Posts Tagged With: top tips

Final Recce for Dig Deep 12.12.. Job done with Higger mystery solved – but beware the bogs, you have been warned!

Digested read: Be careful out there! I’ve done my final bog recce for  the Dig Deep 12.12 trail race, and can now navigate off Higger Tor!  Hurrah.  However, I’ve also found out that wet feet often occasion fatal diseases. It’s wet in those peat bogs, I didn’t fully appreciate this is what was meant by the ‘Run at your own risk’ blah de blah disclaimer you routinely sign on entry to such events.  Oh well, no turning back now. Bring it on.

Yesterday, I got an opportunity to undertake a somewhat spontaneous final circuit of the Burbage/ Higger Tor section of the 12.12 route.   Some fellow committed/potential twelve-twelvers proposed the outing just the night before, explaining they would have their canine companions with them. This meant it was a walk that was being proposed rather than a run, which for me was a bonus as I’m not doing any more (hard) runs before Sunday now.  Better yet, it offered potentially a stop off at the last chance saloon for me to finally find that elusive route off that blooming gritstone tor and onto the more obvious path below.  My regular reader will know this part of the route has repeatedly confounded me.  Despite repeated recces, my departure off the top of Higger Tor has been a literal leap of faith every time.  My fellow dig deepers have fared little better.  It seems we have all taken routes involving inelegant and life risking scrambles down near vertical rock faces into the forests of bracken below. What is so frustrating, is that the path is really obvious going up the tor, and looks as if it should be really obvious coming down too – you can even see the path from the top for pity’s sake. Even so, when you are up on high, surrounded by the flattened  expansive plain of boulders, heather tufts and mud puddles disappearing off in all directions, it’s a different prospect all together.  It is beautiful if breezy up there, the location definitely has its merits, but it isn’t quite like following the yellow brick road in terms of route finding.  I’m not worried about getting lost per se, I know I can get down safely, but it would save so much time if I could work out a neat and relatively obstacle free route for descent.  It isn’t quite ‘Touching the Void‘ territory, but let’s not take any unnecessary risks out there.  The weather can change quickly up high.  I doubt they’ll be a marshal anywhere to guide, though there could be some dibbers (or are they dabbers?)  I’m assuming nothing, taking nothing for granted.  It is the only way!

Higger tor top

So we met, in the rain, at Burbage bridge.  We headed off up the tor, heads down.  We summited at reasonable speed, and then set about a collective scamper in all directions like worker ant scouts searching for food, only looking for a better route down. Well, I can report dear reader that against all odds, the excursion turned out to be pretty educational one way and another.  Not only was this final recce in fine company. We did it!  We finally found the ‘open sesame’ boulder that marks the point for descent onto the path off Higger Tor.  Once located, it is, whilst not exactly visually obvious, quite clearly the most straightforward, quick and hazard free route off, and it does lead straight on to what is the intended path.  Result!

I cannot tell a lie, we didn’t achieve this feat entirely on our own.  We were aided and abetted by the kindness of strangers who were up top too.   They clearly knew the place really well, insisting there was a path we could find, and we were tantalizingly close.  Our unexpected guardian angel was a guy walking with a boy and a dog, who pointed out to us (the guy not the dog) that the best way to memorize route is not in fact by looking out for distinctive boulders as I was trying to do – they are all a bit samey after a while – but rather seek out a fixed feature on the sky line (not that car on the road below heading to Longshaw then?) and head towards that like a compass point.  This was a brilliant navigational top tip, and also a blindingly obvious one once pointed out.

We to-ed and fro-ed on and off the tor for a bit, trying to spot the path from further and further away.  I am not 100% I’ll find it again but at least I know it actually exists. However, as we made our final descent, I spotted some weathered lettering, scratched onto one of the gritstones just near the dropping off point.  Clearly, I don’t approve of such defacing of the landscape, however, ‘James’ and ‘Dad’ do mark the spot as clearly as the skeleton pointing the way to the treasure on Treasure Island.  If I find them again, I’ve found my jumping off point.  It has definitely helped my confidence to discover this.  I could shave a good 15 minutes off my time just by not faffing about at this turn around point.  We all felt pretty darned good about our newfound navigational prowess, and grateful to our knowing stranger for guiding us on our way.

So, that was the really good news.  Against all odds, I can now navigate off Higger Tor, well probably I can, which is way better than my previous odds.  My navigation is always going to be a work in progress, but all the same, share a half-hearted and perfunctory ‘yay’ with me, a yay is still a yay after all.  Yaysayers are sometimes needed.   How does it go? ‘She believed she could and so she did!’  It’s a start.  Fabulous, and unexpected, it can be filed with the four leaved clovers and white heather in the ‘external signs of luck’ folder for future reference and psychological support.

So that’s the good news.  However, as with all good fairy tales, there is a price to be paid for such good fortune.  On the very day I encountered the fairest of fortunes on the navigational front, I also was made aware of the dark side of being out on the fells.  It was pretty boggy out after all the rain.  There is definitely a swampy section beneath Carl Wark. Now, certainly, a big part of the fun of the run is the splish splosh splash through the soft, submerged peat.  I always do a little bog dance. To begin with I jump from reed tussock to tussock, trying to keep out of the standing water as best I can, however, it is futile. It is almost a relief at the moment you know you have misjudged, you foot sinks deep into the soft ground and icy water fills your fell shoes. Thereafter you can gallop on uncaring. The wetter the better, it makes me feel like a ‘proper’ hard core fell runner, who laughs at the element and moves through the terrain undaunted by the streams, bogs, bracken and boulders in my path.  I can bound through (ish) and celebrate the ever-changing landscape as I experience it beneath my feet.  My wet feet.  The icy water soothing my arthritic bones.  However, this dear reader, comes at a cost.  Little did I know it, but all this time I’ve been playing Russian Roulette with my life each time I dipped so much as an adventurous or wayward toe into the damp embrace of the soft, squelching peat bog out on them there moors.

The bog dancing is all very romantic sounding and everything, but I now have new information.  Information I feel compelled to share.  It’s not health and safety gone mad, it is the cumulative wisdom of centuries of medical research which I had previously inexplicably hitherto overlooked.  It was on Radio 4 as well so it must be true.   Essentially, the less good news, actually the positively bad news, is that I’ve recently found out that venturing out across those peat bogs will quite possibly kill me, and may well kill you too.  No really.

I only found this out yesterday, so I’m about 227 years slow on the uptake, which is fairly disappointing I will concede.  Anyway, turns out, that the educated amongst us have known since 1790 that wet feet often occasion fatal diseases.  So said William Buchan (M.D.) in his page turner: Domestic medicine: or, A treatise on the prevention and cure of diseases.

wet feet

By William BUCHAN (M.D.)

Thanks to Radio 4  for their ‘A nasty case of the vapours‘ for alerting me to this previously  unknown almost inevitable eventuality.   This is obviously what they mean when Fell Race organisers  blather on about ‘running at your own risk’.  I’m still going to do the 12.12 anyway, ‘I am in bog stepped so far...’ already as the saying goes so might as well carry on regardless.  Wading onwards will indeed be just as challenging as retracing my steps back to the start. Also, it might be hard, but it wont be anything like as painful as treading on lego in bare feet say, and I’ve survived that in the past,  so it’s important to keep everything in proportion.  On the other hand, treading on lego isn’t known to be the ‘occasion of many fatal diseases‘ so you pays your money and you take your chance in relation to deciding which risks you are up for and which are a step too far so to speak…


Irrespective of my decision, clearly what each of us is willing to risk is very personal.  Therefore, I feel it is only fair to those who may step in my wake to share this warning, you can then carry out your own risk assessment and make an informed decision of your own. I’m quite surprised the race organisers don’t explicitly mention this wet feet point to be honest, but they are all probably enthusiastic fell runners and therefore it is in their nature and their interests to be in abject denial of the whole thing otherwise they’d never carry on running the insane distances over the hostile country that they do.  Or maybe the danger is part of the appeal.  Feel the fear and do it anyway people, that’s the best way to feel properly alive!  Look danger straight in the face and laugh, manically, and then run on.

One final thing though, further reading of this eminent tome suggests wet feet are only the start of the risks.  I’ve not read all of his book, because I did get bored eventually, but there is a section on wet clothes too, so even if you are blasé about your feet, you better at least be confident you are carrying the FRA approved wet weather gear before you head out even if you are currently young and healthy.  You can’t eliminate all risks, but you can manage them.

wet clothes

If you are doing the ultra and might be out in the night air, well I don’t want to be alarmist as such, but…. let’s just say there’s still plenty of time to transfer to the Felly Fun Run and they have lovely medals, so you can still have all the bling and fun of the run at relatively low risk, as long as you can pass yourself off as under 16.  Food for thought perhaps?

felly fun run

So that’s my recces done.  I’ve woken up today with a mysteriously painful shoulder, so good to know I’m developing random psychosomatic symptoms in accordance with normal tapering expectations.  I am confident(ish) I shall make it to the start of this endeavour.  Then it’s just one foot in front of another and dream of glory.   Not long now before we find out if I made it to the end.  Eek.

So that’s the yin and the yan of the final recce.  I have a route off Higger Tor, but I am also in morbid fear of wet feet.  Oh well.  It’s what makes life interesting.  Just the final count down now, and endless packing and repacking of essential kit, before Whirlow Farm on Sunday.

See you there?  Everyone who is anyone will be I understand.  Can you hear the sound of FOMO calling to you?  Getting louder surely…  You need to either get with the programme and join in (you can even enter on the day for the 10k or 12.12), or see if you can find a treatment for that.  It’s amazing what you can source on ebay these days.  This is a cream, but they probably do suppositories too.  Each to their own after all.


Food for thought I hope.

For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you

Oh and another thing, did you hear  keep on running? Thanks Radio 4 Extra.  Seems running is increasingly ‘a thing.’  We runners are quite the zeitgeist, whatever size or shape we come in.  Hurrah!

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

Tackling the taper… Not quite textbook tactics, but you know what? I’ll be reet! :)

Digested read:  The 12.12 mile off-road trail race is a week away.  What was I thinking when I entered it?   I’m fretting now. Tried to taper with a long walk instead of run. Epic fail. Wobbly, exhausted and confidence crushed.  However, espied something pretty darned special out on them there moors.  Have a guess.  Clue.  I got seriously lucky!  Yay, go me.  It’s a sign. It’ll be fine. Or it wont, but either way, it doesn’t matter, it’s supposed to be fun, we can all run our own race, nobody cares.  (In a good way).

Dreaming of the purple hills, this is what awaits me just a week from now.  Is it possible that the heather will be even more glorious come the 20th August?  However, between me and the Dig Deep trail challenge lies one final hurdle. The succesful taper.

nice out

The Dig Deep people keep putting up motivational posts on their Facebook page counting down to the big event.  ‘Yay, just three weeks to go’, ‘great news guys, a fortnight from now we’ll be good to go’ and now ‘final countdown to fun-land – just a few more sleeps’, I’m paraphrasing a bit but you get the idea.  This is all well and good, and no doubt very well-intentioned, but it’s really rather ratcheting up my fear levels.  What was I thinking? This happens to me a lot with off-road events.  Trouble is I’m seduced by the glorious settings, the seemingly manageable distances, and don’t factor in the challenging terrain and potentially impossible elevations.  A combination of absolute denial and hope over experience I suppose, hopefully not a fatal one.

My expertise in training protocol is rather limited, but even I know that at this late stage I’ve little hope of improving my fitness levels between now and next Sunday when I tackle the 12.12 event. 12.12 miles of off-road  (see what they’ve done with the name there?  Their creative vision team must have been working overtime to come up with that) and 633 metres of ascent.  That’s not even in feet, took me a while to realise that.   I try not to get too hung up on details at the point of entering events, it only leads to despair and sapping morale.  I’m not necessarily completely delusional when I sign up to things, it’s just that I’m ill-informed.  Upshot is, if you can’t improve your fitness at this stage, what you need to do is avoid injury, maintain fitness and carb up nicely.  That is, in my book ‘yay’ time, you get to taper!

My regular reader knows I’ve cluttered up the internet by pontificating on this point before Never underestimate the importance of a good tapir but that was a while back.  I’ve got a better understanding now, so time to revisit the topic I feel.  Why keep all that disillusion to myself?   I used to think tapering meant that you got to spend a fortnight sat on the sofa eating donuts as a sort of early consolation prize for being made to run a long way afterwards. Sadly, I now know it’s not quite the case.  It just goes to show that sometimes ignorance is indeed bliss, and greater understanding does not always bring about greater happiness.

Initially my research on ‘how to taper’  suggested that it was really, really important not to be tempted to do too much during  a taper.  I  say ‘research’, but clearly what I really mean is that I did a bit of random googling, disregarding the advice I didn’t want to follow until I came up with something I liked.  I liked this sentence from Susan Paul a lot:

Doing too much during the taper period can destroy your (event) performance. Your best bet for peak performance is to resist the urge to do more. When it comes to tapering, less really is more!

Good oh, that meant a fortnight out, after my last long run (I use the term ‘run’ loosely, yomp over 14 and a bit miles is more accurate, with quite a lot of pausing and gazing about) I settled down on the sofa fully committed to resting up properly.  Granted, I’d have to get up now and again to attend to bodily functions and check out the contents of the fridge, but otherwise me and Radio 4 (TV at a push) listening to the rain beating down outside would be the way to go.  To add creativity and interest I’d also be doing my best to improvise a ta ta bra out of a pair of recycled oven gloves.  I would have bought one, but really $45 for a bit of elasticated towel does seem a bit steep, even if it is a genius creation. Plus, they don’t seem to be available in the uk, anyway,  how hard can they be to create? (Answer, harder than you think, but you’ll have a laugh trying).

Unfortunately, further research, was emphatic about the opposite.  I didn’t like this advice nearly as much – whatever you do, don’t overdo the taper, said Coach Jeff in Runners Connect, adding for good measure:

The single biggest mistake I see in (event) tapers is that people over-taper in the last three weeks leading into the race.

This leads to feeling flat and sluggish on race day and increases the chance that you’ll come down with some type of sickness as your metabolism and immune system crash due to the sudden change in activity and demands on the body

Begrudgingly, I have to concede he may have a point.  Further research suggests tapering doesn’t mean an emergency stop, more a reduction in intensity and volume, depending on what you are preparing for.  I am left with the horrifying realisation that you are only doing a taper correctly if you feel frustrated and miserable the whole time.  That is, doing the opposite of whatever it is you are naturally drawn to doing.  Let me explain…

Scenario one:  If you are the sort of person who takes a month’s bed rest if you so much as stub your toe, when you taper you need to be doing a lot more than maintaining your natural default state of inert.  Plus, you really don’t need to start carbing up with quite such gusto, quite so far ahead.  ‘Carbing up’ only needs to happen about two days before. What’s more (and I didn’t like this message very much) you don’t even need to take in any extra calories apparently, simply change the proportion of carbs in your meal, so you are having more carb less fibrous veg say. Disappointing. No midnight pizza and pasta fests after all, so said the nutrition expert at the London Marathon Expo earlier this year.

garfield taper

Scenario two:  If you are the sort of person who gets a serious stress fracture, are given a pot and told to ‘rest’ for eight weeks but still think a 50 mile bike ride won’t count because it’s just ‘gentle cross training’ then you need to Stop.  Right.  Now!

can i run

Just to be clear on this point, I tend to fall into the ‘scenario one’ camp, in danger of doing too little.  Left to my own devices, brooding on the sofa, I started to feel increasingly fretful that this 12.12 challenge is beyond me.  I am increasingly aware of way better runners falling by the wayside.  The excuses they come up with are pitiful: ‘I can’t run I’ve dislocated my shoulder and broken my arm’; ‘I can’t run, I’m away doing a hard-core mountain marathon in Norway’; ‘I can’t run, I’ve got to have an operation’; ‘it’s not that I can’t run, I just don’t want to‘.  That kind of thing.  Maybe I needed to come up with a get-out of my own.  I know – I have a cunning plan. I can’t possibly pull out, that would be to fail, but if external circumstances were to conspire together to make my participation impossible, well, I’d have to shrug in despairing acceptance of my fate.  I can help fate along a bit though, with just a tad of initiative thrown into the mix…

I sent a private message to the Dig Deep team.  ‘Eeeerm‘, I said.  ‘bit worried‘ and then basically went on to explain I am mindful of being a tardy, lard arse, and whilst I do know I can do the distance (I do really) I will be soooooooooooooooooo slow.  Is that OK, or is there a cut off time?  Annoyingly, they sent back a speedy and cheerily encouraging response.  ‘That’s fine, all welcome‘ sort of encouraging and inclusive and generally not what I wanted to hear at all.  Oh no.  No handy external factor causing me to pull out under protest from that quarter.

I decided I needed to bite the bullet.  I would cut back, but not abandon all exertion.  I decided that I’d do one more long, endurance outing, but just keep it in walk so I didn’t get injured or too knackered, but still got miles on my legs.  Oh my gawd. This was such a bad move.  I thought I’d do one final recce that is an approximation of the 12.12 route, but coming up from Whitely Woods rather than Whirlow, and going along the top rather than the bottom of Burbage. Well, it might be more technical, but it’s gorgeous and I was really hoping I might see an adder soaking up the sun on the boulders on that slightly quieter upper path.   It’s a route I’ve yomped round several times now, and just over 14 miles, seriously beautiful.  I wanted to see how the heather was as well, given all the rain and then sun, it would be at its peak surely.

So it was beautiful, I will concede that:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

but as a final long yomp, not my best move.

There was an early warning sign, had I but realised what was happening, a fallen tree crossing my path going up the Porter Valley – surely an omen.  There were lots of trees down, I think the torrential rain had washed away a lot of earth and left roots exposed and trees vulnerable:

blocked path

Then, a bit further up, there were some misplaced sheep.  No really, in the woods.   I don’t know where they were from, but they were having an adventure.   Good for them, I wonder how long they will evade capture.  Who were those escaped pigs – the Tamworth Two?  They escaped death after many weeks on the run.  I suspect there won’t be a film and book deal and a happy ending for this trio, I don’t think they’ve even got an agent.  Oh well.

The point is though, that this was the normal order of things upturned.  I should have realised, and turned about, then again, it wouldn’t be so much of a story would it if I had. Same as with all those omens in Julius Caesar or whatever.  Ides of March anyone?

