Posts Tagged With: walking at parkrun

Mighty, Meditative, Marvellous & Magical: Markeaton parkrun

Another Saturday, another parkrun.

Reet nice out.

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Where to go? I wasn’t entirely feeling the parkrun love this week. As my regular reader will know I’m struggling a bit with walking at parkrun, and these days always feel quite a bit of trepidation about whether and where to go in my quest to find a welcoming parkrun. Some times it just seems crazy to drive far, far away just to traipse round a park in pain for 5k in solitude. Then again, I might get lucky, find a new amazing park, see smiling welcoming high vis heroes, have a micro adventure, maybe see someone I know. You never regret a parkrun as the saying goes. What the hell…

I picked Markeaton parkrun for this week. It’s quite near to Sheffield, and honestly, I don’t really know why I’ve not spotted it before, it being a well established parkrun, yep, that’d do. It seemed to have all the tourist things, loos, car parking, a full roster in advance to give confidence it would be happening, yep, that’d do. It was a last minute decision, but you know what, ’twas a grand one too!

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The official |Markeaton parkrun blah de blah states:

Course Description
The course consists of two clock-wise laps on a mix of tarmac and limestone path. The start is located by the stone bridge at the top of the lake. The course follows the lake towards the east side of the park then curves round to the right just before the park boundary and heads back towards the centre of the park. The course then crosses the main path in the park and passes the front of the south car park. At this point the surface changes to a limestone path and heads up a hill towards the wooded section. Just before the exit of the park the course takes a sharp right-hand turn and heads downhill along the south boundary of the park.

After another sharp right-hand turn and a small hill downhill to the left the course follows the west boundary of the park, a left-hand turn leads back onto a gravelled tarmac path with a right-hand on to a straight path. Half way along this straight is a left-hand turn and the path passes behind the old stable building and back past the start where runners begin a second lap. On reaching the straight for a second time runners continue to the finish in front of the stone steps by the Orangery. The course will be well signed and marshalled where available.

Facilities
There is a small fee for car parking. Details can be found on the Derby City Council website.

Toilet facilities are available at the Craft Village and the Mundy Play Centre. Radar Key operated disabled toilets are available at both locations. Opening times vary according to season.

The park has many additional facilities including a children’s play area, boating lake, pitch and putt, light railway and fishing.

Getting there by road
There are two car parks – the main car park (nearest to the start of the run) is accessible from Markeaton Island on the A38 and A52. The SATNAV postcode is DE22 4AA. It has a 2m height restriction.

The other car park, near the Mundy Play Centre, is accessible from Markeaton Lane and the SATNAV postcode is DE22 3BG. There is a small charge for both car parks.

Post Run Coffee
Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in the Orangery Café – please come and join us!

And it looks like this –

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Which I think you can agree, is basically a badly drawn map of Australia, that either completely omits Tasmania, oops, or just pretends they didn’t and it’s actually the roundabout! So feel free to come do this course dressed as a koala or other marsupial of your choice. Personally I’m more wombat than kangaroo, but I’d definitely have improvised a hat with corks on a string hanging from it if I’d only thought of it in advance. Now you’ve had my tip off you can go prepared. The team will appreciate it. It’s a cheaper and greener way to become an international parkrun tourist, and what’s not to like about that?

I think they should rewrite their course description with reference to the various states of Australia, not only because this would amuse me, but also because that would be edutainment at it’s best. Be honest, how many of the states can you name, and, what’s the capital of Australia whilst we are about it?

Really? Are you sure? OK, you might be confident about that, but what year did Scott and Charlene get married? Eh? And how about, how many parkruns are there in Australia? Clue, more than you might think! And last question: is the Bungle Bungles a real place or an imaginary one? Photos on the internet prove nothing by the way, you mustn’t believe everything you see there, ask yourself rather, does that geological formation look plausible? Quite. I rest my case.

Where was I? Oh yes, en route to Markeaton. It wasn’t too long a drive this morning, but as always |I set off paranoically early. Climate change being what it is, it was an extraordinarily mild day. Leaving the house I saw that as well as my lobelia still being in flower (not a euphemism) now my lavender has bloomed again and is set off beautifully by a backdrop of geraniums and fuchsia. My garden looks fantastic, but it’s hard not to be discombobulated by these signs that indicate the end of time. Oh well, I had a parkrun to attend, mustn’t linger dwelling on our world imploding.

Lovely autumn colours lined the roads for a super easy drive from Sheffield. Only at the last point did I somehow get lost. I had input the satnav for Mundy carpark, but although it did take me there pretty much, I lost my nerve as it seemed to be miles and miles away from where the park was and I didn’t think I’d manage to walk that distance back to the start. There were some runners around, but not obviously parkrunners, though I do always wonder why anyone would run around 9.00 on a Saturday morning at a parkrun location if not a parkrunner. I decided to head back and use the satnav for the other car park, which to be fair, was what I’d meant to do in the first place. Uh oh. Fail. The sat nav took me back to the big roundabout where there is an Esso petrol station and a massive McDonalds and an abundance of exit roads. Somehow, I ended up being directed off in another direction entirely, definitely no parkrun on the dual carriageway there. Reasoning the sat nav was off, I found a suitable place to turn around and went for a circuit of said roundabout. This time I saw huge ‘unmissable’ brown signs to Markeaton park, and an even huger ginormous one pointing to the main entrance to the park. I have no idea how I missed this first time round, but the moral is, be alert to your surroundings rather than slave to the satnav. I was glad I’d allowed some extra time to rock up there though.

Once I’d found the entrance, it was pretty straightforward. The car park was pretty spacious and there were helpful signs all over. There was a miniature railway, this seems to be a trend in some of the parkruns I’ve been to of late. Maybe I’m missing a trick in not taking advantage of them. There are loads of facilities, cafe, loos, sports courts. All the things. You do have to pay for parking (unless you have a blue badge) parkin was reasonable but the reference to ‘small fee’ made me think it might just be a pound say, whereas I think it was more like £1.60 for an hour and then going up in increments depending on how long you stay. So fair enough, but more than I was expecting. You can either go quietly insane trying to find the right app, downloading it etc, or just pay with cash (no change given) but the good news is that there was loads of space. There was also a growing number of arriving parkrunners with tourist buffs and slightly confused expressions as they tried to get their bearings, and some regulars, marching purposefully out of the carpark in the direction of the muster for the start.

Markeaton park is truly spectacular! I was amazed at the size and maturity of some of the trees looking stunning in their autumn colours. The sun came out – a bit too much to be honest, it was more than my camera could cope with, but I was astonished to find such a huge and lovely park next to the unpromising roundabout populated by two of my least favourite businesses. I think beyond the park I could see building from the University of Derby, but if you looked the other direction the green space seemed to go on to infinity. There were periodic public art bits and bobs, maps, lots of water all very lovely, thank you for asking.

I followed the people who looked like the knew where they were going. We’ve been through this before, it slightly concerns me how readily I’ll follow people who look confident, this is how you end up joining cults but hey ho, as cults go, parkrun is a pretty benign one. Oh, and there were these clusters of fairy toadstools too. It was a gorgeous green space. As per, the photos don’t really do it justice, you’ll just have to use your imagination. I really liked the figures pointing in opposite directions, though you do have to hope the marshals will be a bit clearer with their directional pointing (spoiler alert, they were). I guess the fun thing to do would be to poke your heads through the slots and get a picture, but my arms weren’t long enough for me to achieve the necessary contortions to make it so. To be fair, they still aren’t now, but maybe you could give it a go, especially if you have journeyed there with a friend. Go on, you know you want to.

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After a bit, the ‘craft village’ came into view. Oh my! It’s a full on historic building – Markeaton Hall, complete with blue plaque for the Mundy Family. ‘Who?’ I hear you cry. Worry not dear reader, let me google that for you. Oh, turns out there is quite a lot, and I don’t want to go full on parkrunpedia on you, the basics are:

Francis Mundy (bapt. 29 Aug 1771 – 6 May 1837) was an English landowner, Member of Parliament for the Derbyshire constituency and, in 1820, Sheriff of Derbyshire.

Poor Francis only got to inherit the one estate, Markeaton Hall, but fortunately, it was and is a jolly nice one, so not exactly roughing it. Oh wait, hang on, that mahoosive building isn’t even the hall, that fell into disrepair, it is just the orangery which is all that is left. Wowsers, how massive must that hall have been. Nightmare to heat. Oh wait, this is properly interesting, I’ll do a cut and paste for you and hope it’s true!

The manor of Markeaton was held by the Tuchet family from the 13th century. Sir John Tuchet (b.1327) married Joan, daughter of James Audley, 2nd Lord Audley and heiress of his brother Nicholas Audley, 3rd Lord Audley of Heleigh Castle, Staffordshire, and in due course their son became the 4th Lord Audley.

Sir John Audley of Markeaton fought for Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

The Audleys sold the manor in 1516 to Sir John Mundy, Lord Mayor of London in 1522. The Mundys replaced the old manor house with a new mansion in about 1750.

Sir John Mundy’s descendants included a number of High Sheriffs of Derbyshire including Francis Noel Clarke Mundy who commissioned paintings from Joseph Wright of Derby to decorate his home and record the hunts that took place at Markeaton.

In 1929, the Markeaton Hall and twenty acres (81,000 m²) of its gardens were given to the Corporation by the Reverend Clarke Maxwell who had inherited the estate from the late Mrs Mundy, on condition that the whole area would be used as a public park and that the mansion would be maintained for cultural purposes, for example a museum or and art gallery. Unfortunately the hall was used by the Army during World War II and allowed to fall into disrepair after the war.

The Hall was eventually declared to be unsafe and was demolished in 1964, leaving standing only the Orangery, a Grade II listed building

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Fair play, that’s a lot of history.

Looked impressive too. Now the ‘mere’ orangery is still standing and still breath taking. What a backdrop for a parkrun. There was a whole courtyard behind, which I now know you could take a shortcut through to get to the start if you didn’t want to listen to the run briefing. Please do that instead of just talking through it, it does my head in that people do that. There were loos that were open and reasonable. They had the weirdest inside design though. The sinks being one side of the door way and the hand driers the other, so as there was a queue in the ladies there was a constant circulation of folk moving from one side to the other, or going with the frantic handwaving or the failsafe wiping washed hands on your leggings rather than barging back through the queue. No idea what the gents was like, but I’m going to guess that as usual they don’t have to queue and had no such formation dancing going on whilst having their comfort breaks and performing any necessary ablutions.

In the courtyard was the largest ornamental urn thingy I’ve ever seen, and towering around its edges were ornamental railings. I don’t really know what function this might serve, but it was definitely impressive and now I want one too. Even though I’d have to demolish part of my house to accommodate it in my garden, that would be but a small price to pay for such an astonishing bit of garden sculpture, though Markeaton Park authorities might not be keen to part with it. I got an early sighting of some of the volunteers, I thought they were just chatting, but now I’ve see them in action, I’m pretty confident these two were just working out the bell ringing synchronicity to make sure it was perfect from the off. Spoiler alert, they nailed it.

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After a bit of milling about, there was a call out for first timers to gather for the first timers’ welcome. This was thorough and genuine, though being told ‘just ignore any references to cardiac hill’ was somewhat mischievous. A couple of tourists were sporting 500 tees, don’t see too many of the in the wild, so that was exciting too.

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First timers’ welcome over, time to mill about and do some sign posing before the RD briefing.

One of the excellent features of the venue, is that the raised courtyard area has steps leading down to the finish funnel, which is the area where parkrunners gather for the Run Director’s briefing, so they can stand atop the steps and be clearly seen and heard which is great. The Run Briefing was extremely good. There was a Couch to 5k group that was doing their graduation parkrun. They were warmly welcomed. A volunteer with a milestone volunteer got an extra round of applause. Tourists were welcomed from near and far ‘from Leeds? Never mind’. There was a shout out for someone who was doing 7k every day for 7 days in a sort of relay I think, with someone else taking over next week. I didn’t quite catch what that was about to be honest, but the point is, I felt like this is a mature parkrun community. People know one another, care about one another and share each others achievements. The park walker was particularly identified as someone to walk around with and gave a friendly and vigorous wave, so that was lovely. I felt the welcome for parkwalkers was completely genuine. It was all very impressive. And yes, there was a noisy cohort chatting throughout, but at least they stayed towards the back. I’m definitely getting more intolerant in my old age.

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Run briefing over, there was a mass migration to the start area. I wasn’t expecting this relocation so was possibly disproportionately excited by the micro adventure of following the throng along the outside wall of the orangery and round the corner where there was a sawn laden water feature with it’s own feature bridge, and the backs of a mass of parkunners ready for off.

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It was only when we were all mustered at the start, that I fully appreciated how many people were gathered. It’s a large field, and the venue is such it could take still more. We were urged to keep left if walking so faster runners could overtake, but it never felt congested.

I watched the off, and then joined the pack towards the back. The first two marshals were busy bell ringing and cheering with great enthusiasm. All marshals are lovely obvs, but I do have a special place in my heart for marshals who accessorise appropriately and noisily to help not only get the party started but keep the party spirit alive. Hurrah for jingly marshals!

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I tried to put on a bit of a wiggle, my aim was to stay ahead of the tail walker, and I started off with a degree of confidence, but very quickly the field pulled away and my leg started playing up and I realised, alas, I’m not magically cured. It is so frustrating that my body just won’t do what my head wants it to. On the plus side, the route was absolutely gorgeous. It was a great sight to see the colourful stream of runners curving ahead like a string of prayer flags caught in the wind. All shapes and speeds and sizes. Some with pushchairs, some walking companionably with others. A group clustered with the very jolly parkwalker. There was even a tailwalker with an actual tail. A tail-wagger if you like, though strictly speaking I didn’t see them until the very end.

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I was my usual stop start taking photos as a way to pause and rest every so often. I tried to photograph as many marshals as I could, but it was harder than you might think. They were all really friendly and welcoming. It felt like a particularly positive parkrun community, with lots of shouting encouragement to participants by name. The two lap element giving lots of scope for interactions. It just felt relaxed and friendly. One marshal team near the car park included a young man holding a huge tin of sweets by way of refreshments on the way round. I resisted the temptation on lap one, but paused at lap two to say hello, and enquire what the was the occasion to merit such bounty. Well, get this dear reader. He has them EVERY WEEK, well every week he marshals that is. Isn’t that great? I took an opal fruit joyfully, although actually turns out this is now a starburst. Honestly, you’ll be telling me marathons aren’t a thing any more next! What an astonishingly photogenic lot they all are though, each marshal more decorative than the one before! An abundance of loveliness indeed. There is something about the high vis that makes all who wear it a joy to behold. Inner and outer delightfulness made manifest through the reflective power of the high vis.

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There were lots of things to look at on the way round. The mature trees were magnificent, but there were also random sculptures of wood, wire baskety things that looked like they might be for making beacons except they were too near trees and not especially high up so I couldn’t really fathom them. I was a bit taken aback by one carving that was of a miniature wooden tank. It just seemed in very poor taste as a piece of public ‘art’ or play equipment. I don’t know if there is a story behind it, but in the light of all that is going on in the world now particularly it jarred. On the other hand, there was another carving of a squirrel and periodically little houselets, fairy dwellings? Much to see and wonder at.

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As I walked I slowed, and got further and further back. The parkwalker and her merry band overtook me with cheery waves. They were a jolly sight indeed. I really wish my photos did them justice, they lifted spirits just by being there.

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From then on I was walking on my own, which is fine, but it was a little unsettling that there was no-one in sight. I could see neither the parkwalker ahead nor the tailwalker behind, this is why we need more people to walk at parkrun, to fill that gap at the back. I do long to be at a parkrun event where I don’t end up being quite such an outlier. But unless I relocate to South Africa where I understand there is more of a walking culture at parkrun, I think this is my parkrun reality now. I’d be lying if I tried to pretend it doesn’t profoundly depress me at times, but it is what it is. One day I’ll get to South Africa and in my head that means I’ll stroll through dusty trails espying journeys of giraffes on the horizon and watching jolly warthog families cavorting alongside. Whilst not South Africa, and therefore having fewer rhinos, and not Australia, so having fewer wallabies ths was nevertheless a really nice parkrun. It was friendly, picturesque and really well organised, but ultimately it was a bit lonely out there doing a lap alone, who wants to be stuck with their own thoughts really? Existential angst ever present. Fortunately, I could be distracted by the scenery and I was grateful to the marshals who stayed in place to over encouragement as well as cheered by the sight of runners passing me on their way through to the finish.

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As I finally came round towards the finish for the second time, I saw ‘my’ departing bell jingling marshals, who gave me a bespoke cheer as I was approaching the last few hundred yards, it was much appreciated. The finish funnel was still up and resplendent, and by the look of things every one still in place, so I did get to experience the same finish as all the other participants, which isn’t a given. That was nice.

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Oh wait, there was one teensy distinction, as it was just me, I was allowed not to complete the entire snake of the finish funnel and allowed instead to break through – or at least politely duck under – the parkrun tape. Do not brand me as a funnel ducker dear reader, this was absolutely consensual on all sides. It must be quite some finish though at it’s busier, as it was a long and impressive queue barrier. Think airport terminals or that sequence in Shrek where creatures are queueing to enter the theme park.

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I was scanned and then directed to pop my finish token in one of the little buckets on a faraway table. This was something I’ve not seen before but clearly actual genius! It seemed at first quite high risk to send people off with tokens, but there was not only a huge sign warning you not to pass that point without checking you’d surrendered your token, but also a little group of buckets each labelled for a different section of 100. This means that the token sorters can start their busy task earlier on, and grouping this tokens just makes that whole process a bit easier to manage. Actual genius. Why doesn’t every parkrun do this? I guess some do – now I thin of it Bushy parkrun has different containers for different numbers, but that’s huge. This is a respectable 3-400 parkrunners and the system seemed to work really well.

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I deposited my token, got a flat white from the orangery, and then, since everyone had waited for me, waited to cheer in the final couple of participants. It was a nice chilled and relaxed atmosphere, unhurried. In due course the tail walker and accompanying tail waggers were welcomed home.

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Final finisher safely home, the team busied themselves with course close down, and me and Red Ted weaved our way out of the park. He insisted on a photo op, and who can blame him. It’s a cool thing to do 🙂 I would have tried to recline in the circle too if I thought I’ve had had a sporting chance of squeezing in, but little point really as Red Ted can’t operate the camera either. Maybe next time.

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and that was that.

Time to leave the autumn colours of Markeaton park behind.

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Thank you lovely Markeaton parkrun team, your event is truly an asset to the parkrun family. A lovely venue and a welcoming parkrun indeed. Yay to all of you.

Oh and for triangulation purposes, the official run report for event 378 is here ‘You Ad Me At Hello‘ Loving the run report branding, plus it has a squirrel! Yay, what’s not to like. Oh and that Markeaton Park sign, it’s actually there, in the park, but my photo didn’t really capture it with the same pizzazz. Oh well, I tried, and it makes me happy that they have nailed it, so I get to share the image too. 🙂 Walk, Jog, Run, Read indeed!

