Posts Tagged With: trail running

Out of the mist, came forth sun… and runners, lots and lots of runners. Loving Longshaw Trust10 in the spring sunshine.

Digested read:  back to the Longshaw Trust 10k (Trust10).  Misty start, sunny finish.  Very nice to be back.

Undigested read:

Everybody loves Longshaw.  Well they should do. Just look at it, it’s spectacular, whatever the season.

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We all need to reboot our systems now and again don’t we?  Don’t we?  Please don’t let on it really is just me?  Oh you were kidding,  it isn’t just me who gets a bit ground down now and again and needs to be reminded to look up and out and breath in the air.  That’s good, otherwise you’ll have no idea what I’m banging on about and that will make for a very confusing mismatch in our conversation, and nobody wants that.

So, Sunday morning. Now normally Sunday is junior parkrun day, and I do really love junior parkrun, supercharged fun however you look at it, especially at my local Graves junior parkrun where you get to run through the animal farm and by the lake and everything.

However, fun as it is, I realised last year that I’d got out of the habit of going to the Longshaw Trust 10k.  This is ridiculous, because I blooming love the Trust10, it’s always super friendly and welcoming and mostly ‘proper’ off road.  I mean not completely hard-core, but enough to get your feet muddy and feel alive and a very long way from the grind of running on pavements or tarmac.

Anyway, longshaw story short, I’ve decided to try to prioritise the Longshaw 10k a bit more this year, after all I can still do junior parkrun the other three weeks of the month (the Longshaw 10k takes place on the fourth Sunday of each month- check website just in case, but that’s worked so far, snow and ice permitting).  This morning, it being the fourth Sunday of the month, Longshaw it would be.

The website says succinctly:

Enjoy a 10k run in the special surroundings of the Longshaw Estate. Free, informal and for everyone

adding

Join us on the fourth Sunday of the month for our free 10k run. Registration is on the day 8.15 in the café, and the run starts at 9 am. A number will be issued to you at your first run.

The route is two laps, and takes in some wide paths and some more technical off-road sections on grass, rocks and sometimes muddy ground. It is suitable for runners of all abilities.

Timing will be via paper and stopwatches, so if your time is important to you please use your own system.

so that’s all you really need to know, you could just finish here, I wont know, I haven’t a clue if anyone ever reads my posts or not, so no offence taken.  Also, you might have a life to lead, places to go, people to see, whatever. I don’t do concise though, so I’m not prepared to leave this account at that, read on at your own risk. Maybe have a precautionary pee first, and pour yourself a mug of tea or glass of wine in readiness. You’ll need something with which to fortify yourself if you intend to stick with me for the long run. Not that Longshaw is especially long by everyone’s standards, but I’ll make it feel long for you.  It’s a 10k route, but two 5k laps, so if you are unsure you could always do one loop and then bail finish at that point. You’ll be at the front of the cafe queue and have seen the route.  But you won’t get a time and you won’t know the fun you’ve missed out on by doing so. Your call though, nobody will judge you.   Really they wont.  In a good way, nobody cares what you do, as long as you are having a good time and stay safe.  Think parkrun, it’s that sort of ethos.   Good natured, celebrating what you do, and although there are definitely speedy runners pegging round at the front, there is nothing to stop you taking a more sedate romp round at the rear – as did I today.

Despite everything, I did feel a little disloyal to be heading Longshaw way instead of to Graves.  Also, it was freezing when I woke.  Really misty, and was that even a bit of ice on the car?  Possibly.  It was like that at Graves parkrun yesterday, so misty you could hardly see your hand in front of your face on arrival, but then it did clear enough later on the second lap for an en route selfie with highland coo.  Such selfies ought to be mandatory anyway at Graves parkrun, what’s the point of a parkrun going to all that effort of supplying highland coos if nobody bothers to do so, but it was made easier yesterday by dint of me being busy and important as tail walker for the day, no pressure to rush on by.  Oh and also having a smart phone carrying selfie wannabee to accompany me, result.  Hurrah!  Fab walk and talk yesterday.  I thank you. 🙂

Where was I?  You’ve distracted me. Oh yeah, not at Graves, but heading to Longshaw.  It was misty enough that I contemplated putting on my headlights, and cold enough that I considered wearing one of my deeply unflattering beanies.  I thought the better of it, though on reflection, my pink Trust10 bobble hat would have been OK, it’s more forgiving than my cow bob and TpoT offerings.  Too late, didn’t take one, wondered if I might regret it, blooming cold.

I won’t lie, I’ve not been feeling the running lurve lately.  My mojo has not so much temporarily departed as actually abandoned me leaving no forwarding address and only memories and dreams of what might have been.  Despite this, I do sort of miss what we had, and it is slowly dawning on me, that astonishingly, the only way to get back my running form is to actually go out and do some running. Harsh, but true.  Perhaps today would be the day.

I arrived crazily early at Longshaw, got my self parked up in ‘my’ parking spot. Yes, I do have a favourite parking spot at Longshaw, doesn’t everyone?  It was £3.50 for non National Trust members for up to four hours – was hoping that I wouldn’t take that long to get around, even allowing time for a fairly substantial cheese scone afterwards. You can park for free along the road outside the Fox House, but I suppose I feel paying for parking is a way of supporting the otherwise free event.  Also, less far to retreat back to the car on days when it is so cold your legs won’t work.  That might just be me though. You are probably so hard-core you’ll be incorporating the Longshaw Trust10 into your long run and jog out, run the 10k and run home again.  Go you!  Not me though, that wasn’t my plan, though I do have a bit of a fantasy that I might do that one day.  Maybe when the weather is a bit warmer so I don’t have to worry about getting cold in between running legs.

The air was still, the car park already beginning to fill up, and the views, as always, just breathtaking.  Of course my photos don’t do it justice, why would they? You’ll have to go check it out for yourself.

Keenie volunteers had already put the little pink flags up to mark the way.  I had my first precautionary pee of the morning.  The bolt on the toilet door wasn’t working, but that didn’t matter as the queue for the loo is always so extensive, someone will look out for you.  The gents of course just breezed past us, waving as they went to make free with their own more ample facilities.  Structural injustice strikes again.  I read a whole article about exactly this issue of why there are never enough female toilets (as in toilets for use by women, not for bathroom sanitation ware that identifies as female – I’m pretty sure most would be non-binary anyway), but now I can’t find it.  Bet you are gutted.  Worry not, I’ll add it in later if I do.  Hang on, you’re OK, I’ve found it, great article on the deadly truth about a world built for men You’re welcome.  Found this one on the American Potty Parity movement too, who knew?  Having said that, compared to other running events, the provision at Longshaw is pretty darned good.  Warm registration area, toilets- not just toilets, but ample toilet paper and hot running water too. Thrown in an informal bag drop, parking,  and post run coffee and carb options and that covers everything really.

Headed in to the cafe area to register, my camera can’t cope with interior shots, but you’ll get the gist. First timers have to complete a registration form, returners, wearing their own reused numbers have a quicker process.

It’s all very self-explanatory and pretty slick, though the volume of participants these days does make for some good-natured queuing. That’s OK though, it’s a chance to catch up with everyone you’ve ever met in the running community of Sheffield. This event brings loads out of the woodwork.  I went on my own, but bumped into many familiar faces.  Grand.

The high vis heroes were discussing tactics, being efficient and heading off to their posts, some of which are a fair old hike away from the cafe area:

Here they are en masse at the end. What a fine and photogenic lot they are. Hurrah for them.  That’s not even all of them.  It takes a lot of effort to keep the event running smoothly.  (Pun intended, I’m super quick-witted like that – less quick on my feet unfortunately.  Oh well, we can’t all be good at anything everything).

Volunteers are epic

Runners arrived and milled and chilled, some did some voluntary extra running, by way of warm up.  Respect.  Others did some voluntary extra running by way of sustainable transport options.  Also respect:

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The sun was beginning to peak through, and I started to see familiar faces from woodrun and even a few other break away-ers from Graves junior.  It was like big reunion!

It was definitely still misty, but the day seemed full of promise.  An air of eager anticipation started to build. It seemed busy to me, but then again, apart from the Christmas Tinsel Trust 10 I’ve hardly been to Longshaw Trust10 of late.  I decided NOT to wear my coat, which is quite a big deal for me, as normally I have to have it forcibly wrestled away from me pre run.  Now though, the air was still, and the runes seemed good.  It was one of those days where you really get why ancient peoples worshipped the sun, it seemed miraculous how it began to appear and burned through the fog to reveal a glorious landscape of wonder and promise. In a bit though, not straight away.

After a bit, there was a sort of collective move towards the start, as if drawn by a silent beacon, like in Close Encounters, only a lot jollier and with more visible Lycra. Honestly, I don’t know if Lycra was even a thing when the film Close Encounters came out in 1977, the Wikipedia entry inexplicably completely fails to mention it.  This is the problem with becoming over reliant on search engines on the interweb, the entirety of human knowledge becomes reduced to dust.

The Devil’s Tower is pretty much indistinguishable from Carl Wark in my view, and you can only differentiate the assembling of runners from the assembly of the alien seekers by the presence of tarmac beneath the feet of the non runners.  Spooky isn’t it?

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Once we were all assembled, more or less, bit of fraternising went on, I noticed the runderwear ambassador ingratiating herself to the tail walkers.  Well, she was trying to communicate something important anyway.  Also a few ill-advised selfies were taken alongside other reunions. You know, it occurs to me, maybe it isn’t the hats that make me spectacularly unphotogenic, maybe I actually look like this hatted or otherwise.  Horrible thought.  Oh well, this selfie is significant because the two of us have been Facebook stalking each others for some months but until this weekend never met, now two-day on the trot, yesterday Graves, today Longshaw. We’re properly best friends now!  Clearly Smiley Selfie Queen has more experience in these matters, or maybe a more forgiving filter.  I’ll never know…  I was slightly disappointed to see she was no longer wearing her sash from yesterday, when she celebrated her 100th parkrun with cakeage+, bunnage+ and a sash proclaiming her achievement.  Oh well.  At least I saw her on the day.

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there was the run briefing.

Take care, be sensible, usual information about following marshals directions, but today was special, because today was also a day to sing Happy Birthday en masse in honour of stalwart volunteer Frances, soon to be eighty.  I think it’s fair to say that on the whole attendees are better at running than singing, but the rendition that followed this announcement was full of affection and enthusiasm.  Go Frances!  Excellent hat sporting as well as time keeping. We, who are about to run, salute you!

Birthday celebrant

It’s been a week of awesome octogenarians here in Sheffield.  Tony Foulds did good too did he not, getting his fly-by and all. Maybe that’s when life begins, at eighty, I can but hope… I’m post 54 and still don’t feel like I’ve made it off the starting block…

This is what runners look like whilst singing and waving in the start ‘funnel’ there are helpful signs to suggest where to place yourself to avoid congestion once underway by the way.  Also attentive looking runners during the run briefing.

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So then, pre run socialising and communal singing satisfactorily completed, we were awf, with that Longshaw staple the wolf whistle to get us underway!  You had to be there, but trust me, it’s true and it was audible and off everybody went.  It was somewhat quirky, like lighting a cigarette to start off the Barkley Marathons, but with more attention to Health and Safety.

And off we went.  It was fairly steady start from where I was at the back.  I daresay the front runners do speed off, but the mass of the back were happy to be more relaxed as we departed.  It’s a narrow path and a bit of a dog leg, and you are just warming up so no great haste.  Not on my part anyway.  The promise of good weather had brought along a fair few spectators to cheer us off, and no doubt then nip into the cafe for reviving coffee for a bit before the faster runners were back at the end of their first lap.

There was a bit of a bottle neck through the first gate, and then onto the compressed mud track where you run perilously close to a ditch, or more accurately a ha ha, presumably called this because that is the noise your so-called friends would make if you were to tumble into it due to either ice or a lapse in concentration.  Wikipedia doesn’t say.