I pressed on.  It was OK to start, sunny, the heather in full bloom and a-buzz with bees. Not many others about, but lots of friendly exchanges with those who were along the lines of  ‘isn’t it gorgeous’ and the more mutually self-congratulatory ‘how lucky are we to have such beauty as this on our doorstep‘ all of which was true.  The problem was, that even though I think I run really slowly (and I really do) turns out, I’m still a lot quicker running slowly, than I am when I actually walk.  14 miles takes ages to walk.  It was hard.  I got hot, I ran out of water.  I’d taken a litre with me, and although I could have drunk from the many streams I got dehydrated without fully appreciating I had, and then it’s already too late.  I ate my chia bar quite early on, and then found I did feel my blood sugar levels dropping later on, but had nothing in reserve.  I didn’t get wobbly or anything like that, but I did get achy legs, and stop enjoying the landscape. By the time I’d been out about 4 hours I was feeling it, and didn’t have the energy to run and get the whole blooming adventure over with by that point. Plus, my feet were hurting.  A lot. My arthritis was excruciating.   Not blisters, granted,  which is something, but my fellraisers (which I do like) lack cushioning,  and Strava has been on at me for weeks to change them as they have done too many miles.  They are ok-ish.  I know they do need replacing but I didn’t want to try new shoes too close to this event, so thought they could do this one last task for me as their swan song.  On this final walk recce though I really felt they are ready to be jettisoned though.  They don’t have enough support, and weren’t comfy at all – although their grip is still good.  I started to feel pretty petulant.  I was annoyed at going out so blasse, I was too hot, and I still couldn’t find an efficient route off Higger Tor.  For future reference, doing a long walk was not, for me, a helpful tapering strategy. I’d have done much better to do a gentle run, or several shorter walks on consecutive days.  I felt pretty broken when I still had about 4 miles to go.  It’s incomprehensible to me though, surely, logic says walking should be easier than running?  I suppose it’s ‘different’, didn’t do a lot for my confidence.  If I can’t walk the distance how am I going to run it?  Aaaargh, curses. Why am I not a super-fit athlete with a coach, a nutrition plan, well-fitting sports bra, cushioned trainers and a dollop of common sense?  It’s not fair!

I traipsed on, thinking dark and brooding thoughts.


Wait for it.

Something amazing!

Something I’ve never seen before, just for me!

In amongst the landscape of purple I espied a little patch of white.  At first I wasn’t quite sure if it was what I thought. But it was!  White heather. A small clump of it, but definitely there.  I like to think if the fallen tree and the lost sheep were to warn me off my adventures, the lucky heather was to reassure me there is still a place for the unexpected and seemingly impossible.  I know you can get cultivated white heather, but seeing it in the wild, just there, was pretty amazing.  Perhaps I’m too easily impressed, but it really encouraged me.  Just look on and tell me honestly are you not moved?  You can’t be that heartless surely?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I thought it was extraordinary.  I’m not superstitious, but I do take comfort from being reminded of the gloriousness of unexpected and unlikely discoveries.  White heather is a truly rare sight, but we can celebrate its appearance on the moors.  I too, will be an unexpected participant in the 12.12, also an uncommon sighting perhaps. However, whilst it might be a stretch too far to think of my presence on the day being exactly a cause for celebration, there’s no reason to expect to be unwelcome either.  I’ll be just another unusual thing for others to come across on a run out.  No more or less than that.

I carried on with renewed effort (I was going to say energy, but that’s pushing it).  Back through the woods I saw a comma butterfly, another incredibly rare sighting.  And a lot harder to photograph than white heather it seems.  Well I thought commas were rare, but google says otherwise.  I still haven’t seen one in years though, so made me happy, which is the important thing because this blog is at the end of the day all about me!

comma butterly,

Once I got to Forge Dam cafe, I caved in and bought an ice-cream.  I felt in genuine need as my legs were shaking by then.  Of course, I then immediately bumped into a Smiley Elder, and felt like I’d been caught out on an inappropriately wild feeding frenzy, binge eating sugar when I ought to be showing off with extra press ups at the end of my run like that Isaac Makwala at the world athletics championships trial.  Instead I was like a vampire caught with blood running down their chin, only with salted caramel ice cream instead of the blood of virgins. In fairness, she seemed approving of this replenishing of energy post run.  I genuinely find it confusing though.  How can I possibly have got such a drop in my blood sugar just by walking.  I can only conclude it is indeed hours out, not necessarily absolute exertion that is to blame.  Getting the balance right continues to be a challenge.  I want to burn calories through running, that’s part of the point, to counteract the impact of post-run brunches –  but it seems I always replenish more than I use.  In my case I don’t find running is a boon to weight loss, though it has other benefits for sure!

So, I returned from my ‘gentle tapering walk’ broken, exhausted and promptly flaked out and slept for about 5 hours solid.  The next day, which was yesterday, I could barely walk!  Today, should have been parkrun, but I still feel wobbly.  I can’t understand it, running never makes me feel that bad.  I think maybe it genuinely came down to being out way longer than usual. It wasn’t physical fitness as such, but probably nutrition and hydration.  I even wondered if I am ‘coming down with something’ it seems such an extreme reaction from walking a route I’ve yomped half a dozen times before withough any problem at all.  Oh well, lesson learned.   Presume nothing, take nothing for granted.

I’ve now got exactly a week to go.  I’ve decided (rightly or wrongly) not to push myself if I’m feeling weak (as opposed to can’t be bothered) in a nod to ‘stay injury free and preserve what you have’.  Whilst I don’t think I’m ever going to be in the over-training camp, I do think there is no point in forcing myself out if I am genuinely wobbly.    I will try for a bit more ‘out and about’ but I’m not doing anything else long or involving so much elevation.

As for next Sunday, gulp.  Oh well, I think I just have to remind myself that ultimately it’s supposed to be fun.  As long as I don’t present a risk to either myself or other runners it matters not one iota how long I take or how I tackle it.  Spoiler alert – nobody cares.  Participants will be running their own race, and I know I can do the distance in daylight at least.  I will carry a bit more food though, and weather depending, might think about wearing a T-shirt as opposed to long sleeves to avoid over-heating.  Speaking of which, the t-shirts for this event look splendid. Worth turning out for for sure!

dig deep t shirt

And as far as tapering is concerned.  I don’t like it. It’s confusing.  I have no idea what I’m doing.  I liked it much better when I thought it was just about lolling around on a sofa eating pizza.  Now I find it a confidence-sapping challenge.  Still, on the positive side, as I do want to eventually get up to a marathon distance, maybe it’s good to learn some of these lessons early on, even if it is by trial and error.  I’d rather mess up my taper for the 12.12 local event, than for the London Marathon 2018.  We run and learn. So message for today?  Running is supposed to be fun. Let’s not over complicate it.  Agreed?  Also, tapering is harder than you might think, it’s OK to be grumpy.

tapering runner

The main thing is just to try not to interact with anyone during this running chapter to avoid alientating everyone you meet, and ‘tha’ll be reet’, as the saying goes.


This is what I’m going to keep telling myself anyway.  You must do as you think fit.  Also, I try to remember there is always somebody worse off than yourself, it could be worse, I could be doing the ultra.  Good luck to those that are. You’ll be fabulous, because you already are.  I believe in you, you just need to believe in yourselves as well.

The End.

For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you



Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Lessons learnt? Upping the distance on the quest to Dig Deep and getting lucky on the trails

Digested read:  I’m still scheming in preparation for the Dig Deep.  Learning the hard way about navigation, nutrition and kit, and benevolently offering up some unsolicited and potentially unhelpful and counter-productive but hard won top tips here. However, I have been getting lucky on the trails. Yay!  Are you coming too? Might be fun…

new approach

Given how long it is since I last posted about my Dig Deep recce progress, I’m a little disappointed nobody has checked in with me to see if I made it back ok from my last run out.  I wouldn’t mind quite so much, but the person to whom I’d delegated the responsibility of rolling me off the trail if I died out there, has selfishly smashed up her shoulder and hence reneged on her offer, claiming she is no longer available to fulfill that task*.  It’s a worry.  I need to feel the running community are looking out for their own, if only to ensure the obstacle created by my decomposing corpse somewhere on the path below Carl Wark does not become a hazard to other trail users.  Plus, now I come to think of it, it would be good to upload my run on strava if I’ve got my tomtom on.  Would be a shame for that last effort to count for nothing, so if you’re passing if you would? Cheers.  All and any help gratefully received.

So, back to dispensing my pearls of running wisdom.  My regular reader will be delighted to know I’ve been making heaps of rookie errors over the past few weeks, which translates into learning the hard way about running strategies. Unfortunately, I’ve really only got as far as the ‘what not to do‘ and not entirely cracked the ‘why not try this instead‘ side of things. Still, work in progress is still progress right? This is what I like to think.

Since my last post about the Dig Deep, I’ve had a few further outings.  I have decided that I’m never going to pick up speed, certainly not between now and the 20th August which is when the 12.12 is taking place.  With hindsight, I wish I’d entered the children’s 1.6 and/or 2.3km trail race instead, that sounds way more enjoyable and doable, but possibly not technically in the spirit of the Smiley Championship races.  Although in my defence, they only specify that you should do one of the Dig Deep series without explicitly ruling out the Felly Fun Run as such…  Anyways, rather than pretend I can run continuously and doing flat-out shorter runs, adding 10% a week to build up the distance, I’m just trying to get out and do longer routes of about 10 – 12 miles of walk/run cycles and increasing the percentage time I spend running based entirely on how I feel. This may not be scientific, but seems to work for me.  Astonishingly, I am getting a bit speedier, I mean not exactly breaking the sound barrier granted, but definitely breaking a sweat.  Part of this is due to not getting quite so lost and faffing about on the top of Higger Tor for ages, part of it is just feeling more confident on the terrain and part of it may even be that against all odds my stamina is improving.   Another factor is advice given and lessons learned along the way, which I shall now share.  Lucky you!

They say you should never be above asking for advice, but I’ve never had a problem that end of the continuum, I’m more at the ‘too embarrassed to ask for advice’ end of that sliding scale, though I’m overcoming it and becoming more brazen.  My local running shop are most insistent that there are no stupid questions and I’m welcome to ask whatever I like, whenever I like.  I am going to test that claim to breaking point, I’m not sure I’m going to get them to agree to a personal paging system, which would be my preferred option, but I reckon a bat phone type communication device would do the job pretty well and indisputably look incredibly cool on any running shop counter to boot.  Should be able to get that past them.  I might go and look on Ebay in a bit, see if I can put in a bulk order, I can think of a range of experts I’d love to have on standby ready to give me advice when needed…  Naturally, if they are serious about wanting to retain my custom I’d require them to wear the appropriate gear, but as it’s clearly both fetching in style and practical for running purposes I can’t see any cynical naysayers putting unnecessary obstacles in the way there.  Super cool running tights and briefs in evidence here!  Frankly I don’t know why they don’t make that the staff uniform anyway, bat phone or not.

So, my top tips for running the 12.12 are in three disctint areas, specifically: navigation, nutrition and kit.

Navigation –
This has been a real problem for me, just couldn’t fathom the route for the 12.12.  I still maintain the map supplied was rubbish.  However, Strava has come to my aid in the form of more knowledgeable running buddies, who have spotted my errors and endeavoured to point me in the literal as well as metaphorical right direction. For ages, I was constantly thwarted coming off Higger Tor, because many had told me the 12.12 follows clear paths throughout. This advice has now been amended too ‘oh, well, yes, apart from coming off Higger Tor itself, obviously, there’s no path there!’  So all those hours I spent traversing the top of the Tor seeking a path were indeed in vain.  The nice man at Front Runner brough up a picture of the Tor on Google Earth (a surprisingly good top tip that seemed blindingly obvious once he’d done so) and you see from above how a very clear path just disappears into a pile of rocks, boulders and vertiginous edges.  You can either scramble down, or step off and hope you fly, whatever works for you.  I got the photo from the interweb, thanks Fran Hansall, I added the quote.  Cheesy perhaps, but apt all the same.  Squirm if you must.

fly higger tor

Yay!  To be honest, I was a bit slow on the uptake working this out for myself.  I should have got an inkling that time I scrambled over some boulders down onto what I thought was a path but turned out to be just a random shelf.  I found myself sharing the space with some pathologically enthusiastic and helpful climbers with ropes and helmets and all the gear.  I figured they’d know the lie of the land and asked them if there was a safe route down from whence they’d come.  ‘Yeah, sure there is, you’ll be fine‘ they said confidently.  I think I am being  generous in giving them the benefit of the doubt when I say perhaps they just didn’t notice I lacked similar skill and attire.   An alternative explanation is clearly that they wanted me to die. I did make it down, but not without seeing my life flash before me en route.  Still, all’s well that ends well eh?

Another buddy offered more practical assistance, first showing me the secret weapon of The usefulness of this depends on others having uploaded routes, but there was indeed a outdoorgps version of the 12.12 from a previous year, you can zoom right in and the route became way clearer.  This is a genius tool, it opens up all sorts of other trailing opportunities.  Then she took me out under supervision. This was great actually (thank you Special Agent Smiley) as we actually went from behind Fox House, and now I’ve finally worked out how to join up some of the myriad of paths I’ve been gallumphing along without any sense of how they all inter-connected. So my top tips for navigation are as follows:

  • Get a decent map
  • Make sure the map is the right way up when you are looking at it
  • Ask lots of people so you have contradictory advice, it’s good fun trying to triangulate it all
  • Get a trusted friend to show you
  • Ask random strangers as you romp round your recce
  • Keep uploading your strava route and try to compare and contrast with the feeble route map you have already in your possession
  • Try google earth up close
  • Try
  • Get a personalised ad-hoc advice session from a GB triathlete through a car window, pre shoulder injury for preference
  • Befriend fellow Smilies (running club buddies from Smiley Paces) who go to woodrun and who have let slip that they are marshaling on Higger Tor on the day, if they aren’t able to point you the right way, they can at least scrape you up afterwards
  • Feel the fear and do it anyway
  • Maybe don’t hold out for the bat phone to rescue you, nice idea, but, well, you know.  I’m not saying they’d deliberately ignore my calls (perish the thought) but mobile reception is not guaranteed out on the moors.

Mix all these ingredients and then just head out in hope more than expectation, and voila!  Route sorted, sort of, which is probably good enough.  Tenacity not talent is what is most needed at the end of the day.

Armed with all this expertise, I have since done further romping, and it’s been grand.   I have sussed the boggy bits, had a bash at boulder bouncing, and been swallowed up by bracken taller than I am (which might not be saying much but is still pretty extraordinary to experience out in them there hills).  Every time I go out I am in awe of the Peak District, I’ve barely scratched the surface, and as I up my distances I hope more and more of it will fall within my reach.  All the muddy, moody gloriousness is out there just waiting to be discovered.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In all seriousness, I am risk averse when I go out on my own, but this whole recceing thing (is that a word, not ‘thing’ – ‘recceing’, anyway, you know what I mean) has made me so much more confident out and about.   Those tops look miles away, but they really aren’t, and you can’t really get lost.  I mean, I get so I don’t know where I am exactly, but I know how to get home and/or to the nearest road, which is good enough. I’m further up the navigational competency chain than the first time me and Cheetah Buddy went out from the Norfolk Arms on what was supposed to be a 5k trail run. Darkness fell – impressive, as it was May, even though we had gone for an evening run, we didn’t expect our 5k route to take 6 hours. We ended up covering over 18km because we got so lost. Ultimately we found our way home by pausing in the heather and waiting until we saw some car headlights, moving towards them til they faded and waiting again, until we finally made it onto a road we recognised.  Not our finest hour. It taught me to respect the hills a great deal more, and to take seriously advice about going out with a head torch etc as you just never know do you.  Subsequently, my running buddy uploaded our route on some tracking thing she had (this was pre our ‘proper’ running watch gizmos) and we could see we’d repeatedly crossed our paths and double backed on ourselves,  but we were so disorientated we didn’t recognise where we were.  Scary really.   To be fair, we were caught out by inexperience, but better runners than me (I know, hard to believe) have been caught out by over confidence.  Hypothermia on the hills anyone?  Still, it wasn’t all bad, it was great for team building, and we had a hoot trying to take selfies before we realised we were so lost we would probably die.  We’ve improved our selfie taking skills since this shot was taken I’m pleased to say, and in my defence I wasn’t deliberately channeling the Jedward look, I’m sadly just a natural at it.  This was 2014 according to Facebook, my how time flies…  It’s me and Cheetah Buddy on the left, just to be clear.



You might think from my silhouette that I eat all the time, but in fact, I never eat when I’m out running, I’ve only recently started to carry water.  I guess I’m quite good at carrying my own supplies as subcutaneous fat.  However, as I up my distances, and in accordance with FRA regs, I recognise it is probably a good idea to find out what I can eat to help me run.  The conventional wisdom is to refuel before you need it – some say every 45 minutes.  This feels very alien to me. Even so, I have found that now I’m running a greater proportion of the route, as opposed to power walking, I do notice I tire after about 90 minutes and if I want to build up to marathons, and I do, then clearly I’m going to have to eat something.  I did try a gel once, literally, one sip (it was free in a goodie bag somewhere) and it made me retch instantly.  Too sweet and too alien.  Not trying that again.  On the Round Sheffield Run I’ve indulged in banana (stomach cramps) and jelly babies, but I felt guilty about that because they aren’t veggie but I hadn’t planned and did need something.  I took fudge on the Sheffield half-marathon, bit sweet, but did the job.   Lots of people have recommended clif shot bloks they are vegetarian, and described to me as being ‘like soft jelly babies’.  As I lack imagination and am susceptible to peer pressure, I decided to give them a go. I took one out on a recce, and once I’d heave-hoed up Porter Clough and past Lady Cannings plantation I thought I’d tuck in.

super glue nutrition

Now, I don’t claim to be much of a food critic, and I might be wrong, but essentially for me the berry choc blok was like accidentally stuffing my mouth with glucose infused super-glue.  Not in a good way.  It was so sweet it made my whole jaw vibrate whilst simultaneously coating my teeth with a seemingly irremoveable clingy ectoplasm.  This was not for me.  FAIL.  I gulped down water afterwards, which wasn’t the best idea, you are supposed to sip water at the same time as having a shot blok it’s true.  However, I was rather trying to flush out my whole system in a futile attempt to rid my mouth of the weird sweet mucous that had claimed my teeth and was threatening to set.  I got hiccups, then I got pissed off.  This alas, was not to be my magic nutrition solution of choice.

On a subsequent run I tried an alternative clif product donated by Cheetah buddy who likes them for cycling.   Peanut Butter Clif bar

real food option

That sounds delightful, and to be fair it was a significant improvement on the bloc.  It’s sort of solid biscuity/ flap-jackyish.  Tastes functional rather than fun though, and this does rather raises the question of why not eat an actual flapjack, which would be a lot nicer.  I can’t see the clif bar as being any quicker to digest (the benefit of gels is that you can access the fuel instantly).  An actual flapjack might be more palatable, and possibly cheaper – though granted scrounging off your friends is cheaper still, as long as you don’t mind too much ending up friendless and alone, screaming into a void as you rage at the futility of life and the mistakes you’d made along the way, and no-one hearing.

Next time I was in my local running shop – which was today, I went in to get some of my favourite monoskin socks as the bat phone isn’t yet operational I thought I’d ask in person for some nutrition advice.  ‘So‘ I enquired, ‘if I can’t have a gel because it makes me heave, and a clif bar is basically like eating a flapjack anyway, why can’t I just have a marathon instead, that can’t be that much slower to digest surely?‘  Well, guess what.  ‘You can!‘ the other nice man in Front Runner said.  (Regardig ‘the nice man in the shop’ I think they must take it in turns, to be there I mean, not to be nice, they do that all the time.)  Anyway, don’t distract me, the point is, it turns out, it is true that gels and blocs are easier for the body to access because (and if I didn’t like the idea of gels before I’m so never trying again with them now) they are designed to hit your stomach ready for instant use.  This was cheerily explained to me as being ‘sort of like they’ve already been partially digested‘.  What the?  How do they achieve that? Do they have whole armies of house flies regurgitating their stomach enzymes onto the raw product and then just scrape it away and pump it into sachets before the poor insect has a chance to suck it all up again, it’s proboscis waving all in vain?  Quite aside from being animal exploitation, that’s seriously gross.  Have these food technologist product development specialists never seen The Fly?


Quick, counter that image.  Here are some magical trees seen out and about on my recent trail exploits.  Phew, sorry about that.

You’ll understand then why that’s me out stepping out of the queue for energy drinks, gels and blocs.    I can’t tolerate gels now, and whilst it’s all well and good for those that do, if I ‘m having solid stuff anyway, I might as well have something I know I’ll like.  I’m worried about chocolate melting in my bum bag (the mess) but you know what, I can always bung it in the washing machine post race, so I reckon a marathon bar it is.  That’s got sugar, protein, probably unhealthy amounts of salt, just the job.  I’ll compromise and get a snickers I suppose, to keep up with the times, but my quest for energy gels and semi-solids is for now concluded.  I shudder at the thought.  If Nicky Spinks can have fish, chips and curry sauce on her double Bob Graham, then that’s a lead I’m willing to follow.  Bet she didn’t get her support team to all spit on it before she tucked in.


So the nutrition advice is, do whatever you like, just practise first, and maybe if you are time sensitive I suppose you could take into account the time it takes for your body to get a boost from whatever you are eating when you refuel.  Alternatively, to hell with the time, why not take a full on picnic and just enjoy the view from the top whilst you rest your legs before tackling the next stage.  It is supposed to be fun after all.  I expect the marshal would appreciate the company and a share of your cheese and pickle sandwiches too if asked.

There follows a gratuitous scenic shot.  I can’t wait for the heather to be out properly, it’s going to be!

look where you put your feet


Well, the good news is I  like my socks.  I’m really confident about them.  I also like my ultimate direction stereo running belt, it can take loads of stuff and doesn’t move at all.  It’s not flattering, but it’s genuinely comfy, well worth the investment.  The only problem is I keep telling people it’s One Direction and that creates entirely the wrong impression.  Strapping a boy band round your midriff would not improve running performance I’m sure. Well, I’ve not tried it, but I’m fairly confident that’s trued.   It’s hard being me, you have no idea.  Really, none.

I’m going to wear my fellraiser shoes, they are a bit narrow, but super-grippy and I’ve just got used to them even though they aren’t the comfiest and Strava keeps telling me our relationship has run its course and it’s time to move on. I’ll have to wear a Smiley vest, obvs, but with parkrun T-shirt underneath because I’m not confident enough to run bearing all that flesh otherwise.  I’ve only got one pair of running tights, so that’s easy, and my runderwear of course.  My Achilles heel, is in fact my boobs. Anatomically unlikely in literal terms, but metaphorically, absolutely so.  I have ranted about this before, at length, and I know I’m not alone in this, but I cannot get a bra to fit.  I feel I’ve tried everything. Googling trots out horror stories of ‘marathon tattoos’ and laments that chafing and bounce are unavoidable alongside upbeat marketing pieces saying PATRONISINGLY ‘any good sports shop will fit you for size’ and claiming with a bit of lube and pert physique and upward thinking running style all will be well. This is a lie.  Yesterday I tried a new tack and got a bra fitted at another sports place. To be fair, I was impressed by the woman, who did the fitting, she had assets of her own that suggested she understood the issues, and the bra (a panache sport which very specifically claims an 83% reduction in bounce though less than what I have no idea) seemed plausible at first.  It is under wired though,  which did go against my better instincts, but I was so desperate I thought I’d give it a go.  It was alright when I did a 6 mile or so run yesterday, but I did stop start. Today, I did only 5 miles but at a more consistent though slower pace  (It was flat and roady, as opposed to hilly trails – gawd how I loathe running on roads).  About 3 miles in, I suddenly had that agonising sting when you know the skin has broken, and oh joy, because it’s a new bra, with a new fit, it was in a previously unscarred area.  The underwires separating my boobs had dug in on both sides creating what is basically now an open sore.  Nice.  Ouch, doesn’t cut it, but the underwire did, both of them.  At least my scarring will be symmetrical.  Of course running any distance whilst essentially holding your assets in place with a cheese wire carries an inherent risk.  I wouldn’t mind quite so much, but the fit is so tight (to minimise movement) that the bra also makes me feel like my lungs are being held in a vice. I am not amused.  However, my Secret Agent Smiley Buddy has agreed a mission. We shall head to Bravissimo and try on every sports bra in their Leeds shop and surely there will be some joy to be had there.   I resent having my running curtailed for lack of a comfy and functional bra, running related injuries should be oh I don’t know, sore Achilles, or plantar fasciatis – I don’t want those, but they equally afflict both sexes, feeling I can’t run because my upper torso is shredded to a pulp by the very bit of kit which is supposed to help improve my performance seems unjust.  It’s not chafing, it feels like self harming to head out in such circumstances.

So, my kit advice here is essentially, drink gin, rage at the injustice in the world, and find a friend to go bra shopping with.  It may still not have a happy conclusion, but you can at least have a nice day out and a posh coffee somewhere by way of consolation….  Otherwise, just wear whatever, check it is FRA reg compliant if required, and do other runners a favour by making sure it’s been washed the night before.  No pulling it out from the rancid heap at the bottom of the laundry basket on the day of the race.  For the Dig Deep 12.12 the kit list is given as follows:

Kit List (mandatory requirements)
  • Full body cover (windproof/waterproof)
  • Spare water and food
  • Whistle
  • Mobile Phone

Please note that runners will be disqualified if they are not carrying minimum kit requirements

It sounds sort of scary to me, I’ve never had to carry kit before at an event, which is probably why I’m taking the preparation for this event a bit more seriously than some others I’ve done.  On their facebook page they do say they’ll take a ‘common sense’ approach on the day if the weather is good and drop the waterproof requirements.  I’m glad they don’t ask you to take a compass, I have no idea how to use one, I might as well bring along a slide rule and some sudoko puzzles quite honestly.

So there you go, them is my top tips in relation to Navigation, Nutrition and Kit, bet you are chuffed you stopped by this blog post to enrich your running knowledge.

There is one other thing though, I want to put in the frame.  In praise of luck.  Yesterday, when I was doing my first bra-test run I ended up in a hay-field just after heavy rain when bright sun had made the clover and grasses just burst into life.  A sea of green clover stood erect, gazing up at me.  Now, I have a residual talent. Only one, and one I haven’t utilised in years, but it is an eye for spotting a four-leaved clover in just such circumstances.  The secret is to look from above DONT TOUCH just look for a break in the pattern … and there were loads, everywhere I looked.  Well, not everywhere, but enough that I kept having to stop to find ‘just one more’ before carrying on.  It was like trying to cross the deadly poppy field in the Wizard of Oz, except it wasn’t that I was in danger of falling asleep for eternity, I was in danger of never managing to generate any forward momentum ever again.  Eventually, the sound of an approaching runner, pounding the track towards me whilst I was arse up, eyes down  for no outwardly apparent reason shamed me into abandoning my task.  I had quite a haul though.  To keep them perky I stuffed them into my water bottles – another example of why it is a good idea to always have hydration with you, and now I have them home I suppose I’ll get around to pressing them or something.  Always good to get lucky on a run.  It might happen to you!

So where am I in relation to my Dig Deep prep?

Well, I reckon I know the route.  I know I can do the distance albeit it will be a walk/run effort, I am embarrassed at how slow I’ll be, but I’ve often humiliated myself in the public domain so any shame will pass and be more than compensated for by the views and heather.  Besides, I’m not alone in this. Came across a blog post from a woman who’s come last at 20 marathons and run over a hundred or something and still feeling the lurve for running, so I’ve a way to go yet to equal that.   She favours fancy dress too, so we clearly have much in common.  I’ve got nutrition nailed(ish), and in the habit of carrying water.  I’ve bought a whistle, and I have waterproofs.  The bra, well we shall see.  When I am a squillionaire I will have all my bras custom-made out of moulded cooling gel, and if that material doesn’t yet exist, I will have a team of scientists get out there and invent it.  In the meantime, my hopes lie in Leeds and Bravissimo’s  sports bra selection.  We shall see.  I’ve not absolutely worked out the finer points of how I’m going to get to be a squillionaire, but I see that as details, I’m more a big picture sort of person, someone else can do the gantt chart.  I know, explains a lot doesn’t it.

The painful truth may be there isn’t an easy solution to that one, but the rewards will be worth hitting the trails for anyway.  Look at what awaits.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

See you there?  There’s still time, you don’t want to be left wondering  what might have been on August 21st now do you?  Enter here – at least come and cheer on the Felly Fun Run.


For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you.

*Seriously buddy, get well soon.  I know you might not be up to moving my body this time round, but there’s always the next, and it is only you who knows how to recycle my bra appropriately, a weighty responsibility indeed.  We have agreed as a slingshot, but I trust your judgement on that one should the situation arise.  In the meantime drink gin and be awesome.  Thanks for being a super star navigator and motivator even when it was crunch time for you.  In return, I’ll look out for any bone fragments from your shoulder whilst I’m out on the hills.

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

It’s not a parkrun apparently. Lessons from the Virgin London Marathon expo 2017

Digested read.  I went to the London Marathon expo. There were lots of talks and stands.  It was great.  I learned a lot.  Specifically, the London marathon is not quite like a parkrun.  Being in London for the build up to the big day is a) exciting and b) recommended.

How exciting!  Off to London today, not to see the Queen, which is an opportunity I could take or leave to be honest, but way more exciting than that.  Off to London to get to the London Marathon expo.  Yay.  What insights and adventures awaited me I had little idea, but I can report it did not disappoint.

Some of the excitement began on the coach trip from Sheffield.  In fact it was retrospectively uneventful.  However, I’d got on ‘the fright seat’ at the front.  I like this seat as you get a great view, but the downside is that great view an expose you to scary driving that is bad for the nerves.  One driver on this trip, the guy who took over at Chesterfield, had a habit of giving a running commentary of everything that was going on in his head.  I genuinely have no idea if he realised he was saying everything out loud, but it was a bit disconcerting.  Like when Gollum starts rambling in the Lord of the Rings, it’s unsettling because you don’t really know what’s going on.  Anyway, this driver, was perfectly friendly, professional and competent, but even so, his repeated commands to himself to ‘just concentrate’ and ‘need to concentrate’ and ‘stay awake now’ didn’t build confidence.  Likewise his low whistles of horror at the exploits of other road users focused the mind.  It wasn’t the most restful of voyages!

The drive was OK though.  Once we got to London itself I started to feel a growing sense of anticipation. It’s ages sine I’ve got a coach to the city, you go right past famous landmarks, Swiss Cottage Pub, Hyde Park (I think) wonderful buildings, impressive statues.  I eyed up my other travelers hoping to spot ‘fellow marathoners’ but it wasn’t that easy to tell.   Alighting at Victoria (is there any other context that we use the word ‘alight’ I wonder?).  It’s a short hike from the coach station to the tube, it’s only about 7 minutes but not well signed.  Then short ride to Gloucester Street and I found my hotel.  It is waaaaaaaaaaaay posher than any I’ve ever stayed in before, and even though I wasn’t quite posh enough for it, and did feel a bit intimidated, I got over that and made it in.  I was greeted warmly as someone who had booked in on the ‘marathon package’ I had, so I didn’t go into a lengthy explanation about having to defer.   However, I did wonder if the receptionist – who has presumably be trained to betray no judgement or emotion on her face at all in such situations – was doubting my performance potential as an athlete capable of completing the challenge in two days time.  To be fair, she had a point.  No words were exchanged.  I made my way to my third floor room at the back of the hotel. I’d requested a quiet one overlooking the garden at the rear, and that’s what I got.  Fancy complimentary toiletries too.  Yay.  Classy.

I dumped my stuff, opened and closed every draw and cupboard in the room and ate the complimentary biscuits before heading straight out again to get to the expo.  For this journey the tube was heaving, noisy and overwhelming. It was sensory overload, and I felt really dehydrated. Wouldn’t fancy having to do this the day before a marathon, it’s quite exhausting, well I found it to be anyway.  It was mid afternoon on Friday, and as I boarded the tube to get to the Excel arena, there was an ever-growing mass of runners making the same trek.  By the time I got off the tube at the arena, the platform was heaving.  Those of us just getting off were disoriented and blinking uncertainly in the daylight unsure where to go.  On the other side, runners who’d already finished at the expo were being herded down the platform to get them out. They were clutching their standard issue see-through London marathon kit-bags and wearing slightly anxious smiles.   A few were laden with last-minute emergency purchases or possibly impulse buys.  Some had little entourages of friends and family with them.  Definitely this marathon malarkey was becoming real!  Eek.  And I wasn’t even running it!

Those of us disembarking were urged to keep on moving through without even scanning our Oyster cards, I did wonder if that might be a mistake, but they didn’t want anyone pausing on the way through.  Maybe as you have to go back the same way as you arrive it sorts itself out.  I have no idea.  Anyway, for anyone worried about navigating, it was very easy to find. You just head over the bridge to the main arena, there  are loads of signs and anyway, you simply follow the migrating herd.  However, even though I wasn’t worried about getting lost, I was astounded at just how huge this cavernous arena is.  It’s enormous!  Should have worn my TomTom, you walk miles and miles to get to the main Marathon expo.  En route, I realised to my consternation and regret that I had apparently missed out on the  StoneShow. That’s the thing about London, so many opportunities.  You appreciate the scale of this space though when you consider the Marathon Expo, which had to cope with over 40,000 runners and their associates, was just one small part of this massive events venue.  Overwhelming. Truthfully, yes. On the plus side though, there are lots of loos, and signs and refreshments available – though, perhaps inevitably, the options were expensive.  I wish I’d brought loads more water with me.  I balk at £2 for a small bottle of water, but was increasingly desperate, and succumbed eventually.  I’d rather pay £2 than damage my kidneys at the end of the day.

Eventually, I made it to the Expo Hall.  The organisation was incredibly slick.  Yes the crowds are huge, but as it’s one way through the expo and the signage is pretty good you can’t miss the key things you need to do.  So first off you are met with a huge wall of signed booths from where you can get your number.  There was a help desk too, and a separate area signed for overseas runners to register.  It was dark, and vast.  The best analogy I can think of is to imagine yourself in one of the massive space ships that you see in sci-fi films, that carry whole colonies of people to populate new planets post Armageddon on earth.  There is the same sense of no natural light, and a mass of people in a very hard-edged synthetic space.  Not threatening, but definitely strange and alien.

So once you’ve got your number, you move through into the exhibition hall.  To do so you have to go through one of a number of narrow entrances (like at a tube station), at each of which was sat someone issuing timing tags.  This way, a runner would have to work quite hard to miss getting their tag, though I daresay some must.    You are then spat into the exhibition itself.  I don’t know what I was expecting exactly.  I suppose I was hoping for freebies and bargains. Honestly, I didn’t see much of that.  What you do see though, are trade stands from just about every organisation linked to running you can possibly imagine.  You could definitely pick up any forgotten items hear from specialist gels to compression shots.  Shoe companies were showing off newly launched products.   Whether or not they had event offers I’m not sure. Personally I wouldn’t buy running shoes at this kind of event.  I prefer to support, and get objective advice from, my local independent running shops. Frontrunner and Accelerate in Sheffield have both given me excellent help and support in the past, and have a wider range of products to draw on than these single brand outlets.  I’d burn with shame if seen by them to be wearing trainers or other gear sourced elsewhere.  It’s the independent shops and local running clubs that have helped get me going running wise, I don’t want to have my head turned by the glitz of an expo that will disappear like a vanishing magic kingdom in a puff of smoke come the end of the weekend.  Where would I go for advice if I don’t support the grass roots people who know the ropes and routes of running in South Yorkshire?  Even so, no harm in looking eh?  I wandered through the strange parallel universe eyes a-pop.  I didn’t buy any London Marathon souvenir clothing, it would have felt wrong as I’m not running but it was fun checking out all the sights on offer.

As well as all the sports gear stands, there were some running related organisations with pitches.  I found the Trail Running Association, who I’ve not heard of before, and said a bit too loudly to them (given the context) ‘I hate running on roads‘.  Fortunately others at the expo were too preoccupied with their own marathon challenges to take time out to lynch me for such speaking such sacrilege, so that was good.  Other stands were promoting international marathons and some at home too.  It is tempting, you get swept up in it all even though I  can barely manage 10k at the moment myself, and even that isn’t pretty.  It’s the atmosphere and buzz of it all, and affirmation of seeing runners everywhere.  Ten a penny in this venue marathoners.

I continued my ambling about.   A couple of displays had enormous course maps up with suggested viewing points which was handy.  Also though they brought home that, you know what, 26.2 miles is a very long way to run.   One of the maps was on the floor, so I was able to locate my personal cheer point. I’m volunteering with Shelter around the 25 mile mark.  I stood on it for a little while by way of practise.  I didn’t practice the clapping and cheering though, saving my voice and hands for the big day.  All of the charities with runners had their own stands too, so I went to say hi to the Shelter gang. They were friendly and welcoming so that was good.  They were also supportive of my intention to do a bit of moonlighting by shouting for other runners I know, as well as of course the Shelter team on Sunday.  That’s good.  Wouldn’t want to be drummed out of my lovely Smiley Paces club for dereliction of support duties.  It is a FACT that all Smiley Paces members put on a power surge if they hear a shout of ‘Go Smiley‘ when out running.  They don’t even have to be at an event, just espied whilst tackling the trails of Sheffield. It’s like an involuntary Pavlovian reflex, you hear the shout aside or behind and you start to sprint.  If someone standing at the finish is brandishing a raspberry pavlova that makes us run faster too, but it isn’t so practical an option whilst I’m standing somewhere on the Embankment.  Anyway, it means that clearly I am duty bound to do as much of that shouting as I can. Be it for Smileys, or be it for Shelter cometh the marathon hour cometh my supportive shrieking.  I’m so pleased to be volunteering.  I think I’d be have by now been consumed by my own seething petty jealousy at not being able to run otherwise. This way, I can still feel part of the occasion, and it’s the ultimate recce for London Marathon 2018 too!  That’s the theory anyway. You’ll have to wait  year to find out if it actually helps.

Circling the displays I found a random logo where you could write supportive messages to runners.  Despite the only limited crayon choices I had a go at scribing something for Sheffielders.  Not the most creative of graffiti art, but they do say it’s the thought that counts.  I was really hoping someone might discover it spontaneously, but in fact when I did rendezvous with my running Smiley buddy, I dragged her across to admire it.  She was suitably appreciative though, so that was heartening.  Next year I’m bringing my own pens and glitter and I’ll create something properly eye-catching.  Stickers even.  Now that would be an innovation.

Eventually, I’d had enough of traipsing round, so I decided to secure a spot in the central area where there were various videos been streamed and a series of talks taking place.  By happy coincidence, I was in time for the 4.30 sequence, too good an opportunity to miss.  I positioned myself towards near to the front next to an unassuming guy who was nonchalantly sitting with his marathon kit bag resting on the floor.   I suspected an experienced runner, the first time runners hung onto their issue numbers with white knuckled, unreleasable grips.  Quite right too.  Don’t want to lose that before Sunday!

Expo talks

I happened on the central area just as last year’s runner was being interviewed.  I only caught the end of it but Kenenisa Bekele just came across as incredibly nice and unbelievably unassuming.  What great people runners are on the whole.  As he stepped off the stage a huge crowd gathered in a queue to pose for selfies with him.  He good-naturedly obliged.  Running royalty indeed.