If you have the stamina, don’t forget you can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though. Otherwise, bye for now, see you next time.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Wonders of Woodbank parkrun – Fabulous Fibonacci numbers working their magic!

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Well, well, welcome to Woodbank. Hosting a Fibonacci numbered parkrun in it’s two-park venue on the day the circus came to town! You have to love a parkrun that has its own sunglass wearing giraffe to welcome you on arrival. This is the parkrun that thought of everything! I should never have left Geronimo in the car, she’d have been right at home!

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I’ve neither read the book nor seen the film ‘When the Circus Came to Town‘ but accordingtotheinternetsoitmustbetrue the book by Yep is ‘Bolstered by themes of compassion, community and tolerance‘ so that seems an apt way to think about a parkrun. Also, actual circuses (not the horrid ones with performing animals and terrifying clowns, but the nice ones with acrobats and environmentally friendly sequinned hats) include much jollity and leaping about. Pretty much EXACTLY what Woodbank parkrun was all about. Never seen so many people jumping for joy on the way around. Hardly anyone had their feet on the ground all morning if the photos are anything to go by! Gotta love a parkrun with an abundance of smiles!

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Oh, and some parkrun magic too, what with it being a magic number event, so yep, a good one. Why has it taken me so long to seek Woodbank parkrun out? The film ‘when the circus came to town’ seems to have little to do with the book, but then again I’ve never seen it. Oh and actually, it may be that the made for tv drama came first? The book sounds better. Aaargh, really confused now. Oh well.

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Oh, properly confused now. Look, how about we agree to let’s not get neurotic about the actuality of the details here, and just enjoy going along with the tenuous linking of the helpful themes can we? Everyone can relax then, and focus on the event itself? Cheers. Knew you’d see sense!

The important thing is that there was a circus hanging out at the Woodbank parkrun venue this week, the team hosted their Fibonacci numbered event 610 with mood enhancing magic alongside the customary compassion, community and tolerance. So that’s good.

Why Woodbank parkrun this week then? Well, I am getting ever more frantic in my quest to find parkruns that won’t find me a burden, and still feeling a bit bruised by the vitriol unleashed on social media when parkwalk was announced. I’m already acutely aware I’m a slow walker, so I try to pick events that for whatever reason are likely to be walker friendly or at least tolerant, week by week. It had come on to my parkrun radar that on this day Woodbank parkrun would be hosting its event number 610. This, dear reader, is one in the Fibonacci sequence, and since some parkrunners are trying to collect a series of these to complete an online challenge, I knew it likely there would be an influx of parkrunners. More people usually means more people likely to be lingering post the event anyway with milestones and running challenge finales various celebrated. Also, a greater likelihood of encountering friendly parkrunners who I already know to some extent, who being aware of my situation are predisposed to be supportive and give some sense of solidarity. Some do this intuitively, and maybe don’t even realise the difference they make, some put themselves out to do so, both approaches are massively appreciated. I do however long for the day I could just rock up at a parkrun like everyone else without having to second guess how I’ll be viewed. No-one likes to think of themselves of being the cause of every heart sinking as they are spotted arriving at a parkrun, or anywhere else for that matter.

It’s always angsty, choosing where to go of late. Sometimes I give myself a talking to and tell myself it’s just my paranoia and nobody minds, and other days those messages online flash up in my mind and I don’t even want to leave the house. This week though, all good. The Fibonacci number would work its magic, and I need not be alone! Which was just as well, since it turns out I massively overdid it the weekend before with a long drive down to London from Sheffield for Charlton parkrun and standing to cheer marathon runners. I paid for it with considerable exhaustion and pain in the aftermath, this is getting so boring, I feel like my body just given up on me some days. Still, I was determined to get out, parkrun is often the only activity I get to do in a week, and if I stop going then I wonder if I’d leave the house at all. Junior parkrun often gives me an injection of optimism that sustains me for a bit, but the 5k has lost some of its potency in that regard. The continuing online ‘debate’ about parkwalk has reduced me to tears. A lot. It’s not even a debate, it’s all negative, where are the voices of people who would welcome walkers? Probably too scared to put their heads above the proverbial parapet. I know I’ve had people just double down on me when I’ve tried to give a different perspective. All this ‘parkwalk will drive away volunteers‘ I AM a volunteer, I volunteer pretty much every week, usually twice, and kept a not a run report going for 30 weeks or so during lockdown in an attempt to keep my local parkrun community together. I did it and do it because I wanted to. Yet, I’m the one being driven away from parkrun – not by the parkwalk initiative, but by people being so vocal in expressing their hatred for walkers. Wow! Such toxicity, and such a flood of people who really don’t want me at their events it seems. Or if they say ‘not you, the other walkers‘ then what does that mean exactly. We have deserving and undeserving walkers? You’ll be telling me some of your best friends are walkers next, don’t delude yourself. Of course those events will particularly struggle for volunteers, they aren’t offering a welcoming and inclusive environment. I am wondering increasingly if my participation in parkrun might be coming to an end. I don’t want to step away, but the onslaught of negativity is definitely taking its toll. Still, this was not the week to walk away. Anyway, we’ve already established walking is painful for me most of the time, so I really don’t want to walk more than I have to. The upshot this was certainly one of my more painful outings, but you know what, it’s a wonderful parkrun. Woodbank restored a bit of faith that there can still be welcoming parkrun communities, and for that I’m very grateful. Gorgeous venue and a super friendly RD who was proactively lovely as opposed to ‘just’ intrinsically and generically lovely which as we all know is a given for RDs and marshals at parkruns across the world! This RD though was extra specially smiley and welcoming. More of that later though.

First off, the Woodbank parkrun official website blah de blah:

The event takes place at Woodbank Memorial Park, Turncroft Lane, Stockport SK1 4JR.

Course Description
The course starts by heading around Woodbank Memorial Park in a clockwise direction. The route then continues with two figure-of-eight loops through Vernon and Woodbank Memorial Parks – with each section in an anti-clockwise direction. The finish is on the left of the path heading back towards Vernon Park.

Most of the course is paved, but it includes one short muddy path connecting the two parks, and a steep cobbled section in Vernon Park. In winter, we sometimes use an alternative course that avoids the hill.

Facilities
There are toilets available in the Vernon Park Café, but this usually opens at about 10am. Other nearby facilities are in the nearby Tesco Extra, which is 1 mile from Woodbank Memorial Park

and it looks like this:

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There are two carparks. I did that really annoying thing of sleeping really, really badly because I’m an insomniac at the best of times, but was also kept awake by pain ‘all night’ and then was so sound asleep when my alarm went off I ended up over sleeping. Mad dash out the door, and I arrived not late exactly, but later than intended. I made my way to the smaller of the two carparks which I now know to be very near the finish, and given the choice the better of the two options if you have limited mobility. There were some super impressive stone gates at the entrance. Wowsers! No mistaking you’ve arrived. The parkrun route actually takes you past these, and the lovely marshal who redirected me earlier too, but that delight was still to come! Sorry my camera takes such rubbish photos, it’s getting to the point I may have to admit defeat and actually retire it, but then again, you get the gist. That’s worth something surely. You can at least see what I mean about those gates. Quite something aren’t they. Enough to intimidate peasants enough to keep away in days of yore.

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It was already full, but a cheery marshal redirected me back along the road to carpark two. I was worried there might not be spaces left, but actually there were loads. The test was the incredibly narrow looking entrance. Constructed deliberately to slow cars down and prevent larger vehicles using it, it works, I felt like even my dinky little car had to breathe in to squeeze through. The car park is a bit offset from the main park, and as I exited hopefully from the far end it wasn’t immediately obvious where to head. No panic though, inevitably you see other parkrunners and so I just trailed in behind them. I’m getting rather too used to just tagging along at the back.

Instantly though you get the sense of this being a splendid park. In fact it’s more than one, but I hadn’t quite got the hang of that at this stage. Some cones and marshals were already in place, and there was a big top as the circus had indeed just come to town. Mature trees were already turning autumn gold, some spectators were seated on benches in anticipation of romping parkrunners, and a great migration of people wearing multi coloured tees were seemingly being pulled together to a central assembly point as if by an invisible force.

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I’d like to think I scampered to the start as I was definitely pushing it for time, others were putting on more than a half hearted jog to get there, I was offering up more of a well intentioned shuffle. Still, this even number 610 had gathered quite a crowd, so others were also somewhat tardy arrivals at the Fibonacci ball.

You know what a Fibonacci number is right? I’m sure we’ve been through this before. Sigh. Well, in case not, the thing you need to know is that some keen parkrunners collect them. I inadvertently found I’d collected one myself at Millhouses parkrun #55 earlier in the year, they’d not really been on my radar much before if I’m honest.

Fortunately, the lovely RD knew all about them. As I approached the start, I heard him asking if anyone had joined them because of the event number. A veritable Mexican Wave of jazz hands went up in spirited acknowledgement that this was indeed the lure!

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In case anyone didn’t know, he gave a great account of what they are, which I didn’t write down or memorise at the time (my bad) but have subsequently googled so you don’t have to:

Fibonacci numbers appear unexpectedly often in mathematics, so much so that there is an entire journal dedicated to their study, the Fibonacci Quarterly. Applications of Fibonacci numbers include computer algorithms such as the Fibonacci search technique and the Fibonacci heap data structure, and graphs called Fibonacci cubes used for interconnecting parallel and distributed systems. They also appear in biological settings, such as branching in trees, the arrangement of leaves on a stem, the fruit sprouts of a pineapple, the flowering of an artichoke, an uncurling fern, and the arrangement of a pine cone’s bracts.

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Also, if you are interested in embarking on various parkrun number challenges and there are a squintillion of them, which is almost as many challenges as there are parkruns and people that do them. That isn’t even a lie once you include things like name badge challenges (spell your name with the first letters of parkruns attended) although I begrudgingly concede I’m not quite sure where my number offering sits in our Hindu-Arabic numerical sequence. Still, if a squintillion isn’t yet a number it should be. Remember dear reader, you heard it hear first.

Anyway, you are distracting me with your picky questions. The point is, if you’d like to know a parkrun number, there is a brilliant online toy to help you do this, and predict where a particular number might show up one day too. This genius Google Spreadsheet global parkrun event number predictor development was put together by parkrun passionista Keith Bennet, an absolute hero. Go spoil yourself, dive in, discover not only Fibonacci numbers, but the Nelson Index, prime numbers and everything in between. You will disappear into a time vortex as you get absorbed in checking out infinite possibilities as you undertake your voyage of numerical exploration and discovery of course, but it is so worth it. It will definitely keep you busy for a while. You have been warned. Remember though, sometimes parkrun home is best, fun as parkrun tourism can undoubtedly be. Thanks to the dedicated few who create these parkrun related fun spin offs. The running challenges team and Elliott Line Stats being but two more who bring added value to the parkrun party week in week out.

It’s because of Elliott that we know the parkrun Attendance and Milestone Stats for 8 and 9 October 2022. Specifically worldwide there were 1,775 parkruns plus 388 junior parkruns, and the worldwide parkrun population was 249,735 parkrunners and 36,365 volunteers. But there is so much more stuff you didn’t know you needed to know until you go have a gander. For example, in Malaysia there were 4 parkrunners per million this weekend, whereas in the UK this week there were 1977 parkrunners per million people in the general population. Spookily, 1977 was the year Concorde first flew, and it’s flight path took it over Bushy Park (probably, I’m not absolutely sure, it certainly set of sonic booms over Bushy Park with regularity) and Bushy Park was where parkrun was to first start back in 2004. Oh, and FYI running was apparently invented in by Thomas Running in 1748 when he tried to walk twice at the same time. Google tells me everyone knows this but it isn’t true. I’m astonished, because I had never heard this but now as sure as the earth is flat sounds plausible enough to me. Good to know.

On the subject of believing unlikely things, I’ve decide to temporarily become a believer in Angel numbers! I gather 610 is one, (as in one of those numbers, not as in number one, that would be ridiculous and mathematically extremely unlikely) and as a consequence lots of lovely things align, who wouldn’t want to believe in that!

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I am in need of positive changes so I’ll take that, and I’m pathetic in my desire to seek validation from the approval of others, so knowing my angels ‘fully approve of my life choices and decisions’ is clearly splendid. Although I do have a slight concern I may be hanging out with the wrong crowd of approving angels just now as it’s not been working out for me all that well at times, still, the occasional waiver and wobble is understandable is it not, I’ll still take that. One things for sure, a crowd of angels did sterling work as volunteers at Woodbank parkrun today, and many in fine voice too!

Right, where was I? Oh yes, back to lovely Woodbank parkrun

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And event 610 was lovely almost instantly, because apart from being a sunny day and a lovely park, I espied a familiar face in the crowd, hurrah, last seen at Huddersfield parkrun #500, a micro reunion! And look! There’s a 250 voluntouring hero, all ready to scan and on an outing from Burnage parkrun. Yay to lovely people and shared hugs and smiles! Definitely lifted my spirits to see some friendly faces and get a warm welcome. Thank you! Love you guys 🙂

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So I was a little late to the party, having missed the first timers’ welcome, sorry about that, but slotted in at the back to join the throng as it set off on it’s migration route through the park.

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The weather was gorgeous, and the park looked lovely. You can’t really see in the photos, but you got a great view of faster parkrunners heading off over the other side of the park. Again, this was a good course because the looping about lapping nature of it, meant you did get to see other parkrunners speeding by. Many throwing words of support and encouragement my way which was friendly. Unusually, there was another parkwalker who was a bit slower than me so with the tail. That meant for the first time in weeks I felt unhurried. Although I was on my own it was quite nice. I could swap cheery exchanges with marshals, take in the view, snap a few pictures. It was good. There was a photographer on the course, who took way better photos than me. I’ll do a mix and match, but I’m guessing you may well be able to spot when I was behind the lens and when it was someone else. It’s the thought that counts dear reader. Loving all the aeroplane arms, these are parkrunners who are pros at living their best parkrun lives.

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Notable things on the course. Erm, well seeing those amazing gates was quite something. My research for parkrunpedia tells me that:

Woodbank Park has lots of wide open spaces and is ideal for a leisurely stroll. (or indeed parkrun) It’s also situated close to Vernon Park. The park connects with the River Goyt and the Goyt Way. Footpaths can lead you through Poise Brook or towards Otterspool and Bredbury. The Midshires Way and the Fred Perry Way also pass through. A nature trail, that had been lost for years, has been restored by the Friends of Woodbank Park group. This trail links many of the heritage features of the park that many people do not know exists

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Vernon Park opened in 1858 and is Stockport’s oldest public park lying just east of the town centre. It’s an exceptional Victorian/Edwardian asset to both the local community and the North West region. Once known as ‘Pinch Belly Park’ or the ‘People’s Park’, it was built by Stockport Corporation on land donated by George John Warren (Lord Vernon). It was an instant success with mill workers helping to construct park features. The park received a £1.6 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant to give it a new lease of life and to restore it to its former splendour. The park is well used by schools for historical and environmental studies. (and parkrun) It provides unique areas for traditional pastimes such as crown green bowls and has beautifully restored areas of formal and informal parkland. The site also boasts a mature woodland along the river which is sensitively managed whilst maintaining public access.

A place I could easily have spent more time if I had the stamina.

Excitingly, there is another – to me unexpected bit – where you go up a cobbled hill. It’s a bit unexpected, and at the intersection of the two parks. I wonder how many other parkruns go through multiple parks? There are a few I think, it must make things a bit trickier with permissions and admin, but it all went smoothly here. I don’t know absolutely for certain, but this is probably the steepest cobbled street in the UK and the one used for the Hovis ads.

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Hovis Hill was free of people delivering bread today, and instead populated entirely by parkrunners, some posing some panting some pacing some in the intersection of a venn diagram and doing all these things simultaneously.

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I was quite relieved to have to make no pretence at running. It was nice to take it all in, and to see the path named after Fred Perry signposted through. Fred Perry Way is a 14 mile walking route which spans the borough from Woodford in the south to Reddish in the north. The route combines rural footpaths, quiet lanes and river valleys with urban landscapes and parklands. Sounds very nice actually. Disappointingly however, Fred Perry has nothing to do with PERRY HALL parkrun, but rather ‘Fred Perry is one of Stockport’s most famous sons and was born in Portwood in 1909. He won the men’s singles at Wimbledon in 1934, 1935 and 1936. He was the last English men’s tennis player to win the title. Fred Perry was also a member of Britain’s winning Davis Cup team from 1933 to 1936. He was made a freeman of Stockport in 1934‘ So now you know.

I enjoyed the first lap, and took the opportunity to talk to some of the marshals going round. One admired my sticks and we shared some stories of our experiences as parkwalkers through circumstance. It was a relief really, to talk to someone who gets it. Who recommended a virtual 5k through a group where you don’t have to do the 5k all in one go if that’s too hard. Also, we shared the guilty secret, that it would be really lovely to be able to participate without angst at any parkrun rather than have to default to volunteering in order to be welcome as a walker. I feel very conflicted. parkrun is really important to me, or has been at any rate. I don’t want my honesty about my parkwalk experiences to deter anyone from coming. What we need is more walkers, not fewer. I really believe a critical mass of walkers would make for a better event for everyone. Better atmosphere, a bigger pool of participants and therefore volunteers that might help things pick up again. Post covid numbers are down and often getting volunteers nears mission critical! Talking to someone else who gets that is ok. I’ve felt quite stung recently when I’ve mentioned some parkruns aren’t accessible to me because of the terrain and told ‘oh well just come and volunteer’ but I volunteer all the time, I want to be able to join in and complete a parkrun without judgement too. Volunteering is great, and I’m happy to do it, but want to enjoy parkrun as a parkwalker as well. I think parkwalkers are a long way off having ‘the same experience’ as other participants, though I hope that once all the critical voices are flushed out, the apparent resolve of parkrun to make walking at parkrun truly acceptable will come good. I can but hope. I’m still in bracing myself before a parkrun mode at present, but I hope this time too will pass. Meantime, Woodbank was very fine.

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One thing that was exceedingly impressive about these particular high vis heroes, was the high number of them who were accessorised in some way. So we had tamborines with jingly bells, a sound system and a cow bell giving good service as well as the cheery shout outs and clapping on the way round. Good job.

Oh, and here I am at the finish – though still with another lap to go. I liked seeing the buzz of the faster parkrunners finishing. It can be a bit like the deck of the Mary Celeste by the time I make it round to the finish at some parkruns these days. Only with less sea water (unless it’s a seaside parkrun) and less rigging (unless they have a particularly ambitious finish funnel – see Bushy parkrun). Here are some random photos by way of illustration, and also to provide a photodump of shots I want to include but don’t know quite wear to shove them (no, don’t tell me, I can work it out for myself).

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Just after I passed the finish for the first time, the tail walking team caught up with me. |I did have a bit of a wobble at this point, as a departing parkrunner shouted out to the tail walkers with a definite tone of incredulity ‘so you’ve got another WHOLE lap still to go, a WHOLE lap?’ That was a rough moment. I wondered if I should offer to finish at that point, but stayed quiet. It’s just another example of people being thoughtless, I am slow, and acutely aware of not being regarded by some as a ‘proper’ parkrunner, whatever that is. I doubt she gave a moment’s thought to how I might feel hearing that. The person the tail walkers had been accompanying had dropped out after one lap. I noticed she like me had been walking with a stick. I hope she wasn’t feeling hurried and that she gets to complete a full 5k before too much longer assuming that is her goal. I have found rehab to be really hard and more than a tad dispiriting so I feel for those maybe at a different stage on that path, I felt for me too. Was it ok to be taking so long? The tail walkers reassured me there was no hurry and they were just establishing who was the final participant, but psychologically, I did start to feel the pressure a lot more at this point. I tried to speed up a bit, with mixed success. A bit further on, good news, a faster parkrunner who had finished (literally) flying round, came to keep me company for a bit. He’s done this previously at other parkruns and is a patient, non- pressurising parkrun buddy, for which I am grateful. I was a bit miserable at this point as feeling the pain, so it was good to be distracted. Also, he facilitated some selfies with marshals, always a win AND, he had picked up a celebratory cup cake. This is THE BEST idea I’ve seen EVER for someone wanting to share their 100th different parkrun celebrations. What he did, was make 100 different cakes, and give each one its own label corresponding to each of the different parkruns he’s completed. This is clearly genius, and ought to become a thing at every parkrun across the world. You can always stick the flags in grapes if you want a healthier option, or even just give out the flags, because flags are fun are they not?

What’s more, in a very pleasing moment of either fate or chance depending on your point of view, this Burbage parkrunner just by pure happenstance picked the cake that was labelled for Burbage! I know, how very brilliant is that. In an act of selfless charity, he donated it to one of the marshals who was happy to have the sustenance to keep him fuelled until the tailwalker came back around. They had been right behind me, but delayed by course dismantling en route. It was good to have some non judgemental walk and talk company for the final kilometre.

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‘Suddenly’ it was back to the finish where a jolly funnel full of volunteers and many a parkrunner were still very much present. And there was my Burbage voluntourist buddy ready to do her magic with the scanning volunteer app. It got quite emotional thanking all the volunteers at the end!

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And that was that, timed in, barcode scanned and Woodbank parkrun done.

There was a certain amount of parkfaffery, but low key. Mandatory photo posing, oh, and I acquired a parkrun magazine which is VERY EXCITING there was a box available for people to help themselves, and someone picked one up for me. Thank you Team Burrelli! People were dispersing to different cafes and I wasn’t feeling great so opted to just head off. Walking back to the car I was able to appreciate the autumn colours a bit more and exiting towards the larger carpark there was one of the moto coffee vans where I got an excellent coffee from a friendly pair serving. Never found the loos though.

The sun shone, turning autumn leaves gold. Not a bad closing image from Woodbank parkrun.

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Thank you Woodbank team for welcoming the Fibonacci number chasers, and thank you RD for being welcoming – I noticed he made a point of personally thanking the voluntourists before departing, which was a nice touch, thank you tail walkers for not piling the pressure on and thank you parkrun buddies for meeting and greeting me and keeping me company on the way round. This is a properly gorgeous parkun venue, with loads of extra things to explore if you allow yourself a bit more time. I have no idea why it’s taken me such a while to seek it out. Well met dear parkrun, well met indeed. 🙂

’til next time then? Happy parkrunning and parkwalking and voluntouring in the meantime.

Best foot forward eh – or least worse one anyway in my case!

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

Categories: 5km, parkrun | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

The gloomy bit:

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

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

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

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

parkwalk, here we come!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It looks like this on the course map:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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parkrun party at the back

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

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

Officially though, the role of tailwalker is:

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So now we know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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parkwalk or parkwalt – hopefully but the first of many

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

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

#loveparkrun

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

Categories: parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Making it Massive! Moving it at Monsal Trail parkrun

I do concede that to the untrained eye we might not appear to be doing a massive amount of actual moving around in the banner pic, but that’s just a quirk of when the picture was taken. We were moving it for an honest, 5km for starters, because that’s the parkrun route, and it was definitely parkrun ‘Monsal Maaaaaaahoooossive’ as yoof speak would phrase it, apparently, so all good. This I have been told by a reliable but confidential source, and who am to disagree with that pronouncement?

Join me for the Monsal Massive low down as my most recent parkrun fix.

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Monsal Trail parkrun this week – but I’m thinking you might have guessed that already? If so, well done. Have you also guessed that I’ve lifted many photos from other parkrunners again? My camera isn’t really doing the job these days, but I’m coming round to the view that just as I increasingly have my own personal escort at the back of parkrun events, so too, it is handy to have at least one dedicated official photographer around to document these adventures. Life is definitely easier if you have staff attending you I find. I’m really hoping for a personal chef and a personal trainer to rock up some time soon too, but it takes time to find the right people. parkrun day was sorted though, staffing wise, so that was good. Thanks to my tail walking companions and multi-tasking photographers both.

Another week, another parkrun, another week of ouchery.

Is it boring that I keep going on about my ailments? It must be. I’m so over it myself. Yet, I feel this context is helpful in terms of making sense of my current parkrun adventures, I can’t talk about my parkruns without reference to how my health impacts on how they go. It seems that I have entered that demographic that not only spontaneously makes noises when getting up and sitting down, but also has to do a mental physical assessment check each day on waking. It’s very tedious. Pain is lonely. Also annoying. Very annoying indeed.

The big medical adventure last week, was having someone inject steroids into my big toe joint. FYI this hurts just as much as you think it might, the numbing ointments and local anaesthetics doing little to make the procedure any more bearable. Well, I mean, obviously they must help, but OMG I’m not putting my body through that again. Apparently my big toe joint is a bit small, tight and arthritic so the person administering the injection had to have a bit of a jab around to get it in (they don’t just guess by the way, they do have an x-ray up on a screen to refer to as they plunge about with the needles) and maybe because I’m on blood thinners I got quite a bit of bruising and swelling and – of course – a rare but not that rare reaction – which cased my whole toe joint to flare up for 36 hours afterwards. It was beyond excruciating, I may have railed at the world, screamed into a void, sworn never to put my body through anything like that again and honestly, were I not vegetarian I’d have gnawed my own leg off to stop the pain. I was back to not being able to cover the foot with a sheet let alone get shoes and socks on. However, it did then ‘suddenly’ improve, so parkrun became a possibility again – well parkwalk at least. However, it all feels a bit tentative on the tootsies, you can surely grasp why it might. It’s hard to know if there has been any improvement as a result of the shot, or I just feel a bit better purely in contrast to the agony immediately post the jab. Oh well. Just goes to show pain is relative, and you have to try these things sometimes, even if only to rule things out,. The medical treatment equivalent of kissing a lot of frogs before you meet you actual love. Hmm, I’ve probably gone as far as I can with that analogy. I’ve subsequently seen a physio who said that you need to not do anything too much for a couple of weeks at least to allow things to settle as the procedure is basically a trauma to the foot, albeit for long term gain, so perhaps it’s unsurprising this turned out to be a particularly painful parkrun. Oh well, hindsight eh? Has a lot to answer for.

Where to go though? I was originally thinking Rushcliffe parkrun, but long story short (an unusual statement from me I know, and probably not even true) headed to Bakewell Monsal Trail parkrun instead. In essence, this is because I’d have the experienced, friendly and photogenic tail walking team from last parkrun day at Chevin Forest as my personal escort. A bit like having my own personal staff to carry me around, only they do this only figuratively, not literally, not having access to a parkrun endorsed sedan chair being part of the challenge. I do get that recruiting volunteers is a struggle these days, and even the most modest of sedan chairs needs quite a team to lift it aloft for the whole distance. I would happily forgo the extra folk with the fans at this time of year if that helped at all, but it’s still a bit labour intensive for the average parkrun. Reminder dear reader, if any is needed, that every parkrun appreciates volunteers, step up if and when you can.

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I’ve said a bath chair would do, but they ain’t biting. I don’t know why, buggies are fine at parkruns after all. Did you know that sedan chairs are also called palanquins? No me neither, I thought that was a perilously endangered trafficked animal. Every day a school day!

Whilst we are engaged in edutainment, I learned a brilliant new thing this week! I always thought the way to a builder’s heart was through biscuits, decent coffee and builders/Yorkshire tea, but guess what? Actually, don’t bother even trying, I don’t think you will be able to. The real way to their heart is though processed cheese triangles! I know! Who knew? Well, all of us now, obvs, but I felt it was in everyone’s interest to share the scoop. Such serendipity. Could be a game changer! You’re welcome.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I made the call to head to Bakewell Monsal Trail parkrun. Having made that call, it then materialised there would be other With Me Now pod listeners too, including Team Burrelli freshly sporting 250 tees following shared milestone celebrations last weekend. Wait there’s more – 50% of the tail walking team would be celebrating their fiftieth different parkrun location making her an absolute cow, which is tremendous news. There’d be an outfit for that for sure. Yep, I’d go there. Hurrah. Also, just a hop from Sheffield, so less ‘stupid o’clock alarm setting’ and more ‘just another 5 mins in bed’ before having to surface and face the day.

There was even talk of additional deferred fancy dress making an appearance this week – we have the outstanding pirate costume in need of an outing after all, as well as potentially an inflatable cow to be donned. In the event, the pirate got marooned en route to the parkrun (now that is a long and painful story) and the cow thought the better of fancy dress that some might thing a bit too jolly for a period of mooing mourning, which is understandable, though a bit of a shame too. Pirates in particular are having a terrible time at the moment, on account of the Queen’s Funeral coinciding with International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I’m thinking they won’t be conducting the ceremony observing that tradition, such a loss.

A weird juxtaposition of dates you’ll agree.

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Oh well. This further deferment will simply serve to build anticipatory excitement even further. Eventually the moment shall come when all those pent up fancy dress outfits shall surge forth from their bottle neck in one great tsunami of OTT costume couture choices at some future event, people will gather from near and far; high fives will be swapped; jumping in the air shall be the order of the day; photographers will flash their cameras; barcodes will be brought and scanned – there may even be cake – and it will be glorious. FACT. And it’ll probably be at York parkrun on 15th October 2022 if you’re interested.

Also, just so you know, lack of fancy dress, didn’t mean nobody dressed fancy. Au contraire! Check out the shoes and socks options flaunted on the trail today. Some excellent buffery and yellow heart accessorising too, and that custom Brooks t-shirt is The Best!

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That t-shirt! What’s more, it was an actual freebie! I’m so jealous. There are hoodies as well apparently. Wowsers. Brooks are one of the parkrun sponsors now, and attend various events unannounced, where you can test run their shoes and they also give out the odd freebie to random finishers. I’m not sure what this parkrunner had done to merit this honour, but to be fair, she’s appropriately delighted by it. I would be too. I genuinely like Brooks stuff, I got some freebie sunglasses from them at an event way back and they are absolutely brilliant, wore them for the London marathon back in 2018 and many times since and they are good as new. I’m totally stalking the Brooks Facebook pages now, in hope of the slightest of hints as to where they may descend next. I’m shameless #brooksrunninguk @brooksrunninguk #parkrunhappy choose me!

Hmmm, they are toying with us though. Playing hard to get – it seems we will have to not only stalk their social media pages, but also harness our psychic powers to find them. Oh well. I love my parkrun apricot too 🙂 and I have patience. My time will come.

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Never mind, where was I? Oh yes ouchy feet and parkrun touristing, I’ll get there in the end.

It wasn’t too early a start, and the drive over in early morning sunshine gave gorgeous light across the dying back heather. Expansive views to lift the soul. It was all going splendidly, until I came across an unexpected road closure and had to do a grand detour. I arrived at Hassop Station carpark after 8.30 and it was already really busy. There is a very limited amount of free parking, but I’d forgotten about those spots and was too late for it anyway. There seemed to be a field open over the road where many parkrunners had parked up, but I wasn’t sure if you had to pay for that, and didn’t want to add in the extra distance, so I coughed up the £3.50 for three hours parking. I don’t begrudge parking fees generally, but that does seem steep when you are probably going to use the cafe as well. This wasn’t a cheap morning. I’d hoped to be earlier as I was going to offer to be the tail walker having heard my original buddy no couldn’t make it due to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and rubbish garages relating to newly purchased cars. My logic was, I am sooooo slow everyone ends up waiting for me anyway, so I might as well be that person at the back, and then I wouldn’t have the agony of someone else trying to jostle me onwards at a pace more that I could muster. It’s so awkward when others try to jolly you along. I was counting on the other tail walker repeating her outstanding service last week and being content shouting support to other parkrunners and getting creative with the photos as we went. Yep, that’d work.

Except I was too late for that, tail walker sub was already in place. Which is good in a way, since it shows how parkrunners are happy to step up to cover for one another when things aren’t going to plan. I’d just be limping round at the back as usual then, with my personal escort.

The first thing to remember about Monsal Trail parkrun is that it’s actually Bakewell parkrun. Well, maybe not any more strictly speaking, but it definitely used to be, and now it isn’t, but the pop up banner is very much still saying Bakewell, so that’s confusing if you are touristing and are on an alphabet completing schedule and have lost track of what country, county or rural paradise you are in. Do you follow? People still call it Bakewell although really it’s not, it’s more Hassop, and Monsal Trail is more accurate still. Like Endcliffe is still known as Sheffield Hallam and Knavesmire parkrun is still known as York. Oh wait, hang on…. Whatever, the point is, it will play havoc with future Facebook memories, but for now, you have to improvise with the pop up banner that’s to hand, and that’s what happened. Those posed photos have to be taken, just as if it ain’t on Strava it didn’t happen, how can you be sure that any given parkrun wasn’t but a dream unless you have the pop up pic to proof it? Ooh, I wish we could have actual pop up photos, the way we used to have pop up books in the olden days. I suppose in the future we will, and they’ll be holograms. For now we have to make do with jpeg files, but fortunately they are lovely. We spent a while trying to get the making it massive moves nailed. It would help if I understood the whole concept a bit more, but I reckon I blagged it pretty well in the circumstances. What massively cool dudes we are. Hurrah.

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Foreground is official photographer, soon to be official cow and experienced escort, centre is me with White Ted on this occasion – and that’s the sub tail walker all smiles and raring to go. We are quite lucky to have her in the UK at present as she’s a world parkrun tourist prone to seeking out new adventures all over the place. Catch her if you can. Oh, and I’m crouching down in a futile attempt to stop my stomach from blocking out the sun, I’m not that short. I mean, I am quite short, but I can see over the pop up sign without standing on tip toe despite what the photo suggests.

The id explanations are just in case you are curious, but there won’t be a test or anything, so you don’t have to concentrate too hard on who’s who, in fact it’s probably better if you don’t. Just keep calm and carry on. We know each other purely through parkrun in general and the With Me Now podcasts and live streams of parkrun lockdown in particular, which is pretty remarkable really. I don’t think I’d know anyone at all if it weren’t for parkrun and the people who live in my laptop. Oh and the quarantine quiz too of course – more of which later, possibly. Depends if I remember. I have an EWFM* too, obviously, but that’s in an entirely separate category of gloriousness all of its own. Obvs.

Yay, for jolly planned meet ups of With Me Now tourists, and a selfie of the party at the back posse pre parkrun . I’m assuming it’s expensive to replace the pop up sign, and actually, I have a vague feeling that there might be a pause on new ones anyway because of the need to change the sponsorship names. I think that might be why we still have the Bakewell parkrun sign. The other – perhaps more obvious explanation – is that what with the hiatus in parkruns and a change in the event team, no-one has been able to pass down the necessary knowledge of how to fold up the sign. Hence, there it sits, in perpetuity, unless and until some gifted travelling passing parkrunner shares their secrets and normal order with respect to the tidying away of things is restored. The main thing is DON’T PANIC! Well, I mean panic about many things, heaven knows there’s enough catastrophes kicking off in the world – just not about that. Save your panic for scenarios like the planet burning and forgetting your barcode. It’s all about perspective.

So in all seriousness, this is one of the parkruns that during lockdown was re-routed and renamed but kept it’s event counter ticking. The start and finish remain in the same place, but the route is now an out and back in the opposite direction. I’m in the position of having previously completed this parkrun when it was still Bakewell parkrun, but it morphed into Monsal Trail parkrun on my stats, which wasn’t a problem but did mean my profile suggested I’d completed a route I actually hadn’t, only now I have, so problem solved. Be happy for me. I am generally in the mood for touristing as I’ve been so unable to do anything for years, but this is a new route on a familiar course so didn’t feel too much like a repeat.

Oh and I feel I should say more about our companion cow. Look! Here she is.

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Last week a Jill in the Box but this week a complete cow or just half a Cowell depending on how you calculate these things. The Cowell is a Running Challenges Chrome Extension thing by the way. Specifically, to join the Cowell club you need to Run at 100+ different parkrun locations anywhere in the world. Named after the first parkrunners to complete it. A quarter cowell is available at 25, half at 50, and three-quarter at 75. Those who have completed their fiftieth different parkrun venue can claim cow status, and this is what happened here. For my tail walking photography compatriot. One day, in years hence, she may get this virtual sticker added to her profile. A fine reward for many years of touristing i think we can all agree.

It seems 2022 is actually her year of fifty things – fiftieth birthday (I know, doesn’t look a day over 21, it’s a miracle); fiftieth occasion of her home parkrun at Chevin Forest and fiftieth different parkrn event. Does that make her 150 then, if she’s done all the things? I’m not sure, but it’s splendid anyway, and worthy of celebration. No wonder she was jumping for joy all over the place. As previously reference, she was supposed to be wearing an inflatable cow, because that’s pretty much compulsory for marking your 50th, but well, you know, period of mourning and all that, the inflatable cow will just have to wait for York.

The jumping about thing was set to continue though, because of course any parkrun has parkrunners jumping for joy, and to be fair there was something of a jump off occurring at intervals. High jinx all round one might say. Since we had a Jack outa the box giving our Jill outa the box a run for her money!

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Did you spot the 250 tee in the blur of bouncing? Hopefully yes you did. Jumpage is understandable but can make it hard to see the finer details of individual outfits, but I reckon that 250 top is pretty distinctive. Green team, dream team. Just so you know, that’s it being worn on it’s first ever outing after being achieved just last parkrun weekend at Burnage parkrun, alongside another person’s 250 volunteering milestone. More specifically their other/better half. Nice bit of carefully planned parkrun milestone synchronicity there. It’s taken a lot of organisation to nail that particular celebration, but oh so worth it! Check out the cake, that’s just outstanding. Apparently it tasted amazing too, not just an Instagramable option but a dietary delight! Oh and they had milestone capes too, which should be compulsory really, at all events, but aren’t quite yet. Capers with capes are so much fun!

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All things were being celebrated here. This had also been planned as a fancy dress option, with the 250th parkrun being completed in a particularly fine Mr Zippy outfit (no reason, do you need a reason?) but again, restraint was exercised in respect of donning the fancy dress. And then in a hat trick of missed fancy dress opportunities, my pirate buddy was thinking maybe pirate today, but then didn’t make it due to a series of unfortunate events, specifically relating to mechanical misadventures en route, meaning she ended up at Brierley Forest parkrun which is very much lovely and all, but not the intended destination.

