Posts Tagged With: volunteering

Rocking the context appropriate look. Snow plogging microadventures r us.

Digested read: went plogging on the Sheffield Half-Marathon route.  It snowed.  It was still fun.

litter picking white out

Undigested read: I can hardly run a bath at the moment, let alone a half marathon.  This is a shame, because we are fully into not so much the run up (see what I did there?  Hilarious) as into the actual tapering period for the 2019 Sheffield Half.  This time last year I was well into my distance runs and used the Sheffield Half as a training run for the London Marathon. That seems like a life time ago. The past is another country I did things differently there.  Now, for various reasons, I’ve had my running goals for this year well and truly scuppered.  It is a source of much squirm-inducing regret that when my lovely running club asks us each month to volunteer our achievements and post them on Facebook for each return period that I find myself racking my brains trying to think of something to say.  Something – anything?  Nope, just an echoing void up there at present.  Nothing to report.  I blagged it the last two months, by explaining February was pretty much taken up with my merchandise testing commitments (Brooks Juno Bra thank you for asking) and then March brought with it my media commitments, culminating with my companion animal finding herself the poster giraffe for the Sheffield Half.  She was thrilled!  I got glory by association.  I might not make the start of the half this year, but hopefully the 5-10% of the population who are apparently particularly susceptible to hypnosis and suggestion will come to believe I was there just because they have seen this image circulating about the right time. I like to believe so.

sheffield half picture

Anyway, irrespective of whether or not I’m running, this is my blog, my rules, I can plog if I want to, however tenuous the theme in terms of its relationship to running.  Today’s theme is litter picking on the Sheffield Half Marathon loop, so that’s almost exactly the same as going for a run yes?

The background is that a group of us did this half marathon litter pick last year, after a last minute ‘who else is up for it’ Facebook post put out by a local running shop.  A fair few of us were, and rocked up, and it was fun. We got to dress up like Nemo and everything, though the amount of litter on the route was dispiriting.  It came about because those of us who’d been using the route for long run recces couldn’t help but notice the litter that had accumulated along the way, and it seemed a poor advert for our beloved Sheffield.  Instead of waiting around for some vague ‘other’ to take the initiative ‘somebody should do something’ Front Runner took the initiative, and put out the call. Seems that hit a nerve, and people came indeed.  Litter picking in general and plogging in particular is increasingly a thing – check out Runners Against Rubbish – which is good because it has to be done and bad because it shouldn’t be needed. Plogging runs featured at the Big Running Weekend a couple of weeks back too.  Anyway, pleased to report, they did the same again this year, suggested a group litter pick along the Sheffield Half-marathon route, and there was an even bigger turn out, this year than last.  yay!  Perhaps this will become an annual tradition.  Hope so.

shef half litter pick

So you see, whilst I might not be up to much running, I can still have running related fun times scrabbling about in mud and heave-hoing unsavoury discarded bits of rubbish out of polluted ditches with my running buddies.  We are hard core we Sheffielders, and we know how to make our own entertainment!  Plus, plogging in a ditch is pretty light weight compared to fell running which to the untrained eye might seem to stretch the definition of ‘fun times’ yet looks like great larks compared to the Barkley marathon.

You do know about the Barkley Marathons yes?  In case not – you might have just blocked the very thought as a subconscious protective reflex – this is a 100 mile plus suffer fest.  It has five laps, each lap of 20-plus miles in distance and includes about 12,000ft of brutally-steep, obstacle-laden, muddy mountain ascent through thick woodland.  That’s like climbing Everest twice, apparently,  which is another thing on my list of activities I have zero desire to undertake.  Just to be completely clear, I don’t even want to climb Everest once.  In conclusion, I think it’s fair to say that the Barkley Marathons stretches the definition of ‘fun’ a tad too far for even type two fun* recognition. Just saying.  Well done Nicky Spinks for giving it a go all the same.  Shame it meant you missed the first Trunce of the year but understandable in the circumstances.  Epic.  No-one came close to finishing the Barkley Marathons this year by the way.  I’m not surprised.  Nicky looks hard core yes, but she doesn’t look like she’s particularly having any real=time fun now does she?  It’s cool she’s wearing a dark peak fell runners bobble hat though.  Respect.  She’s still beyond awesome.

 

 

 

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, having running related fun in the great outdoors.  So it was that last night I scooped up a friend and together we chugged up to the Norfolk Arms rendezvous for the collective litter picking endeavour.  Tooled up with our heavy duty gloves, we sat in the car, admiring the moody sky and dramatic clouds.  About five minutes ahead of our rendezvous time, heavy drops started to land on the windscreen.  ‘I hope it’s not going to rain’ remarked my litter picking buddy.  We laughed nervously.  It would only be a couple of hours.  We exited our vehicle and joined the gathering by the van, joining the queue for bin bags, struggling into our junior sized high-vis and delightedly welcoming our parkrunning buddy, Regal Smiley who’d rocked up to join the fun=fest and frolics in the name of keeping our run routes litter free. Yay!

As we greeted one another, the rain stopped.  That sounds good doesn’t it, except it wasn’t because there was no longer precipitation, oooooooooooooooooh no.  It was because it transmogrified into fat flakes of snow. Proper snow.  Full on white out, snow snow. It settled on our hats, and snowed with an intensity and density that is usually reserved for the closing climactic sequence of cheesy American films set against the backdrop of Christmas holidays. You know, where every problem is overcome, every misunderstanding cleared, and loving couples or families rush out red cheeked, starry-eyed and bobble hatted through a forest of Christmas trees already laden with snow, or along a city street with shop windows a-bling with Christmas lights as fresh snow falls and the credits roll.  Like that. Exactly like that, only colder and wetter and with less joyful cavorting on our part.  We did laugh though.  A lot.  And to be fair, if the weather was going to be dramatic, I’d sooner take the apocalyptic drama of unexpected decent snow over the soul-sapping water torture of horizontal rain.  Also, definitely better than having a helicopter induced storm hurl roadside barriers at you mid-marathon in China.  It happened.  It really did… quite relieved I didn’t bother entering that one now, especially after learning I wouldn’t get away with taking along the bike for part of the route after all.

chinese-marathon-helicopter-1554308675

Besides, we were here now, committed.

We took our bags, our gloves, out litter picker and our resolve and off we went, a trio of awesomeness, to take on Sheephill Road.  Time for a quick selfie first though…  Just for clarification purposes, that’s the start of the snow you can see in the flurry of white flakes, not a severe dandruff episode by a fellow litter picker just out of shot.

what larks eh

We bagsied the upper end of Sheephill Road from the Norfolk arms downed.  I thought we might have to fight for it – I feel a tad territorial for this section because it’s the same bit I did last year, which is ridiculous, but true.  As it happened, we three got it all to ourselves, and off we went.  We were an awesome team, covering both sides of the road like police forensic investigators seeking out clues in a finger tip search.  Litter picking is disturbingly surprisingly addictive.  No fag end is safe, no bottle too remote to be hunted down and caught bang to rights and bagged – probably to end up in land fill which is depressing, but preferable to choking wildlife at least.

There aren’t any whales in Sheffield, so I don’t think we were saving them particularly from consuming plastic on this occasion but then again, who knows where discarded plastic can end up.  No really, I spent some time volunteering at a wildlife centre in Zimbabwe and one day found myself removing plastic wrap from cucumbers flown in from the UK – probably grown in a poly tunnel, that were past their sell-by date and so were discarded from the shop and were now being used as animal food. How many countries had that plastic wrap visited in its single use lifetime? What is that about?  Crazy.  That’s why 44 kg of plastic was found in a dead whale only last month.  No fun to be had in that story, none at all.  Don’t need to be Hercule Poirot to work out contributory factors for cause of death for that one.  Or even James Herriot, or whatever the marine biology veterinary equivalent for that might be… This is plastic that emerged from a whale gut, I couldn’t be more astonished if it was a picture of Jonah himself bursting forth.

plastic in dead whale guardian

It was surprisingly companionable yomping along plogging and picking our way through the undergrowth with varying degrees of concentration. We evolved a system whereby Regal Smiley/ bicentennial woman who was in possession of the grabber (well, she does command natural authority, plus she was the one who had the foresight to bring it with her) responded to a sort of directional pointing system whereby we other two, lacking her reach, would get the bits we could and then point out to her the more elusive finds.  She would do well in the opal mines of Coober Pedy as once she was convinced of the presence of something, in this case litter, nothing would deter her from ferreting it out. Together, we were invincible.  That dear reader, is what team work is all about.

coober pedy

‘This image is courtesy of John Park, who you can follow on instagram at  https://www.instagram.com/parky.au/  if you fancy some virtual travel browsing through some stunning pictures of the great land down under and beyond!’

We didn’t find any opals, but we did find some vintage crisp packets, they don’t have the same market value though, well, not as far as I can tell anyway.  I didn’t research it all that conscientiously, I’ll be kicking myself when a vintage salt’n’shake crisp pack suddenly appears on eBay, with the faded lettering being described as ‘adding authenticity and character’ … I can feel my blood boiling at the very thought!

The weather did crazy things.  At times there were blizzard conditions, at times bright sunshine broke through, and there was the most extraordinary rainbow that seemed to arch across the whole city, I wished I’d got my camera with me, but then again it probably wouldn’t quite have done it justice, plus, I was able to delegate photo duties to Regal Smiley who did a fair enough job in the circumstances!

Here is the snow:

reet nice out

Well, some of it, and here is the rainbow. Also just some of it…

rainbow road

We were merry in our labours.  Also, encouragingly, the litter situation was way better than last year, and although there was still plenty, we made speedy progress.  No especially epic finds – well, apart from the almost buried plastic Christmas Tree and associated baubles, really people?  There was inevitably, lots of plastic, haylage bags, fast food polystyrene wrappers, huge amounts of cigarette ends, discarded bottles, one solitary gel pack wrapper. and debris from miscellaneous road accidents.   Had we but the time and inclination – oh yes and skill too – we could quite possibly have built our own vehicle with the bits of body work accrued along the way.  Some duct tape would have helped maybe, but then you can do anything with duct tape and imagination!  After all, if it can be used to fix a plane after a bear attack, I’m sure it could assemble some discarded car panels without too much difficulty.

 

After an hour or so, there was the pitter patter of tiny feet behind us.  Breathless, and inappropriately dressed for the inclement weather was a trio of youths.  I must be getting exceedingly old, because when they introduced themselves, still wet and shivering as ‘students’ my immediate thought was they were a detail from a local school sent to join the community initiative, but no dear reader, they were actual university students, doing a journalism course and in search of a local story.  Mind you, I do find increasingly I have become that person who notices that my GP and other officials look alarmingly youthful.  The logical conclusion of this I am actually old, not just old before my time.  I don’t know quite how to process that thought, so now I’ve shared it, I’ll ignore it and move one… Anyway, where was I, oh yes, clearly, we were the most newsworthy thing going on at the time, and so we were within their grasp. Also, I secretly suspect they’d got wind of my recently acquired poster girl status so perhaps were hoping for some sort of celebrity coup to boot, though they were far too professional to let on to that insider knowledge, didn’t want to seem all giddy in my presence I expect… So, what they wanted to do was a little piece on the community litter pick for one of their assignments. Fair enough, sounded entertaining.  ‘We are like the wombles!  You know “underground, overground, wombling free“‘ I half-said half (badly) sung, being met with looks of confused incomprehension, oh gawd, I really am old, surely they haven’t been forgotten – I had their LP at one point, ‘wombling free’ it’s a tragedy if that cultural heritage has now been lost, we do indeed need the Wombles more than ever!

wombles

We continued our litter pick, whilst they found a suitable lay-by to set up their gear.  To the casual observer they would have looked like spectacularly well equipped doggers.

They wanted some litter picking shots, featuring the grabber in action and in close up.  This required quite a lot of practise, and hilariously (well I thought so) the initial actual litter that was being used for the shot just didn’t cut it as camera eye candy.  Fortunately, one of the trio had brought along her own, more photogenic litter just in case.  This was in the form of a bottle of lucozade sport (I like to think, as the ‘sport’ reference seems especially apt, but I might have imagined the whole thing just because I wished it so), which she downed in one, so that she could jettison the bottle on the verge where it could be picked up and popped in a black bin bag on endless repeat until caught from all possible angles and the perfect shot, like the discarded bottle, was safely in the bag.  (Honestly, I’m on fire tonight!)

Then we stood in a slightly self-conscious line and the director said he was going to ask us each a question to camera as a sort of vox pox segment (well, what with my work as a supporting artist elsewhere, I have all the media lingo down to a tee). Now, this is where we approach the comedy climax of the evening…  but to fully appreciate this, you need context.

The thing is Regal Smiley has many talents.  Epic runner, parkrun run director blah de blah, but one of her most public-spirited duties is linked to her being the power behind the photographic throne occupied by Mr Carman.  Yes, yes, he takes squillions of pictures week in, week out, selflessly giving his time for the running community of Sheffield, but it is Regal Smiley who acts as upholder of human dignity and public decency, acting as censor to any shot that might unduly humiliate or embarrass the subject of the photo.  Obviously due humiliation is a different thing altogether, and comedic value can outweigh an unflattering shot, but even so, she has much respected form in saving us runners from the brutal reality of seeing in high-definition our true running likenesses if that truth might mean we never left the house again.  She is the guardian of our individual and collective self-esteem, for this we should all be grateful.  Therefore, it was not unreasonable, that before consenting to our vox pox section she politely enquired

Do we look OK?‘. I know what she meant, save us from the spinach caught in our teeth or the inside out jacket or the river of snot that I’ve failed to notice because my face is too numb from the stinging hail. It was self-evident to all.

You look great!’ he said confidently.   The reassurance he gave us was to be short lived.

It wasn’t self-evident to all.  I know this, because he added with a bit too much enthusiasm in his voice ‘being bedraggled and cold and windswept and filthy is exactly the appropriate look for this piece when you’ve all been out litter picking in the snow!’  Oh how we laughed!  I’m paraphrasing only slightly, we rocked our context specific look, it is fortuitous that these clips will never see the public light of day.  Well, unless one or more of us was to go missing on the way home and they had to play that snippet of us on Look North as the last sighting of us for identification purposes, oh the shame.  And that nearly happened to be fair, but more of this later.

We did our slightly stilted commentary on the community cohesion of litter picking, and love of the peaks and running, and how we met through parkrun and all of that. Then, in a moment of clarity me and Regal Smiley realised this could be our running related achievement for April when reporting back to our Smiley record keeper, so more photos of us all together and separately in all possible permutations were taken. The sun came out, rather spoiling our hardcore claims.  I think it’s fair to say the weather was changeable.

 

 

 

We left them doing there final ‘to camera’ summary and continued our meander back along the verges.  It started snowing again, we were on a mission.

snow

It’s amazing how you see missed bits of litter when you view the landscape through a different angle.   We’d already done this section on the outward march.  Regal Smiley was emboldened to scamper over walls and criss-cross wobbly stones to reach tantalizingly placed litter the other side of walls.   There was definitely more than one point when I thought we might lose her over a crumbling dry stone wall. We discussed this possibility.  I was thinking at first we’d get away with pretending we’d never seen her, there weren’t many cars about and nobody was taking much interest in us… as long as we other two stuck to our story we’d be fine – then we remembered the cursed vox pox sequence, and if those keen journalism students got wind of her disappearance they’d be like the blooming Scooby Doo team, endlessly screening their now highly marketable footage as they tried for a ‘true crime’ documentary full length feature on ‘what really happened’. We’d never have got away with it.  So all in all, it was very fortunate, that we were able to haul her back roadside, and make it back safely!  No search team required…. this time.

scooby doo

Pleasingly, just as we returned to the corner of Lady Cannings plantation entrance, where we’d piled up all our bags, the Front Runner white van appeared to gather up our rubbish offerings.  It was a leaky, sodden and unsavoury mess of stuff, I wouldn’t have wanted it in the back of my car.  Above and beyond I’d say.  You can get Sheffield City Council to pick up bags from organised litter picks if you let them know in advance, but there was a different plan at work here.

And that was that, we said goodbye and went our separate ways.

I feel however I need to add this postscript.  As me and my tail walking buddy – did I mention that already?…

53036219_318839055650700_8263248491724144640_n

were derobing and clambering back into my car, we got chatting to a guy in the vehicle next to us.  He hadn’t been litter picking with us but he does solitary litter picks around his road all the time.  I mentioned to him that there is the Sheffield Litter Pickers Facebook group if he wants help.  He brooded on this point for a bit and then said words to the effect of he quite liked the cathartic effect of doing it alone and raging at the awfulness of mankind with every bottle plucked from a hedge or broken glass from the gutter he weirdly liked finding justification for his misanthropic view of the world.  I rather respect that.  It made me laugh.

And so dear reader, it was but two sodden hours on an April evening, but it was crammed with hilarity and micro-adventures a-plenty. Sometimes, it is worth just stepping outside the front door and seeing what unfolds.  Just be wary of cameras unless you are dressed in a context appropriate way. Oh and also, I feel a  need to share that really, in our own way, we three, and indeed all the other litter pickers out there last night, were tackling the same elements as the Barkley marathoners, because they too started their quest in sunshine, only to be caught out by wintry conditions and snow.  I may not quite be in Nicky Spinks’ league just yet, but I am somewhere on the continuum of weather she has experienced in her running challenges, and that’s a start.  Also, other litter pickers took independent initiative to play their part in an afternoon pick as they couldn’t make the evening one, ploggers are everywhere it seems, how splendid is that!  See them rock their context appropriate hi-vis too.

independent action litter pickers

Heart warming isn’t it?  And we could all do with a bit of good news in these dark times I’m sure.

You’re welcome.

*type two fun – things that are fun only when viewed retrospectively, from a very safe distance.

Categories: off road, teamwork | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

A glimpse into the wonderful world of parkrun volunteering

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

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

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

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

volunteering in the snow

volunteering in the snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Graves junior school theme

Hi-viz heroes rock!

🙂

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

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

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

 

 

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

Now what? Hurtling on past the post marathon blues.

Digested read: since running the London Marathon I’ve been feeling a bit down, and a bit ‘ouchy’ in the shins.  I’ve only run once and demoralisation has set in.  However, panic not, I believe I’ve turned a corner, thanks to the cheery disposition of the Hathersage Hurtle organisers who offer up a distance walk, stunning views and cake.  It’s going to be just fine.

Everything-is-going-to-be-fine-in-the-end

Can’t believe that’s really one of Oscar Wilde’s quotes?  I mean, I do quite like it, but it’s not as pithy and lyrical as you might expect.  Ah well, I’ll still take it, it’s working for me.

Did I mention at all that  I ran the London Marathon last month?  Oh I did?  Are you sure?  Are you not just making an educated deduction because I still have the imprint of the medal in the side of my face from where I lay on it whilst sleeping?  Oh.

Turns out you can only trade on the London experience for so long.  Also, and this wasn’t part of the plan, post London I did feel a bit flat (not on the stomach area unfortunately, more sort of mentally).  There is a lot written about ‘post marathon blues‘ so it is a known thing, but as with many ‘known things’ sometimes you have to experience it for yourself in order to properly understand and empathise with what it might mean on an individual level.  Don’t worry, I’m sufficiently self-aware to realise how incredibly annoying, pretentious and self-indulgent that statement sounds, ‘nobody understands blah de blah‘ but also insufficiently adept as self-censorship to delete that statement.  I suppose it’s just that whilst some clichés stand others didn’t, so processing the whole London Marathon adventure is quite challenging, well it is for me anyway.

Firstly, for me at least, it was all so far outside my previous experience of anything else I’ve ever done, once back home in Sheffield, it is a bit like it never happened.  Like I’ve been returned from being abducted by aliens, and now I’m back and I’m trying to explain to people that I really and truly was snatched away and transported back, but even my closest friends are looking at me somewhat quizzically, and frankly I’m beginning to doubt it happened myself.  I mean, if I was a cow, then my abduction by aliens would be more plausible, as we all know the first thing extraterrestrials in their UFOs do when hovering over remote American farmsteads is beam up cattle with their tractor beams.  People though, harder to believe…

So too with running a marathon, it was really such an improbable thing for me to do, I can’t honestly imagine how it happened.  Nor can I imagine going off and doing another one, not yet anyway.  How people do back to back marathons or like the amazing Ben do 401 marathons in 401 days I can’t begin to imagine.  And dear reader, I have a pretty vivid imagination, so that just goes to show how hard it must be! He’s set up the 401 foundation now by the way, that’s splendid!  The upshot is, that it really is as if it never happened.  It was too unlikely, it was too surreal, I must have imagined the whole thing.