So then it was the talks.   You know what, they were brilliant, just brilliant.  Ironically, I suspect the runners actually participating on Sunday might not have had time to sit through this as they’d have been preoccupied with logistics of numbers and getting proper food etc, but for me, the advice was really good.  Also it was actually reassuring, I gained the impression that they have indeed put on this event for quite a while now, so it does (mostly) run like the proverbial well-oiled machine. What’s more it was encouraging and supportive in tone.  With useful top tips thrown in.

The first speaker was Geoff Wightman who was talking about the logistics of the day.  He was a good speaker and I learned loads.  I squirmed a bit through the warm up intros, when he was asking people who’d got lucky in the ballot to identify themselves.  ‘You people are so lucky, one in 10, just one in 10 got places that way.‘  Then those who were marathon first timers were asked to raise their hands also.  I sat there too scared to breathe, feeling just awful I’d had a ballot place I wasn’t using (though I will next year).  Then I worried about whether it was at best misleading and at worst outright deceit not to hold my hand up to ‘first time at a marathon’.  What if other people thought I must be an old hand, here to romp round my twentieth or something?  Maybe I should leap up and confess all before I was discovered?   I could explain about deferring and everything at the same time?   Don’t worry, I didn’t. Besides, most people were way too preoccupied with their own marathon fears, excitement and demons to notice.   Even if they weren’t maybe they’d look at me and feel inspired.  ‘Blimey, she’s done it and look at the state of her!  It must be possible!‘  That kind of thing.  That would be OK, I’m always happy to help.

Key points included that the marathon is not like a parkrun apparently! You can’t just rock up 3 minutes before and whizz off.  He explained the importance of getting to the correct starts, that kit bags have to be the marathon issue ones or they won’t be accepted, and that the lorries go at a particular time blah de blah.  Water is for drinking not pouring over your head – but there are showers on the way round!  Really? I had no idea, not sure you’d have time to wash your hair, but certainly you can run through for a cool down.

Participants were forwarned about female urinals (they are not for all) and reminded there are loos en route – the first set just one mile in, which is worth remembering.  Bring an old jumper or bin bag for the start that you can discard when you get moving.  Know that when the klaxon goes for the start… NOTHING will happen.  It takes a while for so many people to get moving.   Key landmarks were pointed out which are great markers of distance traveled en route for Sunday, but also, more importantly, helpful preparation for me too, as I was planning to attend the marathon-themed parkrun at Southwark the following day.  🙂  Runners were advised (scarily) that the most important piece of kit is their tag and their number.  Both are in the kit bags.  The kit bag is the most common item of lost property at the Expo!  That is both understandable given how frenetic the build up is, but also alarming.  If you are going yourself next year, hang onto that bag.  Trust no-one, relinquish it to no-one.  If you are a supporter, carry it at your peril.  That’s way more responsibility than I’d like.  I think the runner has to take ownership of that for themself.

On the day, don’t panic. There are St John’s ambulance crews a-plenty and they have seen it all before.  Not only can they deal with cramp and blisters and patch you up to carry on. They can also give out supportive hugs as part of their job description.  Now that is good to know.  Most of us surely appreciate a hug on a long run.  I hugged every marshal en route of the Round Sheffield Run last year.  How excellent this is an accepted part of the medics remit for the London marathon.  They clearly know their runners on this route march.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So yes, there were loads of helpful practical tips, and reassuring stuff about the logistics (you won’t get lost, you will get your kit bag back at the end), however, the key take away point was preparing for the finish.  You get a sign at 385 yards to go (that’s the 0.2 miles, I don’t know why it’s measured in yards) this is your opportunity to prepare for your finish photo.  Don’t get upstaged by an elaborate fancy dress participant, and make sure you wipe snot from your nose. Good top tips.  Remember people, no official photograph then the race didn’t happen. Try to prepare to get one shot at least that you’d be proud to have on public display!

Expo talk finish walk through

One let down, was the reality check that when you finish, you will gather up your goodie bag, and then head to the bag drop. As you approach, a volunteer will already be holding out your bag for you. This may be lovely, but don’t be too impressed. They have not in fact remembered you in your unique loveliness from the start, they have simply seen you approaching at a snail’s pace from afar, and had plenty of time to rummage around and get your pack.  Oh well, as long as you and your stuff are reunited that’s the important thing.

Then to horse guards, and there is a gathering area.  If arranging to meet others, the advice is to factor in say 20 minutes to cross the start line and maybe 15 minutes or so to get to the rendezvous. There are loads of flags with letters.  You can be unoriginal and choose the first letter of your first name say, but if you want to avoid a crowd then maybe X marks the spot.  Not likely to have too many Xmen and women running.   There may be a Zorro, but it’d be cool to hang out with men That’s the theory.  Also on a practical note, there is often no mobile phone coverage at this point, the sheer volume of people means you can’t rely on a signal. It’s back to the olden days when you just hang around hopefully, and trust that eventually you will indeed meet up. Well worth knowing that, forewarned could save a considerable amount of marathon meet-up related angst.

As well as the top tips, there was a bit of history too.  We were shown a picture of the mile 9 mark back in 2006 I think with no spectators at all, and then the same shot last year.  Fair to say interest has grown!  It is an extraordinary phenomenon indeed!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There followed a nutrition talk, which was probably a bit too late in the day for most.  Key points though were just don’t do anything new, don’t be seduced by fancy gels on the course if you haven’t tried them before and remember you only need to carb load two days before. What’s more (and I didn’t like this message very much) you don’t even need to take in any extra calories apparently, simply change the proportion of carbs in your meal, so you are having more carb less fibrous veg say.  Disappointing.  No midnight pizza and pasta fests after all.  I’m sure she talked a lot of sense, I did get the message I need to pay more attention to how I fuel my own marathon.  I’ve only done half before, and got away with a lot.  However in a marathon you probably are going to drain reserves, replenishing that requires planning and forethought.  Curses, not my forte.  Don’t you think Anita Bean is a great name for a nutritionist by the way, even if she doesn’t recommend intravenous carrot cake the night before a bit race.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So next, it was Runners’ World rep, talking about the pacing teams. There are a fair few pacers out there, and they have different coloured flags according to start, which is worth remembering if you see them en route, as before you hook up with them, you have to factor in that you don’t know what time they went over the chip mats.  What was interesting, or was to me anyway, is that these pacers just literally aim to do the same speed for every mile. Quite different from pacers in Sheffield events who have to factor in the killer hills.   Despite the big team of pacers they might still be hard to spot in such a massive field, so good to know they are out there, but if you want to find one, head to the back of your particular pen.

Note to self for next year, I probably do need to consciously start to think about pacing.  I don’t at all at the minute, just run how I feel.   At the Expo one stand had wrist bands with cumulative times for each mile according to target times.   Handy, and not difficult to do.  I was tempted to nonchalantly pick up a 2 hours 20 minutes one just because, but they’d all gone.  Anything over 5 hours 15 is regarded as walk/run apparently.  Beyond that I think you must be on your own.

The final speaker for the 4.30 talks was Martin Yelling himself.  I’ve watched a few of his live Facebook sessions, but haven’t otherwise heard him speak before.  Well, dear reader, I can report I thought he was a brilliant motivational speaker.  I’ve not particularly been aware from him before but he came across really well, realistic, helpful, encouraging, smart and funny.    I was really impressed.  I daresay none of his points are actually all that original but his presentation was great.

He used photos to illustrate key points.  For example the importance of paying attention to kit, showing a nicely relaxing well kitted out runner pre race and a collapsing mankini wearing runner who may have been having some fancy dress regrets post race.  Nicely memorable:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As the mankini shot went up, the guy next to me suddenly came to life.  ‘That’s me!’ he exclaimed.  I didn’t know whether he was joking or not, and neither was I sure of what might be an appropriate response!  Martin (we are on first names now I feel) spotted him and gave him a wink and a thumbs up ‘sorry, couldn’t resist‘ he said to my neighbour. It was indeed his bare buttocks magnified on screen above!  It is a cause of immense personal regret that I didn’t insist on a selfie moment there and then. In fact I just took a surreptitious one of him as he walked away.  Is that inappropriate?  Probably, but, tenuous as it is, it might be my only claim to fame for the weekend, so in this post it goes!  I’m not sure if the buttock contours are identifiable through clothing, but you can draw your own conclusions.  Sorry I blew it people, I just bottled it. An opportunity that passed me by…

Expo celebrity spotting

I can’t cover everything in this talk, because a lot of it was how he presented rather than the intrinsic content.  I will report that at one point his children stormed the stage which was endearing rather than annoying.  It was not quite on a par with that serious TV news interview photo bombed by toddlers the other month, but it was fun to behold all the same.  He did emphasise that 99% of people who start will complete this marathon so ‘why not you?’  The main thing is not to start too fast.  Don’t get swept along. All the speakers emphasised this point.  Runners were also urged that if they fall victim to their own negative internal voice the secret is to look outwards.  Notice the crowds, even get inspiration from looking at the wrecks of other runners around you who are also struggling.  Remind yourself if they can still put one foot in front of another then so too can you…. and know that in all likelihood they are looking at you with exactly the same thought in mind.  Harsh, but true!

If that doesn’t work, regard your race number as your self-belief right there. You entered, you can do it.  And all that cheering by crowds lining the way?  That’s all for you right.  Just make sure you have your name on your shirt to guarantee some personalised support when the going gets tough… and it will.

So, upshot is, the talks were great, I learnt loads, and I do think it will help me to look back on all these pearls of wisdom next year.  I can’t believe it will be me one day.  It blooming better be.

Talks over, I went back to ambling about.  Taking in the stands.  I found freebie cherry juice shots, and guessed how many cherries were squeezed to fill a jar of juice in the hope of winning a month’s supply of whatever this juice stuff was.  I mean it was OK, but I don’t know what special benefits it is supposed to offer up.  I also had a beetroot shot.  Not sure about that, I like beetroot a lot, but as a food rather than juice.  It was a bit much super-concentrated, plus I had to make a mental note to myself to remember I’d had it.  Don’t want to wake up tomorrow morning and think after my first bathroom visit of the day I’ve got bowel cancer or something.  I always forget beetroot does that to me.  Others too probably to be fair, but I’m not in the habit of peering into the toilet bowls of others to check.

I was flagging by now, so took advantage of a stand that had some massage machines and just stayed there for ages, having a mechanical back rub.  It was pretty good actually, but not good enough that I wanted to fork out £150 to take one home with me.

I made my way to the exit area.  Here you pass by a goody bag pick up point for runners, and seemingly acres of space devoted to photo ops, selfies and booths where you could don a ‘heads together’ head band and record your ‘reason to run’ for posterity. There were even some slightly incongruous charity fundraising games. Table football, bowling, and a dance floor.  I didn’t engage.  I was in need of a sit down.  A lie down would have been better, but it wasn’t an option.

Just as I was thinking I’d had enough, I got a message to say my Smiley buddy and her squeeze were on their way.  Yay.  I caught up with them by circling back to the central talks area.  By now it was pretty late.  The exhibition was beginning to close down, but as people dispersed it all became a lot more manageable.   No more pushing past people, we could find the few places we particularly wanted.  Smiley Marathoner was in search of some very specific gels and cliff bloc shots (I think) and was able to get both.

We were only just in time for a goody bag (phew) and found the selfie, ostentatious posing area pretty much deserted.  We used our initiative to access the medal shots, which greatly perturbed a roaming security guy because ‘there’s tensile there‘  Not tinsel, that would have been way better.  I both do and don’t see his point.  We may have been in technical breach of barriers but we were hardly about to steal the crown jewels.  Got a photo, so that’s the main thing eh?  Even if it wasn’t the best.  Sorry fell flying Smiley, I’m still learning to use the camera.  It’s supposed to be just point and push, but it doesn’t like being inside in the dark much I think.

We were all about done and done in anyway.  As we had hotels near to one another we caught the train back and shared a supper at pizza express.  Being in central London, and having seen all we’d seen, I felt like we were in some parallel univesre.  Even the coach trip up seemed a lifetime ago.

So, dear reader, I can report that the London Marathon Expo is a grand thing indeed.  The whole marathon enterprise is an extraordinary adventure, and pretty intense even just as a supporter.  I’m torn between thinking gawd I can’t wait to do this myself, and wondering what am I thinking? I just hope this time next year I am  indeed at the start line, having done the training and taken the advice and being ready to give it my best shot!

By the end of the day my head was spinning and I was dehydrated and exhausted.  I’m so pleased I’ve got tomorrow to chill before the big day. Note to self.  I don’t care if it’s cripplingly expensive, pay for the extra night in the hotel next year too!

So that’s it.   Expo done.  Wasn’t that fun!

Now bring it on.

Categories: marathon, race, road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hobbit bootcamp – getting into the swing of cross training.

SPOILER ALERT:  This is basically an early preview of the material that will be used for our forthcoming Hobbit Bootcamp DVD workout box set.  Look away if you’d rather wait to discover it for the first time when you are the lucky recipient of this sure-to-be ‘must have’ winterval/  Christmas gift.


It was not only that I watched the fat-shaming (which I don’t approve of) yet compelling obesity the post-mortem documentary on BBC3 the other day, that gave me renewed impetus to trot out for our hobbit boot camp rendezvous on Tuesday.  It was also that I have my new performance pants to experiment in.  Further, I am always conscientious if not keen.  Hobbit buddy and I had made a promise to one another, a commitment to work on our cores at the outdoor gym in Endcliffe Park.  We were dependent on one another to make it so, I would not be the weak link in that chain!

There was a minor detail that our morning rendezvous was the morning after the final Trunce of 2016 season, so I did have to stipulate that I’d be too knackered to do any actual running in any meaningful way.  However, we told ourselves that this was but a minor detail.  The whole point of cross training is that you use different muscles.  Today we would work on our core, we were sure to get in the swing of things pretty quickly, how hard could it be to design our own workout?   We met at our usual rendezvous point, and I was very relieved that whilst my hobbit buddy was most definitely focused, she was not wearing this top.  Had she been, that would have been the end of our training partnership.  I’m putting this on record here though just in case, she has been getting more hard-core recently, which is very impressive, inspirational even, but also a bit scary…


We began with a nice gentle run down Bingham Park toward Endcliffe.  This was a promising start as it was downhill and so gave us a bit of confidence that our cross training was yielding almost immediate effects.  We are so awesome, even thinking about improving our techniques brings results.  According to the Daily Mail (so it must be true) just thinking about exercise makes you fit, it can make pigs fly too, which is amazing, and explained our sudden surge of speed way better the influence of gravity and leaning forward a bit much when running down hill.  (Being top-heavy can speed you up and work in your favour in some situations it seems.  For example, should you trip whilst running down hill, gravity will compel you to move ever faster).

On arrival at the outdoor gym, we sort of eyed the equipment rather nervously.  I am after all the woman who managed to put on her runderwear back to front at the first attempt. That was bad enough, but at least it was in the privacy of my own home so no-one need ever know… well, anyway, bit different in the great outdoors.   Still, we were game.   The novelty of new toy things was hilarious.  We basically jumped on each bit of equipment in turn quite randomly, turning handles, swinging on bars and laughing a great deal.  This does mean that, irrespective of how effectively we used the outdoor gym, our stomach muscles got a good work out just from the general guffawing that was going on.  I was a bit fearful for hobbit buddy on the walkie, stretchy thing, as it seemed to set off in some sort of perpetual motion like Newton’s Cradle.  Lucky I was on hand to help stop it and move her to a place of safety.

It was only a matter of time before the appeal of posing in our active wear took precedence over any actual work out.  Some of the equipment did clearly work, those bars you pull down were tough.  We both liked the one where you just stand on a spinning drain cover and twist from side to side.  Nice stretch, not very strenuous and drain covers for up to three people.  That would be a very respectable coven say (‘when shall we three meet again‘ etc), but in the absence of any witches to avail themselves of this exercise opportunity, it was fine for two hobbits to twist and chat.  I popped back later to catch this health conscious trio making use of it later on at witching hour.  They are also doing some upper arm exercises too.  Holding your arms up like that is harder than it looks.  To begin with you think it’s going to be easy, but phew, it hurts soon enough.  Give it a go, you’ll find out for yourself.

There was one bit of equipment I really didn’t get at all.  It was a tai chi turning thingy, or something, but it seemed to me utterly pointless, plus hobbit buddy hasn’t done me any great favours with the camera angles either which may be a factor in how I feel about it all.  I would put this piece of kit in a category with those child play mats. You know the ones with textured bits you can stroke the ribbon, and feel the sheep’s wool or whatever, and push a button and – as in this case, turn a pointless wheel.  This may constitute a learning opportunity for a small child, even enrichment for a parrot, but it did nothing for me.  In fact, those play gyms look better, you get to lie down in comfort for starters, which would be better for meditation purposes, if that is partly what the tai chi label is about, which I don’t know to be fair, never tried it.  Maybe if I did I’d understand…

So after a bit, we decided to do some drills. This was mutually entertaining if of dubious value in respect of achieving physical transformations.  I found it was a lot harder to make myself and motivate hobbit buddy to go as far as we do with the drills when at woodrun.  Also, we were a bit self-conscious (I know surprising really given the kinds of things we have got up to in public places with Roger and Ginger) and there were families strolling by, and ‘proper’ athletes doing chin ups on the parkour area – here are some photos stolen from the interweb of the Endcliffe parkour area, of which I thoroughly approve by the way, what those free running guys and girls can do messes with my head!

After the drills, press-ups.  No we didn’t keep count – just did ‘loads’ (ahem) – what do you mean ‘full or half?’ what do you take us for?  Then we decided to mix it up a bit and jogged down to the kiddies play area.  We decided that it would be fun to go on actual swings, and probably it would be a lot easier than swinging on the bars which was fun but hard on the arms.  En route we speculated about whether or not it was OK to go into the children’s play area if we were not in possession of children.  Hobbit buddy is a parent and she said it would be OK as long as we didn’t push any children off any swings. As it happened, because schools are back, the children who were in there were too small to be using the swings so we had them all to ourselves.

It is ages since I’ve been on a swing, years probably.  It was harder than I expected to get going.  They have a back bar now, presumably for safety purposes, but it makes it hard to really lean back and get some momentum going.  I didn’t feel we could really ask anyone for a push.  It’s one thing getting someone to take your photo for you, but as a (reluctant) grown-up playing on the swings, even my ‘social inappropriateness’ warning indicator was sensitive to the fact I shouldn’t really be looking for help there.  I improvised, and got going.  Hobbit buddy was not impressed, it hurt her back, apparently.  Then again, she liked the twirling tai chi wheels, so I suppose we all have our individual strengths.  To begin with I felt a bit of motion sickness which was very odd, but actually, it was a lot of fun.  It must help your core, all that thrusting!  Surely?

So next up, jogged back to our start point and then, go us, we turned around and ran back, again!  I know.  And it wasn’t even a running day for me, we ended up doing about 5k in total, which isn’t much, but as an addition to our hardcore, intensive swinging about, shows real commitment!

To ring the changes a bit, we took a slight detour on our route home.  This also took us to a dilemma.  I think word is getting out about runderwear, and people everywhere are just dumping their pants at will so they can don runderwear instead.  Either that, or there is some sort of local Sheffield superhero, who’s just done some amazing heroic deed in Endcliffe Park, and inadvertently left his purple pants behind when he was doing his lightning swift change of outfits afterwards.  We examined the evidence, but only from a distance.

This actually presented me with a dilemma, we should ‘just say no‘ to littering the park with purple pants, as surely as Zammo should have just said no to heroin.  But then, what if the superhero realises he’s lost them and comes back looking for them?  I felt we ought to have picked them up and disposed of them, but  to be honest, I was a bit squeamish about doing so without gloves (well, you know, don’t know where they’ve been do you?).  It did feel a bit wrong to pose with photos with them and then walk away.  However, I am going out again with hobbit on Friday, and I promise to go and look for them, and to take a bag with me so I can dispose of them responsibly.

So finally, we were back where we started, feeling transformed as well as just a tad smug, but deservedly so.  We had tried something new, and whilst it may not be true to say our transformation is as yet complete, more work in progress, but we have achieved the goal of incorporating some spontaneous cross training into our training regimes.  This is how body make-overs begin.  That and Photoshop.  But I don’t know how to use that.


 So that’s it for now, keep in the swing of your training y’all – and remember, as Ella tells us ”Tain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It) that’s what gets results’!

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

Pants to Running – in celebration of Runderwear

It’s pants!   They’ve come.  After much procrastination, I finally got round to ordering some and now they are here, look:


I am a committed athlete.  This is official, and the evidence is here for all to see.  I am now in possession of my newly purchased Runderwear, and it says on the box VERY CLEARLY INDEED that basically, if you are anything less than a committed athlete, it would be not just irresponsible, but dangerous to wear them.  When marketing companies talk about being a ‘committed athlete‘ that’s pretty much synonymous with being ‘enormously talented and accomplished’ mostly.  I mean, to be fair, we all have our off days, and some of us (well OK, me for example) might be working towards being ‘enormously talented and accomplished’ rather than actual secure in that status just yet, but basically, now I have my go-faster, no-chaffing runderwear, my running credentials are secured in perpetuity.  Have pants, will run!  ‘Don’t stop me now as I’m having a good time‘ (as the song says, though granted it doesn’t differentiate between type 1 and type 2 fun).


Sooo, obviously, excited and delighted to be in receipt of my new runderwear, next challenge was to give them a literal and metaphorical test run.  I began by just wearing my pants around the house.  They are ‘low rise hipsters‘, according to the label on the box,  though the company seem to take it on trust that you are qualified to wear them.  I personally don’t have a full beard, though I do have an arrangement with many female friends to come and visit me at my hospital bed with tweezers to sort out my rogue chin hairs if ever I end up in a coma.  A living will of sorts in fact.  I also got a pair of ‘briefs’ and an ordinary ‘hipster’, so I could work out which style of runderwear I liked the best, but, honestly, they look very similar to me.  They don’t come with any instructions so I put them on the wrong way round at first (surely that nice star logo should be at the front), but I got there in the end without outside assistance, so I’m sure you will too.  Don’t be scared.

They are all however super-comfy.  I wont lie, they aren’t the most flattering of undergarments I’ve ever worn (and I have worn some shockers in my time), but they do feel lovely.  Anyway, who’s going to see them apart from other runners who are taking a professional interest in such matters? –  and flashing your pants at fellow athletes at the start of parkrun say, is perfectly respectable.   Personally, I’ve never risked running commando, but I’d say these really do feel like you aren’t wearing anything at all down under (pants wise, I still wore my running leggings on top).  I think these pants and I are going to be friends. Runderwear Ambassador, you weren’t lying, these could indeed change my life!  For this I thank you.  Sorry it took me so long to see the light.  Here is a photo of our local Runderwear ambassador in action, you can really see how having the correct pants helps with running technique here.

runderwear ambassador.jpg

I had been toying with doing the last Trunce of the season in any case, but these newly arrived knickers had me chomping at the proverbial bit to get out there and run and see how they would fare put through their paces.  I can truthfully say I haven’t been so excited to be in possession of new pants since Independence Day 1999! (Pretentious reference coming up alert).

I was on holiday in Peru when I availed myself of a local laundry service.  Because I’d been travelling for a while, I handed over all my sordid clothing in one huge heap to a local woman for washing.  And I mean, all of it, I kept back only what I was wearing throwing caution to the wind.  The following day, it all came back, beautifully cleaned, ironed and folded and I paid the requisite fee.  It was only when I started going through it all, I realised that every single pair of my faded and tatty M&S knickers was missing.  I was left only with the pair I stood up in.  Even at the time I found this hilarious.  Frankly, if someone was desperate enough to want to keep my knickers I could not begrudge them this, but it did lead to a practical challenge in terms of replacing them.  The quest to buy knickers clarified why my M&S cheap and cheerfuls might have been so highly prized.  Knickers were nowhere to be found.  It was several days later before I finally came across a three pack in a market in some other Peruvian town.  They literally, had my name on!  I was soooooooooooo excited.   I had to have them.  I can’t remember now what they cost, but I do remember they were lemon yellow and had no elastic so were essentially completely useless.  Wouldn’t have been any good running say, but they brought me much joy, as you can see.  No it isn’t a picture of me wearing them, don’t be silly.


Actually, that’s the only thing that would have made me like my Runderwear delivery more, having my name emblazoned on the outside of every pack as an integral part of the packaging design.  It would make shopping choice for running gear so much more straightforward if the most suitable kit did always have your name on it.  I wonder when suppliers will wake up to the potential of such an innovation.

So, have pants, will run.   Test run to take place tackling the Trunce.  You’ll have to wait for my next post to find out how both they and I fared… Ooooh the excitement, the anticipation.  I know, who’d have thought it only took some new knickers to refresh and refocus my running ambitions.  Just goes to show – Top Tip everyone  – the secret of continuing to run is understanding what motivates you.  For me, today, it was discovering for myself the joyful potential of runderwear!

I know, who’d have thought it eh?

Categories: motivation, running | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Hearing voices? Differentiating between good advice and background noise to improve running technique.

It’s been a while since I’ve cast my pearls of running wisdom before the swine that is my regular reader.  Few points of clarification here.  I don’t wish to alienate you my reader, educate certainly, offend, absolutely not!  You need to understand that warthogs – African swine if you will – are my absolutely favourite animal (FACT).  I used to have a picture of one on my business card, so this isn’t an insult. Here are some pictures of me enjoying quality time with a smorgasbord of warthogs I particularly adore, by way of supporting evidence.  Also, I am including these photos because I think this running blog will be greatly enhanced by the inclusion of a few gratuitous warthog shots, and I’ve not managed to sneak them in prior to now.  FYI, if ever I need to think of my ‘happy place’ in order to help me calm down so that I do not follow through with, oh I don’t know, killing someone who has annoyed me say, this is the place I go to in my head.  I know, it explains quite a lot:

Secondly, warthogs are in fact awesome runners.  Have you ever seen them move?  They can manage up to 30 mph for a short distance at least.  They are stoical and determined, and defy the expectations of those who might presume that their physiques work against them when it comes to running.


Trail running as it should be done

Essentially, I think if I had a spirit animal it would be a warthog.  They are awesome. Fiercely loyal; inherently hilarious; outstanding body confidence;  always wanting to know what’s happening if not always alert to social graces and caring not one iota for appropriate dress codes. Perfect role models in fact.  However, I digress, today’s blog is to share with you some Top Tips that I have been garnering in order to up my game with regard to running technique.  I already know that you will struggle to find the right words to express what you are thinking in respect of this, so please don’t try to thank me,some things are best left unsaid.  Knowing you are achieving your best because of me is all the gratitude and recognition I seek.  Whenever people catch sight of me and then quickly do a U-turn and run away from me at full speed I tell myself that they are doing so merely to showcase their running form. It is the ultimate affirmation for me in a way, I won’t hear of it explained otherwise!  This is an example of one of the voices in my head, which conveniently takes me to the topic in hand.  Hearing voices.

I get a bit confused about which voices to listen to.  Should I listen to my body or the commentary in my head?  Healthy eating gurus  and indeed some sport coaches are inclined to tell you that if you learn to listen to your body you won’t go too far wrong in respect of diet and fitness. (Eat when hungry only, that sort of thing). Well, I’m not entirely convinced.  My body is prone to saying things like ‘I’m nice and comfy on this sofa‘ and ‘shall we walk now – lungs are killing me puffing up this hill‘.  Honestly, I think I’m pretty tuned into that voice, and it’s being so ready to listen to it which is keeping me very much in my comfort/ non running zone, which as any expert will tell you, is a great way to remain nice and comfortable (Type one fun if you will).   But, maybe not so great in terms of ever improving my performance let alone ‘fulfilling my potential.’


The commentary in my head is also pretty loud.  Mostly it’s along the lines of ‘oh crap, this is hard‘, ‘oh no a photographer/ someone I know – I’ll have to keep running a bit‘ or most loudly of all ‘this is pointless you are rubbish at running, just stop now, go home and never leave the house again‘.  Even though there is a dedicated club for rubbish runners (no really there is, see below) this internal monologue is not conducive to enhancing my enthusiasm for running, let alone my performance doing so.


Time for a change.  Let’s make running great again! (That is a topical reference by the way, not an endorsement of Trump).  Couple of things contributed to this, have contributed to my desire to change up a gear in relation to my running.  The imminence of The Dirty Double weekend away with my Smiley Paces running club (eek, what was I thinking, 15k followed by a 14k in potentially ‘biblical’ conditions, November, Lake District) for one thing.  I know it sounds drastic, but I’m wondering if I should train for it.  This would be an alternative option to dropping out say, and it is still two months away.  The other thing that made me question my nigh on terminal apathy in respect to my running of late,  was my return to Accelerate Woodrun in Eccleshall Woods last Thursday.  (Incidentally, spell check thinks this should be Ecclesial woods, so there’s a thought).  It was suggested that it might help me if I keep a running diary, and note the extent to which I work hard on my runs. This should be scoring on a scale of one to five, where ‘1’ is easy peasy and ‘5’ as eyes popping out and lung bursting (I think those were the technical terms).  Well, leaving aside the administrative detail that I probably wouldn’t fill an actual diary with my runs, I’d be alright noting my runs on a post-it note, in my heart I already know the answer to the question with respect to effort exerted.   I’m always hovering around a two and half, as soon as it gets remotely horrible, I just stop.  Could it be this is where my training is going wrong?  What an extraordinary revelation!  Maybe I do need to just try a bit harder now and again and see where it leads…

Obviously, to just go right out there and ‘try a bit harder‘ without soliciting other random opinions would be very irresponsible.  I decided to confer with my hobbit running buddy, who is also going to do the Dirty Double, and (alarmingly) has suddenly become ultra-focused and competitive in anticipation of this event.  We can do our training together.   We met up on Friday (yesterday) and straight off she came up with a brilliant idea that we should go for a flatter route, so we couldn’t use the hills (which are steep round here) as an excuse for slowing down and stopping all the time.  I blinked at her a bit, and explained the scoring system as an amendment to her proposed motion, and we decided to give it a go.  The problem is, to be honest we got a bit distracted.  The thing is we had to discuss our future training regime, and our having this discussion wasn’t compatible with actually running as neither of us can talk and run at the same time.  Also, I really needed the loo (yes I did go before I left the house, but I’d had to take a detour en route and had miscalculated the strength of my pelvic floor). I mean  I’d have been ok for a bit of yomp, but flat-out, nope, I needed a precautionary pee.  Plus we were very taken with the active wear video as per my last post, and so had to incorporate some ‘posing in our active wear‘ time into our run, which was also to involve a recce of some of the forthcoming TenTenTen.  I don’t know if I’m running that, I might volunteer instead, but Hobbit Buddy has entered it.  The upshot it was more a planning meeting than an actual work out session, but it was a start.

So what happened was this.  A gentle jog down to the public loos in Endcliffe Park during which we had our catch up chat.  You wouldn’t believe what scrapes Hobbit’s cats have been getting up to, we clearly needed to cover all that!  Then we got distracted in a conversation about weight.  I concede, if I lost weight it would obviously help with my running, but getting diet right is more complicated than the ‘just think of food as fuel‘ brigade would have you believe.

Food is not only about nutrition.  I do eat really healthily, for me it’s portion control that is the issue, but I don’t ever want to be made to feel guilty about eating an avocado. Honestly, only a couple of weeks ago someone said to me when I was about to tuck into a salad which included both avocado and olives ‘you aren’t seriously going to eat those are you – this is where you are going wrong!’  Spoiler alert, yes I was and yes I will again.  Excluding those from my diet is not my idea of healthy eating.  Possibly polishing off the end of Brie whilst you are waiting for your soup to heat up, is not so good I accept that.  It’s those kind of habits I need to break, not getting some sort of food related neurosis about ‘forbidden’ fruits.

Normally hobbit buddy is pretty good on these points, but on this occasion I wasn’t so taken with her advice.  ‘How about instead of eating all that cheese whilst you are waiting, why not do 20 press-ups instead?’  That was twice in one morning I blinked at her in utter incomprehension.  Does she not realise cheese is as addictive as heroin?   I’m not going to listen to her voice if the best it can come up with is ‘do press-ups voluntarily in preference to eating perfectly ripened brie straight off the knife‘  to be honest.  I totally know her advice would work, obviously, but it also not ever going to happen in my universe.  Does anyone really do that, apart from ‘Dr’ Gillian McKeith who everyone knows is basically unhealthily obsessed by other people’s poo and not even a real doctor?  Also, she (Dr McK) is so self-righteous and smug that the very thought of her makes me want to take lard intravenously just to annoy her and I’m vegetarian and (as established previously) swine are my friends, so that’s really saying something!  Really, do you want to build your career around this, just to get dumped in a jungle somewhere and be made to eat kangaroo testicles as the high point of your fame?  To be fair, if you do, there is a vacancy now Dr McK has been discredited, so good luck to you!


Perhaps it was to avoid continuing this conversation that we then decided to try for a bit of a sprint ‘as fast as we can to the dog poo bin‘, because, whilst Sheffield may well be the Greenest City in England, that was as imaginative we could be when thinking ahead to the next memorable landmark after the Endcliffe Cafe.  Phew, it was further than I thought, that was hard – gawd do some people feel like this the whole time when they are running. That’s not type two fun, that’s type three, surely?

On the plus side, Hobbit was a bit breathless too, so we regrouped and got back to our central strategy which was procrastination.  ‘So this is a good thing to do, hypothetically, and we can incorporate more of it into our future runs, but let’s talk about our core and conditioning work strategy now shall we?’ We have decided to start using the outdoor gym (next week) and see if we can do some strengthening work, by sharing different exercises with one another.  I will bestow on her the wisdom gained through my participation at woodrun, she will bestow on me the wisdom gained through her HIIT work-out DVD.  What could possibly go wrong?

So then, we went off on a TenTenTen recce, and got massively distracted by posing in our active wear when we got to the magical arboreal archway that is such a delight to discover in our local patch of wood.

Now, I fully appreciate that to the uneducated, untrained and ill-informed eye these pictures will just look like we were mucking about.  Not so dear reader.  Not so at all.  Understanding one’s personal biomechanics through sophisticated gait analysis is an incredibly important part of improving running performance.  We only put ourselves on camera running in this way so we can examine our pronation and check out whether or not we are over-striding.  You have to walk before you can run you know, and preparation is everything.  Fortunately, it is immediately apparent our respective running forms are basically exemplary, so no worries there.  Any slight over-balance is probably caused by the weight of our visors, and we can correct for that with practice.  I’m sure as dammit not parting with mine though, oh no siree.  That visor was long awaited for and hard-won.

At the ‘end’ of our run, we even added on an extra bit, because we have a new resolve to try harder, doubling back on ourselves to take on a flat section at pace again.  If my strava is not toying with me, we even got a PR on that section, which is both good and bad.  Good because it shows we were trying, bad because it still wasn’t all that impressive.  On conclusion ‘proper’ I asked her what she thought of our attempts:  ‘So how would that score on a scale of 1-5 effort?’ I asked.  ‘Maybe 2‘ she said.  ‘Maybe 2?!‘  I thought we were trying a bit harder myself.  ‘Definitely about 2, and type one fun as well‘, she reiterated.  I am really going to have to up my game…

So, summary of yesterday’s outing in relation to hearing voices:

  • the expert voice that suggested grading my running efforts is probably worth listening to for a bit at least as it is a way of monitoring if I’m actually trying
  • the voice in my head saying  ‘stop now’ could maybe go on hold now and again, though no need to take it as far as waiting until my eyes are about to pop out before taking that feedback on board
  • hobbit’s voice of ‘let’s try’ is probably a good one to listen to as well, we can try a new collusion regime (not to be confused with a collision regime, which this very nearly was due to a typing error) whereby we collude in doing more running together not less.  We can but try.  Change in mindset for both of us though.  Yikes indeed!

Today though, parkrun day. I thought I’d take the hearing voices to another level.  My plan was to solicit opinion re Dirty Double and running techniques in general from as many people as possible.  The basic premise is that if you ask enough people what to do, eventually someone will tell you what you want to hear. This is only a slight variation on being sure to ask advice only from someone who will confirm your preferred course of action.  There is a slight risk (like the boy and the man leading the donkey story) that you will come a cropper from trying to please everyone, but it was a risk I was willing to take.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sometimes, I have a flash of unwelcome self-awareness, that I immediately try to crush.  That happened a few times today.  I ambushed Smiley Paces friends and parkrun compatriots numerous and various and basically pumped them all for insights and information and then brutally cast them aside once they had outlived their usefulness to me.  I need to work on my life skills, but like my core strengthening work, I see it as a potential future project rather than an immediate undertaking.  So, a little selection of the expert voices I downloaded today:

On walking down to parkrun, by an extraordinary quirk of fate, super speedy founder Smiley, famed for compression shorts and winning races, came alongside.  Much as I’d like to pretend that we mutually and companionable shared running top tips, in fact I basically just appropriated all her years of running wisdom through devious questioning techniques.  The trick is to start innocently enough.  Eh hem: ‘so what’s your thought on appropriate running efforts at parkrun?’ I used as my opening gambit.  Anyway, upshot is, that it can work to use parkrun (say) as your threshold running romp for the week.  That means, going fast enough that you can’t talk and run at the same time (or properly trying in lay terms).  I’m very aware, that at the end of every parkrun I can always muster the energy for a sprint finish. This actually means not that I’m a completely brilliant runner with an amazing turn of speed (though do please continue in that misapprehension should you ever see me in action),  au contraire dear reader, it means I must always be holding something back.  I know this really, maybe I should give more all the way round.  It wouldn’t matter if I ended up slowing at the finish or even limping over it, if I’d been really going for it earlier on.  It is a good point, well made, and one to think about.     It was genuinely interesting hearing her perspective actually, joking aside, how the ‘mixing it up’ means you get breadth in your running performance instead of just a single string to your metaphorical running bow.  I don’t know that I gave quite the right response to the suggestion of track work though.  Said I’d love to come with my sandwiches and watch her train from the stands.  Anyway,  I dumped her at the loos, because I had my eye on the ownder of the next important running voice with whom I needed to engage.

I give you The Runderwear Ambassador.  I have been wanting to catch up with her since yesterday, when I finally hit ‘add to basket‘ and then ‘pay‘ in respect of making a runderwear purchase.  I feel confident these will indeed aid my running progression through by-passing any chafing issues.  Perhaps the associated abolition of my VPL will also shave off crucial seconds by giving me a more streamlined running profile.    I needed some clarification on whether of not I should have got the ones that come up to your armpits, or the more risqué ones that only cover your tummy hole (they cover your arse as well to be fair, I mean the cut of the proverbial jib differs).    This conversation required not only verbal advice, but quite a lot of me scrutinising her knickers and under-garments in general.  It is testament to her sweet nature and my poor social skills, that neither of us considered this to be particularly inappropriate behaviour in a public place.  Still, no-one said running was easy. If you are serious about getting better as an athlete you mustn’t be held back by what other people think.  It’s not like she was going commando or anything.