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And the consequence was that there was no pirate and no Mr Zippy last week and no Cow this week. A lack of fancy dress might be a cause of disappointment but…

DON’T PANIC!

There is a plan. All these missed fancy dress outings will be reconvened on the same date at some parkrun in the future. There will be an explosion of fancy dress at the next midi gathering where missed opportunities will be made good. Not that this lot need much of an excuse to get the fancy dress on, but they can share their joy in donning it en masse and properly mark the milestones and arbitrary achievements that have had but muted recognition where they’ve fallen during these 10 days. Might be all the better for having a backlog of celebrations to mark all at once. A positive scrum of joyfulness. You think they’ve jumped high and dressed to the peak of fabulousness already? Pah! You ain’t seen nothing yet!

First though, back to today!

I arrived parked up, joined the queue for the loo which wasn’t too long and definitely not 5 miles, and no live tracking you just had to take your chances.

I did, and then was rewarded for this by bumping into a world tourist With-Me-Nower in the scrum of exiting it. How exciting! Turns out, they were everywhere today. Outside the loos; in the café; at the start on the parkrun; volunteering – all over the shop.

I made my way to the start area and we started to find one another. It was VERY EXCITING. People I actually knew, people I knew by their high ranking status as parkrun ambassador for example – there seem to be loads of them out and about at the moment we get one or two at Sheffield Olympic Legacy park junior parkrun most weeks- people I knew through Facebook but not through real life, and by reputation for example as uber tourists. It was great, and unexpected. There is actually a whole sequence of photos of ever growing numbers being gathered together for a group shot as new people we ‘knew’ kept appearing out of the crow, and we still didn’t manage to get everyone in to the one shot, nothing like. Well it is a bit like herding cats I suppose. Here’s a grand stab at the bulk of us though. Impressive isn’t it, remembering these were not all planned meet ups either, it’s just the parkrun community’s network keeps on reaching out and ever more connections are made, so every parkrun can feel like a reunion at times. It’s good like that 🙂 You are truly never alone at a parkrun. Unless you turn up as the only one who hadn’t twigged it had been cancelled, that can be discombobulating, but mostly, never.

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We busied ourselves doing the parkrun friends equivalent of dogs sniffing each others bottoms until we were summoned for the first timers’ welcome. According to the results there were 7 first time everers and an astounding 96 tourists, so that’s nearly 50% of the field of 203 participants. This is a tourist destination it has to be acknowledged, and it isn’t really that near a local population which I think contributes to the difficulty it sometimes has in getting enough volunteers. Fortunately, it’s not a complicated route so not too heavy on the number of marshals required, but it’s still hard for teams to manage at times. We were grateful for the warm and friendly welcome. We were reminded very much of the need to respect other users. It’s a busy path with cyclists, horses, walkers all availing themselves of the lovely route. That’s why it was also important to keep the trail free at the start, and remember to keep to the left of the path out and back to minimise the possibility of collisions, and also to facilitate more effective high fiving as you pass each other in a contraflow at some stage en route. He didn’t actually say that, but I’m sure it was implied…

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The Run Director’s briefing came next. Quite quickly in fact. I still have never quite got over the astonishment of having pre parkrun chatting interrupted by having to actually commence the parkrun. The poor RD had a cold, but gamefully stood atop her steps to brief us and send us on our way. I felt for her though, she definitely sounded a bit rough, and it was a nippy morning, beautiful yes, but nippy. Thank you lovely RD for turning out despite feeling rough, and thank you even more to you and all the high vis heroes for making all the parkrunners so very welcome, right to the end of the pack.

As is usual now, I took some photos at the start, then slotted in at the back of the field with my bouncy parkrunning friends. There might have been a bit of a jump off going on at one point, all in apparent jest, but I see a future rematch pending. I so wish I had a proper camera at times like this, they were awesome. Flying through the air like acrobats on acid. Cirque de Soleil has nothing on a pair of over-excited parkrunners soaring high. Never has leaping for joy been more literal or more inspiration to behold.

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But where were we going? Don’t worry dear reader, I can explain! Shall I wait for you to get a pen to make some notes, or will you just take a screen shot for later? It’s no problem I can pause for a bit…

Welcome back, ready? Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

The route is basically out and back. If you don’t believe me, here is the Monsal Trail parkrun route blah de blah from the website

Course Description

Out and back course on the Monsal Trail. Start and finish are in the same place by Hassop Station.

https://www.parkrun.org.uk/monsaltrail/course/

and the picture looks like this:

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Erm, that’s all you can say. You run away from the timers for 2/12 km when you are met by a wall of marshals. Well, two and their dog Nigel on this occasion, and a rather sweetly positioned cone to trot round, or skid round, or handbrake turn around as the mood takes you, and then you run right back the way you came. I belief it is fractionally downhill on the out and uphill on the way back, but honestly, not so you notice, this is properly flat. Hilariously though, if you run it in the other direction as the Bakewell parkrun used to, Strava doesn’t understand the concept of tunnels so will think you’ve done some epic and speedy ascents. That is, gone up and down those hills, rather than straight through the middle, this is excellent for boosting your bragging rights if you don’t let the truth get in the way of a good running narrative.

It’s compact gravel, and the only issues are really making sure you are respectful to other participants as you parkrun out and back.

Almost instantly the main bulk of parkrunners streamed out of sight, and we were but a few at the back. My two tail walking companions and 50% of the newly anointed green team who’d opted to walk and talk which was jolly sporting of him. I did feel initially some pressure to get a move on, which was challenging, but we did settle in to a more manageable pace.

On a serious note, I’m finding parkrun pretty tough at the minute. I think because I look fine (bit podgy obviously, but I mean ‘able bodied) and indeed opted for walking poles rather than crutches precisely so I’d blend in a bit more, people over-estimate my capabilities and I seem to constantly have people cajooling me to get a move on and that feels really shaming. I totally get it’s unintended, but it’s crushing every time. I can’t ‘get going’ I need to pause, and sometimes I’m in a lot of pain. Feeling embarrassed because I’m holding everyone up is an extra pressure and at times I feel like bailing or opting out entirely. Even with supportive parkrun compatriots I feel quite vulnerable. My fear is that once I give up on parkrun, I won’t be able to go back at all, and that thought makes me sad. It can be a mixed bag walking at parkrun and I really hope that next month’s parkwalk initiative normalises this a bit more because speaking personally, I think that’s very much needed. I worry about being a burden to individuals and teams, of course I do, the official parkrun line of ‘walkers always welcome’ doesn’t always reflect what happens on the ground. I try to go to different parkruns so I don’t make the same team have to wait for me each week, and I have always made a point of volunteering regularly to ‘give back’ a bit as well, but that doesn’t quieten the voices in my head that are constantly making me feel inadequate and that I don’t have the right to be there. Every parkrun I go to is a battle lately, and I’m conscious it doesn’t take much to push me into despair. I guess partly because every parkrun I hope will be a bit better, that I’ll make some progress and although I have made progress if you look back over a whole year, I’m very far away from where I was before and it feels unfair, which is jolly surprising, because usually life is 100% fair is it not? (Spoiler alert, it’s not) I know I’m lucky compared to many, and I am still there at the moment, however insecure I may feel about it. Hanging on by my fingertips. One foot in front of another. Sometimes blinking back the tears, but not bailed yet.

It was a bit of a wobbly start, but once we were underway on a lovely crisp sunny morning, things were looking up. Just because it’s a straightforward out and back though, doesn’t mean you can’t have parkrun adventuring along the way. Au contraire!

It’s jolly pretty for one thing, the route has lovely trees creating an avenue along it, then there are open vistas where you get great views, and if you have your wits about you you might spot the rare Bakewell born and bred long necked sheep – oh wait, what’s that you say? Really? Shame alpacas adjacent to the path. There was a little wren, busying herself popping in and out of the gaps of a moss covered stone wall. There was a very junior marshal – taking it all in. All very lovely.

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So the scenery was lovely, as well as the the company, but we had other adventures too. Specifically, on this occasion there was a mass group of walkers taking part in a Fund raising 26 km trek for the charity Together for short lives – Helping families caring for a seriously ill child make the most of every moment together. It was pretty chilled by the time we at the back met up with them, but earlier may have been a bit of a challenge. Like those early gladiator sort of films, where thousands of extras were brought in to stage battles, running at one another and mingling as each fought to pass the other. Not that that would happen here though, because we’d all been briefed to give way, and parkrunners are polite obvs. Think more parting of the sea rather than riotous bunfight. Or gentle ordered contraflow, I’m sure it was negotiated with grace. They were an eclectic and jolly group of walkers, it was quite early in their walk I think, so they had a long way to go, but my what a lovely day they picked for it.

One warning though, this is not a route for arachnophobes, which, presumably erroneously, was not explicitly mentioned in the briefing. Fortunately, the spider people running round today were being shepherded by lovely With Me Now crew to keep us all safe. It’s so lovely when parkrunners look out for one another in this way. They even gave us a reassuring wave of acknowledgement as they breezed by, letting us know the whole situation was all under control. Phew. There were 23 personal bests today though, which seems a pretty high percentage of the field of 203 so maybe the spidery presence just made everyone else run just that much faster. Apart from me. I’m very much just walking still. Besides, I like to get my money’s worth at an event.

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One of the super fun things about an out and back course is that if you are a slower parkrun participant you see all the faster parkrunners as they come back, and if you are a faster parkrunner, you see all the slower participants as they are going out! Everyone wins. It made for a highly sociable and people spotting parkrun. Hurrah.

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What made it even more fun, was being part of a very vocal party at the back offering up bespoke motivational cheering at every opportunity. Our tail walking cow has an enormous amount of experience at this and was in fine voice. But better yet, we had some Welsh language cheering from the stand in tail walker, always a boon. Not that we restricted ourselves to cheering only those we knew, anyone was fair game, potentially whether partaking in parkrun or not, we were happy to be sharing the parkrun love! All of us at the back got on board with parkrun appropriate whooping. It’s not called the party at the back for nothing! When it works, walking at parkrun is therapeutic indeed.

and that works at junior parkrun too. This recently shared anecdote made me properly cry, because it’s just SO LOVELY!

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Tony Kenyon
I have told this story a number of times because to me it is what parkrun is all about. One week we had just one child at the junior parkrun where I’m now part of the core team. I was tailwalker. They didn’t want to take part by themselves. So I convinced them to walk with me. They only agreed if every volunteer walked with us. So we all took a leisurely 2km walk.
That same child now regularly runs, seeing a PB after PB, getting faster each week. Those who walk today may run tomorrow. Or they may not. We should embrace them all.

See comments section of https://www.facebook.com/parkrunUK/videos/1367426970452602/

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I properly cried. Snot and everything. It’s peak parkrun practice in my view. It also very neatly illustrates why for parkwalk to be successful next month, solidarity from plenty of walkers is needed. Consider walking one of your regular parkruns instead of running and experience the event quite differently. That junior parkrun intuitively knew that walking together was the way to go. How right they were.

Back to us. Eventually we made it out to the full extent of the 2.5 km and to the turn around point – that’s Nigel in the middle, supervising. Barkrunner par excellence! Not one parkrunner overshot the route turnaround point, so he did just grand.

We weren’t having a stand off, we were just having a parkrunny chat. Getting our Chat’s Worth at the parkrun nearest to Chatsworth was apt indeed.

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Cone negotiated safely, and we were coming home again. It was very quiet for the return leg, the charity walkers and other parkrunners having long since passed this way. But we could take in the scenes, and have companionable chats and so all was good.

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Finally, almost exactly on the hour, we were back to the start, which handily is also the finish. Where diligent marshals were still waiting and standing by to swing into time keeping and barcode scanning business on our return.

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The RD was in desperate need of a pee by the time we got there, a scenario for which I have enormous personal sympathy, and I felt mortified that she’d had to wait for me. Oh well. She was self deprecating about her plight, but it did catapult me back into the mindset of having spoiled the parkrun experience of others. Paranoia is devilishly hard to shift.

There was a bit more picture posing, trying to perfect the shot of the range of t-shirts on show, and also to get our lovely green team to pose appropriately with coquettish over the shoulder glances for maximum impact. Well we were entertained anyway. I never did get the perfect shot, but fortunately have been able to loot this one from elsewhere. Resource gathering skills come in handy at times.

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All done, back lit, we made our way to the Hassop Station Café.

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There is actually a special parkrun deal from a table area outside, with coffee and a variety of bapts/ breadcakes whatever including the double meat sausage and bacon options, veggie and vegan options – though I don’t know what the vegan option was to be fair.

A fellow with me nower and his family had already secured an outside table, so we queued inside (not five miles) and went for the more extensive menu. You just give your table number and order from the counter. The hot beverage situation confused me hugely, doesn’t take much. I asked about this and was told it would be brought out, but some said they’d been asked to collect if from the counter. In fact I think if you only have a drink you wait for it, but maybe if you are having food as well they bring it out. In the event this didn’t work particularly well for me as my flat white never came, although on reflection an unclaimed mug of tea brought out earlier might have been my order processed erroneously. When questioned they claimed it hadn’t been ordered, which was annoying as I’d paid for it, but hadn’t got a receipt, they were game for going through the whole till roll again to prove their point, and in the end my lovely tailwalking companion by passed the whole thing by just just buying me another one, which was kind of her and eminently sensible but somewhat grated in terms of customer service. Top tip, get a receipt. I know I’d paid, because I asked ‘and do I need to wait for my coffee now’ and they said ‘no, we’ll bring it out with your order’ so that’s not me not having ordered it is it? This aside, the food was amazing and the staff accomodating, in that we were able to customise our orders swappoing halloumi cheese for vegan cheese in toasties. These were pricey but came with a rather fine salad, some of which gathered on my top, but worth it. There was also amazing bakewell slices to be had, and an abundance of choice. Yum.

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Some were feeling the cold, but nevertheless, this brave duo braving the warm Bakewell slice or possibly Bakewell pudding with ice cream topping because, well it had to be done. They were worried about it being too cold to enjoy properly, but hard to justify being in Bakewell and not having someone step up to the challenge. In the end they were in it together, but took the safety precaution of getting a hot chocolate to warm themselves up afterwards, the yin and yan of post parkrun cakery I suppose. They are experienced like that. It’s really inspiring when other parkrunners are willing to make these sacrifices on behalf of others, brings a tear to the eye. I can report dear reader, they totally nailed it!

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We were quite an assembly, and there was loads of seating for post parkrun faffing and no pressure to move on beyond how much parking we’d paid for. More photo posing and parkrun story reminiscing ensued. Not too shabby a head count for what had been a pretty much entirely unplanned and arbitrary meet up! With Me Now pod listeners a-gathering.

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Alas though, all good things come to an end, and eventually people needed to disperse. There were hugs exchanged, but not without some discussion of appropriate hugging etiquette, still unsure what we can and can’t do these days, ,and also, you feel like you know people but don’t entirely so what to do? And then I worry about inadvertently thwacking people with my walking poles which is definitely sub optimal. I dodged that social faux pas on this occasion, but not the food down my front awkwardness unfortunately. It was only afterwards that someone helpfully pointed out the splattered tomato bits collected on my decoupage décolletage. Whilst a breast shelf can sometimes be handy for gathering assorted snacks together for later, it’s generally not a good post parkrun look, though pretty common amongst us more rounded runners. Nevertheless, I was glad of the tip off before any non parkrun interactions. Not sure if it saved me from indignity whilst recording the bonus question for the next quarantine quiz? Oh well, I’ve survived indignities enough of late that it will hardly register. I can only hope there was no spinach caught between my teeth either. Well, there won’t be spinach as there wasn’t any in my order, but there could have been rocket.

Others waved off, we hard core trio gathered by the Monsal Trail sign to record an impromptu bonus question for the awesomeness that is the Quarantine Quiz. I know, exciting! But you are just going to have to wait for the next quarantine quiz to showcase our collective genius to judge for yourselves! This is roughly where we positioned ourselves though, in case that teaser helps soften that blow. I know, delayed gratification is very annoying, but you’ve got this! 🙂 It’ll probably be for Quiz 85, in case you are interested, not sure when that will be, but do join the next one if you can. More the merrier. Oh you don’t know what that is? Erm, it’s an interactive, virtual quiz hosted by a German parkrun team –

RDs from Neckarufer parkrun, it is bilingual, featuring parkrunners asking the question and impressive fancy dress, some created by a 3d printer in the possession of an individual with a crazed imagination. It grew out of lockdown, and continues still, bringing an international parkrun community together. Oh, and the questions are sufficiently random there’s no shame in not knowing the answers, and in fact, being the tail walker (lowest scorer) is a particularly highly prized badge of honour too, and so it should be. Tail Walkers are the best! The literal translation of the German is ‘Final Accompaniement’ which I think is splendid.

Thank you Schlussbegleitung! You are The Best! In any language.

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And that was that. Time to depart. Others were heading off to Chatsworth which has THE MOST AMAZING EXHIBITION on at the moment, based around the burning man festival. I’d love to have gone, but too much walking for one day alas. I’ve enjoyed seeing the photos on line though. It’s worth checking them out. ‘Radical Horizons: The Art of Burning Man‘ That horse can gallop and fly! I know, impressive.

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As we departed, a parkrunner passed us his face etched with a look of absolute ecstasy. Rubbing his tummy he just uttered the words ‘sausage and bacon sandwich’ as he gazed skyward in bliss and rapture. Apparently it had been beyond exquisite. It had to be acknowledged, that even as two vegetarians and one vegan you could not acknowledge that exuded joy. A fine café indeed. Oh, apart from my coffee that never came – mouth watering vegan options also available.

So to conclude, the fine bits of today were very fine indeed at this parkrun, but there were a couple of wobbles for me personally. I need a walking at parkrun win where I can just ‘be’ without feeling slow shamed or a burden. Yep, it might be on me how I interpret things sometimes, but it’s also a reaction to cumulative interactions that leave people potentially sensitised to throw away remarks that reveal a deeper truth. One comment might not hit home, several at the same event can shade otherwise positive parkrun experiences. Fingers crossed for parkwalk in October. Hopefully as well as bringing more walkers to parkrun, it might raise awareness amongst teams about what creates a welcoming environment and what does not, unintentionally or otherwise. Just as I’ve learned so much from the deaf and hard of hearing takeover in Sheffield. Needs aren’t always obvious, but when known, sometimes they are really easy to accommodate where there is the will to do so. Still love parkrun, still grateful to my parkrun friends and although, yes, sometimes it’s complicated, it’s still worth it for me.

Are you still here? Aw, thanks for sticking with me 🙂 I know it’s a long haul at times but it is appreciated. Shared experiences can be bonding after all. Oh, and another thing, here is the link to the Monsal Trail parkrun event 152 run report in case of interest. And results for the record too.

For now, that’s all folks, time to pack it all away until next parkrun day.

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The End.

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But before I go, can we just have one more random adorable parkrun thing please? It is a lovely one I promise…

Yes we can. Check out this BEST EVER parkrun report. Hand written and fully illustrated. Love it! Thank you Great Yarmouth North Beach parkrun for sharing.

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I know. Cuteness overload, sigh #loveparkrun

Also – POST FAIL – how did I not spot the opportunity for Bakewell Tart punnage. The shame will never leave me!

*Erst While Flat Mate. Yes, I know it ought to be erstwhile flatmate, but I have my reasons.

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

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Carefree Cavorting at Cheery Chevin Forest parkrun – where the wild things are!

Had a wild old time here!

A fine, fun, forest foray indeed! What’s not to like?

There is a reason why forest bathing has become quite the thing. Basically, it’s lovely, calms the soul, soothes the spirit and puts all in context. Add in a parkrun to the mix and it takes forest bathing to a whole new level of awesome. This was truly a parkrun of all the things. Acrobatic tail walkers; celebrity parkrun authors*; huge trees; forest trails; smiley marshals acing directional pointing; astonishing views; brilliant wood sculptures; chariot racing opportunities; warm welcome (probably axiomatic to state that) and a post parkrun café that I could happily take up permanent residence in. Who doesn’t get hugely excited at seeing halloumi on a menu? I’m jumping ahead though, but soooooooooooooooooo many things to share, where to start?

Choosing Chevin.

Hmm, where to parkrun. Always a dilemma, so many to choose from, but not all are accessible to me these days.

Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed a definite nip in the air on some mornings, and the days are getting shorter. Once the clocks change it’s going to be less appealing and less practical to venture too far afield for parkrun tourism. I am therefore trying to pick off some of the reachable but far away parkruns before the clocks change. I also have to factor in my bloomin’ uselessness at forward motion at the moment. It’s so frustrating. Chevin Forest is reachable from Sheffield and oh look! A friendly name I recognise as tailwalker. Two of them in fact. Phew, that takes the pressure off. I was advised it’s a ‘proper’ trail surface, mud in winter, but it looked doable and with my sticks it would be a good test of what I can and can’t do. I’m treading (literally) that fine line between trying to do a bit more to find my limits, without actually coming to grief in the process. parkruns are perfect for this when they welcome walkers as it’s a safe and supportive environment to try to increase my mobility without ending up having to call mountain rescue because I’ve toppled into a ditch up the top of kinder scout. This would be sub optimal for a number of reasons, not least that you probably can’t get a mobile signal up there, so I’d have to just lie in a star shape and hope the circling of vultures overhead would eventually attract attention. parkrun doesn’t require vultures to alert others to your needs, instead it anticipates them with Cheery Chevin Marshals (other alliterated parkrun marshals are available see Cavorting Castle Marshals; Marvellous Millhouses Marshals; Enchanting Endcliffe Marshals; Iridescent Isobel Marshals etc) to see you safely out and back.

What’s more, said tailwalkers will be pirating it! Yep, you read that right. Having already done their aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, this would be the seventh of their seven seas. It’s a Running Challenges thing – only 8 parkruns and you too can get a virtual sticker AND to dress up as a pirate (inflatable parrot optional but hugely hoped for) on your final parkrun in the set. Yep, pirate party at the back sounded just the thing, and lacking full functioning limbs would be a boon in such a gathering. Captain Hook and Long John Silver anyone? Though there were also fearless, fierce and female pirates past too, who hung onto their limbs. Not that we should be glorifying pillaging, obvs, but who doesn’t enjoy having a nice new badge for their virtual sticker chart?

Precisely.

That’d do.

Then the Queen died. Suddenly uncertainty about what might happen. In fact a great many parkruns did opt to cancel, some because it was out of their hands – the National Trust cancelled all on their properties, other event teams felt it was the right thing for them to cancel too. Personally I was grateful for the parkrun announcement that let event teams make their own call locally. I did not want to lose my opportunity to access a parkrun somewhere, I’ve been denied too many of late.

Much hitting the refresh button to see what this might mean for Chevin Forest, and checking the parkrun cancellation page I wish I’d taken a screen shot of it now, as it was interesting to see which way event teams made the call. Fortunately for me, Chevin Forest parkrun made the call to go ahead. Now I had only to stress about getting there and where to park etc.

Right, so the Chevin Forest parkrun website blah de blah says:

Getting there by road
The nearest postcode to the start/finish is LS21 3DD, East Chevin Road.

We recommend parking at Surprise View cark park, opposite the Royalty pub on York Gate (LS21 3DG), and walking to the start along the path which runs across the top of the valley and down, crossing East Chevin Road, to the Danefield side of the Chevin. It’s a pleasant 15-20 minute walk although unsuitable for buggies as there are width restrictions. There are three car parks on East Chevin Road itself. Please DO NOT park in the small car park directly next to the finish line, you will be asked to move unless you have mobility difficulties or a buggy. Alternatively there are several car parks in Otley, allow time to walk up the Chevin to the start. Please DO NOT park along the road, this can cause visibility obstructions and is regularly patrolled by the police, who issue fines.

https://www.parkrun.org.uk/chevinforest/course/

Hmm, was a bit discombobulated. I can now negotiate a parkrun, but didn’t think I’d be able to do the extra 20 minute out and back especially if it was a bit bushwhacking territory. I wouldn’t be able to carry a machete and my walking poles, and not sure what the etiquette would be for leaving a machete unattended as I set off for my parkrun. Then again, am I considered immobile enough not to be turned away at the car park. Would there be some sort of hierarchy of needs you’d have to satisfy to get a parking space or would it be on trust. I felt I needed to be near the start, but maybe not as much as some others might need that. In the end, I just did my usual of setting off at stupid o’clock and having done some google-based research, which has all but replaced any actual primary research these days, established that it looks like there are a couple of carparks nearby.

On arrival, hurrah! There is a diddy carpark right next to the start, but a second, upper carpark which is about 100 metres away. It’s not huge, but certainly enough for a fair few vehicles and if you arrive early enough space was fine. I was amongst the first couple to park. I’m finding though a minor frustration of early arrival at some of these carparks creates enormous confusion for me about where you are supposed to park. It would really help if there were some demarked parking spaces as I’m sure you’d accommodate loads more vehicles that way, still I was fine, so that was good.

It was also exciting already! I was a bit daunted by the steepness of the hills – I drove down one to the nearest supermarket to use their loos before returning. I was wondering if this was such a great idea. The trees were gorgeous, and it was lovely to be in such fantastic scenery, but ringing in my ears was the words of Ambassador Z from Millhouses who had warned me this was a trail parkrun course. I feel I need to test myself, but don’t want to come a cropper either. Aargh.

Oh wait, you want to know what the course descriptor is? Hang on, erm….

Course Description

This is two-lap anti-clockwise course with an additional point to point at the finish.

The course starts on Chippendale Ride, where it crosses the stream. Head east for a few metres and then turn right, up a steep hill. Follow this bridleway through Deer Park Wood and Memorial Wood, then continue straight on along the footpath through Quarry Wood (this section can get very muddy) at the end of this path turn left onto the bridleway and go down the hill to the chariot sculpture and gate, then turn left alongside Caley Wood, Keepers Wood and Stag Wood until you reach the first corner again. Loop around for a second time. On completion of the second circuit follow Chippendale Ride back up the hill towards the road to the finish line.

The route is all on trail or forest footpaths and the ground is uneven and often muddy, trail shoes are recommended particularly during autumn and winter or after rain.

Trail shoes, they want trail shoes. Oops. I only have one pair of shoes that my mutant feet can tolerate at the moment, with cut out bits so my foot can sort of levitate above the sore parts, which is basically all of it. I do have trail shoes, but I’d have to carry them, rather than wear them, and call me massively intuitive but – I’m thinking they expect them to be on your feet rather than randomly adorning your person. Oh well, I’ll have my walking poles to assist.

The map of the course looks like this:

It doesn’t entirely help, as basically you can see the route is entirely within trees. Trees usually mean tree routes and forest paths. Aesthetically pleasing, but maybe a little ouchy underfoot. Hmm, trail shoes territory indeedy.

Trees are lovely though aren’t they. They ooze other worldly soothiness. I love them, they just instantly transport you. I love the smell of trees and the sound of trees and all thing tree-like. I love squirrels in trees and the endurance of trees. It makes me sad when trees are under threat. An old tree is a thing of wonder indeed, but even a new sapling, exudes joy and manifests hope for the future. Planting a tree is a mark of optimism surely? Everyone should plant trees if they can, where the habitat is appropriate to do so. Just as everyone should have a water source in their outside space if they have any; wear fancy dress when the opportunity presents itself (not limited to parkrun venues); befriend a frog and a squirrel and experience parkrun as a walker. Just saying.

So I arrived, I parked up. I felt a wave of apprehension. Aargh, difficult terrain, unknown parkrun; new people; what if I didn’t know anyone? What if I did know anyone, and they didn’t know me? What if I did know lots of people and had to interact with them in some way? What if I was too slow? What if I needed the loo again? What if, what if? Maybe I should just get back in the car and drive home again right now, just to by pass all the social awkwardness and embarrassment, it could save everyone a lot of time. Not least at the end as they’d be waiting for me to finish.

As I was processing these thoughts, I found myself walking down towards the lower carpark, and then was greeted by a vision of loveliness incarnate, cartwheeling up in a blast of positive energy and freneticism (is that a word? It is now) the human tornado, core team, regular volunteer co-ordinater and rotational RD (that would account for the energetic spinning) and most importantly of all for today 50% of the tailwalking team; whirling her way up to the carpark to wave down the other tail walker. She greeted me warmly, explaining she was directing one fellow With Me Now podcast listener from the Surprise View Carpark to the start, and another from the upper car park to the lower, so in full-on organisational enabling mode, but still had time for enthusiastic welcoming and waving. It was all going to be fine. Also, this meant I had instant new friends from near and far. Hurrah, and we all found one another too, AND did I mention that as well as being RD; tailwalker (50%); With Me Now listener; parkrun acrobat and all round awesomeness this person is a selfie taking sensation? I didn’t? Well she is, check out the number of her shots I’ve lifted for your edification, enlightenment and enjoyment in this blog post. You’re welcome. With Me Now is a podcast ‘About parkrun passion by passionate parkrunners.’ If you don’t want to soil yourself by clicking onto their Facebook page, you can go straight to the With Me Now podcasts here and You Tube channel here. Go on, you know you want to, even more of a need for it now Free Weekly Timed is no more, not that that was any great loss to be fair, but if you enjoyed that, my, you will be properly MIND BLOWN by With Me Now. There are a log of podding and vlogging parkrunners these days. See also Nicola Runs – these vlogs have been a real tonic of parkrun joy in dark days when I couldn’t get out at all, as well as happier days when can relive parkruns past enjoy parkruns present and look forward to parkruns still to come…

Speaking of which, here we all are, just to get the parkrun party started:

The die was cast. I would be embarking on the forest bathing parkrun. My tailwalkers were in readiness, an entourage assembled, hurrah! I look like I’ve shaved my head. I haven’t. I forgot my buff though, if there’s one thing worse than running in the buff, it’s been caught parkrunning without one. Fortunately, my amiable companions were too polite to mention it.

Delighted as I was to see my tail walking buddies I couldn’t help but clock the absence of any fancy dressery. They had made the call that to avoid giving offence to others today wasn’t the day. It’s true, Fancy Dress in general and Pirate Fancy Dress in particular can go horribly wrong. So perhaps a sensible call. Do you remember the Colin Darch incident?

A former hostage has spoken of the moment he walked into a Women’s Institute meeting to give a talk on international piracy and found the group dressed as pirates. Colin Darch said he was amused that members of Parkham WI in North Devon had donned fancy dress for the occasion.

Darch, a retired sailor from North Devon, has written a book about his experience of being kidnapped by pirates in 2008 and often gives talks on the subject. The 75-year-old said his hosts had been “embarrassed” by the mix-up.

“Since I was released five years ago, I have spoken at a lot of conferences and serious events about the dangers of piracy and how to survive,” he said. “More recently, since writing the book, I have been taking to Rotary groups, Probus clubs and the occasional WI.

“When I arrived there were ladies with blue rinses wearing pirate hats and waving swords around. They had been led to believe it was a talk about piracy through the ages and not something right up to date.

“I think they were worried I might be a bit upset that they were trivialising it, but I thought it was funny. I just laughed and said it was like something from The Pirates of Penzance.

“They were more embarrassed than me and they asked me to judge the best pirate costume. They even bought a few of my books.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/02/colin-darch-piracy-womens-institute

Awkward…

Hilarious though, but definitely awkward.

Anyway, upshot was no fancy dress pirates at this parkrun, though there was a book signing, So that was exciting! More of that later

I remain hopeful that their fancy dress costumes, inflatable parrots and all, will see the light of day at a future parkrun. People do that all the time with their milestone tees after all. You can’t get them until after you’ve completed the event so they are inevitably only donned for the first time in subsequent weeks. I see no issue with doing the same for a pirate challenge outfit. It would be a positive boon to have them randomly rock up in fancy dress at a subsequent unrelated parkrun. After all, it is the parkrun ethos to allow each person to participate in their own way, doubt anyone would bat an eyelid, they might not even notice in the parade of other fancy dress themes; wedding parties; running club tees and wonky emotional support animals. Hardly worth raising an eyebrow for. It isn’t a lost parkrun fancy dress moment, merely a joy postponed, the anticipation will make the donning of the eye patches and companion bird even more exciting in due course.

Where was I? Oh yes, gathering, and then making our way to the start area. It was already distracting. There were wooden carvings already, and lovely inviting woodland pathways, and the buzz of assembling parkrunners, and the colourful collection of high vis heroes gathered in a glade like forest fairies preparing to do their magic under the directional spells of the day’s RD. Our attentive consort, the bouncy RD pointed out trip hazards – to help us to avoid them rather than implore us to make use of them. There are some uneven surfaces and the odd random hole about, which is to be expected on a trail route. It is the lovelier for it. Nature untamed. Photo opps with the pop up sign, with new friends and old. These pictures won’t take themselves!

And then, after a bit, we were called to the first timers’ welcome. We were especially honoured on this occassion to be personally welcomed by Chevin Forest parkrun’s Event Director Debbie. I can’t promise you’d be so blessed, but everyone in the team is equally enthusiastic and welcoming so you’ll never be left either unwelcomed or unenthused at this event. She has two dawgs herself; Winnie n Rosie I believe, so you are assured of a dawg friendly event if that’s important to you. This event is excellent for canines in terms of route and facilities, there is lots of space for parkrunners and barkrunners both.

There were a couple (well three actually) doing their first ever EVER parkrun, and about 35 of us who were touristing from elsewhere. Excitingly, I espied a Fell Foot apricot tee, sported by celebrity author Eileen Jones, who in lockdown, wrote The parkrun book, which has since been out on parkrun book relay all of its own. We’ve been Facebook friends for a while, but never met. I wasn’t expecting to see her out in the wild, so that was a very exciting spot. Turns out she’d been displaced from Fell Foot parkrun due to National Trust properties deciding not to allow parkrun to take place on their land this weekend. Their loss was our gain. Hurrah! I saved the sycophancy and recognition for later though, being attentive to the briefing instead, in between strolling around trying to take atmospheric photos. I don’t know why I bothered really, as mine are almost all universally terrible, and others took much better ones of the same event. Oh well, they do say it’s the thought that counts. I’d like to agree, but sometimes it’s getting the photo that counts for more. A variation on the ‘it it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen’ logic. Anyway, here we are, at the first timers’ welcome being attentive and excited and trying not to roll down the hill and crash into those already assembling at the start.

Check out the trees! See, lovely aren’t they.

After this welcome, there was a scamper down the hill to the start. Those that were able to scamper, scampered, I did my robotic shuffle. The surface was dry and although I can imagine it could get muddy over winter, it really wasn’t bad at all. Though gradients did kick in later.

Next stop the RD briefing. There was a moment when some walkers wanted to come through and the crowd of parkrunners parted to let them pass, all very amenable. The sloping start gives a good view of the Run Director and good acoustics too. So we could all hear the various announcements. I wasn’t quite sure how they’d handle the death of the Queen, but the event went for a one minute’s silence. It was serene and quiet in the woods. It is moving when people collectively gather and share experiences, that is the entire magic of a parkrun really, I mean in honesty there’s nothing to stop anyone, anywhere setting out on a 5k walk, run or jog on their own at any time – maybe standing on a street corner in a high vis timing people as they pass or shouting encouragement might be harder to explain – but it is the doing together and post parkrun faffery that builds the connections. The astonishing thing to me was that the silence was observed by all. It is apparently possible for a group to be quiet all at the same time – a lesson to carry forward to future run briefings perhaps?

Minute’s silence observed, a few more parkrunners than usual in black perhaps, choosing to wear 100 tees over other colours? I think that was probably about right. Those who feel parkrun should not have happened have the option to stay away. For me missing parkrun would be just another deprivation. I was glad that once the acknowledgement was made, it was parkrun very much as usual, but minus pirate fancy dress.

Here we are at the start

and here we are underway!

Off we trotted behind them. I say ‘trotted’ it was more of a laboured amble to be fair. It is alarming how quickly the field disappeared out of sight. Very quickly you are past the time keepers and volunteer team cheering you on your way – possibly even more quickly if you don’t stop for a group photo on your way past, but where would be the fun in that?

and heading off up a fairly steep hill. Not sure if these are the right sequence to be fair, but if you’ve been you’ll know the course anyway, and if you haven’t you won’t know any better will you. A bit of creative licence isn’t a bad thing, I want you to experience Chevin Forest parkrun for yourself unimpeded by accurate spoilers in advance of your visit. You’re welcome 🙂

Good news though, plenty of distractions and interludes en route. There is the sculpture trail which is jolly fun, but also interactive marshals which were even more fun – hard though that is to imagine, and the constant antics of our tailwalking RD to keep us entertained at no extra charge. One day, I’ll get a proper camera so I can capture such moments with the clarity and va-va-voom they merit, for now, you’ll have to make do with these:

I love how the marshal is so used to the antics of our core team member escort, she doesn’t even bother to look around. That ability to get airborne is astounding though, a super power basically. Very impressive show of defying gravity. It was like being accompanied around by a life size jack in the box, except it was a Jill-out-of-the-box, and quite right too. Women should not be stuffed in boxes and restrained. Nobody should to be fair. Also parkrun is inevitably exciting, one can’t help but jump about on such occasions. Try it and see.

As well as defying gravity, we got a guided tour of sites en route. There was the trig point – though they didn’t seem to be at the actual highest point which confused me. There were also viewing points. Chariot racing photo opportunity points. The old tom (?) marshal point with the rather broken and sad hunched carving of a man, even the presence of a cheering parkrun marshal was not enough to lift his flagging heart. I don’t think it is Tom actually, but I can’t remember. I’ll try to find out, or I might just leave it as a mystery, that would be fine too.

I’ve looked, can’t find out, but did find out the sculptures were make by a local called Shane, I don’t think I’ve ever met an actual Shane, still haven’t to be fair, but this is evidence they are out there somewhere in the wild so that’s good. It’s also well worth having a gander at his creative process, the history of the trail and the trees origins. These are not random carvings, they have a story to tell. More importantly they are really fun to encounter and brilliant for posing on, with and adjacent to.

Similarly, our passage through the forest trails was not random either. (Hope you appreciated that seamless segue back on to the parkrun theme). However, nearly a week later, my memories lack actual chronology, and have merged into images of meeting people, and laughing, and posing for photos.

Oh, and there is even one dedicated to parkrun for Run Directors, Event Directors and other local parkrun dignitaries to sit on to survey their view. Isn’t that a lovely gesture? Seemed almost cruel to drag her away, left alone, she would have morphed into the landscape, and no doubt be there still, her spirit urging parkrunners on and causing dachshunds to paws pause and ponder.

I think the elephant may have been my favourite, but so very hard to choose. And anwyway we couldn’t linger, so much to see, places to go, parkrunners to see priorities to discuss.

Here are some people we met – oh and a dachshund too, that was very cute – not that the people weren’t also cute, but this little fella was cuteness overload and some. Didn’t like the tailwalker scratching the ground though, very bad form apparently, good to know. This is a very dog friendly parkrun by the way. And don’t the dawgies know it? Rhetorical question, yes they do! There were many chilled, excited and generally happy and enthused pooches about. Some as barkrunners, some as Chevin Forest explorers sans parkrun, all were welcomed and accommodated. In the café afterwards too for the record.:

And here is a particularly fine marshal point for parkrunner spotting. In fact there were several – go spoil yourself and take a gander. We did, paused to cheer other parkrunners past; As a double lapper, slower participants will get passed as speedier parkrunners do their second lap, but this is a good opportunity for friend and celebrity spotting, and exchanging mutual cheers so a boon. The path is generally pretty wide so it didn’t cause any congestion as such, though perhaps in winter it might mean you’d need to brave romping through mud to overtake, but that’s a plus surely? You don’t feel like you’ve had a proper parkrun outing if you come home with clean trainers in winter!

Here you go:

I feel I should be more informative about the route. I was too busy gazing about to notice really. You do a sort of outy bit, then go round in a big loop, then go around the big loop again. Marshals cheerily waited for us, and for the second circuit we were just me and the two tail walkers and the remaining marshals really. Some marshals once stood down opted to head back, others carried on round the route to get their steps in and enjoy some quite forest bathing of their own.

As is often the way, we had some good chats at the back, in between our spontaneous partying. Fun stuff and serious stuff too. So topics covered fancy dress highs and lows, the nature of trauma passing down generations – yep, you might be surprised how powerful walk and talk can be in terms of opening up conversations. We also shared stories of parkruns we have known and loved and had quite a lot of talk about walking at parkrun. Next month, October is to be dedicated to parkwalk at parkrun. No it isn’t parkwalt despite the graphics, and I share the slight disappointment that it isn’t parkwaltz either.

Despite the weird graphic, I couldn’t be happier about this. It’s a tricky one. In theory all parkruns welcome walkers, but those of us at the back today have experienced walking at parkrun and as parkrun passionistas don’t wish to be critical of the events we know and love and appreciate the efforts put in by volunteers. Yet it remains the case that experiences of walking at parkrun can be erm, ‘mixed.’ I’ve had awesome tailwalkers see me round and RDs welcome me, and I’ve also been at the parkrun where the tailwalker walked ahead of me the whole time, telling every marshal as she got to them ‘you might as well stand down, this one’s going to be ages’ I was in tears after that one. Then there’s the well-meaning but misguided encouragement to skip bits of the route, cut corners – ‘no thanks, I’ve come for the 5k, but now I’m really thinking you want me to hurry up so you can all go home‘. The dismantled finish funnels. The celebratory cake long since consumed. These might seem small things, but they can be very alienating. Also the message from some that walking is the gateway to the ‘normal’ participation of parkrun by running, not an end and massive achievement in itself.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to run again, perhaps. But for some health conditions only deteriorate. What I do know, is that for a time last year, I didn’t know if I’d ever make it out of my house again, let alone back to a parkrun. Although I’m frustrated at my progress, I can walk now, and although it takes it out of me, I am getting better I think. There are others for whom walking is what only happens on a good day, it’s not the expectation that once you are ‘better’ you will suddenly be able to run. It feels like a guilty secret to admit there are sometimes issues with how walkers experience parkrun. People mean well, but don’t always understand the undermining impact of a throw away remark or casual inference that walking isn’t doing parkrun ‘properly’. ‘It’s called parkRUN‘ is a common refrain. Oh FFS, things can evolve. How would innovation ever occur if we didn’t try to do things differently, let’s not leave improvements to chance, let’s experiment with change. New beginnings are exciting. It’ll be an adventure – be open to its possibilities. It’s going to be grand.

Besides if others walk it doesn’t prevent people from running if they want to participating just as they do now, it simply opens up the event for others, I don’t see why it should be contentious. For me the joy of discovering parkrun has always been finding an environment of runners where as a slow runner I could join in – and then volunteering, well, that’s fab too obvs. Running clubs seemed just to feed my sense of inadequacy, the last straw being when the club vest was only available in a men’s cut up to a size 16. I’ve taken part in runs where ‘no-one is left behind’ and that meant people did wait, only to sprint off again as soon as you are breathlessly in sight, thus I was perpetually on my own, breathless, never getting a chance to recover with my mind battling ever more intrusive thoughts about my own inadequacies. Worst of all those who announce they are injured so feeling really pathetic so they’ll join the slow group, and still sprint ahead seemingly mocking those of us for whom their bad day is unobtainable. parkrun has been my safe place as a runner and now I can’t run at all, walking at parkrun has enabled me to participate up to a point. However, even as an experienced parkrunner, familiar with its ethos and with many scattered parkrun friends I can feel inadequate, apprehensive and lost rocking up at an unknown parkrun as a walker. I’d just so love that to change, to feel confident setting out. It takes courage to step out the door sometimes, and although I try to embrace ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ and I know that only be moving our of our comfort circles can we grow, I just long for a parkrun day to come round again when I didn’t have to pluck up courage to go. It’s the uncertainty about what you might encounter. I’ve pretty much never regretted a parkrun, but I have had mixed experiences and certainly there are some I’d be more likely to recommend to worried walkers coming for their first ever parkrun than others. junior parkrun seems to have nailed this. My local Sheffield Olympic Legacy park junior parkrun is fabulous in its capacity to welcome all comers without pressure or judgement. That’s as participants, volunteers or adult carers taking part alongside their youngsters but with their own fitness goals. The juniors who amble round at the back swinging a favourite rabbit toy by the ears, taking an occasional detour to circle a cone or high five a marshal bring extra joy to the event, it’s not a problem, it’s a total bonus. I think junior parkrun retains an innocence and inclusivity that some of the 5k events have allowed to slip away. There is no cynicism at junior parkrun, for the most part the times really don’t matter, and the important thing, the only really important rule as junior parkrun founder Paul Graham would say, is to ‘have fun!’ A mantra I try to pass on to all first timers I encounter. This emphasis is what needs to be restored to the 5k events. Walkers shouldn’t be a problem to a parkrun, they should be a joy, an asset and in honesty, it could be where the events have maximum impact. I know without being able to walk at parkrun I wouldn’t have had a safe way to increase my distances and experiment with new terrain as I try to recover mobility, I’m hugely grateful for it, but I also see how it has scope to be more welcoming still, and it’s fantastic if that initiative is coming. I can not wait! Bring it on! And if you are a bit dubious, maybe just try to keep an open mind…

https://www.facebook.com/parkrunUK/videos/1367426970452602

For others to be able to access parkrun as a gateway not just to being active, but much more importantly to being connected, to be able to cry with laughter sharing stories with people you’ve only just met. To discover new places; be given permission to play again and parkfaff with the best of them. Or even just to come, do you own thing and go away again, without pressure to interact if you don’t want to, that would be fab too. An exciting new chapter in parkrun, new adventures to unfold, a fresh page turned, it’s going to be great!

The real challenge of being a walker at parkrun is that it’s impossible to be invisible, you are often a minority, and can feel a burden on events. I don’t like thinking I’ll be making a team wait for me in inclement weather. I have done my fair share of volunteering, I know it’s hard in the freezing cold waiting for someone ages behind everyone else. But if the event was packed with more walkers that would be ace, plenty more people to cheer home. I’d just love to do a South African parkrun where I understand walking is almost the norm and numbers are huge so you are never alone at the back of the pack. How extraordinary that would be. To be central to a parkrun event, not an add on.

I really hope that this initiative to encourage walkers will make walking not just acceptable at parkruns, but more of the norm, so I and others like me don’t have to feel self-conscious, inadequate and a burden, but can just rock up and do it. No messaging ahead apologetically to say you’re sorry you’ll be slow, or scanning events’ results histories to see if they are used to slower final finishers. By the way, don’t get annoyed if we seem to be taking even longer because we stop to take photos and chat to marshals on the way round, that’s a coping strategy for pain management – though also a massive boon and enrichment on the way round.

If you are someone who normally whizzes round a parkrun, why not walk one in October? Properly walk it, right at the back, not trying to encourage walkers to run, that might not be realistic or their objective, but just to experience parkrun in a different way. It’s a revelation, much like volunteering, you will see the event very differently.

The irony was, we three at the back, weren’t witches, though we are most definitely wise women and to be fair, not much wrong with being a witch in the sense of having our own agency and power – we were are all comfortable with walking at parkrun, yet we did initially put a bit of pressure on ourselves not to dilly dally too much. No worries though, our tailwalking RD has it sussed, her marshals are used to her, it takes the time it takes. Walkers welcome! Chevin Forest parkrun welcomes walkers indeed.

and we did have a blast at the back:

So even though we were well over the one hour mark, the end seemed to come quickly. I went through the tunnel ahead of my tail walking companions who were like an official entourage. I’ve decided I quite like having them at a parkrun. Loads of stories and laughs to share, someone to navigate and act as official photographer as well as see you home safely. It was a bonding sort of a parkrun adventure, just lovely.

But wait, there’s more!

Yes, yes, that was parkrun done. Through the funnel, avoiding getting my final bingo numbers obvs, timed in, token given and scanned, but then it was celebrity meet up time, because there she was, The parkrun book author, hurrah. ‘How parkrun changed our lives by Eileen Jones‘ Appropriate adulation followed, and was taken in good humour, as all possible permutations of parkrun people and parkrun book and parkrun author were experimented with. Turns out Eileen is a hugger too (ask first), this makes me happy! I miss hugs:

I needed another pee and am slow, so ambled ahead to the café round the corner and associated conveniences. I thought at first the café must have a dress code as some pretty snappy dressers around, but turns out they were for a wedding party in an adjacent converted outbuilding. We got to descend into the old cowshed which was just ridiculously picturesque with lovely worn stone and a beautifully maintained informal cottage garden and loads of seating inside and out. Dog friendly, it that’s important to you and parkrunner friendly too, offering a discount on presentation of your barcode only I forgot about that. The cakes and breakfasts to choose from were amazing. The temptation to just faceplant onto the counter or have one of each was pretty enormous. post parkrun faffery, post parkrun breakfast, forget ‘it was always about the coffee’ this was a full on second – and possibly third breakfast scenario! Dear reader, I bring you the Mistal kitchen

We had such excellent faffing! It might look like we all knew each other but that was not so, it is testament to the bonding power of parkrun that we had connections everywhere. So Red Ted was spotted by someone who knew his creator, and then our author ended up doing some impromptu book signings, and then others of us found connections with parkruns we had in common albeit on different occasions and as if that wasn’t enough there was always the fact we’d just done this splendid one to bond us together. We are all part of one another’s stories now, a proper connection that will endure! It was really affirming and lovely and all memories of early morning starts and pre parkrun apprehension evaporated. The cafe brought out trays laden with steaming coffees and imaginative and beautifully presented breakfast options. I could happily have lived there were it not for my frog and squirrel guardianship responsibilities back home in Sheffield.

After a bit, some people with lives to lead began to disperse, but me and 50% of the tail walking team lingered longer in solidarity with the ‘it was always about the coffee‘ directive, we did move inside, and it might have even been a three coffee morning, I only ever drink coffee on parkrun days, I was buzzing for the journey home.

So morning morphed into afternoon, and then I too had to depart. It had been a fantastic morning. Chevin Forest parkrun is a truly welcoming space, and the forest gorgeous. The views out from the route promise a wider landscape that would be amazing to explore. It was a little overcast, but that made the light perfect for seeing into the distance. If this was your local walking and running playground you’d be blessed indeed. The vegan and vegetarian friendly café was the icing on the cake, a great deal of cake, not cheap, but for a treat pretty fabulous.

Thank you lovely Chevin Forest parkrun people, thank you celebrity parkrun author, thank you fellow parkrunners, thank you lovely tail walkers and brunch companion(s) – thank you all for a healing morning in the forest. Thank you all the high vis heroes who made the magic happen, Chevin Forest parkrun is gorgeous, joyful, spectacular and very wonderful indeed! Bravo!

#loveparkrun #walking at parkrun I’m not sure where next Saturday will take me parkrun wise, but you’ll be a tough act to follow.

How did anyone manage in a pre parkrun world? parkrun is a precious thing indeed. Nurture it.

Oh and if you are interested the full results for Chevin Forest parkrun number 52 are here and rather more interestingly, there is a fab run report from tail walking titan Ali here. Or will be, as soon as it goes live. And you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice

*presence not guaranteed, but in other news, every parkrunner is a celebrity in my eyes, all have a story to share and unique intrinsic value of their own.

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

parkrun Nivarna at Normanby Hall?

I’m fearful that what I am about to post may be deemed by some to be only just short of sacrilege in parkrun terms, but I can not tell a lie, Normanby Hall parkrun is truly special. (That’s not the controversial bit). I think it may, for me at least, knock Fountains Abbey off it’s plinth of ‘most spectacular of the region’s parkruns’. (That’s the controversial bit). I mean Fountains Abbey parkrun is not known as Fabbey parkrun for nothing, it’s an astonishing venue, but Normanby Hall parkrun is definitely a new favourite for me. It’s got all the things, and no pressure to finish and depart before the grounds open which knocks the shine off Fabbey parkrun if you are parkrunner who needs an hour to get around.

I’m not even entirely sure how Normanby Hall parkrun came to be on my radar in the first place, though now it is I’m mortified it was missing from my parkrun ‘to do’ map up until yesterday. It just fitted the bill for an accessible sounding parkrun within reasonable reach of Sheffield. I honestly didn’t know much about it before. I know, I know, I’m truly embarrassed by this, but hopefully by being properly open about this history, others can learn from my mistakes and not leave it so long to rock up and discover this gem of a parkrun for themselves.

The day didn’t start particularly well. I think it’s taken my body a while to recover from last week, and I was in a lot of pain first thing. I long for a day when I wake up pain free, but am coming to the depressing conclusion that that’ll be the day I wake up dead, which is annoying because if you are dead you don’t feel the benefit. I am not debilitated by pain the way I was a few months ago, I can do stuff, but everything hurts. I was hoping to have a stick free parkrun today, going to a new venue where no-one would know me and so no pressure, but was wondering if that was such a good idea. Hmm. It’s hard to know with this new reality how much my fears of falling are founded and how much they are an understandable, but disproportionate anxiety. Hmmm. I decided to take red ted and my stick with me and review when I got there.

In the car, and on our way. Wait, what was this stuff coming out of the sky? Rain? I’d forgotten about rain, it’s been so long since we’ve had any. Oh well, I’d be getting wet, I’d failed to chuck a waterproof in the car though I did have my fleece with me. It is officially meteorological autumn now apparently, and it did seem darker suddenly and even a bit of a nip in the air as I set off. parkrun tourism gets a lot less viable once the bad weather sets in. ‘Winter is coming‘ isn’t only an ominous phrase in Game of Thrones terms, it fills the most dedicated of parkrun tourists with fear and horror at the prospect of cancelled parkruns and missed starts due to ice and snow and dark and stormy nights!

Not here yet though, and in fact, by the time I got to the parkrun location it had not only stopped raining, but it was properly humid and sticky and not even autumnal let alone wintry.

It was an easy drive, me and my sat nav seem to have worked through our forming, storming and norming stages and are borderline performing. We got there without any passive aggressive demands on her part to do a u-turn but without meeting any diversions either.

The directions to the parkrun on the official Normanby Hall parkrun website blah de blah say:

Getting there by road
From Scunthorpe: Follow the B1430 to the north, signposted Burton upon Stather. When you reach Normanby go straight ahead at the mini roundabout and follow the road round to the right, the park main entrance is on your right.
From the Humber Bridge: Follow the A1077 towards Winterton/Scunthorpe. Just before Winterton, turn right towards Thealby/Burton Stather. In Thealby turn left towards Normanby. The park Gate is on your left after about a mile or follow the signs to Normanby Hall Country Park
From the M181: Follow the A1077 towards Winterton. Turn left at the third roundabout onto the B1430 signposted Burton Stather. When you reach Normanby go straight ahead at the mini roundabout and follow the road round to the right, the park main entrance is on your right.

There is plenty of free parking within the Park. For free parking use the overspill car park (signposted) and display a parkrun barcode in the windscreen of the car. PLEASE DO NOT USE ANY ADJOINING ROADS, INCLUDING NORMANBY VILLAGE FOR PARKING

but to be honest, I just used the postcode for Normanby Hall which is DN15 9HU, and then followed the brown attraction signs as I got near. It was very easy to find. On arrival, there is a huge car park, and a big sign directing you to the overflow carpark where parkrunners can have 2 hours free parking if they display a barcode. Why you’d need to park on adjoining roads or Normanby Village I don’t know, there is an abundance of well organised parking right at the parkrun. Having said that though, I initially followed the signs and went right down to the end of the unsurfaced road and ended up at what looked like a campsite, so had to turn around and come back. By this point there were three car park marshals in situ and it seems you actually just go into the big field to the right of the sign, not down the long road. It’s obvious really, it’s just I was very early and attempted to park before a marshal was in place.

Once I was parked up, it was but a short walk across the carpark to the sunflower surrounded toilet block, via a quick detour to check out the Go Ape wooden sculpture. They don’t have actual apes, which is good, because primates in captivity is an abomination, but they do have one of those air rope; zip wire; scary treetop courses. The sign about the go ape course was super scary, apparently three people have fallen off Go Ape courses because of not abiding properly to the safety protocols of securing their harnesses at all time. Well, that’s telling you. Luckily I was there for the parkrun where there is no requirement for safety harnesses. Whilst a face plant is always a possibility, it won’t be from the height of the Hyperion redwood.

Lots of loos, though behind cages, separating the men’s and women’s which was somewhat weird. It was like each toilet block had it’s own distinct exercise yard, I have no idea why. I can report they were very clean, and came complete with not only toilet paper but hot water and liquid soap too. This parkrun venue has nailed the parkrun precautionary pee protocols, always a positive first impression at a new parkrun when it delivers on this front. You can dear reader, travel to this venue with confidence in the personal ablutions and toileting aspects of your adventure. These details matter, well they do to me anyway. And let’s face it, hot water anywhere is going to become a rarity in months to come. We must celebrate both the presence of water and the miracle of it having been heated up for our indulgence whenever and wherever we can. Anyway, bottom line is, that it was sat nav accuracy? Tick. Car parking? Tick. And toilets? Tick. All good. Satisfied at this provision you can free your mind to focus on the other winning aspects of the parkrun.

I still was ambivalent about whether to try the route unaided. I mean if I could joggle and jiggle a bit last week then maybe this week I should ditch my metaphorical training wheels in the form of my stick and parkrun naked – figuratively speaking obvs. Don’t be childish. It’s what’s going on inside your head that made that sound risqué not mine. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Racked with indecision, I wobbled and wound my way back to my car, a friendly marshal asked if I needed any help, I must have been unconsciously sporting my perpetually bewildered look. Still, it was fortuitous, as I took the opportunity to ask about the surface of the route. It was a reassuring account. Sounded not only highly accessible, but, get this, bouncy tarmac in parts! You know that thick rubberised stuff, that is used on surfaces for playgrounds and things. That is very forgiving, only peatland themselves are bouncier, this was going to be fun. I’d ditch the sticks, throw caution to the wind, and make every parkrun count by just seeing how it unfolded, hurrah!

I made my way through to the courtyard, where as I entered I saw the high vis heroes assembling. This parkrun is so well organised and set out. This is where the post parkrun café is with loads of outside seating. As the volunteers gathered, there was a big white board inviting people to sign up to volunteer on subsequent weeks.

There’s an obvious path out of the courtyard, and an impressive array of information boards, including a map of the route. Oh good, I’d not really looked that up before hand. Though I will now, the official Normanby not Normandy Hall parkrun page course description blah de blah says:

Course Description
The route takes you on mainly surfaced paths with two very short lengths of trail path. Some sections of the course may accumulate mud, leaves and puddles after rain, or ice in winter. Dependent on availability, marshals will be at key sections of the course

I think it is fair to describe that as ‘minimalist’. Perhaps the picture will help. The course apparently looks like this:

Is that photo the right way up? To be honest, the picture doesn’t really help much does it. I mean, I suppose that is the map of the route, not just a bit of wet spaghetti randomly dropped onto the map from a great height

Oh well, maybe the map on site will help. Oh good yes, it has different colour codes and marshal points and all sorts, bound to help!

Erm, nope, not really. This is why parkruns have marshals. I decided not to worry my pretty little head with navigational details. One boon of being a walker is that for the most part I’m in touching distance of, if not actually alongside the tail walkers, and there ought to be people within my line of sight at least for the most part, though that isn’t a given these days of course.

You exit the courtyard, where there is the reassuring and exciting sight of the parkrun flag, erected in readiness along with a ‘caution runners’ sign, so you know you are in the right place. Off to the left a bit, down a path and then oh my! Just look at that house. A huge grand building with a Narnia/ Mary Poppins style line of Victorian lamp posts alongside, which cultural reference in meaningful to you depends on your frame of reference. Based on subsequent experience of the park though, I’d say this is a magical Narnia land more than an American imagining of Victorian London, but each to their own. Even more excitingly, people were a-gathering. More specifically parkrun people. You could tell on account of their apricot tops, milestone shirts, running club tees and generally cheery dispositions and extremeley photogenic appearances. The marshals as always being the most photogenic of all, of course.

I didn’t know anything at all about Normanby not Normandy Hall, so I’ve subsequently googled it. Google thought I was looking up Norman Wisdom at first, so that was confusing, but we got there in the end. Apparently ‘Normanby Hall is a stunning Regency mansion, set in an idyllic 300 acre estate in the heart of North Lincolnshire, offering the perfect backdrop to your day out’, all well and good, but not a lot to go on. It is now a venue for all the things from weddings to the Antiques Roadshow. And they also have a marathon especially for hedgehogs coming up soon. I’m a bit dubious about whether that’s a good thing to be fair, don’t they need all their resources to be building up to get them through winter? Still, anything that raises awareness around hedgehogs has to be a good thing. Oh, and actually it’s only a half, so probably ok…

Oh hang on, I’ve found more stuff…

The House and Family
Built in 1825, Normanby Hall Country Park is a Regency mansion designed by Robert Smirke, and is owned by the Sheffield Family, former Dukes of Buckingham, and the original owners of Buckingham Palace.

During the 19th and 20th centuries the Sheffield family resided at Normanby for five months of the year, spending the winter season here pheasant shooting, and entertaining guests over Christmas and the New Year. In the spring, the family would move to London with some of their servants for the ‘coming out season’ and then return to Normanby for a week in June/July en route to their shooting lodge in Scotland where the family would spend the summer.

In 1964 the Sheffield family leased the house and grounds to what was then Scunthorpe Borough Council on a 99 year lease. Since then, the rooms that are open to the public have been furnished in the late Regency style using inventories of the house from 1829 to 1840 as a guide.

Well, that is positively enlightening! Even allowing for the fact that Robert Smirke sounds like a made up person, but then again so does Lord PANIC who we keep hearing from of late. Yes I know it’s actually Pannick, but that spelling is not nearly as entertaining. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story after all. Anyway, it’s sort of an audio joke isn’t it? Don’t need to ruin it by writing it down.

I had no idea that it was once owned by the Sheffield Family, but then again, I didn’t know the hall existed at all 24 hours ago. Blooming second homers though eh, only living there for part of the year. Still, if they hadn’t indulged themselves with landscape gardening a country park then we wouldn’t have a parkrun here so, I’ll let that go. A 99 year lease doesn’t seem very long though, more than half way through. Anyway, enough of this parkrun related edutainment, back to the parkrun in question. Quick, let’s look at some photos to get back in the mood. Where was I? Oh yes, gathering parkrunners. And lovely things, like a photo frame for picture posing, a ‘secret’ walled garden, so many intriguing places inviting you to go off and explore… Then again, exploring parkrun paraphernalia is super fun too! They had a trolley for putting all their things on, dinky token buckets that would double for building sandcastles if you fancied a sojourn to a sandy beach later; and a finish token board, lovingly crafted to keep tokens from escaping into the wild or shuffling out of sequence. The finish funnel was all set up, and volunteers were meeting and greeting one another.

I was starting to feel properly excited. Then the RD took possession of a mike, and it felt like it was the compere at a festival starting the warm up. A big up welcome, and a call out to first timers to gather for the first timers welcome. Which we duly did. It felt like a reasonably big parkrun but there were only 14 first timers of whom an impressive 6 were first time everers. isn’t that exciting, first ever parkrun and they came here. Wowsers, they chose well. I’m not sure if the first time everers actually made the first timers’ welcome, but according to today’s results they all got times so presumably they worked out what to do or came with friends who facilitated their parkrun debut. There were a fair few I noticed in Couch to 5k graduate 2022 t-shirts, but I honestly couldn’t tell if they were recent or long time graduates of that app.

We had a high vis faun as our very own Mr Tumnus to greet us to the parkrun. Would now be a good time to admit I’ve never actually read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, always found those sort of books really heavy going with the unrelatable children and heavy handed religious imagery, but then again, I’ve also not seen Game of Thrones and still feel confident enough to recycle the ‘winter is coming’ meme, so that’s me, living life on the knife edge, taking risks, putting myself out there. Sorry, if as a result the whole thing is nonsensical, but look at him, standing all welcoming under the lamp, it does have a wonderland feel to it I’m sure you’ll agree 🙂 And I’m Lucy after all, so it properly works, who knows what lies beneath those trousers, might be a faun. He did reference deer in the park after all as part of his welcome, maybe that was a clue, carefully planted for those intuitive enough to spot it?

Amongst the wide eyed, bushy tailed and attentive first timers, was an a contingent from Beverley Westwood parkrun, which, as well as having actual cow marshals, is erm ‘undulating’ one of their number boldly declared he was aiming not only to be first finisher but potentially break the course record. Kudos to him, this is a great surface for a fast time, and flat too. however, I do think it is an ambitious aim to try for first finisher if you’ve not done the route before. Our very own Mr Tumnus welcoming marshal gamely tried to explain the route, but honestly. Something about out and back, and round and round and tractor turns and woodland, and watch out for the der, and I just started to hear white noise and made the grateful decision just to follow the person in front. Having now completed the course I can confirm it is genuinely confusing. Sort of like being blind folded and spun round and then pushed out to find others in a game of blind man’s buff only without the blindfold and with more rainbow chimes in the woods.

Briefing done, the RD did some trawling for milestones. There was at least one person with a 50th celebration, the RD being at pains to point out it was their fiftieth parkrun not their fiftieth birthday, the parkrunner in question being actually 21. Fair enough. They had balloons though, so that’s good. Shout out for tourists..

… and then – and this made me SO HAPPY – we were invited to shimmy down to the start. Yes, dear reader, you heard that right. This was a parkrun where you get to shimmy, and are even encouraged to do so, and what’s more dear reader – yest there is more – some people were to be seen executing outstanding shimmying as they made there way to the start. Told you this parkrun gives others a run for their money, there is not enough shimmying as a default when gathering at parkrun starts.

And so shimmying concluded, parkrun started and awf, a pouring forth of parkrunners excitedly galloping off into the woods. Hurrah!

First loop was indeed into the woods, the path was good, and I could see the bright colourful train of parkrunners streaming ahead. It was an impressive sight. The first loop is relatively short, and as I was heading out and just reaching one of the early marshal points, I was in time to see the faster parkrunners coming back to rejoin our path after doing the first little loop round. I already loved this parkrun, I love that the marshals were super friendly and helpful, I love the venue and I love that you get to see the faster runners and indeed other parkrunners in general as the out and backs within the separate loops (it’s complicated to explain, you have to be there) lends a certain sociability. It was my first and probably only time here, but even so by the time I’d finished the course there were marshals and participants I must have passed and exchanged greetings with half a dozen times, I’m sure regulars must find it easy to get to know one another if they choose to do so – and why wouldn’t you, they all seem lovely!

You head round the loop, going towards some seriously impressive ornamental wrought iron gates. There a seated marshal was in situ to shoo you round the loop, and then you re-emerge at the marshal we’d passed earlier. Spoiler alert – you get to see these marshals again later, more than once, but I didn’t know this at this point. There are also little carvings scattered about, a squirrel that was ENORMOUS and a fox that was not, all very maaaaaaaaaaaagical though, plenty to gawp at and enjoy, those faster runners are missing out as all these lovely forest secrets pass them by in a blur of speed.

back the way we came, and oh look! The finish funnel! You get to run back and forth past this several times too. Again, I like this. Oh, and the surface in the early wooded bit was indeed bouncy tarmac, really inviting. Not had such a buzz since I ran along one of those weird walking travelators – flat ‘escalators’ (which is the opposite of Sheffield Flat, as these assist speedy horizontal rather than vertical progress.) at a deserted airport once. Honestly, I felt super human. Even though I can do barely a joggle and that a jiggly one, I did have a wee scamper on the bouncy bit and can report it feels lovely. Oh that all running routes were as forgiving.

and past the funnel we go and more distracting things to see. Check out this amazing fenced off tree for starters:

I concede my photo doesn’t really do it, but honestly it was ancient, and glorious, with stories to tell I’m sure.

Then another marshal ahead, once again, faster parkrunners were to be seen peeling off in a different direction, but I ploughed on ahead, snapping photos now and again as it was a great sight. Lots of lovely parkrunners doing their thing. I’ve done over 260 parkruns now, and I still find it makes me feel emotional at times when you find yourself at a new parkrun community, where elite runners and just getting rounders can participate in the same event and meet and greet and encourage one another, and in this instance the tail walkers have actual tails too. It’s quite something, I never tire of it.

Plodding onwards, another marshal and more speedy parkrunners. Past some of the Go Ape adventure playground in the sky, and again on a contra flow. The parkrun tourist was in the lead on target for first finisher although whether he’d get the course record was impossible to predict. I got one flying feet pic, so feel vindicated for my point and push efforts en route. Small victory but one to celebrate all the same.

I don’t really know if this was the mid point of the second loop as such, but anyway as I reached the end, the parkrunners ahead of me were looping the loop round a sort of grassy traffic island ahead. I mean it’s not quite the curly wurly of Somerdale Pavilion, but has it’s charm. Whilst the speedy parkrunner were heading back down for the final out past the finish funnel and round back again I got waved down the little side path to the right and into the woods proper. Wooo!

Oh my, the woods. This was my favourite bit! By now I was on my own, I couldn’t see the parkrunners ahead of me, partly because the path was a bit windy at this point, and partly because I’d slowed to a slow walk. Sore poorly legs and feet. I was managing without the stick, but learning how much it does help take some of the weight and that does make walking less painful. The tail walkers were quite far behind, I think they were having a social walk and talk and why not.

The woods were brilliant. It felt like going on a micro adventure of exploration and discovery. You can totally see why children in fairy tales end up leaving the path and getting lost in big woods. I kept being seduced off the path as I espied hidden treasures and curiosities amongst the undergrowth. A little detour wouldn’t hurt surely, I wasn’t going for a time, and as long as the tail walkers weren’t too close behind it wouldn’t delay the finish. I gazed up into cathedral high canapés canopies. Negotiating the parkrun without my sticks meant they didn’t get in the way of checking things out, and the distractions took my mind off my leg which was exploding with pain by this point. But pain is only pain, I didn’t feel like I was going to fall over and lose balance which had been my big fear, so that’s a breakthrough too. I just loved the woodland bit, you could lose yourself in there, having adventures, forest bathing writing your own stories. Perfect. Narnia indeed, but without the clumsy affectations of the book. And with less snow. Though I imagine the route would be gorgeous in deep snow if you could manage to get here for it. Apparently in season you get a confetti of blossom from the cherry trees as you pass on the way to the finish. What a wonderland!

There were huge, specimen trees towering overhead; a secret house; some rainbow chimes; bees in trees; nest boxes; Go Apery so much to see! I think it was here I noticed some parkrun footpath signs, so I guess this is one you could do as a freedom parkrun or (not)parkrun fairly easily. There were little bridges over streams, some rather dried up pools, I hope any amphibians have completed their transition into froglets by now. it was just lovely.

and then I emerged, confused, to where I think I’d been before, but frankly no idea any more. This was a truly perplexing route, I got completely disorientated, not in a bad way, you just put your faith in the marshals and surrender to the experience, but I did feel turned around. I guess if I went back and did it again it would make sense, but I was happy to just enjoy it.

Back out and oh look, a tractor train thing, all ready for the visitors arriving shortly. Like I said, lots to see.

And here was the 21 year old parkrunner on her fiftieth parkrun, all coming back down again as I headed back up to the finish/ start and once again carried on by

Belatedly the course was now beginning to make sense. I put a bit of a wiggle on up past the finish, though I did pause to try to get some shots of parkrunners who’d already finished mingling after their runs. I was acutely aware by the time I made it back again they’d probably all have scattered. In fact, a fair few were there, not just the mass of the volunteer team, but partners and friends of those still en route. Some came back out to join those on the course, and others were doing a cool down lap. I more of a sit down after parkrun type of participant, but each to their own.

I thanked the marshals still in situ, who were starting to feel like old friends. So positive. The RD made a point of encouraging people to thank the marshals as they passed in addition to the usual round of applause gesture at the start. The round of applause is good, but if you are a marshal out on course you don’t feel the benefit do you? Having a load of parkrunners greet you as they pass is way more fun. Today there had been some rejigging of the roster for some reason. Whether that was due to last minute no shows or just not enough volunteers I’m not sure, but either way, the team had rallied round to get the parkrun show on the road – or more accurately country park tracks – and see them home safely. I don’t know how they know everyone is back now I come to think of it, as I wasn’t aware of them counting us all out and counting us all back, but maybe not all the other parkrunners choose to go off piste in the enchanted wood. Even if they did though, I bet they do a sweep, and those tail walkers, probably sniffer dogs now I come to think of it. They looked like a pretty elite canine operation team now I come to think of it. Albeit quietly understated because of being undercover perhaps, but definitely would have found you and saved you from yourself if you found yourself passing through a mist into a parallel world of magic and mystery.

Here is the elite sniffer team for reference:

You have to admit, I may be onto something here.

And here are photos of the other sights as I made my way past the finish and beyond. You do go past the start/finish a great many times on this course, from a variety of angles. It’s like an invisible force keeps pulling you back. So I went past and back up to the turning point, only this time you get to run round the mini roundabout (which is actually angular rather than round, but you still have the smiley marshal with the music sound track – did I mention she had music about her person before? Well she did.) then back down again, past the start/finish again and past the tractor people, who let me take their photo and admire their train, and then turn around and back again. I’m very aware I’m making this sound like some sort of horrendous army running bleep test, but it was all very consensual and lovely and picturesque and supportive and not horrid and mandatory at all. Just in case you were starting to worry.

For the final stretch there was a parkrunner with a 6 week old baby, yep, you heard that right, good to start them young. Actually, in all seriousness, assuming parkrun survives, then I wonder what number of parkruns some of this next generation might yet hit. I didn’t even start parkrunning til I was nearly fifty, she’ll have a half a century of extra time to rack up parkruns. Maybe a 2000 miletone tee wont be all that extraordinary at all. Only about 40 years worth. Very doable. I wonder what colour they’ll go for. Maybe gold sequins – only biodegradable not plastic ones. Of the style that shows new pictures as you run your hand over it. It could be a colourful rainbow as the outer design, but as you stroke your hand across to reverse the sequins, you get an image of Paul and Jo S-H emerging beneath, captured on the occassion of their 500th parkrun. That would be great actually. If only I knew some parkrun ambassadors so I could put a word in. Surely a shoo in. That and an apricot travel mug, no idea why that’s not a thing yet. Is it really only me who is bothered by such an omission?*

We’d sort of being leap frogging one another as I paused to take photos and then jiggled ahead again. I decided that I’d do the previously unimaginable and go for a sprint finish. Everything is relative you have to understand. You might not have noticed any sprinting as such, but power walking feels like flying for me after months of not being able to mobilise at all. Finally, I got to go through the actual finish funnel instead of just endlessly trotting past it. Hurrah. I raised my arms in triumph, and got a lovely welcome from the team who were very much still present. I mean, it is an occupational hazard of volunteering in the finish funnel or time keeping that you have to stay to the bitter end, but the team did so with energy and enthusiasm and even joy. It was grand. I was able to turn around and snap the final finisher, before going to get my finish token and scan and all that business. No queues, another boon of being behind the rest of the pack. Personalised service. I could have the pick of the scanners, which was a tough call, as each was as magnificent as the next! It was like trying to choose a favourite froglet in my wildlife garden, an impossible task. And anyway, why would you want to, each was/is unique and magnificent in their own way.

The tail walkers came in. There was a bit of banter as to whether one of the hounds should get a finish token on account of it being carried some of the way. I expect the person giving out the tokens hadn’t realised this was just the dog being on special manoeuvres. It might have fine olfactory senses, but being a bit more limited on the limb length issue, sometimes has to be raised aloft to aid deployment. It was all laughed off in good humour, you wouldn’t want to blow your cover by making an issue over that. Also, barkrunners don’t get their own barcodes. Just so you know.

A cheery parkrunner who’d also set up the course, was now cone wrangling like a pro and helping with post event close down too. It looked like a lot of the volunteers here took on multiple roles, and it also seemed a friendly and close knit- but not cliquey team. If this was your home parkrun I completely get why you wouldn’t feel the need to bother to try anywhere else.

I thanked the team and made my way to the cafe for some post parkrun coffee. I was quite giddy at the prospect, elated by succeeding at getting round without any mobility aid, I felt a celebration was in order, and also coffee might revive me a bit for the drive home.

The cafe is in a converted stable or carriage block I assume. There were cakes and paninis that sort of thing. It wasn’t great for veggies and I imagine potentially hopeless for vegans. I decided to have a cheese pasty thing, which I’ve not had in many years, but just suddenly fancied. And a coffee. parkrun was/is always about the coffee after all.

DISASTER. No card on me. The nice people at the café were chilled about this and put my pasty on the side whilst I went to retrieve my bank card from the car. To be honest, I might have skipped all that extra walking and not bothered with a coffee if I’d known I’d not got it on me. Still, a boon of this extra mileage, was that I got to overhear the Go Ape people doing their version of the first timers’ welcome. It was hilarious, a lot of emphasis on this being a high risk activity and you might actually DIE in the doing if you didn’t take the safety briefing seriously, and if after you’d had the initial training you weren’t up for doing it on your own then you could bow out, and get a full refund and no questions asked apparently. I preferred the parkrun version to be fair, which was all rather more encouraging and with less mention of imminent death if you failed to abide by parkrun protocols.

Back to the café and they’d kept my order and gave me coffee. The impulse buy pasty was actually really good, dangerously so, crumbling fat filled pastry and hot cheese filling isn’t the healthiest of options, but my it was nice. The coffee though. Oh my hat. Big disappointment. Maybe they forgot to put any actual coffee in it. Insipid. Hot and wet, but entirely devoid of caffeine. I think it was the mismatch of expectations, I’ve had worse post parkrun coffee before, way worse, but this felt like a rather upmarket café, so the machine coffee let the side down. Also, all the drinks came in disposable cups with lids, which I understand makes life easier for the café, but isn’t great. There were recycling containers carefully labelled for the card cups and plastic lids separately but reuse would be so much better. Oh well.

Coffee might have been disappointing, but the farm shop was not. I was able to get a load of fab cards, randomly drawn by someone from Hexham Northumberland, including one of a rather lovely mallard. Regular readers will know how I do luvva duck. So that was good.

And then that was that.

Time to go home.

It was really positive parkrun morning. My only regret, apart from the coffee is not having the time or stamina to make a day of it, this is definitely a venue where you could spend time exploring, and I imagine with the changing seasons every visit would be different. You could even head on to the coast, and we all know how exciting it is to see the sea.

Next time eh.

Oh, are you still here? Thanks for that, I always really appreciate the tail walker coming in right behind. You are a star.

Happy parkrunning ’til next time. Be content dreaming of parkruns pass and parkruns still to come in the meantime. Oh happy thoughts…

Oh, and guess what? Hard to guess, I’ll have to tell you, I wasn’t even the only one documenting the event, it was like there was an international parkrun journalists convention there this weekend. Check out this fab video with extra stats and facts and actual in focus footage from Statsman Runs Normanby Hall parkrun Event 168 – Simply Beautiful – spoiler alert, he liked it too! To be fair, he like me wasn’t really building much in the way of suspenseful outcomes with his choice of title.

But wait, there’s more – Dannii Runs was also vlogging away, she has a fab video too here Normanby Hall parkrun, event 168, 03/09/22. A beautiful NENDY and it seems we were unanimous in finding Normanby Hall parkrun to be really jolly nice. Do like a bit of triangulation to confirm intuitive ethnographic research findings. I think we can all agree this is a parkrun we can recommend with confidence. Put it on your parkrun to do list, you won’t regret it 🙂

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

*Nope. This one is for you Ambassador Zaheer 🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Sea, Sand, Sun, parkrun and someone doing an actual thing! Celebrations for a 250 milestone at South Shields parkrun.

I do like to be beside the seaside. I really truly do, and it’s been properly aaaaaaaaaaaages since I got to go there. Like everyone I’m skint, so mini breaks aren’t really compatible with my income, and anyway, with my mobility a bit hit and miss long drives and random parkruns are, erm, let’s go with ‘contra-indicated’. Set against this, I feel I’ve missed out on too much in the last few years. I knew that a parkrun friend would be celebrating her 250th parkrun this bank holiday weekend at South Shields parkrun and that’s an official parkrun milestone, big deal as clearly an actual thing. Should I go or shouldn’t I? On the one hand, long drive, expensive trip with an overnight thrown in, and I can’t even run when I get there – oh and social awkwardness, paranoia and angst on unexpected arrival. On the other hand, you get to see the actual sea, and touring is always fun, even when of type two, and 250 parkruns? Well, that’s a lot of running around, it ought to be celebrated. South Shields parkrun has been on my wish list for literally years. What better time to schedule it in my busy parkrunday diary. This parkrunday dairy is not an actual thing and a chart but probably should be. I’ve seen analogue parkrun charts that would look great on any fridge. I’ve so many parkruns on my wish list I’d have to be immortal to get round the all, but no harm in chipping away at the top contenders a bit more proactively, if not now, then when? But the cost, the drive, aaargh, what to do?

Fate then lent a hand as I got a lucky break with two days of extra work. One was a midnight wrap and the next day a 6.00 a.m. call meaning heading off at 4 in the morning to get there, so no sleep to speak of, but a bit of a cash windfall further down the line. Plus I got to play the part of nosy neighbour which I was basically born to do, and partake of some unusually fine onset catering, so a good way to end the week. I would make it so! South Shields parkrun here I’d come!

Only I nearly didn’t. On the Friday before my body went into rebellion. My face swelled up like a blooming asymmetrical chipmunk, only resulting in me looking significantly less adorable, cuddlesome and cute than I imagine chipmunks to be (I realise I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in real life) and significantly more like child’s recreation of a random star wars alien using plasticine, marbles and Picasso inspired placement of facial characteristics. Which, in case it isn’t already abundantly clear to you, is not a good look. Not one you want to leave the house with, plus everything hurt. Honestly, random grapefruit sized swelling. Is that too much information? Well, best abort now if you think so, because more follows, I also developed a huge abscess which sprouted up on my back like I’d been cursed or something. I could have wept. I think I did. It’s not fair, my body just can’t do anything more than potter about it seems. A couple of long days and it’s like my body just shuts down in protest. Everything malfunctions, I just can’t do stuff like I did before. I felt proper poorly. Maybe I should accept fate and just cancel. I was very self conscious too, I looked ridiculous, everything ached, this was sub optimal in the extreme, and although being half a hamster may offer comedic value for the viewer (as in comedy horror genre rather than pure comedy), my first hand experience tells me it’s miserable being the purveyor of such comedy gold. I’d rather be bland and in sound body, abscess free given the choice. No choice had been given however, praise be for the NHS.

Emergency appointment and penicillin script later, I was feeling more positive. I saw the nurse prescriber and it turns out she is a parkrunner too! She went to her first parkrun as part of the GP Practice parkrun initiative I think, although not officially part of the scheme, the practice are trying to encourage people to be more active and we the converted know that parkrun is fab for that. So although ironically her attendance was really aimed at encouraging patients to get involved, she now finds it’s she herself who got hooked in. Hurrah!

Anyway, it meant she sort of got where I was coming from with my tearful presentation and admission that I just wanted to go and do a parkrun, and some magic medicine to make me ok. I knew the infection wouldn’t clear on its own, and with it being a bank holiday weekend was worried about going away at all and most certainly without being seen by a medic first. Talking about mutual parkrun passions was a tonic in itself, and having a prescription gave me confidence the infection was in hand. Besides what’s the worst thing that could happen? People pointing and laughing at me is familiar territory, and what’s a bit of sepsis set against the joy of participating at a parkrun. Small price to pay.

Eventually, I hit the road, only about 8 hours later than planned. I figured as long as I didn’t eat anything the swelling would subside. I’d booked a single night’s accommodation at Athol House on Westoe Road The drive was uneventful, good even, and as I neared my destination I could hear seagulls, and then I felt properly excited. Seagulls mean the seaside don’t they. Or a massive rubbish dump to be fair, or both, but in this instance, it was the sea. Hurrah!

I drove straight past the guest house initially, and it was later than I’d planned when I arrived and initially it all looked a bit dead, the road was quiet and shuttered up at the end of the day, although it was just along from a really spectacular municipal building of some sort with a mahoosive statue of Queen Victoria at its front. It didn’t look promising and my sat nav was annoyed with me again. I’m getting to really resent my sat nav, she’s such a back seat driver. I parked up on a side road – loads of parking, and then took my spotted handkerchief of belongings to the front door. Up some steps and rang the bell.

It was answered by such a nice host! A really warm welcome to immaculate premises, newly refurbished. A room with en suite shower, which I never got to use, a fridge, a TV as big as a, erm, something very big, wardrobe maybe, and a double bed. I was given keys and told that if I got into any trouble at all during my stay, day or night, just to give him a call and he’d come and get me – charge for it, but rescue all the same. It was really nice actually, as a single traveller I do think about my safety in a background noise sort of way, so it’s good when that’s pre-empted. Would totally stay there again. Hopefully will do soon, I ‘need’ to do Jesmond Dene and there are lots of other parkruns around there too, not to mention GNR next year potentially. Oooh, so exciting!

There wasn’t anywhere around obvious to get something to eat, but then again, couldn’t really eat anyway, so I just spent an hour trying to find my mobile phone which I managed to lose on arrival but had actually just chucked onto the bed and thrown my coat on top of it. And so to bed, because the earlier you go to bed on parkrun eve, the sooner parkrun morning comes around. Also, I was shattered.

Then it was morning, and parkrun day! Hurrah. My host was busying himself in the kitchen downstairs and I had coffee – could have had a full cooked breakfast but I never eat before parkrun and then there was the hamster transformation risk factor to take into account. I wonder if what I was experiencing is an insight into what it feels like for werewolves as they enter the early stages of their nightly metamorphosis? Must ask the next werewolf I encounter and swap stories, could be interesting… My host was good company, filling me in on the history of South Shields and its marine engineering links and all sorts really. Very companionable. Seemed a waste to just stay the one night. I could even have come back for a late breakfast I think, but opted instead to head to the seaside ASAP.

It was about a mile away, and an easy drive. The post code I had weirdly took me to the overflow carpark not the Sand dancer pub, but it wasn’t hard to find. There was loads of parking when I went, I suppose it was pretty early still, and there were a few parkrunners mingling about, I couldn’t tell if they were tourists or team at this point, but the apricot tees acted as a beacon so I knew I was in the right place, or alternatively, wasn’t the only parkrun tourist in the wrong one. Oh, and little factoid for you, which I found on the interweb so must be true – ‘People from South Shields are sometimes referred to as Sandancers. This is a colloquial term is presumed to originate from the town’s beach and history with the Arabic peoples dating from a 19th Century music hall act of the same name’. I didn’t notice people dancing on the parkrun route particularly, but I was quite far back, maybe all the locals were sand dancing towards the lead of the parkrun pack?

Oh look, the seaside! It was a massive sandy beach as the tide was quite far out. Breaking waves on the horizon. A tractor thing was harrowing the sand to clean it all up. There were cliffs to the right, a ruined priory to the left, ferries and boats out to see. The sun hitting the sea looked glorious. Me and the wonkies (well I could hardly not take them with me could I now) had to venture down to the sea. I love the sea, I’ve missed it. I’d have liked to have gone for a paddle, but wasn’t sure if I would manage that and didn’t want to get into difficulty before I’d even done the run. I rather regret this now, but I’ll just have to go back. It looked like this though.

Not too shabby eh? Looking lovely in the morning light. Sigh. I do love the peak district and feel like Sheffield is home, but ooh, the sea, just love it. Puts everything into perspective. I’d love to spend more time by the sea. That reminds me, need to find out how to get a Vera gig, that really would be living the dream… Oh, unless it’s a documentary, maybe not so high up my wish list to be featured then. Falling from the clifftop onto the beach mid parkrun under mysterious circumstances, would totally distract from the 250th shebang, and not in the parkrun spirit at all. Apart from anything else, just imagine the paper work.

Back to the actual seaside, and being there. For real. At last.

I was SO EXCITED.

So what was in store:

The South Shields parkrun website course description blah de blah says:

Course Description
The run starts on the sea front promenade outside of the Sanddancer pub. From the start follow the promenade towards the Leas. At the gate at the end of the promenade run directly across the grass and join the coastal path next to the large rock. Follow the scenic coastal path up the Tarmac bank and along the cliff tops all the way to the Minchella & Co ice cream hut at the bottom of Marsden bank. Turn right onto the Coast Rd and trace the route of the last mile of the Great North Run along the pavement. The finish is on the Leas opposite the Bamburgh pub.

Wait, hang on a moment, what’s that you say, you get to do the last mile of the Great North Run. O.M.G. Do you have any idea how devastated I have been to have to pull out of the Great North Run for this year. Unbelievably I got lucky in the ballot, and then, well, what with nearly dying and everything, and being in a wheelchair and all, even walking has been sub-optimal to be fair and training not even an actual thing and eventually reality check got through and I pulled out. Strictly speaking, I’ve deferred but you have to pay again to enter next year, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to run again by then or not. Not gonna lie, might have screamed into the void and shed a few tears, but now I find I can do the good bit for free, just by turning up at a parkrun, what’s more accommodation will be a lot more reasonably priced, and frankly who needs the Red Arrows when you can be flanked by marshals? Quite. This was going to be fabulous. Also, the Red Arrows are a bit crap at the moment aren’t they, only seven instead of the usual nine, hardly worth craning your neck to look up into the sky for. Nope, don’t need the GNR, I’ve got the parkrun. #winningatlife

After a bit of a beach potter, and getting my leggings and wonkies and back pack all covered in sand, back to the car. Off in search of the loos – they were adjacent to a sort of public amphitheatre space, I don’t really know quite what I’d expected from South Shields but it certainly has all the facilities, and lots to look at, even a life guard hut of they type that I thought only existed in Baywatch and a certain genre of American horror films like The Sand. This is yet another thing I love about parkrun touristing, it’s very educational, edutainment at its very best. Oh and just to be clear, despite what you might think from watching the Vera documentaries, South Shields beaches do not have killer sand. Fact. Really confident about that Fact claim. It’s proper lovely out there.

Finally, after much pre-parkrun faffing; and exploration; and precautionary peeing; and getting properly excited when the car park machine attendant helped me out and when I said thank you replied ‘nee bother’ in a proper geordie accent proving this is an actual holiday; and sea gazing; and photo taking; and concrete mural gazing I made it to the parkrun start. People were now a-gathering, and I had the awkward paranoia about how to join in. I wasn’t sure if I’d be recognised out of context, and I hadn’t said I’d be coming, but then I espied some familiar faces, and hurrah, they seemed genuinely pleased to see me, as I was to see them, and it was all lovely and worth while, even without having yet embarked on the actual parkrun, it was all going to be fine! Oh, and what’s more, they have a gorgeous canine barkrunner about their person too! Brilliant. Maybe didn’t catch him at his best angle first off, but it’s the thought that counts

Even though I’d arrived a good hour early, I’d been so caught up in my faffing, it was almost start time. I parked at the start, but the finish is actually somewhere else, a good km away I’d say, and there is a good pub there for post parkrun shenanigans, so if you are visiting it probably makes more sense to park at the finish and then walk down to the start, but hey ho. I was walking anyway, so decided I’d wear my fleece and carry money for afterwards, but it would have been a pain if I’d been planning on a speedy one. It’s not that far, but beyond my limits of activity for the day at the moment to nip back at the end of the parkrun. As it happened, we got a bit of rain anyway, so I wasn’t entirely inappropriately attired. First though, first timers briefing. A small but perfectly formed gathering of first timers listened attentively.

and then it was mustering to the start

Then the actual run briefing from the actual run director and the actual 250th celebrant who was doing BSL interpretation. It’s great that this is becoming so much more routine of late. Or maybe I’m just more aware of it. I host people who work at the Crucible Theatre sometimes. At the moment they are rehearsing for a production of Much Ado by Ramps on the Moon, a company which ensures ‘every performance features the use of integrated creative sign language, audio description and captioning. Ramps On The Moon is the pioneering initiative committed to putting deaf and disabled artists and audiences at the centre of their work.’ One tenet they adhere to, is that for theatre to be regarded as truly ‘accessible’ you should just be able to rock up, without any warning, for any show and be able to engage with it. Not just the one tokenistic BSL signed production on the first Tuesday matinee of alternate months or have to book 6 months ahead for the one touch tour they are offering which require you to turn up three days early for the performance you’ve actually booked to see so you can make sense of what is being described to you on stage. This is interesting to me, it makes sense. There isn’t equality of access when so much forward planning is required. Sometimes adjustments do require forward planning, but sometimes relatively simple things can make all the difference. BSL at parkrun briefings as standard is brilliant, and I think for those parkruns fortunate enough to have BSL users amongst their numbers it is increasingly common to do just that. Have it as a default option and not only put it on because they know in advance someone might require it – commendable as that is. Oh I digress, sorry, never happened before though so…

Where was I? Oh yes, run briefing proper. I’d been advised that I knew the RD already from somewhere or other, but nope, didn’t register him at all. And with his commanding authority at the briefing I surely would have done? We were reminded of the course, of the last mile being that of THE ACTUAL GREAT NORTH RUN, to watch out for other users, dinosaurs, sand dancers probably, I forget the details. Milestone shout out for our BSL apricot wearing 250th celebrant and standing ovation for the volunteers. Well, we were standing already to be fair, but standing and clapping is a standing ovation as far as I’m concerned and the main thing is they were properly appreciated. They went through the route again I think, or maybe not, but at some point, someone said basically keep the sea to your left and you’ll be fine, marshals will stop you getting lost. Not wishing to be overly picky, but wishing to avoid future trauma for others, I must point out this is only is sort of true. In fact at some point it does actually swap since you cross a grassy bit and come back the other way with the sea on your right. If you miss this turn (admittedly hard to do on account of the outstanding directional pointing on the part of the marshals) you could in theory end up doing a complete round coastal run, and if I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure the batteries on the timekeepers phone would hold out long enough to guarantee you a finish time. So, consider that you’ve been warned. All parkruns will endeavour to remain til the last parkrunner is safely home in normal circumstances, but if you take a route detour of approx 2700 miles give or take a few then you do risk them stepping down in your absence. Good to know. Keep your wits about you out there.

And then we were off!