There are many pleasing sights on the way round, but a fine marshal with psychedelic leggings and winning smile is always going to be a hit.  What’s more, on this route, you get to see all the lovely marshals twice if you do the whole 10k.  Now there’s an incentive to keep on running round!  Isn’t she lovely. (Rhetorical question, of course she is!)  Plus, I can personally vouch for her outstanding directional pointing, clapping and generally supportive whooping.  She’s always had a talent for this, starting way back at the finish line in the early days of parkrun, but totally perfected and finessed here at Longshaw.  Thank you marshal.  Top Tip, best to shout out your thanks on loop one, as by the time lap two comes round you may well be a) breathless and b) somewhat less enthusiastic about the whole thing, it all depends.

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Off we went, runners streaming ahead and round the lake, or is it a pond?  Not sure what the difference is, but it was all very scenic. You could tell the first timers who ground to a halt at the slightest hint of mud, not having yet learned the fun is in the plunging through it.  I heard one fellow runner explain to his running mate he would have done, but was getting a lift back and didn’t want to get mud in the car!  Can’t be a proper running buddy if they object to mud surely, but each to their own.

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Usually, the entire field has run out of my field of vision quite early on, but today I seemed to stay at least in sight of people for the whole of the first lap.  Others were also being distracted by the scenery, it was lovely, and getting lovelier by the minute as the sun burst through.  Handily placed marshals held open gates and pointed the way towards Narnia, and we followed the paths with delighted eager anticipation

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Through the trees, skipping through more open spaces, mud dodging or not, as the mood took us, thanking marshals, queuing at the kissing gate – good for a regroup, catch up and reconnaissance with other runners.

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Then into the proper woody bit, which is all tree roots and hobbit country.  It was surprisingly dry, and perfect for running today, it can be muddy and slippery, but today was fab, you need to pick your way a bit, but I enjoy this section, though you are a bit restricted to single file.  I tell myself this is why I made no attempt to overtake other runners, instead preferring to pause for photo ops en route.  Ahead of me, my parkrun buddy and Runderwear ambassador had befriended another runner, she does that a lot… takes other runners under her wing, it’s a good quality, and also a super power, it’s pretty much impossible to resist her advances – only this parkrun 50 tee wearing runner had just got swept up in the event and was doing her own run.  She wasn’t persuaded to join the fun this time round, well, no number I suppose, unless she blagged the number 50 – but I’m hoping next month she’ll be back.  She’d have fitted right in!  I am proud of my moody atmospheric shots.  The sky is moody not the runners. Well they may have been moody, I couldn’t tell from my scenic shot seeking detour standing in the bog.

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You emerge from the woodland section, through a gate, scramble over some rocks and you get spat out onto the ‘proper’ trail moorland section.  Sometimes when it’s wet this is really squidgy, but today it was easy running, apart from the little matter of being expected to run uphill.  I ran a bit, but pretty soon ended up power walking. They have ‘improved’ the route to minimise erosion, so there is now a clear path and even a little bridge so you no longer get to  have to launch yourself into flight over the little stream.

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A cheery marshal directs you and offers encouragement as you look upwards to the first serious climb of the morning, up, up skyward, into the blinding light of the morning sun. You can just make out the marshal standing astride the style in the wall at the top of the ascent, back-lit, like a super hero making an entrance.  Good work there, today Longshaw marshal, tomorrow deus ex machina at a theatrical happening of your choice!

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This marshal, as others, has commandeered this as his regular spot.  He is always friendly, and up for a chat, though it has to be said I do feel he has a somewhat unfair advantage in this respect as he hasn’t just had to drag his weary carcass up a steep hill. He is supportive though, and promised to see about putting in some sort of stairlift contraption or escalator in time for the second lap.  Top tip, don’t get your hopes up, it’s like at the Sheffield Half marathon when well-meaning spectators tell you at the Norfolk Arms ‘it’s all downhill from here!’  They are all well-intentioned, but they lie.  It’s inadvertent, but good to know.

He quipped at my Runderwear buddy just ahead ‘not last today then?’ in cheery tones. She most definitely was not. My job I thought silently, and so in time it proved to be.

So after the style and the wall and the chat, you have a long straight bit on a compacted service path.  Through a gate, and on a bit more, and then, just when your homing instinct is screaming at you to go straight on as ‘cafe ahead’ cheery marshals send you off to the right and up the second hill of the day.  This I find really hard, I don’t know why it feels quite as tough as it does, but it plays mind games.  I ended up walking and feeling pathetic for doing so.  Others ahead were walking too.  Blimey I need to up my game.

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Towards the top of this hill, you emerge alongside one of the other car parks, a marshal directs you – the route used to go through the carpark, but this route is better.  About this point the front runners started to come through, lapping me.  They make it look effortless.  Very impressive, they might be great athletes, but this is a good natured event, most shouted some sort of acknowledgement or encouragement as they passed.  I was a bit disappointed that unlike at the Tinsel Ten, none of the front runners were wearing a turkey on their heads.  Not one.  There was also a distinct lack of fancy dress.  Maybe they didn’t get the memo…  The pictures don’t capture the steepness of the climb, or maybe it really is all in my head.  The run is in fact flat, the earth is flat* and I have found a sports bra that is both comfy and supportive, and can also still fit into my interview suit.  All things are now possible.

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Over the hill, literally and metaphorically, and you are out on the exposed ridge and a flat track back to the start/ finish.  It was a lovely spot today, but I have seen marshals nearly frozen to the spot in less clement weather.  The marshal is ready to stop cars running you down – always a boon, and I think furnished with a first aid kit too, or maybe a very large packed lunch, I didn’t pause to check.  I’m sure I saw a big back pack somewhere.  It’s not in the photos, maybe I was hallucinating, or maybe some other marshal had that responsibility.  I’ll try to remember to look out for it properly next time.  On this stretch, you have to remember to take in the views.  They are spectacular.  I got overtaken a lot, but there are also walkers coming the other way.  The first lap is nearly complete though, so that’s a boost.  I have this weird thing that once I’m half way through an event, irrespective of distance, I believe I will complete it because I’ve only got to do the same again. This isn’t quite logical, but positive thinking probably goes a long way so I don’t want to challenge myself on this point for fear of my self-belief coming crashing down.  It is hovering quite precariously as it is.

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There is a narrow marshal-assisted gate at the end which you pass through into the comparative darkness of the woodland area again. I once saw a runner crash spectacularly into the stone gate post here, because there is a bit of an optical illusion going on.  There was a lot of blood, and staggering about, that’s probably why it’s marshalled now.

Once you are safely through, it’s a downhill sprint to the finish, unless you are on your first lap, in which case you cruise on through. Inexplicably, no-one has ever confused me for a finisher at the end of my first lap, even though I’m still behind a good number of others who’ve completed their two.  Oh well, at least I get my monies worth for time out on the course!

So I charged through the finish and round again for lap two. I  spotted the RD and one of her noble side-kicks and called out to them to take a photograph. Confusingly, they thought I wanted them to take one of me!  How bizarre, I have a lifetime’s supply of deeply unflattering photos of myself running, no, what I was after was one of them.  After all, runners are ten a penny at events like these, but the volunteer and organising team, well, they are priceless.  It’s a shame I didn’t get a better picture, but it is the thought that counts, and I was trying to think I promise!

Round again,through the gate into the woods again, this time I felt like I was the only runner left on the course.  There was one other just ahead, but it had definitely emptied out.  A family out walking graciously moved aside to let me pass ‘as I was racing’ which was gracious of them as I’m not sure I really was worthy of such a descriptor,  back to smiley marshal still in situ, doing a double wave just for me.

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I usually enjoy a steady solitary second lap more than the first at Longshaw, because it can be quite meditative. Today though, I heard frantic stomping of feet and breathless runners coming up behind me, it was like being hunted down! I thought maybe it was people who’d already finished doing a final cool down lap or something, but it turned out to be the two tail runners. They’d been with some other runner who’d stopped after one lap, and were now on a mission to catch me up at the back.  They were friendly and supportive, and darted about picking up flags and trying to engage in conversation a bit, but unfortunately, as my regular reader will know I really can’t talk and run so wasn’t as much fun at the back as  if they’d had the pleasure of the company of the Runderwear ambassador who’d been cavorting with them like long-lost friends reunited earlier.  However, today she was on fast forward the whole way round, the tail runners didn’t even have her in sight. So sorry lovely tail walkers, I just can’t cope with running with other people, it is my strange way.  I did my best to romp on ahead, but couldn’t quite catch and overtake the penultimate runner, however now and again I put enough space between me and the tail to get some photos of their awesome twosome tail teamwork in action.  Enjoy!  Oh, and she’s wearing a backpack under her hi-vis, no need to stare.

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Back into the woods, and oh, it was this marshal with the pack lunch/ first aid kit.  Phew, glad that mystery is solved… also nice moss, shapely trees, no time to stop, scared of being chased down, still, my polar watch was thrilled, I exceeded my exercise goals for today apparently.  That’s smugness inducing I must concede.

back onto the open hillside

past the deus ex machina at the summit – he was offering lifts back in his truck to anyone wishing to bail at this point, but no not I!

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Flat bit, puff puff, up the blooming hill, more puffing, flat and fast bit, through the gate, into the woods, down the hill, people at the finish, parkrun buddies and smiley friends shouting me in, I even managed a little burst of speed to the finish flag, though that might also have been because I tripped a bit going down hill and then couldn’t stop myself with all my substantial weight behind that bit of inadvertent forward momentum!

All done.  Phew.  Drank a full litre of water once I’d been reunited with my bag, which I’d just left in the cafe, you do so at your own risk, but it feels safe to me.  My rucksack is pretty distinctive, people know it’s mine. That’s not to say it means they would stop someone else from taking it, but I’d expect them to mention it later when it was gone ‘oh, I saw someone with your backpack disappearing earlier, wondered who it was‘.  Very reassuring.  FYI, I left my backpack in Jonty’s cafe a couple of weeks ago. When I went to pick it up they asked me to describe it, ‘it’s black and turquoise‘ I said.  ‘Oh dear,’ they said ‘we do have one, but it is black and aquamarine, so cannot possibly be yours!’  I thought that was funny.  I was reunited, panic not.

Joined the very extensive queue in the Longshaw tea rooms. I’ve never seen it so long, normally, because I’m slow, by the time I’ve finished, everyone else has recarbed up and yomped off home.  Maybe the warm weather brought more people out, or perhaps there was another event.  It didn’t really matter.  When I got to the front of the queue, I asked for an extra shot in my latte, but the server queried this as it already has two shots in it.  I think it’s good.  They obviously have and enforce an ‘enjoy caffeine responsibly’ policy, and I just didn’t look like I’d be able to handle it.

Sat outside in the sun for a post run debrief. Very nice it was too.

and then cheese scone (that was sooooooooooooooooooooo nice) consumed and coffee quaffed, it was time to go home.  What a fine morning had been had by all though.

Thank you lovely Longshaw people and fellow Trust10 participants for making it so.  Hope to be more regular in my visits in the year ahead.

🙂

By the way, if you are a fan of Longshaw and want to support them a bit more, there’s currently a big push for support for their Peak District Appeal, Woods for the Future A £20 donation doesn’t quite get you a dormouse named after you, but it could pay for a nest for a whole family, so that’s even better right?

£20 could get a nest for dormice

Also, just to be clear, a few footnotes for your edification and improvement:

+cakeage and bunnage refer to the practise of bringing large quantities of cake/ buns/ muffins etc to parkrun related celebrations or running related gatherings more generally.  Bunnage refers to any quantity greater than one bun, and cakeage to any quantity greater than one person can reasonably be expected to consume unaided.  Communal baking basically, and a very fine thing it is too.  Helped this one to a pb the following day, there’s a lot to be said for carbing up, clearly.

*FYI the earth is not flat.  Definitely not.  You’re welcome

So there you go, today’s Trust10 Longshaw 10k, Trust 10, call it what you will, done and dusted.  Nice wasn’t it?

For all my Trust 10k posts, click here.  Or don’t, it’s not compulsory.  You’ll have to scroll down for older entries

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or then again, don’t.  It’s up to you.  You’ll still need to scroll down for older entries though.

Happy trail running ’til next time.  Hope the sun shines on you wherever you are.

 

Categories: 10km, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fabulous Frolics at Frickley Country parkrun

Digested read: went to Frickley Country parkrun for some tourism.  It was only their fourth event (bless), but ran like a well oiled machine.  It was reet nice.  Thanks all.  You may be a relatively new arrival, but you appear to have emerged fully fledged.  Hurrah!

Undigested read: (it’s a long one, again, remember, read responsibly, leave time to adult, or not, where applicable and according to your needs and preferences but don’t blame me for tasks undone).

So much I want to tell you about this parkrun.  It was jam-packed with celebrities for starters (though we can take it as a given that all parkrunners are heroes). There is however, one particular completely brilliant feature that confounded all my previous parkrun expectations. Desperate to blurt it out right now, but you know what, I’m going to save it for later, because I think – hard as it is to comprehend –  it will be even more fun if you experience the delayed gratification that I too underwent on my sojourn to Frickley this morning, before getting to the big reveal.  Well, here’s hoping anyway.  I know, hope over experience, but you’ve gotta have hope, especially in times as dark, dismal and divisive as these…  In fact, I’m almost wondering if I shouldn’t tell you, in case that means you lose the element of surprise when you rock up for your inaugural Frickley Country parkrun experience.  It’s quite a dilemma, responsibility even.  I’ll have to wait and see…

I’ll tell you something straight up though (see what I’ve done there?  Pun intended) this was definitely an ‘undulating’ course, properly so.  And I speak as a veteran of many a Sheffield parkrun.  You know what, I’m going to really stick my neck out and concede there were actual hills.  You’ll get fit if Frickley Country is your home course for sure.  Even if ‘just’ hoiking yourself up to one of the higher marshalling points. And for your information, this isn’t even The Hill, and this hi viz hero still had to set off at dawn to allow enough time for him to summit before we parkrunners descended…

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But I’m getting ahead of myself here, stop distracting me with all this hill-talk all I’ll never be finished with this account, let’s get back to basics shall we – you can always skim read if you are getting bored impatient.

Confession time.  I’d never even heard of Frickley ’til  a couple of weeks ago.  No idea where it was, but it popped up as my NENDY (nearest event not done yet) and so it seemed that it’s a relatively new event (this was their fourth) that snuck under the radar, presumably wanting a quiet inaugural, which is fair enough. I’m upping my tourism lately, for various reasons I can’t be bothered to elaborate on here, and so it seemed a logical choice for a Saturday morning jaunt out from Sheffield.  So, in case you, like me, have been living in a state of ignorance about Frickley, I can tell you this, Frickley Country park

is a former colliery and now is now an attractive open space. It has over 7 miles of footpaths and cycle-ways, giving you great opportunities to walk, run, cycle and escape in this natural environment. There are also several works of art which hark back to the land’s industrial past.

and is located

to the immediate south of South Elmsall, West Yorkshire. It’s situated on the southern side of an urban settlement, bordered to the east and south by agricultural land with broadleaf woods, and to the west by a railway and spoil heaps

frickley country park

So now we all know.   Firmly in the Yorkshire and Humberside section of the parkrun events page.

I feel enlightened. One of the many fab things about parkrun tourism is that it has been most educational.  I’ve visited places that I might never have reason to stop at before and met some fab people along the way.  What’s not to like. Also, many fine mugs of coffee drunk along the way (apart from Doncaster parkrun, that was an ace visit but worst coffee ever experienced ever, not just at parkrun even).  No parkrun trip, however far ventured, is ever wasted.  FACT.

I was trying to remind myself of this when my alarm clock went off and I woke blinking and confused staring into the dark.  Felt like I hadn’t slept, but I peered out of window and established there was no ice, so it was trip on.  I always worry about getting lost so left loads of time, so it was pitch dark as I ventured out.  I hate driving in the dark, roll on long summer days when parkrun tourism can occur in daylight.  It was an easy drive from Sheffield to Frickley, though inevitably further than I thought.  The Frickley Country parkrun directions stated (correctly) that the

Sat Nav code WF9 2EQ. This postcode is accurate to within 200 metres of the entrance (do not turn into Colliers Way – dead end, unless on foot). The entrance (unmade road) is 200 metres ahead between Frickley Colliery Welfare Cricket Club and Broad Lane Business Centre. The Frickley Athletic Football Club Pavilion is located off Westfield Lane South Elmsall Pontefract. There is signage at the entrance to the Football ground.

There is ample car parking available free of charge at the Frickley Athletic Football Stadium/Pavilion. There is additional free car parking around the site (Doncaster Road car park entrance and at Curlew View car park entrance) however they are approximately a 10 minute walk to the start/finish line

It wasn’t difficult to find, but, as I was early, the entrance, though clearly marked, didn’t inspire confidence.  It takes you down a rather potholed track, and you approach it through quite dense housing, so it felt counter intuitive.

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I was quite relieved to espy the parkrun flag, and made my way through to a soft of fenced off carpark area.  There was indeed loads of parking first thing, anyway, however characteristically, I was immediately overwhelmed with the decision making involved in choosing the correct space.  I then went for a quick explore of the entrance area to the Frickley Athletic Football Club, which had some (to me at least) highly entertaining signage.  Loved the Big Fellas clothing notice and was especially taken by the evostick sponsorship as I didn’t realize adhesive was a natural bedfellow for football league support.  See, once again, parkrun was proving most educational.  There was plenty of extra parking space, though not marked out, so potentially a bit of a free for all in terms of finding a spot.  Less salubrious, was the copious amounts of dog poo everywhere around the entrance area.  Not a good impression, stick to the tarmac dear reader I’ll say no more.

Oh, and I took a ‘before’ selfie, because you have to, don’t you, it’s the rule at a new parkrun location.  I think it must also be a given that it’s deeply unflattering, well that rule works for me, please gawd I don’t actually look like this in real life – mind you, wait til you see the ‘after’ shot. After shock more like….

Emboldened by my foray around, I approached the club house.  You could see a veritable army mass of hi-vis marshals milling around through the windows.  Others were arriving too, loads of tourist buffs, and there was a sort of air of eager anticipation. Unlike other parkruns I’ve been to, because this is a relatively new event, there was a sort of collective uncertainty about where facilities and the course was, but it was exciting, like we were all about to embark on a grand new adventure.

The club house has much to recommend it. It was roasty toasty warm for one thing, which may or may not be a good thing on reflection, as it was hard to prize yourself away from it.  Coffee was available pre as well as post parkrun.  There were loos – indeed an actual changing room with showers and a treatment bench thing, if only I’d thought to bring my personal masseuse with me this morning we’d have managed just fine.   It did look a bit like an old-fashioned asylum as portrayed in an old horror film, but apart from that. Also, you get to feel important on the way in, as there is a sign up making it very clear that only VIPs are honored with using that particular entrance.

Having executed my first precautionary pee of the morning, it was time to have a little scout around the course.  The sun was rising, and I contemplated chugging up an adjacent hill to get a better shot, but instead tried for ones on lower ground.  Dog poo alert again, so much dog shite around the football pitch areas, I should have gone up the hill.  The poo problem seemed quite localised, I assume from people watching matches paying no attention to their hounds prolific ‘toileting’ – it didn’t help there were no obvious poo bins, it was a real shame, very off putting.  Basically, my top tip is treat the whole grass area around the football pitches and the rough parking areas around the entrance area as if they are mined with dog poo.  Tread on these areas at your peril.  You’ll have no recourse, I strongly suspect there is no DNA testing of dog poop in this location.  However, try not to be put off the whole parkrun experience by this first impression, granted the bar is set quite low, canine faeces proliferation wise, but honestly, things got very much better from hereon-in!  I will resist the temptation to insert here a photo of a dog mid-poo, instead going for this positive imagery of a very finely executed poop scoop by parkrunners and barkrunners doing the right thing. Good to know!

responsible dog owners

Back to cheerier themes, sunrise picture wise though, no worries, others did make this foray to higher ground and I am shamelessly using their pics alongside mine.  If you want to know which is which, basically their ones are the money shots, and mine isn’t.  Hope that helps.

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So first impressions. Well, sun rise, huge expanse of space, and yep ‘undulating’.  I was sort of lurking and overhearing other conversations.  One was pointing to a steep hill, and saying ‘of course that’s not The Hill, that’s over there‘ as she gestured wildly in some other direction.  I didn’t pay all that much attention. We have hills in Sheffield. It’d be fine.

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I wandered down to the finish area, distinguishable by a very fine pop-up finish sign, way more sophisticated than I’ve seen in any of our more local runs.  It is two-sided so one side says ‘finish’ and the other, creatively, says ‘start’.  However, although you might think this is a boon, it was actually a bit confusing, and I noticed it did get turned around a few times this morning.  So when I first went down ‘finish’ was towards me, but later it was changed to show ‘start’ so you could see where to assemble as you emerged into the park area from the clubhouse, but then you actually line up behind it so it feels like you are running through the ‘finish’ as you head out.  Don’t worry too much though, everything worked.  Here is a picture for identification purposes:

I got acquainted with another tourist from Huddersfield (wave of hello inserted here), who was telling me about a new run there, Storthes Hall parkrun, also new to the parkrun party, so that can be added to my to do list.  It’s quite exciting, all these extra parkruns popping up all over.  She was watching her tourist buddies warming up, they looked impressive sprinting down the hill.  Personally, I like to save my running around for the actual run, though with the benefit of hindsight, for this particular parkrun a warm up lope  along somewhere is probably a good move.  More of this later.

 I had to have my second precautionary pee of the morning, and did some milling around self-consciously.  Volunteers started to emerge from the club house and head out to their individually identified hot spots.

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More and more people started to descend on the area.  The anticipation built.

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After a bit, a call went out for the first timers briefing.  There was a fair few of us, the majority were tourists, but some were locals, some even first time ever parkrunners, sigh, their lives will never be the same again.  I followed the mob to the briefing.  There was a description of the course.  ‘See that hill, it’s not that one that everyone has been talking about‘.  Oh, maybe I should have concentrated a bit more on understanding what the course was like.  Clearly this mythical hill is a thing of wonder, and not to be approached too lightly.  All were welcomed, and having established no-one was intending to be faster than 20 minutes, the basic advice is to follow the person in front and listen to marshals, which always works for me.  All friendly though, and welcoming, which is the main thing. Thank you welcoming first time briefer.

Hang on, should probably do the official Frickley Country parkrun course blah de blah, here it is:

The start and finish are located at the Frickley Athletic Football Club Pavilion. The course consists of mixed trail surfaces. The course is exclusively the Frickley Country Park site. The majority of the course (4K) is one lap, with an additional (1K) loop. The course is undulating, with a challenging hill section at 1K point, however the views from the top are worth the effort of the climb.

Hmm, sounded innocuous enough.  It looks like this:

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So now we all know.

More milling and chilling.  Whilst we were waiting patiently assembled at the start, a fine dachshund caught my eye.  We were formally introduced later on, but he was clearly a parkrun pro.  He was outraged at the hanging around and trying to alert his handler to his impatience at this unexpected lull in proceedings.  Clearly he was used to a speedier start.  His handler made an abortive attempt to lead him away from the start to minimise the disruption caused by his barking, but this made things worse.  Troy (for that is of whom I am speaking) was provoked even further because his idiot handler was clearly trying to go the wrong way! Honestly, it must be so frustrating when you are a barkrun pro and the idiots around you are not following your expected parkrun protocols!

After a bit, there was a further call for attention, and this time it was the Run Director’s briefing.  She didn’t appear to be wearing the traditional (I thought) blue hi-vis.  Whether that was because they don’t yet have one, she preferred to go undercover for surveillance purposes or it was just forgotten I cannot say.  However, in a much more dramatic break from tradition, I can report dear reader that there was proper, respectful silence for the Run Director during the briefing.  Hallelujah!  That made a refreshing change.  I suppose it does rather suggest it was because this was a new event so people were paying attention.  The depressing truth that goes alongside this is all the people yakking through other run briefings at parkruns nationwide are regulars.  Oh well, not so here, we can celebrate that.  We were reminded that there is a loopy bit you do twice, so keep to the left on that unless overtaking.  This all makes sense once you’ve done it, but not really in advance.  You could get away with just doing it once, but really, you’d only be fooling yourself and you’d never get another pb so where would be the fun in that?  Not only do run directors in general rock, obvs, but this particular RD has her own rock on which to stand to deliver said RD briefing.  Another fine innovation from a new parkrun.  There was also a warning that there is a rogue Frickley Parkrun Facebook page out there, but it has a capital pee, so would fool no true parkrunner surely! 😉 Seriously though, how has that happened, bit weird for someone to choose to do that…

‘Twas a brief briefing.  3 2 1 Go!  And we were awf.  Troy was mightily relieved, and it did start punctually, the milling around was because we were all keenies in situ nice and early.  Of we went, up the path and then first left and  even more up as we tackle the  a hill.  Over two hundred runners.  It was a fair old heave ho.  Hence my earlier comment maybe a warm up would have been a good idea.  I found this parkrun hard from the off.

