eccentric behaviour, even by my standards.  I ran round a lamp-post a couple of  times at the ‘bottom’ of the heart to make sure I’d got a fix on where it was, and then off up hill.  My route took me round the outside of the Botanical Gardens, which felt a bit weird.  Normally I try to avoid running on roads, and it is bizarre to deliberately run alongside traffic when on your other side just railings separate you from an oasis of calm, with considered planting.  On the other hand it was a different view, I don’t usually see the striking main entrance gates of the gardens for example, as normally I go in from the other end.

Once in the gardens, I was a bit faffy.  Creating shapes is fun it turns out, but also requires loads more concentration than you might think.  Because my chosen route chopped off some bits of the paths (off piste one might say) I wasn’t altogether confident of where I was going.  Also, the gardens are beautifully laid out, and extensively planted, this means that, although I was heading for a fountain as my landmark, there were hedges and trees obscuring my view.  I hadn’t considered that in order to run my route shape with complete accuracy I ought to drop Agent Orange on the entire region to give me a clear view.  To be fair, I don’t think I’d have gone that far.  Do you know that in Vietnam people today are still living with the reality as well as legacy of that appalling use of this poisonous defoliant by American troops?  One of the most disturbing and moving things I’ve ever seen, is an exhibition at the War Remnants Museum at Ho Chi Minh City/ Saigon photos of the Vietnam War (or American War as its sometimes referred to over there).  Most poignant of all, an open letter from a second generation victim of Agent Orange, written to President Obama, asking for help to overcome the challenges she faced. It was eloquent, simple and incredibly powerful. It deserves to be read.  Anyway, sorry to put a downer on things, but no, I wouldn’t use that, not even to gain a competitive advantage on a Smiletastic challenge.

Fortunately, and possibly unusually, on this occasion my self-control was rewarded.  I loafed on in the general direction of the fountain, and came upon it just where it was most useful to be placed.  I did then get confused about where I was supposed to go next.  I freely admit I had to do that turning the map upside down manoeuvre to get my bearings, and even then I wasn’t overly confident.  I’d thought the distances would be further, and lost confidence a bit about whether or not my grand plan would work if the twists and turns were too small to be picked up by Strava.  It’s lucky I am not relied on to do orienteering challenges, I am not a natural at navigation, any more than I am at running.  Perhaps one day I’ll discover where my real talent lies.  I must have an innate aptitude for something…

Despite the rigours of the challenge, I couldn’t not be distracted by the amazing statement plants around.  I tend to use the same route every time I go through the gardens, a cut through to get to the city centre, so this diversion, though really short, took me to areas of the botanical collection I’d never seen before.

So, after some snapping some shots, I trotted round to the bottom exit of the gardens and it was a straight run back on familiar roads.  Though I made a point of doing two circuits of my maker lamp-post at the bottom of the heart before I carried on down the balloon string.

Feeling over-confident at my achievement, I even came up with another brilliant idea!  I decided to try and add on a kiss a little distant from my heart by running a X shape in Endcliffe Park. This didn’t really work unfortunately. I found a spot where two paths cross, and even remembered to stop my Tomtom and run over to a start point a bit away from the string of my balloon.  I then ran to and fro in a cross shape, feeling only  a bit self-conscious.  Where did all those dog-walkers and photographers suddenly appear from?  Anyway, it didn’t work.  That’s the blurry bit on the Strava map towards the end of Endcliffe Park, near the pond.  I might have another go sometime, now I know you need to get quite a gap between the shapes for it to work.  Then again I might not, it would be like gilding the lily, why risk spoiling this work of perfection with an act of vanity?

Home, uploading my run was angst ridden, please don’t fail me now –  but the joy (and relief) on seeing the shape emerge once I could finally click on my Strava run ?  Priceless. I thought my actual heart might burst with pride at the extent of my achievement.  This would have been quite ironic really wouldn’t it.  To burst a heart and therefore break it, at the very moment of creating a new virtual one.  Wow, life has profound moments does it not.  Anyway, you will see my run for all intents and purposes, is completely indistinguishable from the image I had in mind at the moment of composition.  How proud am I!  It’s uncanny – look and learn and be amazed:

 So have heart all of you.  Strava art is a more accessible palette than you may have thought.

Health Warning, for information purposes: 

As a sometimes responsible blogging adult, I recognise I have some responsibility towards my readers.  I should therefore point out that I am extremely mindful of the ‘oh, so if someone told you to run in front of a bus I suppose you’d do that too would you?’ accusation/ question.  To follow blindly directives from others can be ill-advised I admit.  So, my answer?  Well, no, clearly I wouldn’t blindly obey orders from  just anybody, that would be absurd!  But, seriously, you know, this Smiley Elder Super Geek Guru is indeed a charismatic force of nature, it is an entirely different scenario.  As with a member of any cult, sorry, wrong word ‘team’ naturally I want to do my best for the group, and to do that, sometimes you have to have faith and trust in your elders.  So of course I’m going to launch myself into following any directives received from our leaders with unbridled enthusiasm!  I think it is not entirely fair to imagine Smiley Elder Super Geek, constantly extending her reach, toying with members of the Smiley Paces cohort by setting ever more exacting challenges that have her controlling us like pawns on a chessboard.  It is an abuse of her generosity – she has voluntarily put this whole challenge together – to think she is simply intent on building our trust and ensuring our compliance over weeks and months before using us to help her seamlessly execute her power-crazed plan to secure global domination.   A sort of grooming I suppose… well I just I won’t hear of it, because it’s just not entirely fair.

Not entirely

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day, bit early, but I thought I’d best get in there before my good wishes are lost in the mass of mail, flowers and romantic gifts that are even now making their way to you in time for 14th February.  Oh, and if your doormat is not laden with post, worry not, the whole thing is a cynical commercial construct anyway.  Bah etc.


Categories: running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: