Posts Tagged With: volunteer marshal at parkrun

Feeling the parkrun love – back to Bushy parkrun to join the TpoT troupe. #parkrunfriendsarethebest

Digested read: back at Bushy parkrun this week to meet up with Tralee parkrunners on Tour.  It was jolly nice.

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Undigested read:

I wasn’t going to do another blog post about Bushy parkrun, because, well you know, maybe cyberspace is already awash with enough parkrun accounts, and then I went and you know how it is.  The fabulousness of the morning unfolded and it just seems a shame to let it pass undocumented.  Reading this account is optional after all, and I like the idea that I can capture my fond memories of the morning before they fade away entirely. Also, I really, really wanted to share this picture.  I don’t know who drew it unfortunately, but apparently a GP, presumably from Durham as Durham parkun originally shared.  So many truths within, perhaps not quite all universal ones – personally I’ve abandoned any aspiration to a new pb, and my alarm goes off way earlier than 8.10 – but the other aspects of the parkrun emotional rollercoaster I can completely relate to.  Particularly the axis (can’t remember if it’s x or y) that charts the shift from being ‘bitter and resentful’ to ‘loving life’!  So true!  Thank you J Stutchbury(?).  Great name by the way.  When I’m a best selling author I’m going to name a character after you.

parkrun emotional rollercoaster

Where was I?  Oh yes, heading off to Bushy parkrun.  The reason for this particular sojourn was to coincide with the pathologically lovely TpoT people!  That’s Tralee parkrunners on Tour for the uninitiated.  I have the extreme good fortune to have become an honorary member of this group that oozes parkrun love and general all-round fabulousness.  It was they who invited me to join them for my first bit of international parkrun tourism at Hasenheide parkrun last year.  The Tralee Troupe have tourism down to a fine art, cheap flights from Kerry airport mean they seem to relatively frequently take flight en masse and descend on parkruns the world over.  I wasn’t sure if they should be more accurately described as a troop or a troupe.  According to the interweb, troop apparently usually refers to a group of soldiers or people more generally, whereas a troupe implies a traveling contingent of theatrical performers.  I rest my case.  Any parkrun contingent including a juggler in their midst surely qualifies as the latter?  A toupee is something entirely different, and arises from either a typo or a spelling error, so hope we’ve cleared that up.

tpot juggling still

The real miracle is how they can literally remove 100 parkrunner regulars who head off on these trips, but still leave behind a fully operational parkrun with 200 plus people running the parkrun show. Awesome!

Hooray.  I have the official orange beanie that marks me out as such.  Not going to lie, it isn’t the most flattering item in my running wardrobe, but it is among my most valued ones, who doesn’t like glory by association?  I’m super chuffed to get to be an acknowledged part of such an awesome parkrun troupe.  Strictly speaking I think I must be on probation at the moment, as I’ve not actually yet got to run at Tralee parkrun itself.  One day I hope to actually go and run on their hallowed course at Tralee, and that will make my membership truly official. They haven’t actually said it out loud, but I know in my heart of hearts I can only ever be considered to be on probation until I’ve joined the Tralee parkrunners in all their glory in their native habitat. It’s little wonder that Tralee parkrun is most definitely at the top of my parkrun tourism destinations for the future.  I’ll need to renew my passport first mind

Oh, here is the picture of me modelling my TpoT hat.  ‘nuf said. When I’m a best selling author I’m not using this shot to illustrate my author’s bio, but I can still be weirdly fond of the beanie all the same.  After all, who wouldn’t experience a little puff of pride and pleasure and a frisson of joy for being able to sport such a beacon of shared identity and gain glory by association with surely the most famed of parkrun tourists anywhere!  If I’d given it a bit more forethought, I’d have adopted a t-pot pose for the picture as well, but not quite sure how that would work doing a selfie, which is not my area of expertise at the best of times, maybe the world has had a lucky escape on all counts!  I’m not saying I won’t try some other time, but some things are best not shared aren’t they.  We can take social media too far…

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Where was I.  Oh yes, staying in Teddington, up early to allow sufficient time to get into my new sports bra – which I’m testing out for Brooks – it’s a juno, and doing ok.  Having wrestled into this, I headed off to Bushy park via my mum’s.  She was taking her honorary marshaling duties very seriously, and had all her kit laid out in readiness, including a bespoke sign for the TpoTs and her fine orange beanie, also gifted to her by the lovely folk of Tralee, partly as a ninetieth birthday present and partly to allow her to demonstrate support to the parkrunners on the move.  Hurrah!

It was blooming cold in the park, but really beautiful.  I’d been really worried about the ice and forecast of arctic conditions, but in fact, although there was some ice around, it was limited to patches and the roads were clear.  Mum would be making it through the magic gateway…

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The sun was popping through the trees, and all looking fabulous as always. I love this park.  It’s extraordinary how it continues given the amount of people and dog walkers and everything else that use it every day.  Even so, you can feel like you have the whole expanse to yourself if you time your arrival right in the early mornings.

I borrowed some pictures from the Bushy parkrun facebook page, well they were quite fabulous. Some are mine, general rule of thumb is where a shot is blurry and erm, idiosyncratic, it’s probably mine, if it looks like a vision of heaven and is perfectly focused and composed, then it probably isn’t.  You’ll work it out.

I was distracted by squawking parakeets and silhouettes of stags in the park and the sight of seagulls standing around on ice and swans thrusting through it like ice breakers.  Eventually though, I saw a beacon approaching.  A fellow TpoTer.  These hats may not flatter, but my they do mean you can spot a fellow sporter of one at a thousand paces. Very handy.

I always get a little frisson of excitement arriving at Bushy parkrun.  The set up is so impressive.  A team was putting the finish funnel up – it is a thing of beauty, and elsewhere token sorter tables were being erected and other bits of purposeful blustering about were going on.  It’s the same but not at every parkrun.  Familiar elements but writ large here.

I dumped my backpack on a handy tree railing:

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and then I soon found myself meeting and greeting my Tralee buddies, not seen since Berlin Hasenheide parkrun yet I feel like I know them, it was a grand reunion. There were so many of them.  I don’t know what the collective noun is for a group of Tralee parkrunners but it’s probably a magnificence of parkrunners I think.  That will serve for now at least.

Everything about Bushy parkrun is epic.  Today, there was (obviously) a flash mob, singing and dancing to celebrate a fellow runner’s 500th run.    They were wearing face masks and everything, which sounds a bit weird and stalkery when I write it down, but in context was both appropriate and brilliant.

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I don’t know why I was surprised. This is the parkrun that once had a fly past for someones milestone tee!  I’m sure I’ve seen a video clip somewhere, though I’m darned if I can find it just now… maybe one day.

It was a busy morning, what with various people trying to rendezvous with each other.  One of my Tralee buddies was lamenting that he couldn’t spot a friend he was trying to find, as although he’d promised to wear his 250 milestone tee in order to be distinctive, but frankly, here at Bushy parkrun they honestly aren’t that much of  a rarity!   In better news, I was able to reassure that yep, mum was coming. The cold wouldn’t stop her, but ice would have, but I’d checked her route from the nursing home and astonishingly it was clear.  Hooray.  It actually turned into the most unexpectedly glorious of mornings. At least one errant parkrunner is known to have come to regret rolling over in bed and going back to sleep on parkrun morning…

dont miss parkrun

I suppose as long as you learn from your mistakes, that is the important thing…  Like the running cup from lidl, and are those the Kingston phone boxes I see.  That’s pretty cool actually, but not as cool as parkrun obviously.  Fortunately there is always next Saturday.  Unless you live in Durham and a forest has been planted over your usual Durham parkrun route whilst you were sleeping.  I mean trees are good, and planting them is excellent, but a bit of communication might have helped all round…

Mr S-H was present, which was a surprise, as I’d have thought he’d be much too busy with his contra range right now. I understand he personally supervises every item produced, with some enthusiasm, if the photos are to be believed.  I reckon he might even iron on those spots himself you know, bet that bit is quite rewarding.  I have one of the sage base layer tops, it’s roasty toasty.   It’s official colour is ‘green marl’ by the way, but I have no idea what that actually means, except it probably means sage, just so you know.

personally made by psh himself

Maybe he was there because his better half was part of the fame-inspired flash mob.  (Cheery wave, I would have said hello, but you were mid star-jump at the time) wearing the face mask didn’t fool me.   Or maybe they were both there, with dog, because, well you know, parkrun is fun.

I was distracted by so many people to talk to, and such a hubbub.  The ground was declared to be icy in parts, so after the first timer’s briefing

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marshals were dispatched to their marshal points, and

then we were all shooed a bit further over than usual for the Run Director’s briefing. They had slightly shifted the start to avoid a HUGE icy patch just before the ant hills.  This made the pre run understandably but uncharacteristically chaotic and I couldn’t honestly hear properly. I improvised and clapped along when it seemed as if audience participation was expected and then joined the mass scamper of the start when the parkrun was declared underway.

Considering how many runners there are, it was a good natured start.  I started a bit further forward than intended, so it seemed as if pretty much the entire field got to overtake me. Oh well, one day I’ll cause a sensation by overtaking someone, even if it is only because they have to stop to rescue a puppy from up a tree or something.

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Being in among so many runners is uplifting though.  I love that you get to hear the chit-chat of other runners, putting the world to rights, comparing running goals or injuries or good-naturedly trying to shove their 500 milestone running friend into an icy bog.  What larks eh?

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She survived the support of her friends and made it through to the finish funnel and reviving prosseco though, so don’t feel too sorry for her…

survived the ice

On the way round were excellent marshals, including mini marshals with bells, warning of ice, and wearing their own special hi-vis for the occasion.

However, a special mention should go to the especially heroic paramedic ice marshal, who, disappointingly, wasn’t actually made of ice, but who put himself in harm’s way, by standing on a huge skiddy patch of treacherous ice, just before you turn sharp left beside the cricket pitch, shooing people away. That’s parkrun dedication.  And I thought standing in a line of human cones at the start of Graves junior parkrun was scary!  I’ve never seen a braver marshal than this top man today.  Hurrah to you my friend. There should be a special chrome extension badge for your profile for brave parkrun duties ‘above and beyond’ if I had anything to do with it.  I think something like this would be appropriate:

pow badge

I trotted on through the cold, admiring my fellow runners legging choices and taking in the views:

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As I approached the half way point, I was wondering if my mum would have made it out in the cold as planned.  Good news, I could see her bright orange hat like pulsing outwards like a radioactive beacon.  I was very pleased.  Even more pleased to find as I approached she already had a Tralee parkrun acolyte with her, and what’s more, she was successfully brandishing the signage I’d supplied for this purpose.   Nicely tooled up. Result!  🙂  The bikes aren’t hers by the way, in case you were wondering…

mum and TpoT signs

Though no, I still don’t know why the Irish flag has those colours.  Note to self, must google this…

Obviously I paused for the first of many photo shots!

It was fun.  There was quite a party atmosphere, so I elected to hang on and wait for others to get their photo ops and for further Tralee parkrunners to rock on up

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There was quite a multitude!

I feel I’ve really missed a marketing opportunity here!  It was a fair old pop up party going on at Elisabeth’s Corner today.  Eventually I saw a huge Tralee contingent, festooned with flags, weighed down with cards and coming round just ahead of the tail walker.  It was lovely. They presented cards, posed with photos, said lovely things.  All very touching to behold.

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Don’t worry though dear reader, she did her best not to neglect her regular runners, there were high-fives and waves a-plenty. It really is the best thing ever about parkrun, the feel good waves that radiate outwards.  Good will doesn’t weaken as it disperses, it magnifies.

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‘In a world where you can be anything be kind’ is a good motto, and for me at least, parkrun personifies that ethos.  Kindness cubed and magnified in all directions.  Excellent multi-tasking going on there though, I’m sure you’ll agree, with waving at oncoming runners happening whilst simultaneously greeting those already present.  Look on in wonder and learn dear reader.  Impressive eh?

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So, I’d pretty much ground to a halt now, and the tail runners were coming round.  Now, I’ve been wanting to meet some of this fine cohort for a while now, as I keep seeing them in photos with my mum, and feel therefore like I know them even though we’ve never met.  I decided today was the day, and ended up walking round with the tails, which are multiple here at Bushy parkrun and all the better for it. The back of the pack is often the fun factory of any event in my experience, and Bushy parkrun is no exception.  It was really grand to walk and talk and share some laughs along the way too.  Love parkrun!

Said farewell to the marshals at Elisabeth’s corner as they dispersed once the tail walkers had come through

and then I sort of split my time between trotting ahead with the Tralee parkrunners for a bit, and then dropping back to chit-chat with the tails.  Busy, busy, busy.  The sun was out, the park looked gorgeous, as it always does to be fair, but I was so pleased that the weather smiled on tourists and home runners alike.

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Yes, of course we posed for photos along the way:

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and I stopped to snap a few marshals, not sure I got the full set, but my I-spy book of parkrun marshals sticker book is pretty full:

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and on we romped

Until finally the finish funnel was in sight

and I stormed(ish) through, feeling like a winner, because everyone’s a winner at parkrun right?  Having a personal worst just means I got best value for time out on the course.  It was an emotional run, so much positivity, so much parkrun love, so much all round awesomeness.

and then ‘suddenly’ it ends. Only it doesn’t really, post parkrun celebrations were everywhere, cakes being doled out, prosecco poured, and cheery laughter permeating the park.

As one poster said, if Carlsberg did mornings…

if carlsberg did mornings

Until finally, we dispersed, and I headed back to my mum’s to admire her latest lot of cards, birthday cards this time, to complement the Christmas stash, all of which absolutely delighted her, as they did me. Thank you lovely parkrun people.

and that was that.  Job done, til next time.  Which pleasingly, would be tomorrow, with the monthly Bushy junior parkrun. Hurrah!  Two days on the trot with my lovely TpoTers.  Life is good.  🙂

#loveparkrun

Miss it.  Miss out. Just sayin!

HW atmosphere

Oh, and there is an official run report for Bushy parkrun event 774 2 feb 2019 here.

and an even lovelier one for the following week giving details of all the Bushy parkrun marshal points including Elisabeth’s corner for the 9th Feb report. Love this.

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

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brrrrrr at Brierley Forest parkrun. Snow, actual snow. The weather was cold but the welcome was warm :)

Digested read: went to Brierley Forest parkrun for a bit of parkrun tourism.  It snowed!  It was very nice though thank you for asking.  Would recommend.  Wear big warm pants in winter though.

halloween parkrun

The unabridged version:

I know I’m only a nesh southerner, but really, snow?  In October?  Lucky for this (almost) Halloween I was shrouded  (see what I’ve done there?) in the warm embrace of a new parkrun or I’d never have made it home alive.  Well, ok, that might be a teeny bit of an exaggeration, but honestly only a teeny-weeny bit –  I’d most definitely never have made it out of the house to go for a run otherwise, which amounts to the same thing on a Saturday.  Because, after all, what is a Saturday for, if it is not for parkrun?  parkrun, and making new friends – pretty much synonymous to be fair.

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There are lots of ways to make new friends if you engage in a bit of proactivity it’s true.  Well, maybe not quite forever friends straight off, but social interaction on the path to that outcome certainly.  One way is to randomly accost people trying to have a quiet coffee on a bench and use your charms so you can join them, direct approaches work best (go mum!). #itsgoodtotalk indeed!

Another approach is just to rock up at any parkrun and start with a slightly awkward smile as a precursor to parkrun small talk and then you’re in.  Or your money back!  What do these displays of brilliance have in common?  Why dear reader, parkrun of course! It’s a FACT (albeit one I’ve not actually been able to provide a statistical evidence base for, but just has to be true based on my subjective personal experience – or ‘ethnographic research’  if you prefer) that people who are involved in parkrun are more likely to be pathologically friendly and receptive to approaches from other people involved in parkrun than the population as a whole.  Actually, I am of the view that most people are friendly if you approach them, even non parkrunners, but that doesn’t work quite so well as the premise for this post, so hey ho, bit of creative licence here – ‘bear with, bear with’.  Most people are nice, or try to be.  But parkrun people are extra so.

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Also, I can’t work out how to do the Venn diagram, but I’m sure you can grasp the general idea. Case in point, today whilst my mum was hobnobbing with the deer and celebrities and parkfunners in all their many and glorious manifestations in Bushy Park, I was shivering in the warm and welcoming company of Brierley Forest parkrunners.

I’m getting ahead of myself though.

My regular reader will know, if they’ve been paying attention, I’ve been really struggling with my running lately.  Can’t be bothered to explain why, but in an attempt to counter this, and rediscover my love of running (it’s complicated), I thought I’d ring some parkrun changes.  Take the pressure off by heading off to a new place for some parkrun tourism and just romp round anonymously, taking pictures and taking in the view.  What’s not to like.

I settled on Brierley parkrun because it’s definitely a doable distance from Sheffield, in fact it only took about 40 minutes to get there, but of course I didn’t believe that so left at stupid o-clock this morning.  It was still dark when I ventured out the house:

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It was freezing stepping out the door.  The roads were clear, and the sky too.  At one point a load of birds – gulls maybe – flew across the moon in a great swarm, back-lit they looked like a load of bats heading out or heading home, who knows?  Very spectacular.  It’s worth getting out early sometimes, the world looks difference in the silence pre dawn.

The drive was easy, and I arrived at Brierley Forest just after 8.00.  There were loads of parking places, so many I got confused about where to pull up (doesn’t take much to be fair).

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I then had a bit of a panic.  I’d been asking some fellow parkrunners (hello Monday Mobsters) from my home parkrun at Sheffield Hallam for some tourist ideas and they mentioned this run and one other.  One doesn’t have toilets for a pre parkrun precautionary pee, the other does.  They couldn’t remember which was which and nor could I.  This is the problem with getting advice from well-meaning fellow parkrunners, their opinions are all well and good, but sometimes the omission of detail is near ruinous.  York parkrun I recall definitely lacks loos.  Good to know.  Only the most slender of parkrunners would manage a surreptitious pee behind one of the racecourse railings, it’s a no-go area for me then.  Back to Brierley Forest though – curses, this could yet turn out to be my WORST NIGHTMARE EVER!  On the plus side, I was early and there were seemingly plenty of al fresco options for the desperate/ disinhibited, so all was not lost.