Another issue for me, is that – and shhh, don’t tell – my experience of London was ‘complicated’.  For sure it was ‘amazing’, ‘once in a lifetime’, ‘extraordinary personal challenge’ pick and mix your own clichés.  However, it was also massively over-shadowed by the lack of water throughout the route.  That, coupled with the heat, really shifted my experience.  I was quite spooked by dehydration, mile after mile with no water wasn’t good, and for the record, it was not only between miles 7-11 (water stations 8-10 equates to five miles) it was for many miles in the second half of the route too that instead of oasis deserted water stations were mirages in the desert of hot tarmac roads.  I really tried to remain positive, but it played on  my mind and knocked my confidence.  I mean if the London Marathon can run out of water, it could happen anywhere couldn’t it? This, and the fact that after the event I heard of horror stories of injured runners who did not finish (DNF) and of people who did finish, but then spent up to two hours in first aid tents after collapsing, being laid down and covered in ice whilst medics tried to rehydrate them and stabilise their heart rhythms.  To be honest, it does rather detract from the ‘isn’t this fun‘ and overall euphoric vibe I’d been anticipating.

depression ahead

Post marathon blues is also, in my case at least, tied up with having to face up to all those problems, decisions and life-choices that I’d postponed addressing thinking they’d be somehow more  manageable post the marathon, as in ‘I’ll worry about that after London’.  So now without the distraction/ focus of marathon training I need to somehow morph into  being a proper grown up, get a job, lose weight, overcome my many and varied social inadequacies, read more books, dive back into social interactions, get properly fit, whatever.  Disappointingly, taking part in a marathon, even if you complete it, does not subsequently imbue you with superhuman skills of capability, self-belief, will-power and decisiveness.  Nor does it lead you to radiate personal charisma that ensures you will never again experience social inadequacy, alienation or personal rejection.  And as if all that wasn’t disappointing enough, furthermore, it doesn’t transform the socio-political context in which we operate.   The world is still in turmoil, Trump is still president, plastic still pollutes the seas, Brexit is still happening and I still can’t find a job and my roof still leaks.  That was not what I ordered.  What snake oil is this, the notion that running a marathon will change your life?  Why haven’t I properly metamorphosed into a better version of myself?  What was that all about if I still have to be me? 😦 Crap deal.

People aren’t even that interested in the bling, and it’s harder than  you might think to lever ‘I just did the London marathon’ into every conversation ever so casually.  Example, getting on bus ‘how much is it to the city centre?  I don’t normally catch the bus, I normally walk, but as I ran the London marathon (yesterday, last week, last month) I’m giving my legs a break‘ whatever.  Not everyone is interested in running!  What!  Still, it could be worse I suppose.  At least most people in the UK have heard of the London marathon.  I’ve been reading a book Your pace or mine,  an enjoyable account of the many runs undertaken by the author, a self-proclaimed back-of-the-pack runner.  Her numerous marathon adventures are awesome, but she is from South Africa originally.  The archetypal race there is apparently  The Comrades Marathon  a gruelling 56 miles ultra marathon with a brutally enforced cut off time of 12 hours.   Thus, this is the only race  her non-running south African compatriots have heard of.  As a consequence, if you tell a South African you run, and they are not a runner themselves, their likely next question would be ‘have you run Comrades then?’ the implication being if you haven’t, you aren’t really a runner.   That would be depressing!  At least in the UK the London marathon is significantly more achievable – if you can find a way to get a place that is of course… and if you tell non runners you have done it there is usually a flicker of recognition that this constitutes an achievement, I need to hang on to that.

your pace or mine

Another challenge, for me at least, is what next and when to start running again.  I wasn’t especially stiff after London, but I did have what I’m calling ‘ouchy shins’.  I’m not sure if this is an actual medical term, but it should be.  Anyway, I’ve done loads of googling ailments and so I’m practically medically qualified now.  At the very least I can diagnose every patient/ prospective patient in an episode of Holby City by 5 minutes in.  I digress (how unusual) but I am particularly proud of having once correctly diagnosed an ectopic pregnancy practically before the opening titles had finished in an episode of Casualty many years ago. I was watching this in the presence of a senior hospital consultant who scoffed my diagnosis based on his boring years of training, experience and medical expertise (yawn).  But people, the story line proved I was right!  Fortunately, he was a haematologist so his inability to second guess the plot lines of an episode of Casualty probably wouldn’t lead to catastrophic consequences in his day-to-day work.  Probably.  I never asked.  Sometimes it’s just tactful not to isn’t it?

Where was I?  Oh yes, so basically both my shins felt really tender a couple of days after the marathon and I’ve not really had that before. Well only once, as the aftermath of an ill-judged sports massage I had about 3 weeks ahead of London.  That knocked out my last long run as I limping so much.  Who knew you had massageable connective tissue/ muscle on the front of your shins.  Or maybe you don’t and that’s why they hurt so much.  Anyways, the point is, I’m paranoid about stress fractures/ shin splints, and it made me/ makes me, quite nervous about running again.  You’d think, well I did, that successfully completing a marathon would lead to me brimming over with confidence, secure that at last, I might actually be able to call myself an actual runner.  Not so. If anything I feel even more fraudulent than before.  The conditions on the day were so random, excellent athletes ended up with DNF,  Somehow though I did finish, but many of us probably didn’t have the race we trained for.  It makes me wonder just how much success in these running endeavours is all down to luck.  I think you can ‘make your own luck’ up to the point, by doing the training say, but unquestionably luck will play a part on the day, and the nature of luck is that it is just that. Luck.  Random. It isn’t fair.   It breaks my heart to think of the DNFs I know who deserved a different outcome, and the did not starts DNSs too.  As I say, it’s complicated.  I don’t think I was any more deserving of a finish medal than many who did not get round on the day, maybe I just got lucky?

Terrified of exacerbating a pending injury, I just didn’t run at all for a couple of weeks.  One week I joined the tail walker at my local parkrun. That was an interesting experience, being at the back of the field on what I think was the biggest turn out ever at Sheffield Hallam parkrun 805 runners.  Most who passed us (erm, everyone else taking part) shouted encouragement ‘well done’ kind of things.  I actually thought at first they must be referring to me having completed the London marathon, and then I realised that in fact I am not the centre of the known universe and so they would not be in possession of this fact, they were just being encouraging and nice, which is what most parkrunners are.  The tail walker was also needing to walk post injury, so we just walked round chattering the whole way.  I felt I made a new friend.  Loads of my Smiley Paces running club buddies were out in force, completing the unfinished couple of miles of the London marathon my fellow marathoner wasn’t able to, by running parkrun in solidarity with her.  She’d crashed out at the 40km mark.  As I was still out there walking I missed the team photo of this gathering, but aren’t they splendid!  A loveliness of smilies indeed!

loveliness of smilies

The following Saturday, I volunteered as barcode scribe at parkrun.  I like volunteering, you see events from a different perspective, and see the whole continuum or participants as well.  In this role I had to manually write down the numbers of people whose barcodes fail to scan.  This is a fab job in that you get a double whammy of kudos being in possession of both a hi-vis AND a clipboard.  You do also get some grief from people who insist they have always been able to have their number written down from their mobile phone before.  Erm, don’t think so.  I am generally very averse to any kind of confrontation and will capitulate in almost every situation to avoid the hassle of an argument.   However, I feel strongly about this, parkrunners are grown ups, it’s one rule, it’s not much to ask you to bring along a printed barcode, and if you are a regular runner you will know this,  I’m a volunteer so nope, I’m not making an exception, especially not if you are going to get all insistent and arsey about it.  I will happily take time to explain things to newbies, congratulate them on having taken part, encourage them to come back, tell them how to work out their time and generally enthuse, but I still enforce the rule.  With a parkrun as big as Sheffield Hallam you can really appreciate it’s importance.  Of the 800 or so runners, only a handful did complain but I soon had huge queues of people needing their number written down as the scanners were playing up in bright sunshine. If you relented on the no barcode, not time, no exceptions rule, you’d spend all weekend manually writing down results and then the poor results processors would have to do likewise.  Not OK.   Beckton parkrun did a post about why the no barcode, no result, no exception rule applies, that I think is good.  parkrun have recently revamped the parkrun code by the way, so with this relaunch the few rules are once again clearly stated.

parkrun code

I still think the directive around dogs is confusing.  What are you supposed to do if you don’t have a dog?  Fortunately this policy isn’t rigorously enforced locally.  Mind you, if ever it were to be, I have a dog in mind…  Form a queue people, form a queue!

my fantasy running buddy

So then week three on from London, I did my first run.  Also at parkrun. Again, my local one was really busy, so busy, that there were actual bottle necks at several points on the course so I had to walk some sections, which was good, as it completely removed the pressure or temptation to run.  There was good news and bad news.  Amazingly, my lungs and legs generally felt fine, I don’t seem to have lost the ability to put one foot in front of another. My womb still didn’t fall out, and although I was definitely ‘steady’ I was actually a bit faster than the last parkrun I did pre marathon, which is truly bizarre.  However, the less good news is that a photo of me running gives me no room for delusion in respect of how much weight I’ve put on, wearing a t-shirt and not wearing a giraffe means my stomach has nowhere to hide.  Also, my shins are still tender.  Not absolutely terrible by any means, but enough that I think I do need to be a bit careful.  Losing weight would help, some strength and conditioning and general cross training is well overdue also.  Hmm.

So I was/ am feeling a bit directionless and clueless, I ought to be doing more, but I am scared of injury, and feeling a bit overwhelmed because it is like starting over with a new goal.  Then something popped up on Facebook that looked familiar.  A reminder about the Hathersage Hurtle.  What’s that then?  That sounded familiar, have I entered it?  I did a bit of rummaging around in my inbox (not a euphemism) and it seems I have indeed.  It’s next Saturday.  Blooming heck, I’m not even running again yet.  Oh well, I thought, it’ll probably be a nice gentle local trail race, it will be fun!  Perfect for getting back into it.  Not so, it’s twenty miles!  TWENTY MILES FFS!  And with significant elevation – well, not by Sheffield standards, but definitely by London ones, which is where my focus has been. What was I thinking? Well, actually, I know exactly what I was thinking!  I entered back in February, in the depths of winter, probably from the sanctuary of being under a duvet.  I was fondly imagining a future whereby at this point in time I’d have completed the marathon, had time to recover and be at my running peak in terms of both capability and confidence. I’d fly round.  How wonderful it would be to return to the joys of the peaks after the tyranny of the roads whilst training for London.  I never learn.  Can’t do this, it’s crazy.  I dug around for details and found it was a pricey one to enter £24 and there’s a technical tee at the end. Well, obviously that was a game changer, even with some uncertainty about the medal situation.

A bit more ferreting around, and I discovered there is actually a walk option as well as the run. Hmm, they do exactly the same route, but head out between one and two hours earlier.  I emailed the organisers to find out what the cut off time was for the runners and whether I could swap.

Oh my gawd. What a lovely email I got back.  So welcoming and reassuring.  It massively helped me to refocus:

Well done on the marathon. What an achievement. The Hurtle will be quite a different experience – better views and more cake for a start!  We’ve got quite relaxed cut offs. Final cut off for everyone is 5pm so that gives you a total of 7 hours to get round as a runner. Walkers can set off between 8 and 9am so that gives you an extra hour or two.  We don’t want you to feel under any pressure as our main aim is for people to have a great day. Let me know what you decide to do.

This is why I run!  Beautiful views, friendly runners and bonus cake!  I mean London has it’s merits, but is actually the worst trail run ever.  Views from the trails and cake, that’s what running is all about.  Yomping fest here we come!

mile 4 (6)

Suddenly, I felt relieved.  I have decided to drop back to join the walkers. My shins aren’t quite right, but I’ve so missed the gorgeous trails round and about, I miss the camaraderie of running out on the moors with my mates.  Training for London was relentless and lonely at times.  I missed running against the stunning backdrop of the moors and peaks – I had to focus instead on roads and flattish trails.  I can get back out into the peak district proper now.  With respect to my running buddies, I’m still too slow to keep up with them, but by starting earlier with the walkers I should have no pressure.  I’m hoping this will also remove the navigation issue as if I start at the back of the walkers I can follow them to start with, and then as runners start to overtake I can follow them too.  This gives me a sporting chance of seeing people I know en route, as they will speed pass me, instead of me just trailing behind them the whole way round, watching them disappear over the hills and far away before I’ve even fathomed out how to handle my dibber.   Arriving at the finish at dusk with no cake left and the Smiley paces group photo long since taken.  This could work.  I need to get over my weird psychological block about running again, and I think a long, beautiful walk with heaving feed stations, friendly marshals and a technical tee at the end is just the job!  What’s wrong with hope over experience dear reader?  The alternative is I’d never do anything ever again.  The heather might not be out just yet, but it’s still going to be awesome!

I think the route also covers a lot of the same terrain as the Dig Deep Ultra which is my next big goal, so good to have a bit of a recce of sections of that too.  What could possibly…

hathersage hurtle

So in terms of my experience of the post-marathon blues – which I think is what this post is sort of about, and it’s not just a rambling stream of consciousness, directionless nonsense at all – I think it’s attributable partly to a lack of direction and partly a sense of anti-climax.  Plus, anyone’s body would take a pounding, let alone my post fifty offering, so it’s not surprising I’m maybe feeling a bit battered. And I do need to somehow get my life back on track, but it was always thus, it’s just the goal of getting round London legitimised my procrastination for a few months, but it didn’t make any problems go away, how could it?

To end with positives I think I offer up two:

Positive number one: the absolutely best bit about running events in general (the ones I pick anyway) and the London marathon in particular is that supporters, random strangers who don’t even know you, when they cheer you on, are genuinely offering up unconditional, positive regard.  Usually you have to pay counsellors or psychologists or whatever  an absolute fortune at an hourly rate to give you that. And even then it will probably be given somewhat dead pan and po faced, they don’t generally wave golden pom poms at you and leap in the air in appreciation of your efforts.   In running, people will cheer you euphorically not based on your potential achievement, or any personal characteristics, or even innate worthiness – they can’t they have no idea who you are, so they are cheering you unconditionally just because you are out there giving it a go!  There is no other context in life I can think of where you get that.  This is why junior parkrun is also especially joyful.  It’s a celebration of the best in people, a temporary vision of utopia that demonstrates life is just so much better if we are kind to each other and buoy each other up rather than bring each other down.  A reminder there are more good people in the world than not, and there is not just room for diversity and laughter in the world, but also life is so much the better for it. Simple.  Cheering on others without cynicism, and unconditionally not only brings joys to others, but will leave you giddy with feelgood joy yourself.  Promise.

The second big positive: there is life after the marathon.  Just pick another goal, anything, but better if it’s one that taps into whatever it is that makes running fun.  I feel so much more upbeat now I can head out again into the hills. When I first started this running blog, such as it is, it was partly to recognise that whilst I have many and manifest limitations that might get in the way of me ever becoming a ‘proper’ runner, there was nothing to stop me enjoying doing it badly, and even celebrating that.  The whole parkrun philosophy, of just participating in my own way, not worrying too much about other people’s goals or expectations.  And you know what, that philosophy has allowed me to meet some amazing people, discover some extraordinary places, take on some unimaginable challenges and who’d have believed it, somehow progressed from having to breathe into a paper bag to calm myself before daring to turn up at my first parkrun, to completing the London marathon!  Strange, but true.

If my old PE teacher could see me know eh?  Hah!

It’s not finishing a marathon that is the hardest thing, it’s having the courage to sign up for it in the first place.  Honestly, with many of the challenges I’ve taken on I haven’t absolutely believed I could do them, but I have most fervently believed there is only one way to find out.  After all, how will I ever know my limits if I don’t test them.

she believed she could

Also, yomping the hills is fun. Whatever challenge appeals, for what it’s worth, I think it’s important to remember that for me at least, running is supposed to be fun.  How does the saying go?

Run often, run long, but never outrun your joy of running.

Easy as.

You’re welcome.

Now go find your trainers, or if you can’t run just now, go look at a favourite bit of running bling or a photo of your favourite running location and imagine yourself out there doing a virtual run.  This is what I’m going to try to do.  Saturday’s Hathersage Hurtle might be a walk rather than a run, but it’s still a step on the way to getting back on track literally as well as metaphorically, because ultimately that’s all a run is, one foot in front of another.  And increasingly the accepted wisdom is long walks can be a helpful part of a running fitness programme too.  That gets my vote.

So see you out on them there hills.

🙂

nice out

Categories: motivation, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Because binners are winners! Plogging the Sheffield half-marathon route

Digested read: runners recceing the Sheffield half have been noticing a depressing amount of rubbish along the route.  The nice people at Front Runner decided to suggest a meet up to do something about it.  Lots of people went, me too, it was really good.  Litter picked, communal plogging engaged in.  All done and dusted within a couple of hours.  Hurrah.

Nobody wants to see Skip upset.

be like skip

But Skip the running dog is upset though, because of all the rubbish he keeps seeing out running.  Anyone who has recced the half marathon route of late – which is basically the entire running population of Sheffield – must have felt their heart sink at the sight of some of it.  The problem is, its quite tricky to pick up rubbish whilst running on your own.  I do always make a point of picking up at least one bit of rubbish every time I’m out.  I mean, it’s not much, but it’s better than nothing, and frankly, anyone who runs any route regularly must have experienced that thing where you keep passing the same bit of rubbish every day.  Case in point, there is a bus-stop at Broomhill – just outside the Guitar Shack, it has a couple of empty spirit bottles on the roof there that have been there ever since I moved to Sheffield 7 years ago now, granted, they are not that easily accessible and only visible from the top deck of the bus but it illustrates a point. Rubbish stays where it is unless someone, maybe you or me, picks it up and disposes of it in a responsible and appropriate manner.

Anyways, in a fit of initiative and pro-activity the good people of Front Runner, under the direction of the senior management (Skip) decided to take action on this point.  Noticing a ridiculous amount of rubbish along just a short section of the Sheffield half-marathon route  whilst leading a group recce up there, they spontaneously collected a good bag full of rubbish over just 100 metres.  Figuring that other runners would similarly be dismayed by this, they put a call out for other runners – or indeed ‘normal’ people, to come join them for a communal litter pick yesterday evening.  Keeping it simple it was a question of basically turn up at 6.30 pm outside the Dore Garden Centre and take it from there.

Pleasingly, the post got quite a positive response straight away.  It’s heartening, people do want to do something about their local patch, but sometimes it takes someone to be a catalyst to harness that general sense of ‘someone ought to do something‘ and turn it into ‘we could do something ourselves‘.   It’s true that plogging has become a new and welcome trend, albeit one with a stupid name. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to describe it thus:  Plogging: the fitness craze that’s sweeping the streets,  but the enthusiasm for this apparently the Scandinavian trend for picking up litter while jogging is surely a good thing. Though it’s hardly new.  We have Runners against Rubbish locally – you can join here for just £2 and make the pledge:

The Pledge:

  1. I will never drop any rubbish and will always take my rubbish to a bin
  2. I will encourage others not to drop rubbish
  3. I will pick up rubbish when I see it and am able to do so

I must admit, I’ve not paid up my £2 yet, but I will do so.  I thought until today it was just a concept and a Runners Against Rubbish Facebook page, but it seems it is evolving further.  Hurrah.

RAR

Hurrah, because rubbish not only looks awful, it can be catastrophic for local wildlife too.  Plastic straws up turtles noses is bad, but rubbish isn’t only devastating in the oceans, it does damage on our streets too.

 

 

 

and David Sedaris has been on a solitary endeavour of picking up litter during his epic walks in Sussex for years and years.  He’s even got a bin lorry named in his honour!

US-author-David-Sedaris--014

Still, it would be unwise to pick up litter in the hope of getting a bin lorry named in your honour, picking up litter is rather its own reward.  Upshot is/was there was a little flurry of enthusiastic interest, and it seemed a fair few runners, myself included were totally up for this.  It was a great idea.  A perfect example of many hands making light work, it would be soul destroying and impractical to head out solo and litter pick a 13 mile route, but with a good gang of people, armed with bin bags, gardening gloves and enthusiasm, we’d be able to split up and cover a reasonable stretch quite quickly.

The hour came, and people did indeed gathered.  I’m not good at counting, and also I forgot to do so, but I’d say maybe ten of us or so.  Skip personally welcomed everyone with a sniff and then left his minions to action his plan.  50% of the Front Runner team explained it was all really quite disorganised and clueless, and they hadn’t got much further than setting a time and place to meet and dragging some bags along.  The other 50% of the Front Runner team quickly interjected the correction that this should be seen as an informal approach to the collective endeavour, with all participants being recognised as having equal value and therefore able to make their own decisions about where to go and start plucking litter from the trashed verges along the route.

Despite the ‘informal’ approach, actually there was organisation.  Loads of rubbish bags- proper heavy-duty ones which was just as well, some of the rubbish was pretty substantial.  Someone had brought along a load of extra gloves for others to use, one was tooled up with a proper extension picker thing (I nearly gave in to some litter picker tool envy there) –   plus, there were plenty of hi-viz to go round. Good idea, as dusk was falling.

I was the first to don one. In my defence, this is a lot harder than you might think. this particular vest was the fabric equivalent of super-glue infused mercury.  Mercury, in that it just wanted to reform with itself, and super-glue in that in then wouldn’t detach from itself.  It was like trying to clamber into spandex spanx pants by hauling them over your head.  Not that I’ve tried this, but I’m confident the comparison stands.  Did you know that you can get different discomfort levels?  Everything from ‘smooth’ (they lie) to shaping level 3 ‘sculpt – a super firm hug’.  That is a hug, but from an abusive partner or one with little understanding of the concept of personal space and/or robotic limbs which are incapable of interpreting feedback from the hug-ee, such as when they start gasping for breath and their eyes start trying to escape from their eye sockets.  Less bear hug, and more Heimlich manoeuvre.

Shaping Level 3

It wasn’t altogether supportive that those around me were scrambling for their mobile phones to capture my writhing distress rather than stepping up to assist me, but I took enormous comfort from noting that the next person who tried to don one found the process similarly challenging.  I think it’s because they are small and designed to stretch, which they do, but string vest like there are too many holes to work out which one is for your head and which one is for you limbs.  However, more pleasingly, once someone else was wearing one, you are basically camouflaged as a clown fish.  No really.  I have no idea when Ronhill took over Pixar Animation or if it was the other way round, but anyone wearing the kit was essentially dressed up as Nemo.  Making him easier to find in terms of all round visibility, and harder to find in that they probably weren’t going to be looking for him in Sheffield and there were quite a few decoy hi-viz wearers.  The clown fish kit though was not a bad idea given how much water was sloshing around everywhere.  I didn’t actually fall into any ditches, but it was a close run thing.  I daresay those Ronhill vests would be buoyant in water too.

 

 

I think it was making the connection between wrestling with this hi-viz garment and string vests, that led me at least,  on to the obvious next topic of crocheted swimming trunks.  Disappointingly, the youthful contingency that surrounded us took this to be a jump into surreal humour, not understanding that the concept is not funny at all.  They were indeed a thing, back in the day, and a splendid garment in which young bucks and silver foxes alike could pose on yachts or whatever with far more style and class than could ever be achieved with budgie smugglers. This is no doubt why you can still get the vintage men’s swimwear patterns here,  though to save you the arduous task of clicking on the link, here are some highlights I’ve found especially for you dear reader.  Not that I need to prove my point exactly, but I do feel some sense of responsibility for educating the younger generation coming through.  Terrifying to think this sort of fashion knowledge is at risk of being lost for ever.  We can start the restoration of this garment in Sheffield, and from there it can once again spread out across the world!  That’s stirring stuff.

 

 

In the swim indeed!  And why stop at just knitting your own trunks?  Back in the 1920s I see there was an early prototype of the onesie tri suit that’s just crying out for a come back. I’m sure it would look absolutely fabulous, custom made in club or Front Runner colours.  For some reason I’m thinking the Dark Peak runners vintage hues would be especially magnificent in this style!

crochet tri kit

The possibilities are endless, knitted or crocheted trunks are endlessly versatile and practical too.  Perfect for a snow run for example, the evidence is out there, I mean, granted, he might not have the most efficient running form, but looks fabulous. These ideas could be a game changer once the new tri season gets properly underway:

 

 

Whilst waiting for others to assemble, the chit-chat covered nutritional tips for fuelling marathons, though unfortunately at that point I hadn’t uncovered this helpful bit of research into identifying the best cake for runners.   On the plus side, I was also at that moment in time, unaware of the new fad of using baby food to fuel long runs, so that was some small blessing.  I do accept it comes down to doing whatever works for you, but why not have proper food?  I’ll concede these are a much better option than gels in terms of ingredients, but I think I’d struggle with the texture.  Also, I’m so slow I can take my time a bit more when fuelling on longer runs.  I’m never running with that much speed or urgency.  Plus, all that packaging and waste, it’s terrifying.  Ironically, I picked up some of these baby food wrappers along Sheephill lane.  Maybe it is becoming an adult ‘thing’, it can’t all be recalcitrant children hurling spent wrappers from their buggies as they are pushed along.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We were surprisingly focused.  Some people had come on their own, others in couples or pairs.  With relatively little faffing, we sort of spread out.  I went with two others (hello :)) who drove us up to the far end of Sheephill Lane where we parked by Lady Cannings Plantation and basically worked our way down the hill.  It was noted that passers-by seeing us in our combos of hi-viz and track suit bottoms and hoodies might have assumed we were out there doing community service. That’s fine, as long as they didn’t run us over.

It was quite bright sunshine when we headed out, so I was wearing dark glasses, which no doubt looked increasingly ridiculous as dusk fell.  Mind you, I have plenty of experience of looking ridiculous whilst engaged in running related activities so that was OK, and also I was frankly quite glad of the eye protection as I dived into hedgerows to retrieve wedged in bottles from prickly undergrowth.

A few things you need to know about litter picking.  It’s strangely satisfying and compulsive, once you eyeball a shiny degraded and discarded crisp packet it’s surprising what acrobatic challenges you will take on in order to seize it.  It’s also harder work than you might think, all that squatting and stretching, and even ‘clean’ litter is surprisingly gross.  A lot of the stuff I scooped up out of ditches was full of stagnant water or worse, and even though you shake out what you can, there is definitely a residual ‘ugh’ factor.  On the plus side it’s rewarding to see instant improvement, and sometimes it’s quite fascinating.  Yes there are sweet and crisp wrappers and discarded gel packets and other unremarkable stuff, but can you explain the seemingly empty jam jar apparently placed on a wall.  One section I cleared seemed to have a significant part of the front of a car – including a number plate – I had a momentary fear I was inadvertently clearing up a crime scene and there was bound to be a body submerged in the ditch alongside.  Although to be fair, we sort of agreed really big stuff, like fly tipped goods or indeed corpses we wouldn’t be able to move so I suppose it didn’t matter all that much.  There was a ceramic bowl that was a bit random.  I wonder if someone was carsick into it and just threw the whole lot out some time. We may never know.  The items that enraged me most included banana skins, that I think people deliberately threw into the hedges because they are biodegradable, but without removing those little yellow stickers; and piles of cigarette ends where I think motorists must have just opened their car doors and emptied their ashtrays onto the road.  Top tip, if it’s too gross to want to keep in your car, then it’s also too gross to discard on a public highway.

I was complaining about this to one of my fellow pickers, he said he didn’t think it was necessarily always motorists to blame, could just as easily be cyclists or anyone else, but personally I’ve never seen a bike with a built-in ash tray so I remain unconvinced.

In fairness, not all littering and destruction is intentional.  Some items may have been carelessly blown away out of the grasp of someone and ended up on the route.  Who amongst us has not had a littering accident of their own. I  still feel awful about losing a helium balloon at a birthday parkrun, and have vowed never to run with a balloon again.  Knowing how bad I feel about that, we should all spare a thought for the hotel guest who inadvertently drew a flock of seagulls into his hotel room, where they completely trashed the place.  “The result was a tornado of seagull excrement, feathers, pepperoni chunks and fairly large birds whipping around the room. The lamps were falling. The curtains were trashed.”  As a result of this mishap, which honestly could have happened to anyone who absent-mindedly laid out a whole suitcase of pepperoni on the windowsill of the seaside establishment at which they were staying – he was subject to a lifelong ban from the classy hotel.  Though got pardoned on appeal after 17 years.  Quite right too.  You have seen the Hitchcock film The Birds right?

 

Anyway, pleasingly, just as I had nearly filled my second bag of rubbish, I met other litter pickers who’d come up from the bottom of Sheephill Lane, thus we did indeed do that whole section.  There was however a bit of confusion at this point.  I opted to continue onwards so I could leave my bag with the Front Runner vehicle which I could see up ahead pulled over in the huge external driveway of a rather grand house up there.  My two litter picking compatriots would return the other way, picking up the full rubbish bags we’d left en route and pick me up in their vehicle as they passed.  Unfortunately, the Front Runner vehicle sped away before I could catch it. Then when my litter picking buddies appeared in their very fine souped up mini, they didn’t have room for my bag along with the other three already stowed in their boot. We agreed I’d stay with the bag whilst they went to dump the others and they’d come back for me.

I waited.  It was quite peaceful standing there, watching the dusk.  Various half-marathon runners had constantly jogged past as we were plogging away, but now there were fewer, just one or two, who offered weak smiles as they trudged by.  I waited some more.  It wasn’t an especially long wait, but long enough for me to entertain the idea that if my compatriots were to suffer some freak accident, or indeed just get bored and decide to ditch the plan of returning to collect me I could be out there for days.  At what point would I leave my post.  Should I take the bag with me?  To leave it might just constitute fly-tipping anyway, the very anathema of what I’d set out to achieve.  Also, it was actually pretty isolated up there, peaceful even. There might be a Zombie global apocalypse just starting out from the epicentre of the Sheffield peace gardens RIGHT NOW this moment, and there was I, oblivious, standing in my inappropriate shades and clown fish hi-viz, next to a bag of rubbish. Maybe, though I didn’t know it yet, my future survival would depend on how I utilised the contents of that bag as the only resources available to me to defend myself.  Waiting, waiting, little knowing what tsunami of horrors was about to unfold.

That didn’t happen though.

Fortuitously dear reader, they did return, my bag went in the boot, and I went in the front as the boot wasn’t big enough for me too. We returned to the Dore Garden Centre and found everyone else gone, just three bags of rubbish and some returned borrowed gloves.  We weren’t sure what to do with all this rubbish, it wasn’t stuff you would really want in a car interior.  I reckoned we might be able to sweet talk the pub to let us use their bins, especially as the plan was to have a drink in there afterwards.  I did ask, and to be fair the guy behind the bar was really good, and I was thinking I’d definitely be able to get signed off for my NVQ competency relating to ‘negotiation skills’ as I asked so sweetly if we could avail ourselves of their bins what with having done a local litter pick and being all so public-spirited and everything. Plus I was wearing my hi-viz albeit my companion was in her community service trackies, so we looked like we’d definitely been doing something worthwhile and important.  Alas, it was not to be, turns out they have a strict recycling policy for their bins and so if we put random rubbish in it they could end up being fined, which was disappointing but fair enough.  Instead we divvied up the seeping bags between us, and realising no-one else had lingered for a drink and that we were also now in need of decontamination ourselves, made do with some mutual air-hugs and went our separate ways.

The whole thing only took a couple of hours tops, but between us we got loads of rubbish.  I mean, it’s depressing all that garbage was out there in the first place of course, but heartening that you can make such a difference relatively quickly, and now none of that rubbish is there any more.  That’s good. This picture is not even a third of the total bags gathered up. Bravo.

waddaloadarubbish

So all in all, that was pretty darned satisfying I’d say.  Thanks Skip for taking the initiative to set the plan in motion.  A very fine plan it was too.

Afterwards, I was able to wrestle out of my Nemo outfit in the privacy of my own home.  Result.

So there you go collective plogging comes to Sheffield.  No reason we can’t all do it on our own too. The best bit of this evening was realising that other people care too, and saccharin as it may sound together we can make a difference.  In a world where often times I feel quite powerless, that makes for a nice change.

Hurrah!

So how about you?  Have you joined in the RAR roar yet?  Go on, go on, you know you want to!

BIN_IT_WITH-TAG_CMYK-min

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

There’s snow runners like Graves junior parkrunners!

… and there’s snow fun like junior parkfun!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

great directional pointing

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

There was the gathering for the run briefing:

the gathering

This concluded, then the warm up commenced:

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

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

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

goats eye view at graves 11 2 18

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

finish funnel raring to go 11 2 18

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

finish funnel slide 11 2 18

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

Hurrah!

So that was last week.  This was this:

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

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

off 18 2 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find a junior parkrun event here

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

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

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

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

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

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

mum at bushy parkrun

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

tweet december 2017

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

 

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

January 2018

Dear parkrun UK,

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

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

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

 

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

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

Lucy Marris, A448776

 

Elisabeth’s parkrun story, in her own words:

Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

Thank you parkrunners all.

The tweet in question:

tweet

So that’s official then!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

man with shovel

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

how it started

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

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

precious cargo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YES!

WE WERE!

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

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

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

NYD graves team

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

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

graves parkrun dragonflies

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

graves RD song line briefing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pools brook country park

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

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

poolsbrook dragonfly

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

poolsbrook dragonflies

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

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

GP poolsbrook parkrun dash

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

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

poolsbrook finish

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

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

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

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

east midlands parkrun double migrations

Also, according to the parkrun UK Facebook page:

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

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

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

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

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

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

mum new years day

Phew.

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

Happy new Year y’all!

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

Sharing parkrun niceyness despite the icyness… Sheffield Hallam parkrun

Digested Read: Running isn’t really happening for me at the moment, plus no internet for months now, I’m not a happy bunny.  Fortunately, we still have parkrun. Share the lurve parkrun people in general and Sheffield Hallam parkrun personages in particular, and all will be well with the world. Ho ho ho etc.  parkrun remains the ultimate mood enhancer.  I went yesterday, and I feel less grumpy now, for which I thank you all.

I can’t lie, I’m definitely Ms Grumpy Knickers today. Mostly first world problems granted, but I’m feeling vaguely traumatized on a number of fronts, specifically running related and internet connectivity.  Running related because I’ve hardly been running lately, partly due to overwhelming business, and partly because I’ve got this annoying ‘niggle’ that I am reluctantly having to concede has been going on long enough that it constitutes an actual injury, and requires some sort of positive intervention over and above ignoring it and hoping it will go away. Running injuries are a bit like Christmas in that respect, sooner or later, you have to bow to the inevitable, there’s no avoiding either altogether, eventually they will punch through your defences of pointless denial and launch into your actual reality… Then on top of this startling realisation, recent icy weather is also massively impeding running play.  Did you know that yesterday saw a record number of cancellations for parkrun due to ice?  We missed out on parkrun last week.  Running is most definitely being restricted because of the cold.   Case in point just today.  Granted, I’d inadvertently double booked myself and so was always going to have to miss out on something, and also strictly speaking shouldn’t be running anyway because it hurts, but today both the Longshaw Tinsel 10k (part of the Trust 10 series)  AND Graves Junior parkrun were cancelled due to ice.  All that effort that went into organising these things and then the elements conspired against us.  Runners everywhere are feeling frustrated and thwarted, myself included. Technically I was even triple booked as I was at one point supposed to be doing XC  too, but I’d already bowed out of that because that environment is a bit more competitive and even I knew my knee wouldn’t hold out for that.  Ironically, the XC went ahead apparently, though to a depleted number of hard-core participants.  Go you though team TNT, awesome effort!  Special congratulations to the brave individual who sported shorts, and to the catering manager for the ameretto and mince pie combo, which is way better than the mince pies and lemsip option which I understand was also under consideration.  Are bikes allowed now at XC?  Must check that if I venture out again next year, that could be a game changer… also, nice head wear everyone.  Bravo!

tnt XC triumph

Anyways, I am digressing, back to case in point…

It certainly looks lovely out there though… (photos shamelessly taken from Longshaw Estate Facebook page)

Totally the right call by organisers, but it is disappointing.  What’s the point of snow if you can’t go out cavorting in it?  Having said that, have you seen this?  Best cancellation notice EVER in the history of running, by Perth junior parkrun ice manager (niche volunteer role granted) click on the link and marvel.  Why the running but not moving on the ice demo has not yet gone viral I simply can’t imagine!

perth junio parkrun

Frustratingly, other more intrepid runners are posting glorious photos of scampering about in the peaks, but the ice on my hilly road leaves me too scared to venture out and about. It’s not so much yaktrax I need as an actual yak.

yak

This is a particular dilemma for the following reasons:

  1. I don’t generally approve of keeping animals in captivity
  2. Even if I did, I don’t know how to look after yaks properly
  3. Even if i did and did, I don’t know where to source them from
  4. Even if I did, and I did and I do, you still should never, ever buy an animal at Christmas.  Animals are for life not just for Winterval and internet memes.  Apparently.

As if all these hardships weren’t enough troubles to weigh me down, I’ve been without internet for weeks now due to ‘supplier error’.  This wouldn’t be so bad, if it were not for the fact that there is no prospect of getting connected before new year. There’s only so much connectivity that can occur with a Vodaphone Dongle. If anything, being in possession of said dongle has only increased my frustration as it wafts the tantalising but elusive hope before me that if I can but find the sweet spot in my dwelling for a micro-second I might just get online.  It’s like trying to grab the end of a rainbow, only less compelling as a theme for fairy stories, and significantly less picturesque – well as far as I know, not honestly checked it out, but I can speculate as well as the next woman, and this is where my research has led me to date …. I don’t need  a survey monkey dataset to validate my instincts on this one surely?

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Without internet I have lost the ability to communicate with my running buddies and check out running related anecdotes so even if not actually running, I could live my running life vicariously through the exploits of others.  I can only tell myself a digital detox was long overdue for so long, 6 weeks and counting is too long.  This story does not wash.

What could I do?

Well, for those of you who are interested in emulating my personal Customised Reallyrubbishnotrunning Action Plan I can tell you so far my strategy has comprised the following:  I’ve done a bit of wallowing in self-pity.  Not terribly effective truth to tell, but then again, that packet of digestive biscuits wasn’t ever going to eat itself and lt’s face it, a mug of tea solves most problems.  Particularly Yorkshire tea.  Are there other teas available?  I suppose there must be…  However, nothing can be as fine as the tea from the plantations of Sheffield surely?

drink tea

Then yesterday, I decided to go to parkrun anyway, because I’ve finally got around to making an appointment to see a physio on Monday (tomorrow), so I figured I might as well see if parkrun does properly break me as if not, that’s fab, and if it does, then at least the physio will have something to treat.  I know, I know, but since when has an injured runner ever listened to any ‘sensible’ advice.  How do I know if I’m hurt or not if I don’t keep checking?

Honestly, given how cold and icy it’s been I wasn’t even that confident Sheffield Hallam parkrun would happen.  Last week lots of Sheffield parkruns were cancelled, and even yesterday Graves was cancelled.  It didn’t look tooooooooo bad when I headed out, but my there was a nip in the air. I wonder if we call it a ‘nip in the air’ because of what it does to your nipples?  I’ve never thought about that before, which is surprising given the ability of my mind to wander in unexpected directions at times.  Mine were, erm,  well let’s just say, signalling that they were most definitely very well aware of the cold, and communicating it quite markedly, pointedly even.  This is not just a ‘me’ thing I hope, or my reader will think this very weird.  Sorry (ish), but then again, the truth will out, just as my.. no enough now.

I wore road shoes, as if my London marathon attempt is to be anything other than hypothetical I need to start getting used to them. This was my first miscalculation of the morning, as it was way more slippery than I’d imagined.  If I’d allowed myself a bit more time, and quite frankly if I could have been arsed, I might have turned back and changed into trail shoes, but that would have meant lugging my weary carcass up a steep hill, and well, you know, might be OK.  If it’s that icy we wont have to run anyway, just go for brunch instead, that wouldn’t be so terrible surely..

I arrived at Sheffield Hallam parkrun  a bit later than usual.  Pink flags were a-flying and runners a-running and no doubt lords a-leaping someplace somewhere too.  One at least was in Endcliffe Park – not sure where his nine buddies were, but then again, maybe he was just practising ahead of time, it’s not the tenth day of Christmas yet…

GC high fliers

He looks quite chuffed with his technique there, and so he should, but his minders behind maybe need to work on their ‘I’m honestly really impressed’ faces in my unsolicited opinion.

parkrun was happening.  No sneaky breakfast without running first then.  You can tell I’m conflicted.  On the one hand I’m massively frustrated about not being able to run, on the other, running is painful at the moment, so if parkrun is cancelled I feel that’s a legitimate reason not to run, and breakfast sans run is permitted, so I’m still part of the parkrun gang and not missing out on anything.  But if it’s on, well rude not to run isn’t it, so parkrun then brunch it is, but my it hurts…  I was a bit later than usual, so less time for meeting and greeting than usual. There was a noticeably small (but perfectly formed) field, and a veritable army of volunteers.  There was also some ice. Uh oh. Right at the start in an area we run across three times. How would this work?

Well dear reader, our Run Directors have massively advanced problem solving skills it seems.  I think some of them may have evolved to use parts of the brain that most humans never activate, because some inventive trouble shooting was speedily put into place.  For starters (pun intended), instead of starting on the skiddy tarmac, the start funnel was shifted onto the frosty, crunchy grass, and then – and this was sheer genius quite honestly – our hi-viz heroes formed a guard of honour to cheer us off and steer us away from the section of ice that might otherwise have thwarted play.  To be fair, we use the human tunnel technique quite a lot at junior parkrun in a (misguided) attempt to direct junior runners, but mostly they just run into us or ignore our best efforts in joyful anarchy.    Look at this though.  Impressive!

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Putting themselves in harm’s way for the greater good (and 1/25 of a T-shirt and some D of E credits maybe).  Courage indeed.  They stayed in position to keep us the right side of the ice as we came back towards them.  Great team work, and effective too, not a single runner toppled that I saw.  I did see a youngster nearly veer into the pond at one point, but that seemed to be a steering rather than ice issue, I think they were able to swerve away in time.

I was noisily whingeing worried about my knee/ calf/ shins/ miscellaneous unfitness to run so slotted in even more towards the back than usual.  I broke my usual rule of not talking and running, and ended up in a companionable yomp with my Dig Deep running buddy.  To avoid any suspicion that this talking and running malarkey will ever become a regular occurence, I made sure I looked especially joyless in the parkrun photos that captured the occasion.  I don’t generally like to brag, but it would be false modesty to pretend I’d not completely nailed the ‘oozing air of hostility’ expression whilst running here don’t you agree?  (Good luck with working out which of those negatives cancel one another out grammar police, think of it as my Winterval quiz challenge for you to enjoy on Boxing day, after your long run).

GC grumpy knickers

You should not be deterred from parkrun by my outward appearance of grumpiness.  Sheffield Hallam parkrunners are in fact mostly joyful.  Not even just because it’s Christmas, but pretty much all the time. Here are some especially joyful ones by way of illustration:

You see, this is the thing.  You can’t be at parkrun and not share in the collective lurve.  I have been suffering from some serious grumpiness of late, but not only did parkrun lift my mood, when I finally managed to get some internet access to look at the photos from yesterday I was reminded with new vigour how completely brilliant this Saturday ritual is.  The photos really do tell a story about how fabulous the event is, and all who contribute to it as participants, spectators, whatever.  Some runners even added to the festive frolics with appropriate accessorizing. Rocking stylish headgear with considerable aplomb.

I also had stylish headgear, but alas never got the memo about needing to rock it with considerable aplomb, probably because it was sent by email, and my internet is STILL NOT WORKING.  I just stuck with a slightly pained expression instead.

not rocking headgear

Cynicism and unflattering photo shoots aside, parkrun is a marvel though.  When you look back at all the photos of our Sheffield Hallam regulars storming round in the freezing cold with huge smiles to complement their goose bumps it is pretty impressive. The phenomenon that is parkrun brings joy not just for Christmas, but year round, though clearly many will enjoy consulting the Christmas Compendium for their sneaky extra winterval parkrun fixes.  Those pitiful parkrunners who find themselves the sole parkrun passionista in their households will be hoping for the ultimate Christmas Gift from Santa this year in the form of a parkrun pass – hope they’ve been good:

parkrun pass

As always, everyone was free to participate in their own way, some taking on a quick sprint challenge, some companionably yomping, others finding parkrun is a manifestation of a dog’s life, but in a good way.   A few people were still basking in the afterglow of a succesful 2017 Percy Pud, sporting the trophy Tee-shirts, which have no doubt been worn continuously since the event as who would want such a garment wrenched from them in an untimely fashion when it was good to go another week or so at least?  I salute you all, co-conspirators; sprint finishers; leading the throngers; Percy Puddingers; unconvincingly camera-shyers and milestone celebrants.

Even Queen Victoria was amused, though sadly she was cut a bit out of shot in this image, but I promise you she was nigh on doubled up with merry laughter, so caught up was she in the infectious joy of being present at a parkrun event.  That’s why these two are laughing cheerily, just been sharing a merry joke with her I expect, as you do.

GC even vic would be amused by parkrun

Takes all sorts parkrun, and you know what, running at its best can pump out those endorphins to the point we can all feel magnificent and invincible.  Think that’s what’ happening here.  Spreading the joy people, we can all be part of this, walk, run, jog, volunteer, but just be there and marvel and life can feel great for a bit at least.

Point of information, I don’t actually look like this when I run (see evidence above, sadly) if we are honest, most of us don’t, and not only because of gender differences.  But the point is, sometimes you can feel like this, it’s all that positive affirmation from volunteers, the collective coming together, the being out on a glorious day.  It’s always worth it.  Always, even on the not so great days or days where there is less festive accessorizing and more rain.

GC santa dash

Yesterday though, we even had bad yuletide punning.  Life surely doesn’t get much better than that!

GC tree amigos

Mind you, only just realised, no actual Christmas Trees in the shot.  I’m hoping they’ve sold out, and aren’t just going to keep on felling the few trees Amey havent already lopped down and try to palm* those off on their unsuspecting public… (*see what I did there?  I know, genius – wood you credit it).

So, despite everything, despite my lack of running at the minute, and other complications in life, parkrun is still something that can put a smile on my face.  I’m so grateful to have stumbled across it, and feel incredibly lucky to be in Sheffield where we have a veritable plethora of runs to choose from and dedicated teams who do all they can to ‘make it so’ even in unpromising conditions.  Yay to the volunteers – always room for a few more of course, just contact the relevant parkrun team by email and you too could gain the glory of hi-viz and maybe one day graduate to a clipboard or scanner – even stopwatch if you have the nerve to operate one and at least one opposable thumb.

GC volunteers important huddle

So just one more parkrun to go before Christmas – two if you factor in junior parkruns on Christmas Eve which are guaranteed to be awesome or your money back as I understand it.  Next week’s at Sheffield Hallam is bound to be a Christmas Corker.  Hope to see you all there, doing your own thing, in your own way, because that’s all that’s needed for the awesomeness to continue.

Share the joy people, seeing as how it’s Christmas (nearly).  Let’s take a moment to remember how blooming brilliant parkrun is, lest we come to take it for granted.  Just think, there are already people in the world running at junior parkrun who have never known a world without parkrun to take part in.  Isn’t that amazing, to the next generation a world without parkrun will be as incomprehensible as a world without mobile phones ‘but how did you all manage?’ to which surely the honest to goodness truthful response has to be ‘I have no idea.  It was a dark and dismal time and place, but we knew no better’.

I suppose it must have been an unknown unknown, and we were all the poorer for it.

Ho ho ho everyone.  Yuletide felicitations too.

GC something in my eye

You’re welcome.

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

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

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

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

apricot tee

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

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

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

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

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

junior parkrun code

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

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

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

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

fancy dress run

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

Nice gifs though..

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

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

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

DSCF0197

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

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

unicorn guardian

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

 

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

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

alarming a llama

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

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

rainbow puke styling.jpg

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

Sophie funtimes

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

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

unicorns find one another

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

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

wait for it….

A shark!

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

shark attack

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

 

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

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

Regal Smiley

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

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

Oh.  My. God

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

happy birthday cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

start line

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

human cones start line

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

volunteers ready

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

happy dog

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

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

Happy Birthday to us!

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

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

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

Nom nom nom nom nom.

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

Maxing out with fun of olympic proportions at Sheffield Hallam parkrun August 2017

Digested read:  Olympians were everywhere at parkruns across the country today. We maxed out on our luck gaining Max Litchfield for the day.  I did finish token volunteering duty as half a Smiley double act.  We were awesome.  I have an idea for the re-education of Funnel Duckers, but it may not be entirely ethical.  It was a nice day, and you want to know the best bit? We can do it all again next saturday!  Yay!

The forecast for today was sunshine and showers, you know what that means?  Well, pessimists might say it means you get wet, optimists may say it means the sun smiles on you and I say, ‘look a rainbow!’  Always a grand start to the day, even if it did mean my sunglasses got wet.

rainbow

Today Olympians were promised to make an appearance at parkruns everywhere.  The identity of these demigods and the locations at which they’d be turning up was kept under wraps until the last-minute.  The plan was they’d be tail walkers at events as part of a campaign to get across the message that parkrun is indeed for everyone and no-one gets left behind.  So it was the night before Sheffield Hallam parkrun Facebook page did a bit reveal and announced we would be joined by Max!

Max to dip his toe in the parkrun

Very exciting news on this parkrun eve! We are proud to announce that this weekend, parkrun has teamed up with UK Sport and c.100 National Lottery funded Olympic and Paralympic Athletes will be attending parkruns across the country to help volunteer as part of #teamparkrun.
We are very pleased to welcome Max Litchfield tomorrow, who swam for Great Britain in the 2016 Olympics and for England in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. 🏊   Max will be tail walking. Hope you’ve got your barcode Max! #dfyb.

Fortunately, they took the precaution of providing a link to save us all having to google who he was.  That is not in any way to take away from his achievements, but I think it’s fair to say he isn’t quite as high-profile as Jessica Ennis or Mo Farah say – though his support is/was more than welcome all the same.

Because of my big Dig Deep 12.12 adventure the following day, I elected to volunteer at parkrun today.  It’s no great hardship, volunteering is a hoot. You can still get an adrenalin high and loads of mini-adventures, plus credits to your 25 Volunteer tee, and not be made to run 5k.  Result.  To be honest, I’ve often had my services declined as a volunteer at Hallam parkrun, but this time I got my request in early as I knew I wouldn’t want to run today ages ago.   It did worry me a bit as I walking down when it dawned on me just how pleased and relieved I was that I didn’t have to run today given that I will have to run over 12 miles tomorrow.  Oh well, tomorrow is another day, maybe adrenalin will kick in and I’ll be unexpectedly turbo charged?

It was a beautiful morning, though it rained a lot later (poor ultra runners were getting a soaking early on in their 30, 50 and 60 mile Peak District Dig Deep epic races).  As I sauntered to the start, I saw a little huddle of hoodies, behind the bins, and bent over something. Closer inspection revealed each deep in concentration, with a little pile of tokens in front of them.  Each protectively nursed and tended their respective heap, occasionally a hand would shoot out and there’d be a brief wrestle for custody of one particular token, then the clattering of counted out bits of plastic continued.  They worked in a furious silence.

I wondered what they could be doing?  Trading Pokemon cards perhaps – but that would be rather late for such a craze to suddenly arrive at parkrun. It seemed altogether more likely that it was some high-stakes strange token gambling ring led by the snakehead or mafia gangs of Rustlings Road.  Honestly, I was not previously aware of any such triads of that nature operating in the area, but then again these things always lurk in the hidden shadows of society do they not.  Whatever it was, it was a reckoning not to be interfered with.  The die was cast, the game was on, it would have to play out to its inevitable conclusion without outside intervention.

I was actually a bit disappointed when I found out it was just that the tokens from last week’s parkrun never got sorted, so there was an emergency sifting system set in place this morning. They did good.  I was mightily relieved they did so with such focus and aplomb, as I was on token duty, with an elegant Smiley elder side-kick on finish token support. I knew we’d be a dream team with our combined expertise, and although maybe eyesight wasn’t our forte, I’d got my glasses with me so we’d probably be able to muddle through.

token dream team

The next item on the agenda was to check out our olympian.  Yesterday at the Dig Deep talks I’d tried to remember who he was.  I got the name right and said it was water related. The others around me reckoned on a diver.  I thought about this for a bit, and then remembered reading something about him excelling at the 200 and 400 metre distances.  Probably not a diver then?  I mean even tombstoning adrenalin junkies would draw the line at a 400 metre drop – wouldn’t they?

He is/was indeed a swimmer, a friendly one, and a tall one.  Going by the name of Max Litchfield and made easier to identify by handy dint of wearing a GB outfit and pink hi-viz combo.  At the start we noticed various people asking for autographs not so much from him, as from someone standing nearby who he’d come with.  I didn’t know who that was either.  I  wondered if we should start a queue to get autographs from each other, and see who we could dupe into thinking maybe we were the day’s Olympians, though granted people might struggle to guess what my olympic sport of choice might be.  Joking apart, we had a fine Olympian, he was very smiley, and did a sterling job at loping along and being photographed a lot, which is admirable.  It takes enormous dedication to excel in swimming, I hope his efforts are rewarded.  He must be good enough that he can probably do front crawl without swallowing water, and I bet he can pick a brick up from the bottom of the pool wearing his pyjamas too, so respect.  I never got beyond a one width badge myself, and even that never got sewn onto my bathing suit.  On the other hand, I do float brilliantly.  Actually, if there was an endurance ‘bobbing around like a cork’ olympic event I’d definitely win that. See, we do all have a unique skill set, it’s just a question of experimentation and exploration to find out for yourself just what that niche is.  I claim the sport of endurance cork-bobbing for my own!  You heard it here first!

tail walking team

So the press corp was there, the Olympian in evidence and the hi viz heroes assembled.  It was looking good.  I like the coming together at the start of parkrun, it seems to happen as if we are drawn to the focal point of the starting flag by some invisible force. What did we all used to do on a Saturday morning? I just can’t remember any more, I really can’t.  My pre parkrun life seems like a bad dream.  I shudder at the very thought.

Whilst I was staring at our very own olympian and posing for photos, the more spatially aware members of the volunteer team started to create a maze of red and white tape and lightweight poles to act as the four lane finish tunnel.  It was a work of art… which unfortunately periodically blew over  as the wind tossed up the lightweight posts.  This prompted a whirlwind of leaping hi – viz marshals into action, they ran around constantly trying to re-erect it in epic display of hope over experience.  Tenacious lot parkrun volunteers you know.

Eventually 9.00 approached and there was the pre-run briefing, applause for milestones, volunteers and a welcome to our tail-walking olympian

then 3, 2, 1, GO!  It was like the Wizard of Oz film, only with tarmac paths instead of a yellow brick road as we started in black and white and then evolved into Technicolor!  A.Maz.Ing.  Well, not really, but it’s still a cool bit of photo editing by our hero snapper for the day don’t you agree?

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As we had a  few minutes before the fastees came hurtling round me and some of the other volunteers lined the path and had fun watching the runners hare round.  As we were standing near play area, it was also entertaining watching runners various disrobe and hurl their unwanted kit onto the railings around the swings as they sped by. It was like a drive-by strip show or something.  Personally I wouldn’t have the body confidence, or indeed contortional dexterity to remove my top whilst running but for those who can why not?  One guy was (I presume) doing drills mid parkrun, running with an exaggerated style, high knees, then fast feet for a bit, that was fine, not sure it was quite so in line with parkrun etiquette to do a bit of zig zagging along the route to work those lateral  – well lateral whatever muscles it would work by dodging sideways –  I should have concentrated more at woodrun when we are building up to our grapevine drills I’m sure it’s been explained.  The double buggy runner was pretty impressive, but then again, so was everyone.  Runners are awesome, all of us, in all ways.  See them unfold before you in all their glory.  Look out for the jazz hands; the jiving jogger;  the happy couple; the joy of running photo pose; the ‘aw’ shots; the vi runner and guide and the unorthodox interpretation of the canine assisted run.  Enjoy:

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Suddenly, a cry went up and the front runner who was actually from Front Runner was coming into view.  We all leapt to our stations and were on our marks at the finish.  Last minute conferring on our technique and go!  We were indeed running like a well-oiled machine.  As finish token dispenser I had the privilege of handing out the tokens to each runner in turn, which is the only occasion in which I get to legitimately hold the No One finish position bar code. A great honour indeed.  Meanwhile, the tokens were handed to me in hand-size batches with a ‘right way up?’ ‘Check’ exchange in piles of about 30.  I think we worked pretty well.  It could be that a learning point for myself is that I’ve spent too long at junior parkrun and maybe those guys who’ve just done a 15 minute 5k or whatever don’t really need me to say ‘jolly well done!’ or ‘great running’ as they come into the finish funnel. Still it’s the thought that counts, and the first finishers are too knackered to speak anyway, so you can say what you want without challenge.

Another observation from this role is that you do get exposed to an alarming quantity of bodily secretions.  I mean, I’m talking a lot of snot.  I couldn’t believe how much mucus was discharged and on show as the hard-core runners come through.  I must say, this is less of an issue at junior parkrun.  It made me appreciate that for some the perfection of a well-aimed snot rocket is perhaps a legitimate part of their training.  I wouldn’t say it bothered me all that much, but I probably was less up for random high fives in the finish funnel than I would be at Graves Junior parkrun say.  Then again generally speaking, less physical contact with adult runners was expected.  At junior parkrun I dispense high fives in the finish funnel with uncensored abandon, but the first finishers at this  5k Sheffield Hallam parkrun didn’t look like they had the resources left for completing the walk through the funnel let alone returning any high fives.   Shame.

One weird thing though, was how many people stopped to ask me questions even though I was clearly in the middle of frantically handing out the tokens and trying to keep the line moving.  One guy even appeared behind me, not from the funnel, and started demanding a token, as ‘I need one too’.  Not sure what had happened there, funnel ducker maybe?  See what anomalies turn up in the results later on today….  I don’t mind particularly that people do these things, well I do mind about funnel ducking but presume it was a first timer who just didn’t know – but it is an interesting example of the post-run fug perhaps.  People just not really thinking or able to process ideas properly at that moment just after you’ve given your all and then suddenly stop.  Some didn’t want their tokens so I ended up with a little collection in my pocket, including one a runner returned having accidentally taken it home last week.  Thumbs up to them.  All of these tokens I nearly went home with, oops.  That would have been an epic volunteering fail if I hadn’t realised in time!

It goes quickly doing finish tokens, there’s a bit rush in the middle, and then the field emptied out again. We were all looking out for our olympian tail.  He actually came in all smiles, having run in encouraging a woman not quite at the back.  A false bottom if you will.    Like the sort you have in executive briefcases when you want to smuggle plans out of the country and are in some sort of spy thriller except not.  A cheer went up for our game olympian and his companion as they crossed the line.  Yay.

The stopwatch was stopped, and then there was minor consternation as it was realised the actual tailwalker was still out on the course.  Oh well, all back on stations, the stop watch was restarted, and although maybe their finish times would have been fractionally out, the crisis was averted.  Finish take two, cheers, and all home.

The final finishers were a family affair, which was most pleasing.  Gotta love parkrun!

 

So the clear up team dissambled the funnel and folded hi-viz jackets.  We returned unused tokens to the Run Director and that was it all done.

Apart from this.  Funnel Duckers.  Serendipity meant that the Soak a Scientist contingency were out in force in the park today. They were fundraising for MND (motor neurone disease) and gamely out there in less than clement weather with cake aplenty and lab coated scientists ready to be drenched.  Now just a thought, but could this be a possible way forward in terms of re-education to help reform and realign habitual funnel duckers by using this as a correctional technique.  There seemed to be volunteers enough to implement this so, there you go.  I got some shots as my fellow parkrunners had a quick practise, what do you think?  Could be a goer?  And a nifty little fundraiser to boot.  What’s not to like?

So the conclusion is yep, we maxed out on the fun, and fun was had by all, so much so it was probably viral on twitter by lunch time, but I’m not on twitter so I wouldn’t know. Thanks for the coming and tweeting Max Litchfield you clearly not only know your swimming game, but more importantly from my point of view, have completely nailed the group selfie.  My we are collectively gorgeous are we not?

Max Litchfield fun of olympic proportions

Happy days at Hallam eh?

 

Same time and place next week?

Happy yomping times ’til then.  🙂

 

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

For Sheffield Hallam parkrun seventh birthday post see here.

For all Sheffield Hallam parkrun posts see here scroll down for older entries.

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