There were a few buggy runners.  Respect to them!  Although the paths were firm underneath, there was a fair bit of mud on top, and with that, and the hills from the outset, it was nigh on heroic to get a buggy round, but plenty did, and overtook me to boot (though that’s not quite such an impressive achievement as I might wish to believe).

Up, up the hill, thanking our cheery hi-vis heroes as we passed.

I was towards the back, I always do start further back these days, and it was quite something to see the colourful snake of runners snaking up ahead and over the brow of the hill, which somewhat made up for my growing sense of panic that I’d be left behind completely!  Maybe if I spent less time taking blurry photos and more time actually running that would be less of a real peril!

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Coming over the top of the hill you are rewarded by great views, the relief of a bit of flat, and then some down hill -which was fine but a bit steeper and rougher than the generally compact trails might suggest.  I was glad of my trail shoes – then again, I am a bit of a scaredy cat, so always favour a bit of extra grip on unfamiliar courses.

I found it quite interesting running through this reclaimed colliery site, though I guess inevitably its history will be complicated.  It reminded me – unsurprisingly of Gedling, another reclaimed colliery.  A lot of effort has gone into creating these spaces, and they are impressive, and over time, as trees mature, will become even more so.  Still, no time to think about that.  Getting to the 1 km mark, I saw it.  The Hill.  Yep, that’s a hill.  Sufficiently steep that the path zig zags up to it rather than going straight up.  Fab marshaling position at the bottom of the hill gave great views of the thread of runners hoiking themselves up, some with more grace and elegance than others!  There were some trodden linking sections where other walkers had taken ‘short cuts’ straight up, but I’m not sure you’d gain anything at a parkrun by so doing, they were pretty steep, you’d end up sliding right back down again if you gave into misguided temptation to cut a corner anywhere.  Looked great though. Again, I’ve borrowed some photos of others to create some mood shots for you.  Hoping those who put their photos on Facebook will be magnanimous about sharing them here.

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Not gonna lie.  That hill was tough going.  If this was your local parkrun you’d get seriously fit running up that hill even just once a week.  Weirdly, when I checked out the elevation for this route afterwards, it was ‘only’ 257 ft, compared to say Graves parkrun (new route) which is, according to my Strava more at 340 ft. Graves doesn’t feel so hard to me, but then again it is familiar.  Not loving the uphill finish at Graves though, oh the shame if you can’t keep you puff and running up for a final flourish!`

Mind you, don’t know what I’m moaning about, have you seen what some women are capable of?  Can we have a moment to celebrate these amazing women have done.  A group of five Aymara indigenous women from Bolivia – known as the cholita* climbers – have summited Aconcagua (6961m) in the Argentinian Andes near the border with Chile.  6961 metres is 22837.93 ft, apparently, let’s call it 22838 ft shall we? Which is like doing the ascent at Frickley Country parkrun 88.8638132296 times.  Let’s call that 89 times shall we?  Impressive.  They look very jolly, I think they’d make fine parkrunners, shame parkrun has yet to make it to Bolivia.

cholita climbers

I barely made it up the hill once.  To add to the stress of it all, there was a photographer lurking at the highest point!  Great sense of humour the Frickley folk were sporting there. They must have captured some corkers!

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Update: yes they did get some corker photos, and shared them too, here are some, thank you Frickley Country parkrun volunteer, much appreciated.  Told you those buggy pushers were hardcore, and that dachshunds are feisty.  Confusingly, I’m sure at least a couple of the photos were from a different spot at the bottom of a hill, but you get the gist, I’m sure.  Disappointingly, I don’t think the gradient is fully obvious from these shots, but maybe the grimaces on the photos tell their own story.  Come and run it for yourself and then decide…

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You are rewarded for this second ascent with more flat, which you can enjoy as long as your lungs aren’t too full of blood from the earlier exertion.  You can really see for miles, the landscape is in no way ‘natural’ but it is full of interest. There were lots of features to appreciate, strategically placed benches (NOT intended to be used as resting points mid parkrun but I suppose if you really had to), with lovely side silhouettes of people staring out to the view, and little design references to the history of the site.

Nice.

Again, the views stretch out in front of you, and you can follow the brightly coloured snaking line of running tees like a trail of bread crumbs to see your way ahead.

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Another smiling marshal stops you getting lost en route:

This is where it turned out there was a strategically placed video camera, recording everyone as they passed.  There was also an overhead buzz, which turned out to be a drone, seemingly following us along, but I don’t know if that was there by chance or a Frickley Country parkrun surveillance initiative, I think probably the former. Though the psychology of being watched is fascinating.  I definitely didn’t want to stop running for as long as I thought I could be seen. Childish, but true….

Oh, and the Frickley Country parkrun video for event #4 is here, I didn’t realise I looked quite so comical when I run, oh well, at least it got me scampering in an ‘I’m trying to run a bit’ rather than blowing my nose or gazing about or giving up and ‘power walking to save myself for a sprint finish’ all of  which were plausible options on this course.  I did manage to screen shot a still from it though, and it is actually quite fun and quite therapeutic to watch the whole field pass by if you have time to watch the whole sequence.  Quite a continuum of approaches on display there. Thanks Frickley Country parkrun for the video innovation.  It seems to have been a regular feature for the last couple of weeks, though I wouldn’t bank on it being there in perpetuity… however you never know do you.  So be prepared parkrunners, be prepared!  At least they had the generosity of spirit to capture us on a downhill section on this occasion – it may not always be just so!

video still

Shortly after being recorded for posterity, you encounter the looping the loop bit.  It sounds confusing but it just isn’t.  Marshals point the way, and signs back it up, plus, it is depressingly obvious you are going to have to run round twice, as you can see the faster runners on a downward descent for round two as you approach.  Don’t worry, if you are a faster runner, they have sentries marshals on hand to direct you back round so you don’t miss out on the two lap fun factory provided for your delight.

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The photos don’t reflect it all that well, but the loop goes up hill again,  I quite liked this bit.  You keep to the left unless overtaking, but it was quite spread out by this point and seemed good natured.  There was mud and puddles a-plenty, always a boon.  You emerge at the top alongside a housing estate that abuts the country park, they must have great views.  Another straight bit … which would take you to the finish, except for the cheery and vigilant marshal to direct you back down the hill again to have the fun of running round in a bit circle all over again.  There were also some runners that who had presumably already finished, as they were coming in the opposite direction doing a cool down lap I suppose, another bright idea I have yet to implement.  I’m a running minimalist at heart, I really do need to start getting more disciplined if I’m going to get my long runs in…  At least I hope they were doing a cool down lap, otherwise some of us were definitely going the wrong way…

Hurrah!  An added bonus, was I spotted this fine obelisk like structure on the second circuit.  Marking the site of some colliery construction or other.  It looked almost mythical with the early morning sun back lighting it quite gloriously. Yep, my camera has failed to capture that as well. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

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More breathless thanking of marshals and back up the hill

and then ‘suddenly’ you are homeward bound.

Surely it can’t be?  Is that the finish in sight?  Down hill as well?

The thing is dear reader, this was the most exciting bit that I wanted to blurt out right at the beginning. This was the unexpected, to me unprecedented and yet pleasing parkrun innovation.  Spoiler alert, if you want to keep the surprise for yourself, you are going to have to skip this whole paragraph, otherwise the secret will be out of the proverbial bag. Your call.  Ready?  Well, you aren’t going to believe this, but, I kid you not, they’d moved the proverbial goal posts in our favour!  Usually, as soon as I see the finish funnel (unless it’s an uphill finish like the aforementioned Graves parkrun) I immediately put on what is for me a sprint, due to this primeval fear that if I don’t the volunteers will all start to dismantle it and move it further away as I approach. Well, you’ll never guess, but here, the complete opposite happened! I’d assumed – nay, I’d go so far as to say ‘been led to believe’ the start and finish were at the same place, because of the push-me pull-you start/finish sign previously mentioned.  Here, whilst we’d all been parkrun/ walk/ jogging about up and down hill and round in circles the volunteers had moved the finish closer to where we were running from! This genius innovation is incredibly good for morale, and also has the added advantage of you finish at the entrance for the clubhouse, very handy for coffee cravers everywhere.  Brilliant.

As you pass the time keepers you get a token the far end of the funnel, and then there was a scanner metres away, all extremely efficient.  This may be a new parkrun but their systems seem to be up and running with gusto as well as well oiled efficiency.

I lingered a while at the finish, cheering in the few who were still trailing in behind me.

I espied the first aid kit and defibrillator on hand. I was going to make some quip about didn’t know ipads could do that, but turns out there was a reminder of the life saving potential of defribs as one had to be used at Bushy parkrun this morning.  The person concerned seems to be doing well, but it I suppose as more and more people embrace parkrun, law of averages means there will be occasional incidents when these are needed. I know of a few incidents now. I wonder how many parkrun purchased kits have been used, not necessarily at parkrun, they often become an asset and resource for whatever venue hosts them.

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I tried to get some arty shots from the steps by the pavilion.  I know, but sometimes remember it is the thought that counts, and in these early days of Frickley Country parkrun’s evolution, maybe even blurry photos will play their part in contributing to the event archive.

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I’d hit the jackpot earlier with my parking, being just outside the club house, so easy enough to retrieve my fleece and cash for coffee.  First though, the mandatory after selfie shot:

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Yep, the running had taken it’s toll with all those hill, no wonder I was looking a little green around the gills.

Still, not to worry, fleece on and into the warm embrace of the cosy club house. You could pay £1 for cheap and cheerful coffee – there was also a hatch selling bacon baps and circus tickets (?) but I’m vegetarian and anyway, had my eye on the Proper Coffee.  I made my way to the proper coffee corner, where the vendor was diligently mopping up quantities of hot foamy spilt milk with a rather inadequate looking paper towel.   ‘There’s been a catastrophe‘ he said, or something similar.  ‘Not a catastrophe‘, I helpfully advised ‘a learning opportunity!’  I don’t really think that, it was post-run endorphins speaking probably, but also, you know what they say about spilt milk.  No point. No point at all.  I’m sure it wasn’t a world weary look I got in return.  I did however get an extremely fine latte for the bargain price of £2.  It was really good.  Only observation was that I couldn’t see anywhere you could get water from, though I didn’t ask to be fair.  Coffee was great and cafe area really warm, in every sense.    A very friendly hub bub was all around.

Fortuitously, my tourist buddy I’d met at the very beginning of the day, was the person in front of me in the coffee queue.  She invited me to join some other tourists who all meet up together at various events all over the place.  I was greatly honoured.  Who knew that there was this whole parallel universe of traveling parkrunners.  I was invited to take a seat, which was initially somewhat awkward as the most obvious place was already taken by another parkrun touring celebrity, dear reader I give you Bully, the touring mascot:

cant go wrong with a cow

Cow cowl made manifest!  I’m a bit confused about what the name Bully might infer in terms of gender identity, but then again, that’s an artificial construct isn’t it, maybe they identify as non-binary or something…

Even so, I was made very welcome, and it was great hearing about all sorts of touring adventures and meeting Troy properly and hearing about specialist parkrun groups – did you know there is a closed Facebook parkrun group for the deaf and hard of hearing no?  Me neither.  It’s great to see how parkrun is evolving.

It was good to meet a true local on her first ever parkrun too (wave).  She was telling me about running in Canada, which got to the minus twenties I think she said.  I can’t even imagine that.  Frickley Country parkrun would be great to have as your local I think, it seemed really friendly and a challenging course too.  All good.

Photos, obviously, in many and varied permutations, it wasn’t just me who was after photos this time.  Love parkrun tourists, they get it!  Smiley Selfie Queen would be among friends here:

You’d have thought the delights of hobnobbing with parkrun tourists and locals alike, couldn’t be topped. But before I left, I sought out the erm, not sure how to express this with due reverence and political correctness – let’s go with veteran marshal.  He’d been out cheering us at the top of the hill, and I reckoned it was a reasonable punt that he was probably post fifty say and particularly wanted to say hello to him because I thought my mum might be interested in hearing about another vintage volunteer.  Well dear reader.  Result!  Not only was he incredibly friendly and obliging posing for lots of snaps so I could get the perfect pose

but also, turns out he is a parkrun celebrity in his own right!  My mum may have Elisabeth’s corner at Bushy parkrun – of which she is rightly proud, but this was Ken of Ken’s corner at Pontefract parkrun!

As my regular reader knows, I never name anyone in this blog… unless, they are a celebrity and therefore already in the public domain.  Clearly Troy and Ken both fall into this category.  Respect!  I felt really honoured!

Is there anyone involved with Pontefract parkrun that is more inspirational than our very own Ken Bingley?   With 167 volunteer sessions behind him and 112 runs, it’s no surprise that we’ve named a corner after him.

It was chance that brought him to Frickley Country parkrun today, apparently Pontefract parkrun was cancelled, their loss, our gain.  Because it basically launched Ken off on his winter progresses, like Elizabeth I, I think it was her, that did progresses out and about. I’ll need to google that now…  Yep, ’twas apparently she headed off when London was hot and insalubrious  Ken was off exploring because he couldn’t miss a parkrun fix.  Quite right too.

Now I’ve got to put Pontefract back on my list so I can get a high-five from the great man himself in his native habitat.  Can’t wait!   Anyway, he and his family were individually and collectively awesome, full of running stories and top tips for races (Grim up north series anyone?) and parkrun tales.  Result.  Also, only now I’m home and making merry with Bing (having a day off Google) have I discovered he ran his first marathon in Sheffield, back in the day when we still had one. Rumour has it you got an ashtray instead of a medal for running that at one point, I wonder if he got one too!  Another reason for hoiking myself round Pontefract, I now need to know!  Mind you there are other surreal findings in post-run doggy bags even now….

So that was that, pretty much last to leave, the hub bub of the coffee drinkers abated and the floors were being swept around us.   Call me massively intuitive and empathetic, but I took that as non verbal communication from our hosts that they were wanting to pack up and go home.  I’m sensitive like that.

Fond farewells were exchanged, along with promises to meet again, as I’m sure we will!

Job done.

Can we have a virtual cheer and hi-fives all round for the Fabulous Frickley Country parkrun event team and volunteers, it’s no mean feat to get a parkrun off the ground, and they have done brilliantly, if today was anything to go by.  Thank you all, your efforst are appreciated, you should have your own capes in recognition of your parkrun super-hero statuses.

Oh, and finally, you can read the incredibly speedily produced run report for Frickley Country parkrun #4 here.  Another tourist perspective.  There were a lot of tourists and visitors today.

and talking of parkrun reports, my mum got a mention in the Bushy parkrun Run Report 773 for today too.  Hurrah.  Really ace photo of her waving brilliantly too I think!  She’s had a lot of practice though, so not really surprising that she’s nailed it.

mum 26 jan 2019

So get yourself down there.  Don’t forget your barcode #dfyb – and for clarity, that means your parkrun barcode athlete individual identifier.  Pesenting an identikit library card for scanning instead will only lead to embarrassment!  Yes, that happened.  You’d need to be wise indeed to sort that one out after the event though. I mean, strictly speaking you didn’t bring your barcode did you, but if it got scanned, as in this case, because neither runner nor scanner could spot the difference, I’m thinking that might be genuinely exceptional circumstances. Glad I don’t have to decide.  Tough call.  Still, to be on the safe side, take your parkrun barcode along rather than your old Blockbuster video rental card or Morrisons loyalty card or whatever.  Better safe than sorry.

blockbuster store

So in conclusion, thanks lovely Frickley Country parkrun people, you were fab.  All of you, in every parkrunning manifestation from hi-vis clad to walk run joggers.  Not going to lie, my favourite bit was finding you’d moved the finish line in my favour, but that was really the cherry on the cake, because so much to recommend you.  Much parkrun parkfun to be had indeed!

So happy parkrunning ’til next time, hope to be back to see you again soon.

🙂

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t. It’s up to you. You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though

 

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Tinsel Ten! Totally Trust the Longshaw 10k to deliver delight and winterval wonderfulness! Trust10 December 2018

Digested read: finally made it to Longshaw for the Trust 10 this Sunday.  First and last this year.  Fabulous. What was I thinking in leaving it so long?

longshaw trust 10

Undigested read:

I really hate to concede this point, I really do, but you know what, time really does go faster as you get older.  A whole year has elapsed since I last made it to Longshaw for the monthly Trust 10, and I blooming love it there.  However, during most of 2018 I’ve meant to go, but been sucked into other things, be that a local lope at some running event or other, or volunteering at Graves Junior parkrun, which admittedly is pretty darned amazing attending there will always lead inevitably to intoxication with joy, hence it is so seductive an offering.  Even so, shame to miss out on Longshaw Trust 10. and the unintended and undesirable consequence of all this, was that I was in dire danger of letting 2018 pass Longshaw Trust 10 free.  Heaven portend!  I could not allow it to be so.  Therefore, I finally dragged my weary carcass down to Longshaw to join the festive Tinsel 10k on a morning of winterval wonderfulness. Yay, go me!  I could have been part of this:

could have been at Graves junior

Which granted, is quite fabulous, but instead opted to be part of this:

longshaw

I know, close call.

What was I thinking though in leaving it so long.  There were actual reindeer en route to the start!  Graves has llama it’s true, but reindeer!  Really and truly, you can’t get more festive than that!  Strictly speaking we’d celebrated the whole reindeer slash actual Christmas trees and  fairy houses earlier in the week, but it was still Longshaw and still there. The original plan was to do the Trust 10 and then buy a Christmas Tree afterwards.  Then it dawned on me that with me and three guests in the fiesta heading for the 10k that might not be an entirely practical idea.  Hence tree purchasing went on earlier. That was a fun day out too!  Below is a mini pictorial smorgasbord for your merriment and edification in case you don’t know what you missed out on in the immediate environs of the Trust 10 route.  Oh, and the Reindeer we couldn’t find wasn’t called Graham, and the missing letter to our O I N B + 1 quiz was not G therefore.  The last reindeer was Rudolf.  ‘What a missed opportunity is that?’ we lamented, ‘if only it had been Graham then the quiz could have made the word Bingo!  That would have been fabulous‘.  Yes we did work out the anagram was for Robin eventually, but it took a while.  Laugh if you must.  I like to think I bring Christmas cheer.

 

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So essentially, both Graves Junior parkrun and the Longshaw Trust 10k actively encouraged fancy dress and festive cheer.  In an ideal world I’d be able to teleport and time travel between the two.  Sadly, although time does travel faster as I age, I don’t.  I am no fleeter of foot than a year ago, nor have I evolved the ability to travel through time despite warming increasingly to the new incarnation of Dr Who, and taking delight in therefore the TARDIS’s improved proximity to Sheffield.  Personally, I would have hoped that as much of the series was filmed hereabouts, local residents would have absorbed the ability to time hop by osmosis, but it’s not worked for me.   Maybe I should have opted to move into the Park Hill flats after all.  I presume the guy in the blue hi-vis is an Run Director from whatever the nearest parkrun is just carrying out a risk assessment in advance of the next event.  I don’t think any Sheffield runs were cancelled due to alien invasion, which is yet another testament to the dedication of parkrun teams in ensuring that events go ahead in all but the most exceptional circumstances.

 

Re my idea that by rights I should now be able to travel in time and space because of proximity to the TARDIS I suppose I do have to acknowledge begrudgingly that this isn’t the only instance of things not working out quite as I’d hoped for.  I still clutch on to the belief in my heart of hearts, that reading about running and entering events months in advance should by default improve my fitness without me leaving my sofa.  That’s not happened yet either.  Life can be full of disappointments…

Oh well,  this day was not disappointing.  Not in any way.  It was quite marvellous in fact.  This is why!

First off, there was the frisson of excited anticipation in the build up.  Then there was the joy of chugging off with a car full of companions who would all be experiencing the Longshaw Love for the first time. Three friends joining me for winterval fun and frolics. It was an easy drive, and by the time we arrived at the car park it was already filling up. Parked up we headed to the cafe to register.

It’s been so long since I’ve been it was amazing to see just how huge the event has become.  Tables were set out for people to sign up, and a long queue was forming.  I already had my coveted 999 number, but still had to fill in an emergency contact form, my two American friends had to register anew and pick up run numbers, and our support crew, in charge of PR, bag supervision and Elf watch rose the multitude of responsibilities of her role  with considerable aplomb.

The excitement built.  It was so much fun to see friends old and new arrive.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen some, others are parkrun regulars, but bringing particular joy was the sight of a few first timers.  Hurrah!  I’m with them, on the very day of their inaugural Longshaw 10 runs, what could be better.  To be fair, not all first timers were completely persuaded of the joys of participation on conclusion of the event, but for now it was all eager anticipation, and excitement and being about to run out in a great gang of gregarious gamboling across the Longshaw trails.  Hurrah!  Time for a few group shots:

 

Oh my we are collectively and individually fabulous are we not?  Some of us look happier to be present on such a day than others.

The route?  You want to know the route?  Erm, it’s basically two laps, my Strava says it’s 6.5 miles and 665 ft of elevation.  The route is clearly marked, starting near to the cafe and finishing just at the back of it. You can bail at 5k if you want, or decide in advance to just run one lap and call it a day, but then you won’t get a time, though you will get a lot of fun and get to the cafe ahead of the queues.  You’ll win either way.

Longshaw 10k route

Result.  It’s on a mixture of compact paths, muddy tree roots, marshy hillsides and tarmac paths.  Personally, I wouldn’t run it in road shoes, and usually go for trail.  Today, because it had been raining I went for my V-rock super hard-core fell shoes which don’t offer much support, but are super grippy and make me feel really confident on rough terrain.  My American friends took it on in walking boots – impressive.  I’m sure many do run it in road shoes, but they are maybe either better at staying upright than me, or oblivious to the risk they are taking.  The more technical sections aren’t that long, but enough to have me skidding and sliding around were it not for my choice of footwear.   It is most satisfying – and unusual for me too – to be able to skip past other runners who are clinging to trees to stay upright whilst you dance from tree root to tree root or rock to rock gazelle like. Well, maybe not like an actual gazelle from to the casual outside observer of untrained eye, but in my head, definitely I’m sprite-like and gazelle like as I hop along fearlessly.  No need to tell me otherwise.  Not everyone seeks to know the truth of their situation.  Some of us choose not to know.  (‘I see no ships‘ anyone?  Precisely, this demonstrates such a philosophy is enshrined in history.  Well, granted he never actually said it I suppose, but sort of near enough surely… ‘I have a right to be blind sometimes..’ blah de blah.)

see no ships

Sooooooooooooo many people, definitely a record turn out.  People queuing round the cafe to register.  That’s good though, captive audience for me to go and talk at.

Eventually, a little later than usual, we all gathered on the tarmac path in front of the cafe for the run briefing.  It was going to be a crowded one so not really a pb course, never is for me anywhere these days to be fair, but with narrow gates in parts even more risk of bottle necks, or catch up and chat points as I prefer to call them.

Longshaw 10 start line up

Off we went, in a stream of colour.  My lovely EWFM** and personal support crew was in situ to capture the moment of us passing. Hurrah!  I am alarmed at how increasingly rotund I look in pictures these days, I either need to learn to photoshop or else I’ll have to actually do something more proactive about it in the new year.  At the very least I’m going to ‘just say no!’ to wearing a santa had and tutu for a bit.  Red does me no favours.  Still, captures the sense of occasion.

 

My loyal EWFM** support crew would undoubtedly have happily stayed out there waiting loyally for the duration, but she had guardianship of the elf, who very much insisted on going back into the cafe to keep warm and drink coffee.  What choice did she have but to join him.  She looked gutted though, at being compelled to leave her post.

 

Whilst EWFM was martyring herself in the cafe in the shadow of the Longshaw Cafe Christmas Tree, Longshaw estate was giving we Trust Tenners the run around.

Longshaw cafe christmas tree

Longshaw is lovely.  Absolutely delightful in fact.  Even though it was a bit misty to start, you still get brilliant views, there were some bottle necks on the way round, particularly near the kissing gate, which you can only pass through one at a time, but that didn’t matter.  Just en route photo ops really, thank you Smiley Selfie Queen, you never disappoint:

longshaw queue

It was great to be out and enjoying the company and the scenery and after far too long to have that lovely muddy ground beneath my feet.  I love this route because it takes you over a variety of terrain and reminds me how lucky we are to have this place practically on our doorstep. One day, I’d like to be fit enough to run out and do this event and run back.  That day was not today, but I can dream can’t I?

It’s so long since I’d done the route, it had changed a little.  Not the course, but there were some ‘improvements’ with the addition of a little stone bridge so you no longer have to jump over a stream going up hill, and some paths I thought had been made slightly more level with added grit, probably to protect the ground from erosion along the path rather than runners from falling!  There was a fair amount of standing water, and the tree root section was muddy as always, but amazingly, the route was actually pretty good, firm under foot, and not as off-roady as I recalled – though I was still glad of my footwear choice if only to give those shoes a run outing, it’s been far too long.

 

The first lap felt hard.  Those hills!  I’ve got horribly unfit.  I wouldn’t mind quite so much but I got lapped by the front runner wearing a turkey on his head (a turkey hat, not an actual turkey as far as I could tell) at just the moment I’d given up and was walking up hill not even trying to run, and he breezed past, seemingly still chatting to his running buddy and barely breaking a sweat.  Oh well, maybe the secret was in his choice of running gear.  Perhaps I need to source a turkey to put on my head whilst running and it will pay dividends with both my speed and endurance?  Well, it’s a thought.

At some point, Smiley Selfie Queen and I found ourselves running alongside one another – well, what better cause for a photo op than that?

 

The marshals were all unfailingly friendly and encouraging, though I’ve come to treat calls like ‘nearly there’ and ‘all downhill from here’ with caution, especially on lap one.  They are great though, and many regulars, even though I’ve not been for a whole year, I still recognised familiar faces in familiar spots, it’s like coming home!

First lap done, as I headed out on lap two, my EWFM had ditched the elf and was back in situ to shout motivational phrases and cheer me round for the second coming:

Longshaw 10 coming round

The second lap things spaced out, and weirdly, I found it a lot easier, the route is now familiar, I got into a rhythm and was less influenced by what other runners were doing around me.  Instead I could soak up the views and live in the moment. There were even moments when it seemed as if the sun might yet peep out through the clouds and all was right with the world.

After what seemed like days all too soon, I was on the final downhill sprint finish.  It’s really fun as the timers come into view, plus one advantage I have in being slower, is that other runners who have finished ahead of me were there on  hand to cheer me in.  I felt quite the celebrity!

 

I was so excited at having finished, I managed to stop ahead of the timers, and had to be reminded to go on a bit to cross the line.  Oh well, don’t suppose it made much difference.  It was great to be reunited with my buddies after such an adventure. We shared stories and I got given some chocolate on a stick for no particular reason other than maybe being one of the final finishers. Still, you never question a gift of unsolicited chocolate, not in my world anyway.  Anyway, no time for discussion, we had the important task of posing for photos of us by the Trust 10 flag in all possible character combinations thus:

 

Then, having established I wasn’t actually the last one in, we opted to stay to cheer in the final finishers which was a great deal of fun.

 

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It was even more fun when they came into view and we realised that the trio coming in included a first timer who had been quite particular to state she only intended to run the one lap but had been dragged round persuaded it was well worth doing the whole caboodle.  Bravo!  Much excitement and congratulations to all followed.  So many post run feel good endorphins you had to be there to appreciate what it was like to swim amongst them.  No really, we were actually swimming in them, that’s why we all look decidedly wet! Also, you will note, at least one of them had gone the memo about it being the Tinsel 10, and was suitably adorned as a consequence.  Pleasing indeed.

 

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As if we hadn’t already peaked for fun, there was still the lure of the warm cafe to embrace us, and hot drinks all round.  Hurrah!

More catching up of running tales and festive introductions as a number of us had brought along extras, friends or family or previously uninitiated into the Trust10 running friends.  It was all very jolly thank you for asking!  I learned there were at least 100 first timers at the event (they know, because if it is your first time you have to put a star on the side at the top of your registration form, if it is Christmas, I advise you put a Christmas Tree under the star, just because really.)  It was also an all time record turn out, with some 265 doing the whole 10k and you can add a few to that as many would have finished after the first five.

 

In terms of results, there isn’t a formal published list – this is a run not a race as such, and intended to be inclusive.  There are pretty competitive runners out there, but it is very much a fun event.  The list gives numbers not names and appeared on the Longshaw Estate Facebook page, together with a plea to remember to reuse numbers and bring your own pins if coming back in 2019. Which is fair enough. This event is free remember.  How amazing is that!

Well done to all the Tinsel 10 runners today, and thanks for your support throughout the year! Paying for parking, buying a coffee or donating to the Peak District Appeal all helps to look after Longshaw for people and wildlife. We are asking runners to make a special effort to bring back your run numbers and pins in 2019, which will help us to reduce waste. It should also help you to find your timings more easily.
Thanks as well to all the volunteers; back markers, timing team, marshals, route-markers and a special thanks to the planning team and to Lorna, our volunteer coordinator. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from us all!

So there you go. Sated with coffee and in my case a cheese scone, though there was also the option to taste a mincemeat infused chocolate brownie thing which was, erm ‘novel’, and that was that. Tinsel Ten Totally Terminated.  Hurrah!

See you the other side in the meantime:

Happy Christmas/ Bah Humbug/ yuletide felicitations/ Wondrous Winterval/ Season’s Greetings/ Wake me in 2019/ Enough now go away*

For all my Trust 10k posts, click here.  Or don’t, it’s not compulsory.  You’ll have to scroll down for older entries.

*Please delete as applicable

** Erstwhile Flat Mate.  Obvs.

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

Giving Dronfield the run around. Recce of Round Dronfield Walk

Digested read: can now tick the Round Dronfield Walk route off my to-do list.  Hillier than expected, more strenuous than expected, good in parts, with a lot of stiles, some of which were less than stylishly negotiated. 14.5 miles with a surprising 1873 ft of elevation.

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Unabridged version:

Blimey, that was complicated.

I do feel like my life is mainly taken up with running round in pointless circles as it is, so you might think doing a circular walk/run route would be a breeze as I’ve had so much practice. Turns out, it isn’t entirely, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth the effort.

Ok, so for the wilfully ignorant out there, there is a Dronfield Round Walk, strictly speaking, it’s re-launch of the Dronfield Rotary 2000 Walk – and now known as the Dronfield Barn Rotary Walk, but I’m going to call it the Round Dronfield Walk and thereby sow confusion henceforth and potentially in perpetuity.  What we can all agree on though, is that this is a circular countryside walk round (spoiler alert) Dronfield.  A walk promoted and cared for by The Dronfield Hall Barn group. It passes through the hamlet of Summerley and the villages of Coal Aston, Mickley and Holmesfield.  It’s about 14½ miles, and includes 11+ stiles.  Apparently.  Anyways, Smiley Selfie Queen has been on about doing this route for a while, and why not?  Could be interesting.  A chance to find new routes and flex newly found navigational skills.  The problem is, it’s harder than you might think to find the walk route.

You can buy a useful (well, let’s find out) book all about the route for £3, the proceeds for this go to supporting the maintenance and upkeep of the path. You can buy the book at the Dronfield Hall Barn apparently, I don’t know, I just parasitised the one Smiley Selfie Queen brought along.  Mind you, our fates were intertwined, she may have sourced the book, but it was I who would step up to take the navigational lead (I know, desperate times) so it was in here interests to ensure I was properly equipped to do so!

Fair play, the presentation is lovely, and there are photos and descriptors, but… and I consider this a major omission, no actual maps, and no indication of how long each section is.  Also, something of a sense of a treasure map that is fixed at a singular point in time.  Helpful the day it was written, but I can a walker/runner really rely on a direction that suggests you look out for a stile in a holly bush…   It means you are potentially a hostage to fortune if landmarks shift and change as inevitably they do. Stiles may come and go, boundaries shift.  The airstrip will probably stay put, but who knows?  I wasn’t feeling overly confident in the book as sole source of finding our way.

I did find an OS map link for the Dronfield 2000 Rotary walk, and it looks OK, but couldn’t work out how to print it off and also it describes the walk as 11 miles, so that might be a jolly nice walk, to do, but possibly isn’t The Walk we were reckoning on.

os route

In the end, we went for belt and braces.  Smiley Selfie Queen would bring the book, I ordered a bespoke OS  map with Dronfield at its core (yes, you can, I had no idea either ’til a couple of weeks ago, genius gizmo, if an expensive one).  I used a Strava route acquired through Smiley Selfie Queen’s contacts or stalking behaviour, depending on your point of view.  Once we’d identified this mark who’d done the route pretty accurately, I basically tried to transcribe that path onto my OS map.  It might not be massively close to the intended route, who knows, but it did mean even if we deviated from the ‘correct’ path we’d never actually be lost.  It was really hard, and involved prescription glasses, a magnifying class and lots of swearing.

DSCF4975

Also, I realised belatedly that whilst it was ‘logical’ to put Dronfield at the centre of my customised map, this was also the worst possible design for a user-friendly map as it meant I was constantly having to fold and refold and unfold the blooming map.  It was helpful en route certainly, but a pain to use.  Why people voluntarily do orienteering challenges I can’t imagine.  Maps are such a blooming faff!  Much better to be hopelessly slow at running events and so you can just follow the lead of those in front.  I accept this strategy is flawed, as it depends on keeping the other runners in sight, which I can’t always do to be fair, due to lacking the necessary turn of speed to keep visual contact.  However,  for the most part this strategy has served me well. You basically need to follow my advice and other runners’ leads at your own risk.  If you are on the fells in the snow and the last little dot of a runner disappears over the horizon then clearly you may as well just lay down and die, because it’s game over then, if you don’t know where you are.  Just to be clear. Works OK at most parkruns though, so that’s the main thing.

Where was I?  Oh yes, planning a route recce of the Dronfield Round Walk or whatever you choose to call it.

We agreed on provisions and timings.  It is only 14.5 miles, but with faffing and getting lost etc and it being unknown terrain and elevation we could be out for hours.  Interestingly, I found a reference to a guided walk of the route online, and they describe it as ‘strenuous’ and recommended allowing 6 1/2 hours, which seems generous.  Recceing routes is always time-consuming though, so we figured we could be out for a while. We’d meet early, so as not to have to rush.

It’s humbling really.  Only last Sunday, some ultra runners took on the Sheffield Way Relay 47 + miles and also there was a Ladybower 50 (50+ miles). They didn’t only embark on this, they even accomplished these challenges without  having to lie down in a foetal position bleeding from their ears afterwards!.  I know, I would have thought such a fate inevitable.  Yet, I  myself can testify that one of them at least was to be seen cheerily tucking into a pot noodle* barely an hour after the event, when by rights she should have been at the very least lying on the floor in a star shape with a foil blanket carelessly tossed across her.  These people are clearly super-human however, whereas I am not.   Lightweight I may be (not in every sense alas) but even for this 14.5 mile sojourn I would head out prepared.  I would take a fleece and maybe even sandwiches, and a magnifying glass to go with my map, which even with a 4cm to the km scale is still too tiny to make out with my over 50 eyesight.  I’d always thought people were exaggerating when they did that thing in the supermarket of holding jars at arms length squinting, trying to make out ingredients or whatever.  Now I am that person.  It’s hard being me, it really is.

One thing we could agree on was starting point.  Car park behind Coal Aston village hall on the Eckington Road.  Postcode S18 3AX.   This is a recommended place from which to set off.  There is a map of the route there too apparently, and hopefully therefore reasonable signage to get us underway…  The walk was relaunched as the Dronfield Barn Rotary Walk in March 2018 to some aplomb, so we were hopeful.  Hope over experience hasn’t always served me well, but this time maybe.  It matters not anyway, life should be full of surprises, that is how micro-adventures are made!

So the day dawned, the forecast was fair, but it has been nippy of late and I was taking no chances, so I basically covered up as if for an arctic storm.  Lots of layers.  I drove out to our rendezvous squinting into the sun. Curses, why didn’t I think to bring my sun glasses, I should have anticipated snow blindness if not bright autumn rays.  Oh well, next time.  We planned to meet 8.15 for 8.30 departure.  We did achieve this, but the traffic getting to Coal Aston at that time in the morning was horrendous.  I’d imagined it would be a sleepy little place, but not so, it was heaving, congested even, though easy enough to find the village hall and loads of parking round the back.

So the first thing we did, was get back in a car, and nip back up/down the road to the rather grand route map of where we were heading. It’s important to document these things for posterity.  What a vacuum in the world of JPEGs would there be had we not paused to take this shot?

I know!  Might be that the known universe would have imploded, but fortunately we’ll never know, as we the recceing dream team took the shot so you won’t have to!  Also, it reminded us what the signs were we needed to look out for en route, so that’s good to know:

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Only, they didn’t all look quite like that to be honest, but near enough.

So once my recce partner had finished laughing at my kit, we headed off, trying to use the book. I’m still not wholly convinced by the book. It’s beautifully done, and lovingly put together but the instructions assume some local knowledge.  So the first direction to ‘walk downhill to the allotment site’ makes sense because of the downhill bit, but no sense in that you don’t know where the allotments are until you reach them, and even then you don’t because they weren’t visible from the path we followed, so it was all a bit confusing. Similarly ‘follow way marks through Owler Car Wood’ only make sense if you know where this wood is.  The upshot was I did a lot of squinting at the map to try to marry up the directions, and we did get round OK, but it wasn’t an entirely smooth navigational process.  With the map and the book though, we might have been a bit off piste at times, but we were always ‘lost’ in the right direction, which is a good start.

Anyways, we ended up on a broad open, flat path and set off at a fair old lick.  It is still extraordinary to me how quickly you can be in open countryside once you walk away from the main roads.  This path was really obvious (we were going clockwise by the way) and although sadly some footpath signs had tumbled into the undergrowth, the runes were good.  The marking of the route wasn’t perfect, but I was really impressed by the number of lovingly restored stiles, hard landscaping by putting in new steps and extra benches that are clearly part of the relaunch of the route earlier in the year.  Impressive, but also fragile, it was heartening how good the route was in some places, but astonishing how in others already routes were overgrown and signs broken by either accident or design.  The Dronfield Heritage Trust request that users make donations to help with the upkeep of the route. If the mood should take you, you can do that here www.dronfieldhallbarn.org

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So off we trotted.  Incidentally, one important consideration when finding a recce buddy, is not only compatibility in walk/ run/ yomping pace and distance expectations, but also shared communication objectives.  For some this might be companionable silence, and I can like that too, but on this occasion we were to be out for a while.  We both agreed that therefore in planning this recce it had been mutually important to find someone  with whom we’d be able to pass the time with idle chit chat important putting the world to rights conversation and sharing tips on running craft.  We didn’t want a walk where the last 6 hours would be just extended awkward silences as conversation faded away to nothing until we could only hear the noise of each other breathing and only the occasional passing of tumbleweed to break the tension in the air.  I can report that we have yomped out together before, and this situation has never yet arisen.  Rather more likely, is frantic Facebook messaging later of the ‘oh, I forgot to tell you’ variety. Point of information, if you are heading out on this route, choose your companion wisely, it’s potentially a long one first time out if you are stopping and starting to find the way.

Through the fields, over a stile – there were squillions of those today. If you have an i-spy sticker book of styles you are in for a rare treat on this route.  Not gonna lie, the novelty of spotting different styles of stile did fade during the day, but not at this point.  Off to the right, through a hedge and into the woods.

There was a great deal of up and over stiles, and also a lot of in and out of the woods.  Plenty of little footbridges – some of which we were directed to ignore, which seems a little harsh…

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There were lots of arrows, so that was grand, but the lack of clarity about the distance between various landmarks was perplexing.  I felt I had to refer to the map a lot, although interestingly, the book did become more usable in the later sections, whether that’s because I’d got more comfortable with how it was set out, or because it was more accurately described I’m honestly not sure.  The important thing though, is that just half an hour in, and I was way too hot. Way too hot, and also, a bit squinty.  I needed my glasses for map reading purposes but they seemed to just concentrate the suns rays in my eyes like a laser.  Not ideal.  I tried not to moan too much.  It makes me look like a rambling librarian though don’t you think?

I don’t know if that’s good or bad.  I do know, that having to wear glasses for such purposes is a new thing for me.  I used to manage fine without them apart from for working at the computer and watching TV, and I do have a really tiny telly.   I am definitely ageing now.  No wonder I’m slowing down…  The photos are a really good example of task allocation and team work by the way.  Smiley Selfie Queen is in charge of selfie shots, and I was in charge of route finding… albeit often from the rear. In my defence, you can’t walk and map read simultaneously, so I did have to keep stopping to clarify here you were and also Smiley Selfie Queen has 10 youthfulness years on me plus the unfair advantage of actually training and running regularly, so I was always going to be scampering along behind.  It worked.  Don’t knock it.

The first section seemed to take an age, we were constantly trying to get our bearings, and trying to second guess the instructions in the map.  When it says continue through so many fields, what constitutes a field boundary.  I mean, does it have to be an actual hedge line say, or might it be some memory in the earth with a raised ridge of soil.

Although we kept moving, we also were also in these early stages prone to keep stopping to look at features of interest.  The views were pretty good, and quite fun to try to work out where we were.  Plus I kept having vague flashbacks as I had been in these parts before in a different life exploring with a friend and her equine companions.  This explains why I got very excited when I recognised the pig farm next to the wind turbine at one point, and my yomping companion was similarly captivated by the water tower which you can espy pretty clearly for large sections of the route.  Each to their own eh?  And no, I can’t now remember which sections gave which views, you’ll just have to go check it out for yourself and make sure you annotate your route guide for future reference.

Some instructions were very section specific, but quite helpful  That field really did have an awkwardly sloping start, and would indeed be treacherous if wet under foot.  Weather was perfect for us though.

One cause for excitement was the mysterious constructions within the woods, remnants of an industrial past.  We found what looked like a sunken doorway – a portal to a subterranean alternative world perhaps?  Nope, disappointingly, it was just a bridge when viewed from the other side, then again, what better cloak  for a parallel universe than to pass it off as but a little ancient woodland bridge, now devoid of its troll?  Just saying.  Be careful out there people, anomalies and passageways in the space / time continuum are everywhere.  You have been warned.  Selfie Queen was fearless cavorting above, but I didn’t see her volunteering to run through that particular vortex on this outing.  It was noted.  You can sense these things sometimes, even without consciously knowing them…

On reflection, this was quite an eventful section, so maybe that’s why it took us blooming ages to get round.  Emerging from the woods, we had further challenges to overcome. Specifically, cows.  Mean looking bovines, blocking the stile ahead…

cs super scary cows

OK, really not mean looking ones at all.  But it is a consideration, small cows grow into big ones, and there is much contradictory advice on what to do.  Some advocate the go large, make yourself as huge and loud as possible to shoo them off, and let your dog loose.   Not sure what you do if you don’t have a dog to loosen – sacrifice your running buddy presumably, so best go out with a few, preferably some slower than yourself (that’s hard for me to achieve) and including some you are willing to return home without.  Also challenging, as most of the runners I know are lovely, and granted, in an ideal world you’d most probably want to keep them all.  Then again, you can’t keep everything or you’ll end up on the UK equivalent of ‘Hoarders’ assuming the film crews can fight their way through the junk mail and stacks of other miscellaneous detritus you’ve piled up in the hall and find a way in…   The point is, cattle do need to be treated with respect.  Other advice is to calmly placate them according to a more recent Trail Runners article.  This Plymouth herald article what to do when cows attack seems sensible too, but then again, who knows what their cattle calming credentials really are?  I do try to avoid them, cows that is, not (knowingly) Plymouth Herald journalists, and with cows and young calves would take a massive detour if necessary.  I actually think the best strategy is be calm, but then if they do charge, that’s when you ‘go large’ and get the hell outta there as best you can.

These few were fairly cute though. Young and unsure.  We had a brief stand off, oh and photo op (obvs)

cs the cows

Then just slowly walked towards them along the wall line, me acting as a human shield for Selfie Queen (I might die, but at least she would be able to document my final moments) and as we got close they snorted a bit and trotted away from the stile so we could safely pass.  Great team work there, and all involved lived to tell the tale.

Onward.  Through the cow field, ending up on the Troway road, and back to Eckington Road (which really is scarily busy – the speed those cars come past!)  and then more stiles, and hedges and open fields and comedy gates, standing alone and proud, despite the absence of any notable boundary fencing that required their presence as a way through.  We espied weird tape that might have been from a crime scene, or a hang over from some sporting event. You never can quite tell.  And a hidden treasures van.  Bit of feedback for them, your treasure isn’t going to remain hidden for long if you keep advertising its presence.  I wouldn’t rely on it as a landmark if you are retracing our steps though, it might move.  Mind you, I was grateful for the seemingly  unmoving blue van parked up in Bradwell when I did the Dig Deep 30 mile ultra the other month.  Useful landmark for which way to go on the day when 18 miles in my brain was fried.

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We ventured onward, puzzling over the references to the airstrip.  You are told to walk parallel to this at one point, but as we couldn’t see it or fathom what it was doing there.  In fact, when you do reach it, its presence was proclaimed due to the flamboyant disporting of a wind sock.  Turns out, if we’d read the book, we’d know this to be Apperknowle Airfield, which is still used, and was originally used by the English Steel Corporation (later British Steel) for business flights.   Who knew?

This was quite a fun bit, the weather was gorgeous, even though I was far too hot, and trying to fight the urge to complain too much about being overdressed.  You have pretty good views, though we didn’t know to look out for the Chesterfield Crooked spire which was it seems a missed opportunity.   Personally, I also particularly enjoyed the presence of another gate without a border, and also the heavy plant kit provided for marshals in these parts.  Normally at junior parkrun I’ll make do with a high viz, but the addition of machinery like this could well be a game changer in future.

Somehow, really don’t know how, we missed the path beyond the airstrip and ended up joining the minor road at the ‘wrong’ bit, not that it mattered too much, due to my map reading deciphering skills which are now legend.  Not legend enough to stop us going wrong, but legend enough for me to find out where we were instead.  Go me.  The path we should have taken emerges next to a handily located bench which would have been great for sitting in and taking in views and sustenance.  We didn’t really stop as such, but there were quite a few handily located benches and even a few pubs along the way, even if they were mostly shut on a Wednesday morning.

Finally, onto second part of the walk. That’s two out of seven.  Oops, don’t worry, my photographing and attention to detail started to tail off, and I’ll speed up in my account too.

So onward.  Next challenge was fence clambering skills.  The true pros save time by fence vaulting apparently.  We didn’t try this.  Point of information, a true one, is that I learned that one of the relay runners for the Sheffield Way Relay actually went to recce every gate on the 10 mile section to suss how they could most quickly be negotiated and by what means.  Talk about marginal gains!  This is what marks out the elite I suppose. In my world I like to faff about assessing which end opens and give a gate a bit of a shake to see if it will take my weight before attempted to clamber over the hinge end if necessary.  Given our lack of experience in this respect, I think our gate clambering was pretty good.

So then we had horses to contend with.  They came over to say hello.  This was past Summerley Hall which is an astonishing building, built in the 1600’s apparently.  That’s according to the guide-book, I have no way of telling.  There was a footpath sign pointing into a field just beyond this to the left, but no obvious path, and it did feel like we were trespassing although there must be a path.  I wondered if the farm had sent us round away from the official route, it wasn’t difficult to find our way, but I was a bit uncomfortable about whether we should be passing that way.  Our new equine friend was pleased to see us though, though finding us polo-free, didn’t bother to follow us back down to the bottom of the field from whence he’d come.

more stiles – so many stiles:

Amazing gate at the bottom (we didn’t try to clamber over this one).  PMT stables eh?  Not sure of that as a marketing ploy, maybe that’s why the gate is now rusted over.

and then you go under an unexpected railway. Well, it was unexpected for me, I suppose I’ve spoiled the surprise for you now.

You emerge a bit later and cross the road and then, just when you think there can’t possibly be a footpath anywhere around here, you might, if you are a) lucky, b) eagle-eyed and c) in possession of a map and a certain amount of logic, you can deduce you do go through a little side gate into the yard of what looks very much like private property.  It is legit though, the signs say so, so hold your nerve!

This was a bit strange, you go through the yard, in our case, towards the light, which was pretty much blinding at this point.  There were some large silos, which back-lit by the morning sun looked to me like some weird shipwreck, ripped up in a tsunami and dumped unexpectedly inland.  I had to have a sandwich break at this point, not because I was overwhelmed with the beauteous sights, but because I was peckish, and also thirsty, because I’d been sweating buckets from my inappropriately numerous layers of clothing.

My photos might be out of sequence, but I think it was here there was a newly built section of fencing, presumably to give privacy to the houses that are adjacent to the path.  However, this meant the path for Dronfield Round Walk users such as our good selves was narrow and nettly, it is very prone to getting overgrown, and just needs more people to keep walking the path to stop it becoming impassable.  This was the first nettle injury of the morning.  Long leggings most definitely required. At least we didn’t get attacked by hornets and go into anaphylactic shock or anything. That would be a bad day out running indeed.

It seemed a long hike up hill at this point.  The sun was strong and hot and the slope endless.  If you were to do this as a run, once you had familiarised yourself with the route it would be a good training one, quite tough.  I still can’t make my mind up about the route, parts of it were really genuinely lovely, but it lacked the truly spectacular panoramas of say Stanage or Burbage, but that’s probably an unfair comparison.  What it did have though was woods, stiles, interesting fungi and the potential to get lost.

In what I know now to be Monk wood, we could hear the main road, but initially missed the path that would take us to the bridge crossing for the A61.  I realised we were going wrong and we backtracked and found a way through, but not sure what happened there, lapse in concentration (we do know how to talk) or maybe the path we needed to pick up to the left wasn’t all that clear.

Going over the bridge is entertaining, but the best bit, is there is a helter-skelter like descent at the end, the spiral bridge no less, my photos of it aren’t great, but there was a nice one in the guide-book.  Would be fun to run down that full pelt, though we decided to save that excitement for another day!

It is a hard right into the woods at the bottom, and more woodness and stile ness, including the instruction ‘turn half right towards the holly bushes to find a hidden stile’, so many holly bushes – some laden with red berries already, and so many stiles.  You know, stiles can really lose their novelty value after a bit. The route is described somewhere as having 11+ stiles, but it was more like a gazillion +, no idea why 11 is deemed to be the appropriate scale of stiley-ness for a walk.  Below that is presumably ‘fine’, more than that in number tips a walk over into the more challenging territory of 11+ .  This leads to much shuddering and shaking of heads.   It makes it even more impressive that a work team has been out and revamped, replaced or built from scratch all of these in recent months if their appearance is anything to go by.  They may have been obstacles, but they were well maintained ones.  Stiles also meant directional arrows, which are always a boon when out exploring!  🙂 Might have been here somewhere my yomping friend got lacerated by brambles.  There were many about.  She lived to tell the tale, but the scars will endure also.  Vicious stuff brambles, it’s lucky blackberries are nice and make up for it.

Nice views though, and the most enormously high gateway I’ve ever seen, either that or we somehow shrank en route, or maybe they have particularly enormous livestock roaming in these parts.  If that is the case, I’m quite glad we didn’t encounter them, I mean that is some gateway is it not?  Cattle that big I’d not be offering myself up as a human shield, rather offering up my yomping buddy as a human sacrifice. Harsh but true, none of us really know what we would do when it really came down to it, best hope is that we never have to find out.  Don’t let on though, I have few enough people willing to venture out on the trails with me as it is…

I want to pause for a moment to mention about the bench and gate and stile dedications along the route.  You can sponsor any one of these additions to the route for a fee, and it was quite nice reading the placards.  Not only people, but some enterprising or possibly publicity seeking pooches had also got themselves immortalised along the way.  Nice touch.  Hurrah for Bess and Peg and also to Dot and Des Dunkley with their fabulously alliterated names, what a great thing to do.

After section four, comes the imaginatively named fifth part of the walk.

The ‘board walk’ was surrounded on all sides with huge bull rushes which was spectacular and fun, not so much a ‘wet area’ as a full-blown lake in season I’d say.  When you emerge into what I now know to be Cartledge there are some seriously nice houses.  So nice you can’t quite believe they are private dwellings, but I think they must be.  One had a full on box hedge maze in its front garden.  Really lovely, though I wonder if it would actually be a little strange to live somewhere like here.

I’m reading the blurb after the walk, but wish I’d paused a bit more en route now.

I am told that from Holmesfield Church for example – which we just scampered on by – ‘there are extensive views eastwards from here and the nearest high ground is far away across the great plains of Europe, in the Ural Mountains of Russia!’  That is actually quite remarkable and indeed a point of interest.  Does that mean if I’d taken my binoculars with me and really squinted I might have seen Russian Cossack dancing going on somewhere on them there mountains?  I’m pretty sure it must do.  Next time eh.  We couldn’t have had a better day for clear skies and long views though, so can’t promise you’ll see that yourself if you do go to check it out.  Maybe it will be enough to know it’s happening on your sight lines.  Impressive eh?

ural mountains

Holmesfield Park Wood was quite sweet, with lots of signs and a picnic spot and clearly a lot of love and care has gone into making this a good interactive space.  My pictures don’t really do it justice.  It was all pretty quiet as we went through.  We saw hardly anyone all morning now I come to think of it, masses of horses, a few cows, two dog-walkers and that was about it.

Can you guess what comes next dear reader?  Yes!  That’s right!  The sixth part of the walk!  You are on fire now.

From here, the route was much simpler to follow, and it was possible to pretty much rely on the book.  Well once we made it to the golf course it was.  En route to that point though we had to cross a scary road towards Birchitt Farm where one of the signs has been knocked off – farm machinery rather than vandalism I think, but you needed your wits about you to find the turning.   Some friendly ponies, narrow tracks.  A dead magpie.  You don’t often see them dead, I wonder what had happened to it, I hope not poison, it was just odd to see it lying there on a track and not predated.

This section also eventually opened up into much more runnable sections with some great views.  Although there were some exceptions to that.  When we got to the golf course – which seemed a bit incongruous with its manicured greens alongside farm land, there was a narrow tree-lined track which Selfie Queen Smiley remarked would prevent you from ever being found if a stray golf ball came whizzing through the undergrowth and struck you with such force you dropped dead on impact.  This didn’t happen to us today, but consider yourself to have heard the health and safety briefing and been alerted to our very own risk assessment.  We could hear some golfers thwacking away.  Really don’t understand the point of golf, but each to their own eh.

We’d been out for hours now, and it started to get a bit stressful as my Smiley Selfie Queen Buddy was needing to get back, and we’d been out longer than expected.  However,  we still needed to check the route and to be honest I wasn’t really up for a late turn of speed.  We pressed on to the final seventh part of the walk.  We agreed to press on together.

we passed under the requisite two bridges to reach the main road

DSCF4968

this part of the route was something of a shock.  It was really busy with cars going a bit too fast for comfort.  I couldn’t work out where they were heading, as there isn’t really anywhere up the track other than a dead-end.  Oh well, a mystery for another time.

Very nearly back to the start now.  Across a busy road, and pretty much a straight line across some fields various through hedges and ducking down allies until you emerge back on Eckington road where we started.  At this point we said our farewells.  Smiley Selfie Queen sprinted off to get her car and head home, I nipped into the garage for some orange juice and took the official route back, which goes behind the little garden area with the sign we’d photographed at the start and dodges through a mini housing estate for no apparent reason beyond avoiding the busy main road I suppose.  It would be fair to say it was something of an anticlimactic finish.

Oh yes, nearly forgot, my Strava route – of course my watch gave up on me again.  Of course it did.  Not that you missed much in the last little bit, just the dodge through a housing estate for no obvious purpose I was telling you about.  Oh well.

strava route

So that was that.  Walk done.

It’s definitely interesting to have done it because it shows you how everywhere links up and there are some unexpectedly lovely bits along the way.  It would be a good run route if you were training for trail marathons as it has good distance and surprisingly a lot of hills.  You could have paused at any number of pubs or cafes along the way had you wanted to – clearly we were hard-core and self-sufficient so didn’t – though you might want to think about time of day you are out as they won’t necessarily be open.  I’d like to see this path stay clear, and the best way to achieve that is for people to go out and use it – oh, and buy the book guide too, as whatever it’s limitations, it is a way to fund the upkeep of the footpaths.  Some of the work they’ve put in to rebuild steps and put up really strong stiles is very impressive, and will cost money to maintain.  The signage and new stiles, fencing and even laboriously laid steps and little bridges in some areas are an absolute labour of love by the team that put this together.  Virtual high-fives to all of them.  I might be curious enough to go back some time and do it in the other direction, just because, and I expect next time round would be a lot quicker because obviously there would be a lot less faffing.  Probably not ever going to lure me away from the hills and the heather, however, I would cautiously recommend, but keep your wits about you navigationally.  I think honestly, it’s a route that once you’ve done and ‘ticked off’ you might not rush to go back and do again, but if it’s on your doorstep, as it is mine then yep, you should do it.  Keep those footpaths clear and who knows, it may even put you in good stead for future legs of the Sheffield Way Relay, leg 4 in particular… just saying….

In other news, we also saw a rather lovely ladybird, but unfortunately it’s a harlequin one, and they aren’t good news.  I’ve actually reported its presence to the Harlequin Ladybird Survey people, does that make me weirdly geeky, a responsible citizen or a latent entomologist?  I have no idea.  Oh well.  Other shots worthy of inclusion are below:

My conclusion then is ‘good in parts’ with a recommendation for it as a winter option as I think it would be beautiful in the frost and the paths would stay passable, but what do I know.

There you go then, not my most inspired blog post ever, but hopefully you’ll get the gist if you fancy stepping out in Dronfield, and why wouldn’t you.  You can nip in to the myriad of nurseries/ garden centres on the way home should the mood take you if your legs hold up that long.

Oh, and can we have a minute’s applause to the good people who decided to revamp and renew the route, your labours are much appreciated.  I thank you!  Thank you too lovely Dronfield for opening your paths for us to discover your delights.

Happy recceing and running until next time.

🙂

 

*Oh, and by the way, as I like to be helpful, if you are an ultra runner with an interest in pot noodles, or even if you are not an ultra runner but are still interested in pot noodles, add a visit to the instant noodle museum to your bucket list, you’re welcome.

cup noodle museum

That will give the Sulabh International Toilet museum a run for its money.  In fact, they may be yin to each others yan.  Go check it out people, you know you want to!

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

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

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

dig deep 30 bling

Unabridged version:

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

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

test-card_1951702c

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bodyform-ultra-towels-normal-wings

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

NEW_SMART-graphic

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

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

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

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

DSCF4562

I ended up with:

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

plus:

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

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

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

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

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

geronimo at london

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow, surely they’d rub?

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

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

DD start funnel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tilly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

turtles in Yangshuo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

breezy up win hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too late now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This is what it looked like today:

I can’t lie.  I was a bit gutted.  This is where the mental strength you’ve built up in training really kicks in.  The thing is, I’d especially put together something to put in the honesty box for the children who’d set up the stall to find, but now I didn’t know if they ever would.  I decided as I’d brought my little token for them, I’d leave it anyway.  I carefully slipped my good luck bringing envelope and its mysterious contents under a wooden block and hoped for the best.  I daresay someone would find it.  Maybe even the dog walker who was picking up dog poo alongside me as I carried out this no doubt outwardly bizarre shenanigans.  I will never know.