Car parked:

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Time for an explore.  It’s grand going to new places.  I didn’t know anything at all about this one before I arrived, other than the post code to get there which by the way is if using SATNAV, NG17 2PL.  It helped maybe that the autumn colours were at their finest, but this is a wood that has been lovingly sculpted. There were well-marked trails, including – drum roll – parkrun signs!  Not seen them before.  I mean permanent ones, hang on…

there you go.  This parkrun isn’t going anywhere.

Then there was a lovingly put together adventure playground with obstacles to climb over, swing on or run across.  Some cool woodland sculptures,

Then there was a rather moving wooden memorial in commemoration of the five miners who died in the 1957 Sutton Colliery (Brierley Pit) disaster and in tribute to all those who worked at the colliery 1872 to 1989.

Aside from being a parkrun venue, the Brierley Forest site has a pretty interesting history.  This site has been dug, and hewn and reshaped over the years.

The trees were good, though disappointingly, I couldn’t find any acorns, I’m on a quest to find a really good one, still in its little egg cup cover.  None to be found here.

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I did find something else though.  Hit the veritable jackpot with these:

There was a mobile catering van outside the very shut looking visitors centre.  I got chatting with the woman running it, to find out about post run veggie options (more of this later) and asked her about loos.  She directed me to the adjacent visitors’ centre.  It wasn’t locked.  What’s more, it was spotlessly clean and roasty toasty warm with toilet paper and running water and everything. Phew, crisis averted.  I always feel better for my precautionary pee.

This was definitely fast becoming my new favourite parkrun – all needs catered for:

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Here is the visitors’ centre, and the adjacent mobile catering outlet in case you are wondering what they looked like.  I don’t think they were doing curries at that time in the morning, but then again, I didn’t enquire.  They were doing hot drinks and hot baps from about 8.00 a.m.  It seems they were not there exclusively for parkrunners, but dog-walkers, people fishing and other day trippers too.

I did a bit of exploring, and found the hi-vis heroes out in force, setting up the course.  This parkrun doesn’t have volunteers, it has voluncheers instead, apparently.  Aren’t they lovely and particularly photogenic to boot?

voluncheers

This wasn’t the only genius innovation though.  They also mark up their course markers like this:

Clever eh?  No wondering every single week if you are carrying the right number of signs out with you for the course set up.  It seemed a well oiled machine in action, with hi-vis voluncheers marching purposefully about.

It was still early, so I temporarily retreated back to the relative warmth of my car until a few more people had assembled.  I do like it when people make an effort at parkrun, and a quartet duly arrived who I assumed, had done just that.   So much so that I asked to take their photos:

I congratulated them for making an effort with their fancy dress – only to be completely mortified to discover they weren’t in fancy dress at all, but had come straight from work!  Oh no, I quickly stammered out something unconvincing about meaning ‘making an effort by coming in uniform’ but not sure I quite pulled it off.  Shame, not a crowd to get the wrong side of I’m guessing.

More milling and chilling.  I love watching people gather at parkrun, the coming together of people for a common purpose, familiar and yet unfamiliar.  Familiar, because the same characters are at every parkrun, and unfamiliar because, well, not been here before, so all new!

The chilling was very literal.  I could have sworn I got a dusting of ice from the sky at one point.  There was cheery herding of first timers to the first timers briefing, we assembled, and then yes, actual snow fell.  Quite a lot of it. Not just a little bit of ‘is it or isn’t it’ wintry showers, but full on, proper snow. That was most unexpected.

It was quite exciting in a way, but mostly very, very cold.  Still, made for an adventure I suppose.  And I probably didn’t feel it quite as much as the poor guy who was a tourist runner from Vermont, who was wearing shorts, a brave choice I felt.  Wonder if he’s done the Barkley Marathons too?

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Glad to see some tourists – more than that treasured cow cowl sporters had also made an effort for the season.  I wished I’d been able to find my halloween deely-boppers from a couple of years ago, but have a feeling they ended up with a friend in Bangladesh (long story). I wonder how you train a spider to hang on like that?  Also, I wonder if it helps keep your head warm. I’d consider an arthropod as a companion animal if that was the case, I was rather regretting not having my woolly hat out with me this morning.

First timers briefed.  Included in our number were a couple of completely new to parkrun people.  That’s always exciting.  They might be on the cusp of something new.  How their lives might change from hereon in.  Or not.  The snow wasn’t maybe the most enticing of welcomes…

Into the melee for the run directors briefing.  The RD had a somewhat evangelical presence in his delivery.  I have to say though, this was the noisiest run briefing I’ve ever been too.  I seemed to be surrounded by people seemingly chatting extra loudly so they could hear themselves over the to them irritatingly noisy RD. I was quite shocked actually, how rude.  If they really didn’t want to listen they could have at least stood further away.  I even asked a few to ‘maybe keep it down’ – which is extreme behaviour from me as normally the most I’ll do faced with such anti-social behaviour is direct an ineffectual Paddington Bear Stare. The provocation here was extreme though. The shouters paused just long enough to look at me like I was mad before carrying on shouting at one another. This is clearly their parkrun ‘normal’.   Pity the poor run director faced with that.  Obviously, I then felt uncomfortable for having even tried, not the done thing here.  I really hope today wasn’t typical though.  Being quiet for 4 minutes for the briefing isn’t a lot to ask when the volunteers voluncheers have given up so much time for a parkrun to happen surely.  Junior parkunners are way more attentive than this crowd, and many of them are only four at Graves junior anyway! #itsgoodtotalkbutnotduringtherdbriefingatparkrun

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That was it, before we knew it we were awf…

Oh hang on, you probably want to know the official course blah de blah, here it is from the Brierley Forest parkrun site:

An undulating 2 lap course set in the grounds of Brierley Forest Park. The course is clearly marked with directional arrows.

The start is located close to the Brierley Forest Visitors Centre. From the start runners head North East for approximately 1KM. From there arrows will direct through a small S bend onto an access road where a marshal will be present. From here runners will continue forward onto the Brierley Branch for approximately 250 metres before heading back onto Brierley Park heading South West following the path to the pond. At approximately 1800metres follow an arrow taking you around the left of the pond, through the trees back onto a straight path towards the finish.

Before the finish, turn right following the path of trees towards the visitors centre and past for approximately 170m back onto the second loop of the course and head straight on to the finish.

My version is though, two loops, basically flat, through woods and on tarmac/ compacted gravel trails. It was very scenic.  I was inadvertently caught up in the middle of the throng as we set off, but it was all very good-natured.  This parkrun has an excellent vibe.  The route is lovely.  Through trees, past a lake, a few turns means you don’t always see other runners ahead but sometimes there are glimpses of them over the horizon.

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There weren’t many marshals on the course as such, but there were loads of arrows, no chance of getting lost. Also, another fine innovation, their marshal points are named in honour of presumably, some of Brierley Forest parkrun’s finest.  Check these signs out.

Especially heart-warming is the correct use of the apostrophe.  Such a relief.  This is what my mum needs for Elisabeth’s Corner.  Only a matter of time, surely.

Other hi-vis heroes a-plenty, and especially impressive as it was cold enough that I’m sure a few of them must have had bits freeze and fall off, law of averages, a few would be sacrificed for the many…  The more wily amongst them had bought steaming hot flasks and other provisions.  Impressive forward planning methinks!

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I did my usual leisurely trundle along at the back, only it was so cold I could feel my lungs freezing every time I inhaled.  I had to stop periodically to photograph the sights and delights along the route, even doing a detour to take in the dragon egg.  Well, rude not too, and it isn’t something you see everyday now is it?

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You can see my little dragon’s egg detour on my strava if you like:

strava route

You’re welcome.  🙂

It’s a two lap course, so you have to look longingly at the finish funnel and sprint on by.  All very well laid out though, no danger of going astray.

I enjoyed my yomp at the back.  I wasn’t quite last, but nearly.  The tail walker was way behind me though, I think that someone had come and just done one lap, which is fair enough, but meant the tail walker then had to put a wiggle on to catch up with the next runner.  Always a risk in that role!

I’m slow, and so it was quiet round me, I was always in sight of other runners, but very much had my own space.  It was a nice change to do a run that was a lot quieter than my home run, which obviously I feel loyal too, but no-one can deny that Sheffield Hallam parkrun is now consistently on the ‘snug’ side in terms of crowds.

I was relieved when I finally came back round to the finish.  I even put on – what is by my standards at least – a bit of a sprint finish.  Didn’t start it too early for fear of collapsing ahead of the timers and having to crawl in like that poor Japanese relay runner with her broken leg!  Not a good look.   I’m not that dedicated, I’m just scared they’ll either move the finish funnel further away, or start dismantling it before I get there if I don’t get a wiggle on in the final few metres.

bleeding finish

That was it, all done!  Loads of volunteers on the funnel, time keeping, funnel managing and generally providing solidarity with the final few finishers.  Loving your work Brierley Forest Voluncheers.  I thank you.

I waited for the tailwalker to come through, complete with an entourage clad in hi-vis and clutching course signs and tape stripped from the route as she passed.

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and soon that was that, parkrun binned for another week…

Just time for obligatory post parkrun selfies

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Goodbye Brierley Forest parkrun people, hope to be back sometime summertime.

Time to go in search of post parkrun breakfast options.  Now, the official delegation was heading through the car parks to the golf club which has catering options apparently.  However, I felt should honour my promise to the mobile caterer who’d promised a veggie option in a bap earlier on.

I passed by the officious sign about not leaving your horse unattended – lucky I didn’t have Roger with me this week, though actually, he’d have been fine, he’s very well-behaved…  Mostly retired now though.  Presume Geronimo would have been ok.

Returning to the mobile catering van was a good move.  It was very social, as I met a couple of other parkrun tourists who were playing a sort of mild version of Top Trump parkrun tourism having visits to Malmo parkrun and  one of the Florida ones respectively.  The Florida one was not recommended – 100% humidity and ridiculously hot.  An adventure, and an impressive addition to the tourism tally for sure, but to be that sticky at 7.30 a.m. doesn’t sound grand. ‘I’ve done Bridlington – does that count?‘ chipped in Cob-woman*. This would have won, undoubtedly, except it wasn’t true.  Shame.  I hope Bridlington does have a parkrun- hang on, will google…

drum roll….

Yes!  It does, dear reader I give you Sewerby parkrun.  It’s on my hit list!

The veggie cob option was basically gluten, and it came in a tin like this – not the most appetising in appearance to be fair:

But you know what, with onions and mushrooms it was really unexpectedly good.  Also a bargain, coming it at £3.50 for that and a large coffee too.  I say cob*, but by instinct I would call it a bap though strictly speaking I think a Sheffielder would say it was a breadcake.  Confusing.  I think we can agree based on the signage, that this is best taken as cobs courtesy therefore of cob-woman, which if it isn’t yet a wildly recognised super hero should be henceforth.

The parkrunner was parent of the fancy dress children previously identified.  ‘Where are they, have you left them in the wood?’ I enquired, having noted their absence.  ‘They are a devil-witch and a zombie, they can look after themselves, they’ll be fine!’ she quipped back.  They could indeed, having found sanctuary in the warmth of the semi-operational visitors’ centre.

I sat and ate my seitan cob/bap/breadcake and found out a bit more about life at Brierley Forest from my two companions. The pond bailiff who was having his daily sausage cob fix, and the woman in charge of the catering -today’s superhero Cobwoman. It seems she is taking over the centre when it reopens in a few weeks time.  Sounds really good.  She will be opening in evenings as well, the park are also putting up some lights, and rebuilding an access road to the cafe and park.  a lot of care and investment has gone into the place.  It seemed brim full of optimism.  Definitely one to come back to.

Thanks for the welcome new best friends for the day:

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Seitan bap eaten, coffee drunk, farewells said, that was that.  I was quite sad to be going.

The verdict?  Yeah, would definitely recommend this parkrun, super friendly – thanks to all that made it so.  Very scenic, good facilities, not so keen on the snow but then again, that makes it all the more memorable does it not.  Even a choice of loos.  There was a sort of container with an outdoorsy loo as well, but I got the upgrade for being cheeky.  Good to know.  Lovely autumn colours too, catch them while you can, nights are drawing in from tomorrow…

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So more parkrun love tomorrow at Graves junior, so excited.  Will there be snow?

Don’t worry about snow though people, especially if you life in Shropshire.  Gritty McGritface is on it!  Just shows, it’s an ill wintry shower that brings nobody any good!

gritty mcgritface

Addendum.  There was no snow at Graves Junior parkrun.  It was beautiful out there.  As usual I set out the course on arrival, but unusually, the skill and judgement I used in putting up the tape by the lake and strategic placement of a hi-viz tabard on the pillar hazard at the turn were captured on film.  Hurrah!  Well, on digital upload whatsamajig which amounts to the same thing.  Also, a fine duck. Gotta love a duck, as I’m sure you know. Enjoy!

Also, best overheard comment of the morning (the juniors run through an animal park which includes llamas FYI) ‘how big would the wings need to be on a llama, for it to be able to fly?‘  Great question. Testimony to the meditative potential that is realised through participation in parkrun.

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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.

and for spooky halloween themed events click here – scroll down for older entries.

Happy parkrunning til next time.  Feel the parkrun love and joy!

 

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A glimpse into the wonderful world of parkrun volunteering

Digested read: it was my fiftieth time of volunteering at parkrun last Sunday.  The lovely RD at Graves junior parkrun did a special post about volunteering based on me!  Wow.  I was really touched.  Thanks guys!   I feel a tad guilty given how many out there have achieved this milestone way ahead of me, but I’m enjoying the moment all the same!   Blushing a bit though, just a bit.

There isn’t a way to repost from the parkrun blog, so here is a cut and paste job instead.  Uncharacteristically sentimental post from me therefore follows…

Posted on September 13, 2018 by gravesjuniorsoffice
Last Sunday one of our regular volunteers, Lucy, volunteered with us for the 50th time!

A cause for celebration – how did it all start?
I was actually really nervous the first time I joined the volunteer team at Graves. What if I point someone the wrong way? What if I drop all the finish tokens? What if nobody talks to me? In fact it was the best thing I ever did, because of course everyone was very welcoming. I have made lots of new friends, shared lots of laughter and learned to appreciate the micro-climate of Graves park in all seasons from brilliant sunshine, to blustering winds and white out snow! My weekends feel incomplete if I have to miss junior parkrun – I can’t really remember what I used to do on a Sunday morning before. It’s a complete mystery.

volunteering in the snow

volunteering in the snow

Sounds like you enjoy volunteering at Graves juniors?
I was super excited when I realised that today barcode scanning at Graves junior parkrun was my fiftieth time of volunteering. I never imagined when I first started volunteering that they’d tot up quite so quickly. It’s so true, time really does fly when you are having fun, and volunteering at Graves is always brilliant entertainment on a Sunday morning! So much so that it’s become the highlight of my week!

What do you enjoy most?
There are so many things l love about junior parkrun – it is such a feel-good initiative!
I love the fact there are so many different ways to take part in the event: speedy runners charging by like rockets, young runners encouraging one another, some carrying a favourite toy, some enjoying family run in big groups, some stopping to pick up feathers or stones as they finish the course in their own way. Every junior parkrunner from the first to get their token to the final finisher is celebrated, and rightly so.

Lucy is also often the first to arrive! Tell us why?
I love arriving before the runners and setting up the course when the park is all quiet and you can enjoy the views and see the animals in the animal park waking up too. Then you can feel the excitement building as everybody gathers, and runners meet each other.

Would you recommend volunteering to others?
Yes! From my point of view there are basically two facts you need to know when it comes to volunteering at your local parkrun (though parkrun voluntourism is a good thing too, of course). These are as follows:

Fact one. Volunteering at regular parkrun is fun, lots of fun.
Fact two. Volunteering at fun-size junior parkrun is even more fun. Fun in inverse proportion to the average height of those participating.

Any words of wisdom for those who have never volunteered, yet?
So if you are thinking of volunteering please do give it a go. You will be warmly welcomed and will get to enter a whole parallel universe of parkrun playfulness. And as many of you have already discovered, parkrun in all its many manifestations can be strangely addictive! You have been warned!

 

It’s not always that glamorous though, just so you know.  Very grounding to see myself in the school themed shots, hilarious too though and that’s the main thing!

Graves junior school theme

Hi-viz heroes rock!

🙂

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

For more on my take on volunteering at parkrun, see this earlier post:   On the subject of superheroes, a call to capes

and for my claim to parkrun fame check this link out!

 

 

Categories: parkrun | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Maranoia mended? Running fun rediscovered, but it took a while to come into view…

Digested read:  wasn’t feeling the running lurve today, too cold, too lethargic.  Then I went to Graves junior parkrun and bathed in the parkrun love and then I went for a run which started badly and ended well, and I made a new friend, and I found a running pace and you know what?  Running is fun again!  Yay.  My maranoia might not quite be mended, but it is most definitely in remission, for today…  No doubt normal service will be resumed shortly.

What a difference a day makes eh?  First thing today I was staring into a void of disillusion and despair. If I thought running a marathon seemed an impossible dream 16 weeks ago, roll forward to today and I felt a pang of nostalgia for those dizzy days of rose tinted positivity that induced me to commence training in the first place. Honestly, what was I thinking?  This marathon malarkey is never going to happen.  I have no idea what I’m doing.  The regime I laughingly refer to as my ‘training plan’ appears to have a) led to zero improvement to my running  – in face I’ve got progressively slower, and b) I lost my long run last week due to the aftermath of an ill advised sports massage.  It’s all going horribly wrong!  Woe is me.  I am a failure as a runner, as a human being, in life – the only thing I’m really good at is personalised pity parties.  Bring on the bulk buy hot cross buns and find me a sofa on which to lie and weep the hot, not-very-healing tears of self-indulgent self-pity.  At that at least I may excel…

 

and then …   lots of running related fun came my way, and now I’m fine and tickety-boo.  No physically  fitter than I was this morning, but a lot more mentally positive.   And they do say a lot of running is in the mind, albeit not all of it unfortunately.   I’m thinking now that I’m just experiencing ‘maranoia‘ the paranoia that I’ll ruin everything in these last few weeks, and probably not even make it to the start of the London Marathon, let alone the finish.  I reckon my maranoia is reasonably severe when it flares up, but I have the kind that goes into occasional spontaneous remission, for this I am thankful.  It is still unpleasant and debilitating though, but hopefully survivable…  Personally, I find what lifts my mood is basically being in complete denial about having to run a marathon, and just doing running related fun things.  One of the saddest Facebook posts I ever read was on some discussion forum somewhere where someone posted that training for London had ‘killed the joy of running’ for them.  I don’t want that to happen to me.  I reckon I’m pretty safe on that score though, I can but dream of being over-trained!

So up early, Easter Sunday and April Fool’s day.  Hurrah.  Grapes disguised as mini creme eggs anyone?

_100652416_easteraprilfool's

My roof is leaking again.  That’s not funny.  Seventh leak now since I moved in.  Not a happy bunny.  In fact, not a bunny at all, and not for lack of trying.  It being Sunday, it is of course, junior parkrun day, and it being Easter Sunday I was hoping to rock some bunny ears whilst on marshalling duties.  I tried moderately hard to source some, but to no avail.  The closest I got was in one shop where they said in response to my request ‘no, but we stocked loads of those last year‘.  Not helpful  Really not.  I thought about repurposing my dragonfly wings, but in the end made do with sticking some undersized Easter chicks onto my hat.  It was a start.  Not quite a full on Easter bonnet, but a nod to fancy dress all the same.

Off to Graves park, oh my, how cold was it up there.  I mean, I know it’s a micro-climate of apocalyptic ice-age proportions, but it’s not funny any more.  The return of the Beast from the East isn’t supposed to be until tomorrow.  Fortunately, despite cold weather there were warm hearts.  I trotted off round with a fellow volunteer to set out the course, and that is my favourite job.  It feels purposeful, plus you get a bit of stomp about to get warm, and you can check in on the animals.  I couldn’t help noticing that most of these weren’t game for venturing out, they aren’t stupid, but I still find it calming being in the vicinity of them all.  I mean obviously it would be better if there were goats and warthogs, but the donkey is vocal and entertaining and on dry days the porcines are always up for a companionable scratch.  Not today though.  Having a duvet day.  Those animals that did make it outside weren’t looking overly impressed.  I take their point.

En route with the flags I came across another marshal who was quick enough to not only notice, but also appreciate my Easter chick efforts.  I feel such observational skills should be rewarded, so reached into my pocket to supply her with one of her own, on the understanding it should be sported throughout the run. Dear reader, I’m happy to report she carried out this promise with considerable aplomb.  She is clearly a natural at having a plastic bird sit on her head.  An important life skill I’m sure.  Well, to be fair, it served me well at parkrun today for starters, so you never know when such capabilities may be drawn on.

Once I made it back to the start, which is also the finish

finish funnel

oh joy.  International parkrun celebrities in evidence, all the way from the legend that is Tralee parkrun, and sporting a most excellent array of bunny ears.  My hat chicks were a gesture I suppose, but definitely more minimalist than was appropriate for the occasion.

Tralee parkrun incidentally is quite possibly the most friendly parkrun in the entire world, pathologically so. They have also taken parkrun to tourism to new heights as they head out across the globe, not as little ambassador / special envoys to other parkruns, but en masse.  They quite literally took a plane load of 80 parkrunners to go on pilgrimage to Bushy parkrun back in January – that’s an impressive percentage of their parkrun regulars – their stats as of today say the average number of parkrunners each week is 169 – so that’s half of them.  More really, as numbers fluctuate.  What’s more this wasn’t even a one – off more a trial run.  Next stop Germany.  Plus, they did a Copacabana song and dance tribute to one of their runners / hi-viz heroes on the occasion of his 100th parkrun.  That’s a service not all parkruns are able to offer.  Impressed?  I am.  Let’s hear it for the World’s Best parkrun ambassador indeedy!  They don’t skimp on balloons there either.  Respect.

Anyway, was grand to meet up with the Tralee contingent once again, and swap a few parkrun tales before I headed off to my marshal point.  I was in a different spot to usual, but it was just as much fun.    I got to see the warm up and the start funnel of volunteers all lined up like a human pin ball machine from afar, and watch the runners stream off like ball bearings pouring out of a jar as they scattered down the first hill.

High fiving the runners storming by as they passed by the ponds on the way to the rear entrance to the animal park. There was a respectable turn out of bunny ears, and familiar faces.  Hail fell at one point, but these juniors are made of stern stuff, they stormed round for the most part.

Only glove less accompanying adults looked close to tears…  The official photographer had most definitely lost the use of his  hands by the time he made it back to base, but I consider that to be a sacrifice well worth him making for capturing such glorious shots of our worthy juniors and esteemed visitors alike.  His hands were always at risk of dropping off with frostbite eventually, so it’s just basically grand he got his shots off first.  (Not a euphemism).  There were some fine portraits available for download after today.

As the tail walker traipsed on by, all a-grin, I wandered back to the start in reverse, picking up another bunny eared volunteer en route.   Turns out, a lot of us volunteers were rocking matching looks today, with blue under our hi-viz.  A lack of consistency in head gear perhaps, but individual expression is important too.

We were in time to see the final finishers bombing down the mudslide into which the finish funnel had morphed.  There was a lot of mud.  Soft landings I suppose.  There was some dissent about how many face plants there’d been at the finish, but most estimates were around the five mark, though no tears apparently, so that’s impressive.  My favourite interaction of many this morning though, was when a young runner finished and the scanner asked for her barcode but her parent explained she didn’t have one as she’s currently too young to register being only three!  We were all a bit surprised as she was tall for her age and physically had made easy work of the run.  ‘When will you be four?’ enquired one of our hi-viz number, figuring it couldn’t be that many more weeks away.  Well,  without missing a beat she responded ‘at my next birthday‘  which is quite clearly a genius response with all its unintentionally withering accuracy.  That told him. What a stupid question.  Much hilarity ensued. Grown ups can be so dumb sometimes.  She was very polite to give a civil response at all in the circumstances! Ha-de-ha indeed.

The course was dismantled as if by magic, and soon there was nothing but memories and muddy footprints where once the parkrun had been.  I was lured to the cafe by the promise of latte and a final chance to debrief with our lovely Irish visitors.  I was supposed to be heading out for a long run later – the forecast for tomorrow being heavy snow I really did have to get out today, but I figured there was time.  But the cafe was cosy, the company fine. The tales varied.  The Tralee junior tourists really made me laugh by telling me that their mum was so passionate about parkrun that any potential partners would have to pass the ‘but do they have a barcode’ test.  If they did, a criminal record or similar misdemeanours would be no barrier, but no barcode, well, no result.  We regular parkrunners all know that!  Sounds a fair enough criteria to me!  We had to talk about Lily the wonder dog, we had to pose for every possible variant of selfie and group photos.  Those pictures won’t take themselves.

tralee parkrun team

Then there was other chat about Bob Graham plans.  There is a reason why this should be run in a clockwise direction I now know.   Not that I’m likely to have to try this out for myself, but it’s nice to keep informed on such matters.

Upshot was, I didn’t get back until almost 12.

Now what.  I needed to get out, but it was arctic blast cold.  I wanted to do 10 miles at least, I thought maybe I should eat something first as a latte might not be enough.  Channelling my inner wannabee millennial hipster chick vibe I had avocado and tofu on toast.  I thought that would be healthy and delicious.  It probably was, well definitely delicious, but also a bit much to eat just before a run, and now it was midday and I didn’t want to leave it two hours before I went out. The skies were darkening, the elements promised inclement times ahead.  What to do?  I did briefly consider abandoning run altogether, but in an uncharacteristic display of mental fortitude I rationalised I’d really regret that.  Plus I was doing a virtual Easter Sunday run to nab some bling like this:

As a friend of mine had the genius idea of sending these out to people who do an Easter Sunday run in return for a £10 donation to the charity she is/was running the London Marathon for.  Great idea.  You make your donation, do your run, send proof, get sent medal.  Nice.  I like to think I’m not shallow, but basically I clearly am.  Who doesn’t appreciate running bling, even if they claim otherwise, and I want to support my running buddy/ new running best friend acquired on a January trip to London.

is there a medal

I decided to be brave, strap on my shoes with my motivational bling:

motivational bling

and head out.  I did head out.  Oh.  My.  Gawd!  That’s so cold.  I actually (shhhush, don’t tell) put on my fleece and contemplated going out in that, but then the hail started, and although my fleece would have been roasty toasty, it isn’t waterproof, and to be fair, even I recognise I can’t run London in a fleece.  Running coat it was, and multiple buffs, and pissed off expression. The chickens were coming too.  Here is the unimpressed before shot for ease of reference:

before

I set off.  Aaaargh, it was hard.  My legs feel strong, my lungs are fine, but eating that close to a run. Terrible idea. What was really annoying, is that I knew that, before I even ate.  What was I thinking.  I mean if I was mid run I wouldn’t have bolted all that down.  I was kicking myself for not just having had a naked bar and heading out earlier.  Plus I was thirsty, because I hadn’t drunk enough, and cold, because I had to walk a fair stretch and wasn’t moving fast enough.  I started to panic.  This is NOT WORKING.  Self doubt started screaming at me.  So stupid, is there any point?  I honestly didn’t know.

I am struggling a bit with what I’m supposed to be doing at this stage.  Really I think I need one more long run – but then I’ve got the Sheffield half next weekend, so when can I fit it in?  Plus, I’ve heard recently, and no, annoyingly I can’t remember where, that if you go out for longer than three hours at a stretch at this stage, you aren’t giving your body enough time to recover. This directly contradicts other advice about just reducing your mileage gradually down.  Truth is, if I did the latter, I’d still be going out for 5 hour runs, and that is a long time on the feet, and it does take its toll.  I just decided that some time on my feet was better than no time on my feet.  I’d not beat myself up, just do what I could.  Heading off on the ‘nice bit’ of the Sheffield  half there was an element of verisimilitude in the experience as there were so many other runners out doing the same recce.  I was constantly either being over-taken, or spotting runners on the return leg sprinting down the hill towards me.  Oh joy.

At one point a driver stopped and asked me for directions, which I gave, at length, having forgotten all about the chickens on my head.  She passed no comment.  It reminded me of an interaction years ago when I was out riding with a friend.  We’d taken horses down a track to a beach, and found perfectly grown wild garlic in abundance.  We had no means to carry it but wanted it for cooking – I was working for her at a veggie B&B.  We gathered up huge armfuls of it, and then basically stuffed it in our every pocket, tied around our waists with scarves, shoved it into the top of our boots, tucked it under the front and back of our saddles and stuck into the elastic bands around our hard hats. We must have looked like we were carrying out our own Green Man homage, plus we smelt to high heaven.  As we did it, we were of course mindful of the comedic value of how stupid we must look, but after a bit, gently walking our horses home some hours later we’d forgotten.  An American tourist drew up alongside us in his hire car to ask for directions.  As my friend gave them, I watched his expression change as his eyes widened in disbelief.  We were practically encased in this wild garlic, and he had no idea what to make of it. Was it some strange Welsh ritual?  Was it a festival that he knew not of.  My friend was completely oblivious to his increasing discomfort, as he was clearly beginning to fear what closed community he may have happened upon like in The Wicker Man for example.  I wasn’t, but was enjoying observing his incredulity at what he was witnessing. I could imagine him once safely back at home trying to relate this story of the wild women he’d encountered on his trip with the wild-eyed passion of those who insist they have been abducted by aliens.  Few if any would believe him, over time, he might not even believe this had happened himself.  He’s probably still researching this phenomenon to this day.  Maybe he thought we were just really scared of vampires.  This is the destiny of those who bear witness alone.  I found it hilarious though, so that was the main thing.  My  chicks were more understated and more easily explained, but I like to think they played their part in this mid-run interaction too.

wild garlic

It was something of a labour trudging up hill, feeling bloated.  On the plus side, there were some cute spring lambs in abundance

I kept finding excuses to grind to a halt.  It was very, very muddy going up along Ringinglow road and my road shoes were slipping all over the place.  I really don’t want to be injured at this point so picked my way through gingerly, blaming the mud for my lack of speed, whilst inwardly thanking it for being their and legitimising my lard-arsed tardiness.

Crossing the road opposite the Norfolk Arms, there were so many cyclists and walkers around I couldn’t run either on the road or pavement.  But my walking meant I did get to see this adorable little bird’s nest from last year, exposed in a hedge that had shed its leaves over winter.  How completely perfect is this?  I briefly considered putting one of my chicks in it as a sort of visual gag, but then thought the better of it as it could equally be perceived as littering.  Took a photo though.  You can’t see the scale here really, but it was tiny, the size of half a tennis ball maybe.  Just adorable

DSCF1899

At long last, I was on Sheephill road.  I genuinely love this bit of the route.  Finally, I started a bit of a trot, and found my rhythm and just loped along admiring the city-scape views.  For a city marathon it’s pretty spectacular.  It was cold, but the wintry showers had abated, and after a bit of undulation it started to slope downwards towards Dore. The route is increasingly familiar and I hit my stride, belatedly perhaps, nearly 4 miles in, but I felt strong and like I could have kept that up indefinitely.  I know I wasn’t doing a long run, but it helped my confidence rally a little to feel that yep, my legs have remembered what to do. The secret really is to slow down, and not to worry that ‘proper runners’ might guffaw at me for imagining my sloth like movements constituted sufficient action to create forward motion, let alone merit the descriptor ‘running’.  Mental strength people remember, mental strength.

My feeling of being strong was marred slightly by being constantly overtaken by speedy other runners, but hey ho, that is inevitable in my universe.  Some of them were in shorts for goodness sake!  Little wonder they were in such a hurry to get home.

Plod plod, trot trot.  I felt good.  Maybe I should have added on more miles, but I decided instead to just keep up a constant run for as long as I could.   The miles ticked by, I’m starting to think it does take me about 4 miles to find my pace, which might be partly why my parkrun times are so increasingly lamentable these days.  I suppose if I seriously wanted to improve them I could warm up before hand say, but that seems somewhat extreme.  For today, I decided to just make myself keep on running, for as long as I could, and it was a lot longer than I expected.  I am not sure I entirely welcome the findings of my increasing self awareness running wise, it seems that if I desist from pausing to take photos, and remind myself to keep on running up that hill as Kate Bush would have it, then I can go on and on like the Duracell bunny.  I don’t tire, I just give up.  It’s like my body cottons on to what i’m doing and draws my attention to the fact that all this exertion is entirely avoidable and unnecessary, and it would be so much more pleasing to just stop and gaze about. If I don’t give into that urge, it will reluctantly press on, until it becomes a  habit.  Cue sound of penny dropping – maybe this is what my marathon pace is supposed to feel like?  I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s slow, very slow, some people can power walk faster, but it’s still faster than me walking and if i could maintain it for many more miles I’ll definitely be getting round London a lot more quickly than if I stop start with the frequency of an over-sensitive car alarm.  Knowledge is complicated, with it comes responsibility.  I genuinely have absolutely no idea how I’ll fare in London, but this slow pace running might actually be an option if the course is as flat as I’m led to believe.

I had to stop to cross roads though, and you no what, that got to be quite annoying.  Though the spring flowers were nice.  Shame about the dead badger(s) though. I  suppose it shows there must be a population out there which is good, but sad to see not one, but two, taken out by cars.

Trot trot, plod plod.  Through Dore, off down whatever road it is that takes you off Hathersage road, off on an almighty diversion and then rejoining the road couple of hundred yards later – one downside of becoming increasingly familiar with the route, is I’ve started to notice all the potential short cuts available, that call out to you on the way round.  I want to run the distance, but presented with a way shorter route home it does seem pretty dim to deliberately add miles to an outing when that time could be reclaimed and channelled into sofa sitting time for example…  I mean just look at it, definitely not the most direct route out and back is it?

strava route

It defies reason – no wonder even Strava gives the strava art thumbs down to that unnecessary triangle into Dore!

Eventually I was on the homeward straight, Ecclesall Road South and downward towards the city.  A couple of miles from home another runner appeared alongside me.  Oh my, that was fantastic.  I normally hate running with other people, but it was a running miracle.  She was quite genuinely running at my pace, having seen me a good mile or so back and really cracked on to catch up with me (that’s a first, me being the target for a faster runner) now she was tiring and nearing the end of an 18 mile run asked if we could run together for a bit to help the miles pass and – you won’t believe this – it actually worked.  I have randomly found someone who runs at exactly my pace.  It was great, no huffing to keep up and resenting being dragged round whilst my sense of personal inadequacy grows to the point it overwhelms me and I not only decide to give up running, but to never leave the house in daylight hours again, EVER.

We chatted, we swapped running stories. She’s preparing for Brighton but has previously done London, albeit a decade ago. She was still buzzing with memories and positivity though.  Top tips from her, don’t worry about being slow and steady, it pays off.  Apart from finding herself running between a pepperoni and a rhino at one point, she also noted that she ended up passing ‘faster runners’ who’d basically set off too fast at the start and blown up.  I don’t think she meant literally as in spontaneously combusted, I think we’d have heard about that, but as in just burning out way too soon.  There is something to be said for slow and steady where marathons are concerned.  Other helpful comments included a warning that it is a stop start frustrating first 4 miles or so before people spread out enough you can actually run. Weirdly, that might favour me, as it takes me an age to get started anyway.   It was really heartening.  I started to believe again that I might actually do this, my maranoia seemed to lift.  She also described the final stretch down the mall really vividly.  Even though it was a decade ago the memory was still strong.   There are no crowds on the Mall – I hadn’t twigged that point, anyway, it means it’s suddenly relatively quiet and contemplative, and she found herself reflecting back on all the things that had brought her to that point.  Oh my god. It was so what I needed to hear.  I can’t wait to experience that for myself.  I think finally, it’s going to be such an amazing experience it shouldn’t matter how fast or slow I am, I’m just so very lucky to be able to go there at all.  If I get to the start, I should get to the finish.  Lucky me!  Best marathon advice ever?  Just enjoy it.

