Posts Tagged With: trail running

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:

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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.

Then.

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?

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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.

Yorkshire_THALL_BE_REET-500x500

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: , , , , , , | 3 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 outdoorgps.com. 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 outdoorgps.com
  • 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.

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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.

 

Nutrition-

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?

the-fly-david-cronenberg-jeff-goldblum-geena-davis-john-getz-joy-boushel-leslie-carlson-george-chuvalo

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.

nicky-fish-n-chips

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 a.maz.ing!

look where you put your feet

Kit-

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.

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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

Digging Deep all over again. The way ahead? Route Recce Round two.

Digested read: still got lost on Dig Deep Recce Second Attempt, but some improvement.    Brooded moodily as I ran,  nursing murderous thoughts about sports bra manufacturers.  What’s wrong with this world?  Saw a water vole!  All is well with the world! Was mistaken for a fell runner.  Fake it to make it may be the way forward.  I’m not through with this running malarkey yet.

DD Fine sheep shot

I’m not sure what my running-related forte is to be honest, or even if I have one at all. Perhaps ‘hope over experience‘, in continuing to pull on my running shoes at all, which can be viewed either as ‘admirable tenacity’ or ‘doomed-stubborness-that-can-only-end-in-tears’ depending on your point of view/ commitment to realism.  Whatever my running related talent may or may not be, I think it’s safe to say it isn’t navigation.  In my defence, the map I have to work from may have cost me £3.50 but it’s rubbish.  It doesn’t give enough detail to be any practical use unless you are already familiar with the Dig Deep route.  I am somewhat peeved.  On the other hand, it is the prospect of supposedly undertaking this 12+ mile route in a few weeks time that is motivating me to get out and about and explore the trails of Burbage and Houndkirk so that’s good.   Whether I actually make the start line or not, at least I’ll have learned some new and especially gorgeous routes.  That has to be a boon, and I do like a good boon when I’m out and about.

So, today was my second attempt at doing a recce for the 12.12 route, I had renewed confidence that, since I knew where I’d gone wrong last time, I’d get it cracked this time out.  I didn’t.  Close, but no cigar.  Nevermind, I don’t smoke.   I am getting closer though.  That’s the good news, the bad news is that I don’t really know where exactly I went wrong this time, no idea at all where I should have gone and so that isn’t looking promising if I was hoping for third time lucky next time out.  Curses.  Also, a fellow Smiley, who knows the route, pointed out to me that I’d gone up the top of Burbage edge, whereas, she reckons the route is the lower path, a lot less challenging and technical, which might be better on the day, but shows even the bit I thought I’d got right I didn’t.  Oh well.

 

Not only is the shape most definitely not quite right, but also I ended up practically abseiling down some cliff side at one point, clambering over boulders using hands and feet, and negotiating quite long sections by arse.  I am well-equipped to do this, and it felt safe, but I’m inclined to think it can’t have been the preferred route for an organised event.  Think of the paper-work involved if you lose half the field over a rock face just after the half way point.  Nightmare.  My conclusion is, yep, definitely lost, not just experiencing the more technical section of the course.

It’s not all bad news though.  I’ve discovered a few things since my last post.  Firstly – and this might be most importantly – a fellow Smiley Paces member, an eminent gin-soaked one no less, has advised me the 12.12 route incorporates sections that make up her regular mutt trot. This is a huge relief.  It means we have been able to agree that if I expire on the trails that she will probably come across my abandoned corpse sooner or later. She seems happy to do me the kindness of rolling my expired carcass off the main path and into an adjacent bog or heather patch (whatever, I’ll leave that to her discretion).  I wouldn’t want to lie there until mummified like those unclaimed cadavers on Everest, gaining an unwanted celebrity as runners get used to stepping (or bounding) over my slowly decomposing body as they continue along the path. You know,  like that long identified dead climber who came to be known only as green boots, because this part of his attire remained visible even in the deep snow.  Only in my case, my nickname would be due to my clearly ill-fitting sports bra probably.  The shame dear reader, the shame.  I dread to think what the wits of the hills might come up with for me by way of a nickname for ease of reference.  I might need to get back to gin-soaked Smiley, and make sure she dumps me face down….

In other good news, I did a bit of cunning sleuthing to see who else I know might be up for entering the 12.12.  It’s inconceivable anyone else will be anyone slower than me going round, but knowing there are friendly others out there somewhere ahead of me on the trails is weirdly reassuring.  Anyway, success!  My endurer buddies are also taking part.  Hurrah!  Better yet, they are doing some insane long-distance masochistic mud, ice and fire challenge the day before.  (It’s not called that, but you get the idea, it will be some sort of event aimed at people deep in the mires of mid-life crises who have come to enjoy putting themselves in painful personal jeapordy in return for a towelling headband.  OCRs have a lot to answer for.)   Hopefully, from my point of view, this means they’ll be pretty much physically broken, as well as sleep-deprived, by the time they get to the start of the 12.12, that should slow them down a bit.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll even get to reel them in from behind, one by one (well, I can dream can’t I).  Upshot is, there are a few positive runes relating to disposal of my remains if necessary, and knowing other runners out there on the day.  Hence, whilst I’m not completely convinced I’ll make it to the start myself, I am going to behave as if I will for now, and see where my recces and training take me.  I wonder if they’ll be an inflatable mammoth at the event rendezvous this time?  Always an asset at any gathering I’d say.  It was there last year when I did the Dig Deep Whirlow 10k 2016.  A highlight for sure.  I don’t know why the one long arm – never asked, and to be fair never really noticed before looking at this picture, maybe both his arms are the same length, just his left one is really stretchy?

2016-08-21 12.01.03

Back to my recce.  I headed out in cooler weather than last time.  Perfect running weather in fact, though I didn’t let that trick me into the rookie error of setting off too fast!  I drove up to the Norfolk Arms again, and romped along, stopping for photos on the way. There weren’t many people out at all, though a few cyclists passed me.  I passed a white, fluffy dog, whose coat was thick with sticky, clay-mud and who was sporting a mightily chuffed expression as it’s hapless owner stood by lamenting her hound’s skill in locating such mud baths in the most unlikely of settings.  From having done this part of the route just once before I was amazed how much more quickly I negotiated it all this time around.  I stopped for photos.  You don’t need all the details, enjoy the slide show summary.  It is breathtaking.  I don’t know why I haven’t explored more before. Well I do, it’s because I’m cautious on my own, but with long days and plenty of water on me, it was fine.  It’ll be even more spectacular in a couple of weeks time when the heather is out.

 

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So there I was, pounding the trails.  As I did so though, I was a bit grumpy pants to be honest.  Not about my actual pants, because I was wearing my runderwear, which makes me happy, but about my recent foray into the world of sports bras.  Here follows a bra-related rant.  You will either get it or not. Skip it if you want.

Bra related rant starteth here:

For my whole life, I’ve struggled to get a decent bra to fit me.  The opening of Bravissimo in what was then my home town of Leamington Spa was a day of celebration for me.  A bra company that caters specifically for women D cup and above.  It is an absolutely mystery to me why it took so long for someone to provide this.  We can put people on  the moon it seems, but manufacture well-fitting bras for those with anything other than an ‘athletic’ frame, apparently not.  I was so delighted when Bravissimo came on the scene, that I chose this company as an example of local start-up that achieved massive success when required to give a careers talk about entrepreneurship to a room full of about 400 youthful undergraduate engineering students at Coventry University.   Bravissimo began as the idea of  two women who themselves couldn’t get a bloomin’ bra to fit their assets, saw a gap in the market and filled it – in every sense.  Their story is fine, inspirational even. They started as mail order only, and now have some 26 stores, and deliver worldwide.  With hindsight though, maybe explaining the company’s success in finding a USP using the phrase ‘by catering for bigger busted women such as myself‘ to a group of 380 male undergraduates (don’t get me started on gender representation and inequality in STEM courses and careers), awash with the hormones typical of men in their late teens, wasn’t my best-judged moment. It would have been fine if they’d all laughed, acknowledging the in advertant humour of the situation – which is what  I wanted to do as I realised what I’d said.  What made it deeply uncomfortable was the awkward silence as I felt the newly attentive room of blinking acne-faced young men appraise me with snatched side-long glances.  It gives a whole new resonance to the phrase ‘making a tit of yourself‘.  On the other hand, it illustrated a point, and maybe we should shout about this problem more.  It’s a real one. Silence on the topic isn’t helping.

The cause of my brooding dark mood was another epic fail in my quest for a decent sports bra.  If there is one thing harder than finding a bra, it’s finding a sports bra.  Increasingly, it is recognised that along with running shoes, for women a bra is their most crucial bit of kit.  Running magazines are full of advertorial features on the damage you can do to yourself if you persist in running without adequate support – and they don’t just mean black eyes.  Tissues will rip, boobs will sag, stretch marks will line your body. This may all be true, but for me the reality is much more prosaic, it’s just uncomfortable running without a decent bra, and too much bounce makes you (me) really self-conscious.  I don’t need to be ‘persuaded’ to buy a decent sports bra, what I do need is for some f$£%ing manufacturer to come up with one in my size and fit.  I’ve spent too much time surrounded by piles of discarded different branded sports bras that I ordered online to try on, only to find not one of them will fit.  Some of them I will never know if they fitted because it is beyond human contortion to clamber into them unaided.   I don’t know if all men fully appreciate the torment this can cause. Some do.  I had a great conversation about chafing, blisters and swing with a guy I met on a boot camp once who pointed out that his moobs were even less well catered for than my boobs, probably true.  However, although we cried with laughter as we validated each others experiences, the misery of being stuck with our inadequate kit sadly stayed with us after our laughter had faded away.

The in-shop experience of trying to buy a sports bra has often been worse.  I do think sports shops are getting better, but in the past I have entered sports shops asking about bras only to be handed a bit of postage stamp sized  lycra  and waved vaguely towards  a single changing room with those saloon doors that offer no privacy at all.   This is disheartening in the extreme and leads to a rapid about turn and out of the shop.  Not unreasonably, sports shops tend to be staffed by sporty, svelte people from generally a younger demographic than mine.  I understand why this is,  but I don’t feel such staff necessarily quite ‘get’ what the issues are for the fuller-figured, older runner.  One of the particularly welcome innovations of Bravissimo is that many of their staff wear the products they sell, they do get it, absolutely.  I know my current bra’s fit is rubbish, but it is the only one I’ve got that I can at least put on by myself and it is the least worst of the other options I tried at the time.   I have a few sports bras, and they are all equally bad in their own unique ways.  I am beginning to think the perfect sports bra is just as much a mirage as the proverbial gold at the end of the rainbow, constantly moving out of reach.  I have wasted a lot of my life in a quest for this seemingly unattainable goal, maybe time to compromise, move on and accept that at times I will have to run with one boob in each hand to minimise bounce in extremity.  Even so, I keep a weary, wary eye out for new developments.  Hope over experience all over again.  So it was I was ecstatic, when a recent promotion invited women to a bra trying evening at a local running shop.  I signed up immediately.  I am held back in my running because of discomfort and embarrassment, this might be the answer to my prayers!  I don’t need a hard sell on this, give me a bra that fits and I will gladly empty my bank account into your lap.  If you can offer that and clown shoes too, to accommodate my wide feet, then I’ll throw in my car and all my worldly goods.  I’m not a reluctant purchaser, I am an increasingly desperate one.

brooks bra fitting

As the day got closer, my nerve wavered. What if this was going to be humiliation all over again.  Like the time I won a set of lingerie in a competition in a local newspaper only to find their range ‘didn’t accommodate this lady winner’ when I went to be measured for and to collect my prize (true story, scarred for life).  I rang ahead, I explained as candidly as I could short of emailing them an inappropriate picture that I was ‘not an athletic frame’,  that I’d had bad experiences of sports bras only being suitable for women with smaller cup sizes and that I didn’t want to waste time going to an event if this was going to be the same. The person I spoke to reassured me that many of their customers are that sort of client.  fuller figures, older women runners.   He told me that the Brooks ambassador who was organising the event would have ‘the whole range of sizes’ and it would all be very discreet and respectful.

Well, I should have trusted my instincts.  It was my worst nightmare.  Let me be clear, I am in no way blaming the shop staff for this, they were courteous and helpful and doing their best.  However, it was exactly as I feared.  A young, svelte, athletic woman eyed me as I stood in my bra in a cubical feeling self-conscious and vulnerable and pronounced my current bra to be worse than useless, which I KNOW, that’s why I went.  She then went on about all the damage it would do. Which I ALSO KNOW, that’s why I keep subjecting myself to these humiliating fittings, and trotted off to bring me some bras in the new Brooks range. They looked great.  Unfortunately, they only go up to an E cup, not even close to my size.  Given that we’d already been told the average woman (whatever that is) is a D cup in the UK, that’s hardly an impressive range they cater for.  In desperation she offered up an underwired bra that allegedly might approximate a fit, but a) seriously, run in an underwired bra, lacerate my boobs with projecting metal on top of everything else and b) I kid you not, I couldn’t work out how to get the darned thing over my head, let alone put it on properly. I was frustrated, defeated and felt utterly humiliated.  I abandoned it as hopeless, and whilst not having anything to fit me, she kept going on about ‘you really do need to get a proper bra, it will make such a difference‘  which I KNOW!  I asked again about fit, and she said, well we’ve got the fit of the under band perfectly.  Seriously?  The cup has to fit too.

On their website Brooks say ‘Our sports bras are designed to move with you comfortably, regardless of shape or size.’  They lie.  Clearly they believe only a certain physique is acceptable in a runner.

My mood and self-esteem were not helped by then sitting through a talk about how critical it is we should all have a well-fitted bra whilst being encouraged to have a good grope of what looked like  two stress balls, but were actually representations of a ‘typical’ woman’s boobs  by way of visual aid.  I know the rep was well-meaning but please feedback to the company that it doesn’t matter how technologically advanced your bra is if you are only catering for women in smaller cup sizes.  Great if you’ve come up with a product for them, but don’t add insult to injury lecturing me on my irresponsible breast care if you aren’t going to manufacture anything close to a bra size that will fit me.  I’m not a freak of nature, even though I was made to feel one, and even if I was, wouldn’t I deserve a comfy bra as much as anyone else?  There must be a huge potential market out there.  Who is making bras for us.   Bravissimo do up to a point, but I’ve not had success with their sports bras either to be honest, though others in their range are great.  Also, just so you know, most women don’t have an entourage of dressers to help them put on a bra in the morning, so how about coming up with a design that doesn’t require either hyper mobility/contortion, or a team of minions and dressers at your disposal to help you clamber into it?  Just a thought.

Incidentally, whilst I’m having a rant from the more curvaceous end of the spectrum getting a bra to fit seems to be a universal challenge for female runners.  A fellow runner commented to me only the other day the importance of ensuring you tried to ensure you were on the ‘upswing’ as you move into frame of the course photographer at a race. That made me spit my tea out in laughter I don’t mind admitting.  It’s true!  When I’m not being depressed about my body it does make me laugh, the whole ludicrous impracticality of how it operates at times, and yet I persevere.  You have to laugh or…

bra lesson.jpg

So I sat on the bench for the post bra-fitting lecture trying not to cry.  We then went out for a run ‘to try out the bras’ one other woman also couldn’t be accommodated.  Others liked the bras, but one at least rejected hers because even though it was really comfy, and supportive, she felt she’d never be able to put it on without help.  This is basic stuff.  Wanting to be independent enough to dress yourself.  As we ran, a rep took a video of us in action, no doubt to show immoveable assets all round by those wearing the Brooks bras, hopefully not periodically focusing in on my bouncing boobs by way of contrast,  in a ‘what not to do‘ if you like.  It was mortifying.

up and running

I still stayed for the post run prosecco and brooks goodie bag though, I thought of it as a consolation prize – booby prize if you will.  It had a frisbie (odd but welcome) and a rather fine buff, amongst other things. I’m still not saying the people I dealt with were at fault, they tried to be encouraging, but the evidence of my being ‘abnormal’ in the minds of the manufacturers was patently obvious in the lack of any available product to meet my needs.  It’s soooooooooooooooo depressing in its inevitability.

I enjoyed my prosecco, then went home and wept.  My body-confidence isn’t great anyway.  It takes courage to get out and run when you don’t look like what others might expect a runner to look like.  I don’t mean in environments like parkrun, which are inclusive, but heading out on your own, or in unfamiliar settings.  Mostly I just put those thoughts to one side, and head out anyway, but this bra-fitting experience really knocked my confidence.  It feels so unfair, I’m trying to get fit, I know I’m over-weight, but it feels like the very organisations that could make it easier for me, and others like me,  to join in (e.g. sports-bra manufacturers) are actually reinforcing the sense that we don’t belong, running is not for the likes of us, but rather for an elite breed of 0% body fat athletes to be culled once they reach the age of 25 (or whatever).  That is why sports tops for women are all in pink lycra size 8-10 and technical tees given out at races only ever made in men’s styles as standard issue.  Women aren’t supposed to run at all in races it sometimes seems.  It’s just so frustrating. Aaargh.  I could scream.

All of this was going through my mind as I pounded the trails.  You’ll understand why I was not in the best of moods.  Just as well I didn’t really see anyone for this part of the trail, I wasn’t the ideal contender for ‘the friendly face of Sheffield ambassador’ competition.  I’m not sure there is a competition for that to be fair, but it doesn’t matter, as I wasn’t entering anyway.

Bra-related rant endeth here

 

Weirdly though, even though my thoughts were almost entirely consumed with the ‘you don’t belong in the running community‘ narrative brought on by the trauma of an abortive bra fitting evening the night before, running helps.  You can’t be out on the moors, looking at those views, and breathing that air and not feel better.  Almost without realising, I became increasingly absorbed with the terrain, the lichen on the rocks, the craggy features, and forgot about everything else.  I didn’t really see anyone. I had one anxious moment when I saw four pairs of hyper-vigilant eyes on me from a pack of Alsatian dogs.  They must have been with an owner, but I couldn’t see anyone, perhaps they were sitting down. The dogs’ eyes locked on me and their heads followed my movement across the tops.  I tried not to look at them in case that antagonized them, but it took super human strength not to speed up as I ran by, I was scared if I changed my pace they’d give chase, and I’d have no chance.  I lived to tell the tale though, so I’m guessing curious canines, rather than aggressive ones.

Eventually I came to the little streams that pass under the road at Upper Burbage.  According the map this is called Fiddler’s Elbow.  I thought navigation would be straightforward from here, there are two footpaths fractionally diverging from one another, I took the upper one, that went up towards Higger Tor, and then onwards to Carl Walk.

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Onwards and upwards, it was beautiful.  However, when you get up high it was pretty exposed, even on a relatively nice day. Also, on the tops the path sort of disappears.  Instead you are clambering over an expanse of boulders.  I tried to find a route, but in the absence of any clear path ended up practically abseiling and scrambling down.  I nearly wet myself with fear sliding arse first down a grit side at one point, but that’s ok, I survived.  I think maybe a childhood spent hiding behind cushions at the sight of the Daleks, has made me more resilient than I fully know.   Jon Pertwee helped me learn to feel the fear and do it anyway.  I met a couple of people, father and adult son and agile dog coming upwards, and that gave me a possibly misplaced confidence there was surely a path there somewhere.

Spotting a break in the bracken I found a sheep trail that took me towards Carl Walk, but again, once up on high, I couldn’t find the path off.  I thought I saw it below me, and scrambled down a flat sided boulder onto what turned out to be just a narrow ledge.  I had visions of lying there unfound for months, or until the RSPCA called out mountain rescue to find out from what animal such mournful bleating was issuing, and attempted a rescue.  Runners have rescued cute lambs before too.  Maybe some passing athlete would rescue me.  I might not be ‘adorable’ in quite the same way, but I could still be piteously needy.  In the event, gravity was my friend and I made it down unscathed.  It was an adventure, that’s OK.  On the other hand this ‘path’ couldnt be right.  I continued to follow it, until it seemingly disappeared altogether, into bog and then finally ended up at a stream.  Not a major river crossing,  but I didn’t expect it, and I’m sure you wouldn’t send a race route this way.  I went across a little gingerly. Some rocks had been put there to make sort of mini stepping-stones, but they were rather wobbly.  Some other walkers appeared out of the bracken behind me and pronounced this was indeed a path, but I wasn’t too sure.

I paused to take it in and try to make sense of the map.  Then, out of corner of my eye I saw …. (drum roll)  ….. a water vole!  Much excitement.   I haven’t seen a water vole in decades, literally.  I didn’t even know they lived out on the moor, I’ve only ever seen them in canal banks to be honest.  I sat myself down on a handy boulder and waited and watched for a good 20 minutes.  Periodically it swam back and forth from bank to bank.  It was a little distance away, and I tried to get a photo.  The good news is that I did, the bad news is that I’m not a contender for wildlife photographer of the year, but I did get a video that I don’t how to upload onto WordPress so is lost to the world. Here though, for your delectation, amazement and edification is my portrait of a water vole and its habitat:

Maybe you just had to be there.  Perhaps it will make you happy just to know it is out there, apparently happily doing its own thing.  I hope so.

I had no chance of joining whatever the official path was I was supposed to be on, but I recognised where I was and eventually romped onwards.  After a little while, I met the two men with their dog again who were clearly circling round the other way. This time we paused and chatted a bit, well, rude not to, seeing how we had met before.  ‘So you’re a fell runner too?’ said one, companionably as an opener.  I was confused.  Oh! Turns out I was wearing my Dig Deep Blue Tee-shirt from last year.  Well, whilst on the one hand I am peeved as it is inevitably a men’s fitting, on the other, it is the same Tee for the ultra 60 mile, 30 mile, 12.12 mile and 10k runs.  Whilst I got it for the 10k, this chap had no way of knowing which one I’d done, and so had just assumed I was a ‘proper’ fell runner.  I thought nothing could top the water vole sighting quite honestly, but this interaction did.  It was a much-needed reminder that, whatever self-doubt I am experiencing, to the outside eye I’m just another runner out there, and in context (fells) therefore a fell runner.  People are a lot nicer and less judgemental than I (we) sometimes give them credit for.  We chatted about fell running, laughed about the joyful leveling anarchy of a run out in the great outdoors with all the dizzying cocktail of unpredictable terrain, inclement weather, death-wish runners and vertical slopes all for £1.50 – £5 a throw.  It was affirming.  Maybe if I just get in the habit of running in my blue dig deep top people will continue to assume I’m an ultra-runner out there on the hills and I’ll fake it til I make it as the saying goes…

We said our farewells, and I jogged onwards, in a much better mood when I finished than when I started.   So it seems, whilst I finished the recce, my running’s not quite finished yet, even if my quest for kit continues.

It’s complicated this running malarkey, but it is worth sticking with.  How does the saying go?  “‘I really regret that run‘ said no-one ever.”  Not even me.

not even me

I still hate sports bra manufacturers though.

For all my Dig Deep related blog posts click here – scroll down for older entries.

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

Geronimo’s Grand Day Out – VitalityMove event Chatsworth 10k 2017

Digested Read: I had no idea what to expect from the VitalityMove event at Chatsworth, and initially didn’t sign up because of the hefty price tag.  Subsequently got in on a freebie and ‘yay’, fantastic time, brilliant festival of running-related fun crammed with awesome people.   Also, finally, got the chance of a photo-op with Sheffield idol Jessica Ennis… (fail, oh well) and that was only the start of encounters with other brilliant people I met throughout the day. Would recommend.  That hill is long and steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep though.  Be warned.  It was hot.  This could yet turn out to be the Brigadoon of running events, a one off appearance every hundred years, so you may have missed out, but I hope not.

Longer read follows.  Make a cup of coffee first, it could take a while, think more ultra-running than musical mile in reading terms.

sighting the start of the musical mile

Jessica Ennis was quite taken by Geronimo on Sunday, I’m pretty sure that was what was behind the ‘oh look Reggie, a giraffe!’ comment she made, so in my book that means she and I  are now practically related.  Me and Jess, I mean, not me and Geronimo, that would be stupid. I’m now looking forward to knocking out some massively improved running times and maybe even taking up some other olympic sports by way of tribute, celebration and acknowledgement of this important new development in relation to my running network.  That is, I’m hoping by establishing tenuous connections to this demigod of sporting excellence (and local hero to boot) some of her athleticism will rub off on me.  I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that just thinking about exercise improves your muscle tone, so if you’ve had an actual interaction with an olympian gold holder that’s got to count for something surely?   If my old PE teacher could see me now eh?  Actually, if she could, she’d probably asphyxiate to be fair, I don’t think running with a giraffe would have been encouraged in our cruelly and ironically named ‘games’ sessions at school.  Fortunately, it seems times have changed.  The VitalityMove event at Chatsworth last sunday was more a joyful celebration of family activity related fun.  Giraffes and fancy dress were positively encouraged, the sun shone, and the emphasis was on having a collective go, especially getting young people running.  Very young people, you know the little ones, before the instinctive joy of running has abandoned them.  My kind of event really.  If I’d read the event guide before rejecting it out of hand on price grounds, I might have got that in advance….

event guide 2017

So, back to basics.   Before I signed up for this, and afterwards as well to be honest, I had very little idea of what to expect.  The ‘about us’ blurb on the VitalityMove website didn’t really help either.

Running is a natural activity that everyone can get involved with anywhere – it could be you run and walk the distance or train to keep going all of the way – whatever suits you, we want to cater for you. Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill is working with a team of like-minded people to create VitalityMove – two events that seek to fuse music and running and bring an energy to running that entices the reticent runner to join in. Here’s what Jessica has to say!

I have been so lucky to have got so much out of my sport – not only a career but a lifestyle. Fitness really can be enjoyable and I have teamed up with Vitality to share my passion for running and music and how the two together can make exercise fun.

We have created VitalityMove – a big day out with music and running at its heart. There will be lots of great things for families and committed runners to get involved with from 1 mile fun-runs, family relays to the more traditional 5k and 10k distances – all themed to music designed to keep you moving by DJ Trevor Nelson. Our venues are iconic; Chatsworth House and Windsor Great Park – both stunning backdrops for the event. Whether you are a first time runner or a seasoned athlete we will cater for you – and hopefully make it a day to remember.

I hope you will sign up and enjoy the journey to the events with me!

Nope, not really getting it, maybe I’m slow in processing event descriptors as I am in running.  In fairness I think this is possibly the first event of its type that I’m aware of anyway, so maybe it was inevitably hard to get across what it would involve, and therefore what participants might be paying for.  I got that you could pick a run distance and there’d be music, but honestly, and sorry if this is harsh, it was a whopping price for a 10k in this neck of the woods.  When it was first promoted I think it was about £35, when I actually came to enter it was showing around £29 for anyone over 16 (children were always free) and about £25 for the 5k and then parking (£5) on top.  It seemed a lot for a race of those distances.  We are perhaps unusually spoilt in Sheffield.  It is easy to access a Trust10 trail 10k race for free every fourth Sunday of the month at Longshaw; there are parkruns a-plenty offering free 5ks every Saturday five in Sheffield alone with a junior 2k parkrun each Sunday locally too (also free).  Then there are a wealth of reasonably local fell races starting from £1.50 for the legendary off-road Oxspring Trunce series.  Anyway, the consequence was, as soon as I saw the price tag I lost interest and didn’t bother to research the VitalityMove event any further.   I think I’m not alone in having thought it bizarre to the point of incomprehensible that an event would price a 5k or a 10k at that level.  We just aren’t accustomed to forking out for running events of those distances maybe, opportunities for running surround us.  We are blessed!  I didn’t get the USP at that point.  It seemed most peculiar!

That was then.  But circumstances change.  At the last-minute, I was lucky enough to get wind of a code that gave me free entry (cheers parkrun), and then it became a no-brainer.  Who wouldn’t want to go to a venue as lovely as Chatsworth for a 10k run and bag some fetching bling to add to their medal collection into the bargain?  So I went forth and ran.  Now I’ve actually been to the event, I get that the 10k and 5k runs were really just the icing on the cake for a much broader inter-generational running/sport festival.   A lot of thought went into the day, the planning was meticulous, I met some great people and I had a fabulous time.

Basically, the whole day far exceeded my expectations and I think it’s a bit of a shame that (in my view anyway) the pre-event publicity didn’t really communicate what would happen on the day, and I think many may have missed out as a consequence.  It would still have been very pricey, but I got the impression that the event could have managed many times the number of participants easily (apart from in the loo provision department, but then what running event has ever had enough portaloos at the critical moment).  It is/was a huge venue, I’d love to see this event become a regular fixture but more modestly priced to encourage more to come along.  I’m sure it would be a case of more the merrier.

Incidentally, in case you are worried about this, although the event is clearly aimed at families, I went on my own – well just me and the giraffe – and it was great.  Geronimo is a handy ice-breaker it’s true, but it was such a friendly and fun day, I reckon anyone standing still on their own for more than 10 seconds would end up in cheery chit-chat with a fellow attendee soon enough.  Well, unless they had seriously hostile body language.  I met some fantastic people, I’ve even launched my video career now so, you know, anything is possible if you take along your running shoes, sense of humour, broad smile and an open mind, just as in life!  (Giraffe/ fancy dress optional, but fabulous, so you should).

I’m going to tell you all about our grand day out together by way of supporting evidence.  Really you will need to triangulate my personal, and therefore subjective account, with other primary sources to be properly informed.  That’s what critical analysis is all about.  The best way to achieve this would be to get yourself along to the next one and see how our accounts tally…  There’s still VitalityMove at Windsor Great Park to come, allegedly (date tbc), so it’s doable. Well I think it’s doable, I have a slightly sinking feeling that ticket sales have been low across the two events so it might not come to pass, but maybe lessons learned from Chatsworth will help to ‘make it so’ and so spread further running happiness.

make it so

So, the event build up started on entering with my special code via the website.  That was really straightforward, I did have to pay for parking but that was fair enough in the circumstances.  Only after signing up for the 10k did I look at the course, and remember there is a massive hill at Chatsworth, it’s only 759 feet of climb according to Strava, which isn’t all that much in Sheffield terms, but it is compressed into a couple of short stretches at the early part of the course.  Oops.  I heard ‘free’ and forgot ‘huge hill’ in all the excitement.  Reading the event guide I picked up that fancy dress was ‘positively encouraged’ that’s more like it!  I was going to give Geronimo a bit of a break from running, I mean we’ve had both the Round Sheffield Run and Sheffield Hallam’s birthday parkrun outings lately, I was a bit worried it might be getting tedious.  On the other hand, what the hell.  It would be her first 10k and as I was otherwise going on my own I thought it might be a good way to get to chat to people, she could rest up later.  Plus if they are ‘positively encouraging’ fancy dress, I think it would be rude not to.  Here’s the strava profile by the way – see what I mean?  Yes, you can see I ended up walk/running the steep sections, so what, shoot me, I still did it.

Strava

Even though I was a late entrant, my pack (number and chip timer) arrived in the post with a few bits of other info promptly, and my car-park pass was duly emailed to me on the Wednesday before.  I thought that was pretty impressive.  You could also pay on the day for parking by the way, still a fiver.  No free parking for Blue Badge holders though, which I thought was poor, even possibly just a complete oversight as no dedicated parking for them either.  This didn’t impact on me, but it did on a fellow Smiley, and that wasn’t good.  As if life isn’t hard enough sometimes if you have, or care for someone who has, limited or no independent mobility.

parking voucher

Then on the Sunday morning, it was sooooooooooooo hot.  I wasn’t sure what to wear, I haven’t the body confidence, or indeed physique to wear my Smiley Paces running club vest without a T-shirt under it, but that would be stupid in such heat. Then I thought, well Vitality are one of the parkrun sponsors, so I decided to go with my parkrun top.  Good call.  I was up early, so lots of time to pin my number on Geronimo Sky, have porridge for breakfast and debate the relative merits of which running shoes to wear.  I mean  I love my Hokas for their cushioning, but they definitely have been giving me knee issues which may or may not be a temporary thing due to an inevitable change in running style that new trainers sometimes causes.  I put them on but stuffed my more hard-core trail shoes salomon fell-raisers in my backpack just in case.  Car pass printed out, water bottle filled and off I went.

It was gorgeous driving over to Chatsworth, I feel really lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world.  Yes, not great for running hot and humid as it was, but indisputably a gorgeous day.  I was quite excited pulling up to the grand golden gates of Chatsworth where a friendly marshal shooed me off in the right direction.  It was pretty quiet when I arrived.  The rolling grounds of Chatsworth were truly spectacular, sheep milled around under the trees seemingly unconcerned by the cars arriving.  There were even a few lambs cavorting. Shame they’ll all end up being eaten (not by me, I’m vegetarian) but let’s not dwell on that today.  I parked up, and you could see ahead bright pink flags and inflatables of the event camp.  Excited others were gathering.  Yep, it felt like the day was going to be fun.

I followed the pink signs to the event, I wasn’t cross at the cross point, I felt no need, but I think it is quite a good idea to have a special zone where cross people are made to gather together so they don’t spoil events for everyone else.  I might start putting that in surveymonkey responses the next time I get a post-event feedback survey emailed through to me.

As I walked down a companionable fellow runner fell into step with me.  It was only one of  the tigger runners from the Round Sheffield Run!  She hadn’t so much recognised me as Geronimo, and us fancy dress ambassadors, well,  we share a bond and need to stick together. Turns out she was at Chatsworth to do some pacing but it was good to actually meet.  Plus I found out the significance of her costume choice…. drum roll… it’s because her nickname is Tigger!  Genius is it not!

MJ tiger tiger

No tigger outfit today, so I hadn’t recognised her. That’s another amazing thing about fancy dress if you are interested, you’d think it would make you more conspicuous, but it’s actually the opposite.  People notice Geronimo but not me, so by simple dint of removing her (or previously Roger) it’s like I’ve donned a cunning disguise.  My absolutely serious and heartfelt recommendation for self-conscious runners out there is go for fancy dress.  Nobody sees you or judges your body silhouette picked out in unforgiving lycra if you have a giraffe strapped round your waist.  It’s a simple distraction technique.  Not that anyone actually cares what you look like when you’re running or judges you anyway, but them as share my anxiety about appearing in public wearing lycra will know what I mean.  Anyway, she bounded off to do whatever it is that Tiggers do as warm up for pacing, and I had a wander round the event village.  I stole this photo from the official photographers’ Facebook page, cheers AWOL event photos, I’m sure they won’t mind 🙂 It’s the view from the stage at around 8.30 a.m. on the day of the event.  Impressive eh?

awol calm before the storm

As I got nearer to the centre of it all I started to get a feel for the mood of the day.   There were colourful tents in abundance.  Areas where children could have a go at netball, or GoApe, a clearly defined food area, well signed bag-drop, registration, some event-standard portaloos set against the backdrop of the magnificent Chatsworth House.

As I approached, I had my first star-struck moment of the day. There was Jessica Ennis milling about and very graciously posing for selfies and photos with people various. On a serious note I have a lot of respect for Jessica Ennis (aside from her not having a barcode with her when she did Sheffield Hallam parkrun) and she may be an extraordinary olympian, but she is also (only) human and pregnant. Even so, she spent the whole of Sunday smiling, chatting to people and posing for photos in scorchio heat.  That was impressive.  Actually scrap that, she’s not human, she is indeed super-human.  An amazing athlete of course, but radiates down-to-earth honest-to-goodness cheery decency and tolerance too.  I wonder if she trains as hard for selfie posing  as she must have done for the high jump?

Now, as my regular reader will know, the only time I felt homesick when I was working in Cambodia earlier in the year was when I missed Jess and Paul rocking up to Hallam parkrun.  I was beyond gutted.  Two of my absolute icons, at my home parkrun and I missed it!  The pain!  Anyway, here she was, in touching distance, this was my moment, the opportunity was within my grasp.   I could let it pass and spend the rest of my life in sullen regret, or I could seize the moment!  Reader, let me report that I did indeed commandeer a bystander to act as a photographer and approached Jess to request a photo.  This was the moment when Jess complimented my Giraffe with her (unforgettable to me) ‘oh look Reggie, a giraffe‘ comment. I did some incoherent gushing about how much I admired her and how I was sorry to have missed her before when she was at Hallam.  I was not cool at all, but then in my defence when have I ever been that?  Anyway,  she patiently stood as my nominated photographer took a few snaps.  I was sooooooooooooooo happy.  Alas, as I wandered off looking at them, I realised none had been taken.  Curses.  My camera is a bit odd, you have to push the button quite hard, and sadly, this was an epic fail.  Not one shot to capture the moment.  I was disappointed, but you know what, we have our memories, and I like to think we shared a moment.

Incidentally, despite my disappointment at missing my two idols Jess and Paul when they went to Hallam and I didn’t, I have subsequently ‘met’ both.   At Chatsworth it was Jess, but I also shared an (awkward) moment with Paul Sinton-Hewitt, albeit a similarly tongue-tied one once I was back from my travels.  I suppose I’m saying that we must never give up on our dreams, as we never know what the future holds.  I was so sad to miss the hobnobbing opportunities back in February, but had my own individual encounters later on.  Dreams really do come true!  Also, there was an official photographer around at the same time as I was posing with Jess, and clearly Geronimo Sky is spectacularly photogenic, so I’m really hoping that a photo is out there somewhere.  Even if it’s not, in the absence of any photographic evidence of the encounter I can embellish the story at will for either comedic and/or dramatic effect.  Everyone’s a winner!

In a daze of celebrity awe-struckness (well it is a word now), I went to further explore my surroundings.  Geronimo was taking it all in too.  She’s pretty non-flighty for a prey animal.

exploring

There were huge deck chairs and tiny pink bean bags  scattered around, a massive event stage, and various partnership company stands.  There was a main stage at the finish, and tables groaning under the weight of frozen-themed water bottles.  There was an alarming number of ambulances in evidence, but I suppose that’s sensible.  I don’t know though, same with armed police officers, maybe it is a sensible precaution to have all that first aid/emergency cover on hand, but I find it unnerving rather than reassuring.   There weren’t any armed police at Chatsworth though, so only had to worry about the hill, not the presence of weaponry in the vicinity.

There were some friendly looking marshals/ water station people sporting the fine grey Vitality T-shirts so I had a natter with them.  They liked Geronimo too, so we played around with selfies.  They encouraged me to instagram these using such-and-such movetothemusic hash tag, I think they confused me with someone with a smart phone and a basic understanding of twitter.  Still, it was a friendly and fun encounter.  And at least I now had a selfie by way of consolation for missing out on the one with Jess earlier.  I hope their selfie technique was better than mine!

Next stop was the pledge pod.  I’d done a summer pledge photo at parkrun yesterday, but hey, the pod looked fun. A maintenance guy was just getting it going so was game to talk me through using it.  Apparently you are much more likely to complete a goal if you write it down and share it.  I don’t think it’s a substitute for training though, which is a disappointment.

You write your goal on a dry-wipe white board and get four differently posed photos opportunities.  You can then upload these to Facebook, using the touchscreen within the pod, which didn’t work for me as I obviously don’t know either my own username or log in password, on the plus side, no-one’s hacking me.  However, I did get a physical print out, and that was fun.

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Not wishing to diss Jess or anything, but I reckon my pledge was smarter, i.e. specific, measurable etc, than hers which was a bit on the vague side ‘as active as possible during pregnancy‘ isn’t very easy to pin down really is it?   I am not necessarily pleased about this, me having a more specific goal that is – since it will make it way harder for me to wriggle out of and it’s only a few weeks away.  I said ‘I will complete the Dig Deep 12.12 mile trail race at Whirlow August 2017! (Not necessarily with a giraffe).’  So we’ll see.  My training to date has consisted of entering.  Well, it does show willing at least.  You can pledge your own goal at https://mysummergoal.co.uk/ apparently and admire Jess and Ellie and that other guy making their own here.  I like Ellie Simmonds a lot too, which I’m sure would please her enormously if she but knew.  It was hearing her talking on Woman’s Hour the other day about liking to have a nap in the afternoon that clinched it for me.  I, like her, fear this particular penchant of mine will have to go when I next enter gainful more conventional employment.  Unlike her, I don’t think opportunity providers will be queuing up to find a compromise on this point.

So more milling around. Mr Kandoo (Round Sheffield Run and Kandoo events) pitched up in a tententen T-shirt (I like those, tasteful grey with Autumn Leaves logo).  Anyway, his presence gave me an opportunity to thank him for creating my favourite race of the year.  It is honestly like he sat down and thought of all the things that would make a Lucy-friendly running event and scattered then kandoo magic fairy dust all over it and so it sprang into life.  A bit like Frankenstein’s monster, only more user-friendly and less killing, more trail running related fun and (marginally) less existential angst. He made a cunningly ambiguous reference to Geronimo’s participation on the day, saying something like ‘so you and fancy dress‘.  I respect that.  I suppose just like local running shops, running event organisers have to navigate local running politics and interactions with their event participants with some care.  They mustn’t appear to have a favourite running club, or get drawn into sharing potentially controversial views.  Their business model rests and falls on their skills in diplomacy as much as event management.  The listener can put whatever interpretation they wish on such a phrase.  It might be complimentary about the wearing of fancy dress, or it might  in fact be an expression of disbelief verging on horror, but the actual phrase used? Well, read it back, and you’ll see that it gives nothing away.  Sort of ‘neither confirm nor deny’ when you see it written down.  Hopefully the listener will hear what they want to hear rather than pick up on the inconclusiveness of the statement, everyone stays friends, everyone is happy!

It’s a bit like when you see a friend in an amateur play or performance or something and you attend it nursing and apprehension bordering on terror.  You fear it will be absolutely dire and yet you will need to have some encouraging phrase to utter to them afterwards in order to maintain the friendship thereafter.  Something that isn’t an actual lie but will communicate apparent enthusiasm, and stop you from blurting out that you have just sacrificed two hours of your life that you can never get back sitting through that pretentious nonsense.  Hence, the wily audience member will have a reference pack of useful phrases to fall back on as they see their friend post show. Common one’s include ‘What can I say!’ uttered with gushing intonation as you pace towards them arms outstretched or ‘Amazing, you’ve done it again!’ similarly delivered or the old favourite ‘I knew it!’  The calculation being that hopefully the hearer will be too self-absorbed in their post-show bubble to request any further critique.  True opinions are not required.  Of course you might get lucky and see something brilliant, but still good to have a repertoire non-commital phrases at your disposal.  This ‘so, you and fancy dress‘ remark had a more neutral delivery, but worked on the same criteria, so well done, nicely played.    I choose to take it as endorsement.  Just another of my many delusional thoughts in evidence.

Next stop, precautionary pee, then I changed into my more fell shoes after all as my knee was giving me gyp.  Then to the bag drop. We’d been warned it would be really busy so best to leave bags with friends and family.  As I have neither friends nor family,  it was bag-drop all the way for me.  At that time it was really quiet, I think my number was four, which is a clue to its busy-ness.  You get a wrist tag, and a matching one was put on my bag.   There was an anxious moment when I approached, and the woman seemingly in charge stopped me proclaiming most assertively (bordering on aggression to be blunt) that they wouldn’t take responsibility for any animals whilst I was running.  As if I’d leave Geronimo in the charge of strangers!  Even nice ones like at the VitalityMove Chatsworth event bag drop!  It would be akin to leaving a dog in the car on a hot day.  I blustered indignantly protesting at the very idea, but happily the confusion was swiftly resolved and we were all soon friends again.

I made my way to the music mile start, evidenced by the presence of large blue musical notes.  I didn’t know what to expect, but my plan was to do a musical mile by way of warm up (er hem) and not at all because I wanted a trophy wrist band.  I was curious to find out what it was about, and I reckoned that it was so hot I wouldn’t feel like running  a mile once I’d done the 10k, but I knew I’d finish the 10k once started if I did it the other way around.  It was a good plan.

musical mile

Hanging around at the start I soon got chatting to a couple of other runners.  We compared running tales. They’d done the moonwalk in London which sounded amazing. You basically do the London Marathon route overnight wearing only a bra!  Brave I thought, wish they hadn’t clarified that they did actually wear jogging bottoms too.  It’s an annual event ‘united against breast cancer’ the next one is 12 May 2018.  It is £48 and you have to raise a minimum of £100 sponsorship, but these two had clearly had a ball.

As we were chatting, a woman waved at us, and called me over.  This was my modest claim to fame for the day I suppose, as it marked my video debut.  I can’t entirely take the credit, it was Geronimo who first caught their eye, but I gained glory by association, which is good enough for me. So it was that Geronimo Sky and I made the Derbyshire telegraph VitalityMove event video, it went up on their webpage, so I’m just waiting in now for a TV agent to approach me with an impossible-to-refuse lucrative sports TV presenter contract offer.   The phone’s not rung yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.  I’m ex-directory so they’ll have to do a bit of research to track down my phone number. You need to click on the second video down, and wait for 8.44 mark.  I see us as a double act like Rod Hull and Emu only hopefully marginally less annoying, I’ll be really disappointed if she gets an offer and I don’t though.  Hope she’ll remember me on the way up…  Seeing the clip I do cringe at the sound of my own voice and rotund physique on the one hand, but on the other hey, local stardom!  We all have to suffer for our art I suppose.  Plus, it does give a fine glimpse of the goings on at the start of the day.

TV career launch video

A scattering of us duly assembled for the 10.00 a.m. start time, but a delay was immediately announced as they needed to get the music stations out on the course.  A crew of spectacularly attired dancers in impractical shoes were ushered past to be positioned on the course.  I didn’t get the chance to take a photo of them until the end of the day, here are two of them by way of example.  I hope they had sunblock on, that was a lot of exposed flesh to be standing out in the sun all day with.

dancing queens

It was fine, nobody minded.  A photographer posed us for some publicity shots.  Yes I did get in the frame.

musical mile not posing at all

Famous DJ Trevor Nelson pretended to sound the start horn.  If I track any of these fine images down later I’ll add them into this post in due course.  About ten minutes late, it was start time.  At this moment a little girl who was the first to arrive at the start line was chosen to do the start countdown. She was duly led off to clamber up on high atop of the crowds to do the official opening from the top of a scaffolding tower.  Check her out in the top left of this photo as the runners whizz away…

musical mile start off

Now, this was a lovely thought, but I was in earshot of her mum (I think – someone who knew her anyway) who said, words to the effect of ‘oh no, that’s a shame, she wanted to be at the front of the start line, not watching it go off‘.  To be fair, she didn’t look particularly upset, a little overwhelmed possibly, but then weren’t we all.  We were told to look out for ‘exciting things’ and ‘join in with the dancing and enjoy the music on the course’.  So finally off we went.  It was a cross-section of runners, parents/carers and children, people warming up for longer events and a few ‘what the hell’ types.  The one mile route was a flat circuit out towards the parking area, round by the river and back in a little loop.

Musical mile route

It was slightly odd, because it wasn’t really marshaled as such, although the route was obvious, you just sort of romped out.  As you ran, people just arriving at the event were ambling towards and alongside you.  At the Cross Zone were the first of the dancing troupe, a duo stood next to speakers that were blaring out music.    They were smiling and clapping, but also looking a tad self-conscious rather than encouraging dancing at this point in the day.  Friendly and fun certainly, but also fairly low-key.

The official photographers were on hand to snap away. For the record, I was in about 61 different shots, so they weren’t slacking in their paparrazzi duties.  The overwhelming majority of photos are one’s that do indeed capture the occassion, but also make me never want to be seen in public again. However, one or two were really fun – check out my jazz hands in homage to the occassion.

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I found the route incredibly hot, we were in direct sun, and although it was only a mile it was a bit of a reality check for the not flat at all 10k to come.  As we circled back along the river there were I think three more stations each with loud speakers and a couple of dancers.  One pair were up for a bit of a boogie the others less so.  I don’t normally run just for a mile so it all seemed really quick. The finish was spectacular, there was a wrist band and a huge clunking medal for everyone, which was unexpected.  Then you went up some steps which took you to the back of the huge stage, so everyone had their moment leaving via the big performance platform where you could pause for a selfie with famous DJ Trevor Nelson as you exited.  It was great, some of the children were so excited and proud of their achievements it was infectious.  Made up for missing out on the fun of volunteering at Junior parkun, this morning, seeing all those happy, joyful faces.  I don’t have any pictures of that because I didn’t have my camera but maybe some will follow. These are the medals though – different ribbon, but same bling.  Quality eh?

bling plenty of bling

Spat off the stage, you could pick up a bottle of water, and I got some sort of princess label on mine from frozen, so that was grand!  My mile done, what with the later start, the milling about etc, I took one look at the queue for the loos and decided I did have basic bladder control after all.  I wasn’t originally going to take Geronimo on the 10k, but then I bumped into familiar face (fellow Smiley and RSR recce buddy) who was there with her two daughters.  Hooray, photo op.  Aren’t we grand, this is the medal from the musical mile.  Seeing my trophy helped motivate the two young women to run and nab one for themselves.  Yay.  Whatever it takes!  Anyway, after all that chit chat, I didn’t think there was time to go back to the bag drop and leave Geronimo there, besides, given our earlier exchange it would be a bit hypocritical to dump a giraffe with them following my righteous indignation at the mere suggestion of the very idea that I would do such a thing barely an hour previously – so I just thought ‘oh well, maybe it’ll be fun doing it together‘.  And she stayed put.

friends at the start

Once we’d had a quick chat, my Smiley running buddy headed off to drop bags and check out the loos, whilst I continued my milling about.  I ended up in conversation with a couple of finely turned out TomTom pacers who were ace.  The starting point may have been mutual appreciation of dress (I don’t think that was the real hair of the guy in the kilt) but evolved into a really good chat. They had both got loads of experience of pacing the London Marathon so I basically took the opportunity to download their collective brains for top tips on how to approach it (I have a deferred ballot place for next year, which still feels unreal).  This guy is going to be one of the five hour pacers so you never know, we may yet meet again:

tomtom pacer with jess

For me, this was one of the stand out features of this Chatsworth event, I got to talk to so many brilliant people who shared hilarious and/or interesting stories, or taught me new things about running techniques and events, or simply inspired with their own efforts and motivation.  It was brilliant.  One of the TomTom guys turned out to be an olympic torch carrier no less, and promised I could go and have a hold of his big torch later!  He was nominated to carry it for a section due to charity work he has done for Barnardos.  How fabulous is that?  I did as well, go and check out his torch.  Tigger is in the shot below as well by the way, but in disguise without the outfit.  Be impressed.

There was a sort of grand warm up for the 10k led from the stage, but I didn’t want to wear myself out doing that, so I just hung out at the back and enjoyed the view.  It looked fab though, like community popmobility, something which I am inclined to feel should be encouraged at every opportunity.  Early morning (pre-dawn) moving to music happens all over the place in Cambodia by the way, it’s brilliant.  We need that ethos here too!

Grand warm up

This was much busier than the musical mile start, and ‘proper’ runners were congregated at the front.  As people moved into the start funnel there was still time to fraternise with other runners though.  I’m looking forward to seeing for myself how that sheep costume turns out at a later run event in the vicinity.  Sounds brilliant.  Jess was there to set us off.  At least I think she was, I couldn’t see what was going on, and it becomes a bit of a blur with so many different run distances and events going on almost continuously.  I do know that at some point I heard a voice put out a plea not to trample Jessica as you ran because she was pregnant.  I’m not sure if the inference that it would have been OK otherwise to trample her was intentional.  In any event, I don’t think  it is ever OK for runners to trample Jess, or anyone else for that matter, it’s easy enough to give a people a bit of a berth as you overtake, especially at an event where the focus was on fun and participation rather than flat-out racing. Because of where I was in the line up I didn’t get to high-five Jess or Trev as I was passing, but they were there, cheering us all on!  I think these photos might be of the Disney mile start, but hey ho, you get the idea.

The 11.00 a.m. 10k starting stampede was captured on film. It wasn’t a  massive turn out by local standards, but it was respectable.  The results look like there were about 1000 10k runners across the two events of the day.  ‘Serious runners’ went towards the front, there were pacers towards the back doing 60 minute and 65 minute times.

As we headed off, it dawned on me that it was indeed a long haul up that hill.  It was a steep, steep and somewhat demoralising climb.  You hoik yourself up, and after what seemed like an age, you get to the first sign (literally, it was a hi-vis poster) warning you were about to start the Ennis hill. What?  What the heck was that first killing kilometer then.  I wasn’t massively impressed.  The setting is scenic, but apart from the grassy first bit, much of the track upwards to the hunting lodge was on a sort of compressed gravel that was hot and very dusty underfoot. It wasn’t the springy woodland trail surface I’d fondly imagined and it was hard on my arthritic feet.  I did have to walk from quite early on.  I told myself this was a legitimate strategy as power walking was faster than my feeble running efforts at this point, but it did feel a bit of an epic fail to be walking so early on. I mean I can do a parkrun 5k without stopping, so I should have surely managed 2k – except it was almost vertical in ascent.  What was encouraging though, was as the tomtom pacers passed me – which inevitably they did, they shouted out cheery words of encouragement, one was playing upbeat music on some hand-held speaker, so that was fun and cheering.  Good for morale.  Another advantage of having a giraffe you see, it makes you relatively easy to spot amongst the heaving throngs!

If you like a few visuals by way of reference, then whilst we are on the theme of tenuous links (yes we were), the terrain was a bit like that at the early part of the Bushy parkrun route (you can see it really clearly from 1.45 mark). Thanks to Dean Carter for this video of his parkrun in Bushy park – the final in his epic quest to complete all 47 parkruns in the Greater London area.  (Yes, this is mainly an excuse to upload a go-pro of the iconic Bushy parkrun course, but can you blame me really?)

I’d like to say as I stormed up that hill I looked like an extra from Chariots of Fire, but unfortunately I didn’t, however, I did reach the top eventually, and then it got a lot more fun and straightforward.  Again, not many marshals, but the route was obvious, and bold kilometre markers told you how far you’d come.  I got a few cheery shouts of appreciation for Geronimo which was nice.  My favourite though was the two women running together who said the ‘you’ve got a giraffe line‘ which was fair enough, I gave my usual retort of ‘where’s yours?‘ and quick as a shot the reply whizzed back to me from one of them ‘if you’d seen me on the hill you’d know I came as a grumpy cow!’  Genius quipping there. Respect.  I like that in a fellow runner.

Here’s the route by the way – their event guide map, and my strava one, hope it helps:

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There was short part where the returning runners shared the track with those of us still heading out.  The temptation to slot in behind the front runner who I saw out of the corner of my eye was pretty strong at that point, but I had a feeling such subterfuge would not go unnoticed.  At various stages I struck up conversations with other runners, it was a very chatty event. Well it was for me, faster runners were killing themselves with different race plans.  I suspect there may have been some throwing up at the finish line by them.   I met other parkrunners, first time 10k runners, people who’d lost huge amounts of weight, charity runners,  those who’d traveled from afar, and locals too.  There weren’t many running club vests, a few I recognised, but this felt more parkrun community than race like in atmosphere and I really liked that.  Faster runners were celebrated in the prize giving at the end, but the day as a whole was inclusive.  I spent quite a bit of the route step in step with a guy in training for a marathon in a couple of months, he’d just restarted his fitness quest.  He actually did his first half-marathon as a smoker on three-weeks training, he got round, but wow, that would have been tough.  A bit of companionable chat made this part of the route pass more quickly.  I really think slower runners, of which I am one, must have more fun at longer races, whilst I can’t talk and run for a 5k, if it’s more of an endurance, then chatting to marshals or snatched conversations with other runners as you pass one another is part of the shared experience.  It’s good for morale. Those fast runners whizzing by miss out on that.   It’s all very well going for a sub two-hour marathon, but wouldn’t Eliud Kipchoge have enjoyed it all much more if he’d been able to have a natter with pacers en route.  He didn’t crack the time anyway, so he could have just had a nice morning out instead.  He seems a friendly guy, looked smiley on the telly.  I bet he’dhave  loved to have had a chat about running sock preferences on the way round – especially as his attempt was all on a track.  How dull must that be, running round in circles, much better to take your mind of it all by discussing anti-chafing strategies instead.  I might message his Facebook account and suggest it, I expect he’d be glad of the top tip.

There was a St Johns First Aid station around the 7km mark.  Hilariously, just as one of the marshals there helpfully called out to be careful of the uneven terrain, I, in turning to look at him and hear what he was saying  lost concentration and stumbled over a tree root much to the merriment of those around.  A bit further on there was a much-needed water station.  It was so hot and humid and hilly. There was only one woman tending it and she was super stressed, all the bottles she’d put out before hand had gone and she seemed a bit panicked.  It was all good-natured though.

It was a big relief to get into the shade of the trees. There are some beautiful scenic parts of the route as you are up high, you need to remember to look to the right to take in the views. We passed a water feature and a stunning cascading waterfall at one point.  I wasn’t taken with the surface under foot but that’s probably petty of me, and a reflection on my arthritic feet as much as anything.  After a while I pulled ahead of my new friend as we weren’t really pacing the same as the gradient shifted – though we did seem to leap-frog each other for a fair bit afterwards.

There were a few fun surprises en route – the unexpected steel band was completely brilliant, they were positioned so both 5k and 10k runners would pass them, but they were only in place for our return run not on the way out.  Also there were some random full fur suited chipmunks/rabbit I know not what disney-esque creatures. Clearly I thought these were great, and we shared high fives.  I wonder if a live music station at the mid point of the music mile might have been a better option than the several quieter speaker stations, but I suppose there are cost implications to doing that.  Live music was really good.  A proper party atmosphere.  If I had to choose, I’d have had them on the music mile where everyone could enjoy them even if not running, they were a hidden delight for the few up in the woods.  Grand though.  Cheers people!

Eventually we emerged from the woods onto the grass descent.  It was basically through a tall grass meadow, where they’d put a mower through to make a path for runners. The consequence was a mass of dried and drying, recently cut tall grass under foot.  Loose hay basically.  It was a timotei-esque romp through a hay field, only down a really stepp hill.  I like running through hay, kicking it up. It was fun, but also strange and unfamiliar, it felt the surface underfoot was moving, I’ve only had that sensation once before, running on a beach when a wind whipped up the sand so it was blustering round your feet and you couldn’t really see the actual ground through it – it was that same sense of your eye making you think the ground is in motion.  I liked it, surreal, but enjoyable.  Towards the end of the course there were more photographers on hand to capture the emotion of the final 1k.  Not sure what adjectives should apply here, but I’ll go with ‘determined’, and leave it at that.  In my defence, it wasn’t the easist of 10ks you know…

determination

It was still a good 2k to the end, and we ran in past newly arriving participants.  In the last 1km or so there was some tape up marking the route, and competitors who’d finished earlier or not yet run were lining the course.  I saw one Smiley who cheered me in, and a few of the people I’d struck up conversations with earlier who’d finished ahead of me also shouted out support.  It was fun. Then we veered round to the same finish point as the musical miles, so again bling (different ribbon) and onto the stage. There were photographers at the end, and a few at the early stages of the course too, so I posed appropriately.  The photographer pointed out that Geronimo had really done all the work and was the more deserving of the medal, so I repositioned it on her neck rather than mine in recognition of this.  Yay, we’d done it!  In the absence of the official photo as yet, here is my own post event selfie.  It’s a start.

And as a late addition, here are the ‘official ones’, yay!  What a team eh? What, a team?

Again there was loads of water on tables so you could help yourself (got a snowman bottle this time) also had some coconut water which was fab.  One minor gripe was that there was an enormous amount of water bottles on the day (good) but no plastic recycle bins to put the empty ones in (bad), so I really, really hope the litter did get sorted through, the thought of so much plastic ending up in landfill causes me physical pain.  Or worse, getting into our oceans – will there really be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.  I could weep.

seabird and plastic

Didn’t stop me drinking it though, and then after the run, and post-run rehydration,  I went in search of the olympic torch and copped a feel of that.  I was honoured indeed!  Just how many brushes with fame can a person manage in one short day!

having a hold

Yay, then I did some more random mingling. I sighted a few more familiar faces, but most people were on their own different trajectories so not much chatting to people I knew to be fair.  Good to see them all the same, even if at least one of them was fair sprinting away no sooner than she caught sight of me.  I cheered off the afternoon 10k people – it was even hotter then, respect to those who headed off with gusto at one o’clock in the afternoon.

I didn’t really have the energy for more running, tempting as the prospect of getting Disney mile bling was.  The musical miles went on all day, you could run as many as you liked and got a different wrist band for each themed run as far as I could tell.  Some tiny kids were romping round loads of times getting an impressive haul of wrist bands and medals.  That part of the event was pitched well I think.  Even so, I let that opportunity pass, and instead I made a new best friend.  It was an accident, I trod on her bag whilst stepping backwards trying to get this shot.   You can see why I got distracted, it being Wimbledon fortnight, I thought it would be cool to recreate that famous Athena poster again.  Definitely an eye-catching way to raise awareness for a cause!

Anyway, don’t worry, it was a happy accident, as it led to conversation. Turns out she was a marshal at the RSR and we had a fab conversation all about that, and marshaling, and body confidence issues when running, and how the ultimate aspiration is really to feel invisible when running sometimes.  As a slow runner I know others are supportive to me as they stay to cheer me through the finish when I plod home last at a fell race or whatever, and that’s great and I do really appreciate it.  However, it is possible to simultaneously hold two conflicting truths, you know nobody cares what you look like, other runners are supportive, the important thing is that you are having a go etc etc, and yet…  simultaneously you can feel self-conscious and awkward and wish yourself invisible.  I blame being picked last for the netball teams a few too many times at school to be honest.  That lingering sense of inadequacy never really goes away.   Anyway, kindred spirit, you know who you are I salute you.  See you at the TenTenTen.  We hugged, and went our separate ways.  I don’t have a photo of her, but it was like my moment with Jess, we both know what passed between us, we don’t need a  photo to prove a point!

Also, she was able to explain to me who famous celebrity DJ Trevor Nelson was, so that was good.  He did look sort of familiar, and did a great high-energy job on the day, but I’m guessing Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra aren’t really his natural habitat so we haven’t had the opportunity to get acquainted previously.  Still I know now. So that’s good.  There was also a super enthusiastic side-kick/presentation buddy Vassos Alexander who bounced about doing lots of live commentary and who is a famous celebrity sports journalist apparently.   I should not jest, as a google search tells me he writes for The Guardian, so should be taken seriously.  At this inaugural (I think) VitalityMove event you could hardly move for celebrities, it was a shame I wasn’t the right demographic to necessarily appreciate it at the time. Having said that, cynicism aside, I quite liked the way Jess, Trev, and Vasso (we are all friends now) got stuck in and engaged with everyone.  This is definitely not a conventional running event… that’s both it’s selling point and it’s problem. The razzmataz/ festival feel of it all might appeal to new groups of runners, but also might deter those expecting a more traditional event.  I appreciated it though, so that was good enough for me.  I’m self-centred in that respect.

Next, I was on a mission.  A fellow runner en route had told me how he’d blagged some giant foam hands from the TomTom stand.  Good plan.  He just went and asked for them. Basic assertiveness sometimes pays off. I’ve been searching for one of those for a while (long story for another time) and this was my moment.  I went up to the first tomtom rep who made eye-contact and used immense skill and judgement to frame the wording of my request. ‘I’d like a giant foam hand please?’  Something like that, straight to the point, no messing. He nodded, and headed towards a ball pit surrounded by children and for an awful moment I thought he was just going to take a foam hand off one of them!  My mistake, there was a whole pile of them (foam hands, not children), I got not just one hand but two!  Hurrah.

handy

It seemed only polite by way of appreciation to show that I do have a tomtom and I do really like it, even though it has a few features I still don’t know how to use. Well, this turned into another brilliant chat.  Not only is my TomTom now properly set to miles, and I understand it isn’t broken when it won’t move back from a screen straight away (that’s a protective feature to stop it being over-sensitive and stopping mid-run apparently)  but also  I also got to learn a whole load about ultra running from the Australian rep.  He himself is hoping to do the Marathon des Sables in 2019 as part of a team who were the first aboriginal participants to complete the insanely challenging 251km in six days ultrarun which is basically all across desert.  I think last year.  Exasperatingly I can’t find any references to this awesome achievement on google, there is the Indigenous Marathon Foundation, which raises funds for entries to the New York Marathon for indigenous Asutralians, and is interesting but not the same at all. However, this organisation did the Marathon des Sables as a fund-raiser for the IMF at some point so that came up at the top of all the google hits, so I couldn’t locate the aboriginal team.  Oh well.   Anyway it was so interesting hearing about that, and the inspiration this runner got from reading ‘Born to Run‘ which I keep hearing about and must actually read one day.   The book that is, not the Bruce Springsteen album, different motivational sequence altogether!  Plus we talked about what it’s like living and working in a different country. It was two and a half decades ago, but I did spend a year in Australia and it was fantastic, but I missed unexpected things like radio, a shared sense of humour – which it turns out is much more culturally specific than you may think, strange things, so it was interesting to hear what it was like in reverse, an Australian living long-term in London.  Well, I enjoyed the chat anyway.  As we said farewell, I realised I’d spent the whole conversation stood up on a mini stage whilst he was standing on the ground.  It was only departing that I realised he was very tall, but I hadn’t noticed, I wonder if he had noticed my giraffe?  Thanks tomtom people, for the nice pacers, my nice watch, the foam hands, the opportunity to hold an olympic torch and the running insights.  Good to meet you and you were all great ambassadors for the brand too IMHO for what it’s worth.  Here are all the TomTom gang.  Can you spot the Marathon des Sables wannabee amongst them?  Also foam hand.  Fab eh?

tomtom team spot the Australian

I didn’t feel like leaving straight away though I was peckish by now.  I’d had more water, some coconut water (fab freebie) and splashed out on a cup of decent coffee, but the food options were a bit out of my budget, though in line with the sort of upmarket food stands you get at this kind of event.  I decided to stay for the prize giving.  Winners for 5k and 10k morning and afternoon men and women. Quite good prizes too, tomtom watches and things.  There were some stonking times.   This celebrated the competitive part of the day.  It was good, and nice to see.  I did wonder though, if given this was supposed to be a more inclusive event if they could maybe have had some more random spot prizes so celebrating the non-speedy as well.  You know like at fell races, when they have, oh I don’t know: muddiest legs; finish position same as race number; furthest traveled entrant; most radiant smile; best face-plant of the day whatever. They wouldn’t have to be particularly expensive ones – a foam hand would have done, but something to acknowledge different ways of participating were valid too.  I suppose it depends again what the target group is for this event, it still isn’t entirely clear to me, maybe that’s why it was a hard sell… Even so, it was fun cheering the winners – it was a young girl who picked up second woman for the morning 5k, or maybe even the 10k, I had very little grasp of who got what.   Awesome achievement though, super speedy run!

Oh I nearly forgot, if you care about the actual results then they are here for the VitalityMove event.  Weirdly the results for each distance are merged into one table.  I’m not fussed about my time and can see some merit in this approach for a fun event.  However, it could be a high risk strategy as I suspect more competitive types may think otherwise, if their places in one 10k are diminished in comparison to times for the other.  It will be interesting to see what the feedback about that is.  I say ‘feedback’ what I really mean though is expressions of indignation on facebook, no way of knowing how representative that is of anyone to be fair.  Some will mind though, I’m sure of that.

Prizes dolled out, I decided it was time to go home.  As I was leaving, on a whim I decided I would actually like an event T-shirt and it seemed a way to contribute to the event a bit as I hadn’t paid.  There was no-one queuing for merchandise so it was an opportunity to have a bit of a natter with the woman selling the T-shirts.  Tenner a time.  Large sizes, I think though possible all men’s fit rather than women’s.

tumbleweed corner

Anyway, to cut to the proverbial chase, it quickly became apparent that this was yet a further celebrity sighting for the day!  After debating the relative merits of the T-shirt sizing, and breaking the ice by me wrestling in and out of various sizes whilst she provided real-time feedback on their fit (she didn’t need to say anything, you could see from her facial expressions) we got onto running related story telling. Well dear reader, she is only the current Guinness World Record holder for the Fastest half marathon running backwards (female).  I know!  How exciting is that.  I have a sort of fascination for backwards running because I only found out relatively recently that it is an actual thing and it seems to me truly remarkable.  I tried to pump her for information as much as possible before someone else turned up actually wanting a T-shirt and so she was able to break eye-contact and end the conversation, and it is just as amazing as you might think.  So, to get a few things straight:

  1. Shantelle Gaston-Hird ran in aid of an anti-bullying charity at the Wimslow half earlier this year.  Running for a cause she felt really passionately about helped to motivate her.
  2. The answer to the question ‘but how do you train for a running backwards event?’ is, remarkably enough ‘by running backwards in training.’  Who knew?  The thing is – and I speak as a fancy dress wearer of some experience – I can totally see how it’s easy enough to carry off what might be (erroneously) considered to be an eccentric approach to a running as part of an event.   Half-marathons and marathons everywhere positively welcome the fun-runners and their crowd pleasing antics, but pounding the roads in the dark of winter during training running backwards, or in fancy dress – well that’s a whole new level of dedication.  However, and it’s obvious really when you think about it, the people who live near where she runs locally are so used to it apparently they don’t bat an eyelid these days.  I love that.
  3. Running backwards uses five times more effort than running forwards, so it’s very much more physically demanding
  4. She has only ever fallen over (or was it crashed into something) once in training, and that was because she was distracted by catching her long hair in a zip in her top and didn’t stop running whilst trying to disentangle herself from this mishap.  Distraction related face plant then, we’ve all had them out running.  Haven’t we?
  5. She has a running forward guide on the day to keep it all safe.  Training is a more solitary undertaking
  6. She did it in about 2 and a half hours, that’s splendid is it not?

I was so in awe, I actually remembered to ask for a photo (I’ve so regretted not getting a selfie with the mankini marathon man at London, and I’ve learned from that).  So here it is, plus one from the Wilmslow Guardian article celebrating her world record breaking run by way of further illustration of her achievement, and in case there are still some doubters out there.  A.Maz.Ing.  Fact!  Maybe I’ll try to Photoshop me in alongside her later.  First of all I have to see if I have that on my laptop and learn how to use it, so best you don’t wait up in anticipation.

So you see, this whole event was jam-packed with awesome people.  All runners are great, you just have to bother to find out their individual stories, everyone has one. You have your own too, I’m sure.

I drifted back to the car park, snapping the dancing troupes and a couple of particularly photogenic children in the throng as I left.

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So there you go. Debut VitalityMove, yep, a grand day out indeed.  Geronimo  Sky is quite tired now though, so I think she’ll have a break from running for a bit, but her medal count is pretty good to date.  Bodes well.

For my part, I think this is a model for a running event that could indeed run and run (pun intended) but whether it is a financially viable one I’m not so sure.  I gained the distinct impression that many of the people I’d met were last-minute entries who used coupons many and various to get generous discounts.  I hope they do try to offer the  event again, with a bit of tweaking there should be room in the running calendar for more days out and about like this.  However, I do fear the VitalityMove offering may instead disappear into the mists of time like the town of Brigadoon. For those of us who discovered it and were there, it will be the stuff of joyful memories and legend, but fated not to be seen again for a hundred years.  For my part though, I had a grand day out, as did Geronimo, so thanks Jess and everyone who had the imagination to think this day up and make it happen.  It was worth doing, and I for one appreciated it, which is a start.  Cheers!

So til next time, happy running y’all.  Get out there and embrace them there hills! 🙂

 

P.S.   PHOTOS: There are/will be lots of photos – you could buy a bundle in advance for £10 which was pretty good value as there were lots  of cameras around on the day – O had 61 photos of me to browse through.  Granted about 50 of them made me want to vanish off the face of the earth instantaneously, or at the very least never be seen in public again, but some were really run.  All captured the sense of occassion.  I didn’t find the website user-friendly though, it took some tenacity to get the darned photos to download and I never worked out how to get them directly onto facebook, which in retrospect is probably a massive blessing.  Otherwise it was £25 afterwards which is a bit of a jump in price.  AWOL have some in the public domain here taken from social media sites; and Jessica Ennis put loads of vidoes up on her official facebook page on the day.  Here’s one of the general atmosphere on the stage by way of example. I’m guessing more photos will follow on both the VitalityMove Facebook page and the AWOL Facebook page at some point.

and they have!  Check out this selection from the  Chatsworth Album here from VitalityMove for a start.

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Categories: 10km, off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Tis ‘Round Sheffield Run Eve’ – Roger that!

So today is the evening before the race morning after.  My regular reader will know that the Round Sheffield Run is the highlight of my running year.  Not only for me, but for other Sheffielders, it is long looked forward to, and, apart from the first year when nobody knew what to expect, it sells out really, really quickly.

Uhm.  Can I be bothered to explain it all again?  Not really, but go on then.    Simply put – the Round Sheffield Run is a 20km off-road trail run, only actually it’s 24km.  Only 20km of it is timed. You do it in stages, so you only really run a couple of kilometers in one go. Teeny little stages, way less than a parkrun. As a consequence, it is easy to overlook basic arithmetic principles of the need to add all these sections together to estimate the total mileage required, it just doesn’t look that far, not really.  Hardly worth training for.

race card

Also there are trees, and friendly marshals, feed stations groaning under the weight of munchies at two points along the way.  Friendly comradely runners, lots of different start waves.  All social and jolly, and not really running at all, apart from the 24 km and the 2,121ft of elevation which is basically a flat route in Sheffield terms.  Well maybe ‘undulating’.  Oh and cows probably.  You get your own dibber!  Always a boon.  Good bling and fine music and dining options post run.  Guaranteed sunshine I seem to recall but might need to check terms and conditions for that to be fair.  I don’t know why someone has taken a bite out of the acorn they used to model the medal, bad idea.  Acorns can be really poisonous. Well for horses they are, pigs like them, and so did Eeyore, so maybe donkeys are OK with them, or possibly only Eeyore, I don’t know.  Look, stop hassling me about the acorns for goodness sake. It’s the running people you need to look at.  They haven’t officially told me, but I’m really confident they modeled those figures on me and my running buddy of previous years.  I’m fine with it, I’d have given consent freely had they asked.

Bottom line, is that this has always been to date anyway, a super fun event and a ‘must do’ occasion on the Sheffield Running Calendar.  However, just because at Hallam parkrun this morning we were all buzzing about it in eager anticipation ‘it’s like running Christmas day!’ exclaimed one running buddy (who actually likes Christmas by the way, in case you were wondering), doesn’t mean that on Round Sheffield Eve there isn’t a bit of apprehension as well.

In the spirit of getting my excuses in early, as in previous years it is now dawning on me that actually, you know what it is quite a long way. Also as in previous years I haven’t followed the diligent training regime I’d fondly imagined undertaking when I signed up some months ago.  Worse than that, I’ve even knackered my knee this time.  Hilariously, or ironically, depending on your point of view, I did this whilst doing a recce for the RSR two weeks ago. The plan had been to do the whole route at a steady trot just to remind myself of how to pace it, and give myself the confidence I’d get round fine on the day. The plan was definitely not to pick up a post race running injury a fortnight ahead of the event.  Epic fail alas.  In stead, I realised about half way round my knee was giving serious gyp (is that even a word?) and by the time I’d finished it, it was fair screaming at me never to run again.  I’ve never hurt my knee running before.  Usually it’s just my pride that suffers under any exertion.  Uh oh. RSR in doubt.

I’ve had to back off even my usual pitiful running schedule, including missing out on both woodrun and the frontrunner fell running Wednesday evenings.  Well I made one, pre-injury, and it was good fun actually, in a ‘let’s bound off boulders and try to out run the midges’ at Padley Gorge way.  I enjoyed it.  Not sure the couple who’d come out for a romantic picnic at the same spot felt entirely the same way….  But hey ho, each to their own.  The photo is stolen from Fell Running Guide by the way.  Thanks!  🙂  I’m in there somewhere… actually, I probably bounded so high I’m quite out of shot, leaping in a trajectory over the head of the photographer now I think of it. That makes sense.

fell running guide bouldering

So, upshot is, it’s the evening before the long-awaited RSR, and I’m feeling well, more towards the ‘what was I thinking‘ rather than ‘bring it on‘ end of the continuum.  This happens every year to be fair, but normally I’m only battling being ridiculously under-prepared, not usually carrying an injury as well.

I went to parkrun at Hallam today, just for a gentle trot round to see if knee was up to it.  It’s flat, and we are doing an alternative route at the moment because of road works.  It’s really nice actually, under the shade of trees and a bit more traily, though also quite narrow so not for speed  merchants.  I figured I needed to see if I can do 5km without my knee crumbling, and it seems I can, as long as I’m careful going down hills.  Me and my trotting compatriot for the day were deliberately slow as we are tapering for tomorrow, slow enough that we briefly contemplated just doing the one lap and whizzing through the finish funnel to secure new pbs.  It was  bit confused with the route and we’d already been lapped so we may well have got away with it.  Plus, added temptation, lamentable times tomorrow could be explained by this unexpected performance peak the day before!  In the end we didn’t though.  There is little point in ‘cheating’ at parkrun. None whatsoever in fact, but the little moment of enjoying a fantasy finish time spurred us round!

Well, I was, waivering about whether running the RSR tomorrow is really such a great idea, but you know what dear reader?  I’ve just finished convening with Roger, and I’m feeling a bit brighter now. Roger has been a running buddy for a while now. We were supposed to do the London Marathon together, but that didn’t happen for various reasons, and he’s been resting for most of the year.   If by ‘resting’ you mean being stuffed in a plastic carrier bag at the back of a wardrobe.  I went to find him, to explain…

DSCF7802

Roger has been a great running buddy over the years, but I just wonder if it’s a bit much to drag him out on a 24km yomp when he hasn’t done anything since Southwark parkrun back in April.  I mean, I do have a contingency giraffe (don’t we all), it would still be less embarrassing to face the event in fancy dress than in unforgiving lycra in the raw… maybe I should utilise that and let Roger retire, or at least have a season off, and then he can return restored, renewed and reinvigorated some other time after the requisite rest and relaxation has worked its magic.

Roger is wise though.  He’s given me a bit of a pep talk.  I was saying how much I wished there would be some more runners out there on the trails.  So I wont be the last one out there all alone on the trails.  I don’t mind being slowest one out there, but I’d like to get back in daylight and before the coffee place has packed up.   Lawks a lordy – I don’t even know if I can run for a bus anymore, let alone romp round 24km, feed stations a plenty or not!

Roger though is smart.  He explained you have to just find your motivation and then you can unlock your inner runner no worries.

not a runner

If there were more runners, there might be more slowbies, and if there were more marshals, that would be more motivational high-fives and sweaty hugs to give me strength.  ‘Well‘, he said, ‘don’t you dare wish for a single runner more.   There are runners enough out there – any more finishers would only dilute your achievement‘.  I paraphrase, what he actually said was this:

What’s that your wishing for?

More runners  Lucy? No! don’t think it;

If we are meant to run, we are enough

To take on Sheffield’s trails; and still to live,

The fewer run, the greater share of honour.

I mean really! I say, wish not one runner more.

FFS! I would not lose so great an honour

As one more trail runner might steal from us

It will be great! O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, to anyone who’ll listen,

That they who have no stomach for this run,

Let them depart; we’ll wave them on their way,

And jelly babies for convoy give to them;

We would not yomp in that runner’s company

They that fear they might expire out there

and so choose not to die in fellowship with us.

Fair play, they need not join us running scared.

And yet….

This race is call’d the Round Sheffield Run of well, Sheffield!

We that outrun these trails, and come safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,

And come alive at the very mention of the RSR

We shall tell all who’ll listen* of our triumph

And how we took on the great challenge of the day.

We that shall see this day, and live old age,

Will yearly on the vigil bore fellow runners,

And say “To-morrow is the Round Sheffield Run

I’ve done that!  Loads of times!  Go me!”

Then we will we strip our shoes and show our scars,

And say “These blisters I had up Porter Valley.

See this hamstring limp?  That’s from the limb descent”

Others may forget, but we won’t ever,

We’ll still remember, with advantages,

What feats we did that day. Then shall our club names,

Familiar in the mouth as household words—

Be newly toasted

We shall drink to Smiley Paces; Dark Peak to boot;

Cheers to Monday Mobsters and parkrunners all;

Strideout were there and Les Brutelles

Team Sloth and the lovely Barnsley Harriers too

Shout loud for Valley Hill Runners also

and the Porter Valley Plodders pounding through

all trail runners a-go-go who pulled on their shoes to run

Undaunted by the hills, or mud or the fact that ‘it’s an awfully long way to have to go now we come to think of it…’

So shall all such Round Sheffield Runners

Be each year by flowing cups freshly rememb’red.

This race shall remain the mecca trail run for all of England

And the Round Sheffield Run shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

Without all those who have ever run it being rememberèd-

We few, we happy few, we band of runners;

For they this day that pound the trails with me

Shall forever be my running buddies;

Even be they ever so vile,

This day shall gentle their condition;

And runners of the world that stay in-bed

Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,

And hold their run bling cheap whilst any speaks

That ran with us upon the Round Sheffield Trails!

No honestly, he did!  It was stirring stuff.  I can hardly not rock up at the start after all that!

So are you coming out with me tomorrow then Roger?’  I asked.  ‘I’m not sure’ he said, ‘you know about the “for want of a shoe” don’t you?  Well, I’m not feeling too fabulous, and for want of a proverbial shoe you might not make it round the whole trail.  Don’t you have a back up plan?  One time only.   Any random bit of African wildlife would do?’  ‘Oh’.  I said.  ‘I’ll think about it.  It wouldn’t be the same without you, but I do take you point.’

So bottom line.  I just need to find and channel my inner runner.  When I do, if I can’t run like the wind, I shall run like the winded, which means I’ll still get to be part of it, and as a bonus, it also means I can eat the Belgian bun I have stashed away.  It was going to be to celebrate having completed the run. But who I am trying to kid. Why go for delayed gratification when really I should be focusing on carbing up.  Essential pre-event prep as any runner can tell you.

Soooooooooooooo, I expect I will be seeing you all at the start after all.  Don’t have nightmares!  And don’t forget to high-five me as you pass.  If I’m collapsed on the trails, please step over me, no stamping on my face. Thanks in anticipation.

running like the winded

*to be fair, I don’t think we’ll care if anyone in the vicinity is listening or not, we’ll just hold forth about our RSR experiences anyway, shouting louder if necessary, so they can still here us as they try to get away.

 

Oh and for all my RSR blog posts see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

Categories: off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The glamour of Grindleford, getting stylish on the trails…

Digested read:  your personal running mojo can be elusive, but you’ll get by with the help of your friends.  You might get wet as well though, so go out prepared.  That’s my experience anyway.  Running buddies are awesome. Just go run.

You’ll have to wait for the visual punchline to fully understand and appreciate the  ‘getting stylish’ reference of the heading.  I’m not suggesting by the way, it will necessarily be worth the wait, only pointing out that the delay is unavoidable. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles.  Proverbially that is, there are no actual cookies available to readers of this post unless you have taken the precaution of sourcing your own.  Which would be sensible to be fair, but is beyond my area of control or influence.

So.  I’ve been feeling really wobbly about what I euphemistically refer to as my ‘running’ of late. This isn’t only in the literal sense.  Whilst it is true that I increasingly find it impossible-to-ignore the independent motion of my extra layers of adipose tissue that jiggle unbidden whenever I attempt any turn of speed.  I swear parts of my anatomy have developed a life of their own, whole colonies are boiling beneath.  I refer also to my metaphorical negative and wobbly state of mind.  I’m currently in utterly disheartened mode, my ‘running career’ (if that isn’t the ultimate oxymoron of all time) braked completely in Cambodia, and since I’ve returned to the UK I seem to be slower and more lumbering than ever before.  My running mojo has evaporated.  I am too shamed to show my face at running club, and feel more intimidated than ever by ‘proper runners’ bounding by at organised events, or ostentatiously stretching and warming up at the startlines.  To be fair, this latter issue is I know mine not theirs.  In the main ‘proper runners’ have only ever been supportive and encouraging to me.  Perhaps it is just human nature.  Whether or not it is a universal truth, it’s definitely an individual one.  Whatever, my personal paranoia, ensures it is only ever the notable exceptions whose actions and voices spring into my mind.  My negative self-talk hardly needs a mocking chorus of others to reinforce it.   I can be loud enough all on my own. This dear reader, is how negative running cycles start.  Not in the ‘now I must undertake a duathlon as this cycle is so compelling and it’s all running round me as well‘ sense, more in the ‘this sofa is a way preferable option to humiliating myself in public by running‘ one.  Only, with great irony, it usually isn’t. The sofa I mean, really being the better option.  There is no great mystery to running, the only way to get back into it (injuries and over-training aside) is to get back into it.  That is, to go out and run.  Stop/start slow/ fast or otherwise.   It remains true that once completed, I have never regretted a run ever (though I will concede that I have sometimes deeply regretted undertaking a run at the time).  Short term memory failings, brought about by post-run endorphins are in this respect the runner’s friend.

never run again

So it was, that feeling really crap about life the universe and everything in general and running in particular, when a suggestion of hooking up with some slow and steady trail explorers popped into my inbox I hesitated before swiping left.  What if?

In the end, I decided not to over-think it, just go out and try. After all, it was a lovely day, full of promise for evening sunshine in verdant countryside. What’s the worst? ‘Yes please‘ I said, adding a ‘Simon’s Cat’ emoticon for good measure and hitting send… and then I did my research….

So the plan was to do a recce for the Grindleford Fell Race.  I’ve not actually entered this year, well not yet anyway.  But lots of lovely smiley-by-name and smiley-by-nature smiley paces comrades have.  It’s 15th June this year, and not many spaces left at the time of writing.  I know nothing about this event.  I decided to have a little look at the route.  This induced near apoplectic paralytic panic, as I inadvertently happened on the route for the Grindleford Gallop instead.  The Grindleford Gallop is 21 miles and 3000ft of ascent, and requires navigation.  Not at all the gentle confidence-building romp out I’d fondly imagined I’d signed up to.  Cripes!  Fortunately, once I’d mopped up the puddles of tea spat out in shock and disbelief earlier, I was able to find the actual fell race route. That was much more encouraging.  4.5 miles, and ideal for newcomers. The Grindleford Fell race website tells us that:

The Grindleford Fell Race takes place over a 4.5miles route starting on the playing fields. The route takes you up through Hay Wood, the Longshore Estate and back through Padley Gorge. The celebrated river crossing within site of the finishing line offers excellent spectating opportunities (!).

The route is well marshalled and partially taped.

This race is suitable for newcomers to fell racing and requires no local knowledge or navigational skills.

Phew, that’s OK then.

So it was, at the appointed hour, I stood outside waiting for my pick up just as the heavens opened and freezing torrential rain started to pour out of the sky. This was not the plan.  However, dear reader, this is also a learning point potentially. For the conscientious-if-not-keen runner such as myself, making an agreement to meet is half the battle.  I’d never have gone out for a run in my own in the face of such inclement weather, but we’d agreed, so what can you do?  You have to turn out don’t you.

Thank you running buddy for sweeping me up and out of the rain. We peered through the rain beating down on the windscreen and squinted through the mist as we headed out to Grindleford.  The rendezvous point was at the Cricket Club Pavilion, where at 7.30 on a Tuesday evening there was ample parking. We sat waiting for our other Smiley compatriots to appear.  We didn’t risk venturing out the car. Who’d want to step out into that?  Besides, seated where we were, we had a great view of a rather intrepid ground maintenance guy. He was mowing the near vertiginous slopes of grass that were alongside and behind the clubhouse with what looked alarmingly like an electric powered lawnmower.  I seem to remember something in my science O levels about the perils of eletricity and water mixing  in the proximity of a person.  Or was that Frankenstein?  Anyway it was pretty impressive.  It seemed to me reminiscent of that sport of extreme ironing.  You know where people take ironing boards to remote and inaccessible places and then iron random items of clothing. To be fair, this extreme mowing looked more hazardous. Wet slippery slope, and storm overhead.  High adrenalin inducing activity I’d say.  There are no photos of the extreme mowing in action, so here is an extreme ironing one instead.  Enjoy.

440px-Extermeironingrivelin

After a bit, four of us assembled, and we had to leave the sanctuary of the car.  Fortuitously, we had all got some sort of wet weather gear with us, even though we’d all been caught out by the elements.  Beyond my running jacket, I rather stupidly hadn’t brought anything else.  I know it’s summer but it got darker than I expected and with hindsight a head torch, whilst not necessary this time, would probably have been sensible just in case.  I hadn’t even worn my fell shoes.   This is my problem.   Hope over experience.  I have done a few fell races now, but I still am astonished to find that they all involve rough terrain and… a hill! Why is that always such a surprise?  I think I just block out the bad memories otherwise I really would never venture out in the peaks again.

This run was no exception.   We set off at a steady pace down a little road, over a wooden foot bridge and then almost immediately off down a footpath into the woods.  I say down a footpath, but you know what?  It was definitely UP.  A lot of up.  I was puffing and feeling hopeless in next no time, just like I was doing a ‘proper run’.  Fell races have hills, there is a clue in the name.  To be fair, in the grand scheme of things this was by no means the steepest or longest of available hauls heavenwards.  But, it was enough of a challenge to me, trying to drag my weary carcass contrary to the pull of gravity that I was seriously wondering if this ‘joyfully venturing out with others’ was just romantic nonsense.  Running uphill is hard, and this wasn’t the most auspicious of starts.  One of our quartet sped by like a little rocket. Impressive.  I caved in and started walking.  I will concede it was beautiful though. The rain was heavy enough that it penetrated the tree canopy, but it was so green.  Full of moss and ferns, and, unsurprisingly perhaps, we had the place to ourselves.

grindleford moss

As we reached the top of the path, I realised I’d made the rookie error of not having started my tomtom, so all that elevation was completely wasted on me.  It wont be on strava so it never happened, whatever my calves might be telling me the day after.  Oh well.  I had no idea of the route, seeing my role here as follower rather than leader.  The consensus of those in the know was that the fell race would probably carry on through the woods for a bit, but that might take us into private land and no-one was really confident about the exact path.  Instead, we headed off through a little gate and along a path in green, green fields.  Heading towards Longshaw. To my embarrassment, I didn’t realise how these paths all connect together.  It’s in fact ridiculously close.  The fields were beautiful, and this was a gentler gradient albeit still uphill.  I can’t really talk and run, which, made me feel as if I was being a bit antisocial. On reflection though, it was – and indeed perhaps always is – probably a blessing for those compelled to run alongside me!

I don’t really know where we went exactly, but we did end up at Longshaw, and seeing spring lambs cavorting and staring cattle and calves silently observing our progress.  It was a gorgeous route.  With a good flat section on fairly solid paths for those who wished to stretch out.  Hang on, I’ll get the strava route for you. It’s incomplete, but you’ll get the idea.  See if you can spot the missing section?  Not exactly a mensa challenge is it?

grindleford recce route.jpg

We emerged and crossed a road towards Padley Gorge, where we thought we’d have to paddle across a stream, but were able to pick our way across on stepping-stones staying pretty dry. Into more lovely woodland.  Maybe because the uphill bit was now behind me, or maybe because my legs were warmed up by now, or maybe I’d just settled into the new running company this was bit was the most fun.  We hopped and picked our way over the bouncy woodland tracks, and tried to remember to look up and around us not just down at the tree roots and random stones.  We took time to pose for selfies (very important) and agreed how lovely it was to be out and about.  We weren’t out for very long really, but it does transport you to a seemingly parallel universe.  The rain had stopped.  The gradient was in our favour, as the paths ahead led down, ironically, things were looking up.

We emerged, more road.  And then I got very confused about where we went.  We sort of cut across what must have been a very over-grown footpath, alarming various sheep that were clearly unused to pathfinders emerging from the nettles and thistles at all, let alone at seemingly superhuman (er hem) speed.  We ended up on a lovely green, flat flood plain, alongside the river.  My faster companions sprinted ahead.  I take seriously my role in life as ballast at the back, so didn’t deviate too much from that.  I caught them up as they stopped, staring at the alarmingly fast flowing river.  We had to cross it.  The irony that we’d endeavoured to stay dry up top, only to now plunge in water and get completely soaked was striking. Even so, there was little alternative.  Our pathfinder leader espied some steps on the opposite bank, that she declared to be ‘familiar’.  Good enough for the rest of us.

Like the billy goats gruff, we took it in turns to wade across.  It wasn’t massively deep, though a lot deeper than I’d anticipated for sure, well over  my knees.   It also felt pretty firm underfoot – but what was more disconcerting was the current.  I don’t know how experienced fell runners sprint through such crossings. I’m built for solidity, but I felt like my legs were going to be swept from underneath me.  It was fun though.  You feel kind of intrepid, but it’s actually pretty tame in the grand scheme of things.  Even so, I did rather regret my choice of shoes. Inexplicably, despite the fact this was a fell race recce, as referenced earlier, I hadn’t thought to wear my fell shoes, but instead was wearing my new hoka trail ones.  I do really like them, but my fell raisers would have been better.  Water went into my hokas alright, but doesn’t drain out in the effortless fountain I’ve come to expect as the standard response from my fellraisers.  Ah well, we live and learn I suppose.  I may be slower than others on the uptake at time, but I daresay I’ll get there eventually.

The river crossing complete, there were a few short steps and then, the moment you were waiting for, a style!  We aren’t completely stupid, the style was padlocked, necessitating a clamber over.  I’m not sure quite why. We weren’t doing it just for fun or ostentatious ‘tough mudder’ training.   Probably we had committed an inadvertent trespass, but there was no-one standing with a gun making us retrace our steps so that was OK.  Rather just our lovely pathfinder with her phone to capture the exact moment of our stylish exit from the trail.  You can judge for yourself exactly how much the camera loves us!  I know. A thing of wonder indeed!

Inevitably, as I’d spent the whole run completely clueless as to our exact whereabouts, I was a bit surprised to find we were pretty much back where we started.  Just the playing fields themselves to cover with an optional sprint finish.  In the middle of it sat a somewhat incongruously placed mandarin duck.  It pointedly ignored us I felt. This was a duck that would not be moved. It sat motionless, and fearless as we ran by.  I don’t have a picture of the actual duck, but here is one for illustrative purposes, they can sort of make themselves all small and tucked up.  Amazing creatures really.  Gotta love a duck.

george mandarin duck1

And that was it. Run over.  Game over. We were back with the cars.  Grindleford yomp concluded.  By the way, the extreme mowing cycle had been completed in our absence. I must say the ground looked splendid. The mower operative was pushing his mower across the car park and both appeared intact. On this occasion at least it seemed he had survived the challenge and neither tumbled in front of the roaring blades of his run away mower at any critical point, nor been struck by lightning.  He lives to mow another day….. this time.

The conclusion dear reader?  Despite my initial reluctance, poor shoe choice and the inclement weather you know what.  It WAS fun.  My running buddies were supportive, encouraging and great company.   And you know what – sometimes they have running demons to wrestle with too!  Who knew.  I’m not the only person in the world ever to be riddled with self-doubt over running, or to have misplaced their running mojo.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say my confidence to get out and get running has returned.  But I would say that my desire to try to find my running mojo again has.  It is true it seems that:  ‘I really regret that run’ said no-one ever.

regret

So if your running mojo currently seems AWOL.   Worry not, like a long forgotten missing sock, it is probably still out there somewhere, and you can expect to be unexpectedly reunited in time.  No-one expects the unexpected of course, so you won’t believe me.  I’m not sure I do myself.  But in the meantime, surely there is no harm in yomping out in search of it.  The search is part of the fun.

So thank you for the unexpected yomp out and about Smiley running buddies.  You are smiling, shining stars indeed.  Go you!  Go us! Go everyone! Don’t think, just run. There will be cake!

dont-think-about-it

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

Silverdale Stampede – reimagining the school run

Digested read:  Silverdale School put on an inaugural 10k trail run on 14 May 2017.  I went.  It was fun.  I went home with a pineapple!*  Will go again next year.  *Note, not everyone got a pineapple, but that’s OK because running in such a lovely setting is its own reward.

It always seems a good idea at the time, entering a trial run. To be honest, that’s how it starts. You see the innocuous looking poster for a local 10k at some vague and distant point in time.  From the sanctuary of your sofa, you imagine the joy you will experience as you cavort through idyllic fields whilst breathing in the loveliness of the local countryside.  I think it’s called positive visualisation. This leads you to believe you will romp round hardly breaking a sweat, before concluding this graceful10k trot out with a seemingly effortless sprint through a perfectly configured finish funnel.  This finale flourish of your glorious finish, will be to a chorus of congratulatory screams from an assembly of awe-struck spectators, who will be crying with admiration at your achievement and tossing victory laurels at you in between shouting your name in adulation.  You yourself will conclude your challenge with a self-deprecating wave of your hand to indicate ‘really, it was nothing‘  subtext ‘see me, super human, born to run‘.  I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Truthfully, the actual experience of participating in the inaugural Silverdale Stampede wasn’t entirely in keeping with how I envisaged it from the sanctuary of my own sitting room some weeks earlier, but it was still well worth the effort of getting my weary carcass up and out on a Sunday morning.  Hopefully it will be just the first Silverdale Stampede of many more, and next year, maybe you too dear reader will come join the fun.  Find out for yourself whether or not ‘fun run’ is the ultimate oxymoron or a cast iron guarantee of grit, glory and gratification, and yes indeed running fun!  Albeit susceptible to type one (genuinely fun at the time) and type two (only identifiable as fun retrospectively) variants, depending on your point of view.  Do your own research people, don’t rely on what others tell you, thereby lies most of the misinformation in the world. FACT.  But obviously, don’t take my word for it.  Way too ironic.

So this was the first clue – a poster proclaiming the intention to cause a Stampede at a local school.  There were some surprises in the initial publicity.  Back in my day, schools didn’t particularly encourage stampedes, for example British Bulldog was banned early on in my school career for health and safety reasons – you can have one too many unconsious school pupils on a school playground apparently –  though I’m proud to say at my junior school we continued to play it under the new branding of ‘sheep sheep come home’.  Enterprising peers I had at the time.  I don’t know if British Bulldog is still alive and kicking (literally and metaphorically) in playgrounds today, but it seems that the practise of chasing down a quarry in the name of sport at school is still alive and well.  Feel for the teachers subjected here not only to the pressures of Ofsted inspections and sats but being pursued cross county by a manic mass.  Still, whatever it takes to gather the necessary enthusiasm and momentum to get people along to the event I suppose.   Perhaps students will be lured by the opportunity to hunt down their esteemed mentors.  I expect that on catching them they’d want to thank them for all their educational labours on behalf of their teenage charges.  For me, the push to commit to entering was more the strictly-off-the-record insider information that amongst the (many) spot prizes donated that might potentially be bestowed on participating runners, was a large quantity of gin. Also, at that point in time, more prizes than runners.  Result!  I might yet be truthfully able to claim having one something at a sports day!   Where running is concerned, it really helps to think about what motivates you at an early stage in your training.  The most elite of runners will tell you so.  Check out the strap line for our very own local GB triathletes Les Brutelles for confirmation if you must, they proclaim ‘We swim a bit, bike a bit, run a bit and drink gin quite a lot‘. So fair enough to have them as role models whose lead we must follow. Surely?  Totally legitimate part of a training plan, apparently. (But see note earlier, about always checking out primary resources in research for yourself)

bargain prices

So, I set about entering…. and found to my amazement that early entries required the inclusion of a cheque.  It’s been a while since I’ve had to write out one of them. Not to worry, sourcing my cheque book in amongst the debris of my living space was  a sort of cross training exercise all of its own.  Much squatting and stretching into dark corners before it was located.  The cheque was sent, and a couple of days later my email acknowledgement was duly received.  I was in.  So ever conscientious if not keen, that meant I was going to be running in this Silverdale Stampede, ready or not.  Mostly not, but hey ho.

It has been ridiculously dry of late, so I was impressed that the Silverdale School PTA managed to organise quite a downpour overnight the day before to ensure the off-road trails would be appropriately bouncy and the vegetation newly washed and bursting out with fresh growth.  On waking there was still some rain about, but it brightened up.  In an unprecedented turn of events, my temperature testing ritual (arm out of an upstairs window) indicated it might get pretty hot out there.  Today I would run in a T-shirt under my Smiley vest, I don’t think this has ever happened to me at an organised event before – I always wear a long-sleeved top.  It offers more protection against inclement elements, allergy inducing under-growth and frankly is a more forgiving cut.  I don’t reject it lightly.  However, even I had to concede I’d probably collapse in the heat if I insisted on wearing it today. Well, I would if I was planning to wear a Smiley vest as well, and I couldn’t not wear that.  Hence, a running first in my world anyway.  I would bare my arms to the world in pursuit of glory at the Silverdale Stampede.  Two inaugural events on one day!  The planets must have aligned in some special debut inducing way.

I’d never actually been to Silverdale School before, or indeed any school for years and years, decades probably.  I expect schools to smell of cabbage and carbolic soap, be fitted with huge noisy radiator pipes that will, according to oral history, give you extensive piles for life should you risk sitting on them even for a snatched instant. Toilets will have cracked sinks and corners heaped with tapeworm eggs amongst the dust of ages.  Honestly, in ‘O’ level biology we were told that this was a common finding in the crevices of old school toilets with cracked tile floors.

I was quite taken aback then, to cruise into the car park of the school and be greeted by a grand spanking new building that was more reminiscent of a recently developed university campus than a traditional school.  It was impressive, space age, pristine buildings towering upwards – but also somewhat intimidating.  I parked over in a discrete corner (I was very early) and surveyed the coming and goings for a bit before plucking up courage to check out the registration system for the run.

Once it got to what seemed to me to be a critical mass of people in hi-vis and miscellaneous looking runners, I ventured out.  It was a really efficient set up. There were two tables, one for pre-registered keenies (er hem) like me, and one for enter on the day, fair-weather running chancers.   There was also a sea of marshals donned in epilepsy-inducing orange hi-viz, and a slightly manic looking organiser, but it would be rude to draw undue attention to that.  I’m sure these event days are quite stressful enough as it is without my adding to the trauma with pointing and laughing in a less than supportive fashion just at the point of delivery…

I got my number 303. I found the symmetry of these digits most pleasing.  Accelerate donated the race bibs, which I think you’ll agree was jolly sporting.  I was also impressed by the number of entrants… until I found out that in fact the organisers had deliberately allocated the numbers quite randomly, to avoid people being deterred by the realisation that entry levels were quite low.  It was a slow burn getting people to enter.  I think partly the ‘cheque in the post’ system was a deterrent, and some people deliberately opted to pay on the day as it was ‘more money for the school coffers’ that way.  A noble sentiment, but possibly a misguided one.  They may have felt pushing the organisers to the point of nervous collapse as they had a growing fear there would be nowt by tumble weed to be seen on the course on the day was but a small price for someone else to pay in the circumstances. Next year though people, do the right thing, sign up early.  Give the organisers the gift of sleep in the weeks coming up to The Big Day.  Best start looking for your cheque book now though, to save time.

Number collected, the next great challenge was to collect other runners I knew, and in particular herd together fellow Smiley Paces members for the obligatory pre-event selfies.  I found wood-runners, Monday Mobsters and Smiley Paces in abundance.  Quite a few local running clubs also had a smattering of attendees, but it was a pretty mixed field, which is always good.  I know I’m always going to be the ballast at the back, but I like to think I have a chance of staying in sight of the faster runners for a bit at least…

The next mission was to get an idea of the route.  There was a map of sorts on display, but as usual I couldn’t really make sense of it.  Enough to know that it was 10k, mostly off-road, involving country tracks, up through the Limb Valley woodland trails ‘undulating’ or ‘hilly’ depending on your current levels of fitness and optimism on setting out.  I did romp round wearing my tomtom watch – more for adornment than extra speed, but it means I can upload a view of the route for you here. …. inevitably, I forgot to turn it on until we were already underway, but it gives you some idea of where we went.  Also, on the plus side, it might make my finish time look less lamentable as well…  Looking at the strava map afterwards it makes it seem quite a ‘bitty’ course,  but in fact it flowed really well when running, I wasn’t aware of going round in pointless circles at the time, which is rather what it looks like with the dubious benefit of hindsight.  Does anyone else think it looks like a bad Strava art kangaroo?  No?  Just me then.

Silverdale stampede route

So, basically how it went was this.  Lots of vague milling around when people collected numbers, marshals set off excitedly to stand and point and clap where appropriate on the course.  I don’t like to label people generally, but what can you do when choose to label themselves?  One Smiley was right in the middle of  a venn diagram where ‘smilies’ and ‘teachers from Silverdale school’ intersect.  She therefore was tooled up with a ‘chase me’ sign.  Schools do have to have their targets after all, even if they are not always entirely realistic.  I am pleased to report that she took the precaution of heading off before the majority of the field, disappearing up the hill and out of sight, and from the pictures no doubt retaining that lead until the end! Go Smiley!

As she went on her way, the rest of us were shooed towards the start area.  There was a tarpaulin on which you could leave your stuff, and a bit more milling about, during which time super-keen people did stretches and Jenny drills, whilst the more nonplussed of us blinked into the sun, focusing less on warm up and more on personal energy conservation.

Eventually, aided by a megaphone – always a boon at pre-race briefings – there was the official welcome to this auspicious inaugural event… and then came the health and safety warnings. The gist of the latter was beware below for roots and above for low hanging branches, and of each other, and other route users, and the sky falling in as well I think.  Not that any of this mattered as we’d all signed away all and any liability at the outset anyway.  Yay, that’s the thrill of the chase indeed.  The other teachers to chase were hauled before the crowd for adulation and identification purposes, and sent on their way, the rest of us gathered ready to depart.

I was a bit perturbed by the presence of a beautifully marked out athletic track, but too late to pull out now.  Please don’t make me run 10k in laps!  Soon enough we were off and on our way.  Not a huge field, but a perfectly formed one. Tail marker at the back, and then, set off to chase and overtake all of us, stealth Dark Peak super-runner, picking us off one by one as she made her way through to the front.  Mostly, I got the view from the back, and why not, it was a very fine view, and anyway, I like to get my money’s worth on a race by spending as much time as possible out on the course, plus it’s good to be consistent.  I believe I was, maintaining my position in the rankings throughout.

Shortly after our departure, the fun runners were sent on their way to do the 4km route, dragging panting parents in their wake.  Some of the younger participants were also sporting local running club tops – who knew Dark Peak started them so young?  Perhaps that explains some of the single-minded resolve of those fell runners you glimpse vanishing into the hill mists in these parts, as elusive as any mysterious mountain yeti.   They are drawing on decades of self-discipline to keep them going on like the machines they are.   I didn’t see the photos of the fun-run start until afterwards, but my, they looked at the take off as if this running malarkey was a serious endeavour indeed. Go them!   Ooh – and I see a Smiley in the throng too. That’s grand!  We get everywhere.  Hallamshire Harriers too!  A veritable rash of them.  Well supported run I’d say!

dark peak starting young

Although the start makes it seem flat, in fact you immediately have to heave-ho up a hill, which wouldn’t matter quite so much if it weren’t for the fact that you are being waved off by the fun runners so have to keep running for fear of ridicule and shame if you do not. Friendly marshals did indeed line the way. Some were really communicative and encouraging, some young women early on (students I presume) were excellent ambassadors for the school with the claps, directional pointing and encouraging comments.   Their male counterparts a bit further up the gravel track didn’t do too badly either.   I do always try to thank marshals on every run I do, but sometimes I am able to communicate my breathless appreciation more eloquently than others.  May I thank all you lovely marshals here at least.  You were fab!

The route was well-marked, but the field spread out quickly.  The overwhelming majority of runners pulled out of sight from me within minutes, I had a couple of runners in view for a while, but as soon as we got to twisty turny bits I couldn’t see them any more.  A few runners behind me were soon out of earshot, so I did most of the run on my own. That was OK.  There were interactions with other people out and about. There were two women on a bench early on who, seeing I was struggling a bit,  stated emphatically ‘well, you can see we aren’t running anywhere!’ which I took as encouragement rather than rebuke as I hauled on past them with their cheery raucous (but benign)  laughter still ringing in my ears.  There were a few dog walkers, some other runners – which was confusing, as they were coming the other way.

The route went up and down, and in and out, and it was really, genuinely lovely.  I did have a couple of nervous moments navigating, one early on as I romped down a footpath that terminated at the roads near to Whirlow Hall but a marshal did appear out of the woods in my peripheral vision and sent me on up limb valley. I’ve only ever run down that before, when it is a lovely bouncy woodland trail.  It seemed a lot longer on the way up, running it in reverse, but it was scenic.   I did nearly asphyxiate it is true, but that was only because I inadvertently swallowed a larger than I’d have liked insect of some sort which got caught in my throat.  Earlier a smiley first aider had headed out clutching a first aid kit, but I reckoned I wouldn’t make it to that point on one breath, and seriously feared I’d have to flag down a walker at some point and somehow communicate to them that they needed to carry out an emergency tracheotomy with the tube from a biro.  This sounds a bit alarming, but fortunately it is such a commonplace plot device on everything from Casualty to Doctors that I reckon most of us would happily have a bash at doing a DIY tracheotomy on someone else given the chance.  Just imagine the bragging rights.  I suppose it would have to be successful if you were to dine out on the story to be fair, but you aren’t going to get good at it if you don’t take up chances to practice are you?  In the event my obstruction cleared itself, so I could spend the rest of the run not worrying about death by suffocation, but rather hating myself for inflicting death on some poor unwitting insect.  Not compatible with my claim for vegetarian credentials.  Dark thoughts can often come upon me when I run, but that’s OK, I get to work through them and replace them with jollier ones in due course.  I think that’s quite common.  Although now I write it down I have induced a wave of personal paranoia that no, it is only me on whom this tidal wave of negative thought has landed….

Up, up through the valley.   Between you and me, I might have caved in and walked for some of the uphill bits, but I think you’ll find if you walk and no-one is there to see you, it doesn’t really count.   Then, at exactly the point I most wished for it, there was a smiling marshal holding out plastic cups of water.  I never carry water when I run, and it didn’t occur to me until I was under way that there might not be water stations on this route. It was only a small event after all.  I was very glad of it at this point, and the excuse to get my breath back before heading off.  I didn’t want to gulp down too much though, so just had a few sips before handing the cup back.  Don’t want to litter these precious routes.  As you emerge from the woods of Limb valley, there was a path to the left, almost doubling back on yourself, that I’ve never noticed before.  You head off along this, over some wooden boards, and up and over a couple of styles and then  you get to green, green meadows that were like something out of an award-winning costume drama set in the English countryside. Verdant fields of swaying grasses with gamboling lambs skipping about them in all their late-spring gorgeousness.  Even better, I realised that I was in fact still in sight of other runners.  Yay, no need to navigate, only blindly follow. The views were stunning. It might not have been the best running weather in that it was a bit hot, but my it was really gorgeous, and lovely to be introduced to a local route that I hadn’t discovered before.  No particular reason, I suppose I’ve just got used to running the trials I usually run, and have become lazy about exploring new footpaths.

Joy on joy – another Smiley marshal ahead, also brandishing water and throwing out words of encouragement. Initially somewhat unnervingly even greeting me by name!  Closer inspection revealed we’d met before at a Trust 10 Longshaw 10k some months ago, yay.  Small world, Smiley solidarity goes a long way.  Mind you, I genuinely believe all local runners will support other runners, but it’s human nature to have an extra soft spot for you own running club especially one as all round awesome as we Smilies.  A group built as much around coffee and cake stops (sometimes prosecco and gin) as it is about social running rendezvous!

The woods were lovely, but pretty empty…

to the woods

At one or two points there were photographers lurking.  Mixed blessing.  At one point in the empty woods, when I thought no-one was about I resorted to hopping for quite a way. It’s a great running drill as running is basically a one-legged sport, might as well give it a go whilst no-one is watching.  Anyway, another Smiley was in situ, lurking ready to snap me in action.  It may not be an entirely graceful sight, but hopping off-road for that sort of distance is harder than you think, especially when there are loads of tree roots to be negotiated.

action shot LM

There weren’t any km markers on the route, and my tomtom wasn’t set properly due to operator error.  However, towards the end the route became a bit familiar again. Some fo this was because you do go back along partially the same tracks, and some of it is because it takes similar paths to the Dig Deep Whirlow 10k, which meant I wasn’t quite so caught out by the sneaky uphill towards the end.  You emerge from the woods to a style where the route was confusing, do you go left across to the next style or down the hill?  The path went in two directions.  There was a marker but it had clearly fallen down and wasn’t pointing anywhere.  I saw other runners ahead and decided to continue my sheep like following, it is a strategy that has served me well before.  It was a good call.  It really was nearly home now.  A few twists and turns, but lots of marshals, and soon I was back in the playing fields and could see the finish.

The last bit is all down hill and a pleasing ‘weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ moment.  Less pleasingly, everyone else was assembled round the little tent where the prize – giving was underway, so although the event wasn’t entirely done and dusted, there was no mistaking that I was definitely a comparatively late finisher.  I could hear the announcements, and then the presiding official espied me and encouraged everyone to cheer me home!  That was pretty cool.  I may be shallow and misguided.  In fact, I almost definitely am.  However, rather than weep at the humiliation of my slow time, I chose to celebrate and embrace the shouts that helped speed me in.  It is fun!  My five seconds of fame.  Even more pleasing, I had no sooner come through the finish, than my number was pulled out of the raffle for a spot prize!  What?

Couldn’t have timed it better if it was scripted.  I picked up the fastest turn of speed I’d managed all day and sprinted  over to the tent to choose my prize. There was a ridiculous number of offerings, eye-popping choice.  I went for the fruit and veg hamper, because that seems the sort of fell-race appropriate local produce option.  Though I don’t think Waitrose necessarily grew the pineapple in the Sheffield area.  Very fine hamper though.  Yay!

Hamper of goodies (1)

Loads of us got prizes, and we managed to gather a few Smilies for a post race shot.  Not sure why it looks like teacher Smiley has dropped her trousers especially for the photo, but I don’t suppose anyone will notice. There’s always one with exhibitionist tendencies though isn’t there?

Smiley winners all ish

The prize giving and raffle was speedily concluded, and then, right on cue, the wind picked up and icy rain started to fall. This brought about the rapid dispersal of most of the runners, whilst the many marshals huddled together for bodily warmth.  All great team building I’m sure.

seeking bodily warmth

After a few more minutes, eventually the final finisher and back marker came into view.  The timer rushed back out to put back up the funnel which had blown over in the sudden unexpected storm and those of us around got into position to cheer then home!

I’d rather ostentatiously left my hamper at the finish, as a sort of lure.  I think she earned a hobgoblin legendary ruby beer at the finish as much as I did.  Lucky there were two bottles, one each perfect.   She wasn’t immediately effusive as to the degree of fun she’d had en route, but I’m sure the post run endorphins kicked in eventually!

For my part, home, and the next project was to work my way through as much of the produce as possible starting with the new potatoes (which I did cook first) and hobgoblin beer, which was actually pretty fine.  Also, I think I have a similar profile. Perhaps it is my kindred wood-spirit finally found?  So, since I’m here drinking from the sanctuary of my sofa once again, flushed with alcohol and a post run high, no harm in having a little surf to see what other runs are out ther is there… now let me see…

So there you have it.  Inaugural Silverdale Stampede.  Done.  Only one person got lost, and they were found again so that’s fine and dandy. A grand morning out, and a fixture that I hope will run and run (see what I did there).

See you there next year?  Hope so, ’til then, we have our memories…  Didn’t we do well?  Thank you Silverdale PTA for an excellent initiative, and the just the first of many more I hope.

Happy running y’all.  🙂

Categories: 10km, motivation, off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Terrific Run, Unexpectedly Nice Considering Everything. Trunce #3. Yay!

See what I’ve done there with a forced acronym?  Genius!

Digested read.  Today I finally made it back to The Trunce for the first time in 2017.  It still makes a splash, pretty busy but speaking as a slowbie that just made it all the more companionable.  Aren’t the Barnsley Harriers lovely.  (Rhetorical question, they are, one even took this group photo for us!)

Smiley smileys

Yay, back to The Trunce tonight. We do all know about this now right?  If you don’t basically it’s a super fun and friendly trail race with three river crossings.  It’s about a 3.7 mile romp cross-country. The same route is run nine times at approximately three-week intervals over the summer months.  Points are awarded in some mysterious way I’ve not bothered to find out about because I’m just enjoying it for what it is. Basically, you are trying to beat your own PB I think.  It’s £1.50 to enter, and the first time you do so you get given a number that is yours in perpetuity.  You are from henceforth forever part of the collective Legend that is The Trunce. This is a fine thing.  By turning up you also get to hobnob with fell-running celebrity Nicky Spinks, though if you are like me you will be too awe-struck to speak to her.  Actually, that’s not strictly true, I did tell her my number as I approached registration holding out my £1.50 carefully counted out in 20p pieces (and one 10p piece), and she said ‘I’ve already noted it, thank you‘.  Which is an interaction of sorts but hardly me bowing down in worship or asking if I could take a plaster cast mould of the tread of her fell shoes is it?  Both of those would seem more apt, albeit socially inappropriate, ways to behave in the circumstances.  Basically, celebrity spotting aside, you should come along and give it a go.  No really you should, it’s doable, challenging if you want to be challenged, but with a big enough field that even the slow and steadies, such as myself,  should not find themselves running alone.  Be prepared to get wet though, and if it’s been raining you will need trail shoes – though today the ground was so dry and hard it was like running on concrete, road shoes would have been fine.  Unless they were super posh ones you didn’t want to submerge in water.  If so you’d have had to hope someone gave you a piggy back over the river crossings, or risk losing time by taking your running shoes off before paddling across and heaving them back on again once you are safely over the other side.  Three times.  Not great for achieving PBs, but it’s up to you.

Oh, and if you actually want to know the Trunce route it’s here – and one of the most encouraging and entertaining descriptions I’ve seen of a run route.  Lots of useful info in there from handy manure pile landing hints, and warning newbies of the risk they take should they overtake queuing runners at one of the inevitable bottle necks.  The ire of fellow runners is not to be provoked lightly.  It’s worth noting though that the course description isn’t quite accurate for 2017.  This year the route is starting a bit further on the usual course, the other side of the bridge.  For me this is an improvement, it doesn’t make too much difference to the overall length (though it is a bit shorter) however, it does cut out that punishing hill start that for me at least was not the most auspicious beginning of a race to be honest.  Hardier folk may miss that opportunity to shine and gain competitive advantage by sprinting up the 45 degree gradient as effortlessly as if they were rocket-propelled.  Not something I have ever had to worry about being something less than a living deity myself.

Anyway, this was the third Trunce of 2017, but the first I’ve made it to this year. I’ve been putting it off due to being horribly unfit.  However, I’ve decided I’m only ever going to get fit by actually doing some running, and I always try harder when it’s an event of some sort.  It’s not that I’m competitive, it’s just that I gain support and motivation from running in a group, plus I don’t want to be the one to cave in and walk when everyone around me is still charging off at speed.  Embarrassingly, if I go running on my own I can easily drop back to a walk within the first kilometre, yet mysteriously I always run the entire 5k at parkrun, so I know I can do it, it’s just my default activity setting is inert.   What is it they say, running is as much in the mind as in the legs?  Something like that.  I mean the state of my legs, lungs and general decrepitude is undoubtedly a contributory factor to my running performance, but I do surprise myself by doing more than I think I can when caught up in the tide of other runners.  It seems that  I require peer pressure to gain momentum.  Having said that, I still can’t run the whole Trunce, not even close,  those hills are steep, but that’s OK, just hoiking my weary carcass up gets my eyes popping and lungs bursting out nicely.  It’s got to help my fitness if I keep on trying to move forward and through it.

Sooo, first stop Cheetah Buddy’s house where three of us Smiley Paces People assembled for a group outing to Oxspring.  It was a relatively speedy drive over, not too much traffic, though it was distinctly nippy on arrival.  I rushed over to pick up my laminated number (a fund raising innovation by an enterprising teen) and en route got jumped by the mischievous Sheffield region’s Runderwear Ambassador.  She literally shouted ‘boo’ or something equally imaginative, and I jumped out of my skin.  She was really chuffed, it was a great reaction, though she expressed some concern about the extent to which my pelvic floor held out under such stress.  It was fine, I mean, I was wearing my Runderwear so doesn’t matter if they get wet because you don’t get chafing anyway. Plus the adrenalin surge warmed me up nicely.  We were both winners, I got an instant warm up she got the best laugh of the night to date.  Result!

Here are some laminated numbers, in case you can’t work out what they might look like. Remember, a Trunce number is for life not just for Christmas, worth laminating and nurturing them then.

laminated labels

Also available were leaflets on Lymes disease and some local gala running event, I picked up neither.  Worth mentioning Lymes though, it being Lymes Disease Awareness month apparently.  Nasty and debilitating illness acquired through tick bites.  It’s not common, but one to be mindful of.  I tend to wear full length running bottoms anyway, partly because they are my only pair (don’t panic, I do have access to a washing machine) and partly because I like the protection on my legs as I get an allergic reaction if a blade of grass so much as touches any coquettishly exposed glimpse of ankle, let alone calf.  I shudder at the very thought of exposing even a millimetre more flesh than I need to in rural settings, and don’t get me started on what a meal of me mosquitoes and midges can make!  The great outdoors is all well and good, but there are some downsides too.  Despite my general precautionary principles,  I hadn’t really considered the risk of tick bites particularly before, but it is a real one in some areas.  Loads of runners sprint care free through long grass like they are undertaking a re-enactment of their own personal timotei ad – can you still get that?  They do so wearing little more than speedos or compression shorts (which we all know is basically like running in a thong after the first few metres) and so maybe we should think about it more.  Just saying.  Anyway, thanks to the person who noted on the Trunce Facebook page that they have Lymes, and in so doing reminded us all that it’s worth paying attention to.  This timotei model is really taking her life in her hands as exposed as she is in that meadow!

timotei

So leaflets missed, and laminated number collected, the next task was to join the queue for the loo.  Women can use both the women’s and men’s but actually there was a huge queue for both anyway. Still, managed to do the necessaries before going back to the car to dump our fleeces, and then heading up the hill towards the new start line.   There’s a big flat field for parking, and alongside it part of the space was being used for some youth coaching session.  It was pretty busy. To protect crops you are asked to keep to the paths, which people did I think, rightly so.

There is a reason why start has moved, but I’m not sure what – presumably to protect crops?   I think as The Trunce series has grown, the mass start risks trampling the grass on either side of the track as people endeavour to find a route through, starting higher up there’s possibly a bit more space?  In any event it was a pretty big gathering through the bridge.  From the ground, if you looked up you could see spectators on the top peering down on what must be a great aerial view of it all. As well as the adult runners, there was a big junior contingent milling around.  Thanks Paula Moffat from Strideout in anticipation of you letting me use your photo.

PM trunce start 8 5 2017

As this is not really my home patch, it was quite fun seeing loads of new running club vests. There were of course the familiar Strideout purple army; the yellow and gold of Steel City Striders and the occasional retro Dark Peak visible.  However, also huge contingents from Hallamshire Harriers and, not Easyjet as I first imagined, but Barnsley Harriers who got my vote for friendliest flash mob attendance of the night.

The start line was noisy and chaotic. There must have been a run briefing, but I couldn’t hear anything over the chit-chat.  I don’t think people were being deliberately ignorant, it was just impossible for the Race Director to attract enough attention to command silence. Because of this, I think a fair few people missed some of the directions about the correct route at certain points.  I certainly did, but was saved from a breach of course etiquette by my instinct to follow other runners coupled with being in sight of the better briefed Barnsley crew.  More of this later.

Some kind person took a video of us all charging past at the start of Trunce #3 2017, it takes a while. (Thanks Caroline Saunders).  It’s quite a lot is it not?  438 (including the juniors) according to the results, that’s an extraordinary turn out for a Monday night romp surely.

Shortly after the senior race heads of, the junior runners, who do a slightly shorter route, were set off behind us.  They came hurtling along whilst I was still making my way up the first track.   They then take a sharp right and do a loop round, coming back up the path the adults are still running out on.  Early on in the proceedings, I spotted a Trunce-number wearing adult walking back towards the start. Whether he was hurt, had missed the start or just abandoned the race because he wasn’t feeling the love I have no idea, but it wasn’t the most confidence imbuing of sights to be honest!  I was finding the path under foot incredibly hard on my arthritic feet, it had turned to concrete in the dry, and dust flying up filled my lungs.  This was feeling tough and I was barely 500 metres in.

There is a kissing gate on the first path, and there is no way to pass through this other than one at a time.  The sheer numbers of people means this created a significant bottle neck, with a queue stretching back a long, long way.  For some, this is a pleasing resting up point. You can have a chat with other runners and get your breath back before setting off again.  However, one person’s blessed relief is another person’s blooming irritation, so possibly some frustration amongst faster runners.  Around me people were good-natured.   Pointing out the field which had pigs in last time out, and enjoying the curiosity of the horses that had come across to peer at us in something resembling incredulity.  They didn’t seem at all perturbed by 400 people suddenly appearing alongside their field, rather treating us as some sort of habitat enrichment laid on by their owners, which to be fair, might well be what is behind the whole Trunce enterprise. Who knows?

It was a long wait, soon the front runners from the juniors race were storming back home and I was still queuing to get through the gate. This is even more complex running etiquette.  It seems only fair to give the juniors right of way as they are racing, but you have to let the odd senior nip through or we’d never have got back in daylight.  Some walking juniors responded to our cheers and picked up running again to whizz through the gate, others started to look a bit defeated and I think were quite glad to let a few seniors nip through whilst they tried to get their breath back.  It was all good-natured though.  Nice people off-road runners I think.  Unpredictable terrain is a great leveler, and fell running requires humour – specifically self-deprecating humour in bucket loads, no big egos in evidence here.

Once I finally got through the gate, the people just ahead of me Barnsley Harriers, opted to wait for some of their other club members behind so I had a brief section of running on my own.  It was a fairly steep downhill on a narrow track.  I’m not massively confident down hill so I wasn’t fast but I had a go.  At the bottom was the first river crossing, it was pretty shallow and solid under foot so quite fun splashing through. It makes me feel like a ‘proper’ off road runner.  Plus it cools your feet and it’s good to get your shoes full of water early on, as thereafter you stop faffing about trying to stay dry.  So I splish sploshed through with what was for me satisfying speed.  Then there was a little style, and I knew I was going the right way because the path was now sodden with what I like to think is just water spilling out of trainers as their wearers ran on, but on reflection it could have been blood-soaked as a consequence of the injuries of the fallen earlier on, I never checked.

Just over the little style, and then, perplexingly, I found myself chasing a guy in hi-viz wheeling a bike.  Hilariously, he sped up as he saw me, endeavouring to keep out of my way.  Honestly, I wasn’t really a contender in the catching up stakes, but I appreciated the thought.  I emerged from the narrow footpath onto a road and found the Runderwear ambassador in situ again. She seems to have perfected the art of the impromptu pop up. Whether she has done this purely to spook me, or whether from her perspective this is just a happy coincidence I honestly know not, but it was good to see her. She pointed me in the right way, and as I sped (eh hem) away, shouted after me to make sure I took the same turning coming back (worth being reminded, people have run on by before, and I nearly did myself the first time out).  Amazingly I found I was still in sight of the other runners after all.  Chasing them, I found that pretty soon the front runners of the senior race were charging homeward before I’d even got to the start of the proper uphill climb.  I tried to clap and cheer the first few, but there were too many, and it got a bit exhausting cheering them all, not to mention demoralising.  It was the inevitable consequence of earlier bottle neck. Tricky one, the only way to avoid this would be to position yourself right at the front, but if I did that I would impede faster runners. Also, in honesty, I quite like having a bit of a rest mid race (it’s why I like the Round Sheffield Run so much I think).  Upshot was, I rested up as I queued to pass through, but paid a price in terms of minutes passing.  I do wonder if the junior race could start a little later though, it would stop seniors having to give way to so many when we are just heading out.  Having said that, I fully appreciate the Trunce organisers have been doing this a while, and probably have come up with what is the least worst option.  There’s little you can do with narrow paths and a mass running event, just have to embrace it for what it is.

After a brief road stint, you have what seems to be a sheer drop off the path to the right.  It is a signed footpath, but honestly it felt like jumping off the edge of the world.  Maybe the flat earth society have a point.  Immediately after this there was a little bridge.  I scampered over, only to find at the other side was a guy holding a massive tree trunk over his shoulder waiting for me to pass. That was very sporting of him, I wondered if he really should have had right of way, but perhaps he recognised he’s used to carrying logs and makes it look easy and effortless whereas look at me running and ‘effortless’ is possibly not the first adjective that comes to mind.  The question ‘why?’ being altogether more likely.

What follows is a BIG hill.  It is seriously steep.  I didn’t run up it.  I had a sort of half-hearted jog early on, but quickly abandoned the attempt.  I was puffing enough just power walking.  I make no apology for this.   After all, walking is the way to go apparently. Only today, I read about Evan Dunfee who walked a whole marathon in 3.10.35.  That’s pretty respectable I think.  Gives walking at ‘runs’ a whole new legitimacy.  I kept going as best I good, periodically offering other runners the chance to sprint on by should they wish to do so.  None did.  I think all of us at this point in the field were not-so-secretly grateful for the excuse of being slowed by ‘runners’ walking at this point.  Plenty of people do run the whole thing though.  Here are some downhill runners courtesy of Neil Smith.  Go them.

At some point I somehow found myself running alone again, having been overtaken by stronger participants and pulled ahead of the few that were slower than me.  I decided to at least try to keep in sight of a group of very lovely Barnsley Harrier runners.  They were  resplendent in their orange tops like a burst open Terry’s Chocolate Orange where the segments were constantly trying to regroup into a whole as if pulled by an invisible magnetic force. They were supportive to each other and later on to me too.  There was one particular point across a fairly open field where the stone path went ahead to a gate, but there was also a trampled diagonal grass path to another point, ending up at a cattle grid. I seem to remember going down the short cut last year, but the Barnsley Harriers were shouting out to each other that the correct route was to the main gate, so I followed them.  Speeding up to get in calling distance of them (seems I can put on a spurt when I want to) as I know that I found the route confusing at other points too last year).   I mentioned I was glad to be following them as I wasn’t sure of the route.  It’s not that it’s complicated, but nor is it obvious.  Even though I have run it before, it seemed unfamiliar.  Not sure if that’s because maybe I did take a wrong route last time (I think I may have done through the wood bit, it seemed much more straightforward today) or if it is because I ran my first two Trunce races through a mist of blood and tears.  Both are possible, probable even.  Anyway, subsequently they kept a friendly eye on me, gesturing which way to go if it wasn’t obvious.

For the next stream crossing, after you’ve ducked down through some woodland (I’m sure it was a different and more direct route to the one I did at the last trunce of 2016) it was really deep. My Barnsley Harrier friends went in first forming a human chain. Great team work. I was only a bit behind, but it was helpful to get some warning of how deep it was, I know I’ve only got little legs, but it was way over my legs and ice-cold.  The Trunce can offer up an arctic enema quite as effective as any Tough Mudder methinks, and for a fraction of the cost.  It was weirdly quite nice.  Like a race horse enjoying having its tendons hosed, the plunge of cold really helps your legs.  I couldn’t run through though, not that it was slippery, but the depth of the water made it impossible.  I was surprised it was so deep, it’s not like there’s been any rain or anything.  Weird, could even hear it sounding like a raging torrent as you approached, I don’t remember there being a waterfall en route before…

I didn’t see any photographers out and about this time (often there are some) so here is one of a previous Trunce splash through, to give you the general idea of the river crossings along the way …  Trunce #1 2017 I think.  Thanks to Steve Frith of Mossienet for turning out and taking these at numerous events, in exchange for donations Those Dark Peak Running Vests are badly designed in terms of avoiding nipple chafing by the way.  If you havent yet joined a running club and are thinking of doing so, I do urge you to check out the design of the vest you may be required to run in.  Wish I had.  I love Smiley Paces I really do, but we have the most unflattering top in the world  It’s fine if you have an ‘athletic’ physique, but it does me and my assets no favours at all.  Oh well.  I’m not including a photo of me in that.

Dom Trunce 1.jpg

On the one hand, I’m a bit disappointed that I have yet to get a proper action shot of me at a river crossing, but on the other it’s probably a blessing.  It would take considerable artistic licence and photo shop skills to make me look like I was doing a graceful skip through clear babbling brook waters.  I think the reality would be more like a dumpling wearing the aforementioned deeply unflattering  Smiley vest belly flopping into a deep fat frier.  Lots of splash back, due to the impact of dropping a heavy solid object from height into a liquid but not an altogether elegant sight.

So, second river crossing successfully negotiated, and my lovely Barnsley Harrier friends looked back to check I was OK before heading off up the next hill a bit in front of me.  It was a bit of a haul, and my legs were wobbly by now.  Through narrow gates, over styles, past some more interested looking equines in a stable this time and eventually you emerge back onto the road.  My trail shoes were a bit sticky for this, and that slowed me down, but the road was pretty, lovely views, and I was enjoying the scenery.  I had runners both ahead and behind.  There was one solitary car, with a terrified looking learner driver crawling along, seemingly in constant terror that a runner might suddenly jump on the bonnet of their car.  One random pedestrian passed me coming the other way, and made some sort of generic kindly remark.  ‘Well done‘ or something, which was encouraging and supportive.  It was genuinely lovely being out.  Cattle grazing in fields, pretty little houses with trees laden with blossom outside.  Spring lambs, picture postcard stuff.

This final third has a longish road section, but it’s very flat.  I could see the moving orangery ahead of me, and slightly behind me was a companionable guy in blue. I think he may have been a Penistone Footpath Runners and Athletic Club person, they were well represented too, I suppose it’s their patch.  They have a reputation for being super friendly, and if my deduction skills are correct, that was my experience too.   Anyway, when we got to the bit where you turn off the road down the easy-to-miss narrow footpath, which takes you back across the first stream, the orange army waved to check I knew to take it, and I did the same for the runner behind.  For those of you who think this is over-cautious, I heard later that in fact four runners did overshoot on a previous Trunce, I believe they are still running now.  Shame.

After the splash through, more upward and onwards, clambering up the slope you run down as you set out.  I was seriously flagging. There may have been more walking than running at this point, but I told myself I was saving myself for the flat path which we’d eventually return to. When I reached it I did begrudgingly put on a bit of a jog.  However, I was re-energised by the site of another labeled Trunce runner apparently heading back out.  At least I’m pretty confident it was her going the wrong way not me.  What was she doing?  Sweeping?  Going round again just because?  I have no idea, I was just glad we were heading for the downward hill.  Me and my following friend exchanged exclamations of incredulity.  She looked fresh as anything – surely not a late starter…!

The woman ahead of me seemed to be limping a bit, and I made a mental note to check she was OK when I caught up.  I never caught up.  Not that badly hurt then.  Or maybe that is her running style?  No idea, it’s hard to maintain grace and elegance on trails, but it’s a lot easier to smile, especially for the downhill final weeeeeeeeeeeeeee bit down to the finish funnel.  Now that finish is fun.  No sneaky uphill to the end, which happens way too often at events for my liking!  Instead, a wide open finish funnel, flanked by my Smiley Buddies, who’d been back for ages, and other people looking out for their returning club members. All very social.

Flushed with endorphins, I set about hugging everyone in reach, or even in sight. Took a while. Was that inappropriate? Don’t care really, felt OK at the time.  Anyway, I’d made new friends, shame not to capitalise on that.  There was the guy hot on my  heels just behind me for starters, as well as my lovely new Barnsley Harrier friends who were fabulous ambassadors not just for their club, but the human race too.  There is hope in the world people, remember that.  I can’t find any Trunce photos of this running club, so I’ve nicked this group shot from their Facebook page so you can appreciate them in all their orange glory. Distinctive kit that, give them a cheer if you see them out and about.

colourful harriers june 2016

Reunited with my Smiley Buddies we embarked on an immediate post race de-brief as we removed shoes and socks and then realised it was absolutely freezing. Top Tip, do take a change of socks and shoes for the journey home and a fleece too.  It’s way colder than seems possible at the end.

As we compared tales, it became apparent that of we Smiley trio one of us had gone down the diagonal grass track (WRONG) only to be faced by barbed wire.   Another of us had heard that we were directed not to at the pre-race briefing, and obediently followed the required route, and me, Smiley three, I was fine because of having no personal initiative and just sticking with following the BH crew at a respectful distance.  It was their lead rather than my navigational choices that kept me on track.   Wayward Smiley who took a detour regaled us with tales of watching others ahead of her appearing to fall into spontaneous combat rolls ahead of her.  She thought they’d added in some sort of random physical challenge just to make it all a bit more interesting.  Little realising as she blindly followed that she’d end up having to do her own forward/combat roll under or over barbed wire as she got to the same point.  Actually, was it combat rolls or commando rolls?  I get confused.  It’s not like gym class at school, there is no pre-race knickers inspection.  Nobody checks you are wearing standard issue navy blue passion killer pants before you are allowed to take part, so you can’t honestly tell who was going commando and who wasn’t.  Personally I don’t have to go commando, because I wear Runderwear. In actual fact, my current pants had their debut outing at The Trunce, and I was wearing them again today.  Yay.  I forgot to tell the Runderwear ambassador this.  She will be thrilled when she finds out.  It was her persuasive skills that encouraged me to buy them in the first place, hence she is now always known to me as the Runderwear Ambassador, a title of which I like to think she is rightly proud.  Then again, I carry many delusional thoughts with me as I move through life, this may yet be just another one of those…

Anyway, bottom line (no pun intended) is that we’d all had a grand old time.  Going to take part in The Trunce on a Monday evening is like having a cheeky mini-break, it really is.  It’s good fun and is a great distraction from whatever might be getting your proverbial goat elsewhere in life.

Even better, the joy of the event extends beyond its finish.  On return home, you can extend the pleasure of the Trunce experience by stalking local running club Facebook pages and indeed The Trunce Facebook page as well for accounts of thrills and spills that took place on the night.  ‘Thanks to those lovely runners who helped me after I did my faceplant in the stream/ fell and broke my nose/ got cornered by a cow/ stuck on a fence/ went the wrong way‘ you get the idea…  If you are lucky, there are photos too.  Not so many tonight, but hey ho, we have our memories, and we have next time out.  Yay.  Hit those trails.  Go on, you know you want to!

So, conclusion. The Trunce is fun.  Glad I went.  Will go again.

🙂

For all my Trunce related posts see here and scroll down.

Categories: off road, race, running clubs | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Wanton Wobbling at Wingerworth, 2016

This is a long one.  Carry on at your own risk.

The Unique Selling Point (USP) of this cracking trail race, is the little known detail that it is the only event I know of, where there is a  complementary post-race shoe cleaning service available for those brazen enough to avail themselves of it.  Just another example of the friendly welcome the kind Wobblers of Wingerworth extend to runners at this their annual 4.5 mile (mostly) off-road running event.  Below are some sample WWs (not to be confused with VWs) so you can see just how welcoming and approachable they look, whether that is acting as officials, marshals or finish funnel cheerers. Aren’t they quite lovely, a welcome addition to any home and an asset to any running community!

So, for those of you not yet in the  know, The Wingerworth Wobblers are a friendly running club who fortuitously ended up located in a picturesque village of North East Derbyshire with which, by some extraordinary quirk of fate, they happened to share a name!  I know, what were the chances? It is sad but true to note, had they rocked up almost anywhere else, their choice of name may conceivably have raised an eyebrow amongst people possessed of the single-eyebrow-raising superpower.   As it is, the good people of Wingerworth find the running club’s nomenclature completely unremarkable. The Wingerworth Wobblers have their own website, but their Wingerworth Wobble Facebook page is also loads of fun with responsive posters to correspond with if you are feeling lonely  and/or bored and in need of a friend.  I’m sure they only blocked me due to an administrative error.

Anyways, they lay on an annual trail race, which this year took place on Saturday 15th October, the entry website blah de blah is as follows:

The Wingerworth Wobble is a 4.5-mile (approx) mixed-terrain, undulating trail race in picturesque countryside around the village of Wingerworth, near Chesterfield, Derbyshire. The event is friendly, well Marshaled and signposted with water points halfway and at the finish. Race HQ has full toilet facilities and provides reasonably priced hot food and drinks for runners, their family and spectators. There are medals for all entrants as well as category prizes/trophies

The Club took a bit of a risk holding this event on this particular date, because it clashed with so many other celebratory days of worldwide importance.  I probably don’t need to tell you it was also World Student DayChicken Cacciatore day (no interest to me as I’m vegetarian); White Cane Safety Day (perhaps not their target audience to be fair); World Maths Day; Bridge Day (though more specifically BASE jumping, rather than celebrating bridges which would be a disappointment to Isambard Kingdom Brunel if he wasn’t already a bit disappointed by being dead), and also the Sweetest Day.  If you have never heard of any of these important days before, fret not, it’s probably indicative of how you are so totally absorbed with your running you have lost contact with the outside world around you. To be honest, aside from these celebratory days, the outside world is all pretty grim right now, so I’d stay in your own bubble for as long as you can hold out for you have the option…

As it happens, the Wingerworth Wobblers’ confidence was well placed.  It seems the great and the good (er hem) were all happy to forego the festivities of World Maths Day in favour of the Wingerworth Wobble.  Even base jumping held little allure. Why do those things when you could be wobbling across a field instead?  I’m not saying which photo below was taken where.  But the clue is, there is an (optional) river crossing at the Wobble.  That river may or may not feature in the shots below.

Also, we were promised MEDALS, and insider information meant that some of us knew to also expect a RAFFLE.  Only a bathing in a whole bath tub of Ferrero Rocher could be more indulgent.

Now, I’m not one to brag, but I’d actually done the Wingerworth Wobble in 2015, so was well placed to dish out advice to newbie participants, generalising from my one-off attendance.  I’d had a couple of minor hiccups last time round, so this time I set myself so new objectives.  I’ve had a whole year’s running experience since WW2015 so this time I went for three:

  1. Don’t get lost
  2. Get back before the tail marker
  3. Improve on last year’s time

Last year I succeeded in meeting zero of my objectives, so these aspirations were ambitious.  But on the plus side last year I did achieve two impossible things in one day (see objectives one and two, both thought to be impossible), so never say never.  Plus, my regular reader will know I’ve had a bit of a run of unlikely happenings… and, without wishing to give too much away, as a little teaser for you I can reveal that this event poured yet more blessings upon me, but more of them later.

So, what you need to know, is that I’d been looking forward to this event for ages.  Hobbit Buddy and I had long schemed to do this run together, seeing it as a good opportunity for a romp out with Ginger and Roger, who haven’t been out in action as a pair since the Round Sheffield Run which was ages and ages ago.  I figured that it would be an appropriate occasion for them to make an appearance as last year was blessed with not just fancy dress runners but celebrity participants too (Miss Piggy AND Kermit no less), I thought Ginger and Roger would fit right in.  Adding to the build up and sense of occasion, this was also one of the race events in the Smiley Champs season so there would be a good turn out of Smiley Paces Compatriots, and so a heightened possibility of potentially being able to parasitize a lift with one of them too.  I wasn’t over-confident about this, as not everyone is keen on transporting horses, so in the end hobbit and I just cadge a lift by responding to a post on Facebook and ever-so slightly didn’t mention the horses as such.  Well, it had been sort of inferred earlier, what with the promise of another friendly feeder Smiley to bring some oats along for them specially.

We synchronised watches, and because nobody else in the whole world departs for race events as early as I do, Hobbit Buddy and I got a longer lie in than if I’d been driving and rendezvoused outside my house at 9.03, in order to facilitate some pre-event photo opportunities.  Only one of these was really successful, but it is a fine shot nevertheless.  You can see hobbit buddy is having a near spiritual experience at the very thought of the run that is ahead of her.  And quite right too, running should be like that!   She also seems to be at one in perfect harmony with her steed Ginger, so that was also a good start to the day.

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Whilst we had a lie in, I’m pleased to report that the Wingerworth Wobble Crack Team were up pre-dawn to do the pre-race prep.  I’m sure that seeing the sun rise was more than enough recompense for that early start, but just in case not, can we take a moment to thank the Race Team, unsung superstars for their labours not only on the day but in the run up and wind down of the event too!

OK, that’s enough clapping for now, back to the main event.

So, Hobbit Buddy and I were standing on pavement, with Ginger and Roger, staring excitedly down the road, when a shout came from a car that had parked up in completely the opposite direction.  Our transport awaited us.  Yay.

We excitedly clip-clopped across the road and piled in.  ‘I didn’t know it was fancy dress!’ exclaimed our designated driver (which is why I’ve adorned her comment with an exclamation mark).  ‘Did you not get the memo about the mandatory equine themed fancy dress requirement?’ we (hilariously) queried.  We kept that ruse going for about a millisecond, but it was fun whilst it lasted.  Hobbit Buddy and I are extremely good at making our own entertainment.  We were now REALLY excited, it was a bit like going off on holiday.  Leaving the bright city lights of Sheffield to head to the rural surrounds of NE Derbyshire.  It just so happened that our route took us past Sheffield Hallam parkrun, and the lead runners were just flying down Rustlings Road as we drove past.  It was really fun watching them from the back of a car.  First time I’ve ever over-taken any of that lot, and you see it in a different way.  It took me a while to think to take any photos and they aren’t great, but you get the idea. (FYI the crap photos on this post are all mine, the finish shots are mainly the work of the talented Mr David Carr – also run support team – and woodland shots are courtesy of the accomplished Eleanor Scriven, thanks to both for letting me ruthlessly exploit the fruit of their labours in order to make all the words in this account near tolerable to readers).  So parkrun looked like this to me:

I think George and his nominated stand-in are safe from my encroaching on their parkrun picture territory for now.

So, we made it to our destination with only a minor navigational lapse.  And soon we were parked up (on the verge outside) Deer Park Primary, the rendezvous for registration.  It was really exciting.  Other runners were pouring out of their vehicles or striding down the street towards the registration hall.  ‘Caution Runners’ signs and similar were in evidence.  Bring. The Wobble. On!

There was also a sign – which will be important to note for later – advising as to positioning of muddy trainers:

We made our way into the hall which was already a-buzz with happy and expectant runners in general and Smiling Smilies in particular.  We did some meet and great. In particular, it was grand to see that one Smiley faithful delivered on her promise to bring oats for Ginger and Roger.  This was a little bit awkward to be honest.  It was really generous of her to have brought this along, but she’s clearly not really an equine expert, as she offered them the oats straight off.  I didn’t want to be rude, but I was terribly worried if they gorged on oats immediately before the race they’d get colic half way round.  Way better to let them enjoy them afterwards, once they’d cooled off.  Anyway, the compromise was a bit of a taster from the nose bag, and then save the rest for later.  I think animal welfare was observed whilst showing sufficient gratitude for such a supportive act.  Hope so anyway…

So, once we’d said a few hellos, we got on with the important business of registration.  Hobbit buddy registered with few problems, but I got a more officious steward.  He cautioned me about the number of bridleways en route, and I think, between you and me, he was a bit dubious about whether or not, strictly speaking Roger was allowed.  There is/ was nothing in the rules I was sure.  Also, without wishing to diss dear Roger and Ginger, given the leg-length issue as evidenced in the pre-race photos, I’m not absolutely sure that we had a competitive advantage on the way round, though there may have been a psychological boon. Watching Roger’s head bob up and down in front of me as I run is strangely comforting, and companionable on those long and lonely trains where there is not another runner in sight.  Anyway, to be on the safe side, once we’d been ticked off the list, and allocated a number, he took a photo of us both for identification purposes in case of later trouble.  I haven’t been required to pose for a mug shot in such a way since I was an extra in an advert for a ‘worldwide sportswear brand’ filmed at Rotherham New York Stadium.  The brand in question insisted on taking a photo of each of us individually, holding a copy of our signed global non-disclosure agreement. To this day I’ve been unable to tell anyone about what unfolded before us on that day.  The mystery of this I will take to my grave.  I don’t have copy of the latter shot – even that was top-secret I daresay.  I do have a copy of the former though.  We don’t look like trouble makers particularly do we?  Oooh, what’s that number Roger and I are sporting?  Forty-one, well, well.  More of this later…

roger-and-ginger-checking-out-our-numbers

A bit more loitering and interacting took place pre start. Nothing that couldn’t be paused for a Club photo of us all together.  Check out the Smiley Race Director looking busy and important with a clipboard, but still making time to hang out with us mere mortals on the day.

roger-and-ginger-centre-stage

As well as posing for the above (approximately whole) group shot, incorporating obligatory mysterious background figure (great stealth photo-bombing in action methinks).   Not sure if he was quite expecting to be outed with the close up though – cheers Mr Carr, excellent detective work.  In fact, let the records show there was a pincer sleuthing movement by the event photographers, with the stunt gurner ultimately identified by one of the Scriven Siblings.  Just shows, we Smileys have our spies everywhere.  You have been warned…

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Other activities included:

  1. Checking out the raffle prizes (rumour was first prize was a trip on Concorde, but I that can’t have been an actual flight as it’s now grounded, so I presume it would be a tow, just as much fun and more environmentally friendly too)
  2. Trying not to be phased by the elephants in the room
  3. Failing to browse pre-race information (course map etc)
  4. Vaguely wondering where all the fancy dress/ celebrity runners were
  5. Noticing poster giving current course records, I can but dream, not to worry, we all just run our own race in our own way at the end of the day…
  6. Me experiencing ‘survivor guilt’ for having got lucky in the London Marathon ballot when other more worthy runners have not.  I will give it my best shot, but the arbitrariness of it all is hard to take.  Even harder for those that are unlucky.
  7. Posing for pre-race picture (note, finding Smiley’s is like herding cats, just could not get them all together in one place, but below is the best shot attempt)
  8. General Smiley spotting, aided by sporting of Smiley related kit on this occasion, none of the underhand disguising as in evidence at the TenTenTen last week
  9. Pondering strategy and racecraft – discussions between elite Smilies focused on their endgames
  10. Hilarious conversation with our transport manager who was explaining where her car keys were if I got back before her and needed to get into it for some reason.  Hilarious, because I engaged in this with all seriousness before it dawned on me that this would only come to pass if she was shot by a sniper on the way round.  Unlikely therefore, on balance.  I mean, vandals laying a false trail on the course is one thing, taking pot shots at runners is another league of disruption all together.
  11. Hoping Hobbit Buddy wouldn’t come to realise we were the only two in fancy dress
  12. Trying to convince Hobbit Buddy that honestly, last year there were loads of fun runners…
  13. Trying to further convince Hobbit Buddy that besides, Roger and Ginger were just blending into the background perfectly, no cause for alarm.

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It’s amazing how completely absorbing faffing can be.  What with all that and the necessary (for me two) precautionary pees, the time sped by. There was one somewhat unfortunate aspect to the faffing.  One of the events team (also photographer extraordinaire) stopped by to be social, and give us a bit of insider info on what to expect on the course.  Unfortunately, he unwittingly identified too possible-but-unlikely hazards in the form of cows with calves and a Doberman on a chain, both of which we might potentially pass en route.  The problem being, this represented a perfect storm for Hobbit Buddy, representing the manifestation of her twin off-road running phobias.  I swear she went white.  I tried to be reassuring ‘last year we were warned about wasps and there weren’t any, and a bull, and that never materialise, it’ll be fine, these are precautionary, hypothetical warnings not a serious cause for concern.’  Dear Reader, Hobbit Buddy was less than impressed.  She actually went a lighter shade of pale than I’ve previously witnessed.  She was however in sufficient possession of her faculties to utter the accusatory line along the lines of ‘you are saying it’ll be fine, but you also said there’d be lots of people in fancy dress‘.  Touché.  In the end, we came up with a contingency plan.  We have negotiated all these hazards together before.  If she is ahead of me, other runners will surround her, if she ends up on her own, then wait for me, and I will personally accompany her through.

Then a cry went up, and the Exceptionally competent, glamorous, friendly and accomplished race director and her glamorous sidekick called us all to order.  We were encouraged to make our way to the start.  There were some arrows, but we all just followed someone in high vis who appeared to know what they were doing.  This strategy isn’t fool-proof (I once accidentally ended up amongst the delegates for a pharmaceutical conference using this technique) but on this occasion was successful

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Huddled at the start line, a whoop of recognition went up, and operating on strictly just-in-time principles, Fell Running Smiley appeared on the scene. Yay.  There was a swift briefing: ‘take care out there, it’s muddy and slippy in places‘; ‘cut off is one hour‘ but ‘you’ll all be fine‘; ‘no sloping off as a DNF without letting a marshal know‘; ‘there is a tail runner so you are not alone‘..  and then, right on cue, we were awf…

One small advantage of having run this course before, was that whilst I didn’t actually remember it in great detail, I did recall that you start with a (to me) relatively steep uphill climb.  You go through some grand gates, along a track past a small lake/large pond and then, rather bizarrely as well, emerge to take on the next bit along tarmaced roads and through a housing estate of sorts.  This section seems a bit incongruous for a trail race, but isn’t too long.  On this occasion, we had the added obstacle of negotiating some road works, so had to sprint by some rather bemused looking, but encouraging work men, who took a break from digging up the road to cheer us past.  They did look a bit surprised to see us, but not as surprised as some squat boxer/pug type dogs we passed later on, who veered away from us, staring at Ginger and Roger with real suspicious.   Hobbit Buddy and I began by running together.  At the top of this first steep climb, was a hi-viz marshal who did really excellent directional pointing to send us off down a right hand turn and towards more traditional trail running territory.

We trotted along, horseying around and exchanged some pony puns that we personally found very entertaining but possibly aren’t objectively funny enough to repeat here. Neigh, neigh, wouldn’t want to de-stable-ise you with laughter.  However, I can’t talk and run, and Hobbit Buddy in fact has a turbo-thrust super-charge mode that she employs in race situations, whereas I really and truly only operate in one speed.  Therefore, soon enough she pulled ahead, with a promise to wait if she needed help negotiating any scary obstacles that might lie in wait.  I was towards the back and not actually at the back this time, so that was a pleasant change from my normal fell-running experiences.  Contrary to what you might think and what Hobbit Buddy asked me when I got back, I did not stop on the way round to take photos.  Had I done so though, they may have looked a bit like these.  The pics that follow were gleaned from the Wingerworth Wobble Facebook Page and taken the day before so give you the gist.  You will, like me, be delighted to note that the organisers had even thought to provide some extra ponies along the way to cheer on Roger and Ginger as they passed.  They thought of everything.  Attention to detail.  I like that.

The photos are all well and good, but somehow manage to make it look as if the entire course was completely flat.  It was not.  Just saying.

My race chronology is a bit vague.  It’s all a bit of a blur, not so much because of the speed with which I was running, more to do with how light-headed and breathless I got on the way round.  Them hills you see, them there hills.  Hence, some of the anecdotes that follow will be out of sequence oh well, sue me*.  If you are interested, Strava says the course is this.  It’s not my Strava unfortunately, that was too humiliating, I’ve nabbed Smiley Elder Super Geek’s one, which is way more impressive. And no, since you are asking, this isn’t in anyway duplicitous, it is actually a tribute and a compliment to the great Smiley Elder to wish to emulate her in this way and in no way an attempt to mislead.  Is it my fault that some people just scroll through to the photos and never read the explanatory text alongside for context?  No it’s not.

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So you run (or trot, or gallop or pootle, depending on the extent of your personal athletic prowess) and the way is lined with a combination of smiling marshals, luminous posters and the de rigour jaunty red and white tape.  The reasonably flat section includes a stream crossing, but it’s early on, and to be honest I took advantage of the little bridge alongside to traverse it. Didn’t want to get my feet drenched quite so early on.  Then, after a bit, you get onto some fields, then there is a long haul.  First of all you have woods alongside, to be fair it was quite pretty.  The fields were nothing like as muddy as last year, and I managed to maintain something of a yomp.  Last year it was literal as well as metaphorical ‘feet of clay’ so no-one was running anywhere.  The gradient was tough, I nursed black thoughts about how the hell I’m ever going to be fit enough to even attempt to run a marathon if I can’t drag my weary carcass up even these – by Sheffield standards at least – relatively modest inclines.   Mostly, just as I was losing heart, a cheery marshal would appear.  This did help with motivation as not only do they offer verbal encouragement, I don’t like to be caught slacking, so whenever I espied one ahead I put on a bit of a show to demonstrate in no uncertain times that I wasn’t only running now, but I’d most definitely been running continuously a great deal before hand  and would continue to do so until stopped by death.  Like the story of The Red Shoes, except I think then the poor girl in question was cursed to dance on even after death, which seems a little extreme even by the most exacting of running club standards.

I really liked the little Health and Safety notices ‘slippery ahead‘, ‘warning mud‘ that welcomed you into the woodland.  I myself am of course very compliant with such directives, any excuse to catch my breath with a bit of a brake on my otherwise supersonic speeds/  However I heard it reported that at least one Smiley took advantage of other runners slowing out of respect for the terrain to try to overtake.  She came a cropper I understand, but survived to tell the tale.  I’m not saying who it was out of respect for those involved.  She is an awesome runner, but they remain so super-competitive these Clucky Ducks**.  Get well soon, hope the mud washes out of your bits and bobs eventually.  I was more confused by the sign that said ‘water ahead‘ because I didn’t remember there being any waterfalls, river crossings or arctic enema on the course last time round.  But then again, OCRs are getting more and more popular, perhaps these Wingerworth Wobblers have decided to stir things up a bit?  AFter all, they did go to all that trouble to incorporate personalised bespoke multiple river crossings for me last year.  Maybe they were just being even more ambitious and even more secretive this time round?  Still, no time to dwell on it, as EMERGENCY photographer ahead.  (Why don’t they put up warning signs for that, way more useful).  I could see her from afar, which was good, because lots of time to (attempt to) perfect my pose and running gait, but not so good as it was a long way to sprint.  Still, I can report she managed to snap some fine action shots.  Not only of Roger and me, but, believe it or not other Smilies AND other competitors and participants too.  (I tend to think of myself more as a participant than a competitor to be honest, no shame in that.. Is there?)

Oh, and I don’t want any wise-cracks along the lines of – ‘How come you are running in the dark in one of them – did you not finish until the middle of the night!?’  Because actually, I was within the cut-off time.  The Black and White shot is just artistic interpretation courtesy of Eleanor Scriven. Now, bit of explanation here.  It is confusing, because ‘usually’ (though not at the Stanage Struggle either this year) it is Robert Scriven who is the snap-happy photographer lurking in the undergrowth.  He most definitely jumped out from behind a tree in the Wingerworth Wobble Wood last year.   However, as I understand it, he’s been cloned or something, or they have used some sort of cell generation technique to generate a twin.  I’m saying twin, but that might not be strictly accurate, sibling at least.   I don’t know if they are identical because I’ve never seen them side by side.  It can’t be like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde though – you know, both different sides of the same person, because it seems they can co-exist simultaneously in time and space, whereas Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde could not.   The proof is here look.

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Spookily, Eleanor Scriven has photographed Robert Scriven demonstrating they were in the same place (near as dammit) at the same time.  Though I suppose he might have used a timer to put us off the scent.  I still don’t think so, as both the able photographing Scriven Siblings or Snapping Scriven Siblings as I’ve decided I’d like to call them seem to be (outwardly at least) very nice and obliging. This is not consistent with the Jekyll and Hyde documentary, which if you recall, showed one of them to be really horrid and one to be really nice.  I can never remember which was which though.  Fortunately, we don’t need to be able to differentiate between these two photographers on safety grounds, we can just be grateful for their labours.  Thank you both. Eleanor for today at the Wobble, and Robert for last year’s Wobble and both of you for other runs near and far.   Your efforts are appreciated.  If, dear reader, by some extraordinary lapse of faith,  you don’t trust my judgement and want to check out all the Scriven Wingerworth Wobble 2016 shots follow this link.  So, hope we’ve cleared all that up.  Thanks both for the use of your photos 🙂

After the exhaustion of being photographed in the woods, and having to look enthusiastic and energetic, I emerge from the woods at what was pretty much the half way point, where there was a welcome water station and some very friendly marshals, being supervised by a small but helpful child who was placing plastic cups of water in line for runners as they came through.  . They informed me I was the second pony through so that was handy.  I did pause to drink my water.  I have learned now that if I gulp and keep running, I just get hiccups and feel the liquid sloshing about.  I probably should learn to sip, or trust myself not to drink if it’s just a 10k.  Oh well.

The next bit was  a good run downhill, on a country lane, there wasn’t any traffic beyond the actual marshalling vehicle.  It was a bit further than I remembered, and I did wonder at one point if I’d missed the turn off to the right.  I passed the field with the Shetland ponies in, that was nice.  At the bottom of the hill was a support vehicle which quite literally was bedecked with flashing lights, so you really couldn’t miss the turn, I’d just lost my nerve.  A marshal cheered me on, and I turned off the road, down a farm track of sorts.  There, just before some rather grand stone pillars, a lone marshal stood on a grassy bank, pointing towards a style into some more open fields.  He was friendly too, must have been a bit lonely there, and presumably the speed I was going he’d been hanging around for a while what with the gap between me and the runners ahead.  Anyway, he did warn me the style was pretty slippery, as indeed it was, so I negotiated it with caution.

Into the cattle fields. Cattle had left evidence of their recent habitation, but I couldn’t see any in the field.  I wasn’t worried about me, but I was a bit nervous for Hobbit Buddy. What would she do were she to encounter her nemesis?  This bit of the run was basically a straight line through the middle of a series of cattle pasture fields.  There were styles to be negotiated at intervals, some on the narrow side but Roger made it through OK.  There was one section here where I did nearly go wrong.  Now I’ve done the run, it’s obvious you do just follow your nose.  However, at one of the walls I went through there was a farm directly ahead and it was unclear if you went ahead past the large feeder (which is what you actually did) which looked like a dead-end, or veered off downhill to the right where a footpath sign was pointing.  I came to a halt, and cautiously went ahead.  There weren’t any more flags in sight, but eventually I spotted a flash of green hi-vis in the distance and figured I was on the right track.  Then just as I’d lost hope again there was another bit of tape and I ran on with a bit more confidence.

There was another bit of a turn down a road, where a handily marshal was placed to make sure we didn’t go wrong.  He jovially said to me ‘now look out for the horses coming the other way won’t you?‘  I chortled appreciatively, turned the corner and saw: two horses coming the other way!  I must have a slightly narcissistic personality type, I just assumed he was saying this to humour me, I was a bit surprised to see actual equines.  They were nice horses, one was in fact an icelandic pony, not a highland as I originally thought.  (I know because I asked).  One of the riders said to me – with not a hint of irony ‘what are you doing with a horse?’ which given her own equine friend I thought a bit of a cheek, though it wasn’t unfriendly as such.  We exchanged pleasantries, and I ran on.

I was relieved to see the next marshal who was on a short stretch of road, as I knew then that I’d both nearly finished and not gone wrong (though still time for that of course)! You head off down the road, and then I saw another marshal acting very suspiciously, lurking in a hedge and I would happily have sworn he was taking down the big orange arrow sign.  What was this?  A false trail being set just for me all over again?  Despite my suspicions, his broad smile reassured me and he waved me … well, basically into someone’s back garden!  It was very strange, but hey ho – others had clearly been this way before. A little bridge, a style, a wooded area a BIG SIGN complaining about dog s*&t deposits (not in that language but the meaning was very clear).  Then, very suddenly, I realised I was right at the finish.  Seeing it again, I can’t quite compute how I got so misdirected when in spitting distance of the finish last year.  I literally had about 10 feet to go before I saw the finish, but last year a false trail sent me off on a detour back into the woods.  This year I was older, and (in this respect at least) a year the wiser., (though not any fitter unfortunately).  I raced across the bridge, as if fearful a Troll beneath would drag me under, and emerged from the woods.

I emerged at speed from the woods, and then saw it again.  My true nemesis. The Hill.  Even Doctor Smiley conceded this hill was tough, and has mooted the Wingerworth Wobble be known henceforth as Wingerworth stinginthetail Wobble.  Another Smiley (who shall be nameless, referred to it as a ‘horrendous hill’ which I think is accurate but a bit rude to say out loud so won’t repeat.   For the record, the majority of Smilies, irrespective of whether or not they had found the hill to their liking, had already made it through the finish tape by now and even had time to pose for a finish photo.  Which follows.  It remains an unfulfilled ambition of mine to complete a race in time for the Smiley team shot at the end.  I think that ambition is going to be a long time coming to fulfilment between you and me.  Here are the others though, all looking fresh, feisty and suitably victorious.  Go Smilies!

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So back to me and my hill sprint.  This was a big miscalculation, to have started running at speed quite so soon.  There was a spirited crowd at the finish line to cheer people in. This is very encouraging but it also makes you alarmingly accountable. You really do not want to stop running going up that hill with so many people watching.  However, it felt to me like I was trying to run up a down escalator whilst pretending everything was fine.  I thought my lungs would burst and my eyes  pop out.  Well, my eyes didn’t pop out, but my lung may have burst as I definitely had that metallic taste of blood in the back of my throat for a few hours afterwards…  The final sprint to the finish looks like this by the way.  More Scriven shots thank you.  I still don’t think it adequately portrays the gradient, though you do get a sense of the distance.  Also, I like the shot of the people at the finish funnel, looking out across the horizon for returning runners like they might for lost explorers staggering out of the snow on an expedition to the arctic.  Almost exactly like that, only with a bit more hi-vis and marginally less snow. The anxious anticipation is all there though isn’t it. You can see it oozing out of the shots!  You can also see some smilies working together like a wolf pack, making a sandwich manoeuvre on the unknowing Dark Peak Runner.  Go them.

As I approached the finish, a small child ran down the hill, and then ran back up again in parallel to me.  I gather they had been doing this all morning, a feat that can only be described as super human.  Also, very sweetly, there was a little girl who had the job of giving out the medals.  She was so excited at this responsibility, that she kept running towards the finishing athletes, and had to be called back to make sure she waited for them to cross the finish line before handing out the trophies.  It was rather touching though.  She gave me my medal.  I was very chuffed.  It was also great to have so many Smilies cheering me home.  Also present and correct and performing his documentary photography skills with customary skill, grace and professional aplomb, was our very own David Carr.  I say our very own, because he has honorary Smiley status by marriage.  Also, he is a multi-tasker, having been up since pre-dawn with race preparations as key partner within the race direction team.  What’s more, even after he’d done all that rushing round putting out tape, and taking photographs, and shooing runners in the right direction, he STILL was working it later on as the glamorous assistant for the trophy presentations at the end.  Is there no end to his talents?***

So, finish photos, there are lots of awesome ones, some low resolution ones are available to browse on David J Carr’s WW album on his facebook page,  or purchase high resolution ones on-line at David J Carr photography, Wingerworth Wobble page and they are well a look.  I have naturally used my contacts to source some particularly genius ones of myself and Roger so you can judge for yourself the extent of my eye-popping, the fragility of my lungs and the extent of grace I am modeling with my running technique.  Roger looks quite fresh I think.  Well deserving of extra oats at the finish.  I can not tell a lie, I find the juxtaposition of really talented photographic technique with my gurning faces both hilarious and cringe worthy.  Unfortunately, the camera never lies, so I feel I should embrace the moments captures as truthful capturing of my running journey. When I am finally metamorphosed into a ‘proper’ athlete, with chiseled features and limbs of solid muscle I shall look back on these as but a distant memory as if looking back on a stranger.  Or most likely, I wont. Either way, how lucky we all are to have these memories captured, whether we like it or not, these times may now be in the past, but they will not be forgotten.  Own it.  I do quite like the one of us both all limbs flying though. Might put that on a T-shirt and work it if required.  (Though, granted, it is quite hard to imagine the scenario in which that line of action would be either necessary or helpful).

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So medals donned, and the last few cheered home, I was able to pause to reflect briefly that I’d achieved all three of my pre-race goals. Didn’t get lost, made it back before the tail runner AND improved my time.  It certainly helps you slash times if the year before you sped 10 minutes running backwards and forwards across a river. Good 10 minutes off I reckon, way good!

That was the race done and dusted, and we all adjourned to the school hall for the really important business of the day. We removed our muddy trainers on the way in, donning our stockinged feet in the deeply attractive blue plastic bags provided for just this purpose.  We were all rocking this look in the great hall.

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The Raffle.  This was by far the most nail-biting and competitive part of proceedings.  People fought to buy strips of tickets (sold in aid of the school and air ambulance) and you could have heard a pin drop as the numbers were called out.  There was the agony of suspense as everyone waited in eager anticipation to see if their number would be up!  Although the pickings were not so rich this year, it was a big relief that Dr Smiley was the Smiley winner amongst us.  She is highly strung, and extra hyper following a running triumph (second lady home) I wouldn’t have wanted to cross her.  In fact, as her nominated minder, I had to use the ruse of wanting to document her selecting her prize in order to stay with her and ensure all about her were safe.  It was fine.  The chocolate mints seemed to pacify her. This was a huge relief as I didn’t really have a plan as such had she turned, although I did take the precaution of befriending one of the St John’s Ambulance Crew just in case I needed extra support.  If you look carefully, you can see she got one of her colleagues to keep an eye of things from a respectful distance too.  Dr Smiley never suspected a thing.

Although my lucky number didn’t come up at the raffle, my Lucky Number did come up big time in another unexpected way.  At some point in the post-race shenanigans, Hobbit Buddy, Ginger, Roger and I went in search of someone to take a post-race photo of us with all our bling.  The person we happened upon – actually, I think it was Hobbit Buddy who negotiated this because Ginger and Roger can’t talk and I prefer to delegate these tasks – made an AMAZING REVELATION.  He was looking first at Ginger’s number and said ‘ah, so close, I thought for a moment...’ and then, as he espied Roger ‘Aha!  It’s there. The number 41!  you know of course that’s a very lucky and important number indeed, of course?’  My blinking and otherwise blank expression suggested that no I didn’t.  ‘You don’t know your athletics then?‘ Well, alas no, I glanced across at Dr Smiley in desperation for some clue as to what this might refer to, but she shrugged expansively, just out of view.  This prophet from heaven then enlightened me.  Forty – One was ONLY THE VEST NUMBER ROGER BANNISTER WORE WHEN HE BROKE THE FOUR MINUTE MILE!!!!! OMG.   How did I not know that.  I was giddy with excitement, all around we whooped and cheered.  This unknown stranger (but clearly my new best friend forever) went on to say that whenever he was race director at an event he’d try to let whoever got randomly allocated that number run for free, as a sort of tribute to the achievement that number represents.  This was just so exciting.  I can’t believe the amount of random good fortune that has come my way of late, I’m dreading it going into reverse with equal force.  Here we are, check that number out!  Also check out my attractive footwear, courtesy of WW.

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The only disappointing thing is that we/I was so excited with this revelation, that I completely failed to register the double significance that I was actually running with my very own Roger today.  Roger B’s namesake taking on the Wingerworth Wobble wearing the number 41.  What were the chances eh?  When we finally remembered, we thought it would seem a bit either stalkerish or unlikely to seek out our benefactor and tell him, so he may never know, or maybe he’ll get to find out.  Thanks though, whoever you were, tall knowledgeable man.  I am going to keep my number 41 FOREVER.

The next main distraction was the prize giving. Quite a lot of bling and trophies to get through.  Seven of the top ten ladies were from Smiley Paces, which is a good haul.  We might have had similar representation at the other end of the spectrum to be fair, thanks partly to my endeavours, but let’s not dwell on that here.   Instead, lets admire the shots, and appreciate the Race Director and WW team all over again for a job well done.

Oh the results?  You actually want to check them out?  Whatever happened to ‘it’s not whether you win or lose… ‘ Still, if you really care, they are here, bravo Wingerworth Wobbler Finishers, you / we are all awesome!  Roger and I didn’t break the four-minute mile but in our defence, it was way harder for us than our lightweight Bannister namesake, he ran on the road and it was flat.  We were off-road and had hills. Way more challenging.

So then, all too suddenly it was ended.  Most of us scooped up our muddy and sodden shoes and headed off homewards shouting words of thanks and farewells in our wake.  On the way back to Sheffield we contemplated the day and took a good look at our personal bling.

medal

Now, I cannot tell a lie, responses to the medal were a bit mixed.  Clearly, we were delighted to have bling, and the blue enameling was rather fetching, with a thoughtfully colour-coordinated ribbon.  All good.  We were a bit less enamoured with the 3D image which portrays a guy evidently pushing past a female runner in a somewhat bullying manner.  We weren’t sure about the iconography and semiotics at work here.  Was it saying men always come in first as if by divine right?  Was it saying that they are only able to do so by using such aggressive tactic on their female counterparts?  eventually the penny dropped.  Check out that guys hair-do!  Clearly the medal was making a contemporary reference to the appalling misogynistic behaviour of presidential candidate Donald Trump.  Best not to think too much about where that hand is reaching.  How amazing that a trail race like this would have so hit the  zeitgeist that it came up with this in such a tight time frame! Not seen such a topical nod in any race bling ever.  I like it.   Might be an interesting way forwards.

All too soon I was deposited home.  I am opposite a newsagent so popped in to buy a newspaper first, only then realising I still was wearing Roger and had bright blue plastic bags on my feet.  Well, they must have seen it all before because the nice woman there barely registered. I’m surprised though, Fulwood isn’t the sort of neighbourhood where you expect people to nip to the shops in their PJs or onesies, but then again, what would I know.

Home, pot of tea, pleasant afternoon reviewing photos and sharing happy wobble memories on Facebook.  Possibly rather more of a packet of cheddar biscuits than i really should have indulged in, but no-one need ever now… The gist of it was we were all awesome.  However, the Wingerworth Wobblers still had one surprise to offer up!  It was this post and these pictures:

Basically, it seems one of our number had indeed left her muddy trainers in the designated area outside the school hall, as per the written instructions clearly on display and showed above.  Later on, she got a message alerting her to the fact that her trainers had now been cleaned to good-as-new standards, but unfortunately she had omitted to leave her contact details.  The person responsible, who may or may not have been Dr Smiley but let’s just say I’m not putting anyone else’s name in the frame for it, then stepped forward to identified herself.  Seems she was the sole (ha ha) beneficiary of the complementary post-race shoe cleaning service AND what’s more will get her newly spruced trainers returned to her by personal delivery.  That AND the raffle, she did good!

Well dear reader, I’d love to carry on, but I can’t spend all day here on the sofa chatting away to you, you’ve detained me quite long enough. I have places to go and people to see.****

So just to finish thanks to everyone for delivering another fine and dandy Wingerworth Wobble.  In my vast (er hem) experience of fell/trail racing this remains amongst the friendliest.  It definitely has the best loos, best elephants and quite clearly the best Race Director and photography duo in the whole of Wingerworth too. Seriously though, congratulations to the organising team; thanks to David Carr and Eleanor Scriven the event photographers; cheers to marshals who pointed and cheered so competently and with such enthusiasm throughout; thank you to the nice man who enlightened me about the significance of the number 41; thank you fellow Smilies (that thanks is on repeat cycle of course) and thank you fellow participants and their supporters too.  Special thanks to our transport co-ordinator and also of course our oats supplier for the day.  Roger and I would never have made it to the start without you!  Mostly though massive high five and hugs to our very own Race Director, it must have been so much work, but how great and smug you must feel now.  Go seek out those laurels you’ve just earned and have a good rest on them!

Maybe I’m sentimental at heart, because I still think there is something inherently joyful about the way these fell races come together.  Everyone gathers for a morning and then vanishes again into the mist.  Isn’t it magical.  Oh and finally, thanks to the weather gods too.  We may all be hardcore fell runners of course, but be fair, it is nice to be able to run in bright but cool autumn sunshine.  Fantastic that the Wingerworth Wobbles used their collective influence to guarantee even that.

Bravo!

I think you have earned more than one trip to the Wingerworth Barley Mow myself, but I’m sure you know best.

Same time next year?  🙂

For all my posts relating to the Wingerworth Wobble (including this one, so you may need to scroll down) see here.

Finally, some footnotes giving points of clarification follow:

*Only please don’t.

**Smiletastic has a lot to answer for

***Racecraft also includes remembering the importance of never getting the wrong side of a race photographer.  No point in sycophantic flattery, that will be seen straight through, only ever speak the truth.  We all love you Mr Carr, and your photos are FAB!

****Well, I’d like a glass of wine at least, and blogging and drinking are not wise companions.  Arguably, blogging isn’t wise anyway, but believe me, mixed with alcohol even more risky.

Categories: fell race, off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s not every 10k that gives you the red arrows. Marshalling at the Sheffield TenTenTen 2016.

Ambitious, but hey, why shouldn’t a Sheffield based 10k kick off with a bit of a fanfare? Frankly, promising the red arrows en route was only the beginning of the delights on offer at today’s tententen!  I’m genuinely touched by the efforts everyone went to to give we the marshals (not sure I can absolutely speak for all of us, but hey ho, why stop me now) such a grand day out!

So today was Sheffield TenTenTen day.  Yay.  The blah de blah on this is:

What is the Sheffield TENTENTEN?  Its an exciting and creative multi-terrain trail 10k,  attracting over 1000 runners each year the event is well supported and has a fantastic atmosphere. The first edition was on the 10th October 2010, hence the funny name, and has stuck ever since.

 Who is it for?  This is an all inclusive event, anyone from 4 upwards can compete in the 2.5k Fun Run, and 15 upwards for the 10k. All abilities are represented, many have started their running journey at this event. The range is wide we have even had international standard representation (see course record). Then there is the rest of the family, bring them along to soak upthe atmosphere and support.

 The Course  The course has been created with a twist of creativity and innovation. Its not your regular road race, it is run on grass, road, paved paths and woodland trails. Its a really nice mix, and introduces novices to the world of trail running gently. The course does have a few lumps and bumps, twists and turns, and all adds to the fun.

 We hope to see you on Sunday the 9th of October 2016 in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield

This time though, instead of running (slowly) as in the previous two years, I was marshalling.  Yay.  The night before I wasn’t quite sure what to do in the way of race preparation.  I mean if you’re running then it’s all about the carbing up and tapering isn’t it.  I wasn’t so sure with the volunteering role.  I mean, would I be better off just resting up, or should I practise a bit more with the directional pointing and clapping bit, and maybe even have a go carrying a clipboard with an authoratitive but friendly air?  Tricky.  I was rather regretting having sold myself so assertively in the sign-up email.  What if they did some sort of audition at the 8.00 a.m. rendezvous and I messed up on say the decibel levels of my clapping (which can happen if you are wearing gloves or just miss when you are trying to get the palms of your hands to connect). The shame of being drummed out of the marshaling team would really sting.  I’d have to give up running, move from Sheffield, the whole of South Yorkshire, blimey, maybe I should start planning a complete relocation to Phnom Penh just to be on the safe side?  I didn’t want to peak too soon with the applause either, and find I had nothing left in the proverbial bag for the actual event.  It’s more stressful than you might think, this anticipatory angst regarding the responsibilities that go with marshalling.  Oh well, stick with what you know. Carbe Diem it was.  They do say don’t make any big changes prior to race day don’t they?  Why buck the trend.

carb-diem

Anyway, I managed to wake up OK in the morning.  It felt like the middle of the night to be honest, but I was up and about before the first of my two alarm clocks had gone off.  Performed my necessary ablutions and packed my back-pack.  Not forgetting my glasses in case I had to showcase my literacy skills and e.g. match names to T-shirt purchases on a list of tiny typed out names.  I’ve been caught out like that before.

It was a very autumnal and crisp morning.  Perfect for running.  I was wearing pretty much every item of clothing I possess, as standing around in a dark wood in the cold can be a lot more chilling than you might think.  And not just in existentialist terms.  Consequently I was wearing: two thermal vests (one long-sleeved, and one short); my usual running top; chunky fleece; fuscia winter coat and an incredibly long and gorgeous scarf that I’ve only recently rediscovered( which once belonged to my Dad and says it was made in Peru so might even be made of alpaca fleece); some thermal leggings; winter socks; over-trousers; gloves; light weight walking boots – oh and my Smiley Buff too.  The advantage of wearing so many clothes was that I could have a reasonable expectation of keeping warm, but there were a couple of disadvangates.  Specifically, firstly, I was a bit worried if I fell over onto my back I’d be trapped like an up-ended tortoise, and unable to get back on my feet without outside assistance (at best humiliating, at worst actually fatal).   Still, at least I wasn’t wearing a turtle neck, that would be a real high-risk clothing item and make me guilty of contributory negligence at the very least. Secondly, it meant that disrobing was quite an operation so I basically would need to give myself three days notice if I needed the loo, or just wet myself.  Oh well, I’d worry about that should the situation arise…

I felt pretty cheery going down to Endcliffe Park.  Today was always going to be a good day.  I was already seeing some pretty significant up-sides to being at a running event without doing the actual running.  Copper and gold leaves in the trees were lit by early morning rays of sunshine bursting through the thinning leaf canopies.  (Not to be confused with canapés, which would be a different order of ‘extraordinary’ viewed in the same way).  It was really beautiful.  Pleasingly, on my way down I espied a pumpkin* growing and was able to take a gratuitous squash shot.  I know!  Great start to the day.  *I know it’s probably a miscellaneous squash rather than an actual pumpkin, but still part of nature’s bounty I’m sure you’ll agree.

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On the way down my excitement was building.  There were indeed red arrows about, and also blue ones, and some police tape cordoning off areas where the organisers were expecting trouble of some sort or other.  Presumably only more experienced volunteers with riot shield use training would be deployed there:

As I passed down by the bottom pond it was like arriving at a festival.  Or being present at the start of time.  You could hear music, and bright shards of sunlight were slicing through the trees back-lighting the scene.  It looked spectacular, definitely like the dawn of time.  This was going to be epic!

I arrived at the volunteer assembly point just a tad before 8.00 a.m. which was the appointed hour.  There were already quite a few people gathered. some even already in position at the T-shirt distribution point.  It was well organised (I expected nothing less, I think it would be a nightmare volunteering at a badly run event, but I knew this would be fine and dandy).  I had a precautionary pee in one of the handily positions portaloos before reporting for duty. It was quite an undertaking given the amount of clothes I was wearing, but I think practising by taking Roger in with me (fancy dress horse) on a previous event meant I accomplished this in relative calm.  Nobody actually commented to my face about the sounds of thrashing around that had been rising from the portaloo whilst I was within once I came out again, so I take that as a win.

My name was on the volunteer list, which is always a good sign, and we were directed to select first an orange hi-vis jacket (a jaunty alternative to the more conventional luminous yellow I thought, and appropriate for the autumnal theme), then I went in search of a T-shirt.  The T-shirts for this year’s tententen are really nice.  First year I’d actually voluntarily wear one in public.  Grey is flattering and the logo ace.  The sizing was a bit on the snug side.  I tried on the medium initially, but that was optimistic, instead I went for the large.  Mind you, I was hoiking it over pretty much my entire wardrobe, so perhaps I was expecting a lot of give in a medium size uni-sex offering.  There was then some companionable milling about, waiting for others to assemble and making small talk.

I wandered around wishing I was George, and taking some random snaps to document the occassion with mixed success.  However, pleasingly, I soon encountered my Cheetah Buddy, who after months off with injury is now re-entering the running fold, but like me volunteering today.  Cue selfie.   I still need to practise these, but hey ho, records our presence on the day.  I know the pictures aren’t great (no, really, I do) but I like how they get the sort of architectural structures of the tents against the sky line.  I might steal better photos from the official ones once they are made available, in the meantime you’ll have to make do with these, and your imaginations.  Good luck.

After a little while, I found I was on the list for the ‘bottom loop’ group.  Clearly, this was going to be a particularly vital role, with volunteers in no way arbitrarily allocated to position, but rather comprehensive skills analysis dictating who stood where.  I felt a bit for our volunteer co-ordinator, who made the rookie error of trying to remember all our names, which was heroic, and polite, but ultimately unlikely to be achieveable.  We all blinked at him, unhelpfully.  Oh well.  A little troop of seven of us headed off.  We were basically on the small loop of Sheffield parkrun if that helps.  One of our number had a particularly responsible role being right at the start.  As there would be first a 2.5km kids’ fun-run, then the official 10k race, with different routes, he was tasked wtih moving a stake with a bit of tape in it from one position to another AND back again to indicate the direction of flow for the lead runners.  I know, quite an awesome level of responsibility.  He was very tall, so I think the height advantage also helped, he’d be able to see trouble ahead much earlier than any of us more vertically challenged.  We abandoned him at his post, and trudged onward.  He did well – slight spoiler – but here he is in action at the start of the 10k.  Great authoratitive overseeing and confident pointing technique I’m sure you’ll agree!

I was designated marshal point two.  This was just outside the children’s playground if you are interested.  I’d have to do both directional pointing AND supportive clapping.  I was aided with some dome-shaped cones, which I positioned rather brilliantly, to guide runners away from the wrong turning and towards the correct route.  Would you call these markers ‘cones’ as such?  I honestly have no idea.  On reflection, I might have made more of alternating the colours say, and possibly that slight misalignment of the curve should have been corrected with the benefit of hindsight, but not bad for a first attempt.

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Once in position, I wasn’t sure what to do.  I hung about for a bit, and after a few minutes, some of the other marshals who had now been put in position a bit further on from me appeared.  We did some companionable team-building, mainly involving selfies, sharing running anecdotes and laughing at how much we were worrying about getting it wrong.  It is amazing any of us are able to live independently, or even dress ourselves, given the collective angst we were sharing about whether we’d be able to meet the demanding responsibilities that were about to be thrust upon us.  It was hilarious, it seems I was not alone in suddenly imagining I’d point the wrong way, accidentally run screaming into the runners demanding they’d stop causing a pile up and major race incident or in some other, as yet unimagined way, inadvertantly sabotage the whole event.  Why we were all so insecure I can’t adequately explain, other than by saying it was because we were all runners, or supporting runners and we all really wanted the day to go well.  Our concern wasn’t an indication of our imcompetence (necessarily) but it was a measure of how much we cared about getting it right. So if you are wanting to volunteer at any event, not just this one, just do so, you’ll be fine.  Be brave and stick your hand up to have a go.  You can fake it to make it if necessary.

be-brave

We did see the funny side of it, and it was reassuring to share our collective apprehension.  If you are thinking of volunteering but suffering a similar disproportionate worry about getting it all wrong on the day don’t let that stop you.  It really was pretty straight forwards and whatever ‘stupid question’ you may have, others are probably thinking it too.  Yes, dear reader.  We did go and look at the directional arrows and query which way the runners were supposed to be going.  It is in fact, blindingly obvious.  The runners follow a bike out, and the arrows were comprehenive anyway. Also, the way this loop was set up at least, we were within shouting distance, if not actual sight of other marshals, so you aren’t really on  your own.  Or if you are, it’s only in the existential sense that we are all alone in the end, but let’s not dwell on that now.  Instead, here are some selfies with my new best-friends forever.  Aren’t we awesome:

One of these runners is doing the Sheffield 10k in a couple of week’s time; one is doing a Portugal marathon, and one has secured a ballot entry for the London Marathon 2017 but doesn’t know it yet.  Can you work out who is who?  What do you think of my scarf by the way?  Pretty comprehensive neck coverage I think you’ll agree.

After a bit of faffing, we took up our positions in anticipation of the event building up momentum.  Runners started to arrive, some known, some unknown.  I had to exchange a few sharp words with one running buddy from Smilies who OPENLY GUFFAWED at my michelen-woman effect outfit.  I pointed out to her that she shouldn’t ridicule marshals in this way because ultimately her safety, health and well-being might well depend on how well I carried out my marshaling duties at the event.  Besides, I’m sure the ‘layered look’ is probably very in vogue for the winter months, I’m probably just (as always) ahead of the trend.  I can rock layered, see me work it:

I wouldn’t say she was chastened exactly, not at all even, but I put this down to her pre-event race nerves.  We made up afterwards so that was OK.  Post race proof of this below.  You can tell this is after the race, because she has a medal, I no longer have my hi-vis, and the nice people at the cafe have put up loads of special bunting just for us to mark our reconciliation.  Also, don’t let on, but when I actually saw some pictures of me in action in my clothing choices for the day, I did have to tacitly concede she may have had a small point.  I still think ‘abominable snowman’ was going a bit far.  I shall endeavour to rise above such ridicule, but have logged it for future reference nevertheless.

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I got into my stride responding to enquiries.  I liked this bit.  I forgot at first I was wearing a bright orange tabard, so was a bit taken aback by random people approaching me with questions.  ‘I must have one of those approachable faces’ I thought to myself in self-congratulatory tones.  It was good when I knew the answers.  Most frequent questions were ‘Where are the loos?’ ‘Where do I register?’ ‘Is there a bag-drop?‘ and ‘what’s going on here today?’  Reader I was brilliant, I got all the questions right.  Just shows, you know more than you realise sometimes, and also shows that all those precautionary pees I’ve had over the years have really paid off!  It was great, I felt massively competent based on extremely little expertise, it boosted my confidence!

The domed cones were a bit more of a challenge though.  You would be amazed how many people trod on them, fell over them, or otherwise couldn’t cope with the challenge of stepping over them.  It was extraordinary. Toddlers couldn’t walk past them without scooping them up, which I felt mean having to prevent.  They treated the cones with real delight, like some unexpected and rare treasure come across on their ramblings.  The world is indeed full of wonders when you are discovering it for the first time.  The dogs made me nervous, all that sniffing, I was sure one would cock a leg at one point though none did.    One alsation puppy was terrified of them, cowering as it approached the line of cones, and  backing off at the end of its long lead as its accompanying human tried to reassure him/her that there was no cause for alarm.  Eventually it bravely raced past them tail between it’s legs, and then jumped about with relief and delight at having negotiated such a terrifying and unknown obstacle safely.  One particularly law-abiding citizen came to a dead halt in front of them, like it was a mile high wall of razor wire with watch towers atop it and flood lights as well as weaponry trained on her.  ‘Is it OK for me to pass?’ she enquired, magnanamously I let her through.   Get me.  Powerful, but fair in how I chose to exercise that power.

The junior 2.5km race was due to start at 9.15 a.m..  We were all on tenterhooks awaiting the start.  Confusingly, from a distance, there was a warm up taking place, and so there were lots of loud counting down ‘three, two, one’ shouts. I kept thinking this was the cue to start, but in fact I think it was either counting down numbers of squats or to start of whatever routine.  It all helped build the mood of expectation though.  Fab!  It was Trib3 leading the warm up apparantly. Go them (thanks tententen facebook page for the photos).

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Then, bang on 9.15, after a little encouragement to all the runners to shuffle back behind the start line, the shout went up and they were awf!  It was ridiculously exciting!  My those kids can sprint!  The bike shot off a bit ahead of them, and within next to no time the lead runners were whizzing past me with barely a glance in my direction despite my awesome clapping, encouraging shouts and helpful pointing.  It reminded me very much of the tour de france when it came through Yorkshire.  I hung around for hours, having a lovely time with other spectators, and then when the pelican or whatever it’s called, eventually came through it was ‘blink and you’ll miss it!’  Phew, mission accomplished, marshaling duty one complete.    Most of the children were running with enthusiasm and confidence.  I must be less cynical or marginally more hormonal than I realised, because I actually felt quite emotional watching them. They were great.  There were a few adults in the throng keeping their offspring company (or maybe warming up for their own race), only one poor child at the back seemed completely overwhelmed by it all and was not having the best of times.  I hope they cheered up and carried on, but well done to whoever it was for even making the start line.  It’s a ‘proper’ event after all, with registration, race numbers, warm up, timing, crowds, it was bound to create a bit of anxiety for some.   I’m loving the photos.  Check out the marshal high-fiving one of the runners (his son I think) in one of the photos.  You’d have to have a heart of stone not to get just a little tear in the very corner of your eye at seeing that surely…  I’m sure you don’t really want to be called out as a heartless bastard on a lovely autumnal day like today?  Look at that logo, isn’t it great?  Definitely best yet.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I love everyone today, it must be the post-run endorphins kicking in by association with runners if not an actual run 🙂

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The great thing about my volunteering position, was once everyone had passed, I could move up to watch the finish.  That was brilliant, so much joy to behold.  Also, and I particularly enjoyed this aspect, exhausted parents/nominated responsible adults comprehensively outrun by their sprinting youngsters.  The smiles on the faces of these runners wearing medals that probably should have been confiscated on health & safety reasons as they weighed more than the average young runner’s head were brilliant.  That bling would have any self-respecting runner grinning from ear to ear!  I’m not sure about the appropriateness of posting a picture of a random unknown child I don’t know on a blog post, so here instead is one of a known celebrity Sheffield running dog to give you the general idea.  (Credit to Skip at frontrunner)

skip-with-medal

So then, that race done and dusted, there was a bit more loitering waiting for the main event.  Well I say the ‘main event’ but to be fair, that’s not true if you were in the fun run, so each to their own.  I regrouped with my BFF marshals, and we debriefed on our pointing and clapping techniques sharing top tips and expertise.  One’s child had run in the event and rather sweetly they came to show off their medal.  It really was enormous in comparison to the child.  I reckon, it would be like the average adult walking around with a canon ball round their neck. Still, there were loads of vouchers kicking around for white house physio so hopefully no irreversable damage.  And, to be fair, I’d carry round a medal that weighed as much as a canon ball if it looked as awesome as that, and I’m over five.  More familiar faces appeared.  People from parkrun, people from Smiley Paces, some I know a bit from using their photos here.  Monday Mobsters came by to say hello – I made a mental note to look out for them as they ran past.  When you are marshaling, loads of people come to talk to you. It was really good.  Some were running or spectating.  One runner was supporting his son and suffering from runner envy, reminded of his more competitive days.  Some were random people who were perplexed about having stumbled on this parallel universe of geometric tents, ostentatious bling and colourful lycra.  One new to sheffield was delighted to discover she had this running venue on her doorstep (Sheffield Hallam parkrun recruit – tick).  I also managed to recruit some people to the Longshaw Trust 10k so that’s good.  Not everyone was delighted by the event.  Some were seeking to take evasive action, others were really pleased to be able to plonk themselves down at the edges and watch everything unfold. Well, we certainly had the weather for it did we not?

There was quite a carnival atmosphere at the ‘event village’ catering options, running gear options, backage drop options, portaloo options and pens for the runners.  All needs catered for.  I can’t explain why Frontrunner had its own dedicated emergency response vehicle (that’s another way of saying ambulance in rather more words).  I also don’t know what the animal is or which end we are viewing, but all pics are they not.  They are courtesy of tententen team, George Carman and Steve (Mossienet) Frith.   Please consider donating to Weston Park Cancer Charity in return for free photos – they raised an incredible £1500 last year and are hoping to smash this target this year! 🙂 https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/TENTENTEN2016 :

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So, more greeting of arrivals, more hanging about, adjusting my dome-shaped sports boundary marking cones (I’ve just looked them up on the interweb, and that is their technical term apparently).  Time went quickly, as the 10k route was in a different direction, I actually went up to watch the start.  I thought I’d get some pointing and applause practise in early.  Again, a prompt start.  Watching all the runners sprint off was amazing.  When you are taking part in an event you never really get a proper sense of  the continuum of ability; the assortment of body shapes; ages; running styles; club tops; causes – everything really.   I think there were around one thousand participants, and it took quite a while for them to stream past.  Long enough that I realised I was going to have to really pace myself with the clapping once I got back to my marshaling point as my upper arms were killing me from just this one fly-by of runners at the start!  It was fun looking out for Smilies, though there were rather fewer Smiley vests than I’d expected, and at least one Smiley was in disguise, donning her work-sponsored T-shirt in preference to her club vest.  This is what comes of being a wage slave I suppose.  I still cheered her though.  Mysteriously, couldn’t spot the Monday Mobsters… strange.  Only later when they came to say goodbye did I find out they weren’t running.  Doh.  I’m hardly Ms Marple am I, not wearing running gear was perhaps a clue had I but had eyes to see it…  Oh well.

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Back in my position, it was only about 15 minutes or so later before the elite runners were snaking back through the park, first lap down.  There were about three of them way ahead of everyone else, it was extraordinary.  At the risk of stating the obvious, they can really run!  The rest of the field was a bit behind, and then the mass of other runners started flooding through. I’ve used the analogy of wildebeest on migration before, but really, that is the best image.  This unstoppable organic mass bearing down on you.  It would crush anything in its path.  I got into my pointing and clapping stride, but cheering was harder than expected.  I should have done some voice exercises to warm up.  Still, I did my best!  ‘Great running‘, ‘good job‘, ‘Go Smiley‘ (but only if it was actually a Smiley running), and calling out random names or club names if I had time for the letters to come into focus before the runner sped on by.  I did worry at one point if my commentary might be deemed as patronising, but then again, if you’re running the fast one’s wont hear/wont care, and others like me are grateful for any support vocalised and don’t generally waste time grading it on levels of acceptability.  Even if they do, I can say hand on heart, no-one stopped running to come across and critique my cheering skills or express annoyance at my choice of phraseology, so don’t worry, just follow your instincts on that one if ever you are required to cheer runners on in a public place.

Looking at my ‘action shots’ of the day, I have to reluctantly concede (sorry about the split infinitive) that the outfit isn’t one of my finest is it really, oh well, astoundingly, I don’t do running related activities because of the flattering clothing choices it offers up!  Just as well frankly.

The next 20 minutes or so was a blur of directional pointing and clapping.  It then started to get a bit stressful.  The problem was, faster runners started to lap the slower ones and were coming to the finish.  The slower runners were caught unawares and what with the corner, and spectators milling around trying to get a view of their mates completing the first lap I was really worried the finish funnel would be blocked.  I was shouting frantically to people to keep clear of the finish but, not unreasonably, the spectators couldn’t really fathom what I was on about.  Fortunately, the psychic race organiser appeared like some Deus Ex Machina to save the day by expert relocation of some of my dome-shaped sports boundary cones to signify the finish funnel.  Disaster was thus avoided.  Phew.  Here is a picture of him in action:

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It is eye-opening marshalling.  Most people were really lovely, but some seemed to have zero awareness of what was going on around them.  People sort of wandering into the path of oncoming runners who seemed surprised and amazed when I asked (politely, I was very polite) to keep clear.  It wasn’t even that they were making a point about it being a public park and their entitlement to use the paths, more that they didn’t seem to compute that taking on maybe 800+ runners piling towards them by ambling towards them in the opposite direction wouldn’t end well.  Some runners had children supporting them at the sidelines, and periodically whoops went up as high-fives were exchanged.  A few people asked me random questions when I was in the midst of particularly high-pressure directional pointing.  Timing people, timing!  Oooh, the adrenalin was certainly flowing.  It was one such question about – oh I dont know, where to buy duck food or something – that prevented me from either enquiring about how her shorts were faring or indeed setting off a rousing two-way ‘honey’ ‘g’ call and response chorus in honour of our elite Marple Smiley Runner, so that was a missed opportunity now lost for ever.  Probably just as well.  I particularly asked that people today kept me abreast of any wardrobe malfunctions after compression-shortsgate last year, but no official notifications were made to me so I presume all was well.

A different set of challenges ensued once a proportion of the runners had finished but others were still passing the half way point, or coming through to the finish themselves.  There seemed to descend a sort of runners’ haze, which I’ve experienced, but not really witnessed in such graphic terms before.  A wall of runners stumbling towards me, making their way home with medals and goody bags along the finish funnel in reverse, and back out from whence they came. They wore dazed expressions, and just walked five a-breast right out on the course, completely obstructing the entire route. With apologies if it’s a distateful analogy, but it was honestly like those photos you see on the front page of newspapers catching the aftermath of some horrific disaster.  You know the one, black and white images of victims emerging from collapsed buildings, hardly able to comprehend what has just happened, zombie like, with dust billowing behind them and ruins all around.  They stagger onwards, unresponsive, unhearing and (in my view) insufficiently compliant with marshal directives such as ‘clear the course, clear the course!’  Amazing!

I put some thought into what to shout by way of encouragement to the runners more towards the end of the pack.  I started by shouting ‘sprint finish‘ as my position at the second lap was  a few hundred metres from the end.  But then again, I remembered how I loathe it if people pressurise me to do more than I want on a run, and also I remember how at the Round Sheffield Run (still my favourite race of all time) I strategically kept walking as long as I was hidden by the handy concealing hedge, only picking up a ‘lumbering run’ (yes, that is a technical running term) once I was in sight of any spectators.  I therefore amended my approach to a more ambigious ‘get ready for your sprint finish!’  If I say so myself, this was an act of creative genius.  Why?  Because serious runners, could indeed do just that, but the have-a-go crowd could if they preferred simply share a hollow laugh or knowing wink, enjoying the hilarious use of irony at such a moment.  Nice bit of marshal/runner bonding.

Another grand thing about my location, was I got to see lots of people I knew as they departed.  I’d hoped to be able to take some action photos of runners too, but abandoned that plan early on.  It was more fun clapping etc, and you needed to be able to see what was going on.  Marshalling  wasn’t difficult as such, but it did require more concentration than I expected to encourage people to give way to runners.  Also, runners’ haze again, some participants who had ended up on their own for whatever reason, and presumably didn’t know the park, did get confused about  where the route went despite me pointing, all the arrows and the crowd lining the route.  ‘Which way?’ was a plaintiff cry more than once.  I didn’t mind, it met my criteria of making me feel busy and important, without actually making any great demands on any specialist skills, always a bonus.  The sense of feeling important is a pretty rare occurence in my own life, alas.

Hobbit buddy survived her run in tact, which is nigh on miraculous give the state of her feet and her recent near-death experience!  She performed some good photo duties, and I took some delightful snaps of her too.  She looks very bling happy indeed.  She hasn’t just been shopping by the way, those are the bountiful goody bags dished out at the event, no wonder she was so happy.

Surprisingly, well I was surprised, you do remember who has been round, and I was aware that at the back were a group of charity walkers a bit behind the main throng.  After about 100 minutes, it was clear everyone else had finished bar this group.  We weren’t quite sure what the protocol was around when to leave our posts.  I was happy to stay until the very end, but my BFF marshals appeared saying that they needed to leave.  We weren’t sure what to do, but we could espy our volunteer co-ordinator taking down tape on the finish line and collapsing tables.  The others went off to ask, I stayed put because I wasn’t in any particular hurry, and as a slowbie myself I appreciate it if there is still some evidence of life when you come in.  My new BFFs reappeared.  We were to stand down.  The group were with the tail marker and OK to finish together.  Fair enough.  We said our farewells, handed back our hi-vis and said emotional farewells.  Not all that emotional, but we had bonded, I’d definitely recommend volunteering it was a hoot.

We were in time for the prize giving presentations.  I went across to see what was going on.   A lot of the winners had already departed (not died, just gone home) but there was still a good line up on the very impressively proportioned podium.  I decided that rather than go for the obvious winners shot, I’d try and get one of the photographers instead.  It didn’t really work.  The particular shot I wanted, was one of all the photographers with their impressive lenses, viewed through the legs of the winners.  However, just in time it dawned on me that if I did  indeed attempt that shot, I’d also have photobombed every winners’ shot, and probably not in a good way.  Oh well, I tried.  It was my attempt at a tribute to all the photographers who turned out on the day and laboured unseen behind their magnificent lenses to capture all that unfolded on the day.  We thank you.

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By the way, STOP-PRESS, my stealth photography project wasn’t wholly successful, but on the plus side, this photo is hilarious, so that’s OK then!

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Just as the prize-giving was concluded, the final finishers were in sight.  Those of us still around were encouraged to gather round the finish to cheer them home, that was a really nice gesture.  Aw, what great people are behind this event, the attention to detail, and the inclusivity is really impressive.  Here they are, the final returners I mean, and some of them put in such a turn of speed with their unexpected sprint finish, I’m afraid they got a bit blurred. Sorry about that. You will also see though, that I have captured some great volunteer marshal shots.  See the skill with which they are proffering those medals.  That’s quality  technique I’ll have you know – but it doesn’t mean it couldn’t be you dishing out the honours same time next year!

Free from responsibilities, I wandered about picking up friends along the way and hearing their running tales.  Very soon I came across cheetah buddy who appeared with another volunteer (her new BFF from the top loop), both were stuffing their faces with burgers – they’d got pretty chilled on the Hanging Water Road location which is shaded, and were in calorie deficit replacement mode.  Still, I could be sympathetic at their plight, yet not miss out on the chance of shooting at an open goal.  ‘Is that what you’ve been doing all morning?’  I quipped with great originality and hilarity ‘scoffing buns?’.  How they laughed at my merry jape!

Cheetah buddy correctly identified that my real problem was jealousy.  For reasons I couldn’t quite fathom (being cold from volunteering mainly) she and her marshal buddy had got free food!  It seems I might also, AND there was a vegetarian option of lentil and aubergine soup, which was actually delicious.  I was quite peckish, well breakfast was now almost 8 hours ago.  I wondered if I could get a roll wtih my soup.  Wasn’t technically on offer, but they had them for the burgers after all.   ‘Can I have a roll with my soup please?’  ‘No, we don’t have any rolls, sorry‘.  I was completely non-plussed.  I could see an abundance of rolls.  What was going on?  Fortunately, another staff member came to my assistance, correcting her colleague.  ‘ We have lots and lots of rolls, it is simply a question of the vernacular, of course she can have a roll, but it is not a roll, it is of course, a breadcake!’  Me and my soft-southerner incomprehensible ways eh?  Still, all’s well that ends well.  I got my soup.  I got my roll/breadcake, and I even got to tell a story I’ve not had the opportunity to share in ages.  When I was about 17, a friend of mine had a job at Thorpe Park (amusement place near Staines in Surrey).  She spent an entire summer telling every American tourist who visited that she was sorry but ‘no, there are no restrooms available within this attraction‘.  Hilarious.  Well, Americans can be demanding cant they, how was she supposed to know they didn’t mean they wanted a bit of a lie down before taking on the next queue for a roller-coaster or whatever?  Incidentally, that food place had a particularly great view of the portaloos from their tent didn’t they?  See how I’ve framed it with such artistry in the shot.

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Once we had our soup, and buns, and whatever, we plonked ourselves down on some free seats outside the cafe.  This turned out to be an unexpectedly good move.  Not only did we score big time, finding ourselves joined by regal smiley, her talented offspring and her dedicated celebrity photographer, but we were also joined by another Smiley compatriot who has PROMISED to do the Wingerworth Wobble next week (this is important as I am in fear of doing it on my own); but also, I found if you sat there long enough people brought you free things.  No really, I came back laden.  Firstly, cheetah buddy procured some amazing chocolate fudge brownies – which admittedly she had to pay for but I didn’t, so I may be regarded as a social parasite but I still got free food thrust upon me.  It was from these people I think:

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Then, after a bit, someone was offering free bunches of bananas.  Get in, you can’t go wrong with a free bunch of bananas.  And Then… ‘free rainbow drops, anyone want free rainbow drops!’  I know, real multi-coloured droplets from actual rainbows!  There didn’t seem to be a catch, this was no child-snatcher.  I don’t even think I like rainbow drops (what with my body being a temple and everything) but I got a bag of them too.  Though on reflection, we may have despatched a child to procure them for us.  Still, result.

Finally, my cheetah buddy had brought me bountiful produce from her allotment, so I went home with freshly harvested apples and pears.  Not a bad haul. I’m slightly worried that I brought nothing to the literal or metaphorical table, as I wasn’t even knowledgeable enough about camper vans to join in that conversation, but perhaps I’m holding back on my more bountiful qualities so I can use them for a special occassion.  Once the supply of all the free things had apparently been exhausted, we started to depart.  It had been a good day.  However, amazingly it wasn’t over, there were more surprises yet to come!

We went to watch the parkour play area for a bit, the athleticism of those young people is amazing.  In fact, it was inspirational.  For reasons that made sense at the time, we decided to find out how hard exactly it is to do a crab as an adult.  Regal Smiley and her Celebrity Photographer have recently discovered it’s way harder than you remember from your childhood.  We decided to have a go.  My approximation at this is not awe-inspiring, but may have comedic value.  It’s so strange. Your head gets stuck, like it’s nailed to the ground, and your arms don’t quite work either.  Have a go, you know you want to, and you might amuse any young person in the vicinity more than you know.  Think of it as a random act of kindness, and maybe choose a less public place to experiment though be mindful of your safety.  Don’t lock your front door in case emergency services are needed, and keep a mobile phone in reach, even if you have to activate it with your nose or eyebrows.  Here is the experiment and the joy it brought about.  You’re welcome.

So, that was that.  Home.  Thanks all for a great day.  Well done to the race organisers.  It can be lonely at the top.  Well, so they say, I suspect this is a team effort, but I like the narrative that allows me to include this picture. Also, special kudos for matching top and shoes, that’s classy!  Thank you runners and marshals all, both are needed, there would be no event of any worth if either side of that equation was a no-show.

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On the way home I took some photos to capture the season’s colours.  Potentially pretentious granted, but why not?  I find you can still have post-run endorphins even if you haven’t actually run anywhere, it was grand!  I loved everyone, and I loved the world… well, I did until the latest news bulletin, but that was always inevitable.

Oh lawks a lordy, I almost forgot, for those of you who care, there are results available here for the tententen 2016 and 2.5km fun-run.

When I got home, I got to enjoy my top.  You get a free one for volunteering, also free entry to next year’s event, which is a very good deal really, because marshaling was no great hardship, au contraire, it was a lot of fun.  The best thing about this top is that it is flattering.  I was going to wear it forever, but unfortunately got baked beans down it within hours of this photo being taken, so that plan didn’t quite work out, you might be luckier.  Just don’t eat baked beans wearing it, or wear a bib, or learn to get food in your mouth on a fork first time.  Takes practice, but I understand it can be done.

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Same time next year? Go on, go on, you know you want to!

If you are a seasoned volunteer, you might even be wise enough to bring your own chair.  Serious pros caught in action here!

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Oh, and another thing, there are lots of photos available on facebook, though as in previous years, the organisers ask that you consider making a donation to Weston Park Cancer Charity in return for free photos – they raised £1500 last year and are hoping to smash this target this year! 🙂 https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/TENTENTEN2016

and finally, if you dont have a life, or need a procrastination tool because you are supposed to be working towards your masters or whatever, then follow this link for all my running scared posts on the ten ten ten follow this link

You’re welcome.  Happy running.

Categories: 10km, off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments