Posts Tagged With: volunteering

Amoozing times at Trentham Gardens parkrun!

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I feel all squidgy and nice inside thinking about this particular parkrun. It was just such a perfect parkrun day. The kind of experience you just wish you could bottle and keep with you to sniff – or indeed snort – in times of need. Such an inoculation of joy was received by all I bet we were still bouncy at the memory of it long after we had completely dried out – which for the record was a very, very long time indeed. Just the slightest whiff from that bottle and the most down cast of spirits would surely be revived. Lo! Even to hear the very phrase ‘do you remember that cowol time we had at Trentham?’ whispering through time and space as a half life memory will be enough to send positive ripples through the universe for generations and all will be well with the world. Good to know.

To be fair, though a bottle of the spirit of this parkrun day would be nice, some of us can go even better. For I left this parkrun not only with giddying, hilarious and positive memories, but an actual pocket hug to carry with me. I know! Amoozing! More of this later. Suffice to say this was truly a parkrun with ALL THE THINGS!

OK, but where to start. Erm, so much to say, so little structure in my head about how to get it out there. Oh well, let’s just dive in and see where we end up eh?

Through parkrun people get to know one another, that’s not really news, it’s a pleasing and almost inevitable consequence of communities coming together each week to run, walk, jog, volunteer, twalk (walk and talk) in their local spaces. That’s splendid, obvs. However, one unexpected consequence of lockdown was that the parkrun community for some moved online. Community cohesion not just survived, but flourished due to parkrun passionistas various connecting through things like the Quarantine Quiz (still happening if you want to virtually rock up) and of course the With Me Now (unofficial parkrun) podcast not only continuing its weekly broadcast but adding in Facebook lives, parkrunpedia, pictionary all sorts. There is a deep irony, that because no-one could go out anywhere, where you were located didn’t really matter, so new parkrun friendships sprung up from all over the place. All over the uk, and internationally too, particularly to Germany what with the quarantine quiz and all. Roll forward, parkrun returned (hurrah) and now we could all meet up again, there was renewed enthusiasm to meet up with friends old and new. Friends we hadn’t yet met even! parkrun tourism has always been a thing, but now it has taken on a more erm, collective focus. Individuals who are celebrating parkrun related achievements share their destinations and people rock up from near and far to join in the fun. It’s grand! It has always been possible to rock up at a new event and be welcomed by a parkrun team, but this sense of belonging is magnified when you can rock up at a new event and see a swarm of familiar faces up for a parkrun party. It’s pretty extraordinary. So it was, that when one of our number announced they’d be doing their Cowell run (100 unique parkrun destinations completed) on the 14th January at Trentham Gardens parkrun, with fancy dress, parkrun people and probably quality vegan cupcakes, it wasn’t the hardest decision of all time to want to get along there.

As usual, tediously, I was worried about the drive down as it was a long one. I’m working out that counter-intuitively perhaps, it works better for me if I have one full on long day rather than two consecutive demanding ones. If I go the night before then I’m shattered by the drive so parkrun can be a bit too far out of my comfort zone even walking it as I now do. On the other hand, going on the day means heading out in the dark, but if I can make it through the morning and then just faceplant on the sofa comatose for the next few days that can be more achievable. The other angst inducing consideration, was that there was an ominous clash of dates, with a Scunthorpe meet up mooted by northern parkrun buddies. I never have a social calendar so squished that I have commitments coincide so it was sod’s law on steroids that I was faced with this dilemma. Fortunately, the parkrun fairies worked their magic, happy chance brought a mini meet up at Sheffield Castle parkrun last week, and then actual fairies oversaw the Trentham Gardens parkrun gathering. Hurrah. All’s well that ends well indeed!

Honestly, I didn’t particularly research Trentham Gardens parkrun in advance, just focused on where it was and how to get there. I didn’t even properly register it was a one lap course, though I do like those. I just clocked a load of people I knew would be gathering for a special parkrunner’s graduation from being ‘just’ a cow to being a full on Cowell and that was good enough for me. Sheep like, I’d endeavour to be there. However, you dear reader are very much wiser, and perhaps will appreciate some of the usual website blah de blah, so let’s start with that:

According to the Trentham Gardens parkrun website:

The event takes place at Trentham Gardens, Trentham Estate, Stone Road, Trentham, Stoke-On-Trent, ST4 8JG.

and the course is described thus:

Course Description – A one lap route that circumnavigates Trentham Lake and takes you through the famous Italian Gardens on the Trentham Estate. The course is accessed via a footbridge close to Trentham Garden Centre. Please do not use the main entrance for Trentham Gardens (in the centre of the shopping village).

The start/finish of the 5k route is inside the Trentham Gardens estate but all participants must exit the Gardens at the end of parkrun. Access is granted by the Trentham Estate for the purpose of the event.

Facilities – The shopping village and garden centre offers a vast array of eateries and shops. The main entrance to Trentham Gardens is located in the centre of the village – charges apply for entry to the Gardens.

For those parkrunners travelling a distance, there is a Premier Inn on the site.

Location of start – The event starts in Trentham Gardens.

Free parking is available on the Trentham Estate car park. We would request that you park on the main car park (to the left of the main entrance) and not the car park next to Trentham Garden Centre if possible. It is about a 5 minute walk from the main car park to the start.

Post Run Coffee – Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee at The Rotisserie in Trentham Shopping Village – please come and join us!

and the course looks like this:

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Good to know. Also good to know, the parkrunner at the epicentre of this gathering was on track for this to be her 100th unique parkrun destination. The first parkrunner to achieve this feat was Cowell, so following in his footsteps has become known as achieving a Cowell, and so she’d be wearing Cow fancy dress for the first half of the name, and two L plates for the ells at the end. Clever she be! What I didn’t know at this stage, was there would also be a fine fellow parkrunning participant achieving her fiftieth unique parkrun so her half Cowell and therefore her cow, so moorvelously there would be extra bonus bovines in attendance. Various of their acolytes would also be in attendance, wearing parts of cows (maybe horns, or ears or monochrome outfits) or, as in my case, living the bovine dream with my inherently bovine demeanour and appearance. I decided to properly commit, by offering my services as a tail walker in advance. There was a gap and this looked like a fine way to relive the joy of the forest bathing gang that gathered at Chevin Forest parkrun last year. Yes, this was going to be grand. Hurrah! Oh, and I have a postcode to head to, all good.

The morning dawned. Dark and damp, very damp, a lot of rain to be fair. Sub optimal quantities of water falling from the sky. I left at stupid o-clock because I was up early anyway (occasionally insomnia delivers a benefit) and I wanted to have an unhurried drive. The drive from Sheffield was basically ok, I took it steady and there was only the one near death experience coming off the motorway when a lorry overtook me on the slip road just as we entered an enormous amount of standing water. Think less puddle and more lake. Or more accurately a great deal more puddle leading to essentially the biggest inland lake in the entire universe EVER (probably). I got such a tsunami of water over my vehicle that my windscreen wipers were rendered useless, I had zero visibility and it was properly terrifying. But I emerged into visibility unscathed and the surge of adrenalin certainly kept me hyper vigilant and alert for the rest of the drive.

I did my usual trick of missing the turning so had to go beyond and head on back. I’d printed out all the directions so knew to park on the left hand side in the main car park. There was LOADS of parking. Excitingly, I also passed a Premier Inn on the way in. Overnighters staying here prior to the parkrun could basically topple out of bed and onto the parkrun course. Well nearly they could. It’s not quite as close as the B&B at the start line of Buxton’s Pavilion Gardens parkrun, but hardly an arduous trek to the course either navigationally or by distance. It would have been fun to overnight there but it wasn’t essential for me and out of budget at the minute too to be fair. The choice of where to park was somewhat overwhelming.

I hadn’t done my research, or I’d have known to expect a full on retail centre and formal gardens with an entrance foyer and admission charges. I now know, if I’d read the blah de blah properly, that you are not supposed to go to the main entrance. I hadn’t so headed to the main entrance, to find it shut until 8.30 a.m. local regular dog walkers were queueing up in a good natured gathering waiting for it to open. I availed myself of some nearby loos, which mercifully were open, and then returned to find the entrance area opened. I limped in to the foyer, gesturing my parkrun wrist band, and was directed round to a side entrance near to the garden centre which is where I should have gone in the first place. This is opened especially for parkrunners to access the grounds prior to opening, and guarded by two parkrunners when I arrived, presumably one who always lies, and one who always tells the truth, but I can’t be sure, as I didn’t actually ask them, but was rather just waved through the very impressive double set of hugely high iron railings that were either side of a little bridge over a water course.

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Oh wow, this was going to be proper lovely. Though more than a bit wet.

Exciting though!

I followed the parkrunners ahead to the gathering point, and reported for duty. A very friendly RD welcomed me, and there was already a quite a gathering. Oh look, cows! Also mud. Extra slippery mud. The comedic slapstick started almost instantly, as people tried to take refuge under a nearby tree but needed to negotiate a mud slide to do so. Despite hollers of ‘be careful’ and ‘watch out it’s really slip… oh’ there were a few skidders and skaters and at least one full on backslide resulting in a mud covering worthy of a high-end, comprehensive full-body mud-spa beauty treatment, only with less lovely healing minerals and more grassy gritty bits. None the worse for that I’m sure. Quite a bit colder than the thermal mud wrap offerings though, and definitely no fluffy towels , but then again no actual injuries either, so all good. The only bruising was to personal pride, but dignity wasn’t big on the personal attributes of many of the participants today if the fancy dress efforts were anything to go by.

The volunteer team did their necessaries, lamenting the no-show of the weather marshal as cloud cover exploded into torrential rain. The parkrun fairies normally do better than this. Oh well.

The mandatory photo taking began early. Group shots, and then the more observant amongst us having our heads turned by what turned out to be just the first of many Trentham fairies. Ooh, this parkrun venue is really quite something! Oh, and we need costume shots, and vista shots, and selfie shots, and group shots and ooh another group shot because we missed some people out, and volunteer shots. Enough shots for a full covid vaccination programme for a small city at the very least I reckon. Here are but some of the many offerings. By the way, I’ve borrowed photos freely from all over the place and can’t honestly remember what came from where any more, so thanks to those I’ve lifted from, thanks for those whose images I’ve shared, thanks for those who have posed in pics and thanks for all who were there whether captured on film or not.

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After quite a prolonged period greeting each other in what must be the parkrun equivalent of dogs sniffing each other’s bottoms, we were distracted by the call out for the first timers’ welcome. Dear reader, I can report this was particularly excellent. Welcoming, informative, witty and shout out for the milestone parkrunners even if there was begrudging acknowledgement they might be ‘rather hard to spot!’. Joking, obvs. There were a few first time everers which was especially impressive. This is an amazing venue, but honestly, the weather was not conducive for making a parkrun debut for any but the most dedicated of first timers. I salute them all.

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The course was explained, a one lapper, but with a cattle grid. Uh oh. Our cow companions hadn’t entirely thought this through. But wait, it would be fine, kindly high vis marshals had laid across the grids sacrificing themselves so others may cross. Or if not actually them, then their high vis tabards, and if not the actual high vis tabards then maybe they’d got some proper cattle grid boarding to do the job for them. We’d fathom it out between us, and if not, I’m pretty sure it’s in the ‘any other duties’ section of the parkrun marshal job description that they will carry cows over cattle grids to help them negotiate when required, just as they will lift parkrunners aloft and trot over bridges to help them avoid trolls where needed. They are a helpful and self-sacrificing lot high vis marshals. They are the best.

We dispersed, and just as we did so, I was approached by a group with dogs, also arriving for their first ever parkrun but who’d missed the briefing. I did my best to explain the basics, which are basically follow along and ‘have fun!’. I learned the importance of communicating this only real parkrun rule from watching Mr junior parkrun himself, Paul Graham doing his junior parkrun briefings, and it really does distil down everything you need to know most succinctly. They went off to join the throng and then then there was a lovely RD briefing. Such a lovely parkrun, it seemed like even the heavens had brightened somewhat. Briefing completed, and we were awf.

It was quite a sedate awf to be fair. It was wet around the edges of the tarmac path, very wet, and with over 500 parkrunners a busy start area. As far as I could tell all were pretty patient and polite, why would you want to hurry round such a glorious course. Me and the cattle and the parkwalkers held back to enjoy the sight of the parkrunners peeling off, and then slotted in the rear.

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and then we were on our way, for a fantabulous jaunt round Trentham Gardens.

Can we just have a little parkrunpedia interlude for Trentham Gardens please. I had never even heard of them, but once again parkrun adventuring took me to a location I might never have otherwise discovered, and it was properly amazing!

Trentham Estate ‘Trentham is a special place. 725 acres of spectacular natural beauty and home to award-winning Gardens, glorious ancient Woodland, a unique outdoor shopping village, events galore and so much more. From the tranquillity of the garden and wildlife walks to the wonder of the Monkey Forest and the thrill of Treetop Adventures, there really is something for everyone at Trentham.

Having completed the parkrun I can confirm it is definitely a special place AND an area of spectacular natural beauty. We might not have seen absolutely everything, but the single lap certainly takes in a mighty portion of its wonders.

‘At the heart of Trentham Gardens is the spectacular, mile-long, Capability Brown-designed Trentham Lake. Studded with small islands the Lake is alive with the sights and sounds of a wonderful array of wildlife. The circular lakeside walk takes in views of the River Trent, ancient wildflower meadows and woodlands, through the cascading weir and along atmospheric nature trails. There is so much to explore and be inspired by, including the bold and dramatic naturalistic planting design; ‘modern meadows’ by Nigel Dunnett creator of the acclaimed plantings at the Olympic Park, London. Created for successional seasonal interest and environmental suitability’

Usually, it’s £10.50 admission for an adult in winter, or £13 summer prices, but as a parkrunner you can come in for free, do the parkrun and then exit by 10.30. This is an absolute bargain, as you not only see a lot of the estate, you also see it pretty much deserted apart from other parkrunners. Oh and Trentham Garden fairies, but both fellow parkrunners and Trentham Fairies are most delightful companions. I have to say though, I was sufficiently impressed by it all to think it would be well worth the entrance ticket price, there is much to see, do and appreciate. A happy place. Changing through the seasons too, I think you can get loyalty passes too if you are a local. Certainly there seemed to be a lot of regular dog walkers making the most of the place as we parkrunners assembled. There were a few raised eyebrows at the fancy dress, but all was good natured, the main reaction being laughter and a desire to take a selfie, it was companionable space sharing. Hurrah!

At the rear we were, the fun party at the back, and boy did we have fun. So much adventuring. The course is gorgeous. As a one lapper the bulk of the field weaved out of sight pretty early on, but that just meant we had a sense of having the whole place to ourselves to explore and it was amazing. The skies cleared and we gazed in wonder at the unfolding marvels, of which there were many.

As tailwalker it was my job to be the last finisher, and there was a fellow tailwalker to take on 50% of this responsibilitiy and a parkwalker too. We also had a bouncing tree hugger who is 99% border collie on speed, so that, along with the rather independent cow was quite a lot to try to keep in order. The thing is there were a lot of exceedingly magnificent trees, ALL of which needed to be fully appreciated, oohed and aahed over and/or hugged; and a great many distractions in the form of things to be photographed; spring flowers to be appreciated; fairies to be whooped over; marshals to be thanked; water birds to be identified; benches to be sat upon; mini tractors to be ridden; selfies to be taken; cattle grids to be negotiated; dogs to be petted; other park users to be chatted to. So many things to do at a parkrun! It’s a wonder we ever finished at all!

I honestly can’t quite remember the sequence in which marvels were revealed to us, so here are some highlights, in no particular order:

Heading out:

Whilst it is true that most of the field disappeared over the horizon pretty speedily, we party pack at the back quickly set about making our own entertainment. Not that parkrun isn’t adequate entertainment all on its own, but there is definitely added value in have twalking companions. We headed off by a lake side, and very quickly came across a dinky little miniature train track, and some coppery wavey things that were intriguing if somewhat inscrutable. Then there were trees to dally round and endless photos to take to capture the essence of the occasion.

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My personal favourite photo (which granted, does change quite a lot, I’m either indecisive or fickle or quite possibly both) is the one that makes us look like an ill thought through new band launch. Still, nothing wrong with a left field rock band offering. Nobody saw Gangnam style coming, and I am confident we have a greater diversity of appeal than that, excellent as it was. We do exude fun and know how to make our own entertainment, so all good. ‘The Bovine Beauties’ perhaps or ‘Cool with the Coos’? ‘The Merry Moon Jumpers’? ‘The Feisty Friesian Foursome’? Well, ok, we need to work on our name, and quite possibly our music content too, but everyone has to start somewhere, these are details don’t knock it. We are surely insta ready, and that is the important thing.

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Lovely as the route was, it was not without its challenges! Fortunately, cheery marshals were on hand to help us navigate the most testing of trails. Case in point. The forge! A proper water way, with a little bridge to one side. We wanted to forge the water course but having been explicitly instructed not to, behaved tolerably well. We did stop though to ooh and aah at the water cascading down the steps, to chit chat with the marshal and to examine the elfin figure which I thought looked somewhat Gollum-like or possibly Dobby the house elfesque. Nice punting skills though. The cow may have strayed back into the water, but did use the little bridge first. Phew.

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Spring flowers:

Our merry way took us to all sorts of delights. Venturing darn sarth from oop norf I was astonished at the flowers. Highlights included snowdrops, cyclamen, witch hazel, daphne, catkins, moss and the amazing sculptural dandelion clocks and metallic flowers. I abandoned any attempt at photographing en route today, out sourcing this to my energetic, photogenic and photographically talented parkrun companions. Good call I think you can agree:

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The witch hazel grove was especially wondrous. The parkrun route takes you right through an area of tall trees underplanted with a mass of brightly flowering witch hazel with the waft of a particularly fragrant single daphne tree cocooning us in it’s heady aroma. This route through the gardens is amazing, what’s more, it would be amazing in different ways at different times of the year and different times of day, I don’t think you’d ever get bored. We saw loads, but missed loads too, and those who actually ran round the parkrun, well, what were they thinking? They’d have properly missed out on so many excellent, exceptional and extraordinary things! Fortunately, they can come back and do it all again another Saturday if they wish, and I hope they will!

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Trees – so many magnificent trees!

Trees to hug, trees to gaze at, trees to sniff around and quite possibly pee up (if you are a dog or direly desperate) trees sufficient for mini forest bathing and maxi green wild swimming. Trees are brilliant though aren’t they. Granted, it wasn’t possible to hug each and every one, but maybe you could over time if you went back every week. Some of the trees had trunks so vast it would take a whole field of parkrunners to encircle them. Trees are the best. These trees you could not look on or up without being both calmed and awed. They brought perspective to the universe which was much needed and very nice to behold.

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There was even a tree sculptured into a family of otters, which was extra lovely because apparently the gardens are very popular with actual otters. If there is one thing lovelier than a sculpture of otters it has to be the prospect of actual otters being somewhere in the vicinity. The sculpture is diving otters apparently and was made from a cedar tree by Andy Burgess. Rewilding is important to the gardens, and I have it on blog authority that they plan to introduce beavers. BEAVERS! That is properly exciting.

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Plans have been submitted to house up to four Eurasian Beavers from Spring 2023 – In a bid to help re-introduce the species, Trentham is working alongside ecologist, reintroduction specialist and author, Derek Gow, who founded the Derek Gow Consultancy formed of a team of specialists in conservations, surveys, breeding and mitigation. The project is also being supported by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, The Beaver Trust, The Environment Agency and The Canal & River Trust.

Beavers are often referred to as ‘ecosystem engineers’ and their role in combating climate change is increasingly being recognised, as they make changes to their habitats, such as coppicing trees and shrub species, damming smaller water courses, and digging ‘beaver canal’ systems. These activities create diverse and dynamic wetlands – helping to connect floodplains with their watercourses once again. In turn, these wetlands can bring enormous benefits to other species, such as otters, water shrews, water voles, birds, invertebrates and breeding fish, as well as sequestering carbon.

In order to contain the beaver population and satisfy the controls required to try and save the species, while supporting the local agricultural community, Trentham has submitted plans for an enclosure around the perimeter of the lake and wider Gardens to keep the beavers safe and prevent them from escaping.

Alastair Budd, Senior Director of Trentham, comments: “Beavers are one of the most important species in our habitats and we want to help visitors to understand why this once extinct UK native should be back in the English countryside helping to restore our ecosystems and mitigate the impact of climate change.

OMG that’s so exciting. Beavers, beavering.

Even in this briefest of encounters with the grounds my heart nearly exploded with joy at all the wildlife habitats and sympathetic landscaping. A place of wonder indeed. Just look! Oh, and there were beetle sculptures too, love a giant stag beetle. My eyes were popping out my head there was just so much to see!

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This was just going to be grand! Off with a parkrun purpose. What larks eh, what larks!

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Fairies, so many fairies!

As we wended our way around, we were supervised by a flight of fairies guiding our way. They were everywhere. Some delegate, some fair(l)y feisty, some downright contortionists but all a delight, and many we attempted to emulate, with varying degrees of success. Not being rude, but not sure the cow has entirely the most favourable of physiques for re-enacting the gossamer winged poses, but straight As for effort, obvs. Do you know what gossamer is by the way? I just looked it up, and although used generally to signify light wispy fabrics, it’s actually the silken threads made by spiders. Isn’t that amazing? Rhetorical question, yes it is! Gossamer is a word I’m going to try to use more often, that and petrichor, though it smells not so much of wet earth round here as end of times flooding but even so. Some words and lovely and evocative. Some are not. Gusset for example? Does nothing for me beyond generating shudders. I think this is in part because tights are so poorly designed a drooping gusset is a traumatising thing, thank goodness for snag tights which I’ve only just discovered, game changer. You do realise if Superman had been able to access those, he wouldn’t have had to wear his pants on the outside of his tights. It would have changed history, or his story at least. Anyway, enough of my underwear fails, on to the fairy shots. Fairy good they are too! I don’t know if fairies have to worry about knickers particularly, or tights. #livingthedream

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As we followed the route and met up with marshals along the way like characters in the Pilgrim’s Progress or Chicken Licken if you prefer, it dawned on us this was a one loop course so we might as well gather up the course direction arrows as we passed by. It was a further enrichment activity for us. Joyously, we also seemed to gather marshals at various points too, so in a more the merrier sort of band we sashayed on around.

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The cows did a fair bit of cavorting, and one at least even some somewhat coquettish posing on the woodland chaise. In her defence, it’s quite hard to walk on by such a seductive item without laying out on it and declaring ‘paint me like your French vache’ anyone would have done the same, a great many probably have before.

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It is hilarious when you stop to think what goes on at the back of a parkrun. It is worth checking out the tiktok link for a parkruncam view. Penguincam has nothing on us. I think one of the many best things ever about parkrun, is that it gives you permission to play and play we did, whether that was hiding in the magic mushrooms despite there really not being very mush room at all, or checking out the mini tractors, or tree hugging or statue posing or just generally screaming with shared hilarity we had such a blast. Then we had to photograph the running duck and the robin and the sheep, so many distractions. Robins appear when loved ones are near, so that was extra special. I’m sure it wasn’t just hungry and opportunistic on the off chance. parkrun really is so very much more than a run in a park, it may have always have been about the coffee, but I think it is also very much about the shared experience of liberating your inner child. Everyone should have one! Were they sheep though, or were they cattle, not smol, but far far away?

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The next serious obstacle to negotiate, was the actual cattle grid. A friendly marshal was on hand to help negotiate this challenge. We had to keep to the left, and could use the pre laid covers to help cross the grid without incident. There was though a kissing gate which clearly also needed to be explored and experimented with. In fact, you traverse the cattle grid, and then loop round and come back over it all over again. Double the excitement!

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As if this wasn’t giddying enough, we were also joined at some point on this circuit by a bicycling marshal on the Trentham Gardens parkrun official bike. Isn’t that special and splendid, and what a cool role. I think officially he was a course sweeper, but I prefer to think of him as our personal outrider for the final section of the course. It was nice to have cheery company along for the ride. Well, he was riding and we were parkrun pootling but all good. Though there were fine hares to be seen, it isn’t the only way to approach a parkrun it seems, though hares are cool too! Look at this one.

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More Formally:

Juxtaposed with the managed wild areas were more formal gardens, Italian ones I think. This just gave another whole area to explore and discover, and came towards the end of the parkrun route.

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We paused to take in a fine statue with a figure holding a detached head aloft, I thought this was to serve as a firm warning for wannabe funnel duckers as they were nearing the finish, but turns out, it was a statue of Perseus with the head of medusa. Further more, accordingtogooglesoitmustbetrue ‘Sculptor: Benvenuto Cellini. This is a true copy of an original 16th century statue by the Italian master Benvenuto Cellini. The Trentham Estate’s statue of “Perseus with the head of Medusa” was made on the order of the 2nd Duke of Sutherland around 1840. It is the only copy of Cellini’s masterpiece, and demonstrates like no other work in this country the 19th century’s fascination with the Florentine High Renaissance‘. I liked our idea better, but either way, we took the opportunity to do our own re-enactment with uncanny realism if slightly more outer garments. Well it was somewhat nippy out, even though we dodged a lot of rain. I don’t know if it’s practical for us to embark on a career change as living statues or indeed historical re-enactment professionals, but the seed of an idea was certainly planted. Why not endeavour to re-wild our own lives with the same vigour we long to rewild our natural habitats? Quite so. I rest my case.

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and as if we hadn’t already had an embarrassment of riches, other parkrunners who had now concluded their runs came back to join us, so our guard of honour gathered strength and hard though it is to imagine, the atmosphere got even more intoxicatingly glorious, parkrun people are The Best. The weather was beginning to break, but the marshals remained cheery outwardly irrespective of degree of damp and cold that was penetrating them at this point.

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‘Suddenly’ we rounded the corner and there ahead, somewhat rain soaked, but still smiling, was a fully set up and serviced finish funnel. Hurrah! We enjoyed the same finish as everyone else, tunnel up, marshals in situ, hurrah!

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They really had been waiting til the cows came home, and that’s grand!

And our compatriots had saved us celebratory cake. I managed to consume half of one before being distracted resulting in the calamity of having a cupcake down emergency. But it worked in my favour in that I was given a reissue so it ended up being a 1 1/2 cupcake scenario instead of none. All’s well that ends well as the saying goes. parkrun cake is a serious business, no wonder Trentham Gardens parkrun very smartly arranged for a cake marshal on this occasion, a beautifully accessorised one at that. Which parkrun doesn’t need – or at least want – a waterproof cake carrier. Versatile bit of kit too by the look of things! Red Ted is also in need of some post parkrun ablutions, but all in good time, I’m sure he’ll scrub up well when the time comes.

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Even after all that, they managed to persuade us to pose – with some reluctance obvs, what with being so camera shy and all – for a group shot, well it would have been rude not to!

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Incidentally, as well as being a parkrun with all the things, it is also possibly one of the most comprehensively documented parkruns in history – and that includes Bushy parkrun birthday celebrations past and still to come! So much so this blog post is quite possibly entirely redundant, but then I’ve never let that stop me recording my thoughts before so why stop now?* Also, triangulation is a thing right? Always important to see things from different angles just to make sure all the accounts hold up. Spoiler alert, they do!

Case in point, a brilliant run report, that somehow distilled down all that loveliness into an excellent summary that exudes the loveliness of the day.

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And then we have the tiktok of the event which actually really and truly made me laugh out loud. I’d never really seen the point of tiktok before, having only recently come to first trust an now embrace electric blankets but now I believe I may be a convert! Check this out, and if it doesn’t make you smile at the very least, well you have a heart of stone and I pity you. Yes, in a really patronising and insincere way too!

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Finally, parkrun concluded, we were escorted off the grounds and through two lots of gates that were carefully locked behind us

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and to the rotisserie. This is the cafe of choice for the volunteer team and we were warmly invited to join them. The good news about this cafe is that it does do veggie and vegan options and has a huge back room where we did a parkrun takeover and basically had a pop up parkrun party. The staff and venue took all this in their stride. The less good news is that you have to run the proverbial gauntlet of roasting chicken carcasses to get there and it did smell of cooked meat which was a bit overwhelming. Even so though, a great choice and we had a fund time catching up with one another, sharing parkrun tales and planning new adventures. The core team head scratched over the results, and there was much jocular hilarity with some excellent post parkrun parkfaffery. We excelled even ourselves in our fun times.

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It was just lovely, practically perfect in every way. It was a parkrun punt to head out so far, but it was worth it. A little inoculation of joy to carry us through the week ahead, and affirming to meet people in real life when for such a long time they were just people who in lockdown lived in my laptop. It’s scary meeting people sometimes, but it turns out, most of them are lovely, and parkrun people are the loveliest of all. And as for the craic at the back of the pack. Best of all things. Thank you tail walkers, parkwalkers cow companions, walking and talking companions all. We did good!

But wait! There’s more.

As if it hadn’t been glorious enough what with having a parkrun, and adventures, and wildlife, an statues, and playing statues, and meeting friends, and fancy dress and all the things, as well as memories and pictures to take away I got an actual hug to keep with me! Two of our number, the cow and the tree hugger if you must know, had in a very literal labour of love, constructed some little yellow and gold hearts, each placed in a little bag of loveliness along with a mini pack of love hearts and on the back of the golden heart a hand written note ‘Always with me now, pocket hug’. Isn’t that just perfection. Because we can all have a wobble and having a hug in your pocket to squeeze in times of need is reassuring beyond your wildest imaginings. I may even laminate mine, to give it a little extra durability. It was the perfect end to the perfect parkrun morning. Sigh. Honestly though, what did we do for our physical and mental health and how did we connect with new people across the land before parkrun. I have no idea.

But now we can, and we do, and I wish you may always have if not a pocket hug of your very own, then at least a positive parkrun memory of your own or this virtual hug from me (extra covid compliant of course) to help you push on through. The world can seem a scary and lonely place at times, but we can still carve out pockets of kindness and there are more good people in the world than not. Also, we live in a land where we can still have parkrun play and over familiar squirrels and dance in the rain. So hope persists. Hang on in there.

There are surely enough yellow hearts and golden hugs for all. Purple hearts are something altogether different, best just say no to them in tablet form to be honest, the parkrun high is better altogether.. Mooving experience that it is.

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Oh, and if this hasn’t made you feel all lovely at the thought of parkrun, check out this parkrunner who has become the first woman to complete 24 parkruns in 24 hours. She knows a good thing when she finds it and can’t get enough of it down under it seems. Yay for Holly Ranson! Bet she still managed to complete her parkrun challenge in less time than it will take you to read this. Sorry about that. But like I said, Trentham Gardens parkrun has all the things!

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As always, I feel I should mention, you can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Also, you might just like to lean back in a comfy chair, close your eyes, and dreamily recall your happiest parkrun moments.  Bet there are loads.

Thanks though for keeping me company during my reflections from today. You’re The Best. May you always have a hug in your pocket to squeeze for comfort when in times of need, even if it is a virtual one. Thank you cow and cowell celebrants for bringing us all together, was great for us all to be with parkrun people in the here and now. Yay for my EWFM too, we are on a parkrun togetherness roll. #livingtheparkrundream

Still here? I won’t lie, I’m astonished! Thanks though.

Be happy. 🙂

**Clarifications and corrections**

Just one teensy tiny point of clarification. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about, nothing at all, but in the interests of full and fair disclosure, I feel there is one little thing I should mention. To one side of the course is a MOOSIVE, seriously mahoosive fence, with razor wire, and probably high voltage cabling etc. It’s slightly tucked to one side, and the distracting delights that abound may mean you pass by it without properly noticing it. However, once seen, it cannot be unseen. I think it is because as part of their rewilding initiative Trentham Gardens are doing a full on Jurassic Park kind of thing behind those fences. I’m sure it’s absolutely nothing to worry about, I mean, what could possibly go wrong, but felt a quick heads up was only fair. No wonder our otherwise energetic explorer is peering round this particular tree with a certain degree of tree-pedation. Probably fine though. Really…

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Isn’t it just great when nature finds a way!

*Rhetorical question, please don’t feel the need to enlighten me.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Coming of age at Champion Charlton parkrun. Number One parkrun today!

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When I was one I had just begun” said someone. For Champion Charlton parkrun that may well be true. Not that they haven’t already achieved muchly greatness, but only that there is soooooooooooooo very much more to still to come. Adventures and joy pending. SO EXCITING. This weekend was their First Birthday and they were having a parkrun party, isn’t that grand. They do seem very established, so ‘just begun’ might seem churlish to Charlton, but I think the opposite, it speaks of a long and glorious future ahead. Super-charged and charming Charlton has eons still to go. This is but the beginning indeed, and a very fine one it was too.

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Oh and today was also International parkrun day, that is the anniversary of that first Bushy park time trial 18 years ago, where parkrun all began. Always about the coffee, with the parkrun pioneers doing their 5k before a debut parkfaff with coffee and chat. In a way, it’s quite nice that the International parkrun day is less of a thing, because it speaks volumes of how local events consider their own birthday the more significant event, that’s how it should be if it is a community initiative. All the same, I do recommend getting to Bushy parkrun for their birthday bash one day, it’s quite a big deal. I was there for the 15th celebrations and it was epic indeed. Mum got her ‘Spirit of parkrun’ award, and it is one of her most precious and prized possessions, that she has promised to pass on to me one day.

This weekend, was all about Charlton parkrun though, because now they are one, and all is splendid. The theme was blue, which may have been serendipity (it has been proposed that each birthday should have a colour theme, saves making complex last minute fancy dress theme calls, and they just happened to choose blue) but how apt! This was also the weekend of the launch of parkwalk, and with it lovely new powder blue high vis for the parkwalk teams, it was truly meant to be!

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Let’s start at the very beginning though, it’s a very good place to start.

I’ll get the depressing bit out of the way first. I wasn’t going to include it, as up until now I’ve determined to only stress positive things in my blog, but I’ve struggled to write this post because of how under siege I’ve felt lately as a walker at parkrun, and maybe I owe it to myself and others in a similar boat to come clean about that. You can always skip this bit, and jump ahead to the joyful birthday bit. But it is set against a context of less cheery stuff. Your call though dear reader, your call indeed.

The gloomy bit:

I didn’t make it to parkrun last week. Maybe we both needed a bit of time to let things settle. It’s been a bit complicated lately, this relationship between parkrun and me. It was/is so important to me, not the running as such, but the being included in a local community bit, and the a national and even global one. Ironically lock down meant local connections became less important than online connections. Since I’ve developed health issues and can only walk quite slowly I’ve not always felt included or welcome at parkruns. I don’t think people mean to be hostile – notable exception the event director who took to social media to proclaim his opposition to the parkwalk initiative, wowsers, that was toxic – but it doesn’t always feel welcoming. I’ve come home from many a parkrun in tears of late, and the negativity of some Facebook groups is beyond my comprehension, don’t read below the line is sound advice. I need to follow it. I didn’t though, I don’t normally name people in my blog, but let’s just say the Event Director who commented very negatively about people walking at parkrun ruining the event and causing an exodus of volunteers. It triggered a spew of vitriol and trolling about how awful walkers are and how ruinous parkwalk is. It made me freeze to read it. Check out the thread only better not to really, it’s so depressing. Posters are all for inclusion apparently, as long as it only includes them.

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I don’t understand the venom some parkrun participants spit out at walkers. As if we are some sort of alien being. More walkers won’t impact negatively on the event, it’s more people to bring atmosphere, to be volunteers to build the community. We aren’t a different species, many of us have been supporting parkrun volunteering and sharing the love over many years. But even without volunteering, why would others begrudge people the opportunity to join in, when those of us who are not currently able to run, and/or maybe never will, need safe spaces in which to be active more than anyone. It’s really sad. Some posted saying the comments had put them off trying parkrun for the first time, and it’s not hard to see why. I truly don’t get the rhetoric around ‘poor volunteers having to wait’ volunteering can be an absolute joy. Yep, in the cold with not much going on it’s more challenging, but more walkers would keep the atmosphere going, and thermals exist for a reason. And as post parkrun parkfaff is always a boon, many in the parkrun community choose to linger long after events have concluded anyway. I wonder if those who spout all this stuff about walkers somehow ruining parkrun would look me in the eye and tell me I’m unwelcome at their event. Maybe they would. In any event, I’ll be giving Sewerby parkrun a wide berth for now, it takes courage enough to turn up at an event these days, without risking attending one where you know in advance you would not be welcome. For the record though, you know what, I’ll ask. …

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Although the tragedy is, maybe they don’t have to, I can read their vibes a mile off. It’s not so much his comment, it’s the 81 loves and likes. It does make me think I’m hated whenever I rock up at a parkrun these days, it’s horrible. How can joining in a parkrun as a walker provoke such outrage? I nearly died last year, and honestly, spent many, many months wishing I had. Slowly re-engaging with parkrun has been critical to my recovery and reconnection with other people. I hope they never live with the daily pain and mobility challenges I do, but I do wish they’d just pause and think for a minute about how hard that is, how lonely and isolating pain can be and how their behaviours make all of that so much worse, when instead they could make things better just by tolerating someone walking at their local parkrun. It’s not a big ask. Not even ‘be nice‘ just ‘don’t be vile‘. Do nothing, don’t actively express hatred for walkers. Is that so very hard? Stupid question, apparently so. Oh well, maybe they have their own demons chasing them down. It’s hard not to really hope so. Anyway, they won last week. I couldn’t face parkrun, I was worried about being hated and humiliated by the invisible minority who would wish me away. I hate letting the bullies win, but I just don’t have any fight left in me some days. I was in a lot of pain anyway, and besides, I had leaky pipes. Not a euphemism, but an actual thing. A leak from the bathroom through the kitchen ceiling, oh, and my physio had advised me to rest the foot for a bit just to let things settle. Basically all the planets converged to keep me away last week. It was a sad day. I hate missing a parkrun. Then again, my day wasn’t as bad as that of the builder’s mate, who stuck his head through a hole in the ceiling to check out where exactly the leak was coming from and got a face first drenching with loo water as a pipe detached. Remember that next time you think you are having a sh#t day, things often do have the potential to get a whole lot worse. This guy cheerfully emerged from his hole, with his saturated t-shirt dripping on the plastic protective sheet that had mercifully been laid out in preparation, all smiles, pronouncing he’d been covered with worse things in his time and only the day before nearly got run over working on a job. Lawks a lordy, puts things in perspective. If he can cope with a facefull of toilet water, I can rise above a bit of online trolling.

Mind you, worst day at work ever prize goes to a former colleague of mine who worked as a research scientist at one point. She was using a glass centrifuge which shattered, spraying radioactive particles over her, resulting in her having to strip naked and decontaminate using one of the showers for that purpose in a corridor. That truly would be a bad day in the office, it’s all about perspective. Oh and her car had broken down on the way to work. Mind you, contributory negligence, she should have just gone back to bed and not forked out for a taxi to get in. Such diligence is commendable, but poorly rewarded. parkrun is totally going to be a walk in the park by comparison, Charlton parkrun being a case in point!

parkwalk, here we come!

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Back to the parkrun positivity and Charlton Cheer! You are safe to read on from this point forward! 🙂

First birthday party. My Best Friend’s local parkrun. We were going to make a weekend of it, I’d tourist at her local, and we’d get to cheer marathon runners from outside her house on the Sunday, what’s not to like. A blue theme for the event. Hmm. Where to start?

Well, fortuitously with parkrun related contra merch, because they had a sale on for a blue sunrise tee. That was an easy impulse buy in advance of the event. One for each of us at knockdown rates so we could be matchy matchy, Charlton parkrun themed and keep parkrun free, for everyone, for ever. I will ignore the implications of seeing an actual sunrise that is blue, I’m not convinced a completely blue sky at dawn would be the best of signs. Fortunately, blue is also a flattering colour, and complements the new parkwalk high vis, all the planets were aligning to make sure this was going to be the most awesome of days. parkrun days almost always are, it’s just that some parkrun days are more awesome than others.

But wait, there’s more! As it was her local parkrun, and parkwalk was launching, and it was their first birthday too, she’d prepped up by getting us on the volunteer rota to help with decorations – which is a sneaky win for a ‘course set up’ volunteering credit and I would get to parkwalk with the brand new high viz. I was properly chuffed to be honoured with sporting it on its debut appearance. I was even more chuffed to discover this is a high vis that erm, let’s go with ‘accommodates’ my assets. Almost flattering, another win! We also sourced cake to bring along – she said butterfly buns, but they seemed more fairy cake ish to me, or rather a sort of hybrid of sorts. There was also bunting for decorative purposes, what more could we wish for?

As my walking is sub optimal and stamina limited, when the morning dawned we drove to the park. It really wasn’t far, but it was further than I would have been able to manage with doing a parkrun 5k as well. There is a little car park in Charlton park, and as we pulled in, we could see some of the core team already very much in set up mode.

Oh wait, I should probably be telling you a wee bit more about this course, hang on. The website blah de blah tells us that:

‘The event takes place at Charlton Park, Charlton Park Lane, London, SE7 8HY’ and the course description understates it as ‘A flat three-lap course on a mixture of grass and path round the perimeter of Charlton Park starting adjacent near the skate park.’

It looks like this on the course map:

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Which still doesn’t seem to properly do the venue justice! The location might not mean anything to you if you aren’t local, but check out the proximity to the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery (presumably actually the Queen’s troop until quite recently) and the associated splendid buildings. The park, rather delightfully is fittingly marked as ‘grand estate for recreational purposes.’ And check out Charlton House and Gardens, this is basically Greenwich, with all its associated splendour and spectacularousness! Yes, that is a word, I think I may have just invented it.

The point is that the park is properly lovely! Grand indeed! Despite the cruelly dry summer, recent rain had greened it all up, and with the morning light and the cheery Charlton volunteers resplendent in high vis and even balloonery in evidence it was all looking most festive.

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Not gonna lie, it being my besties local, she was probably rather more helpful than me when it came to doing course set up, but I choose to believe that without my supervision she’d never have managed to wrangle those evasive banners and attach them to trees with such success. I was also exceedingly game for accessorising our fabulous high viz and that all surely contributed to the party atmosphere. Oh, and I captured a spontaneous reunion of parkrun friends. Touching isn’t it?

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Others were busy bringing cake (thank you lovely vegan runner); writing birthday messages on white boards and displaying the AMAZING bespoke selfie frame which is surely in a league of it’s own in terms of magnificentness. (New word of the day, number two, Sesame Street has nothing on me). Number of the day? Well the number one, obvs. Number one birthday, number one parkrun…

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Number 1! Number 1 is a leader, coming before all the other numbers, helping you get to numbers like 2, 3, 4, and 5! There may not have been a dancing elephant to celebrate year number one achieved at Charlton parkrun, but there were balloons; cake; the debut appearance of an actual blue tail besported by the actual tail walker, (which was looking especially fine in silhouette if I may say so) and some party hats! All the things! A parkrun party indeed!

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In possession of our high vis, I headed over the first timers briefing. This was exceedingly jolly, with an acknowledgement of the extra first timers enticed along not just for the first birthday festivities, but because they are doing a London Marathon thingy tomorrow. All were welcomed warmly. I also, really like the new parkrun card prompts, which give hints of what to cover at the parkwalk and first timers’ welcomes. I always appreciate attention to detail.

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And then next stop the Run Director’s welcome. She did sterling work. Thanking many who had contributed to the set up of the event, and to those who continue to keep the Charlton parkrun show on the road. Lots of people were named, reinforcing the message that it is a community of people who come together to make this happen. Special thanks for the cake maker. Congratulations to milestoners, slight (but acceptable) reluctance to sport a party hat, but then other volunteers had embraced the head accessorising with gusto, so just another manifestation of respecting everybody’s right to participate in their own way. All good! There was also special thanks to those who’d arranged for the bespoke selfie sign, designed and made in time for the first birthday event – which is properly amazing and references Charlton House, a visible and impressive landmark visible from the course. Very well received indeed.

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Then it was off to the start and off for a run not a race and for the tailwalker and parkwalkers a walk not a run!

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parkrun party at the back

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One boon of being at the back is you get the glorious sight of the other participants streaming off at the beginning. It gets me every time. It’s an emotional sight. Look at them go! Quite a turn out eh? That’s the enticement of both cake and getting to run the streets of London. Check out that park though, a fine recreactional space indeed!. You’ll see Charlton House in one direction too, and lovely mature trees with a hint of autumn hues. Reet nice, as we say up norf!

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And off we went. I was at the back with the tail walker. The parkwalker role is new, and there was some discussion about what it ‘ought’ to be. The bottom line is that it’s for raising the visibility of walkers and making walking seem an acceptable option. After months of feeling a burden to parkrun and useless other than as a report writing or marshalling volunteer, it was nice to actually don a high vis for a purpose. If I have to walk anyway, I may as well fly the proverbial flag for walking. Speed walkers are great too, but I can certainly be on the poster for rehab walking as a parkwalk option. It’s of course true there is a need for parkwalkers ahead of the tail too, to fill that awkward lag there can be between the back of the bulk of parkrun participants and the tail, the run equivalent of an embarrassing silence; but the really important thing is to put the message out that walking is ok – whatever you may have seen on Facebook…

Officially though, the role of tailwalker is:

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So now we know.

parkrun is always splendid of course. But extra splendour today because we were joined at the last minute, right at the back of the pack, by two first timers. They’d actually been heading out for a general walk, not parkrun at all, but got chatting, one mentioned to the other they’d registered for parkrun a year ago when Charlton first started but never gone because, well you know, the notion of a run is scary – and through talking remembered seeing stuff about parkwalk, and thought ‘what the hell’ and just turned back, and came right round just as the Run Director called ‘go’ and decided to join in. This was beyond brilliant. A really tangible outcome of the parkwalk initiative. The pair of them walked and talked, and were occasionally shepherded back on the route when their concentration lapped and they were in danger of walking straight out of the park. It kept us alert anyway. It’s harder than you think, walking around a park! Fortuitously there were cheery Charlton marshals acing directional pointing as well as motivational clapping to see us safely – and accurately – on our way! I gathered there is at least one celebrity marshal who has her own corner, cheering each and every runner on every single lap with unwavering enthusiasm, what a star. In explicably not captured in the photos, but definitely captured in my heart!

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The beauty of a multi-lap course, is that you get the camaraderie of other parkrunners supporting and greeting you as they pass. All were encouraging, and the marshals patient and in good cheer. The sun shone, endorphins flowed, the park looked lovely. All good. After a bit a friend who had already finished came back to join us for our final lap which was very companionable. The event photographer snapped one of my favourite ever parkrun photos, hurrah!

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Three Amigos! Because parkwalk buddies are the best! Fact! #walkingatparkrun

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I thought it would be good to get a shot with our backs with the tailwalker tail and moniker and the parkwalk moniker too, so we walked backwards to enable this – before someone helpfully observed he’d have been able to do that after we passed him and walked away anyway! Oh. Well, I don’t claim to be a photographer, I could hardly have been expected to have such specialise knowledge! He’d already pulled off this tour de force a couple of times at this event already. Who knew? Thanks photographer Paul, you are the best!

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I know the birthday banners are looking a bit battered, but don’t worry they were repurposed later in the day and did good service accessorizing our banners motivating marathon runners the following day. Gotta love a repurposed birthday banner.

Finally, after a companionable final lap, and thanking all the marshals en route, it was our turn through the finish.

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The first timers hadn’t brought printed barcodes with them, but had brought mobile phones. With a bit of clever apping and smart phone searching, fellow parkrunners were able to access the relevant barcodes so all got times. This is a big positive of now allowing mobile phone barcodes to be scanned. It also added to, rather than detracted from the social interaction part of the parkrun. People helped and made sure the results were recorded, and that has to be good. You can find a guide to getting your own barcode on your smart phone here, and there is a way to make friends with others so you can access their barcodes too but I’m not honestly sure how that works, having neither a smart phone nor the relevant apps. What I do know, is that apparently parkrun are finally developing an app of their own, I’m sure that will be a feature they’ll have thought of.

The course was pretty much packed away and the funnel dismantled in record time, so we weren’t able to make use of the newly created selfie frame – oh well, next time. However, we were able to pose in front of the actual Charlton House so that’s a start! Sometimes you do just have to make do with sub optimum scenarios without too much fuss, it’s all about being flexible. It is testament to the power of parkrun I was more fixated on the bespoke selfie frame than the actual house. A variation of the ‘if it ain’t on Strava it didn’t happen’ mentality I dare say. Oh well, I’ll just have to make sure I come again some time.

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Next stop was the excellent café. Oh my, this was seriously good value, and I speak as a now northerner. Fab food options, incredibly reasonably priced by super friendly staff who are massively supportive of the parkrun. The proprietor does a lap of parkrun before going to open up apparently, and they were happy to provide a table for cakes and birthday treats. Sat in the near autumn sunshine it was all pretty splendid. No wonder the venue is by royal appointment – even if he wouldn’t be my royal of choice to dine with, I’d probably have gone for Emma the fell pony in truth, given the option.

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And that was that. A fabulous venue and a welcoming team. I was especially impressed at how they’d laid on fine weather despite poor forecasts ahead of time. Time to go home. It was extra nice of my hosting buddy to take the scenic route back, encompassing many of the fine sights in the locality, not least the Kings Troop Royal Artillery barracks, and this was not at all because we were chatting so much with our post parkrun debriefing that she forgot which turning to take to get her home. So that’s good then.

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parkwalk or parkwalt – hopefully but the first of many

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Charlton parkrun, so much more than a run in the park 🙂 Thank you to all who made it so.

It was lovely to be introduced to champion; chilled; chic and cheery Charlton parkrun, cherish it. Even the most churlish and choosy will be charmed by Charlton. Or your money back!

#loveparkrun

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You can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice

Categories: parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

RSR Returns – Round Sheffield Run – lace up for the seventh edition 2021

Finally, once again a Saturday morning when Sheffield runners could get laced up and ready to go! For some this would mean squashing covid kilos into Lycra and dragging their weary carcasses around the green trails of our great city. For others, toned from months of newly adopted training regimes that started with Joe Wicks and somehow morphed into backyard marathons and obsessive implementation of press up challenges this would be their moment to test their newly honed and toned physiques against the gradients of Sheffield. Those of us not running fit due to injury, apathy or lack of a golden ticket to take part in this too long anticipated and too oft postponed event could still (flabbily) muscle in on the action as volunteers or supporters. For this weekend, dear reader, Endcliffe Park was The Place. The only running destination on the radar. Prepare yourselves, the event is after all billed as ‘epic’, no-one wants to miss out on that – best get lacing…. And make an effort, it was after all this time surely going to be an extra special occasion. Super-sized epic, with an extra side of epicicity* for good measure.

What’s more, this dose of epicness was not because we’d all suddenly collectively woken up to the sound of a shower only to discover the entire pandemic has been but a bad dream, but because – oh still my giddy heart – it was true. This was indeed to be (sort of) The First** Major Sporting Event Back. It must be so, The Sheffield Telegraph reported it.

Bring it on!

Wait? Seriously? You still don’t know what I’m talking about? Only The Round Sheffield Run dear reader. Bringing that back on! I know, mega!

Even so, sequels are risky aren’t they? Not to the same extent of shot for shot re-makes, which are obviously an abomination of nature (why with Psycho, why?), but a risky endeavour all the same. Will there always be a nostalgia for the original and therefore the best, or will doing it all over again mean bigger, better bolder, ironing out glitches and embracing innovation? Not just incremental shift but exponential change. To date, the Round Sheffield Run has bucked the trend of bombing, disappointing literal re-runs (apart from the running bit, there has always been running – by some participants at least). It’s had a straight series of six impeccable (re)incarnations. Could it pull it off again? This time round the stakes were inevitably particularly high. I suppose on the one hand in the absence of any alternatives many of us might be quite grateful just to hobble round a litter strewn car park in horizontal hail if it meant we got in a little bimble followed by a nice bit of bling. To actually be in the presence of actual other people doing the same thing whilst a forlorn looking high vis marshalled clapped half heartedly at us from a distance would be more than enough after such prolonged abstinence. On the other though, this event had been not just once but twice postponed from its original due date. The weight of anticipation and expectation was mahoosive. That was a significant gestation period. Could it deliver?

Honestly, what do you think? Exactly that! Sometimes the predictable is what’s wanted.

The Round Sheffield Run, like pretty much every other happening of the last gawd knows how long, has been a casualty of Rona. It was supposed to take place June 2020, but put back (or is it put forward? I’ve never really understood how that grammatic sorcery quite makes sense) to a much anticipated inaugural Winter Edition. That was originally planned to take place once the pandemic was loooooooooooooooong over and we could look forward to skidding and sliding and slipping our way around snowy and icy Sheffield trails in January 2021. That would mean returning to base camp for no doubt hot roasted chestnuts, steaming mugs of hot chocolate and mulled wine. The mulled wine being compulsory even though everyone*** knows it to be absolutely vile because it would provide necessary evidence of being seen to get into the appropriate spirit of things. Spoiler alert. That didn’t happen. Postponed again. Instead, we had to wait until this weekend of 26-27 June 2021 for the RSR to return for its seventh incarnation. What a wait.

The event was slightly re-imagined to take account of covid compliance. So this time around it was happening over two days to help with social distancing along with other precautions. And I couldn’t help noticing – with a Kandoo Events characteristic attention to detail – the added precaution of omitting the actual year date on the medal at the finish. Doug is clearly a man who does not wish to tempt fate.

Well, that was my initial thought, on reflection, he probably is just like the rest of us, no idea what year it is any more, let alone what month or day of the week. Who cares anyway, these days, one decade is pretty much like any other, apart from us being that much closer to global annihilation as we continue accelerating our rampant destruction of the planet chucking facemasks into the sea, carbon dioxide into space, ripping out our forests and squirting glyphosate into our streets. Other than that, no consequences at all from the passing of time.

You must know about the Round Sheffield Run by now? I’m notoriously a late adopter myself, but even I got round to binge watching Breaking Bad eventually albeit it took the pandemic for me to do so. All the same, I’m bored of explaining all about how the Round Sheffield Run works, as really it should be mandatory for everyone to know by now. If you are any kind of a runner, or supporter of a runner or know a runner, or once saw a runner whilst out and about doing your own thing in Sheffield, then there is really no excuse. Knowledge of the RSR should be part of your DNA whether you are consciously aware of it or not. If you are unlucky enough to live outside of Sheffield you might not be quite so lucky or enlightened enough to have it on your radar, but basically think parkrun on steroids. Yes, it really is that much fun! It’s inclusive, joyful, all the best bits about running communities brought together in one magnificent whole whilst scampering around the green bits of Sheffield. The only real differences between the Round Sheffield Run and parkrun are that – for some people – it is actually a race not a run, the name of the event is capitalised and not one word, and it’s on a Sunday. This time though, it was even on a Saturday, and started off running round in a park too. So you have runners gathering in a park on a Saturday morning with hi-vis marshals to cheer the on. So EXACTLY like parkrun apart from it being a bit longer. Quite a bit longer, but that’s just more time out and about having parkrun type fun isn’t it? Yes it is! They even have post event faffery, which as any parkrunner will tell you, is not merely an integral part of any parkrun but a necessary precondition for any parkrun to occur. No really, it is. Even at the planning stages, proximity to post run refreshments is crucial It was always about the coffee after all…

The run is one thing, but the coffee is absolutely crucial to the whole thing so that people can connect, chat and in turn build community.

Just in case inexplicably you are still in the dark, you can read all about it on their website, the link for which is here: https://www.roundsheffieldrun.com but in case the link doesn’t work – and embarrassingly it doesn’t even for me right now because my computer says ‘no’ because it doesn’t like the security settings and is being hyper vigilant in this new age of viruses I think – the digested read is that:

The EPIC “multi-stage” running race linking the best trails and parkland around Sheffield, a social and memorable experience.‘ And you know what? It actually is. ‘The creative format allows the course to be accessed by all runners. Walking / Jogging is encouraged between stages to recover and refresh before the next challenge. The stages mean that the racing takes place on the best and beautiful sections of paths and trails on route. Taking in a fantastic tour of Sheffield. People who have never run this route will be surprised by the hidden gems that this uncovers! ….. Of course we are hoping for a pleasant summer’s day and on completion of the route, there will be a bar and BBQ to replenish and help with the celebrations!’

So, now you know.

Well, would the 2021 Round Sheffield Run experience be seventh heaven or the seventh circle of hell? Might depend on how much pre-event training you’ve done, but really only one way to find out…

I blooming love the RSR. I am of the view that it was basically designed especially for me. It has a special place in my heart because it was my first ever ‘proper’ event, other than parkrun. Naïve and new to (park)running, I saw the first ever RSR advertised, and as it was all expressed in very open and inclusive terms, and split into sections – the longest of which was just 3 km, I sort of thought ‘well, I’ve done 5k at a parkrun – how hard can it be?’ and sort of missed the bit of basic arithmetic that means you need to add all those little chunks together – oh, and the additional recovery stages too – so that gets you to around 24k, oh and maybe think about the elevation aspect (500m), and when you’ve done all of that, it’s actually quite a bit longer and more challenging than hoppity skipping around my home parkrun. But you know what, sometimes ignorance is indeed bliss. If I’d over thought it, or even thought about it very much at all, I’d never have rocked up, and you know what, that would have been a crying shame. Because it does what it says. It is indeed epic. What’s more, it’s an event which has created a format where people of different abilities can all take on the same route and have the same fun and because it’s friendly and supportive it’s fine. Really it is. I mean obviously way better to train and know a bit about what you are letting yourself in for, but much like a parkrun you don’t need to be elite by any means to get around, you’ll just have more time on the course and more fun interactions with others if you take your time. Plus, if you are slow like me, start early, and then pretty much the entire field will overtake you at some point so you get to interact with pretty much everyone. In each new iteration of the event, more and more people have discovered the event, and I’m sure for many it will have been for them, like it was for me their first baptism into trail runs and longer distances. You never forget your first time. I think the usp for the event though has to be its inclusiveness at both ends of the continuum. Whilst being accessible to newbies and steady runners, for the super speedy elite runners it offers up a truly challenging course and a competitiveness that would make the eyes of mere mortal (park)runners like myself bleed at the very thought. I really, really wanted to do this event again.

I really did.

Plus, I’d already done the online shopping order for the RSR slumber party. I’d be hosting some now critically endangered Tring parkrunners for the weekend. We needed to experience this event together somehow, it had after all been almost two years in the planning!

Alas, it was not to be. Over the last 18 months I’ve become increasingly immobile due to arthritis, and although I held out for ages in the vain hope of a miraculous recovery or at least period of remission dear reader it was not to be. Weight bearing is nigh on impossible at times, and the fact I’m bearing more weight than ever due to pandemic pounds hasn’t helped. What to do?

I have the complete set of medals, and I thought of the tees too – but maybe not them, as I was too stingy to fork out for them initially. I don’t know why I covet them so. I’m sort of Gollum like, I never wear the t-shirts or medals other than on the day of issue, but my I do like to stare at these my precious things. It is within the realms of possibility that I’ve come to over identify with Gollum living alone and bubble-less in lockdown, with only my running memories for company. I might have been known to lovingly stroke my collection of RSR t-shirts now and again. Well they are pretty special. It’s not odd at all, it’s entirely proportionate. Gollum gets a bad press. You do forge unlikely attachments if you spend too much time on your own, surely everybody understands about that by now?

Also, the tees pinpoint a particular time in history don’t they. I reckon most runners have a drawer full of tees somewhere, and be honest, don’t you get a little frisson of excitement if you see another runner wearing a tee you yourself have earned. Bet you do…. virtual high five to anyone else who perked up seeing this on the trails of the RSR weekend:

Then I had a thought.

I’d volunteer! I’d be snapped up, there were probably hardly any volunteers as everyone was so looking forward to running, plus two days to cover now. I duly emailed (you should too – ready for the inaugural winter edition or next summer even) https://www.roundsheffieldrun.com/volunteer-4-entry and got an almost instant reply.

Anti climax. The rota was full! Didn’t expect that…

However, all was not lost, not wanting to turn away any volunteers, a role was found. Not only that, a sitting down one, so the brittle and deformed bones in the joints of my feet wouldn’t shatter and explode like fireworks from the trauma of all that excessive weight bearing. Hurrah! I wasn’t going to have a gazillion bone splinters pumping through my blood, inducing septicaemia, and then almost inevitably gangrene with amputation to follow as sure as night follows day. All would be well. I was going to include an aside rant here about how much I hate it when volunteers are turned away from events, it takes some courage to offer sometimes, and it is nerve wracking doing some roles for the first time, and particularly after lockdown loneliness isolation really kicks in, people need to be included and feel included. I’m not going to go too far down the rant road on this occasion, but will instead say hurrah for RSR for extending inclusivity to the volunteer team too. I wish it were always so in other spheres. Yay for volunteering and extra yays for those who make volunteers feel welcome too.

Kandoo generally look after their volunteers, you get a t-shirt, glory by association, free entry to the event next time around at a time of your choice (worth a lot as it’s always oversubscribed), in previous years lunch and coffee, and best of all, avoid the appalling FOMO of being otherwise stuck at home sobbing in a foetal position on a cold tiled floor whilst EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WHOLE ACTUAL ENTIRITY OF THE RUNNING WORLD is having all that fun without you – probably without even noticing you aren’t there – with only passing tumble weed for company. For me, on this day at least, this was not to be. I would get to the RSR ball. I would be mingling with the royalty of the Sheffield Running Community and best of all, an RSR t-shirt would once again be within my grasp. All the hurrahs!

I was SO EXCITED! Also though, quite apprehensive. Not done social interaction at all for the past year or so, working from home, living alone, my only forays out were with Red Ted to Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun, which has been pretty awesome to be fair, but also quite contained.

I was therefore SO SCARED. Fortunately, I know a wise woman to turn to for advice. There are two things you need to know about this person. Firstly, she is a woman, and secondly she is wise. She advised that no-one else has had much practice with social interactions of late either, so we’d all be equally confused and hopeless. The main thing in such instances is to blag it and remember as long as there’s an anecdote in it then all will be well. Great advice. It would all be well

And so it was.

My Tring parkrunner friends arrived, and after some initially weird indoor social distancing dancing we got the hang of things pretty well, though forgot to do selfies in all the 2 metres apart excitement. Did remember to loving lay out parkrun tees and race numbers in eager anticipation though.

I limped down to Endcliffe park whilst they were still (just) slumbering as it was a 7.00 a.m. rendezous for volunteers. It was perfect running weather. Coolish, but dry – though there had been some rain in the days before making me wonder about path slipperiness and – for me more worryingly grass pollen and biting insect clouds.

It was weirdly ‘normal’ in the early morning light. As usual, the event village was already lovingly set up and signs of life were everywhere as organisers moved around setting up stuff and carrying stuff. It was a go go. (Unlike tough mudder the following weekend which had its plug pulled the night before. Good medical call I’m sure, but I feel the agony of those staring in the eyes of what might have been).

Early morning light, lots of tents, signs of life – also less familiar things, social distancing signs, gated areas for participants. Partly to stop them escaping, but also to keep others out. Attention to detail again. Impressive.

After meeting up with another parkrun volunteer who’d be heading up to the first feed station, we made our way to the rendezvous point to be issued with tee-shirts and hi-vis for the uniformed marshals – I myself was in the plain clothes technical support team. Responsible for Dibber Dibber Do Doling out. This is a bit like being the Yabba Dabba Doo section only less 100% authentic stone age**** and more state of the art dibber issue. I volunteered for this role alongside some Hathersage Hurtle compatriots. Yay to these two blasts from the past – it’s amazing how this event really does bring everyone and anyone together! The Close Encounters mysterious gatherings have nothing on this.

Daunting as it is to sit behind a laptop, it does instantaneously bestow a ‘busy and important’ air to be there. Our team got a fab view of the start and the ground, and being responsible for dibber issue meant between us we saw every single participant on the day. The role wasn’t too challenging to be fair. You had to dib a dibber into a magic box that generated a unique number on screen, ask participants their race number, type it in, check the name popping up corresponded to that given and if a pair that both were present, and if it showed green on screen then this meant ‘the computer says yes’ so you could click enter and hand them their dibber for the day. Wishing them well and encouraging them to pick up a stages card (like a dance card but not) which explained the length of sections and allowed recovery times before wishing them well. The main challenges were steaming up glasses, and the occasional CODE RED. If a red line appeared then you summoned help from the SI team professionals who would leap up and save the day.

Here we are doing our training:

See what I mean about proximity to a computer bestowing authority? Good isn’t it. Topped only by a clip board I’d say.

Clipboard denotes absolute power. Clearly.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, other volunteers were similarly setting up and getting their stalls in order. All across the route, tooling up then all eager anticipation for the first arrivals of the day. Oooh the suspense! Water bottles out? Check. Pompoms at the ready? Check. Bring. It. On.

Training nailed, we then had a suspenseful build up waiting for the first arrivals. The elite wave came first. At the risk of sounding a bit stalkery some of these runners seem to be an entirely different species to me. Lithe and light on their feet they seemed to ooze athletic ease from their very pores. I don’t normally get up close and personal to any runners of this elk. Dibber issuing was mostly straightforward. At this point in proceedings masks were donned and interactions good natured, the pace was not just manageable, but almost leisurely. I had a gnawing angst ‘what if’ in case I’d given out a dibber wrongly or something, but in fact the system can’t really go wrong without you noticing. A lot of Round Sheffield Runners are RSR veterans, so know the drill, and for the few that don’t, a timer gave a talk in the start funnel to explain the system, and setting out participants have to dib to set themselves off so can’t get underway without being in the know.

Even so, not going to lie, I felt a surge of pride on looking at the event photos later on as I saw for myself the excellence of dibbing done en route. Participants were nailing it, over and over again! The stats are amazing – some 2,500 people out and about on the course (only one number for each pair of runners remember), and I don’t know maybe 25-30 dibbing opps with road crossings as well, that’s an enormous amount of in and out. More probably than even at the the largest ever hokey cokey dance. That was 7,384 participants, and was organised by FRY Fest (USA) at FRY Fest in Coralville, Iowa, USA on 3 September 2010 – according to the Guinness Book of Records. I know, both stats are impressive. It would be even more impressive if I had a precise dibbing and participant count and the patience to do a calculation. Where’s Elliott Line when you need him? Still, let’s just accept that it’s a great deal of dibbery. It’s lucky it’s such a fun thing to do! Don’t this lot look ridiculously proud of their achievements putting a dibber into a box. And rightly so!

After the first few dibbers were safely issued, I found I could relax into it a bit more. My lovely Tring parkrunners appeared and they did think to do selfies. Hurrah. I really wanted them to have a fab time, they have hosted me at a memorable Tring parkrun for St Andrew’s day before, and I wanted them to have the bestest ever of times. They were decked out in splendid parkrun apricot. Yay. I also got an early practice group selfie shot, this was most timely as things unfolded…

I had been quite apprehensive about seeing people again, but it was surprisingly ok. In fact, some bits were positively brilliant. Throughout lockdown, as well as working on building up my subcutaneous fat levels so I will float better in the event of being caught up in rising flood waters, I have taken much solace from the With Me Now podcast community. This is a podcast all about parkrun passion by passionate parkrunners. It not only kept up a weekly podcast in the absence of parkrun, but also did daily lives on everything from downcount; parkrun pictionary, to parkrupedia (researching history and interesting facts about various parkrun locations which was amaaaaaazingly interesting and increased my trivia knowledge to an extraordinary degree) to lives linking up with restarting parkruns globally (Australia 10th bday anyone – or my favourite live from Pigisus parkrun in NZ when parkrun returned there A YEAR AGO – oh the heart ache that we are still waiting); a parkrun cafe world cup contest; and even parkrun and WMN specific sea shanties. Talented lot WMN parkrunners, plenty of transferable skills. It was With Me Now Danny who did the video of how to use the parkrun volunteer app by the way – check it out don’t stop there, keep this link to all the videos and WMN podcasts and check out the back catalogues when the next lockdown hits. … but I digress, hang on, that’s never happened before, must be a consequence of lockdown causing me to lose my train of thought as well as all reason and the ability to filter what’s in my head before putting it out there … Where was I? Oh yes –

I actually made new virtual friends through this community, which is a pleasing addition to my otherwise mainly imaginary friends. In the sense of both people who I imagine to be my friends but are maybe not, and those who are entirely a figment of my imagination. Virtual friends could turn out to be but an ethereal manifestation. Perpetually ever so slightly out of reach, or just out of my field of vision like some sort of phantom. Maybe they don’t really exist at all in real life, perhaps they were always but a product of my diseased imaginings. Or what if they do exist, but then it turned out to be all awkward silences, shuffling and wishing a hole in the ground would swallow me up. Or worse still, they existed, and were quite as lovely as I’d imagined, but realised I wasn’t and so I would be rejected by my own community. Oh no! What if they hate me? The stress, the pressure, how would it all end? Well, on RSR day I got to find out because MUCH EXCITEMENT a number of With Me Nowers who were expected to materialise at this very event did. I was on tenterhooks – who’d come, would I find them, what would happen the other side of these laden with expectation encounters?

Devastatingly, one got a track and trace ping just 48 hours or so before so had to self isolate, but his running buddy did make it, and using my cunning research and earwigging skills I flushed him out, and that set the selfies in motion for the day ahead. More merched up WMNers appeared, constituting a sort of mini gathering or micro pow wow in the WMN jargon. These people weren’t just in my head after all. They were physically here in all their individual and collective loveliness. And they didn’t have time to notice whether I was lovely or not, so that was another win! And that doesn’t include the Sheffield native WMNers out in force over the weekend, nor the one who shouted out the recognised call sign of ‘Dolly or Bev’ as he ran past me on Sunday when I was up at Brincliffe Edge marshal point. I was so excited I failed to do the return ‘arbitrary’ shout out – my cheeks are still hot with shame at this omission. Don’t know who it was, but maybe someone can identify him from the shot of him disappearing into Brincliffe Edge Woods. Social media is great for things like that! What with the power of the interweb and my extraordinary photographic prowess, I consider that puzzle solved, case closed. Hurrah!

But you know what WMNers look out for one another, a shirt was sourced for him and delivered. And this WMNer rose to the occasion, completing a kitchen social isolation half marathon instead. I can’t imagine the mental strength involved in that, or indeed in many of the really long distance challenges. So basically, he did the RSR twice, once vicariously through us and with us in spirit, and then all over again in his kitchen. I’m hoping no family members wanted a cup of tea for the duration of that challenge. Respect! No wonder he looks chuffed – good that someone taped out the route for him too – easy to get lost on long runs after the first few miles. All the boops to you my friend. Good job 🙂

Another WMNer spent the following weekend completing a 65 mile challenge in torrential rain to check it out for us all so we didn’t have to. It’s further than you’d like was the conclusion. The last 15 miles are unnecessary. Good to know. High five to WMNers everywhere, known or unknown.

Mind you, I wasn’t the only one overwhelmed with excitement to the point of confusion. Check out these line dancers who look awesome, but possibly got their event challenges mixed up. Loving the leg work. I thought camera gimbals were a bit more light weight though:

Meanwhile, back on desk duty, all was going swimmingly. We did have to do a bit of stern ‘put your mask on’ calling. The overwhelming majority were fine about this. I know the event was outside, but actually being at a desk with 2,500 people near enough standing over you breathing heavily pre and post event is quite overwhelming. The SI guys doing this every weekend are seeing literally thousands. I was mighty glad of my face mask. We were given the option of visors on arrival too. I was initially delighted by this, but found out quite quickly that really it’s function was more to provide a practical craft activity as you assembled it, rather than for it to be of any actual use. They sit quite close to your face and instantly steamed up and felt claustrophobic with glasses as well, so that was abandoned pretty fast. Returning runners, with post running brains were less compliant, and that felt uncomfortable sometimes, but I think only one out of all the runners got stroppy about being asked to put one on, most just weren’t thinking. So face masks were fine. The computers didn’t have any anti virus protection for some reason, but there was a lot of hand gel. The challenge was as always in my own head. Probably influenced by proximity to WMNers, I suddenly became acutely aware of the innuendo laden nature of my dibbing instructions. ‘That’s right, perfect, in there – you can tell you’ve got it right because everything flashes and beeps, no worries with going straight back in and out for good measure if you aren’t sure you’ve nailed it’. ‘Don’t worry – everyone is nervous first time, but most people come back radiant’. After dishing out several hundred dibbers all I could hear echoing around the issue tent was thinly veiled smut!

As this was the first event of size back in Sheffield a lot of special protocols had had to be developed. We were warned to expect an inspection. This gave rise to the novelty game of trying to spot the council official. We were vigilant anyway, because who wouldn’t want to be covid safe, but it was quite fun trying to guess. I don’t know if we did or not, but the guy in the blue jacket was a strong contender.

It was busy but not manic, and there was time for a little bit of chit chat. I found out a couple of mega things. Firstly, that there was a jelly baby emergency. RSR is basically fuelled by jelly babies. I’m a little conflicted on this as I’m vegetarian so wouldn’t partake myself, but seeing them on the course and hearing of their arrival at base camp is a measurable milestone on the Gantt chart that pulls the event together. I presume there’s a Gantt chart. Actually, I prefer to imagine a huge wall of glass in an underground bunker somewhere with loads of post it notes, string and dry wipe marker annotations. Yep, probably that. Well, apparently, this year RSR nearly had to be cancelled because, whilst the Sheffield Half can be launched by Rebel Runners without water, the RSR without jelly babies is actually unthinkable. Well dear reader, it seems that the much hyped shortages are real https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-57690505 Be it Brexit or be it Covid, either way it seems that just 48 hours or so before the event organisers were scouring the country to source jelly baby supplies. Yep, they had to go out of area entirely. I can’t remember if it was as far as John o’ Groats or Lands End, or it might have been Barnsley, but the threat was real. It’s quite extraordinary what goes on behind the scenes to put the RSR show on the road. Phews all round when laden with boxes skidding around their car they made it into event HQ by the skin of their teeth, just as the jelly babies were made by the skins of many cows and pigs. Not a good thought, but this event does have vegan options. Incidentally, all the jelly babies were portioned out in little paper cups this year to avoid sweaty covid laden hands from rummaging around in them in search of the black ones. Like I said, details.

The other thing I found out, was that I was in touching distance of an ultra running mega star. So were you if you were there. Not that you should touch because, that would be creepy and rude and an invasion of personal space even if it we didn’t live in an age where it would also be an unforgiveable breach of social distancing. This man is a distance running super hero!

He’s not asleep. He’s power napping. Pacing yourself is key to long distance running, and so is mental strength apparently. Ok, so in case you don’t immediately know, granted, identification is hard with face masks. This is the man who in 1987 completed the first – and until just last year I think – the only solo unsupported Mid-Winter Bob Graham in under 24 hours. Later the same year, running solo, he added a big extension to the Ramsay Round, and in 1989 completed the only Mid-Winter Paddy Buckley Round, also solo unsupported. All this happened more than 30 years ago……In 1992 Helene Diamantides and Martins Stone won the first ever Dragon’s Back race. O.M.G. I can’t even imagine all that. This is pre GPS and a lot of hi-tech running gear. They are extraordinary achievements. Why do we not hear more of such stories. Ooh a google search has thrown up an action shot of him at that amazing event:

Like I said, the RSR brings together a great spectrum of runners and you never quite know what icons you move amongst. Isn’t that the best?

But you know what, whilst some runners are beyond extraordinary in their achievements, others are pushing more personal boundaries. When they came back to have their dibbers thrust in the box one last time to print out their results, I got to hear some such stories. Elated runners, fancy dress runners, exhausted runners, runners running in memory of others, runners for causes, runners of all shapes and sizes and all clubs and none. Special shout out though to the woman running with a friend to complete a challenge she set herself last year whilst still having chemotherapy. RSR is a joyful event, but the individual stories of each participant can be extraordinary and powerful too. No wonder so many people got a bit giddy with all the excitement on the way round. I can’t possibly choose a photo, so you’ll just have to feast your eyes on the smorgasbord I offer up below.

Incidentally, isn’t it a great testament to both the event and the skill of the photographers capturing it that so many runners look ecstatic to the point of mania whilst actually running! No really! This is type one fun of the highest order. yay for running highs!

But the photos just keep on giving. Check out Llama man, who paused to pose with a handy alpaca (the difference is not just in the size but you can tell them apart by the banana ears of a llama – true fact) en route – same camelid family, and it’s not every event that would put itself out to that degree to ensure a photo op for a particular participant. I think he was running for a Peru based charity…

and then there was running the world man – would love to have heard his story. Also PANDA:

You can’t know everyone’s story, but you sure can have fun guessing. Sometimes my almost psychic powers spot subtle ticks that might be missed by the untrained eye. I can exclusively reveal this person was running on his birthday. I know – spooky! It’s a gift. Something you are born with that I can’t quite explain.

More speculative are the stories behind the team names. It’s worth a browse, so many secrets, so many dreams. I like to speculate as to whether team names evolve from year to year. Offerings included – with some options more imaginative than others:

The original official Steve and Dave; Maverick and Goose; The Cooper Payne Partnership; Andy and Dave; Lentil Stew – Stuart and Leni – see what they’ve done there; Byzantine Pottery Club (no, they really are and they have the t-shirt accreditation to prove it):

Rivelin Rent Boys; wondering if the ‘couples shouldn’t run together’ was the rebranding of last year’s ‘the newlyweds’; Not fast, just furious; Fat and Furious; (I do love a pun and here are some!) Scrambled Legs; FizzyWobbles; Legs Miserables; Chafing the Dream; Eat, Shit, Run, Repeat; Sole Sisters; Sweep Sisters (love that one); Married next week (well, fingers crossed for Roland and Pippa – see previous ‘couples shouldn’t run together’); Your Pace or Mine; Borrowash Jolly Joggers running as Lickety Split (now that’s just lovely); S10 wine club (not the one up at Ranmoor surely? I used to live near there and had assumed it to be a venue for swingers not that running and swinging are mutually exclusive necessarily, just hadn’t expected to find common ground); We thought they said rum ( one from north derbyshire running club, they were like colourful cockroaches out on the course on Sunday sooooooooooooooooooooooooo many of them. I love the team spirit of these guys.

Then we have the Pancakes; Frontrunner Should’ve stuck to parkfun; Team Squirrel (they rather hit the jackpot with the RSR tee didn’t they); The dirty Dibbers, (made me grateful for covid protocols on the dibber desk afterwards I don’t mind telling you); Hummus Harriers; Eat Pasta, Run Fasta; The Onion Terrors; Cirque de SoreLegs (personal favourite for me); Clowne Road Runners Club included a Flying Circus optiono – see what they’ve done there and Clowning Around; I will if you will; Ali Men; Saif Salih/Faith Salih Rhyming Couplets; It ain’t easy being wheezy; Madness; Step Brothers – though only one name so maybe a bit out of step on the day – much like last years’ ping pong team which only put out one of their pair in the end, pong presumably and ping couldn’t take it any more. Decades apart; Water Radish 3 – genius name for Rashid and Waterman – see what they’ve done there; Chuf and Chicken; Prematureacceleration – (guessing they’d over pumped the hills on previous attempts) and last but most definitely not least… Team Sloth!

I blooming love the Team Sloth guys. Do you know what, they literally – not metaphorically or figuratively, but literally – carried me round an Endurer Dash obstacle course many moons ago. These guys are heroes. Just proper team work, friends that support each other, and great athletes too. They’ve done a great many more challenges since, they’ve also shown true commitment in getting some rather swanky bespoke sloth tees. Respect. Happy to see you all romping round.

Lots of teams and running clubs – including the locally famous Crescent Runners, back for a re-run on the RSR

But then what about all the lovely pairs, synchronising their footwork, holding hands or just looking radiant with joy and being together on the way round. Can’t choose:

Some RSRers made an effort with matchy matchy outfits, best leggings and best tutus.

Some were forced to improvise with numbers on the day. So one paired runner who left his number at home created an ultra-realistic version on his day that must have Mr Kandoo quaking in his boots for fear of counterfeit entry numbers in future. I don’t think he has too much to worry about personally, there is a lot of good will towards the RSR, people won’t want to jeopardise it. Kate’s late substitution accepted it was too late to change the name on the number so changed his name by deed poll to come into alignment. Essentially, there was a great deal of initiative in evidence out and about over the weekend. No-one was going to risk being turned away after all that waiting. No sorree. Or is it no soiree? So confusing…

See what I mean, very like a parkrun what with the tutus, smiles and fancy dress. Also very like a parkrun in that there was a multitude of parkrun tees, as well as actual recognisable local parkrunners. Isn’t that splendid. Loving the cross over, one impossible thing at a time eh:

Oh and talking of cross overs, the venn diagram with parkrunners, WMNers, RSRers, and Beeston AC club members wearing theirt Christmas Tees just because they could had three participants at the point of intersection. How exciting is that. Here they all are, delighted to be alive! They didn’t just spontaneously strike a pose apparently, the photographer made them do it. I’m not convinced there was actual coercion myself, at the very least some festive contributory negligence, but I report this detail in the interests of transparency. You’re welcome.

As well as the obvious thrills and spills along the way, there was many a micro adventure to be have. Cheer squads en route, and assorted animal companions too – with cows safely behind fencing thanks to a crowdsourcing initiative a couple of years back, I like the cows, but I like them a lot more kept away from runners…

Oh, and on the subject of assorted animal companions, did I mention that one of the prizes was a sorsage dawg! don’t worry, with characteristic RSR attention to detail they’d have done a home check and made sure the winner understood that a dog, like parkrun, is for life not just for Christmas.

Where was I? I don’t think I’ve done very well in terms of producing an account in any kind of chronological order or indeed logical order of any sort, still we established quite a bit earlier that this whole timey wimey thing has gone a bit A over T recently. We are living in a post time age. Anyway, if you’ve any sense at all you’ll have scrolled down endlessly to look at the pictures and been dipping in and out at will anyway. This account will read like Woyzeck – play the scenes in any order in you choose, it may impact surprisingly little on how much you comprehend about the event.

So I’d done the doling out of dibbers, the researching of backstories and the people watching. There was a slight overlap of returning runners coming down the finish funnel into the yet to start starters who were shooed to the side. I’d have found it demoralising seeing someone finish before I’d even started, but then again amazing to see the elites coming home. I believe it was an RSR record on the day, with the top finish time of 01:01:15 – I can’t even comprehend that time. I’ve done parkruns slower. It’s a tough route, and although the inclusive format is lovely, the nature of the trails means runners don’t have exclusive right of way and road crossings aren’t closed. Amazing.

There was a slightly heart stopping moment as the first two runners home came over to do their last dib of the day. After dibbing into the finish they stopped to pick up medals, hug loved ones, hoik children over their heads (their own child/ren I believe, not just random children that happened to be in the vicinity as far as I know) and sauntered over to us. I had the honour of watching the screen as the dibber dibbed in. Uh oh! ‘Is it supposed to be all red?’ FAIL of the final finish dibbing point. Merciful it was the last point though, as no sooner had the fault been identified then a replacement was re programmed and put up. Anywhere else on the course would have been a catastrophe. To my amazement and relief, the two runner affected were very chilled and understanding about the whole thing. Much effort was put into trying to correct the results, working from the runners own watch times, estimates and reference to incoming runners final sprint times. It was impressive seeing the care the SI team put in to trying to get it as accurate as possible. After that hiccup, the results went smoothly. Over the two days there was only a handful of results that went awry, and one set was because the runner just said he hadn’t dibbed anything until about half way through! No, I have no idea why either?

Once that initial panic had subsided, watching people print their results was definitely the fun bit. Runners tended to have abandoned facemasks at this point, that was a problem. A box of facemasks was quickly emptied, and some runners just heaved their t-shirts over their faces. It was okayish, but sub optimum. The briefing did tell people they needed masks at the beginning and end, but the rest of the event had felt quite ‘normal’ and like any other year, so what with that and the brain fog that falls post run it felt like we were doing a lot of ‘masks first please!’ shouting and ricocheting backwards on our chairs away from too close for comfort heavy breathers. Did any of you watch the unexpectedly impressive ‘Together‘ on BBC 2 the other week – there is a bit to camera where the ‘he’ in a couple recounts his horror at watching someone lean in over a supermarket worker, maskless, and oppressively which will make you squirm. It wasn’t that bad, not by any means, but you can see why people snap or break under the cumulative effect of person after person after person thinking that ‘as just the one without a mask, it surely won’t hurt’. If you don’t have an exemption, and there are very few instances where that is needed (though needing to interpret for a lip reader and/or to avoid trigger of trauma are good reasons) then please do wear one. It is literally the least you can do, and will be appreciated. Waiting for people to ask you to puts a lot of pressure on whoever is around you. I’m in no way getting at those genuinely confused, who had forgotten in the moment, or couldn’t wear one. If you are the person who said ‘how were we supposed to know, to wear a mask, no-one said?’ and got really pissed off, yes I am getting at you – have you entirely missed the last 18 months, and you were told, in the notes and in the briefing at the start. Bet you talk through the run briefing at parkrun too. Unless you have indeed just woken up from a deep sleep to the sound of a shower running, you have no excuse. Still, out of 2,500 runners, just one stroppy one is really not bad. There is always one after all.

So my final task was to point at the important box, get RSRers to ‘just stick your dibber in there please for one last time, wait for it to flash and beep, and once it starts printing toss your dibber off into this bucket so I don’t have to touch it and take your print out of performance today, well done!‘. And well done it was. The dibbers on their lanyards went into a bucket to minimise having to touch them. Then another of our number gathered them all up, separated out the lanyards from the dibbers, and they all got put into washing bags for a service wash at 3.00 pm so they’d all be nicely laundered ready for the next day. ‘just think of how much covid is swimming around in that bucket of sweat, spit and lanyards‘. True, but I’d really rather not.

And then, by about 3.00 we were all done and dusted. Well, we volunteers were, the organisers had to strike the set, check all the equipment and do it all again the next day. The day went quickly. We never got any lunch or coffee this year though. I think that was a covid compliance issue about serving of food, it would have been handy to know that in advance, but to be fair I am not someone in danger of fading away. It was still a massive positive to be part of the event, and if I don’t ever get properly mobile again I’d totally want to volunteer instead. It’s a great way to experience the event in a new way and fantastic to see the breadth of runners that I don’t necessarily always get to see as a firmly back of the pack participant.

On Sunday, I hobbled out again, this time to the Nether Edge Brincliffe Edge marshal point to cheer on Crescent Runner and Millhouses parkrun ED as he took to the trails. It was good to watch people pass. It was a bit hairy on the course here though, with parked cars and runners taking shortcuts on the road, could probably do with an extra couple of marshals there, or even tweaking the route so there’s a walking stage as I was a bit concerned someone would be taken out by a car. Drivers were pretty patient really, and I did a bit of waving them down and directing runners, though to be fair, it seemed every time I called out ‘watch out, uneven surface, three steep steps and sharp right‘ I distracted them mid stride and they lost footing. Oh well. It was all incredibly good natured, good fun, and all round feel good. Would recommend.

It all went pretty quickly. Ending with Dad Karaoke slots if the photos are anything to go by, and lots of happily tired runners pouring over photos and sharing stories of thrills and spills.

So cheers all, another RSR done and dusted, and hopefully not too long to wait for the next time out and the new winter edition. Wowsers!

So how did the event go down? Pretty good I say, not just because of runner desperation despite the observation from one participant that ‘I even enjoyed queueing for the toilets‘. I’m sort of assuming that wasn’t the actual highlight of the day though, not when you’ve got views like this!

but as long as there’s a good anecdote in it eh? This runner looks delighted to have ended up at the ambulance. Result. Still, just like at parkrun, it’s important to let everyone enjoy the event in their own way. And they do. He might just be delirious of course, but giddy joy was the mood music of the day, so perhaps it was inevitable it would carry through to this moment too… The guys who succumbed to nipple chaffing weren’t smiling so much though, and I’m not posting those pics, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too graphic.

Some participants brought existing injuries along with them – takes a lot to deter people from turning out for this one!

Oh you want to know the results? For me that’s really not the important thing, but I will bow to public demand on this occassion, they are here if you require them 2021 RSR results. and there was a prize of bespoke framed PB vest prints for 777 placed winners. 666 placed would have made me laugh more though…

That’s it then, til next time. Still, nights are drawing in, winter is coming, not long now. Meantime, memories, yay for those. Not gonna lie, bit poignant not to have done the comeback RSR of 2021, but you know what, it’s still a great event to be witness to, just seeing it from a different perspective. Yay for RSR, and bring on the winter edition! Oh, and volunteers do get free entry at a start time of their choice for the next RSR – and that is a guarantee money can’t buy. Cheers Doug – well played 🙂

Bring it on!

Oh – and Tring parkrunner friends, same room ok for you next time out? Excellent. Always good to have a plan! And I know you a) enjoyed yourselves, and b) have unfinished business, because you put it out there in your own excellent account of the RSR running commentary blog – Reasons to be Cheerful – yay you!

Job done.

Can we have a shout out for all the organisers behind the scenes, volunteers on the day, supporters and the photographers too, who got some amazing shots that were shared freely on facebook. I do have Segway envy though. Add that to cart for sure given half a chance! Also, if my guess as to how you operate the thing hands free is anything to go by, it must be terrific for working your pelvic floor. Wonder if you can blag it on prescription from the nhs….

For all my Round Sheffield Run related posts, click this link and scroll down for older entries.  Or don’t. You might want to save it for the next lockdown. Yes, it might yet get that desperate. I got excited every time someone walked past my window in the first one – now I get why dogs and cats stare out all day. A day where you got dressed was not only novelty in the extreme, but exhausting. Getting dressed is definitely over-rated and don’t even get me started on the masochism of under-wired bras and being expected to wear shoes. Life is all a bit hard work sometimes.

Footnotes:

*er, yes epicicity is a word actually. I’ve just decided.

**I concede it is possible the Sheffield Telegraph may have somewhat over-reached themselves here if taken in a global context, but for those of us who are in Sheffield, it is pretty much the centre of the known universe, and for Sheffield Runners, the RSR is at the epicentre of that. Ground Zero of epic trail running, so the point stands. Don’t spoil it with a quibble over requiring evidence based claims with regard to this event, or you’ll be exiled from Sheffield faster than you can say Henderson’s Relish.

***when I say ‘everyone’ in this instance, I quite clearly mean me, but, point of information, my blog, my rules. You’re welcome.

****The flintstones may not have been 100% authentic stone age. More of a drama-documentary than an actual fly on the wall documentary to be fair.

oh – and check out the event video, Sheffield’s grand is it not? You have to click on the facebook link to make it work.

Watch | Facebook

You’re welcome!

🙂

For all my Round Sheffield Run related posts check this link out – or don’t, it’s optional, you’ll need to scroll up and down for newer and older entries though.

Categories: off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Wowzers – that was superhuman! Running into the history books with a weekend of running legends.

Digested read: marathon running records smashed this weekend for men and women and humankind.  I found some big pants up a tree.

Undigested read:

Wowsers, it’s been quite an epic weekend, running wise.  Really, it has!

Yesterday, Eliud Kipchoge, cracked the 2 hour marathon, today Brigid Kosgei broke Paula Radcliffe’s women’s marathon record and I went on a Runners Against Rubbish litter pick, ahead of the British Fell Relay Championships and found some enormous Calvin Klein boxer shorts up a tree whilst on a running related litter pick.  I know, beyond exciting, no wonder we all looked so delighted with ourselves, with me the most delighted of all!

Like I said, a weekend of running related triumphs.

We’ll do it chronologically, parkrun morning and whilst I was snug under the duvet, contemplating whether or not my back was up to a walk round parkrun, Eliud Kipchoge was staring into the tunnel of future history in the making, in readiness for his attempt on the sub 2 hour marathon.

Whilst I ambled down to the park, he was more than half way through, and before I’d completed one kilometer, he’d smashed it.  Loads has been written on this, so I’ll resiste the temptation to repeat it all here, but in summary,  courtesy of BBC news

Eliud Kipchoge has become the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours, beating the mark by 20 seconds.

The Kenyan, 34, covered the 26.2 miles (42.2km) in one hour 59 minutes 40 seconds in the Ineos 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria on Saturday.

It will not be recognised as the official marathon world record because it was not in open competition and he used a team of rotating pacemakers….

Knowing he was about to make history on the home straight, the pacemakers dropped back to let Kipchoge sprint over the line alone, roared on by a large crowd in the Austrian capital.

The four-time London Marathon winner embraced his wife Grace, grabbed a Kenyan flag and was mobbed by his pacemakers, including many of the world’s best middle and long-distance runners.

Kipchoge, who compared the feat to being the first man on the moon in build-up to the event, said he had made history just as Britain’s Sir Roger Bannister did in running the first sub four-minute mile in 1954.

“I’m feeling good. After Roger Bannister made history, it took me another 65 years. I’ve tried but I’ve done it,” said the Kenyan.

“This shows no-one is limited,” said Kipchoge

done it.jpg

Also, to put this in some kind of context, just in case running 26.2 miles in less than 2 hours is too much for you to get your head around, parkrun thoughtfully informed us of this:

parkrun fact

Someone else posted somewhere else another parkrun fact, which also pleases me.  Perhaps I am finally opening my heart and mind to my inner stats geek.  I’ll be doing spreadsheets of my runs next!

Food for thought – there are currently 1704 parkruns in the world, and Eliud Kiphoge’s slowest 5km split this morning of 14:14 set whilst running his sub-2 marathon would have set a course record at 1693 of them.

Strava also helped with this infographic, which I include to further delight stats geeks out there:

strava marathon eliud

and that’s all lovely and everything, and kudos to him, and the footage of him running made me cry – especially at the end, when he sprinted to the finish without throwing up or anything, and still waved at the crowds and crossed the line wreathed in smiles.

Go Eliud

I LOVE this man.  See him run!

What’s more, afterwards, as reported on the BBC news website, he said this:

“This shows the positivity of sport. I want to make it a clean and interesting sport. Together when we run, we can make it a beautiful world.

and this made me cry (in a good way) because I can relate to what he says, especially after the emotional awesomeness of last week at Bushy parkrun for the 15th Birthday Bash.  I caught a bit of the coverage before heading off to Sheffield Hallam parkrun for my own parkrun fix, and just happened to hear the commentator saying ‘of course this isn’t a race as such, because it’s unofficial, it’s rather a challenge‘ or words to that effect.  I’m paraphrasing, not for the first time.  And that made me think again of how Eliud Kipchoge running his sub 2 hour marathon is basically identical to me (or anyone else) taking part in a parkrun, because that’s also a run not a race, and also all about personal challenge, and waving at supporters.  He had crowds lining his 26.2 miles of running, but we parkrunners have on hand our hi-vis heroes to cheer us round, dishing out the waves and high fives, and even post run hugs as required.  Bet you can’t tell from the photos below which is from a marathon and which is from parkrun.  The enthusiasm is infectious at both.  I rest my case.

See, it’s exactly the same.  He even has porridge for breakfast the morning before a long run.  Me Too!   Me and Eliud, basically twins separated at birth.  I know, who’d have thought it?  Sub 2 hour marathon, going for that is basically exactly the same as being at parkrun.  It’s about friends, fulfilling personal potential, team-work and seeing the best in the world.  Running as therapy, yay!  We can achieve more together than we can alone, and what seems impossible can be overcome.  Sometimes.  But that’s an important hope to hang on to in desperate times.

It’s really just what parkrun is at the end of the day.

There are great pictures of Eliud Kipchoge’s great challenge everywhere, and rightly so, I thought my allergies might settle after last week, but I’ve still got leaky eyes.  Maybe there’s poor air quality in these parts.  I need to up my antihistamines.

So that was him, marvelous.

Meanwhile, I was back at my home parkrun for the first time in weeks. I’ve been doing a fair bit of tourism, but fancied returning to base partly because I’ve knackered my back and so driving is probably a terrible idea, and partly because I’ve not seen my parkrun buddies in far too long.  It was nice to see familiar people again, but I struggled even to walk parkrun. Time to book in to see a physio.  Having said that, I think I got my last Running Challenges bingo number today.  Always a bit hit and miss as there are inevitable discrepancies between watch time and parkrun time. However, and this is a bit sad, for some reason my number and /or new commemorative 15th birthday flat band failed to scan, so I’m currently unknown on the results. I’ve emailed all the info through, and I’m sure they’ll update it, well hope so anyway, but it does mean if I do get my last bingo it will be a bit anti-climactic because I’ll never know if that was in fact the ‘official’ parkrun time. Oh well.  As long as they record my run I can live with that. And you know what, if I do get my BINGO as well, then my delight at having a new running challenges badge will outweigh any unease about whether it was truly bagged or not.  I’m shallow like that…

runner-stopwatch-bingo

So BINGO, fingers crossed…

STOP PRESS – did get a time added, but it didn’t match my watch time, so this is a challenge badge that still eludes me.  Never mind.  I still have my big brave pants to wear to keep me strong.  …. More of those later.

Back hurt so much I cried though.  I hate being me.

Fast forward to Sunday.  On sunday, I joined a Runners Against Rubbish litter pick, organised in conjunction with Dark Peak Fell Runners.  Long story short, Dark Peak Fell Runners are organising/ hosting the Fell Running British Fell Relay Championships for 2019.  I don’t really understand what this is, but as it’s the dpfr it will be pretty hardcore.  Runners Against Rubbish, is basically a group set up locally:

Runners against Rubbish is a small charity, committed to stopping the dropping of rubbish, particularly by runners. To join us please visit us as www.runnersagainstrubbish.org

They have stickers, and it’s only £2 a year to join.  They organise group litter picks, as well as trying to instil an ethos of leaving our lovely countryside better than you found it by taking home a couple of bits of litter with you everytime you go out for a run.  It’s depressingly easy to find it.  Anyways, Runners Against Rubbish, was doing a litter pick in conjunction with Dark Peak Fell Runners, the idea being, to leave the national park a better place than found on the occasion of hosting this auspicious event.

We’re proud of our Peak District National Park home, and we know you’ll be impressed when you run over beautiful wilderness moors in the Relays. But sadly, parts of this cherished landscape are being blighted by the fly tipping, car-flung rubbish and general littering that are afflicting so much of the British countryside.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Runners Against Rubbish (RAR) to try to make sure that our hosting of the Relays leaves the national park a slightly cleaner place than before we turned up.

So who are Runners against Rubbish?
They’re a simple but dynamic charitable campaign group that was set up three years ago by Dark Peak Fell Runners club member Stuart Walker. The RAR motto is that ‘Binners are Winners’ and that we can all make a difference by picking up rubbish every time we come across it when we go running.

Hooray!  I’m always up for a good community litter pick, weirdly, you get to see some awesome places.  And whilst finding rubbish when on your own is soul-sapping and depressing, if you are out with a group doing something about it you can make an impact and that is conversely good for the soul, and surprisingly entertaining. Mind you, I am very easily entertained.  Also, on this occasion picking litter is as close as I’m likely to come to actually participating in any running event as gruelling as the British Fell Relay Championships for 2019, so I’ll take glory by association, and consider that a grand morning’s work.

I say that, and then the morning dawned. Absolutely torrential rain.  A post went up on the Runners Against Rubbish page weeks ago suggesting the meet, but hardly anyone responded.  Now I was sat in the car parked up outside the Ladybower Inn with rain beating down on the car like it was the end of the world, I was a bit dubious as to whether this litter pick would be happening at all.  Would anyone else turn up at all?  Well dear reader, I should have had more faith.  Runners in general and fell runners in particular are not to be deterred by inclement weather, the DPFR positively thrive on temperatures that plummet and stair-rod rain that plummets also.  Where others see misery and hypothermia and misery they see personal challenge and adventure.  Of course others came. Quite a few others.  Whilst it is massively depressing that there is a need for litter picking initiatives, the more heartening aspect is that if someone takes the initiative and suggests a pick, others will rock up and help.  Happened before at the half marathon litter pic, ended up plogging in the snow round Ringinglow, that was fun too as it happened.  Strange but true!

Trail runners will turn out and turn up in all weathers it’s true, but they also seemed to operate on just in time principles, so it seemed like there was no-one else coming until about one minute to ten, and then loads of cars rolled up like we were going to have an impromptu road rally, aquaplaning our way along the bends of the A57.  We didn’t though, we just parked up politely, and allocated grot patches.

depressin litter.jpg

My patch, along with some others,  was down an embankment at the back of the car park for the Ringinglow Inn.  It was quite a scramble down, I was a bit wary, didn’t want to end up stranded down there unable to get back up, adn having to forage from the discarded waste of others until either the water levels rose enough to wash me into the reservoir, or mountain rescue stumbled across me whilst doing a training exercise of some sort.  In the event, a merry band of us went down, armed with litter pickers and bin bags, and once we’d got into position, it was surprisingly sheltered from the  rain and therapeutic. Tasks like this would be overwhelming alone, but as a team, we made good headway, and enjoyed sharing our litter ‘treasures’.  My fave find was a leather boot, so weathered and moss covered it was almost an art form.  Lots of plastic, depressingly, it is even worse when it starts to break down, creating thousands of shards of plastic that can contaminate water systems even more powerfully than a bottle remaining whole.  A helium balloon, they are depressing, I feel the tide will turn on those, and they will be as unacceptable as plastic straws one day.  There is so much evidence that balloons blow the marine conservation society has a paper on this for starters.  Perhaps the party is over (nearly) for helium balloon releases.  Why would you want to celebrate anything or commemorate a loved one by littering our precious earth?  Madness.

Latex-Kills-2

We made good progress, and although the wet weather meant some of the area we were hoping to clear was now underwater, and the litter perhaps already washed into the reservoir, we did make a difference in that small patch.  We agreed we still were sufficiently motivated to carry on, so next stop, convoy of cars to a layby up the A57.  For future reference this is the Cutthroat Bridge layby/ carpark/ illicit coupling area off the A57.  It didn’t look too bad, but when you start digging around it’s amazing what you can find.  We had a photographer on hand – two in fact, who were documenting the pick, so we took delight in the more extraordinary finds.  This is why I was so delighted to find previously referenced moss-covered boxer shorts tossed into a tree.  So bizarre.  A slightly more tolerable variant to the tossed dog poo bag, pre-filled with excrement – what is that about!  No wonder I was so delighted to be able to retrieve them.  There was a surprising amount of clothing, what with discarded tops and socks to go with the shoes and pants.  Not my size though, and also, I was already dressed, mercifully.

Calvin klein

At some point two cars pulled up in the layby at alarming speed, like they were being pursued by gun wielding assassins or something, but it turned out they’d had to pull over in an emergency as one of the drivers had found she was sharing her vehicle with a spider.  She burned her tyres pulling into the layby and jumped out of the vehicle as if it was on fire.  Not sure how the spider was dealt with, but they drove off shortly afterwards, in calmer mood.

There were plenty of comedic camera moments, but unfortunately, the camera angle for one picture in particular created consternation amongst my Facebook community, with an alarming number of my so-called friends, thinking I was posing with a used condom in my teeth for suggesting there are no limits to what I will do to sate my hunger for personal fame. It also begs the question why the person who took the photo didn’t intervene if that’s what she thought I was doing.  I thought there were risk assessments for this sort of thing, and I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t be putting such things in your mouth, particularly when you have a very good idea of where it might have been.  On the plus side, I learned a new word ‘gip’ as in ‘I know Lucy throws herself wholeheartedly into these things, so thought it was just another demonstration of her commitment to the cause. Did make me gip though!’ which means in Northern England informal – to vomit or feel like vomiting.  Yet again, I discover every day to be a school day.  Oh good.

Maybe not one for the album/ autobiography, but included here on comedic value criteria.  You’re welcome.  I might need to get an agent to vet my photos pre publication in future however.  This image could be a problem if I ever achieve great things in my future life.  Fortunately, that’s not massively likely so unlikely to be too much of an issue.  Even so…

condom moment

You do wonder how all this crappiness ended up in our lovely peak district, it is horrible obviously, and I sometimes despair at what is going through the heads of people who think it’s ok to dump stuff.  Even so, pity the poor person who brought along a pot of dulux in error when he was actually responsible for the durex.   As for the purpose of the hose and the nooky lube, doesn’t bear thinking about.  No really, it doesn’t.  Clear your head now.

dpfr litter pick with rar

As well as the more ‘novel’ items, there was a huge number of cans and bottles tossed a few feet away from the cars, it’s still littering people, it just makes it harder for us to retrieve.  Full nappies and a cardboard box of human excrement.  I’m going off people a lot you know, not runners in general and parkrunners in particular, but pooping people who leave a trail of their literal as well as figurative crap in their wake wherever they go.  So many wet wipes.  These made me gip (see what I’ve done there) judging from the discarded condoms and other aids I dread to think which body parts they’d been in contact with.  So much crap!

There may have been some posing for photos.  Juxtaposition of flowers and flotsam.  I have no idea how these will come out.  Might add them in later if they come my way.

Layby sorted, off down the Strines road.  The views from there were quite amazing.  It was more challenging picking here, as the verges were so overgrown, and you couldn’t really see that well.  One to come and do again in winter when the undergrowth has died back. Still, we got what we could, and one of our number one the find of the day award for a solitary, vertiginous bright red high heeled shoe.  Excellent work!  Hidden delights eh?

and the winner is

By about 1.00 ish, we were flagging a bit, and one van and one car were squished to the brim with bags full of rubbish, so we called time.  The weather amazingly had stayed clear, but now it was beginning to rain, so we could not have timed it better, which was extraordinary really.  I gather that we got around 50 bags of rubbish which is impressive, though also depressing.  Still, a lot of that rubbish was pretty old, and had been there for ages, so here’s hoping it will stay clearer for a bit longer at least.

A group of us drove up to the RAR HQ vehicle, which had thoughtfully left its windows downs and lights on so easy to spot and steal.  I left my hi-vis on the passenger seat, and we left a couple of bags of rubbish with the red high heeled shoe on top in pride of place, and then headed back to the Ladybower in to collect remaining cars.  I hope our leader isn’t still driving up and down the Strines road wondering where we all are?  Oh well, he’ll work it out eventually.

Bye bye new litter-picking/ running/ plogging friends!  Reet nice morning’s work.

A morning well spent.  Though I did feel icky afterwards, and undressed in the hall so I could put my clothes from the day straight into the washing machine.  Don’t worry, I had the front door shut.  I’m not that much of an exhibitionist.  Also, it was definitely a bit nippy by now.

Came back home to the news that Brigid Kosfgei had won the womens Chicago Marathon, and not just won it, but smashed the previous women’s marathon world record, previously held by Paula Radcliffe.  She won the event by 6 minutes!!  That’s insane!  Sky sports reported the achievement thus:

Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei has broken Paula Radcliffe’s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record as she defended her Chicago title.

The 25-year-old finished in a time of two hours, 14 minutes and four seconds, beating Radcliffe’s mark of two hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds – set at the London Marathon in 2003.

Kosgei finished more than six minutes ahead of Ababel Yeshaneh, who ran two hours, 20 minutes and 51 seconds, and Gelete Burka who ran two hours, 20 minutes and 55 seconds as Ethiopia finished second and third.

She was so far ahead, she must have felt a bit lonely out there, like she ran on her own, still sprinting to the finish though.  Wowsers.

This is completely amazing, but disappointingly, if not altogether surprisingly, she hasn’t got anything like the coverage that was given to Eliud’s achievement.  Still, as a consolation prize, 25 year old Brigid Kosgei earns $100,000 for the win and $75,000 for breaking the Chicago course record, which was 2:17:18, also held by Radcliffe.  She’s probably feeling OK about things.

Brigid Kosgei time

There is a cloud, and I don’t know enough about it to know if it arises from legitimate concern or disguised misogyny, but The Guardian no less added:

If there is one question mark over Kosgei’s thundering achievement it is that her agent, Federico Rosa, has had a high number of athletes who have been banned. They include Asbel Kiprop, the former world 1500m champion, Jemima Sumgong, the 2016 London marathon and Olympic champion, and Rita Jeptoo, who won this race in 2013. However there is no suggestion of wrongoing by Kosgei or Rosa.

Some will also point out that Kosgei was wearing the Nike Next% training shoes, which have been estimated to give between 60-90 seconds of performance benefit over other shoes. But on a stunning day in Chicago few appeared to care about that as she blasted into history.

Hmm.  I don’t believe shoes are that much of an advantage, I mean in principle anyone can access those, it’s not like she rode an e-bike on the tour de yorkshire or something.   Or that the shoes have springs in them or anything like that!  Oh wait, they do pretty much have springs in them?  Her’s and Eliud’s too.  Hmm, bit like the shark skin mimicking swimming suits that got banned from competitions for conferring an unfair advantage?   I honestly have no idea now.  Still think they can run very fast, and I still think they are faster than Zebedee would be, though I concede marketing the shoes as the 4% ones is a bit of a clue that they may also be advantageous to the wearer.  Oh dear.

zebedee

As for her coach.  Tricky, but I think if Mo Farah has ridden that wave, than why not she?  I hope the sport is clean, I honestly think it would be pointless otherwise.  It’s a shame she had to respond to questions about that on what should have been an untarnished day.

run clean

On the subject of clean, back to litter picking.  What larks eh?

So like I said, one way or another, quite a memorable and stand out running weekend.  Also potentially for me BINGO!  Albeit a bit anti-climactically, and as it happens, not at all!  Oh well, at least when it happens eventually it will be the real thing.

It’ll happen one day.  Eliud waited a long time to get his sub 2 hour marathon, he didn’t lose faith, his belief didn’t waiver.  I’ll get my last outstanding bingo time one day, and then I can enjoy the moment all the more for appreciating it appropriately when the time comes – literally, as well as figuratively.  Don’t worry, you’ll get to hear about it.

Also, remember now:

#nohumanislimited

Well, some of us might be a bit to be fair, but maybe the limits can sometimes be simply those of our imagination.  Simply believe.  Not the one about flying though, that’s not going to happen.  You’ve seen the ads right?  He was not able to fly.  I will concede though, we can do more that we often realise, and you have to move out of your comfort zone sometimes to find what your limits are.  It’s always worth just testing the boundaries a bit.  After all, what’s the worst…

what the hell

Make today the day you just feel the fear and do it anyway – just plunge right in, it might be awesome, it might be wet, but it will be an adventure, and adventures are fab, even when they are type two fun, so much better than a life half lived, which is what a life lived in fear all too often becomes.  So the saying goes.

Enjoy being human, there are no limits.  Also, drink tea, that’s one of the great boons to being human.  Yorkshire tea for preference.  And have a nice day.

You can find out more about the British Fell Relay Championships 2019 here

And this Runners Against Rubbish litter pick here.

But really, don’t waste time reading about litter picking, far better to just get out there and do it.  No regrets, no limits remember!

🙂

Categories: marathon, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit of Bushy parkrun. 15th Birthday Brilliance at Bushy parkrun.

Digested read:  I went to Bushy parkrun for their 15th Birthday Bonanza.  It was epic.  There is however a darkside to parkrun I discovered.  But in a good way…

LC the awards

Undigested read:

Well, yes it was ‘epic’ but I’m hardly going to leave my account at that now am I?  Have you not been concentrating on my previous parkrun posts?  Concise isn’t really my thing, but on the plus side, that’s what scroll buttons are for, and you can always just whizz through the photos if you prefer.  On the other hand, if you are up for the account then best to strap yourself in, it’s going to be a long one.  Maybe get some tissues to go with your pot of tea/bottle of neat vodka and/or other assorted victuals, it was after all quite an emotional roller coaster of a day.  A good one, but overwhelming for sure, and reliving it all, might just trigger a purely reflex reaction of general teariness.  Or it might not.  I don’t know, maybe you dear reader have a heart of stone, but keep the tissues handy anyway, just in case a friend needs them, or you are coming down with the first cold of autumn, it would be the right thing to do.

So, where to start?

Well, let’s start with a swirly scene dissolve sequence to signify traveling back in time, because, my perspective on Bushy parkrun’s 15th Birthday (which by happy and fortuitous coincidence just happens to be actual parkrun’s birthday too – what were the chances of that?) started a few weeks prior to the day. 

I got a message.

Not from some weird spirit or voices from the sky, or even from deciphering the imagery in my morning bowl of porridge, rather more prosaic.  An actual message through Facebook.  Not just any old message, but one from the epicentre of parkrun.  One from the Bushy parkrun Event director himself!  So actually, pretty awesome, and way preferable to hearing voices in my humble opinion.  It said, basically,

…  we have a little* prize giving every year on our anniversary, this year it falls on Oct 5th. One of the awards we introduced a few years ago was Spirit of parkrun and we would love to present it to Elisabeth this year … do you think we’d be able to get her across to the start area for the presentation?

For clarification, this Elisabeth. That’s my mum.  I exist in the parkrun world only as ‘Elisabeth’s Daughter’, it is my tenuous claim to fame.

Oh.  My.   Gawd.  This was amazing news.  She’d be beyond ecstatic, and I’ve been wanting to get her to see the start and finish of Bushy parkrun for herself for years.  This would be a great excuse to get her over there and ‘make it so’.  There were a few logistical challenges to work out, but I could go down from Sheffield, and there would be a veritable parkrun army of well wishers on hand to help if needed.  This was going to happen.  It couldn’t be a surprise as I needed to work out the details with mum, but it was going to happen.

I replied with what I hoped was an appropriate level of effusive enthusiasm, both on my behalf and mum’s too.   She was chuffed, delighted, totally up for it.  I could not wait.  How as I going to keep it secret when I was bursting with wanting to share.

‘I’ll have to think about outfits for us both too’ I said

‘Outfits?’

‘Fancy dress outfits, it is going to be fancy dress right?’

‘Erm…’

Not fancy dress then.  Lucky the topic came up, it was only because I made a chance remark about I found out.  It just never occurred to me that it wouldn’t be fancy dress.  I had just assumed it would be because I understood that is the default parkrun party celebratory way. It shows yet again, everyday is a learning opportunity.  Mind you, it would have been hilarious if I’d rocked up with mum and me in complementary themed fancy dress outfits.  Not gonna lie, there’s a teensy bit of me that wishes I hadn’t been disabused of my misunderstanding, it would have been a classic.  And you know what, if we had, it would have been fine.  There’s usually a few people sporting fancy dress at any given parkrun anyway, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t have been us on this particular day.   If junior parkrunners can turn up at parkrun in minion onesies just because they felt like it, why not us too – apart from the fact I don’t have a minion onesie – but otherwise my point still stands.  Still, maybe just as well, finding something to go with her traditional Happy Birthday parkrun sash  might have been a challenge.  I got on with ordering that, and asked her what colour she wanted.  ‘It has to be orange that’s the parkrun colour!’ well apricot technically, but good call.  All those months and years of watching parkrun have not been wasted, she has totally internalised the parkrun palette.  It’s not only the high fives she’s nailed since she became an honorary marshal on the Bushy parkrun course.

kudos to parkrun

The semiotics of parkrun eh?  Someone should write a book on that – or maybe do a podcast.  Perhaps a niche OU sponsored variant special edition of With Me Now – a With Me Know broadcast has a certain ring to it?

Re the keeping it a secret bit, I did try really hard, but I may have sort of accidentally told a couple of very exceptional individuals who weren’t in the Bushy parkrun circle ‘in total and absolute confidence‘ as in ‘this is a secret but not a secret, it’s only ever to be divulged on a strictly need to know basis‘.  You need to understand this was basically a necessity for health and safety purposes, I’d have imploded if I’d had to keep that to myself, and with my brain splattered around the interior of my Sheffield home, and my undiscovered imploded carcass adorning my hallway in a star shape, who’d have taken mum to the start line in Bushy park?  Precisely.  I know, unthinkable!

The excitement continued to build as the countdown continued.  Little teasers appeared on the parkrun uk Facebook page.  The 15th anniversary commemorative barcode flatband, the poster for the first ever Bushy parkrun time trial was dug out from someone or other’s attic and reposted for the digital age.  Also, some uplifting videos reminding us why we do parkrun, not that we all need reminding necessarily, but it’s still nice to hear other people’s stories. 

Whangarei parkrun excelled even themselves by having their very own darkrun by way of celebration. This was run as a freedom run, simultaneously with everyone taking off on the start line of Bushy parkrun at 9.00 a.m..  That was 9.00 p.m. in New Zealand, hence they were in the dark, but a select group darkran/parkran and celebrated with cake and probably fizz as well.  It is the parkrun way!  I really want to go to Whangarei parkrun one day, they positively ooze the parkrun ethos.  Darkruns are catching on over there thanks to them!

sept5 18A small group gathered for Whangarei darkrun and I understand a thoroughly enjoyable event resulted. Denise very kindly provided a celebratory cake. The night was made memorable by a visitor from Hamilton , Joseph Morgan, who ran the course in 16:01 which would be a course record. Of course it being a Freedom Run and an unofficial event it will not take the official title, but nonetheless it is a stunning time and we congratulate Joseph. Incidentally his brother Adam also ran and was not far behind! (Apologies, the picture is badly cropped, but you get the idea!)

sept6 19Whangarei was also the catalyst for a South Island darkrun at Pegasus which was very successful and included a live link with Market Harbororo parkrun in the UK . Quite a day down there with the celebration earlier in the day of the completion of 500 parkruns by Steve Darby, the first time that has been achieved by anyone outside the UK.

It isn’t even the first time they’ve done this, here are the original darkrun crew from 2017.

Whangarei original darkrun

That’s dedication isn’t it.  High Five to Whangarei parkrun!  And to Pegasus parkrun too!  I wonder if there is a Running Challenges badge for nabbing parkruns linked to mythical beasts?  There should be, gap in the market I’d say.  Greytown Trail parkrun had a darkrun too.  Double the parkrun fun all in one day!  Yay.  Like the New Year’s Day double here except only one counts, they are 12 hours apart and one is in the pitch dark and a freedom run, but otherwise identical.  Bound to catch on. Not.

greytown woodside trail parkrun darkrun

Mind you who expected 13 on 2nd October 2014 to become 1838 13 years later?  That’s right dear reader.  Nobody at all.  Can you tell which starting line up is which?  Go on, be brave, take a wild guess…  Maybe New Zealand freedom darkruns of the future will have similarly grown exponentially.  Only a matter of time.

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Anyway, where was I?  Stop distracting me with all these questions about darkrun, fine innovation as that is.  Oh yes, I was indulging in the anticipatory build up to the big day.  My Facebook feed was full of it, mind you it is always full of all things parkrun, no idea what the point of Facebook is otherwise to be honest.

The actual anniversary was 2nd October, though the nearest Saturday/ parkrunday was 5th october, and parkrun UK reminded us of this with some handy stats.

birthday stats

Time ticked by, and eventually, amazingly there was just one more sleep to go.  I had a nightmare drive down from Sheffield, a record 8 hour drive due to the M1 being closed in a couple of sections.  However, you have to think of those who never made it to their destination at all, and I did, so let’s keep perspective eh?  Quick visit to mum, she had her hi-vis all ready, and her birthday sashes too, looking good.  One more sleep.  Not that it was a sleep really because I was SO EXCITED!  And also, had to invest time in excited texts and messages with parkrunners and supporters various to check out who was going to be there for the big celebration.  Turns out, it was basically everyone in the whole wide parkrun world, so I could have saved myself the trouble of contacting people.  Joking apart, it was brilliant to be sharing the anticipatory excitement, and many  of the Bushy parkrun team touched base too, offering support on the day as needed.

And then it was tomorrow!  Which was, in case you haven’t been concentrated, or maybe just skipped ahead parkrun day and Bushy parkrun’s 15th birthday!  Yay!  Let’s get this party started.

Over to pick up mum, and she was pretty much in readiness, with her hair done specially and so it was just a question of gathering up everything bar the kitchen sink ‘just in case’ into the car and – after texting to say we were en route –  off we went round to the carpark near the coffee shack and the Bushy parkrun finish line.  I knew there was a couple of disabled parking bays there, but we went early because it was going to be rammed.  It was about 8.10 a.m. as we were driving along Chestnut avenue, we could see some runners whizzing about – with the benefit of hindsight, I wonder if this was some of the original golden barcode bearing parkrunners, who I gather met and ran the original route, started by Paul S-H himself after he’d given the traditional run briefing apparently.  It was on the With Me Now, special Bushy parkrun Birthday Edition broadcast – more of that later.  There were some humungous stags about, it is the rutting season, and they had to cancel Bushy junior parkrun because of them potentially charging.  The threat is real, but I think even a rutting stag might give way to 1800 plus runners.  This roaring beastie was snapped in Richmond Park.  Respect.

jules cox photo

Photo taken by https://www.instagram.com/julescoxphotography/ following the British Deer Society Code of Conduct: https://bit.ly/2Eqr0EK

You could see from a distance the car park was full, and as we cornered there was a TV van, and hundreds of people purposefully setting up for the occasion.  It was amazing, and we’d not even parked up.  I could feel myself filling up, this was going to be quite an extraordinary day.  The scale of the event takes your breath away. I’ve run at it loads of times over the years, but this day was something else.

exciting!

Mercifully, the disabled space was free, and we pulled up.  Mum was soon safely out of the car and into her wheelchair, sash straightened, hi-vis on,  and into the collective embrace of parkrun.  Honestly, it took seconds for her ‘regulars’ to spot her and come rushing over.  Although mum has got to know people at her corner, obviously there are limits to how long they can talk for as inconveniently they are mid-parkrun and have to press on.  It was just brilliant that many came across for ‘proper’ hellos and yep, the photos started.  I wonder if this is what it is like being in the entourage of a famous celebrity, you are just stunned by the attention, the paparazzi, the fan base.  It’s overwhelming.  Actually scratch that.  What am I saying ‘I wonder if this is what it is like being in the entourage of a famous celebrity’.  No need to wonder dear reader, that is exactly what I was.   And it was great.

I left mum surrounded by well-wishers taking selfies.  I was filling up already and we’d not even left the car park.

and rang the RD who was organising the awards ceremony.  They had two RDs today, one doing run stuff and one doing awards stuff.  The team at Bushy parkrun is amazing.  It’s huge, but still friendly, and the whole event runs like a well-oiled machine.  A well oiled machine fuelled by cake and prosecco and the positive endorphins that fly around the park I think.

I headed to the big birthday balloons, which are mandatory for Bushy parkrun’s birthday as it is a parkrun rule that Paul S-H has to be photographed alongside them. In years to come this may no longer be environmentally acceptable what with the plastic and helium and all, but this impulse was nevertheless indulged today, and, I’ll let you into a secret, quite a few other people embraced the photo opportunity they presented too.  The pictures tell their own story.  Here’s the starter though:

Paul and balloons

Despite getting my contact on the phone, I had a little trouble spotting him because firstly, I was looking in completely the wrong direction, and secondly, he was in disguise not yet wearing a high vis.  However, we made contact, and I got a lovely welcome, and directed to where the awards were to be presented.  It wasn’t too far, and mercifully the rain of the last few seemingly months had stopped.  The compact path was pretty good, I’d been in a panic about whether the wheelchair would be robust enough for it, but all was well.  What I hadn’t factored in was how slow progress would be as it was like doing a royal walkabout wheelabout.  So many well-wishers.

By the time I got back to mum, she had been located by the Bushy parkrun team who were in on the awards and around to help.  Happy reunions, they were awesome, not only because all parkrunners are awesome anyway, and they were great company, but also because they helped make the magic happen by clearing routes, sourcing balloons and selfie-frames and carrying out all those individually small but cumulatively huge and magnificent gestures that made the morning get better and better!  I now realise, my whole life would just run so much more smoothly if I had a couple of attentive and proactive personal assistants to accompany me about my daily business.  It was fantastic!  Thanks team Bushy!

We passed the film crew – it was going live on the BBC apparently, later I had a moment of disappointment at having missed it, but then again, that’s ridiculous as WE WERE THERE ACTUALLY EXPERIENCING IT ALL FIRST HAND which is way better.  Anyway, I was still sulking after the One Show coverage, so annoyed about how negative the guests present were about it afterwards, totally missing the point.  Oh well, let it go, their loss after all.  Poor people not yet inducted into the way of parkrun, their lives must seem strangely pointless without it…  They deserve our pity not our hate.  It must be awful for them.  I’ve moved on already.

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Next challenge, was to make it down the long path, but there were lots of micro-adventures and distractions along the way.  Photo ops and greetings too.  Our Bushy parkrun snatch squad managed to requisition the balloons so we could take pictures in all possible combinations of groupings.  It was hilarious.  You’d be amazed how much fun potential is contained within a couple of balloons.  Awesome.  That was going to be hard to top…. 

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Hard, but not impossible it turns out.  It turns out, that this yellow brick road was studded with ever escalating awesomeness along the way.  I say this, because ‘suddenly’ out of the autumnal mist (I might have made up the bit about the autumn mist, but I like to think it adds atmosphere) not one, not two, but THREE Pauls emerged.  This was amazing, the holy trinity of Pauls.  All of these Pauls are important in different ways.  One founded parkrun, which you might have heard of, one was responsible for posting a picture of when he delivered a Christmas card for mum and she shared with him what parkrun means to her which set in motion many more Christmas cards, and one is another Bushy parkrun stalwart, Bushy junior parkrun instigator who has proactively offered support to mum in practical ways.  The problem is, that up until now, they have never been gathered together in one place.  I don’t know if that’s because like the royals who travel on different planes, they daren’t risk all being taken out simultaneously by a rutting stag or falling tree; or if it is because time and space will invert and collapse if they are all seen at once; or – and I’ve thought about this a lot – if it’s because like Superman and Clark Kent, they are actually all the same person.

superman and alter ego

Well, you do start to wonder.  I’ve invested quite a lot of time and effort trying to explain to my mum who is who (or should that be who is whom?  My grammar fails me), but they’ve all sort of merged into one multi-talented, multi-faceted, interchangeable Paul, and it’s hard to differentiate one from the other.  I mean she knows each individual identity, but as soon as we have any conversation in which I refer to a parkrun Paul, it becomes immediately confusing trying to explain which one I mean.  Similarly when looking at pictures, all Pauls can seem pretty much the same if you only see them one at a time apparently.  In my defence, I mentioned this to the partner of one of the Pauls and they agreed that this was a valid point and they felt the same on occasion, that they seemed interchangeable at times and it does get confusing,  so it isn’t just my mum.  Anyway, today was the day that kept on giving, because they all came, and they all posed, and it was THE BEST THING EVER ALL DAY (until the next best thing ever all day, because like I said before, it just kept getting better).

Here they are a-gathering 

And they did attract a lot of attention:

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and it was so exciting there might have been so over excited and opportunistic photo bombing going on.  I was trying to play it super cool alongside parkrun royalty myself, but not sure I totally nailed it on this occasion:

Despite the mass of people, there was time for some proper conversation too.  This photo is another BEST THING EVER that happened on Bushy parkrun’s birthday.  Thanks Wendy Stokes for the pic.  It is taken from her awesome run report for the Bushy parkrun 15th Birthday event which is a must read too.  Here are two icons of Bushy parkrun sharing words of wisdom.

sharing words of wisdom

It was basically like a ‘Who’s Who’ of Bushy parkrun.  Like I said before EVERYONE was there.  Oh, and then we found the selfie frame. This was just the beginning, gets even more genius later on…  I’m not sure I’d properly inducted mum into the joys of selfie frames at this point, but even though it looks marginally like elder abuse to the ill-informed, all these photo based activities were in fact consensual.

and we continued our slow progress to the area near the start where a table was set up in readiness for the awards.  But more friends emerged from the throng.  This one is my namesake, and, although it’s a bit tricky to pinpoint exactly at what point Elisabeth was first noticed by the Bushy parkrun community, her formal recognition was as a result of this member of the core team, saying very sensibly, well, if she’s there every week anyway it’s high time she had her own hi-vis.  And someone, not sure who, maybe a team, maybe Lucy herself, duly walked down to present her with her very own marshaling tabard many moons ago.  From thereon in she was an honorary marshal for Bushy parkrun.  I remember that day, because when I spoke to mum in the evening afterwards she was so thrilled to have been recognised and welcomed into the parkrun community. It was both a small thing and an enormous thing at the same time.  I might have got something in my eye that evening too.  Honestly, I do like Bushy parkrun, but the allergens there are so powerful they could bring tears to my eyes even over a phone line to Sheffield.  I know, almost unbelievable.  I do have a tendency to be allergic to things, but it’s still quite bad. I think it may be that sadly I’m allergic to unicorn hair or something, there are loads of unicorns in Bushy park, so perhaps it’s that.  Anyway, high time we got a picture of these two together.  The start of the chain reaction that culminated in today. 

One day, I’m going to use my hallway wall to create an incident room time line of the sequence of events that led to the naming of Elisabeth’s corner and the celebrations of today.  Like on Vera, or maybe Sherlock Holmes, the new version with Benolin Cumbersnatch, I like the idea of those hi-tech interactive glass boards to work with.  It’s higher up the food chain than post it notes, though I do like Vera, maybe she could be my consultant…  Also, on reflection, I get quite excited by colourful stationery, and this would be a great pretext for getting a stash of new highlighter pens and novelty post it notes so potentially something like this:

investigation wall

but with more hi-vis, milestone tees, fancy dress, christmas cards, and TpoT orange beanie hats.  A project for another time, you must be on your second pot of tea/ bottle of vodka by now, and we’ve not even made it to the start line yet…

More and more friends emerged, some pre-arranged, some by happy chance.  Many were delighted to see mum at the start, if a bit perplexed as to what the implications for this might be when they got to Elisabeth’s Corner and found her absent.  I was kicking myself for not having thought to put some sort of hi-vis substitute in place for the duration, that could have been hilarious.  What about her parkrun public who count on seeing her at the half-way mark to give them the necessary energy boost to make it round to the end?  Oh well too late now.  Hello best ever photographer for taking fab photos of mum over the years (sorry I don’t have the skills to quite return the favour), hello pioneer parkrunner – congratulations on your 250th milestone and well done for having a balloon – nice to see a fellow Smiley here,  hello everyone! 

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While we were having our micro-adventures trying to get to the start area and the presentations table, others were similarly migrating across the park.  Not least, David Moorcroft, who was to be presenting the awards.  One of my favourite posts from today (of which there are a great many to be fair, often the one I’ve most recently looked at) is this one, of a cheery parkrunner welcoming a newbie to her home parkrun.  ‘Do you run much/ at all?‘  Oops.  Only not oops at all, because she was appropriately welcoming and that makes her a winner to me.  Yay!

do you run much.png

It is amazing, everyone of the 1838 runners plus volunteers and parkrun entourage had their own physical, mental and emotional journey to get to the start.  It can be both the simplest and hardest thing to rock up.  If you listen to the With Me Now parkrun special edition podcast, you might like me, be surprised to hear from others how it took a bit of courage to turn up the first time, and sometimes still does.  But it’s always worth it.  You just start by reaching out and saying hello, or not even that, just turn up and observe from the sidelines if you want, you are still significant and a part of parkrun for doing so.

Anyway, on the subject of ‘oops’ as we went towards the start, mum struck up conversation with David Moorcroft.  She had no idea who he was at this point.  Sorry.  Thought he was very nice and friendly though, which is actually more important and more of a compliment isn’t it.  She was querying why his N was the wrong way round on his tee shirt.  I’ve clearly not kept her up to speed with the merits of the COИTRA brand.  Oops.   A few people were sporting the raspberry tees today by the way, they were really nice.  I’m tempted, but then I’ve just splashed out on my apricot tee…

contra.png

En route I spotted another familiar face – a splendid individual to whom I am still grateful for securing us extra Smiletastic points during a running challenge on account of her dragonfly necklace.  Long story.  Smiletastic can be quite hard to explain… We first met when I was on a running weekend including a track session, Bushy parkrun (obvs) and a recovery run round Richmond park too.  Also, and this is crucial, a meal out, during which she wore said dragonfly necklace, and through some shameless meddling with the points allocation system, nabbed our Smiletastic Dragonfly team some extra points.  Yay.  We even requisitioned it for a photo op, and one of the Pauls took the picture too, proving they can be handy accessories to have around in all sorts of unexpected contexts.  Also, I think it must have been quite a novel experience for him standing the other side of a camera lens, so everyone’s a winner!  I’m actually quite surprised he knew how to operate it at all.  We probably had to direct him… 

We were pointing at the dragonfly brooch.  Don’t be childish.

Anyway, as well as her being intrinsically awesome, and getting us smiletastic points, on this occasion she introduced me to the RD for Colwick parkrun, another of my favourites, who was touristing at Bushy parkrun today.   I went to Colwick parkrun earlier in the year, but this RD was away then for some reason, so it was nice to say hello.  It’s a great run, if you go, you have to wear a Hawaiian shirt, I mean the RD was trying to convince me that’s not strictly true, but trust me on this one.   Love the parkrun network, it reaches everywhere.  Finally, we found ourselves at the front of the presentation audience, my lovely Bushy parkrun assistants having cleared a way through the throngs to secure us prime position.  Having contacts does help.

And then the awards commenced.  The RD did a lovely intro – encouraging us to look at our watches around the 13 minute mark and note where we were and that back in the day David would have been zipping down the finish funnel at just that point.  David Moorcroft added some heartfelt comments too, he was a great choice.  Fortuitously, a friend took a video of the start and some of the early awards, they are also documented in the aforementioned run report, so I’ll resist the temptation to go through it all again here.  Just take it from me that it was all heartwarming, celebrating and sharing the joy of parkrun.  A very special morning indeed.  I freely admit I was quite overcome, but for the record, the photo below, which I’ve included in the interests of transparency and because it meets the comedic element criteria which overrides my default reflex of deleting unflattering photos, is the face I pull when I recognise a parkrun face in the crowd.  In this instance the amazing Waterworks parkrunner who became my best friend when we bonded pre marathon at Southwark parkrun.  She’s not only awesome in her own right, but appreciates the importance of fancy dress on any and all occasions.  Of course it was emotional seeing her, even though I’d known she was coming.  I can’t help having a slightly manic and over-excitable disposition on occasions so I may as well embrace it.  I may look pained and in shock, but it was coming from a happy place.  Just shows how hard it is to read emotions.  No wonder social interactions can be so fraught, it’s a complete minefield.  You can never really tell what someone is thinking, just have to go with your instincts and hope for the best. 

And you can click on the link to see for yourself if you want the full immersive experience.  And let’s face it, why wouldn’t you?  Hope the link works.

So the various awards were dished out to worthy winners all, and it was lovely how the parkrun family came together to celebrate diverse achievements.

But then, the for me BEST BIT OF THE MORNING EVER was coming with the final award.  The RD did an awesome build up, not naming mum but referring to her as ‘this person…. more famous that Paul Sinton-Hewitt‘.  Credit where credit is due, this RD knows how to work a crowd.  He spoke of how she’s at her corner week in week out – ‘but she’s not there today‘ a gasp of horror from the assembled company… to be replaced by a cheer of relief as he added ‘because she’s here at the start!’.  It was just the best noise in the world ever, real affection.  And then when she was presented with her award, the applause went on for ever.  Well, nearly for ever, I mean we still had to stop to have parkrun happen at some point – and then she held her award aloft and a great collective whoop went up.  Best thing in the world ever!  It is- quite a solid chunk of glass with a personalised inscription on it  and has considerable heft, anyone would be delighted.  This moment gave rise to my favourite photo of the morning EVER, until the next picture popped up in my newsfeed obvs.

mum and david moorcroft

But you know what,  you don’t have to take my word for it, you can see if for yourself in the clip below.   The volunteer of the year gets his recognition first, and then it’s the final award of the morning to my mum about one minute in.  Not a dry eye in the park I can tell you.  Those blooming unicorn allergens eh?

It all went off to perfection.  All the award winners were present, the day stayed dry, and now it was time for the run.  As people dispersed snatched a few more hellos, and a little bit of trophy admiring (more of this later).  I took the opportunity to go in with a big hug of emotional gratitude to David Moorcroft, he looked a bit startled.  It was only as I walked away it dawned on me that although I was meaning to just express appreciation for the brilliant way he gave out the awards to everyone including my mum, he would have had no idea at all who I was and what I was doing.  In the circumstances he handled it well, all the same, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise for scaring him and potentially invading his personal space.  The irony is I’m not even all that huggy generally speaking, but something about the whole parkrun/ running vibe that stimulates this impulse in me.  I think it does for others too.  We’re all on hugging terms here… but even so, note to self, maybe check first next time.

and then positioned ourselves in a good spot to watch the start.  It was the first time mum had ever seen this, and what a day to choose.  Some good parkrun citizen had the wit to take a video of the start line.  It went on for ever!  Mind you, even the stills are quite impressive:

AB start

It’s an extraordinary sight to see a whole sea of people moving like a tsunami across the grass and towards the ant hills.  Amazing.  Here is another video clip of the start from a different – more courageous angle some would say

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Wow, a lot of people pile past pretty speedily – and then they are gone, winding their parkrun way out of sight

Bushy parkrun around they go

see them run!