I left my new best friend heading off to Hunters Bar as I swung up towards Brincliffe Edge, but we have promised to meet up post our respective marathons to show off bling and share running tales.  What a turn around from the start of my run, when I could hardly imagine setting foot out of the door, and now I’m all skippy and happy and Bring.  It. On.

Don’t worry, the feeling will wear off pretty soon I reckon.  My lobster red legs were not a pretty sight as they incubated chilblains, and my running chick buddy passed out on completion.  Still, a run’s a run.  10 miles is better than no miles, and once again, my legs and lungs are feeling fine.  There are worse ways to prepare for a marathon. The snow may come tomorrow, I would like to get one longer run in if I can, but then again I’ve already banked a 21 miler, and although that was two weeks ago now, I do believe I can do the distance actually, I just need to hold my nerve and not allow myself to turn to lard too quickly.  Some people apparently climb the walls during the taper, all that pent up energy needing an outlet.  I fear I rather embrace the resting and carbing up. Show me a sofa, I can lie on it eating donuts no worries. Trouble is, annoyingly, I’m coming to understand tapering is a tad more sophisticated than that. Shame.

Still, I’ve lived to run another day.  Unlike chick buddy here.  At least s/he saw something of the world before turning toes up.

after

Love running.  Love running related fun.  Love parkrun, Love my running buddies old and new and not yet met.  Hoping I’ll love London too, at the very least it will be an adventure, and adventures are what make life interesting, so I’ll have a few of those please, if I can. So the final words of wisdom in terms of the best advice I’ve had so far with respect to tackling a first time marathon remain:

Just enjoy it.

I finally think I will!  🙂

 

 

 

Categories: marathon, motivation, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

There’s snow runners like Graves junior parkrunners!

… and there’s snow fun like junior parkfun!

Digested read: junior parkrun in general is lovely, Graves junior parkrun in particular is exceptionally so.  That is why it is my one misanthrope and cynicism free hour of the week.  Graves park however is a micro climate of chill and ice-age memorabilia, hence last week it snowed, and this week several hands were (nearly) lost to frost bite. Still, small price to pay for being part of something so joyful.  Are you coming to a junior parkrun near you sometime soon?  You should. Really.  parkrun fun squared to infinity and beyond.

Just got back from my weekly fix of junior parkrun.  It remains joyful, despite the challenge of the microclimate of Graves Park which has to be experienced to be believed.  Last week, it was my contributory negligence that brought about the white out.  I stood in the car park about 8 o’clock and pronounced it to be ‘unexpectedly nice albeit nippy’.  What possessed me to think I might get away with so tempting fate by flaunting such a misguided belief in front of its mocking  ever-present malign force I can’t now recall. Suffice to say that within minutes, we’d gone from bright winter sunshine to a disorienting blizzard worthy of the best winter-set horror film/ disaster films ever.  My bad.  Sorry everyone.

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You can just make out the hi-vis army through those snow globules in the foreground.  There was snow way a sprinkling of the white stuff was going to stop our junior athletes battling round the hill’s of Graves.

To be fair, if it’s going to be cold, I’d rather have the high drama of a snow storm, it definitely makes for a more memorable parkrun, whilst each event is unique in its own way, this was one that will go down in the annuls of Graves Junior parkrun history as particularly epic.  Five hardy souls even made this their debut event, impressive.  The juniors on the whole are.  Little seems to deter them.  I think there are a number of possible explanations for this:

  1. They lack the imaginative foresight to realise just how horrific and cold it will be out there in the elements, with little more than a nylon t-shirt to preserve them from such inclement weather – to be fair, I do the same when entering winter races from the comfort of an armchair at home
  2. Payback time for when their parents/ responsible adults have dragged them out at an unearthly hour of a morning to do unreasonable things like go to do the supermarket shop
  3. parkrun is just really fun – you always forget the horrors of taking part as they are lost under a blanket of euphoria at completion

In any event, I overheard a couple of parents/ responsible adults commiserating with one another at the start.  One was saying ‘took one look out of the window at the weather and thought, well, parkrun definitely won’t be happening today, had pot of coffee on, and everything lined up for a cooked breakfast…. – and then junior appeared in his running kit announcing it was time to go!’  The other was commiserating empathetically. These two were well aware of the sacrifices parents sometimes have to make for their offspring, to turn their backs on a steaming hot pot of coffee to go and stand on a muddy field in the snow to cheer your junior runner round, that takes real dedication and commitment.

So too from the junior athletes themselves, storming round.  There was so much mud, and so much thrill from the sudden appearance of the white stuff, that some juniors appeared to actually run off down the hill, disappearing into the white out going completely AWOL during the warm up. The temptation to just dive right in and make the most of it being an instinct too strong to resist.  To be fair I felt a bit the same.  Snow is ridiculously fun, when you get to roll around and play in it, and cheer juniors and offer up high fives.

Look at how joyful it was….. in parts.

 

Still, I’m jumping ahead.  First off, there was the little matter of the course set up.  I like doing this, you get to feel busy and important, have a march around the park, and greet other park users. I’ve done the role regularly enough that I recognise some of the dog walkers now, and it’s fun just having little exchanges.   Carrying the arrows is a bit of a practical challenge, but the really hard bit is disentangling the tape we use to keep junior athletes from getting too close to the edge of the water at the point on the course when they pass between two large ponds.  Those of you who have never had to undertake this task, will have no comprehension of just how tangled up and impossible to manage a few metres of many-times-mended and string like plastic tape can be.  It’s not good for the ego.  It should be a simple thing, but it’s always a challenge.  However, successful disentangling feels great, I imagine some people would get the same buzz from completing a cryptic crossword, or doing the ridiculously tricky maths related puzzles on the Today Programme.  Aside – what are they all about?  I can’t even understand the questions.  Has anyone ever solved them other than through chance or googling?  Seems unlikely.  I don’t know if my incomprehension is a reflection of my stupidity or the fact I have a life.  Actually, on reflection, the latter seems unlikely so let’s not go there. Where was I.  Oh yes, putting up the course. That was grand, but the tape was wet and my hands got really, really cold as a result.  I was wearing gloves, but they were saturated.  By the time my arrows were out and I was back at the start, the snow had started to fall.  I nipped into the loos to use the hand dryer to try to offset frostbite, but it was only partially successful.  Even so, I think I did a grand job with the arrows on the whole.  Check this out.  You’ve got to admit, pretty darned fabulous directional pointing going on there.

great directional pointing

Hi viz heroes may have been all a-shiver, but the juniors were undaunted by either the snow, or the warnings of mud.

There was the gathering for the run briefing:

the gathering

This concluded, then the warm up commenced:

The start line up took place on tarmac rather than the grass, for fear of a mudslide.  It was really exciting, you could hardly see the youngsters through the snow as it started to really fall in earnest.  There was a sort of survivalist euphoria to it all.  Plus, cheering and clapping others is a great way to keep warm.  Plus, how could you do anything else in the face of all that collective, youthful enthusiasm.  No room for cynicism here.  Junior parkrun is my cynicism free zone for the week.  Always joyful, normal (for me) misanthropic cynicism can be resumed subsequently.  Meantime, look at them all go:

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And yes, one runner was clutching a balloon, because it was his birthday, and that’s what you should do with your birthday, run round in the snow with a bunch of friends and a purple balloon and a broad smile.  Excellent decision there, excellent.

Not all were enthusiastic about coming out to witness this though, some stayed in bed, or their nearest equivalent, and who can blame them really. They did have a squint out through the windows though.  Taking an interest in their own way.  I do like goats.  Intelligent, and independent.

goats eye view at graves 11 2 18

So, as surely as junior athletes will run around.  They will ultimately finish and enter the finish funnel, all ready to welcome them into its snowy armed embrace.

finish funnel raring to go 11 2 18

So last week, as well as being busy and important with pre-course set up, I had particular shared responsibilities for the finish funnel.  I’ve not been to any other junior parkruns (I know, serious omission) so I’m not sure how it works elsewhere, but at Graves, we have a couple of people in this role. One at the entrance to the funnel to ensure 1) NO ADULTS in the finish funnel (every week they try to muscle in, every week, such is the allure of that cone lined entrance), 2) to try to ensure runners know to do two laps (really hard to tell sometimes how many they’ve done – hope over experience), and this week 3) try to ensure runners slow down so they don’t do a body-slide/ face-plant on the mud as they sprint into the finish.  Quite heady responsibilities. We also have another funnel manager to try to keep everyone moving down through, and, ideally, a third, to chivvy the lines along and encourage young runners to locate their barcodes, or attract the attention of their associated responsible adults who are supposed to be looking after it for them.  You have to multi-task in all these functions, as you must also cheer, congratulate and clap each runner in.  High fiving passing runners is also an option whilst waiting for the first finishers to complete.

finish funnel slide 11 2 18

In my defence, it was a bit of a mud slide.  Inevitably perhaps, I was an epic fail at the ‘preventing junior runners from falling in the finish funnel’ competency. I’m still very much at the ‘working towards’ spectrum there.  However, in my view, you might as well have tried to catch a speeding bullet in your teeth (don’t try that at home people), standing in front of a full pelt junior is likely to result in mutual instant death on contact, better to just shout and wave them down frantically and hope for the best.  I did feel a bit bad about the number of fallers – and not only because I feared being sent to a parkrun junior marshal re-education camp for having so erred in my duties – but then again, it all ended happily.  These young people are way more resilient than you might think.  And let’s keep this in proportion, it was in single figures!  My heart was in my mouth throughout, but if anything, the mud sliders were proud of their whole body mud-casings and wore such a coverage of dirt as a badge of honour.  I suspect those driving them home in the car afterwards would have been less impressed by the quantities of wet earth that transferred from ground to garment and garment to car upholstery.  Another volunteer reported to me (much to my relief) that as he was packing up, he overheard one junior parkrunner report excitedly to their accompanying adult that ‘the absolute best bit was when I did an amazing mud slide right through the finish!  Did you see me?  Did you?  Did you see?‘ judging by his clothing he most certainly did.  So whilst I was shamed by my inability to hold back the tide, it seems all lived to tell the tale.

Hurrah!

So that was last week.  This was this:

18 02 18

Almost balmy comparison… you would think?  Only it wasn’t.  Still epic though.

Today we were back on the grass for the start.  108 runners lined up and came shooting down the ineffectual funnel of human cones in place to channel them onto the tarmac.

off 18 2 18

They break out like beads on a broken necklace hitting a dance floor. Chaotically shooting off in unexpected directions.  You may think watching the Winter Olympics on telly is exciting, but let me tell you, it has nothing on this.  The thrills, the spills.  I looked on in horror, as not one, but two young runners slipped over, creating a sort of domino effect as other young runners tumbled into, and on top of them.  There was quite a human pyramid formed at one point.  Various nearby adults stepped in, scooped up children miscellaneous – any child would do – and plonked them back up on their feet again, and no sooner had the pile up happened, than it was cleared away.  I don’t have children, and it is a complete mystery to me how they survive such apparently powerful collisions.  It’s like they are made of rubber, or teflon coated or something.   They just seem to be, on the whole, a lot more resilient than should be logical or plausible let alone possible.    For my part, I’m getting a little less panicked at witnessing these tumbles now.   Today though, watching the pile up pass without injury but with much excitement, I felt like I’d completed a certain rite of passage, and passed into a new realm of understanding.  I felt the same many, many years ago, when I was in an office working alongside a number of women all of whom had children.  One relatively new mother was completely distraught because she’d dropped her young child the evening before – or more accurately, allowed the infant to roll off a sofa or something, the child was not hurt but she was badly shaken by the incident – the others in the office were ‘comforting her’ in a raucous ‘is that all?’ expressing incredulity sort of way. Cue, long conversation where each colleague in turn recalled far worse accidents and incidents they had experienced,  along the lines of ‘I remember the first time I dropped my child/ left it on the bus‘ kind of tales, and there was much crying with laughter of helpless recognition.  Not that it was good these things had happened, far from it, but in a fraught, sleep-deprived world of doing your best, often on your own, no care-giver rears any child in an incident free cotton-wool encased world.  Just as well, otherwise how would the offspring in their respective charges cope with doing a mudslide at parkrun?  See, sometimes the most unexpected of things can be a boon to our life experience in the long run.  Phew.

Today I was on barcode scanning scribe duties. This is a great role, as you get to carry a clipboard AND wear a hi-viz, so you look properly busy and important.  It all goes in a bit of a whirlwind of activity. By the time you look up from writing down the ‘unknowns’ who didn’t bring a barcode, and the unscannables (barcode didn’t scan) it’s game over, and packing up underway all around you.  Within minutes it is as if we were never even there.  A.Maz.Ing.

We all had cold hands though. The race directors hands were so cold I had to help him unclip some paper from the clip board.  He was properly near having frostbite. Still, like I said to him, if he did lose both hands due to that it would have been but a small price for someone else to pay to spread so much joy in the world.   Any follow-up news article in The Sheffield Star say, could truthfully include the phrase ‘much comfort can be taken from knowing he lost his hands doing what he most loved doing‘, because they often say that don’t they?  Then we could do some crowd-sourcing to get new prosthetic limbs –  or better yet, nominate some juniors to make him some personalised parkrun one’s out of papier-mâché and half chewed sweets.  That would be touching.  I expect he’d get a thank you for your contribution to parkrun/ get well soon card from Mr S-H himself, and that would completely make up for it.  So you see, no great drama, just great opportunities.

Incidentally, papier-mâché might not be fully functional, or water resistant, but they can look pretty cool. This was what google images was made for!  You could have a hand for any occassion. Almost aspirational!

And once again, all run, all done, ’twas as if we were never there.

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Love Graves park, its micro climate just adds to the sense of adventure 🙂

See you there same time, same place, some Sunday soon.

Go awn, you  know you want to.  After all, there is snow fun like junior parkfun!  Promise, or your money back!  🙂

If you haven’t signed up yet for either parkrun or junior parkrun you can sign up here

Find a junior parkrun event here

For all my parkrun related posts click here, and scroll down for older entries

Categories: parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My claim to fame. How I link to Bushy parkrun’s iconic ‘Elisabeth’s Corner*’.

or maybe Elisabeth Corner?  Can’t make up my mind which sounds better…

Digested read: you know the celebrity marshal at Bushy parkrun? The one who sits each week at the Sandy Lane Gate corner of the course cheering runners round.  The one from whom getting a high five was the highlight of Paul Sinton-Hewitt’s morning?  That’s my mum. Cool eh?  Form an orderly queue people.  Keep calm.

So for those of you who don’t know, my mum had her 15 minute of fame, when a Bushy parkrunner, Paul Killick, dropped off a Christmas card to her at the residential care home where she now lives.   He posted on the parkrun discussion Facebook group about how pleased she was to get it and how she’d shared that parkrun was the highlight of her week.

mum at bushy parkrun

As a result of this, there was an online outpouring of appreciation, and a flurry of cards were sent.  The story even got picked up in one of the parkrun uk newsletters and tweeted – and quite right too!

tweet december 2017

Mum had however been a regular and much photographed fixture at Bushy parkrun for many months previously.  To such an extent, that one parkrunner shared online that when they do their post Bushy parkrun debrief, they actually refer to the bit on the course where she sits as one of the landmarks en route.

 

Even so, it was fantastic that mum got lots of cards and greetings in response to Paul Killick’s post.  She wanted to write her own reply, which I sent on to parkrun UK with my own top and tail to share her story.  It follows here:

January 2018

Dear parkrun UK,

I thought you might like an update about my mum, Elisabeth, who you featured in your newsletter just before Christmas.  She lives at a residential care home just over the road from the Sandy Lane Gate in Bushy park, which is right on the route of the iconic Bushy parkrun.  Every Saturday, she joins marshals at this spot to cheer parkrunners as they pass.  She first went last May, and after she had been doing this for a few weeks the Bushy parkrun community awarded her her very own hi-viz, of which she is enormously proud, so making her an official ‘honorary marshal’.  Since then, more and more people greet her on their way by.  Some pause to talk to her en route and the faster runners, who have no time to shout a greeting during their parkrun, will often have a chat to her as they leave the park on their way home instead.  She has learnt the art of the ‘high-five’ and made many new friends, and renewed old acquaintances from being there each week.  Not only parkrunners, but others who regularly walk in the park at about the same time each week.

Just before Christmas, Paul Killick, a Bushy parkrun regular – more than that, with a mighty 570 runs (and counting) to his name of which 553 have been at Bushy park – dropped off a Christmas card to my mum at the home, and they posed for a selfie together.  My mum was really delighted to have the card and frankly astonished to find that her involvement in parkrun was so appreciated.  Paul posted about this and it got picked up on some Facebook forums, which resulted in a little flurry of cards and greetings being sent to my mum.  The Christmas cards were very much appreciated.  Mum was particularly touched by the personal messages, with some runners sharing their own stories about what parkrun means to them.  A few signed off with their parkrun number, and she was impressed to receive a card ‘from someone with an CBE’.  Who can that have been?  A couple of junior parkrunners even sent some sweets and a lovely photo of themselves at Rogiet parkrun, noting, ‘everyone appreciates you clapping at parkrun’, which sort of sums it up!

So thank you everyone who got in touch, I may have missed a few in which case apologies, your card was still massively appreciated, but the tally I came up with included greetings from near and far.  Thanks to: Donabate parkrun, Dublin; Bob and a thousand other parkrunners!; Wendy and Orla; Gina and Steve from Tredegar House Newport parkrun; Gillian and Paul, Heaton parkrun Manchester runners; Jenny from Congleton parkrun, Cheshire; Anita, Bromley parkrun; Danny and Tiffany Waterworks parkrun, Belfast, Norther Ireland; Jacqueline, Druridge Bay, Northumberland; Paul S-H CBE; Paul K; Krysin, Martin, Selt and Kirst; Eva (5) and Rosa (6), Rogiet parkun; Tess and Morag; Pat and many more.

 

There were lots of messages, but one that resonated for me was the comment: ‘people like you make parkrun the amazing experience it is.  parkrun changed our lives, so we are always grateful to the volunteers and supporters.’  parkrun has changed my life too.  The actual ‘running’ part has become almost incidental to the community support, friendships made, post-parkrun brunches and laughs along the way.  What I hadn’t anticipated, was how great an impact it would have on my mum’s life too, for which I am incredibly grateful.  For her, it is something she really enjoys and looks forward to – carefully putting out all her kit the night before so she will be on time to her marshal point and there are lots of photos of her at parkrun on display in her room as well.  Quite right too!

My mum celebrated her 89th birthday at the weekend, so I was visiting from Sheffield. She wanted to write her own message of thanks to the parkrun community about what it means to her.  Enjoy:

Lucy Marris, A448776

 

Elisabeth’s parkrun story, in her own words:

Happy New Year!

parkrun has enriched my life ever since May 2017 when I came down to the Sandy Lane Gate to watch.  It links with two of my children who run at Sheffield Hallam and Livingston parkruns.  The marshals are really friendly.  I clap along with them and have become an honorary marshal!  I learnt how important community activity is as well as how important drawing others into the community is.  1300 plus participants stream past in the same order in about 20 minutes.  ‘Personal Besters’ have no time to greet marshals. Middle field runners are truly friendly and there is much reciprocal greeting and many photos taken.  Tailwalkers are just brilliant!  Because of my weekly involvement in parkrun I find I am greeted everywhere I go in Teddington!  Could it be because of the internet?

Thank you, thank you everyone for many Christmas cards and greetings, as well as being the highlight of my week!  parkrun is a truly special community organisation, in which I feel wonderfully included.  It is amazing that it has become international in a brief 13 years.  Congratulations.  I love all your stories.

Elisabeth, Honorary Marshal at Bushy parkrun, Sandy Lane Gate.

Update:  I think following a recent tweet by parkrun royalty, we can safely claim that henceforth this marshal spot will be known as ‘Elisabeth’s Corner’ – or maybe Elisabeth Corner.  Whatever, you get the gist!

Thank you parkrunners all.

The tweet in question:

tweet

So that’s official then!

No wonder she’s such a celebrity she often gets her own billing in the Bushy parkrun event reports!  I claim glory by association.  Form a line people, form a line…

 

PS for the record, I really like how in the parkrun UK blog post the top picture is of my mum with one of the Bushy parkun regular marshals but it sort of implies it’s me.  I am happy with this for two reasons. Firstly, Lorraine, pictured, has been a fantastic friend to my mum since she started marshaling at parkrun. Secondly, I’m worried if my face becomes too well known I won’t be able to go about my normal life of angst ridden social encounters interspersed with the occassional jog out to the hills.  Better to stay incognito, a woman of mystery.  Don’t tell.

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

Loved how they linked to the blog from parkrun uk facebook page and my favourite comment (so far) was from someone simply saying ‘just when I thought I couldn’t love parkrun any more’.  Love that.  Parkrun spirit in buckets.

Categories: parkrun | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new parkrun double for me… and I’m feeling good! (ish)*

Digested read: we’ve had an icy twixmas parkrun, then new year day double. Hurrah.  Best way to start the year. Shame some people have picked up a mysterious 24 hour bug, but hey ho, job done. Go us!  Happy New Year everyone.  Also, let Smiletastic commence. Isn’t parkrun grand?  Love parkrun.  🙂

*Strictly speaking, I was feeling a bit rough.  But that messes with both the scanning and the opportunity to link to a fine Nina Simone power ballad, so forgive the artistic licence with my edit.  Gotta love Nina

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Is it true you are supposed to start the New Year as you mean to go on?  If so, I don’t know whether I have passed or failed in that respect.  I did make it to a parkrun, twice in fact (yay) but I also felt distinctly queasy, sleep deprived and as a consequence loped round the two different courses lard-arsed, and with little vestige of either personal propulsion or personal dignity.  On the plus side, awesome crowd, parkrun buddies old and new, with added Smiletastic Dragonfly vigour for good measure.  Maybe a case of good in parts.

Last time I posted about parkrun it was to reveal all about my ill-judged,  type 2 fun run out with Sophie at Concord on Christmas Day.  By mutual consent, this romp round marked both the beginning and end of our running partnership.  It’s OK, because she has decided she want’s to focus on her skiing – she thinks the photo ops with a backdrop of snow will be more flattering, and likewise I think I’ll have more flattering running photos too, without wrestling with a unicorn the whole way round.  Running with dignity – that would be a great way to start the new year would it not.

It sure as heck wasn’t how I ended it though.  Since Christmas,we’ve had our ‘twixmas run at Sheffield Hallam.  That was something of an experience.  Other parkruns local to Sheffield fell like flies, cancelled due to ice and slidy paths. Hallam gamely decided to brave it, but you know that it’s not going to be a PB run when you see the run director heading out with a shovel at the start don’t you?  I promise you, he wasn’t just heading out for a wild-camping inspired dump.  I know this, because I saw him ice breaking on Rustlings Road,  above and beyond my friend.  Respect to you.

man with shovel

It was something of a slide about,though those in the front of the line up seemed as fearless as ever…

how it started

but I like to think the mud snorkeling and iced pavements added a certain frissance to the occasion.  We had our very own arctic enemas and mud crawls. Who needs tough mudder anyway?

Personally, I didn’t mind at all having to take it really slowly, but maybe with hindsight I’d have bottled it.  You know it’s bad when dogs are being carried round rather than chased after by breathless runners.  Unless our resident photographer inadvertently snapped a 101 Dalmatians inspired dog-knapper at the very moment of the dogduction, must check Sheffield animals lost and found to clarify.

precious cargo

Weirdly, it’s the rise in temperature that made the compressed ice especially treacherous, not so much slush, as a perfect skidway with meltwater pooling on top of the ice. Still, all’s well that ends well.  They counted everyone in, and they counted everyone back, sighs of relief all round. What was not so grand, was discovering that apparently it isn’t running with a unicorn that makes me appear undignified in my gait.  It is the actual act of ‘running’.  The camera never lies, although it does have a very dry sense of humour it seems…

I have to accept I’m not a natural at this.  I don’t know why I keep on going really.  Hope over experience perhaps, or maybe the prospect of post-parkrun brunch?  Probably brunch.

Still, love parkrun. The more parkruns the better.  Hence, given that, as parkrun aficionados all over the world know:

New Year’s Day is the one day of the year where it is possible to walk, jog, run or volunteer at two parkruns on the same day! What better way to start 2018

I remain conscientious about the concept and commitment to parkrun if not always keen on the actual running component of the enterprise.  New Year’s Day promised the possibility of a parkrun double, and as a parkrun partaker, that was too good a chance to miss.  I couldn’t get to parkrun last year, but achieved the parkrun double the year before going to Nostell Priory and Pontefract parkruns and that was fab.  This year, a host of us were planning to go, but inevitably it got a bit complicated, there were those with injuries or hosting obligations on New Year’s Eve that might prove incompatible with undertaking a parkrun shuffle. Then, an added consideration for me at least, was feeling torn between my conflicting desires on the one hand to be constant to my regular parkrun partners and brunching buddies or on the other to take flight and throw my lot in with my new Smiletastic compatriots in our newly formed Dragonfly team. Dropping my longstanding, loyal and unswerving running companions as my head was turned by short-lived glory that might be achieved through association with such swarming irridescent beauties.  Tough call.  Seductive, aren’t they?  You’ve got to admit you’d have your head turned too, surely… and I’m way more suggestible and shallow than you probably are with your principles, stoicism, and fine running technique. Plus, well, it’s Smiletastic, that’s an annual game changer.  All previous alliances, allegiances and agreements are off.  It’s another new dawn, you exist for your team and they for you.  One for all and all for one, and everyone for post run coffee and cake (other foods and beverages are available).

For those of you not in the know, firstly, where have you been?  Secondly, in brief, Smiletastic is an annual team challenge for members of the Smiley Paces.  I did it a couple of years ago, and participation in that helped me to put in the necessary training which got me round the Sheffield Half, in a fashion.  It also was fairly traumatic, it’s a big responsibility pledging runs and knowing if you fail to deliver, you will bring your team down with you!  STRESS!  As with all running related stresses, after the event, trauma morphs almost seamlessly into nostalgia.  That was sooooooooooo fun and not at all pressurised and stress inducing!  No wonder we all worship Smiley Elder for bringing Smiletastic into being.  After a year off when I was in Cambodia, this year when Smiletastic came round it was Bring. It. On!

Better yet. I was in team dragonfly.  Hurrah.  Great, we would be mutually supportive we quickly agreed. This would be fun and about team motivation, and we wouldn’t let it get stressful and none of us were going to be competitive about it.  … mind you, doesn’t hurt to get in the mood, maybe we could pitch for some fun ‘getting in the Smiletastic spirit’ team points early on using the old tea-cosy on the head ruse, that might work?  Failing that the dragonfly trail find has to be a win right?  Loving your work fell flying smiley.

Then there is always the fancy dress dimension to be considered, but no spoilers regarding that today.  Patience dear reader, patience, that time will come…

The Smiletastic rules pronounced that individual points would be available to those who rock up at parkrun. Hurrah. That’s me in, twice, it being a New Year’s Day double there for the taking. Then, we see that if we can get more than 50% of our 13 strong team along to a timed run (such as parkrun) then there are more points to be had.  Well.  I mean, no pressure, but ‘just out of interest, who’s thinking of rocking up on New Year’s Day’.  Our Facebook exchanges were hilarious.  Artistry of expression, as we all tried soooooooooooo very hard to be mutually respectful of each others circumstances and decisions whilst desperately, desperately trying not to reveal that every one of us was furtively counting up the takers to date on our fingers to see if it might be doable.   Such was the swell of enthusiasm for the endeavour some of the ‘sorry, but categorically can’t make it‘ dragonflies were soon flitting back with a ‘but I have terrible fear of missing out, so maybe…‘. Anyway, dear reader, the upshot was, come New Year’s Day, we were all on the cusp of witnessing a miracle akin to that of dragonfly larvae emerging en masse from a pond and revealing their wings, were we to witness a similar magnificent display of dragonflies altogether for the New Year’s Day parkrun Double?

YES!

WE WERE!

It nearly didn’t happen though. I was out on new year’s eve, by no means a given for me.  My body is generally speaking a temple, albeit one for people who worship somewhat spherically inclined deities that have recently been dragged backwards through a hedge.  Even so, I can tell within a microgram when I have reached capacity for alcohol and need to cease drinking and withdraw from social situations.  On reaching this point about 11.30, I was ready to sneak away from the festivities but was caught in the act, persuaded to stay on, toast in the new year, less sleep, more alcohol, face-plant into a trifle (that was well worth staying up for) and to see the new year in with a ferocious display of fireworks.  When one went off a bit too close for comfort I learned about myself that in adversity I will try to save myself before others.  Oh dear.  I may be a horrible human being, but at least I am self-aware…  Anyway, it was a lovely new year’s eve celebration with fine hosts and fabulous folk all around, but it was not compatible with idealised double parkrun preparations.  I knew I’d be dehydrated, so drank loads before I went to bed, and then had to get up loads in the night so I wondered why I’d bothered to go to bed at all.

Sleep deprived, managing somehow to sport simultaneously an uncomfortably full bladder and a raging thirst, I staggered down to the rendezvous point where a group of us had pledged to meet and go together to the first parkrun of the day.  As I dragged my weary carcass down the empty streets, I saw a couple of people, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, cheerily jogging along. ‘What are they doing, are they crazy?’ I thought, a bit too loudly for comfort – where did that headache come from, who is it who’s shouting?  Before it occurred to me that in a way I was about to do the same, but with considerably less bounce, well boob bounce possibly, but spiritual bounce not so much.  It is an interesting (to me anyway, you can be bored if you like) concept, that parkrun has become so much a habit, that I actually no longer associate it with running at all.  It is just that when parkrunday comes around, I go and do it.  No thinking, no negotiation, it is just a case of ‘make it so’.  This is the great glory of parkrun  – and indeed Smiletastic, on days when I wouldn’t normally entertain the idea of running anywhere or for any distance at all I find I’m almost doing so by accident.  It is a wonderful thing.  Shame that I’d obviously eaten something that disagreed with me yesterday, no other explanation for my constantly shifting consciousness. Thank goodness I wasn’t doing the driving!

Astonishingly, four of us did make the rendezvous as planned!  We piled into the car, and off we went to Graves.  We expected to find the place heaving, but it seems on New Year’s Day parkrunners work on just-in-time principles.  Apart from the core team of hi-viz heroes who were out setting up the course whilst revelers from the night before were probably still making their way home.  Kudos to you guys, your efforts were and are appreciated.  🙂  (Nothing like an emoticon to make someone feel valued apparently, so that’s good).

NYD graves team

We sorted parking, and then some opted to sit in the car, I went in search of a loo.  Disaster, they were shut.  It would probably be unseemly to report that there was a fair exodus of wandering runners who all seemingly had dropped something in the bushes just before the run, and that something was possibly their pants.  Don’t know why, desperate times call for desperate measures though.

Soon, there was quite a gang assembled.  I found that, much like when I tried to save myself when the rogue firework went off, I was quite happy to ditch my loyal parkrunning buddies and lift providers at the first sniff of a dragonfly.  Found one, found more.  Then there was frenetic counting, would we make the 50% requirement.  … not that we cared, because it was all fun, but ooooh, so teasingly close.  We half-heartedly greeted others whilst distracted by our search for insect companions.  We achieved one selfie, of the dragonfly team, only one of the people within it isn’t, no matter, we can always photoshop on the missing fellow dragonflies later on, so that’s fine.

graves parkrun dragonflies

Then there was a call to gather and the Run Director’s briefing.

graves RD song line briefing

Impressively, the poet laureate for Graves had composed something for just this occasion.  You really should read the Graves parkrun report of the morning, because it contains not only pictures AND the note that this was a record-breaking start to the year with an attendance of 374 parkrun/jog/walkers AND an original poem to mark the occasion of the New Year but also the fabulous statistical insight that ‘of those taking part at Graves this morning, 131 then headed to Poolsbrook and a further 50 to Hillsborough’.  Hurrah, I do like a good parkrun stat.  I wonder how they number crunched that one.

These were pleasures yet to come.  I just know that when the shout went off to start, we went off.  It was a bit of a slow shuffle to be fair, a fact for which I was enormously grateful.  I pootled round.  Graves parkrun is actually my favourite of the Sheffield courses, because of the varied terrain, the scenic nature, the farm animals, but today it was a slog. Who lengthened the hill?  Even so, there were some – indeed many – highlights en route.  Specifically:

  • WAtching regal smiley pause to take a photo of the donkey on lap one and a goat on lap two, because if it isn’t instagrammed it never happened, apparently. That’s what she said, I still think she was angling for a lift from the donkey when I rumbled her, but I suppose we’ll never know now.
  • Spotting some fabulous junior parkrunners who instead of running were donned in over-sized hi-viz with matching over-sized smiles and proffering a succession of high fives. That was my favourite bit
  • REalising at some point that we had made the count re dragonflies
  • Seeing so many great people out and about, parkrun is a huge community of joy, because the double parkrun options locally are a bit limited, it seemed everyone had congregated at Graves today.  ’twas truly a wondrous sight to behold.
  • Finishing, without actually asphyxiating on the way round
  • Realising, once again, that you always have a parkrun within you somewhere, even if in your heart you’d rather be under the duvet still

On completion, people vanished pretty rapidly. Some speedy runners were aiming to do their double at 10.00 a.m. at Hillsborough – ambitious!  They had an express checkout for barcode scanning. No really, they did!  We more leisurely doublers, were headed to Poolsbrook.

Thank you fine people of Graves parkrun for your hospitality, your poetry and your fine organisation and winning smiles and ways as always.

Farewells were said, and off we went again. Not exactly in convoy. As in, not in convoy at all, it was a bit of a rural magical mystery tour to get to Poolsbrook parkrun I was just passively parasitic, I left it to other with GPS and initiative to get us there.  I only pitched in when I saw the sign for the country park, which I concede was probably a bit of a case of ‘too little too late‘ not sure they’ll buy ‘it’s the thought that counts’.

As we neared the entrance, I realised for the first time that Pools Brook is actually two words not one. Didn’t notice that when I was last here for the inaugural Poolsbrook parkrun (which was good actually, though now I understand new events try to discourage people from attending inaugurals so they have a chance to bed in first. Good point, well made.  Respect that people.)

pools brook country park

The place was heaving, and cars were being turned back from the park, so we ducked into a sort of industrial park alongside where there was space to park on the side roads.  It was freezing, and we were still quite early.  We sat for a bit, until i saw a carload of dragonflies rock up, and that, and my need for a precautionary pee, were enough for me to head up to the start.  As at Graves parkrun, the core team had been hard at work early on to make the magic happen at 10.30.  Thanks everyone 🙂  (See what I did again there with that smiley emoticon – they’ll be beside themselves with thrilledness!).

There were lots more new and familiar faces.  An enormous queue for the loos, and – a considerable boon – a sort of cafe area where an urn and biscuits was set up for post-run refreshments in return for donations. Also, a working radiator and a store cupboard where you could leave your bags. All extremely well organised, although I was slightly worried that the drop in temperature as we entered the store-room was indicative of entering some one-way anomaly into a strange, sub-zero parallel universe, but I made it out OK.  After a bit, it was announced the run start would be delayed by about 15 minutes, presumably to accommodate people who were having to park up further away and walk in.  Never ones to waste an opportunity, we put some serious work into getting into the dragonfly team spirit.  I think we did ok.  See how we’ve near enough perfected those double wings there.  I know, impressive!  I’ve only just realised that one of our number somehow lost a hand in the melee.  It was so cold I don’t think she noticed, as she never mentioned it at the time. Oh well, it was all for a good cause.

poolsbrook dragonfly

Eventually we had to venture outside, and I remembered a bit belatedly the start was slightly further away from the finish so we needed to allow time to get there. Still, plenty of time for another group dragonfly shot. We are getting better at this.   Still a learning curve, but we’ll get there…

poolsbrook dragonflies

A quick trot down to the start. Brrrrr.  Best and only option was to dive into the midst of the throng and, penguin-like, hope to benefit from the heat of huddling up with others. It’s lucky that all parkrunners are lovely and mostly accepting of such behaviours.

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We were a fair old gang!  A record Poolsbrook parkrun turnout, they put a Facebook post up declaring ‘WOW! A massive new attendance record with 473 finishers!! Last year we ‘only’ had 289!’  It felt big!  I couldn’t hear much of the briefing, but got the general idea. Milestones, thank the volunteers.  Three laps, counting to three is harder than you think by the way. They do put up kilometer markers, but that’s only helpful once you get the hang of them, to begin with they felt a bit random as I slowly registered I can’t possibly have done 4km already, I’m still on my first lap etc.  We were quite a sight though, storming round, and round, and round again…

GP poolsbrook parkrun dash

Hard to imagine, but I think I was even slower for this than at Graves, it was flat but quite congested, and frankly I just wanted it to end. It was a jolly crowd on the whole.  I did regret not hearing the end of the conversation between two runners where one said ‘so basically the kids row deteriorated into an international incident‘ and the other said ‘what did you do?’ and the first said ‘left them to it.’  I have a feeling that wasn’t the expected response.  I think it probably didn’t end there….  The marshals were all unfailingly lovely, I did try to splutter out thanks to each and everyone. I’ve since though read about another parkrunner at a different run (can’t remember where though, and it might have been on Christmas day now I come to think of it) who ran the whole parkrun with a box of chocolates, which he handed out to each and every marshal on the way round. That’s impressive!  Maybe next year, if I’m not having to use my hands to keep my unicorn under control.   I wasn’t so cheery about my proximity to the pimped up buggy that blared tinny tunes out throughout.  Kylie should be so lucky indeed, I didn’t feel it myself.  I gritted my teeth, reminding myself of the need to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way, whilst lamenting my inability to outrun this assault on my senses…

Round and round the lake I ran.  It was quite social, or potentially so, my ability to run and talk was pretty much eroded.  I was relieved when I knew I could finally take the right hand path up the finish funnel.  Yay!  It wasn’t quite as empty as this as I approached it, but it was just as much a vision of loveliness as this early morning photo suggests!

poolsbrook finish

A bit of a queue for scanning, but that was fine, as an opportunity to mill and mingle. Then into the coffee area where a donation secured coffee and a choice of biscuits or mince pies.  Loads on offer, very impressive.  I wasn’t sure if dragonflies eat, so I checked.  Not only are the nymphs impressive predators within a pond (I knew that already) but so are the adults.  Veracious carnivores they will happily eat other winged insects according to the British Dragonfly Society.  This meant we could still tap our inner dragonflies and eat with a clear conscience, but we’d have to make some adjustment in dietary expectations to take account of veganuary, obviously.  That’s OK, we weren’t real dragonflies, only channeling them.  In case you weren’t sure….  By the way, veganuary seems particularly high profile this year – even got an article about going vegan for runners in Runners World this week.  It’s increasingly becoming ‘a thing’.

Refreshments quaffed, we were homeward bound. Some had ambitious plans for further activity.  Personally I favoured a power nap – once I’d safely submitted my ‘tell Sue’ Smiletastic forms and could sleep easy in my bed.  Well, had to be done…

Poolsbrook parkrun not only delivered up a fine event and coped with the unexpected influx of tourists from near and far, they also wrote an event report with fine pictures and stats. Read it here and be amazed, Poolsbrook parkrun news – records smashed!.  Thank you fine people of Poolsbrook, both for the warmth of your welcome and polish of your logistics.

Just for the record, there were a fair few parkrun people on the move this morning.  I have no idea how, but someone, somewhere, created this fabulous offering showing parkrunners migration paths across East Derbyshire on New Year’s Day.  I know!  You didn’t know you’d be interested in a pictorial representation of statistical information, but suddenly you are.  It’s a splendid thing.  Now if only someone could do that for South Yorkshire as well, just imagine the joy they would bring…

east midlands parkrun double migrations

Also, according to the parkrun UK Facebook page:

18,393 parkrunners completed a New Year’s Day double by walking, jogging or running around two UK parkrun events on 1 January 2018…

That’s 33% of all those who completed a UK parkrun on the day!

At what point do we become an official movement I wonder.  I mean movement is integral to the initiative is it not, maybe we are already?

I think in the circumstances, the final word should go to our founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, who did us a 2017 review which you can read here.  But you know what, he also sent my mum a Christmas card to acknowledge her sterling support of Bushy parkrunners week in week out, and that’s even more exciting.  To be fair, it was another parkrunner who set that particular train in motion, but to a fine end.  Love parkrun, not just because of Mr S-H, but all the other lovely parkrunners who sent personal messages with their own parkrun stories!  Thank you all.

So that’s it.  New year’s day double done.  Thank you everyone, everywhere, who helped make it so!

Including my mum, that’s Elisabeth with an ‘s’ by the way – who was out cheering at Bushy parkrun on New Year’s Day too!

mum new years day

Phew.

Happy parkrunning into 2018.  It will bring new runs, and new adventures aplenty I’m sure.  Hurrah!  Go us. Just #dfyb.

Happy new Year y’all!

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Graves Junior parkrun’s first Birthday Bash – setting the standard for pop up parkrun partying

Digested read: it was Graves junior parkrun‘s first birthday this weekend.  Hurrah!  Fancy dress, cake and brilliant sunshine – what’s not to like.  A fine time was had by all. Apart from the llamas.  They weren’t too impressed.  Same time next year?  Be there.

apricot tee

It turns out llamas don’t like unicorns.  In my defence, I didn’t previously know this, otherwise I might have chosen a different companion animal to accompany me to Graves junior parkrun’s first birthday celebrations at the weekend, but some things you just don’t know about until you experience them for yourself.  In my defence, most reasonable people would surely agree that is quite niche knowledge, obscure even for winning pub quiz teams, and I will take on board their feedback at future events I promise.

So, let’s start at the very beginning – a very good place to start.  Sunday 19th November 2017 marked the first birthday of Graves junior parkrun, and their fiftieth run.  I am really hoping by know everyone in the whole world knows about junior parkrun, but just in case you don’t, junior parkrun is basically spin-off from the original 5k parkrun phenomenon, which has now evolved as a force to be reckoned with in its own right.  The website blah de blah describes it thus:

junior parkrun is a series of 2k runs for children aged between 4 and 14. They are held in areas of open space around the UK. They are open to all, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. If you are not a junior please come along to one of our weekly Saturday parkrun events instead.

Registered parkrunners do not need to register separately for the junior events. However, if you are not already registered with parkrun you can do so here.

So that’s good.  It even has its own junior parkrun code. This however needs a bit more work because it doesn’t pay nearly enough attention to either the desirability of fancy dress nor the extreme abundance of hilarity at these events, and the superior cake concoctions sported by them at anniversary celebrations say.  Perhaps it is to maintain the element of joyous surprise for those new to the fold?  Who knows.

junior parkrun code

Personally, I originally got involved as a volunteer to ‘give something back’ to parkrun as I enjoy the Saturday 5k events, but the phenomenon we know and love isn’t sustainable unless runners step up and volunteer from time to time.   Getting involved in a new, local junior parkrun seemed to me a great way to salve my conscience and volunteer without forfeiting my Saturday run.  However, now I no longer give a toss about ‘giving back to anything’ I volunteer because it is a weekly fix of joyfulness that acts as an antidote to any stress or unjoyfulness which you might currently be experiencing.  Thus, my volunteering is shallow self-interest with the collateral benefit of chalking up some marshaling credits along the way.  There is no martyrdom required to sign up to volunteer at junior parkrun, more an unseemly scrabble to nab a spot so as not to miss the boat – though to be fair, ‘my’ junior parkrun never turns a volunteer away.  It’s the perfect start to any Sunday I promise.  Nothing is more hilarity inducing than an hour or so at junior parkrun, guaranteed – or your money back!*

Anyways, if there is one thing more fun than a Sunday morning at junior parkrun, it is a Sunday morning at junior parkrun on the occasion of their birthday celebrations!  Specifically, last Sunday was Graves junior parkrun’s first anniversary.   What a year it’s been.  Although I’ve not been involved from the outset, I’ve been turning up for long enough to see it grow and flourish.  A birthday party was bound to be a lot of fun. Really, a LOT.a

Naturally, there was much excitement at the prospect. Anticipation grew as the event date grew closer.  Cake was promised. Fancy dress too!  Strictly speaking, the fancy dress was optional, but in my world that’s ‘optional’ as in, ‘well you don’t have to, but I’ll be so grief-stricken and disappointed if you don’t make some sort of effort a little part of my heart will wilt and die forever‘ which translates as ‘really it is‘.  So just to be absolutely clear, whilst the fancy dress was strictly speaking not compulsory, in my world it was.  Hurrah!

The night before the run, when a reminder post went up on Facebook, eager marshals responded with enthusiastic use of emoticons and gifs by way of expressing excitement.  That was so much fun, the build up was almost (only almost) as good as the celebration itself.  We were reminded again of the promise of cake and encouraged to don fancy dress.  The photo chosen as an ideas generator has some slightly startling components, but I’m confident most people would have got the idea.

fancy dress run

I responded with, I felt, some lateral-thinking genius using a rainbow unicorn gif (thank you Facebook) as a subliminal clue as to my fancy dress intentions for the morning.  Not the most subtle of responses, but then again, perhaps not everyone is familiar with the importance of semiotics in everyday life.  Will my use of imagery be seen and understood I pondered, as I wondered if anyone had correctly interpreted this. However, the next person who did likewise put a shark gif up, which briefly raised my  hopes before I forlornly lapsed into disillusion as a quick reality check indicated that clearly such a costume would be impossible.  Unicorns may be thought to be fictitious creatures, but there are loads on the Round Sheffield Run, skipping along the arches of the rainbows that line the whole route – sharks on the other hand, well, they are marine creatures, and wouldn’t do well out of the water surely.  Oh well.  I’m sure someone will be donning fancy dress, surely not only me…

Nice gifs though..

Sorry I am too much of a cheap skate to get you a paid package that will enable the shark gif to be seen in all its glory, but you could always follow the link here and be amazed…

I barely slept on Saturday night I was so exciting.  I imagine it would be like trying to get to sleep on Christmas eve if I lived in a parallel universe where I joyfully looked forward to Christmas Day.

At last, the morning dawned.  Cold, very cold, but bright sunshine.  I wore a ridiculous amount of clothes, but needs must, and after eyeing her for a bit and wondering if her eyes were maybe just a bit sinister, I squashed my new companion animal into the car and away I went.  This was to be my unicorn’s first outing in public.  Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I acquired her ages ago as a possible marathon running buddy.  However, even I have to concede, that whilst she may have many desirable qualities, suitability as a running outfit does not appear to be one of them.  She went back into her bag, and until now, there hasn’t seemed to be the right time to take her out and about. Graves junior parkrun birthday bash though – what could be more perfect!

DSCF0197

Hmm, I’m still not quite sure about the eyes….

Despite my apparent bravado, on arrival at Graves park  I was relieved to see the RDs out and about in fancy dress along with their child labourer assistants.  It set the mood.  Even so, I decided to have my pre-event pee sans unicorn as don’t think this magical ethereal creature particularly needed to see the interior of the Graves park municipal toilets.  Also, I have a feeling unicorns poo glitter, and I don’t want to encourage that in case it ends up in the sea. I left her in the custody of a conveniently located Pippi Longstocking, who took her unicorn chaperoning responsibilities very seriously, carefully standing over her and stroking her mane.  When I returned, she asked what the unicorn was called.  I had to admit she didn’t yet have a name, so I asked what would be a good choice. ‘Sophie‘ apparently. When I asked why that name, it was explained ‘because Sophie is a very good name for a unicorn‘.  You can’t argue with logic like that.   Thanks Pippi!

unicorn guardian

I felt much happier once Sophie was so named, we partnered up and headed off to set off the course.  It was good fun.  Even at 8.00 a.m. in the morning fancy dress can bring joy.  As I ambled down the path I came across a little crocodile of beavers all with hi-vis jackets and toggled scarves round their necks. It seems they had come en masse to take part in the Birthday celebrations.  How splendid is that.  They were really excited, and so pleased to meet my unicorn too.  This was getting off to a grand start!

 

I can’t lie though, Sophie and I didn’t meet with universal approval as we did our walk round.  As I was wrestling with the twisted plastic string that we laughingly refer to as ‘tape’ to cordon off the lake area, a very unimpressed labrador approached me with real hostility, much to the embarrassment of its owner.  I’m sure the dog wasn’t inclined to animosity in general, but it was mightily suspicious of Sophie.  It was actually quite funny, like I’d been caught out by the fashion police for some massive infringement of rules regarding what one might legitimately wear in public. This hound was NOT pleased.

The next hostile encounter was with one of the llamas.  I love llamas, alpacas too, but I have a particular soft spot for the llamas. They always look slightly horrified by human activities, and definitely give off an air of some considerable disdain even when they are really just having a good look.  However, I realised quite quickly that one that looked up from eating as I approached, and then came over to the fence to have a good stare was actually outraged by our audacity in being in the vicinity of her pen.   I started to approach to see what might happen, but got scared away but the head being drawn back and some noticeable pouting.  I decided not to stick around to be spat at – though weirdly, and just between you and me, I was quite chuffed to have got such a strong reaction.   Sophie was certainly making a stir, even if not meeting with universally uncritical acclaim!  Whilst I most definitely did not set out to alarm a llama, I was pleased to have learnt this new thing about them. Llamas do not like unicorns. Who know?  Or maybe they just didn’t like this one.  I didn’t hang around to enquire further…

alarming a llama

We carried on without much further incident.  The pig didn’t care.  It takes more than a unicorn to put this one off its stride.

By the time I got back to the starting area, loads of people had started to gather, and there was a really good vibe, lots of smileys started to appear with offspring in fabulous fancy dress or at the very least fine fettle, and you have to appreciate a Smiley.  Here’s one, with their (self-described) matching rainbow puke tops.  The thing is, I honestly don’t even think that descriptor is derogatory, just factually accurate.  If you were to ingest a rainbow and then regurgitate it, I’m positive this is exactly the effect that would be achieved. That may even be what they do as part of the manufacturing process to achieve this stylish finish.  I might google it later and see what I can find out…

rainbow puke styling.jpg

Anyway, they were pleased to see Sophie, and encouraging about her debut appearance at this auspicious sporting occasion:

Sophie funtimes

So it seems that although I’d been a bit worried she might seem a bit sinister, in fact nope, Sophie was a big hit.  Despite the placid looking labrador growling at me during set up, and a llama building up to spit at her, reactions were mostly good.  One child actually said to me (true story) and what’s more spontaneously and without any accompanying adult – ‘I just want to say to you that you are amazing because you have come to parkrun with an actual unicorn’.  Maybe I should go everywhere with a unicorn in future.  Whilst I may have little or no intrinsic merit, perhaps I can work round this to some extent by milking the glory by association angle of proximity to a unicorn. It is more achievable than having a personal daemon a la His Dark Materials, which is surely the apex of companion animaldomness.

Pleasingly, Sophie wasn’t even th only unicorn present.  We sort of found each other out, like the fellow ethereal creatures we were.  The other unicorn was on cake duty.  A very important job.

unicorns find one another

Over time more and more marshals appeared, many in fine fancy dress formations, some quality effort went into outfits for the occasion.   Frankly, I think the adults were just as immersed in the joys of fancy dress as their junior charges… self-evidently more so in many cases!  See if you can spot the family resemblance between some of those attending.

even better, amongst the arrival of the great and good was

wait for it….

A shark!

I couldn’t have been more delighted if a bare-chested Paul Sinton-Hewitt himself had rocked up astride a real unicorn of his own! (You know, like Putin is prone to doing, charging around on horseback, only marginally less ludicrous).

shark attack

More accurately, a man being eaten by a shark.  Hurrah.  He should have just swum faster (a fact he himself acknowledged whilst leading the warm up).  Great costume, though just to be clear, sharks are more at risk from us than we from them many are critically endangered, in fact.  Little known one.  Did you know the writer of jaws has dedicated much of his life trying to restore the reputation of sharks in the wake of his book/ film?

 

It was great, such a fab turn out.  Most regular volunteers had turned out, along with the core run director team, and as for the juniors, they rocked up in great, joyous hoards.   A record attendance indeed.  Fab.U.Lous!

Another happy surprise was spotting Regal Smiley and family en masse.  This was despite her having done a pre-dawn run earlier.  I’m not proud to admit that when I’d seen her post her intention to go and run 10,000 miles and then run 10,000 more at 6.30 in the morning with a fellow Smiley buddy DESPITE having previously given me her personal assurance that she’d not miss the Graves junior birthday bash for the world, I thought dark resentful thoughts.  Anticipating being stood up, my first instinct was to indulge my passive aggressive tendencies with a carefully crafted Facebook message along the lines of ‘hope you have a lovely run I’m sure it will be charming and just as much fun as a birthday party and well worth standing up your so-called friends/Smiley compatriots for and you won’t be (made to) regret your choice for all eternity at all.’  Mercifully, lack of internet access rather than self-control prevented me from commenting.  She only did BOTH the early morning run AND made it to the party.  Impressive. Thank goodness she’ll never get to know about my shallow bitterly judgemental assumptions, I couldn’t bear for them to end up in the public domain!  That was a near miss indeed and no mistake!

Regal Smiley

Mingling was fun, so many awesome people to meet and greet! Bullseye too!  Love Bullseye.   Love junior parkrun!

It was a busy morning, as I still had to go and check out the under the gazebo action.

Oh.  My. God

Best cake ever.  It comprised a model of graves park, including such details as the lakes (granted, not easy to miss) and not only some of the animals from the park, but also an aerial view of the finish funnel, complete with the Graves junior parkrun idiosyncracies of arrow shaped entrance (keeps adults from crowding the finish) Genius.  Also, HUGE.  Be amazed dear reader, be amazed.

happy birthday cake

After much mandatory milling about, eventually we were mustered to gather together for the pre-event briefing

The briefing was noisy – partly due to extra numbers, including a lot of first timers but also noisy due to general excitement levels. Super heroes whizzed among us, and tutus bobbed up and down and donkies mingled with Frankenstein’s monster.  It was fun. Fancy dress is always fun. Don’t let anyone ever persuade you otherwise.  There was much thanks to milestone volunteers and celebration of juniors reaching their marathon and half-marathon wrist band goals.  All good, much cheering and clapping.

There was indeed a record turn out of runners and volunteers, which helped fuel a great party atmosphere.  To be fair, there always is a great atmosphere at junior parkrun, but this was a high even higher than usual, I promise!

There was even a game and enthusiastic rendition of ‘Happy Birthday‘ though I have to be honest, there may have been a slight scanning issue with the ‘happy birthday dear…. graves juuuuuuuuuuu-nior’ versus ‘dear graves junior parkrun’ which was a bit of a mouthful, but all very much in the spirit of self-conscious communal singing I feel.  It would hardly have been a birthday party without all of that.

Then, quick about turn, and everyone was soon into position and whisked up into a frenzy of physical activity for the mandatory group warm up… The warm up was possibly the best ever, not only for the inherent hilarity of watching a person being eaten by a shark lead it, but for surprise addition of a music tape accompaniment AND the inclusion of a freestyle dancing section. Genius.  Also, lest we forget, the old ones are indeed always the best, so good when we did our ‘bottom kicking’ exercise, squeezed between the fast feet and the high knees, it was grand to be reminded that you were only allowed to kick your own bottom for the purposes of this exercise, however great the temptation to go off piste…  Some tellers just own their material – no-one else could ever do it justice!  All engaged with gusto, a warm up just as warm ups should be!

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From here, a count down, and then a mass migration to the start line.  Anyone else got the herding cats knack?  Just wondering…

start line

Lined up for off, human cones angles taking on a new level of interest with fancy dress options in hi-vis in abundance, but it didn’t really make us any more effective as a funnel the excited young runners ignoring us as much as always.

human cones start line

The official photographer for the day showed new levels of courage to the point of recklessness standing in the path of the runners as the shout went up to off.  I mean, photographers take their lives in their hands doing it at senior parkruns across the land, but my experience of marshaling suggests adults will on the whole take evasive action if meeting an obstacle such as a paparazzi in hi-vis.  No such instinctive avoidance reaction appears to kick in at junior events.  Those juniors will crash into anything.  The frissance of danger as you stand in formation to create a human shield lining the start funnel of junior parkrun only adds to the sense of occassion. I’m sure that adrenalin rush contributes to the post junior parkrun euphoria most marshals seem to experience as they skip away at the end of our near death experience of a Sunday morning.  I’ve survived that, I can survive anything, I am invincible!  (It fades quite quickly to be fair, but it’s fun while it lasts!)

He may or may not have been trampled, only if photos appear covering the period after the immediate start appear will I know if he survived. Still, if not, I daresay it’s what he would have wanted.  Isn’t that what you are supposed to say in such situations?  I think so. I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted to put a damper on things on our birthday after all. (Spoiler alert, he made it.  Phew.  Great shots too, thanks Dougal pics🙂 )

Finally they were off, at a fair old sprint. They were even nippier than usual, no doubt hurried on their way by the prospect of cake in abundance at the end.

As they sped off, I got my job allocation for the morning. Bar code scriber.  At this particular junior parkrun we write down the names and barcode numbers of any juniors who have brought along non-scanning barcodes, but also if someone doesn’t have a barcode with them we note the finish token number and record it as a no barcode/ unknown runner,  as this helps with processing the results.  Without wishing to go all Donald Rumsfeld on you, basically if the RD has an idea of the known unknowns there is less angst about missing places.  Apparently.

 

I love cheering round  the juniors, but it was quite challenging this week what with there being so many of them. When people have made an effort with fancy dress I always try to give them a personalised cheer ‘keep going wonder woman’ or ‘great effort donkey’ or whatever, but it was hard to keep up with so many glorious costumes resplendent in the sun.  Top effort from everyone, lots of smiles today.  Hurrah!

As the juniors strutted their funky stuff, whether or not trailing breathless adults in their wake, volunteer marshals moved into formation.  Impressive eh?

volunteers ready

The park looked magical, almost too bright.  The event seemed to go really quickly.

There seemed to be lots of unknowns – this was a shame, particularly as many of those were first timers, especially the beavers, who had come en masse but not necessarily registered.  To be fair, I was disappointed on their behalf, but none of them seemed especially bothered, then again cake is a great comforter in such circumstances, and there was indeed plenty of cake!

I can report the day had a record turn out of 188 junior participants.  Pretty fine eh?  Had the field exceeded 240 then the finish tokens would have run out although there was an emergency plan that could kick in! That would involve the scanners starting to handwrite the details of the final finishers. We were spared that today, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before that threshold is indeed crossed.  An exciting prospect, and it would be grand to share the joy even more widely.

The run/ walk/ jog concluded by all, as always, the course disassembled as if by magic.  Never was there a better manifestation of the principle that many hands make light work.  Struck in and instant.

There followed a bit more lingering than usual, enticed by cake which tasted even better than it looked.  I reckon the star baker must have been working on it the whole year, but apparently not, although it did take best part of a long, long day to concoct the extraordinary confectionary creation.

I met some beavers again, on the conclusion of their run. They were so excited, and all full of what they done and they’d clearly had a lovely time taking part, though some of the bounciness could possibly have been attributed to massive sugar highs I suppose. One wanted met to guess where he’d come ‘sixty-second’ I hazarded.  Aiming for mid-field not wanting him to feel deflated if I was too far out.   Wrong.  In fact he was first, but out of the beavers.  He seemed to have memorised where every one of them had come in relation to one another which was pretty spectacular to be fair!  I congratulated him because that is indeed great, but it’s also great to participate wherever you come in the line up I reminded him.  He didn’t believe me.  Fair enough, you have to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.  I might seek but to complete events, he was clearly out to compete!

As people started to disperse, a random dog appeared and kept sneaking cake bits from table.  A few minutes later a mortified owner rushed over apologetically, explaining he will always beeline for a gazebo associating them with food from camping trips. As she explained this the dog espied a jolly hat and set about savaging it and galloping away with it being ripped about in its jaws. It was too funny to mind about, reminiscent of the infamous Fenton/ Benton ill-disciplined dog in Richmond park video for them as you as can recall that epic viral display of dog-owning mortification.  Order was restored eventually, but not sure the hat made it, hope Santa has a spare.  If not, no worries, there’s probably still time for his elves to rustle up a new one.  Just as well!

happy dog

It was all good-humoured, and I think it’s fair to say a grand and glorious time was had by all.  However, all good things, and eventually party-goers and parkrunners alike dispersed our different ways. However, Graves Junior parkrun had indeed offered up a fine morning of celebrations.  We couldn’t have asked for more. Even the weather gods were kind to us.  What a great climax to an awesome parkrun year!

And so we all vanished again, into the wintry mist.  Job done.

Happy Birthday to us!

More proof, if proof were needed of how the parkrun spirit extends to celebrating in style.  Graves junior parkrun’s birthday bash was executed with considerable aplomb.  That’s the fiftieth run. parkrun/walk/jog/marshalers are good at pop up parties it seems.  If further evidence is needed, check out this Red Arrow display on the occasion of a Bushy parkrun runners 500th run, that’s pretty impressive as a way to mark the acquisition of a milestone tee…

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even so, I feel confident Graves Junior parkrun has done a fine job of flaunting its partying potential, Red Arrows are impressive certainly, but Graves has more llamas, and unicorns too apparently, so we can respect and rejoice in the right of each parkrun to celebrate their own milestones in their own ways.  Agreed?

Good oh.  So now just party on and let us eat cake!

Nom nom nom nom nom.

So, same again same time, same place next year?  Also every Sunday in-between.  Just so you don’t miss out!  See you there.  🙂

 

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

*did I mention that all parkrun events are free to participate in, just #dfyb don’t forget to bring along your printed barcode if you’d like to know your time.

 

 

 

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

On the subject of superheroes…

Digested read: parkrun volunteering is a lot of fun.  It is a parallel universe of parkrun good times.  If you haven’t crossed over to this other side yet, you might be missing out.  Just saying.  Donning hi-viz for junior parkrun is the highlight of my week, literally as well as metaphorically.  Obviously.

Well, I was holding forth on the subject of superheroes, whether or not you were concentrating I can’t really know, but basically I was saying that that special breed of people who set up inaugural parkruns, and manage to generate enough momentum to keep them going, deserve some sort of public recognition.  They are after all the ‘make it so’ teams who help parkrun grow and regenerate.  Personally,  I favour the option of bestowing these noble few with parkrun logoed capes.  However, inexplicably, it currently isn’t in my gift to generate and distribute these, but what I can do, is potentially make life easier for some Run Directors out there by singing the praises of volunteering.  Step up people and give it a go.  You have nothing to fear… and stunning parkrun hi-viz within your reach. Why wouldn’t you?  You too could be a hi-viz hero, yours for the taking!

volunteer outfit

You do have to supply your own hat though. I think this one might be a Tilly hat, they are very good, I think they are insured for ever but can survive even passing through the digestive tract of an elephant in tact.  This testimonial is spoilt as it involves keeping some poor magnificent elephant in captivity, but it still illustrates a point.  Anyway, most parkruns don’t risk this happening to their headgear, but I suppose in South Africa it could be an issue.  Look forget it, I wish I’d never gone down the headgear route.  Stick with a beret and the associated angst over whether stereotypical national fancy dress is ever acceptable at a Le Tour themed parkrun event, if you prefer,  and let’s move on.

Lucy le tour

There are basically two facts you need to know when it comes to volunteering at your local parkrun (though parkrun voluntourism is a thing too of course). These are as follows:

  1. Fact one.  Volunteering at regular parkrun is fun, lots of fun
  2. Fact two.  Volunteering at fun-size junior parkrun is even more fun. Awesome fun in fact.  Fun in inverse proportion to the average height of those participating.

Alas, capes for TAPSS are not yet available, let alone for volunteers, but the opportunity to be a hi-viz hero is very much there for the taking. You too could join a line up as fabulous as this.  I know, just imagine!  No idea where these folk are or who they are by the way, (borrowed from parkrun uk facebook page at some point), but it matters not, this scene is replicated worldwide at a parkrun near you weekly, I promise.

panshanger-parkrun-volunteers

My volunteering started off at parkrun ‘proper’ as I might have erroneously referred to it before I knew any better.  Now my favoured parkrun volunteering venue is a junior parkrun.   For a number of reasons. In honesty, I showed up the first time mainly because I felt I ought to ‘give something back’, and junior parkrun means I can do so without forfeiting my own Saturday parkrun.  However, I would now say the main motivation is because it is a lot of fun.  Crying with laughter sort of fun at times.   It is such a brilliant way to start a Sunday morning you have no idea until you’ve tried it.

Let’s be honest though, even though I am apparently able to sustain myself whilst living independently, and have indeed lived and worked overseas which ought to mean I can cope with a bit of stress and am reasonably adaptable, I was still nervous about volunteering at first.  I still am sometimes.  Objectively this is ridiculous perhaps to you, but speaking to other volunteers I think it’s quite common to feel some anxiety about taking on a new role.  Passions can run high at parkrun, it is for some if not actually the most important part of their week it’s definitely a highlight.  You don’t want to be the weak link that messes up the timings or sends a front runner hot foot the wrong way on a turn.  The post of time-keeper is particularly feared by me, though interestingly I’ve seen first time DoE volunteers take to it with no problems at all.

The Timekeeper is responsible for recording the times of all finishers. This can be a high pressure role, particularly at our busier events.
For every runner that crosses the finish line on their own two feet, the timer will record that time using a timing device. This data is then combined with the data from the Barcode Scanners (see below). Our events are provided with multiple timers, so there will normally be someone operating a backup timer.

Apparently, clicking a button everytime a runner crosses the line isn’t as hard as I think.   Who knew?  I just imagine I’ll suffer some terrible seizure and be frozen unable to move, or worse yet set off a staccato sequence of line-crossers when there is in fact not a runner in sight.   I must just over think it.  … The thing is, and I say this not to put you off, but rather the opposite, a bit of apprehension because you care about getting it right is surely a good thing.  Besides, it adds to the frisson of excitement and anticipation when you know you are about to join a team of people and contribute to the delivery of something bigger than yourself.  Quite a lot bigger…

As an aside if you go to the global parkrun site and scroll down you can get a live update of the global stats for participation.  It’s pretty impressive. As of today (22 June 2017) the figures are 2,321,735 runners running (bit like lords-a-leaping, just imagine!); 275,019 volunteers and events have taken place in 1,155 locations. If you are a real parkrun stats geek check out http://www.elliottline.com/parkrun/ for weekly updates on UK (mainly) stuff. It’s way more compelling than you might think I promise 🙂 .

I think it’s like the apprehension you get if you’ve ever had to perform on stage be that in a class assembly at school, or giving a presentation or lecture at work, or a speech at a celebration.   There is an inevitability that this event will happen, you will have your unique role and so there will be a moment when everything will feel like it depends on you! Ha!  Think of it not so much as responsibility, but as power, if that helps. (It is rare enough to feel any sense of personal agency or influence in our crumbling world at times…).  Besides, everyone knows that donning a hi-viz jacket at parkrun bestows you with super-human powers, which is why if you cheer and high-five runners as they pass they magically speed up. FACT.  Only possession of a clipboard can trump that.  Here’s a minion with a clipboard by way of illustration.  See how seriously they are taken wielding such an accessory!

Plus, at the end of the day it is a RUN not a RACE, most errors can be rectified.  Even if they can’t, it is what it is. Did you know that even Paul Sinton-Hewitt once wiped all the timings at Bushy park parkrun, so it can happen to the best of us.  It would almost be worth making that particular mistake just so you can be in the overlap of a Venn diagram with the great man himself.  The actual point is, the world didn’t come to an end.  Most runners are understanding if there is a system failure – I think one time I ran at Sheffield Hallam parkrun and no results could be processed and we all got a time of 59 minutes, but it wasn’t that bad.  Not like finding you’ve run out of tea bags on waking for example, or are left reeling by toast too big for a toaster, not even near!  There may be a future amusing anecdote in it – like that hilarious time (also at Hallam) when the finish tokens were nowhere to be found and all the many hundreds of runners had to form an orderly queue and have their barcodes written down manually, I kid you not. Still worked.  How the run volunteering team look back affectionately on that Saturday and laugh I can only imagine. What larks eh?  What larks!

So, here is my highly subjective running scared guide to the various roles.  Other more authoritative guides to the various volunteering parkrun roles are available, but who wants to exhaust themself by clicking on external links?

Marshaling:

The parkrun website describes this role as follows:

Marshals guide and encourage the runners around the course warning them of any obstacles or hazards, as well as ensuring that other park users are aware of the run.
They are also the eyes and ears of the run director out on the course.
Marshals perform a crucial function; if there aren’t enough marshals then the event can’t go ahead. So if you’re running and see them out on the course, please say thanks (particularly if it’s wet, windy or cold) and always follow their advice. They’ll most likely be wearing high vis – so they should be easy to spot.

Most of my volunteering has been marshaling. This essentially involves directional pointing and clapping.  You are also the eyes and ears of the event and I suppose ambassadors too.  It is one of my favourite roles to be fair.   For loads of reasons.  The main one being that you get to see every single runner pass. The first time I marshaled was also the first time I got a real sense of the continuum of runners who take part.  As a er hem, more sedate runner, I’d never seen the fast ones other than in a flash of lycra as they lapped me, and only ever from behind. Seeing their faces contort with the strain of it all was actually pleasing and inspiring in equal measure.  Running isn’t any easier for those speed merchants it seems, they are still working hard, it’s just they keep on getting faster.  Fact one of running, it never gets easier, your goals just shift.

never gets easier

Then you also start to see the whole spectrum of people who participate, parents with buggies; runners with dogs; family outings.  It was a revelation.  I’d only noticed the limited group of people who run at my pace, it is genuinely uplifting to see so many different people taking on the same challenge.  You start to notice the octogenarian at your local event; the person who might be in the middle of radio or chemotherapy; the first timers; individuals taking it on post illness or as part of a weight loss challenge.  Speaking personally, I’ve become much more aware of local groups, not just running clubs, but community connections.  I’m not entirely delusional, I don’t know all these people personally, in that sense they aren’t all my friends, but we do have a common interest.  More in common as the saying goes, and at the risk of unleashing just the first of a forthcoming torrent of feel-good clichés yet to tumble out in this blog post, yep, it’s made me feel way more connected to where I live.  Can’t go running anywhere in my neck of Sheffield without seeing or been seen by a fellow parkrunner.  It’s like a constant mutual surveillance.  In a good way though, not stalkery.  Think of it as motivational and jolly.

In my experience, marshaling can also involve hugging quite a lot of people either to reassure en route, or to congratulate on completion.  How you feel about embracing random sweaty runners might be a factor in whether or not you are comfortable with this aspect of the role. It’s not obligatory though, if you stand rigidly you will give off enough protective non verbal ‘don’t touch me!’ signals that you will be absolutely fine.  Nobody likes an awkward hug.  Not even slightly over-emotional parkrunners.  I don’t really consider myself a huggy person at all, but mid or post run endorphins can make you love everyone, and some of the best hugs I’ve had have been from marshals on long trail runs. Thank you hi-viz heroes, you know who you are. Well, you do know who you are, but I can never forget the RSR hug that came when most needed, 20km in to a 24 km trail running event.   You may indeed love running, but I love marshals who facilitate that, and  I thank you!

i-love-marshals

That’s the generic marshal role, but for junior parkrun you need to factor in extra motivational duties.   Specifically, you need to perfect the art of the high-five.  Don’t scoff, it’s not as easy as you think. Firstly, turns out, just because some tot is barely four years old, it doesn’t mean they can’t deliver ferocious power behind a tiny high fiving hand.  I kid you not, I’ve been almost completely taken out by the human bullet which is an infant speeding towards you with an outstretched hand. Secondly, you need to really work on your glutes and quads to retain stability when you are having to maintain a squat for the entire duration of a junior parkrun.  Even when you’ve got the high-five perfected, there is still scope for skill development as you take on the high-ten.  It can be done, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.  Very rewarding indeed though, when it all fall’s into place!  You have never experienced being on the receiving end of a smile until it is one offered up to you freely by a junior parkrunner at the instant at which their high-five is returned to you.  Everyone should experience that surge of validation of their actions at some point in their life.  Feel good doesn’t come anywhere near to describing that sensation.

I should also point out that directional pointing and clapping is harder than you might think.  Plus, clapping and cheering continuously for up to an hour is quite strenuous.  Don’t worry though, as with all such physical challenges your stamina does improve over time.   There does however always remain the risk that however proficient you are at pointing, you may be ignored.  This clip isn’t from parkrun but is nevertheless hilarious. How hard is it to know which way to run when someone in hi-viz is pointing the way for you?  Very hard indeed apparently.  Joy to behold! Check out this Tebay fell race start video if you don’t believe me.  And if you think directing adults is like herding cats, you’ve clearly never experienced junior parkrun, which adds whole new layers of unpredictability, and therefore hilarity to the whole affair.

At Graves junior parkrun, the start line is on grass, but the participants need to be funneled onto a tarmac path early on in proceedings. This is achieved by having a chain of marshals arms outstretched, to act a human funnel to ensure everyone ends up where they are supposed to. What could possibly go wrong?

and theyre off

Well, loads apparently. The thing is, if you are small, and the start is crowded, why would you follow the route indicated by a human chain when you can just as easily duck under the outstretched arms of attendant marshals and speed round the back of them where there is more room?  Obvious really.  I love this slightly anarchic element of junior parkrun, it is truly hysterical, but could be unsettling for those who find disorder and random running alarming.

Marshaling is also a bit like the ‘any other duties’ bullet point in most job descriptions. It’s a real role, but you have to roll with it sometimes.  I myself have on occasion been dog-poo bin monitor. Yep, you guessed it. This involves standing in front of the dog-poo bin in Endcliffe Park to prevent runners running into it. Yes, all parkrunners apparently have that potential for navigational error within them.  All part of the joy of it all though.  Without a dog-poo bin monitor, Sheffield Hallam parkrun couldn’t happen.  Think about it.  Make it so!

Barcode Scanning and barcode scanning support:

The parkrun UK site describes these volunteer roles thus

The Barcode Scanners are responsible for actually recording runners against their finish position tokens, handed out by Finish Tokens at the end of the funnel.
They scan in the runners personal barcode, followed by the barcode on the position token.

Most of my volunteering had been marshaling – directional pointing and clapping, with the odd spot of barcode scanning.  This latter role is great because you get to speak to people, but those scanners are more temperamental than you might expect, so it’s not quite as cool as wielding say a sonic screw-driver might be, but it’s definitely a role where time flies.  Person then barcode is the rule. Honestly, I did find it a bit stressful – that was at Hallam though, and that is a very busy parkrun. Then again, it’s also quite an adrenalin high, job done you feel your heart racing and the glow of satisfaction at a challenge completed. Also, if you are nosey, you get to potentially put names to faces. Well you would if you had the capacity to remember names, I lost that skill decades ago.  Best to just greet everyone with ‘yoh fellow parkrunner‘ and avoid all that awkward embarrassment of getting names wrong.

You do need to impose the ‘no barcode, no time, no exceptions‘ rule without fear or favour.   I agree with this rule actually, it’s not much to ask of those participating in a free event, and the poor run directors wouldn’t get any weekend left over if they had to manually input an ever-growing list of opportunistic runners who repeatedly forget their paper barcodes, and have no incentive to remember as long as they can convince some poor unsuspecting volunteer that it is ‘just this once’ and they offer up an exceptional heart-rending tale to reinforce their case….

parkrun code

Consequently, I was quite up for the associated role akin to barcode scanning, which is the barcode scanning support role. The purpose of this role is basically to manually record the name and numbers of parkrunners whose barcodes were brought along and failed to scan.  Sometimes it is hard to know why they have malfunctioned in this way.  On other occasions as a sweaty, or rain-soaked disintegrating slip of papier-mache is offered up I feel almost instinctively I know what has happened.  (Praise be for the wrist bands and barcode plastic cards, they are fab, I just wish you could get them on behalf of other people as gifts without having to steal their identity first, though I sort of understand why too…).  Hence, when I took on this role at junior parkrun I was sure I’d be able to channel my inner hard-nosed cow and be firm and resolute in the face of the  most heart-rending of scenarios…  At junior parkrun, or the one I go to anyway, you also write down all the finish token numbers for those who didn’t bring their barcode and record them as ‘unknown’.  I guess this helps with results processing as you know certain finish positions don’t have a runner linked to them, and as the numbers involved are pretty low, it’s quite doable.

For the record, again, at junior parkrun you have to expect the unexpected, and yep, that’s what happens.  It is entertaining, and it keeps you on your toes.  For the most part, junior parkrunners are a complete delight.  If you want to feel briefly positive about  prospects for the future of the human race and restore your faith in humanity, just rock up and watch a junior parkrun.  Even so, the unpredictability of the young diminutive runners can leave you utterly non-plussed.  Or it did me anyway. So can you explain for example how a young runner who had a barcode that failed to scan presented herself to me to have her finish position noted and in traveling the less than a metre between me and the barcode scanner had lost her finish token?  Check out the locations  of these barcode scanners and the clipboard holding barcode scanner support official and see for yourself the surely finite potential for finish token loss during that handover from one volunteer to another:

barcode scanning

It was a mystery that even Jessica Fletcher would have failed to solve.   The junior parkrunner stood blinking, but adamant, nope, there had never been a finish token.  She was sure.  Erm… it’s really hard to get to the truth with a child witness it turns out.  In the end, she was miraculously restored to the results by dint of estimating whereabouts she was in the line up, and finding an unclaimed finish position in that general position. Which is what happened. Tense though.  The photo above is for illustrative purposes only, it does not feature the young runner in question.

More challenging still was the junior participant who had had his barcode with him, and indeed was wearing one of the wrist bands. He clearly plucked up courage to approach me, lower lip all a tremble.  It had fallen off on the way round; he was working towards one of his junior half-marathon milestones.  This is the real test of resolve.  Angry adults are one thing, I can stand resolute in the face of that, you are a grown up, take responsibility and get over it. Traumatised children on the other hand, that’s quite another. Oh gawd!  In the end I noted his finish position and said that maybe someone would hand it in, or maybe an accompanying parent might have a spare, and feeling like the child-catcher I sent him away.  The next line of approach was the child’s parents – could I not make an exception?  Seeing how distressed her child was at first she thought he must have been badly hurt!  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.  No!  No barcode, no time, no exceptions (but yes, I did feel like a jobsworth cow).  She was by no means unpleasant or rude, but pleading.  I directed her to the run director as the last line of defence.  Dear reader I report a happy ending! Turns out the wrist band had been found and handed in, the finish position was therefore restored to the rightful finisher, but ooh, that was a wobble.   For the record, apparently complaints from juniors about no time are pretty rare.  Most of them just come for a joyful romp round, only a minority are fixated on times.  Bit different for the adults though, those milestone tees are pretty desirable and much coveted after all.

Finish token and finish token support:

parkrun uk describe these roles too

The Finish Tokens person is responsible for handing out finish position tokens to all finishers in the correct sequence. This role calls for nimble fingers and grace under pressure. They can be assisted by Finish Tokens Support.

At many events there are so many runners, the task of handing out finish position tokens would be too much for one person, so it is a double act, with Finish Tokens support working closely with Finish Tokens.
For example, they will prepare the next set of tokens for Finish Tokens, who won’t have time to do this themselves. It’s also reassuring for Finish Tokens to know that they’re supported.

So these are good roles, though queen Elizabeth parkrun have done a guide to the finish token volunteer role explaining some of the challenges associated with it.  I like this role, you get to be a double act so that’s a new person to chat to which is always a bonus.  You do have to watch yourself a bit, because when you are holding a little batch of finish tokens ready to hand out it takes almost super-human willpower not to inadvertently shuffle them like you would if handed a nice new pack of cards.  I don’t think you have to wear a beanie or bobble hat for these roles, but clearly they look fabulous so you should.  I like that you meet every runner and get to know how many people have taken part allowing for spontaneous sweepstake ‘guess how many runners there are today‘ options.  It takes hi-viz teamwork, but then once you get into a rhythm with your token buddy, it feels fab!

Run Director:

This, along with that of Event director and set up team, is a role that I think should be rewarded with capes. But hey ho.  I’ve never done it, and I’m not entirely sure how you get involved to that degree, though I feel confident most event teams would welcome newcomers.   The official blurb states that:

The Run Director is in charge of a particular run on a specific day.
They have ultimate responsibility for deciding whether or not the conditions are suitable for the event and with advice from the other volunteers may decide to modify the course (because of new hazards, for example), delay the start, or even in exceptional circumstances cancel the event that day (very poor weather being the most common reason for this).
They are also responsible for organising the team of volunteers, along with the volunteer co-ordinator.

They do all this (and more) it’s true, but as an impartial outside observer, I feel I must record for posterity some of the particular ingenuity, dedication and initiative I’ve seen Run Directors display in support of runners.  Quite aside from organising new routes when regular paths are closed, or even removing obstructing fallen trees at short notice, I’ve seen a couple of ‘above and beyond’ moments I wish to note here.

One was at junior parkrun.  A young runner, in full sprint was way up the field but somehow ran on past the finish funnel, skidding dramatically and practically skinning every inch of exposed flesh on the ground as they did not so much a face plant but a full body slide.  Immediately the RD sprang into action.  He sprinted across – naively I thought this was to administer first aid.  How wrong was I?  On reaching the sprawling child, he hauled him to his feet, rotated him, and sort of shoved him off on a new adjusted trajectory down the finish funnel proclaiming as he did so ‘it’s OK, you’re still fine, no-one will overtake you!’.  As a non-parent myself, but on finish token duty at the time I was a bit taken aback by this approach,  but you know what?  Within a few strides a smiling child was clutching a finish token apparently healed and mended.  Quick thinking and another happy ending!

Only last week at Hallam, I was on funnel duty.  I was all set for herding runners, ensuring any would-be funnel duckers were thwarted in the attempt, and keeping everyone in line.  However, what I hadn’t anticipated was the chaos that ensued when one of the early finishers made it across the finish, and then started throwing up spectacularly in the finish funnel (not a problem I’ve ever had to contend with, maybe I really don’t try hard enough). I was momentarily paralysed with indecision, as were other runners piling in behind – keen to stay in line, but not wanting a bottle neck to back up across the finish. As we stood, temporarily frozen in time, the run director again took the initiative and sprang into action.  He appeared in a puff of smoke as if from nowhere, and acted as a proxy to collect the finish token for the sprawling, heaving and retching runner so the ‘show’ could go on – or in this case, the finish funnel keep on moving whilst she attended to the ‘necessary’.  It was an inspirational reflex that saved the running day.  Hooray!

See, that’s the thing about volunteering at parkrun, never a dull moment, and most problems can be rectified.  You also get better at volunteering and more comfortable at it the more you do.  With the benefit of hindsight, I still think I could have handled the loose lamb incident better at Graves junior parkrun, but hey, you live and learn.  Those moments of self-flagellating regret are more than compensated for by the moments of unexpected joy, which are far more numerous.  Like the first time I volunteered as a marshal at junior parkrun and a tiny runner, noting my clapping and apparent interest in her day took the time to stop and explain to me that she was taking part in a run, and it had two laps and she’d be round again shortly and see me again.  I’m quite a cold-hearted, non-broody type, but that did absolutely melt my heart.  Adorable.  Honestly, these junior parkrunners are just like real people, only tiny! Also they are seemingly  more prone to uttering uncynical expressive words of wisdom and demonstrating uninhibited displays of joy.  It’s quite remarkable, it really is!

The only slight problem is that now I’ve done so many junior parkruns, I wonder if I may come across as a bit patronising to the adult runners at the 5km event?  I shall erase that thought from my mind, who doesn’t like being congratulated on their smile or being encouraged with a whoop and a shout of ‘superb effort’ even though they may look ever so slightly to be on the brink of tears.  There is more in common between these runners than you may think,  I promise.  It isn’t only the juniors who start walking as soon as they think they are out of the sight of the main field and in the shadow of a strategically positioned bush.  That’s not to say I haven’t made mistakes I admit.  I stumbled a bit at junior parkrun as the first junior female shot by ‘great job, first woman home‘ I shouted enthusiastically.  ‘I think it’s OK to say “first girl” when they are eight years old‘ my companion marshal gently remarked.  Probably true, it’s just that personally I have such an aversion to being referred to as a ‘girl’ I avoid using it.  It really makes me mad if people call me a girl.  It’s literally infantalising, however well meant.  However, probably is OK as a term of reference in junior parkrun context.  In another of my rookie errors, a parent (I presume) was holding the hand of an increasingly reluctant child. ‘Oh no, you are having to drag him round‘ I shouted out at the child, to which the parent replied laughing ‘oh yes!’  But I hadn’t intended my words for him, they were aimed at the junior runner as a hilarious (I thought) quip.  Misfire.  We live and learn.  Another couple of weeks and I’ll have a full repetoire of non-judgemental and encouraging phrases  on the tip of my tongue, to validate everyone participating whether walking, running or skipping.  I’ve started adding in ‘that’s my favourite T-shirt today’ or ‘best balloon of the morning’ in to my supportive calls, these seem to be better received by juniors on the whole, but that’s only because the 5km parkrunners aren’t habituated to this new order as yet.  Give it time.

There are loads of roles in fact, and new ones evolving all the time too – hard to imagine now there was a time when ‘photographer’ was not an acknowledged role, and great to see the new role of VI guides and sign language support.  Such is the accelerating speed of change in the world eh. Jobs in the near future will crop up, that we haven’t yet dreamed of, and quite right too.  It’s an evolving concept.  There are warm up leaders at junior parkrun, think at the moment it’s an added extra, but it might yet become ‘a thing’ like the first timers briefing. Who knows?

junior warm up

And finally – tail runner.

The Tail Runner stays right at the back of the field and should be the last person to cross the finish line ensuring that everyone is accounted for.
They are encouraged to carry a mobile phone in case of emergencies.
They let any marshal out on the course know that they can collect nearby signs and leave their post.
This role is compulsory in the UK but please note that not all events in our parkrun world have a tail runner.
Volunteers undertaking this role receive both a run credit and a volunteer credit.

I’ve not done this role either, though as a frequent final finisher at other organised events, I have met plenty.  It certainly seems to be one of the ultimate feel good positions, plus you get a double whammy of credits as both runner and volunteer (same with pacers I assume).  It doesn’t matter if you are the final finisher, you’ve still done the same 5km as everyone else.  Some of the runners I admire most embrace being the final finisher, so what if you are being tailed by a queue of traffic and an ambulance idling, you can still smile and own the road until cut off point.   That’s why I love this photo of  the final finisher at an organised event somewhere, she runs confident in the knowledge most people in that queue of traffic will be blaming the caravan for the tail back!  All good.

final finish flourish

Seriously though, the tail runner is a really important role in giving confidence to people who might not yet see themselves as in their natural habitat at a 5km run.  That’s not the only reason I love them though.  For me it’s personal.   I don’t normally make reference to stuff outside of running in my blog, but on this solitary occasion I will.

My mum lives hundreds of miles away from me, but, she likes to go and watch parkrun whizz on by at Bushy park each week. She’d been doing this a while, and is quite distinctive sitting as she does in the same spot every saturday, so the regular tail runner started to chat to her each week.  Long story short, she’s now been embraced by the parkrun community at Bushy park (and yes, that would be the actual parkrun mecca in case you were wondering) and even has her own personal hi-viz to don as honorary marshal down there each week.  It makes me really happy that whilst I’m storming (ish) round my local parkrun, she’s out there being part of the parkrun community too.  Go us!

 

So you see, parkrun isn’t only about the running, not even only about the volunteering and the running, it’s about way more than that.  If you only run, that’s fine, not everyone wants to, or is able to volunteer.   There have been times in what I laughingly refer to as my ‘parkrun career’ when just turning out at all felt like an impossible challenge.  That’s the point of volunteering, it isn’t compulsory.  However,  if you do step up and give it a whirl, you’ll get to enter a whole new delightful parallel parkrun universe of collective fun.  A whole fun factory of anecdote generation is there for the taking.  So if you can ever don the hi-viz of a weekend, don’t risk missing out, step forward and you will get to be part of that story too!

Oh, and if you want to volunteer, here’s how – subscribe to the volunteering email for your local event is the official way, but not all parkruns seem to use this, so just go and say hello to a run director or pop a note on your parkrun’s Facebook page, you will soon be welcomed warmly into the cult fold, I’m sure.  The gateway drug is hi-viz, but you might work your way up to a clipboard or even get your own whistle one day.   The only limit is your imagination.  All the roles are pretty straightforward, and you’ll be shown what to do and never be asked to do anything you aren’t comfortable with.

Also, I think the purple tees are the most flattering.  And they bestow super human powers.  The evidence is there for all to see.

By the way, I still don’t really know if it should be hi-viz or hi-vis.  Hope I haven’t pushed any grammar police over the edge.  Luckily parkrun is an inclusive community, both variants are acceptable I’m sure!

volunteering garb

For all my parkrun related log posts click here, but remember you’ll need to scrowl down for older posts.  Happy parkrun/walk/jog/volunteering until next time.

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

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