Next stop, Smiley Paces buddies miscellaneous to check out Dirty Double entries.  The first one I caught up with was encouraging about my participation in this event.  (I’m back on to soliciting opinion from others about what should I do – heaven portend I should have to make a decision on my own and take personal responsibility for it).  This was welcome, but somewhat undermined by her shocking revelation that she is doing the two times 10k races not the longer ones in the afternoon.  So whilst her voice was positive, it was not the loudest one influencing me.  Not to worry, dump her, corner someone else.

There in the distance was Regal Smiley and her Running buddy of choice. I shamelessly bulldozed their conversation (well, this was an emergency, all about me and my running needs). ‘I have to ask you a question I breathlessly gasped out to them‘.  Regal Smiley knew immediately what it was ‘you’ll be fine, you should do it!’ Now, this is genuinely encouraging, because she did it last year, and they did it with another Smiley mate who was made to do it despite having fallen over in the shower immediately prior to running.  I rather formed the impression she actually hurled herself down on the tiles hoping that this pre-race injury would allow her to drop out, but it didn’t work).  The only down side of this otherwise encouraging perspective, was that both she and her running buddy are a lot fitter and faster than me, and also a lot taller i.e. longer legs, they don’t have to take so many steps as me going round.    I was standing a bit too close and got quite a crick in my neck gazing up at them.  However, more good news.  Regal Smiley’s buddy (who was volunteering today – clue there) said that she was doing it and wont even be able to do any running for the next five weeks because she is injured.  ‘But that’s brilliant news!’ I exclaimed.  Because this is all about me, and it made me feel so much better to hear someone carrying some no doubt horrific (but unspecified) injury was going to risk a romp round despite being possibly still in pain and having done no training for months!  I skipped away having lost interest in them entirely now they had given some positive reinforcement.  I had again that slight shudder of self-awareness about having been socially inappropriate, but hey ho, it’s not the worst of my faux pas even for just today.  I did a sort of half-hearted ‘oh, well great tapering though, you’ll be well rested before it‘ over my shoulder as an after thought as I left.  Probably not my finest hour in terms of supporting others with their running, but I couldn’t help myself.  Sorry though. Get well soon etc. if you are reading this…

So, whilst I skipped away feeling more confident, it didn’t take much before I  could feel my wavering happening all over again when I then met another Smiley 10k x two=er.  Peer pressure is a terrible thing.  I just believe I should do whatever the person I’ve spoken to most recently is doing.  So many contradictory voices, so little capacity for independent thought on my part.  The only compelling and uncontested truth is that the prospect of some fifty odd (and we are most definitely all odd) Smileys taking over a youth hostel does offer up enormous comic potential.  Plus, there is the added bonus of a boat trip prior to the second race round Ullswater, with actual live music.  So if I disregard the running aspect, we could be looking at a type two fun scenario with associated type one fun at the edges…

So as things stand, I am reminded that trail running is basically exactly like opening a bottle of prosecco.  Terrifying in prospect to many of us (that cork could just fly of anywhere and have someone’s eye out at any moment) yet, if you can just get over that initial understandable angst, you will be rewarded with the giddying delights of fizzy white wine in one context and a runners high in the other.   Honestly, I think that the Lakeland Trails might even include an actual prosecco drinking element as well.  Now there is an incentive I can understand.  The inherent risk is there it is true, but on the other hand, pop that cork and you can be the one to get the party started!


So when it comes to listening to voices.  My advice is this.

  • Take on board advice of experts, they are awesome runners for a reason and they have experience to back it up
  • If you are going to listen to the voices in your own head, teach them to be voices that help you grow rather than encourage you to shrink back
  • Never take dietary advice from anyone who thinks avocados are evil
  • Ultimately, you won’t please everyone, so find a way to please yourself.  Running is supposed to be fun, even if ‘fun‘ can be sort of complicated, and we haven’t even discussed ‘forced fun’ yet (reference Christmas/ Disneyland/ most weddings)
  • Choose carefully who you ask for advice, in case they tell you something you don’t want to hear


and reflecting on all that collective wisdom, I can summarise the advice in relation to improving running technique and performance as this

  • just get out and do it, and now and again, try a bit harder

That’s it, that’s the pearl(s).  Trust it was worth the wait!

Then again, don’t listen to me, I’m just running scared and improvising.

There were 656 parkrunners at Endcliffe park this morning by the way.  That is pretty inspirational.  It’s also a lot of different approaches to running, we all have our own unique styles, and all are valid.  Go us, go Sheffield Hallam parkrun!

You’re welcome, happy running ’til next time.  🙂

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

Type two fun, and tackling running mind demons.

My running credentials speak for themselves.  Unfortunately.  One issue I do not face when running is the burden that elite runners routinely have to carry, that is, the burden of expectation that they will perform well every time out.  This worry I am free of.  However, this does not mean I am free of running angst.  Ooooh no.  You must know what I mean unless you are either supremely well endowed with self-belief and/or running talent combined with an unbleamished injury record.  For the rest of us mere mortals, it seems running is a mental challenge as much as a physical one.  Whether it is a chimp on your shoulder (which makes for a very asymmetrical running technique) or that all too common sense of imposter syndrome we all have our mental demons to battle with.  For me, it’s a constant voice in my head.  You might hear it too ‘I’m not a real runner, everyone must know I’m not a real runner, those few who don’t know yet will find out soon, then I will be exposed and – ironically – run out of my running club, humiliated by exposure of the truth I can no longer hide…‘  Sound familiar?  I hope not, but I suspect for many  it will be.


It is it seems, an extremely common affliction.  I finally made it back to woodrun today after a summer recess that would put any sinecure holder to shame.  It was nice to be back in Ecclesall woods, it definitely had a slightly different pre-autumnal feel to it.  It was also a bit like first day back at school after the summer holidays, with a few of us trooping in after a summer absence.  Some of us instantly started to get our apologies and excuses in first, out competing one another in respect of our woeful fitness levels/ innate (in)ability etc.  Many of us feeling somehow unworthy of the ‘runner’ moniker.   Why do we do this?  Talk ourselves down?  It may or may not be true that we are not at the top of our game, but does it really matter.  It’s not how fast we go, it’s that we go at all isn’t it?  The thing is, I can recognise this phenomenon in other people. I look at them in disbelief and awe at what they can achieve and see that it isn’t all that helpful or even relevant.  Lawks a lordy, it isn’t even true!  Of course they are ‘real’ runners. There is no exam, no certification required (although some of us at least should perhaps be certified)  how could they not be the real mckoy.  Owning the label for myself is another story, I need to keep chanting the mantra – you just have to leave the sofa and put one foot in front of the other, that’s it.  However slow I am going, I’m still lapping the alternative version of me that woud have stayed on the sofa…


It’s partly ,my fear of what ‘other people’ must think.  I know I’m not exactly poetry in motion out running, but I am at least giving it a go.  In my head I recognised that in most situations the mysterious  ‘other people’, whose judgement we, ok, well me, I am so in fear of,  really aren’t judging at all, they don’t care what we/I do. Firstly, I am not that important to merit being the centre of attention, most people wont even notice.  Secondly, even if people did steal a glance, it doesnt follow they are that interetsed about what anyone else is doing – people are thinking about their own goals at that point.  I’ve often thought at the start line for a race, or even a parkrun, you could turn up naked (apart from your trainers) and people would be far too focused on their own paranoia and performance to notice.  Obviously, this statement doesn’t apply if you happened to be wearing a more technical brand of running shoes then they were, in which case they’d be wanting to know all about the tread and drop and other stuff to do with running shoes that ‘proper’ runners are interested in, and fair enough.  Ostentatiously showy running shoes (and/or active wear gear) are always going to operate as attention magnets, so if you wear them, then you have to concede a degree of contributory negligence on your part  if you then attract the odd, covetous, sideways glance…. Posing in active wear will inevitably turn heads.  (Please, click on the video link, it just tickled me – how can you not want to sing along to the catchy line of ‘smoking on the streets in my active wear‘?, though I am a bit too easily entertained I know, it’s been pointed out to me before).


Even so, when it comes to myself, I still feel that it’s somehow different.  In my case I’m not so much talking myself down, just being realistic, managing expectations blah de blah.  No point in taking unnecessary risks out there…  Some smug person has produced a poster showing the limitations of this stance, ‘path to mediocrity..’ etc.  Well, I concede that might be true, but it is also annoying to have this pointed out to you in motivational poster format.  I prefer a bit of cynicism in my motivational phrases and posters to be honest.  So let’s balance it with the whisky advice one shall we?  That I can work with.  I’m also persuaded by that ubiquitous quote ‘whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right‘.   Seems we all have the innate gift of personal prophecy.   It’s certainly the case if you don’t give things a whirl then you will never find out what you are capable of, just have to trust that it won’t be too terminal a lesson in your absolute limitations I suppose…

So, what’s brought all this on?  Well, it’s The Dirty Double coming into view all over again.  This is a two-day Lakeland running festival.   I booked in ages ago, near as dammit a  year ago to be precise.  With a whole 11 months stretching ahead before I’d be required to run anywhere up and down hills in torrential rain, I’d fondly imagined that by the time the event came around, I’d have lost 30% of my body weight (by losing body fat, not through amputating extraneous limbs), done weekly hill-reps and generally metamorphosed from relatively inanimate grub to speedy running and flying beetle or whatever.  Are there beetles that run?  Cockroaches I suppose, but they don’t go through  metamorphosis properly though do they?  That’s a rhetorical question by the way as  I’ve just looked them up, they go through incomplete metamorphosis apparently, just so as you know… Actually, this analogy doesn’t entirely work does it?  As with much in life, I am finding myself really wishing I hadn’t gone down this particular route.  My entomological knowledge is not all that detailed, and, apart from insects I can only think of amphibians that undergo metamorphosis, and, much as I genuinely like frogs and toads, I can’t really stretch that to regarding them as perfect exemplars of aspirational running form.  When I was thinking of undergoing metamorphosis it was by way of transformation from earth-bound hobbit yomper to graceful, leaping fell runner.  Ironically, and coincidentally ,the  possibility that I have metamorphosed into a toad seems a rather more  apt analogy for my current state of physical readiness in respect of running round lake land trails in November, but it really wasn’t what I was aiming for when I signed up last November….


Oh for goodness sake, stop hassling me!  Surely you get my point!  No?

Well, it’s basically this:  I entered into this demanding trail race (Helvellyn Trail 15km Race + Ullswater Trail 14km Race on two consecutive days) basically through fear of missing out and the lure of having a boat trip out to the start of one of the races.  I overlooked the ‘running’, ‘inclement weather’ and ‘steep off road gradient’ elements of the events.  Also the ‘race on two consecutive days’ aspect.  I suppose I thought by then I’d have trained, or at least hung out with better runners than me so my own form and endurance would improve by osmosis, and that basically ‘it’ll be fine on the day(s)‘.  Now though, it’s just a few weeks away, and starting to feel a bit real.  Fellow Smilies are posting about it, and it’s slowly dawning on me that this may not be a completely blaggable event.   There is/was also the option of doing the same routes as a challenge (you get more time to finish), or doing a 10k on each day instead.  Those other options are looking ever more appealing.  It hasn’t helped all that much that hobbit buddy responded with ‘yikes’ when she realised I’d entered the longer race classes instead of the two 10k.  Oh here we go again with the peer pressure.  I don’t mind being slow going round, but I do want to finish before the cut off point so I don’t get left out there on the mountain long after all the marshals have packed up and gone home, and have to swim back to the hostel because I’ve missed the last boat ride home to boot!  Maybe I should swap…

However, I do expect this weekend away to meet the criteria of generating a few anecdotes, although possibly ones that are only hilarious and enjoyable in retrospect.  This brings me to the central point of this post (yes there was one), which is about understanding (and implementing) The Fun Scale.


The Fun Scale apparently originated in the climbing community, but as with many sports, there is a cross over to running.  Type One Fun is basically ‘fun at the time’.  You are consciously having a good time whilst doing it.  Personally, I’d put the Round Sheffield Run into this category. Then there is Type Two Fun.  This is the sort of fun which is only really fun in retrospect.  You do not get any inherent joy out of it at the time, but when you look back on it and laugh, it does seem in fact to have been incredibly joyful.  You forget how hideous it was at the time, and enter the same event again next year.  Personally, I think I’d put Percy Pud into this category.  Freezing cold, icy rain, road surface battering my arthritic feet and seeing returning runners speeding towards me on their way home before I was even half way out did not make this an unremittingly joyous occasion for me.  However, when you finish and get given a vegetarian Christmas Pudding at the end, you come to believe it was actually fun.  Other runners oozing endorphins reinforce this sensation, so each runner colludes with the others until there is a shared collective belief that the Percy Pud is brilliant fun.  Which it is, apart from when you are actually running the darned thing.


According to The Fun Scale for climbers at any rate, the third type of fun is basically no fun at all.  ‘Shoot me if I try to do it again’ sort of thing.  I appreciate what they are getting at here, but I think there’s a category missing.  I’d put this ‘truly, never again’ as Type Four Run  myself, and insert what I consider to be the missing third category here instead.  This is the sort of fun me and my erstwhile flat mate used to experience after attending an angst ridden studenty party in our youth.  (Yes, I was young once).  You must know the kind of thing.  Agonising social interactions at often dingy and dodgy locations, for long nights of excruciating ‘fun partying’, where you only went in the first place out of peer pressure, didn’t believe you’d come out alive, and spent the entire time wishing you at least knew where you were so you had a sporting chance of getting home.  (Actually, I have unconsciously described a fair number of my running experiences out on the hills in that statement).  Anyway, these were unrelentingly hideous occasions,and for that, you might reasonably assume they would be in the category of ‘never again’ but not so.  Whatever their inherent and known horrors, they would still score as Newly Calibrated Fun Scale Three for me because, when debriefing after the event we would have to concur that whilst we were ‘not at all sure I enjoyed myself’ we were nevertheless absolutely confident ‘ but I’d have been dead pissed off to have missed it‘.  Thus, whilst knowing to repeat the experience would be hateful and possibly dangerous, you are compelled to return to it again and again, like a moth to a flame (until I can think of a better analogy anyway, analogies are not going well today I know).


I think the Dirty Double, may well be lining up as Newly Calibrated Category Three Fun Scale score.  It has all the elements there.  Bit far, bit wet, bit hilly, fear of missing out.  Lure of the landscape.   How will it end? Well, we are all going to have to just wait and see..


I suppose I could try training a bit in advance, or is that taking it all a bit far?  I could start posing in my active wear out and about a bit more I suppose.  That would be a start… or is it really and truly a case that running this double is all in the mind.  A virtual run if you will.  High risk strategy to take that as a literal truth, but it might yet be worth a go.  I suppose the bottom line with my running journey is ‘must try harder’ not as in undertaking masochistice punishing workouts that would end up with me hating running for ever, but in not giving up too soon.   Hmm, we shall see.




Categories: motivation, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Longshaw Sheepdog Trials Fell Race 2016 – ewe know ewe want to…

Sub-optimal running conditions.’  That was the official comment on the event retrospectively according to the Longshaw Estate Facebook post.  I will concede that the statement is technically correct, but it doesn’t do full justice to the very wetness and persistence of the rain.  All part of the atmosphere and challenge for the hard-core fell runners out there – Dark Peak Fell Runners probably don’t bother getting up in the morning for anything less than vertical elevation and inclement weather after all.  However, for me that was a bit more of an issue.  Let me explain…

2016-09-03 22.08.44

Oh, hang on, first you want to know what it is I am talking about?  Keep up.  This was the Longshaw Sheepdog Trials Fell Race for 2016.  For the uninitiated (only me then, until yesterday), this is a Fell Race at the Longshaw estate, taking place on the same day as the sheepdog trials, which are apparently the the oldest continuous trials in the country. They have been run from 1898 to the present day, interrupted only by the two world wars.  Which is impressive, although the gap, whilst understandable, does rather stretch the definition of ‘continuous’ I agree.  The clue as to what to expect on the day is therefore in the name of the event (though I still can’t work out if sheep dog/ sheepdog should be one word or two.  They use two words but at Bamford Sheepdog Trials it was one, so die already cast with that I’m afraid).   Anyway, the website blah de blah follows, but naturally I only looked at it after the event (course outlines are scary and demoralising if read in advance I tend to think):

The Longshaw fell race is held on the Saturday morning of the Sheepdog trials.

The number of competitors at the Longshaw race has increased each year, despite competition from several other local races which are traditionally run on the same weekend.

Entries come from many miles away and occasionally we have an international runner in the field including the 2011 winner.

The Fell Race course is shown below, it covers 5 miles of varied terrain over Burbage, Higger Tor, Over Owler Tor, Owler Tor, Lawrence Field & Longshaw Pastures, including woods, rocky paths and the occasional bog.

The start field can be seen from the majority of the route and conversely the spectators can follow the runners through binoculars.

The course record is 38m 07sec and will stand for ever yes

Pay to enter the Sheepdog Trials (currently £5) and race free. Bring the family, there’s plenty for them to do whilst you run on the fells.

The map is here – incidentally, both me and my Tomtom GPS watch, and Strava thought the route was rather nearer 6 miles than 5 (came out at 5.8) but that’s just more fun on the fells isn’t it, so nothing to worry about.

Microsoft Word - Longshaw 2013.doc

So, back to all about me, and my race day experiences.  Well, my race day experiences naturally started a few days before.  The event begins at the moment you start to contemplate whether or not you intend to participate in my experience.  Note, I use the word ‘participate’ rather than ‘compete’ I do have an inner core of realism within.  Anyway,  I’d seen some nice heather out and about, I’d enjoyed Whirlow 10k a couple of weeks ago and lots of people say Longshaw Sheep Dog Trials fell race is really lovely… Hmmmm, I did what I always do on such occasions, solicit opinion.  I posted rather sheepishly (see what I’ve done there?) on the Smiley Facebook page to see who else might be up for it.   Lots of enthusiastic responses come pouring forth from various Smilies, all very clear that it would be a great idea for me to undertake this fell race, but for one reason or another none of them would.  It is only with hindsight I come to realise that many of these people cajoling me to ‘have it go it’s absolutely super!’ have gone to great lengths to avoid taking part again this year for their own part.  ‘I would have entered but I’m doing a 16k race in the Lakes that day – when is it again?‘, ‘would have entered but I’m injured‘, ‘would have entered but am marshalling instead – don’t forget to smile on your merry way past‘; ‘would love to but I live in Switzerland and I’m drinking gin that day‘ and, most tellingly of all perhaps, had I but thought it through ‘I would have entered, but my daughter has an appointment at the hairdressers‘ – this from the Whirlow 10k winning female runner.  Clue there surely, had I only been on my guard?

Still, that’s me, slow on the uptake.  Hope over experience has always served me well (not absolutely true, but don’t quibble).  There are some certainties here.  Fabulous punning potential, even though I am nowhere near the dizzy punning heights of some of my Smiley compatriots.  Some are very punny indeed.  It would be an adventure.  I might get my hat trick for final finishes (it doesn’t count if you come last deliberately by the way, you do have to actually try to run round in case anyone is planning to depose me from my rightful place).  Plus, some great anecdotes, potentially at least.  Elsewhere I heard tell of a runner who ran this event with her husband to be on the morning of their wedding day!  As I understand it, this involved charging round at the back, hugging each and every marshal en route, taking loads of selfies and pictures generally, and then getting wed in the afternoon. Back the following year (just to run, not to get married again as far as I know) she took 26 minutes off her time.  Must have been a very heavy camera weighing her down, but these photographers do like their kit do they not?

camera thats a big one

So anyway, thought basically I’d just sleep on it.  Checking out the weather forecast the day before it looked promising.  What the hell… lovely day for it, last chance to see the heather at its best and it’s on my doorstep after all.  I can walk round if it comes to it. ‘Twill be fine and dandy. Probably see some familiar faces, and it’s got such a good reputation it’s bound to attract plenty of ‘have a go’ runners romping round in wellingtons and/or flip-flops (different people obviously, that would be silly), I’ll just blend in, it will be fine.  Spoiler alert – it didn’t entirely work out like that, but I did have a good time anyway thank you for asking.

Sooooooo, day dawned.  Not looking altogether as promising out the window as I’d planned on rising.  However, I was undeterred, the morning broke like this last Sunday for the Longshaw 10k but early morning fog gave way to glorious sunshine.  It’d be fine.  Granted, teeny bit of concern about the forecast for torrential rain later, but that wasn’t until gone 12.30 and surely if the race was due to start at 10.30 I’d be back home tucked up under a duvet again by then?  Meantime, a bit of drizzle wouldn’t kill me.  Probably not.  There is that documentary though isn’t there, Sharknado, but I think that’s more an American phenomenon as far as I know…


Anyway, donned my running gear, went for short-sleeved (don’t want to get too hot out there) and Smiley Top.  How could they not be proud to see me flying the club colours?, also, aids with identification if some mishap should befall me.  I headed off early (where are the windscreen wipers on this blue car again) and soon arrived at the venue.  It is indeed lovely.  It was all well signposted (more of this later) and a super-friendly man in a kiosk took my fiver from me and welcomed me to the venue.  ‘Aah, you are obviously here for the fell race‘ he observed.  I was a bit confused, then remembered I was wearing my club vest. He hadn’t been responding to my athletic physique after all.  Too late for me to bottle it and pretend I’d come for the doubles herding course or whatever.  I read somewhere that some runners can be intimidated by the sea of club vests at the start of a race.  I simultaneously know exactly what she means (Dark Peak vests means it’s going to be steep; Steel City Striders it’s going to be fast), and feel very confident that no runner would be intimidated by the sight of me in my vest.  Astonished perhaps.  That is different.

I gingerly manoeuvred my car up the slope and through the long grass.  It was very well organised, with cone markers and friendly folk to wave you in the direction you needed to go.  It wasn’t raining at this point, so I could still hang on to the naive misconception that it was clearly ‘brightening up’.  It was cool and a bit overcast, perfect running conditions (apart from the little matter of that large hill looming on the horizon that would have to be negotiated).  I ventured over to the registration tent.  Very simple to complete your registration (they even had functioning pens for this purpose) and collect your number from the dream-team threesome who were solemnly recording all the entries.

2016-09-04 00.55.19

I was very taken with the design of the registration form.  Look at what they’ve done there at the top – using the sheep to spell out LONGSHAW!  Genius, simply genius.  I also liked my number a lot.   22.  It pleased me.  I couldn’t remember the registration number of my car so left that blank as I didn’t think ‘blue’ would be sufficient. Then afterwards I fretted in case they thought I’d snuck in without paying and so I’d be disqualified (not too much of an issue) or worse, just left to fend for myself out there on the fell, never to experience a latte again…  I got over it though. I’m more resilient than you may think.

So that was the business done and dusted.  Time for an explore.  There was a particularly fine produce collection on sale in the registration tent by the way.

2016-09-03 21.25.46

Other runners and organisers started to assemble.  I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few familiar faces.  I was less pleasantly surprised at the lack of fun runners.  Also, quite a male dominated race, this didn’t bother me per se, but did suggest there’d be a bit of a split in the field potentially.  Where are all the people in fancy dress?  Oh well, I expect the have-a-go contingency will turn up at the last-minute I told myself.  Turns out that this race is one of the Gritstone series sponsored by Accelerate, whilst that particular detail had previously passed me by (much as life does all too often), it did mean that there were friendly faces from the Accelerate woodrun workshops.  (Thursday mornings, Eccleshall woods £2 be there 9.15 for 9.30 start, drills and shared expertise).  Yay.  It made a lot easier the task of ingratiating myself to the event sweeper.  I could brief him on my requirements, specifically, the ‘you have to understand I can’t talk and run‘ rider.  I was a little perturbed that his hi-viz jacket seemed to say ‘fast runner’ on it, but actually it was ‘last runner’ just to be clear.  So I could be confident that slot was already taken.  Mind you, I’ve come in behind a sweeper before, so no room for complacency.

To aid identification, he was also sporting a brush on his head.  Well, I say it was to aid identification, but it might have been a display of purely gratuitous, attention-gaining, rampant exhibitionism.  Or maybe he just forgot to glance in a mirror on the way out of the house and didn’t realise it was there.  We’ve all done that.  Or maybe he tried to look in a mirror and was just too tall to do so to any good effect.  He’d be the right height for maybe checking there was no toothpaste or breakfast down his front, but not for inadvertant headwear options.  I have this situation happen to me all the time in reverse.  I’m quite, well, (spoiler alert) short, and have lost count of the number of times I’ve been in a house and can’t see into a mirror because it’s been hung too high for someone of my stature to see themselves in without the aid of a step-ladder or other outside assistance.  (So to all those people muttering behind me ‘what did she do, get dressed in the dark?’ now you have your answer.)  Maybe tall people get that in reverse?  Only ever seeing their chests or midriffs in mirrors across the world?  Like medusa, unable to ever take a good look at their faces.  Plausible I think you’ll agree.. anyway, despite this speculation, on balance, I think it was just an exceedingly good visual pun, because he was The Sweeper see.   Sweeping up at the back of the race.  More genius.  You can’t trust anyone who doesn’t appreciate a good pun in my world view.  Puns are great.   Just goes to show, there were a great many smart people out and about at Longshaw for sheepdog trial day.  Not sure you can entirely tell by looking…

Pleasingly, I then caught up with another friendly face, who acknowledged me in public despite being a Dark Peak runner, so that was good for my self-esteem.  We headed off to make use of the ‘amenities’ and I took the opportunity of the queue to do a pre-race selfie (yes it’s compulsory).  It is the only evidence I was actually at this event to be honest, so here it is:

2016-09-03 22.04.33

Still not raining, oh good.  Saw a fellow Smiley and went to say hello.  It was her first time in a Smiley Vest apparently, so quite an occassion.  Other Smilies were marshalling, so there were a couple around, but this event seemed to attract more hardcore ‘proper’ fell runners I’d say.  Not that we don’t have hardcore fell runners within the Smiley Troupe, but they weren’t particularly in attendance today.  That made me gulp a bit, to be honest.  The sweeper was explaining there is ‘at least one really tough bit‘ and he made mention of having got ‘just a bit lost‘ on the recce, and I was blinking at him thinking ‘but you’re a really awesome runner – oh crap!’  The race start time drew near, and an attempt was made to herd us towards the start field.  Rain started to fall. Then, after a bit, it fell more, and heavier.  As a bit of a light weight (running wise, not actually) I took refuge in the tent.

Peering out at the rain as it became ever more persistent.   Still, no point in bleating about that.  It was reminiscent of the start of Percy Pud last year when all I really wanted to do immediately prior to the start was go home.  Unlike Percy Pud 2015, a rainbow did not then subsequently appear in the sky just as we were required to run.   Still, not to worry, the start was delayed anyway, as the race begins in the field used for the sheepdog trials and that class was running late – one of the dogs at least wasn’t being all that co-operative, with rather more boisterous running around going on than actual herding apparently.  One runner quipped maybe we should have a go at the sheep herding and leave the sheepdog to take on the fell race instead!  How we laughed, one of us at least with a tad too much desperation and longing in their expression of ha ha than was entirely appropriate.   Anyway, seems this is a sheepdog trials with a fell race attached, as opposed to vice versa, so dogs (and sheep)  take priority.  Fair enough, every dog should have its day as we all know.  And maybe the rain would stop.  (It didn’t, just got more confident and unrelenting).

2016-09-03 22.24.19

Waiting in the tent got increasingly toasty as more and more runners sought sanctuary.  I met some nice people and some interesting people and some people I already knew and some people I didn’t.  I wont draw a venn diagram of who was who.  Chance put me the way of a very encouraging ‘proper’ runner who was unbelievably nice.  I was pumping him for advice on what to expect, and he was patient and supportive (also slightly cornered, by the increasing squash of people, but I’m sure that had nothing to do with it).  He did say that some bits would be technical and would have to be walked, and when I said I was aiming for about 90 minutes (I know, but I am slow, and I just took my trail 10k time and added a chunk), he gently suggested that if expecting to be out that long on the hills it might be a good idea to take along something to eat for sustenance.  Well, naturally I am immediately drawn to think positively of anyone who tells me I really should be eating more.  ‘You might as well if you are walking bits anyway‘ he pointed out. This was probably good advice on reflection, but a bit late. I was glad I’d found the sweeper earlier, he had already reassured me he’d got emergency rations with him enough for a faller and himself too.  Anyway, my new friend said he thought I’d do it in under that, and he’d see me at the end.  I did, but didn’t see him, I imagine he’d have been long gone by the time I got round.  Here he is in action though,  by way of example.  I think it’s a reasonable bet he was flying along a tad faster than me, but then again, I did also run this route, in my own inimitable way, so hey, go me!  Thank you for being nice  to me though whosoever you were, it was very encouraging (kindness of strangers and all that).  (Action shots courtesy of Accelerate by the way, thank you!)

Acc super friendly guy

So, after another half hour or so, we were shooed out of the tent and towards the start.  Rain was heavy by this point, I was sodden, and so were my spirits.  I’d got a bit cold, and despite my porridge for breakfast, that had been 5 hours ago and I was wondering if I would have enough fuel in the tank.  Oh joy. On a cheerier note, there was a really good atmosphere.   A very jolly compère gave a commentary as we assembled, pouncing on various participants for a quick vox pox en route.  Shout outs were given to running clubs various, and a certain ‘Stu’ identified at the front.  (I overheard another runner explain to a friend that basically when he turns out, everyone else might as well go home – though this was said in an admiring rather than begrudging tone – this fell race is his for the taking, year on year it seems).  It was all very good-natured though.  A briefing of sorts was given ‘you all know the route don’t you, that’s grand?‘ and to the uplifting (but somewhat strangled by the outdoor PA) chords of ‘Chariots of Fire’ we all took off.

Acc start photo longshaw 2016

The start was fun, definitely fun.  It was a tusssocky romp across sodden land, and with a slight downwards incline (shame this becomes an upward incline on the return, but I wasn’t thinking about that just then).  I was near the back from the off to be fair, but then again, consistency is really my thing with fell races.  Fell running is inherently hilarious by the way, whilst it is true that those at the front gracefully fly across the hills, there are still a fair few of us just blagging it with varying degrees of decorum towards the rear.  Trying to balance on tufts of reeds, and a few at this stage even trying to avoid the boggy bits. An entirely futile exercise, but all part of the challenge.  There is something joyful about a crowd heading off to the hills at speed for no good reason other than the sheer unadulterated merriment of it all.

Acc view from the back

Quick scamper across the fields, and then soon you get to the first road crossing.  This was so astonishingly well marshalled it was like there’d been some sort of national emergency declared at just this spot.  Traffic stopped, signs and hi-viz aplenty as only a well oiled machine of rapid response disaster management teams could.  It was fine going out, as a crowd of us scampered across the road like an army of soldier ants (albeit ones shrink – wrapped in colourful lycra), it was less fine coming back when I was so far behind the field I felt a fraud for holding up the traffic.  Oh well, that was still to come!

All too soon though, the upward bit comethed.  I was quickly over-taken by all but the sweeper and his running buddy (who claimed to have not run for ages, but then told tales of running conquests that suggested his legs would still very much have it in their muscle memory at the very least).  Inevitably, I found my place, at the back.  It was OK though, I’m getting used to this position.  You are allowed to come last at a fell race and not marry someone in the afternoon unless you want to I think, so keep it all in proportion if it happens to you.  Plus, you are near to the emergency supplies and don’t have to worry about navigation, or carrying anything.  All good too.

Whilst it was definitely wet, and getting wetter, it was lovely out there. It was ‘proper’ off road quite quickly.  Following sheep tracks and picking through the gritstones.  I was glad of my fell shoes, and they gripped really well, I got more confident in them as I – well, I was going to say bounded but it would be more accurate to concede – picked my way up the hill.  You could see the snake of runners way ahead (which was aesthetically pleasing if also a tad demoralising) and although the tops were shrouded in mist, the landscape is just awesome.  Heather and bracken all about, it is really beautiful.

I made what might generously be called ‘erratic’ progress, I put on a bit of a yomp wherever it flattened out a bit, or the stones gave way to more forgiving peat.  I love the springiness of running on peat, it cossets your feet, I’m very wary of falling on the stonier bits though.  I felt for the tail runners who were dutifully keeping a respectable distance as best they could, but would in honesty have liked to stretch their legs a bit more I’m sure. I gave them lots of braking practice with my stop/ start approach.  I’m sure they loved that.  It was nice for me though eavesdropping on their anecdotes with each other, and their negotiations over who would get to pick up the next bit of tape or marker.  Occasionally, when I was walking, we chit-chatted a bit, and that was fine, because I’ve always been exceedingly good at walking and talking as my hobbit buddy would gladly testify I’m sure.  Once I started running again I reminded them that I’d been serious about not being an especially communicative runner, adding that I wasn’t a particularly running communicator either.  Yin yan I suppose, yin yan.

The uphill bit did eventually pause at least, which was just as well as my vision started to be seriously impaired.  The rain was so heavy now it had washed off all my sunblock (I know, what was I thinking, to say I’d been afflicted by blind optimism in the morning seems to have been literally as well as prophetically and metaphorically  true!) into my eyes and stung like *&%+!  or, more politely ‘billy o’.  Periodically we passed marshals, some of whom must have been absolutely freezing as well as soaked through.  They’d had a long wait, not just for the start, but for me to come round at the back.  Even so, they were all incredibly encouraging and smiling.  Part of this was no doubt relief at my appearance as that meant they would now be free to abandon their posts, but it was also due to their innate positivity and cheeriness which is endemic to the run-marshalling community as far as I can determine.   Thank you all you marshals, you are STARS!   One marshal had the foresight to bring an umbrella with her.  Wish I had.  At Burbage Bridge it took me a while to identify a Smiley Elder (she of the visor self-sacrifice) as the marshal. She was comprehensively cocooned in wet-weather gear, so I had almost run past before I recognised her and I had to swivel back to exchange hugs.  I am a bit hug-orientated when running, haven’t yet dared to ask more experienced runners if that’s appropriate or bad form.  Nobody has ever refused a hug though, but perhaps that’s because they are too scared by the manic look in my eyes or caught by surprise by my embrace to do so. I might post a question about it on a running forum some day. Then again, I may not.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss.  There are truths that are better left unsaid.

After Burbage, you turn back and its downhill for a bit.  Loved this, you dip down out of some of the wind and wet, and the ground is soft and the downward incline more my thing. However, I was a bit gingery going down as it was a bit ‘technical’ to use the jargon.   The ground was very uneven and the path unclear.  I’m sure the faster runners fly round, they must do to achieve the times they get, but I wasn’t going to follow suit.  You do feel adventurous though, and sometimes I think, because I am slow and at the back, I am out of sight of other runners and it’s like I have the whole landscape to yourself.  Gorgeous.  I wasn’t even cold at this point, because I did keep moving, I think you’d freeze PDQ had you stopped though.  This might have been one of the very few events where the fleece-police would have let me wear my running jacket… maybe.  Wouldn’t bank on it though, they are very persistent.

You scramble down to a stream, and fortunately, there was a marshal positioned ‘on high’ up a ridge where he had a good view to direct you where to cross the water, which you do twice.  No stepping-stones here, you have to splosh through, but that was fun, and I was pretty water-logged by then anyway.  I don’t really mind what happens on the way home as you know at this point you are going to fundamentally be OK.  The guys at frontrunner set up my tomtom so it vibrates after each ‘lap’ of one mile ahead of the Sheffield half, so my watch had been buzzing periodically to tell me what my progress was.  I don’t ever look at my watch whilst I’m actually running, but I do like to feel the miles being ticked off.  You have at least a vague sense of being beyond half way or whatever.  So, fell shoes filled with water, I sloshed on and out of the stream.  There I saw another familiar face.  A wannabee runner who alas had missed the start, but come to walk round anyway and offer  support.  That was really nice!  Thanks for being there.  This was the really tough bit.  The hill was slippery, steep and treacherous underfoot.  I tried to keep going, but even with the sweeper, sweeper buddy, and now a marshal relieved from his post (honestly I was like the pied piper going round, only picking up more marshals in my wake with each mile of the course rather than small children) I had to stop periodically to give my legs a break.  It was more of a scramble than a walk.  I had to hang on to clumps of grass on the way up.  You couldn’t even see the top though I could hear the occasional strangled cry of a runner ahead.  I wasn’t sure if that was because they’d come to grief, fallen over a cliff edge, or were just expressing relief at having summitted (is that even a word?).  Still, it meant there were humans in the vicinity.

Eventually, like a guiding angel, Accelerate Man (yes, that is a new super-hero I’ve just invented, but it does the job, would be better if he had worn Patagonia made pants over running leggings for super-hero identification purposes, but work in progress I daresay) came into view.  Shouting encouragement, he actually offered his hand and hoiked me up the last bit.  There was another marshal at the top, who offered some water.  Unusually for me I took a slurp (I’m a bit OCD about sharing water bottles). I think I must have needed it, as I was a bit disoriented, and initially headed off in the wrong direction before being called back and being pointed the opposite way. The next bit was good, familiar yomping territory, a bit of down hill, and my tail runners were distracted by variously pulling up markers, chatting to marshals, having a picnic whatever, so they weren’t so much on my tail.  Grateful as I was for their attentions going round, it was nice to be on my own for a bit, taking it all on and in.  More marshal waving, and then as I rounded a bend for the homeward curve, there was Accelerate Man again.  I promptly nearly fell over as I felt I owed it to him to at least to pretend to be running throughout, and got distracted.  ‘Don’t look at me, look where you are going!’  It’s these sort of professional coaching tips that are worth so much in a race situation!  Here is a picture of what other runners look like when they are not falling over or gazing in the wrong direction, I have not made the cut for this album as yet…  You can also see the terrain.  Unlike these runners I got all this bit all to myself!

Acc sure it rained more than this ...

From here it was pretty much downhill, the terrain wasn’t too technical.  I had my personal coach in tow, alongside even, and got some impromptu advice on technique as we went round.  The main advice was to keep running, small steps, however slowly.  If you constantly walk, you end up just getting ever faster at walking, whereas if you run slowly, you will eventually run faster.  There is an unarguable logic in this, although I’m still going to power walk up the really technical bits.  It was good to have a bit of a chat and a catch up at this point, made me feel more confident about showing my face at woodrun again.  I’ve not been in ages because I’m so rubbish, but then again as Accelerate Man pointed out (with respect) ‘that’s bollocks‘ as an excuse, how else are you going to improve, and they are an encouraging rather than judgemental outfit.  (Incidentally, this conversation was not in violation of my ‘I can’t talk and run directive’, as I wasn’t travelling fast enough for it to apply).   Honestly, I would have got lost at this point if I hadn’t been with someone who knew the route, the markers were a bit further apart, and some of the route was properly cross-country, i.e. not on any path at all, not even a sheep track.  I have a theory that someone tall put out the markers here, as there was in fact a flag put up just over a hump in the terrain, but my eye line couldn’t see over the mound.  Hence I had a few moments of gazing around in all directions clueless until nudged in the right direction by my personal guide who knew the route.

Eventually, the marquees of the event came into view.  The course flattened out, and you could head to the finish. The advice was to keep to the trodden bit to save energy as the path is already there, walk crossing a dip in the land just ahead, then after three strides, start running again to achieve a sprint (ahem) finish. This was good advice actually, and when I write my own (best-selling) running text-book to inspire future generations I may include it.  It was thinking a bit ahead that helped,  I never do that when I run, I just run (or not), I don’t have a plan as such, but even that little bit of planning helped me keep up a pace.  Whilst I’m dolling out top tips for racecraft, I got another few bits on this yomp out.  One from the sweeper, who reminded me to push off with my feet when running (that does really help you to run more efficiently) and one from the sweeper’s buddy (I think it was him), who pointed out that if you are in danger of coming last, it’s a good idea to fall back as early on as possible, as that gives you the maximum amount of time to make up the distance during a race.  Wise words indeed.  I achieved the first bit of this advice all on my own by instinct, just got to nail the making up the distance later part.  Still one out of two aint bad.

So, I dragged my weary carcass up that final incline to the finish funnel (let’s gloss over the fact I got all confused and nearly went the wrong way round into it) and was greeted by Fell Race Compère Man (yes, another super hero in the making) who was providing a commentary as I came in.  Naturally, he was very keen to hear my thoughts on the conclusion of the race.  I gave my name and used the opportunity to vindicate myself when he asked me if I’d had fun out there.  ‘Of course I did, it was great,  that’s why I took my time out there I wanted to make the most of it!’  That’ll have fooled them.

I gave my name to the time keepers, and gave my number to a bedraggled and be-sodden hat-wearing small child who was brandishing an open bin-liner towards me for the purposes of number collection.  She’d done good work, out in all that rain collecting numbers all day.  The only people behind me were the back markers, so I waited to applaud them in, and shared celebratory hugs.  I thanked my impromptu coaching team for helping me round and then once again sought the sanctuary of the tent.

Usually by the time I’m back at a race the prize giving is all done and dusted, not so here.  I got an orange juice and lemonade from the bar, and hung on for the presentations which were imminent.  Top marks for the presentation, it was a hoot.  Total of entries was revealed as 176.  One person who entered apparently then almost immediately withdrew as the elements drew in, they were singularly unimpressed by the weather. The compère cheerfully pointed out that no refund had been given.  Fair enough, fell running is not the faint hearted.  One runner DNF.  There was a bit of a hub-bub around as people speculated what had happened to them.  Seems someone took a tumble and had been spotted considerably bloodied but unbowed, by various runners. They were sporting a nice gaping head wound according to at least one account.  ‘Are they here?  Are they OK?’ enquired the compère.  ‘They’re being stitched up at the Hallamshire’ heckled a spirited observer.  How everyone laughed.  What larks eh?  I later discovered that wasn’t so much a heckle as a statement of fact.  Oh well, where would be the fun in fell running if it wasn’t for the frissance of danger on the way round eh?

Prizes were given predominantly to Dark Peak  Fell Runners for actual running, well they are individually as well as collectively phenomenal, so not a surprise.  One category winner was absent though, but ‘not from round here so probably not daring to show their face‘ was wryly observed in jest (I hope).   Impromptu spot prizes were then handed out on something of a whim.  ‘Muddiest legs‘ nope, not enough interest ‘runner from furthest away?’  ‘Yay, get that‘, someone from New York was identified, but I suspect a scam.  Something in the intonation about having ‘travelled all the way from the great U S of A just to join us for the day‘didn’t entirely ring true, but entertained massively all the same.

Oh, you want to know the winners?  Well, if you really care, here is the link to results in full for Longshaw Sheepdog Trials 2016 .  And here is a photo of the stars of the day.  I think they win cake, worth running fast for.  Though honestly, neither of them look like they really each much cake do they?*  That’s the compère with them, not their minder.  Classy dress for the occassion don’t you think? Raises the tone of a run in my view.

Acc the winners are

*CORRECTION:  I’ve been asked to point out that there is a significant factual innacuracy here.  The Female winner does in fact eat a lot of cake, with enjoyment.  Must just run even more to burn it all off afterwards.  Unreserved apologies for that inadvertant libel.

By this time, I was getting really cold, so just time to splash out on some of the catering options and head for home.  Waving goodbye to compatriots various as I did so.  Would thoroughly recommend this event, it is a hoot, friendly, and delivered with considerable aplomb I’d say.  One of the funniest presentations I’ve been too, and I like the way they big up the whole affair.  Fiver, what’s not to like, apart from excessive rain, but don’t worry about that, it won’t rain next year, FACT.

So I headed home, negotiating  my car out the field went better than expected given the increased sogginess of the terrain, bit of a scary slide on the muddy road bit though.  Longshaw Sheepdog Trials 2016 had one parting gift for me though, the pun of the day!

On exiting I saw a sign from one of the event sponsors at the entrance of the site.  It was for an estate agent. ‘Come Buy‘ it proclaimed.  See what they did there?  Genius.  So much so, I actually went back the following day (just now in fact) to snap a shot of it, and the muddy deserted site.  All over, until same time next year.

So, are we putting your name down for 2017, or would you like to think about it?  Get your hair appointment booked in early perhaps?

For accounts of all my fell race efforts follow this link.

For accounts of my final finish position posts (that’s a not very smart euphemism for coming last by the way) use this link (content is quite similar to fell races link to be fair, but there you go!)

For another perspective on this yomp out see here Steel City Striders run report Longshaw Sheepdog Trials 2016.

Categories: fell race, off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fake it to make it – a record breaking performance at parkrun!

Soooooooo, not sure if I’m exactly back in the zone, but I was back at my home turf of Sheffield Hallam parkrun today.  I have decided to embrace the ‘fake it to make it’ philosophy.  Wrist parkrun barcode donned, fixed grin in place, road shoes heaved on (hybrids still soaked from yesterday) and off out the door with a promptness that might have been misconstrued as enthusiasm unless you were in the know about the erratic nature of my running mojo at present….  I think though that this approach might actually work.  Look a photo of me running and smiling simultaneously!  A first in my running career (I use the term loosely), Mr Carman, I salute you and your skills with the tools of your trade…

Smiling at parkrun faking it and making it

Pleasingly, as I did my last-minute through the window weather check, a rainbow arching across the sky suggested it might not be just torrential rain all morning, and in fact so it turned out.   It was a pale and tastefully under-stated rainbow it is true, but a rainbow nevertheless, and you’ve got to appreciate a rainbow, just as surely as you have to always stop and admire a duck (or is that last one just me?) A bit of light drizzle maybe, but no actual soaking.  If anything a tad on the warm side for running I’d say.


I was ‘punctual’ rather than early today. There was a good swarm of fluorescent jackets as people various had turned out in response to the last-minute Facebook appeal for more volunteers.   People are good like that, they came even though you are only guaranteed a hi-viz jacket and have to bring your own hat.  Some I think are seduced by the power rush you get from having a clipboard, but that’s a responsibility that has to be earned, it’s not a given.  Anyway, thanks volunteers one and all for turning out.

volunteer attire

So, I arrived at the start, dumped my bag by the equipment store wheelie bins and joined the scrum of the start funnel.  Pretty good turn out this week 466, with, what seemed to me, to be an exceptionally large first timer’s briefing.  It seems like a while since I’ve been at Hallam.  I’ve been away, it’s been cancelled a couple of times, I’ve been away, anyway, upshot is it was first time in ages that I’d seen a fair few of my running comrades.  Some were familiar faces others less so.  My first sighting was of a Monday Mobster who disappointingly was not wearing her new green hoody. They have just invested in some rather fine kit.  It was she, not I who referenced the possibility that it made them look like some gnome homage collective, I hesitated a bit too long before denying this, before adding that the gnome referencing is not necessarily a bad thing, and anyway it was more echo of gnome than re-enactment of the same.  They do need to avoid wearing red conical hats with these  though, that would be very high risk.  Oh,  and also avoid fake beards, as long as they follow those simple precautions I think they’ll be OK.

I asked hopefully of the Monday mobster if she was doing Whirlow tomorrow, she wasn’t.  She also offered up the returning comment ‘oh that’s the one that starts up hill isn’t it‘.  Seeing my crestfallen face, she said ‘well, think of it as undulating‘.  I appreciated the sentiment, but she didn’t sound very convincing.  It was worse when she commented that other people doing it would most probably be tapering today, so not likely to see them.  I weakly said my piece about as I only run at one speed anyway, tapering seems a bit pointless for me – though I would be taking it easy on the way round today.  I was beginning to wonder if it was such a good idea though.  I shared my angst.  ‘Oh don’t worry‘ she enthused, encouragingly ‘at least  you’ve made it to the start line, that’s better than many of us, good for you!’ Well, you know that scary phrase ‘tempting fate’?  Well, I suddenly had visions of doing a faceplant in Endcliffe Park and being trampled by the parkrunners behind them – my only consolation being that the speed I go at, there wouldn’t be all that many trailing in my wake to squash me in  a stampede of continuing runners!

Amongst the familiar faces was an unfamiliar but recognisable one.  A former work colleague, I didn’t know he was a parkrunner.  I’d seen him at Endcliffe once before, could be as long as two years ago, he was supporting a friend who was visiting and had wanted to do parkrun.  Turns out that a year or so later this colleague had a go at parkrun himself, and now, some two years on, he was doing his second one.  Still, good to build up slowly when you try new sports isn’t it, don’t want to risk injury eh?

Next in the line-up was regal Smiley, complete with speedy child. They were both wearing waterproof jackets.  Lightweight ones granted, but jackets none the less.  I explained to them about it being a rookie error to wear these, and that it would slow them down as they over-heated.  I’m sure patronising more experienced runners in the start funnel of parkrun is a great way to build popularity and impress other participants with your superior knowledge.  Only joking, obviously.  The Top Tip here really is that by alienating other stronger runners early on, you can end up improving your own performance.  Mortified by your own mistake, you will subsequently be too embarrassed to make eye contact with them, so put on a massive turn of speed in order to avoid them.  Voila, new PB!  Equally, you are doing them a great service too. Likewise they wont want to acknowledge you in public again either, so will access a similarly previously undiscovered gear that can drive them on to running excellence.  Everybody wins!  Yay!

regal smiley and offspring

Starting off happened a bit suddenly, but we were slow across the start line.  Lots of friendly marshals in evidence today.  Even the dog-poo bin had its own allocated staff member to stand by it this saturday.  I found myself running for a bit with Regal Smiley, I couldn’t help but note she had followed my expert advice and her jacket was removed and squished up into a fabric ball,  As we ran on she pointed out another runner who seemed glued to his phone and moving somewhat more erratically in his path through other runners than might be reasonably accounted for by the distribution of people.  ‘He’s doing Pokemon go!‘  I wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or horrified, I hardly know what it is, and have commented previously on the seeming similarity between bladder control product advertising and one of the Pokemon figures:

There followed some discussion about the relative merits of the game, which concluded with Regal Smiley saying she wouldn’t particularly encourage her children to do it before she squished her jacket into a makeshift ball – and with NOT A HINT OF IRONY nor ANY AWARENESS OF HER OWN HYPOCRISY – lobbed it at George, our very own parkrun photographer!  If that wasn’t her own reality version Pokemon go I don’t know what is.   I was shocked, not least, because I’m not sufficiently versed in the various pokemon characters to know which one George was.  Perhaps wiser readers/ parkrunners/ pokemon go players can enlighten me.  For now I’m going with magneton, because the picture looks like it might be some sort of camera thingy, but as I don’t play I apologise in advance if that’s an offensive assumption.  You can take your pick from this chart if you prefer:


Anyway, this whole episode left me aghast.  I was particularly worried as Regal Smiley and our official parkrun photographer were to be hosting an annual BBQ event in the afternoon.  To be honest, I didn’t expect them to be at parkrun today as I thought they’d be at home grating cabbages for coleslaw or shooting squirrels for the BBQ from their back window or whatever.  If this display of target practice was anything to go by, then there was an element of real jeopardy re whether domestic relations would be maintained with sufficient decorum for the event to go ahead at all.  Oh well, I probably get things out of proportion.  To be honest, neither party behaved as if the lobbing of soft spherical items at one another was in any way out of the ordinary, so I think their social event was probably going to be OK, but you never can tell can you.  Each to their own though, each to their own…  Regal Smiley is a very good shot though, and our parkrun photographer had to take evasive action as the projectile arced towards him.  Bet he was really proud of her hand eye co-ordination display there and not in fear of his life at all.

So going round, I saw one Smiley Vest, donned by a Rustling Runners Founder – there were other Smileys, only one in the kit. She is still hard in training for a triathlon overseas in a couple of months time, and breezed by.  I was particularly slow and steady today, and so was lapped by faster runners quite early on.  I found myself alongside another familiar face as I approached the end of the first lap. We contemplated staging a sprint finish together, to make it look like we’d both finished our second lap and were fighting out for the finish line.  It was a nice thought, but the problem with being at your home parkrun is that it wasn’t very likely we’d get away with it.  Still, it was nice to have a chat for a bit, and compare head injury anecdotes as we romped round.  I’m not sure how we got onto mountain rescue, but she it seems had been rescued by helicopter on a skiing holiday after banging her head in a skiing accident.  Apart from the unfortunate necessary pre-requisite of having to badly hurt yourself half way up an inaccessible mountain somewhere, the rescue sounded very James Bond. She was suspended on a wire beneath the helicopter apparently, as it couldn’t land in the narrow path she was in.  How exciting!  Her postcards home would have been rather more interesting than the usual ‘wish you were here‘ level that year!

She too is running tomorrow, but doing the 12.12.  (I wonder what the significance of 12.12 is, it’s such a weird distance).  She was also a bit apprehensive, more about the navigation than anything else.  Once again, I was able to offer up unsolicited advice to help her back on track.  ‘If you get lost, you might end up doing a short-cut‘ I helpfully pointed out.  I was quite proud of my new upbeat positivity in relation to running. This ‘fake it to make it’ strategy might just work!  Thinking about it, it was shortly after this she broke with me as she wanted to stay with her son as it was his first parkrun.  I nodded with understanding, and glanced behind me expecting to see some infant struggling.  Instead there was a towering male, who looked far too old to be her son (or she looked too young to have a  son that age), it’s funny the assumptions you made.  For the record, at the post-parkrun breakfast, I learned of another running tapering term.  Strong fast runners, in order to discipline themself to run more slowly prior to an event, will take with them a human anchor to parkrun the day before.  Hence their strava updates are full of comments along the lines of ‘parkrun prior to ultra with son/ wife anchor’.  It made more sense when explained to me.  I thought they meant sun anchor, which is a harder and more mystical idea to grasp you’ll agree.

Also in the flood of runners passing me was my running buddy who has let me use her Whirlow place.  I felt a bit guilty, if she was doing parkrun faster than me anyway, maybe she should be doing the 10k herself after all.  She was most generous though, saying definitely not up to it.  She nearly wavered a bit when I suggested we split it doing 5k each, and my cheetah buddy (currently injured but volunteering with a clipboard today) suggested the ultimate team effort would be to offer a piggy back.  I nearly choked, and countered that this contribution to our negotiations was at best unhelpful.  She disputed this, pointing out that au contraire, a piggy back would be enormously helpful when trying to run up a steep fell side for example, and I was somewhat flawed. She has a point.  Definitely a point….  I’m still not up for giving a piggy back though – wheelbarrow race, well possibly.  Wait and see.

poorly smiley on good running form

Second loop nailed, I did a minor sprint finish towards the end of the pack.  I caught up with chats with a few people, needed to touch base with the runderwear ambassador for a start – her running seems to be on form at the moment, definitely no chaffing interrupting running action today!  And then there were waves of recognition to other random runners as is always the way.

runderwear ambassador in action - no chaffing here

Quite a few milestones today – I found out too late one runner had completed his 200th run today, that’s pretty darned impressive.  He must have been very fast because  I didn’t see anyone running with 200 balloons attached to them as is traditional.  I hope he went on to eat much cake and then rest on a huge pile of laurels with a smug expression for a bit.  That’s what I’ll do if and when I ever achieve that degree of parkrun awesomeness.  I then went to the end of the park to cheer the absolute final finishers home round the final loop.  Some parent and child pairings I think, who were pleased to have me whooping them from the side-lines, well appeared to be anyway!  It was fun, I enjoy that bit.  It is really inspirational.  There was a look of steely determination on the young runners as they completed their final few hundred metres to the finish.  I must be hormonal, I felt quite tearful watching them, in a good way, but slightly disproportionate.  The same unsettling effect can happen with certain TV commercials if you are particularly unlucky (John Lewis Christmas one or Andrex puppies for example) that emotional manipulation I resent, this slight lump in my throat felt rather more justified and wholesome.  Yay, go them!  Parkrun is great isn’t it, awesome runners, free to enjoy it in whatever way they will.

So that was that, parkrun done, slightly worried I’ll be stiff tomorrow, but at least I didn’t do a face plant and it was good for morale to see some friendly faces again.  Back to Jonty’s for first post parkrun breakfast in ages (not too busy today, friendly service, but those portion sizes keep diminishing) then home for copious cups of tea and strategy planning for tomorrow. Well, maybe not strategy planning if I’m completely honest, but I did put my running kit through the wash which is essential pre-race preparation I’m sure. I may not be speedy going over those hills tomorrow, but at least I shall have aroma de Bold all-in-one, rather than aroma de left-it-too-late-to-wash-my-kit.  You have to do your bit for the public good when out and about running I feel, especially if you are intending to wear your running club vest as a torso compression garment for the duration.  You have to think of the community you are representing at times like these!

Oh hang on, you are probably wondering about the ‘record-breaking’ reference earlier on.  I know, I’m such a tease!  Well, I have exaggerated a little in my heading, but not overly much.  Today was a near record breaking performance for me at parkrun.  It was, dear reader, wait for it, my third most worst performance at parkrun.  That’s a bronze in Olympian terminology for personal worst run since I started.  Surely worth a mention!  I think that conclusively prove you can fake it to make it, just there is not absolutely certainty in which direction in relation to ‘making it’ (towards or away from) that the pendulum will swing.  Still, that’s part of what makes running interesting surely?  The element of the unknown.  Anyway, as we all know, I was tapering, so naturally I could have run faster had I wanted to, I just didn’t feel the urge…  Even without trying, I still got my bronze.  I can do anything!  Hey look – the image on the bronze medal even looks like me, it must have been fate that got me to this point!

The Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medal is pictured during the medal launching ceremony in Rio de Janeiro

The Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medal is pictured during the medal launching ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 14, 2016. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes


Categories: 5km, parkrun, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: