Digested read: Smilestastic again, I’m not signed up, but ironically, it’s still working its magic and getting me out running more. Penguin challenge took me to woodrun for example. Lovely!
Undigested read: (you may need a resolve sachet to settle your stomach afterwards)
It’s that time of year again. This keeps happening. What can you do to keep your running mojo during the long, dark, cold days of Winter? Well, if you are part of Smiley Paces (lovely Sheffield-based women’s running club) then you may have previously – or indeed currently – have been seduced into signing up for Smiletastic. A team based challenge described this year as follows:
Smiletastic 2019 RULES
The purpose of Smiletastic is to motivate EVERYONE to run throughout the winter months.
No one is expected to do any more or less than they would usually do and if following a training plan, should use this for their pledges and only do challenges that fit in with their plans.
•There are NO points associated with pace or distance – ie. This is a challenge for ALL abilities and ALL runners at ANY stage of their running career.
•There are NO points for winning races or age categories.
•There ARE points for keeping to your schedule and for doing the long runs you PLAN to do already.
•There ARE points for running races and/or marshalling races
•There ARE points for elevation, but as you live in Sheffield…..!
•There ARE points for doing things with your team and supporting others in your team.
•There ARE points for getting a PB in a timed run/race (only in March).
•There ARE points for “Getting into the Smiletastic Spirit” in a variety of ways!
I’ve done it twice, and it is fantastic, but also quite stressful as the challenges build and the tension mounts, so this year I’ve decided to have a year off, and enjoy the experience vicariously. I think that will lead to less sleepless nights, whilst also enabling me to be motivated to do extra running by proximity to those engaged in the various weekly quests. What’s more – and this is clearly an unexpected bonus – it will be at times be most educational, even consciousness raising. Case in point, the individual challenge that kicks off the Smiletastic season is all about Penguin Awareness Day, which fortuitously (and previously unknown to me) falls within the date bands of Smiletastic being marked as it is, on 20th January each year. I know, who knew?
The challenge is/was therefore ‘What can YOU do to be “aware of a penguin” whilst also connecting your awareness to running?… AND keeping it legal please!!’
Oh, and it’s probably helpful to mention that this year the teams are reindeers; penguins; walruses and seals.
Clearly, I’m just a by-stander for all of this, but it seems to me that such a challenge is likely to especially hard for seals, who are natural predators of the poor penguins.
Seems to me, it’s quite a big ask for seals to have to start embracing penguins… makes the challenge especially onerous for members of the Smiletastic Seal team. Just sayin’.
Also, I have a dilemma, as I do really like seals – my recent sojourn out to Donna Nook with a fellow smiley is testament to that
– and I like penguins a lot too. Split loyalties you see… Another factor, and it seems only reasonable to be transparent about this one, is that I do have a certain predisposition in favour of the seals team, since some former dragonflies (my Smiletastic team for 2018) have morphed into seals for 2019. I’m therefore particularly susceptible to being brought on board by any former dragonfly buddies. Not gonna be able to lie about that one. Not saying I’m not open to other offers, I’d never want to disappoint a fellow smiley, just that you have to recognise that some ties are stronger than others. Ask the Badgers from years back, they are bonded for life, and I think all other smilies respect and admire that. It’s heart-warming, not exclusive isn’t it. Friendships are I think, always inspirational when they are genuine. Well, it’s the same with dragonflies. One thing Smiletastic does guarantee is that you will meet fellow smilies, share adventures and make new fabulous friends, and you can never have too many of them. Granted, some of the bonding is through shared humiliation; type two fun and extreme cold, but then again, many of the best adventures in life fall into those over-lapping categories.
So, what’s the point? The point is dear reader. Smiletastic has delivered again, motivating people to run, including me, and I’m not even doing it this year, because seal Smiletastic participants put out a call to p… p…. p… pick up a penguin,
and join them on the Thursday Accelerate led woodrun session in Ecclesall Woods. Well who wouldn’t jump at the chance to get on board the fun-train with that offer! Yes, there’d be an expectation I’d have to do some running, but there would also be PENGUINS. Actual penguins(ish) what’s not to like? Besides, I like woodrun, just have completely got out of the habit of going, it would be my first time in ages. Why not? What’s the worst…. well you know the rest.
Now, it was really good we had made such a plan the day before, because overnight ‘wintry showers’ meant my car was covered with a sort of snow/hail hybrid and the ground was frozen solid. Eeek, I am terrified of venturing out in ice. Aaargh. Fortunately, as my regular reader knows I’m conscientious if not keen and a commitment had been made, plus, although it was bitterly cold, it hadn’t been too wet, so although there were patches of deep ice where there were old pools of water, and ponds were frozen over at the discovery centre in Ecclesall woods, the actual roads weren’t too bad. Phew. Hence I ventured out.
I was going to say I ventured out in arctic conditions, but actually, whilst ice is apt for penguins, the arctic reference is not. Penguins don’t live in the arctic – though other cute animals like arctic polar bears, arctic foxes and arctic reindeer do:
Penguins live in the antarctic. Along with other remarkable creatures including minke wales, wandering albatross and leopard seals. I know, interesting isn’t it? Got this from this website on which creatures are where for antarctic and arctic, they are trying to sell us trips, but nice pics and most educational, so fair enough.
We therefore headed out in antarctic conditions, to assemble in a penguiny waddle at Ecclesall woods. Did you know there are lots of different collective nouns for penguins, depending on where they are and what they are doing?
A group of penguins in the water is called a ‘raft’, a group of penguins on land is called a ‘waddle’. Other collective nouns for penguins include rookery, colony, and huddle
We were waddling therefore, though it did feel like running drills at the time. Strange but true. It was quite exciting gathering. There was quite an abundance of penguins on hand to join us, a veritable smorgasbord of options, catering for all penguin personality preferences. This meant seals and non-smiletastic participants alike were able to buddy up with the one with which they felt the most affinity.
Some penguin partnerships were more ostentatious than others… I went for a more modest sized companion that would fit nicely down the front of my running jacket. Unfortunately, with the dubious benefit of hindsight, I realise the discrete dimensions of my penguin buddy stuffed down my cleavage just makes it look like I have more ballast than usual up front and you can hardly make out my penguin pal at all, which is a shame, as I thought we really excelled in our subsequent run moves together…
I would say you’ll have to zoom in to spot it, but actually, I’d be quite uncomfortable with the notion that you dear reader are zooming in on my cleavage, so I’d rather you just took my word for it. Thank you.
So we gathered, chortling, and set about the important task of befriending a penguin and working out how best to keep our buddies about our person for the work out ahead. We then bounded out en masse to Jessica’s corner in the woods. So named, because one time only, when we were doing some drills there, there was a sighting of Jessica Ennis going for a walk there, and we all played it cool, but totally clocked her. So the link is a bit tenuous, but the name has totally stuck. To be fair, I think she may have clocked us too, because she’s been sighted more recently since doing hill reps and her running form is exemplary, she must have picked up a few tips from the Accelerate team in the woods that day…
The penguins attracted a fair bit of attention, I don’t think it was just that those of us sporting them were showing eye-catching and astonishing running techniques. Well, it’s possible I was attracting some attention for my form, but maybe in not quite such a good way. The penguins joined in most drills with poise and brilliance:
The thing is, sometimes you can learn about running technique by observation too, so they also formed a judging panel to analyse the running technique of each and every member of the woodrun crew for the day, and gave scores accordingly as we delivered repeated high-knee run-bys, which are a bit like fly-bys but with less environmental impact, which is important, as aircraft flights contribute to carbon footprint, a factor in global warming and climate change, which will have a catastrophic impact on penguin habitats indeed is already. Something to ponder on penguin awareness day dear reader, I’m sure you will agree.
My penguin was quite overwhelmed by the responsibility, and isn’t sleeping through the woodrun, oh no dear reader, merely suffering temporary collapse through exhaustion.
Climate change isn’t the only thing to imperil penguins just at the moment though. Oh no. There was an anxious moment when some boisterous hounds came bounding by, and we feared they might make a grab the seated penguins who were at that moment unattended. Fortunately, some people do care enough about penguins to proactively protect them, which as this incident demonstrates is much needed. A seal duly sprang into action and sprinted over to the penguin
huddle rookery, and with scant regard for either her own safety or dignity, she put herself bodily on the line, placing herself between the vulnerable penguin colony and the canine jaws and legs acock. It was quite inspirational. Brought a tear to the eye. Also, fair old sprint, so definitely running and penguin awareness brought together with near poetic beauty! Penguins are cute looking, but they are vulnerable, here was a seal, sacrificing all to show they need our help. Awesome. One seal, protecting all those penguins, and not because they were being eyed up as lunch either!
The thing about supporting causes and standing up for what you believe in, is that not everyone will get it and be on board. I think it’s only fair to point out that participatns in this endeavour had to endure a certain amount of ridicule from other woodrunners at first. Only at first, because that’s the point dear reader, despite initial scoffing and inappropriate comments along the lines of ‘I wish I’d known what you were doing I’d have brought a seal along‘ (yes, potentially amusing, but not really helpful or appropriate in this context) our co-woodrunners were by the end won over by the
penguin knowledge tenacity and commitment of the penguin peddling runners. Hurrah! Such was the conversion, by the end of an hour of running around in the woods, a communal penguin drill was incorporated into the training regime alongside the flamingo feet and bunny hopping displays. It was a thing of wonder to behold.
Honestly, I’m not quite sure which part of the running cycle this particular drill most closely correlates too, but I do know that awareness around penguins was truly raised. The seals’ work was done. Hurrah! It was a fitting climax to the challenge and to the woodrun too.
Time then to jog back to woodrun HQ, drink coffee from the Ecclesall Woods coffee place and contemplate the joys in store at the Big Running Weekend coming to a wood near you (if you live in Sheffield and March 22-24 2019 haven’t happened yet) soon, and the fun on the trails ahead with Dig Deep Trail Races secured for September now too. An embarrassment of running opportunities. It isn’t just Smiletastic that will get us out and about, or Jasmin Paris who can inspire us at this time of year, it’s the incentive of getting to take part in all these fantastic peak district based running adventures. How blessed are we.
Mind you, lets have a special moment for Jasmin all the same. Wikipedia says, correctly:
Paris set a new race record in the 2019 Spine Race along the Pennine Way, finishing the 268 miles (431.3 km) on 16 January in 83 hours 12 minutes and 23 seconds. Becoming the first woman to win the event overall, she surpassed the previous record of 95 hours 17 minutes set by Eoin Keith in 2016 and the previous female record of 109 hours 54 minutes achieved by Carol Morgan in 2017
I mean, it is quite something isn’t it, just in case you are late to the party, or have been sleeping under a rock or something, her innov-8 sponsors Facebook page proclaimed her victory thus:
16 January at 19:22 · Ultra-running history is made!
inov-8 ambassador Jasmin Paris has smashed the 268-mile Montane Spine Race, becoming the first-ever woman to win the race outright and setting a new overall course record. She ran a time of 83hrs 12mins (TBC) to obliterate both the previous mens and women’s course records.
The Spine Race, first run in 2012, sees runners complete the full distance of the Pennine Way in winter conditions, carrying their kit throughout and sleeping only when they chose too. It is dubbed ‘Britain’s Most Brutal’ race.
35-year-old Jasmin, who gave birth to her daughter just 14 months ago, juggles ultra-running with being a first-time parent, working as a small animal vet and is currently completing a thesis!
Jasmin, who is still breastfeeding and understood to have been expressing milk at race checkpoints, was reunited with her daughter at the finish line.
Her record breaking achievement has deservedly had coverage from the The Guardian the BBC ‘Nursing mother smashes 268-mile Montane Spine Race record it’s been great to see her achievement get mainstream news coverage. I was ecstatic she made it onto Women’s Hour even… though there is a bit of me that thinks really she ought to be allowed to have a bit of a lie down and a nap after all that running around. A wiser woman than me pointed out she’s no chance of getting that with a 14 month old anyway, so she might as well be doing the media rounds… good point, well made.
So she’s really very impressive, but wasn’t running with a penguin though was she? Wouldn’t have got any Smiletastic penguin power points for that run. If only she’d thought to pop a penguin bobble hat on her young daughter, that might have helped…
Which just shows, the woodrun penguin take over was indeed inspired. Far be it for me to try and influence Smiletastic proceedings (heaven portend) but those points seemed pretty decisively earned! What more could one do to mark the day?
The only way to top this would be maybe to secure a place for the antarctic marathon or half marathon to take place on 17/18 March this year, I think it’s safe to offer up that top tip as honestly, I think it’s now a bit late to enter that, you could have a go at getting on the waiting list I suppose but if it is anything like as popular as this year’s Round Sheffield Run I don’t reckon your chances. That’s a shame because that would indeed (according to the event website) .face-to-face with Antarctic gems such as glaciers, icebergs, penguins, seals and whales.‘ Ooh, actually, looks like it even has penguins to marshal the event, and there’s a photo of me doing it, I must have forgotten. One white out run merges very much into another after a bit, but that number most definitely has my name in it. Hang on though, I forgot, I’m not doing Smiletastic this year, only penguin awareness running by association. …
In fact, the event is sold out til 2021, so not really a goer, although I suppose were you to enter for 2021 and provide proof of entry that might get you an ‘in the spirit’ point. Blimey, you need not so much the wisdom of Solomon as the wisdom of Smiley Elder to work out how to allocate points for these quests!
Penguins are having a tough time, along with many of the other creatures with which we share a fragile planet. There is the occasional timely bit of good news though, check this story out! Police pick up penguins
Two penguins have been found by police officers two months after they were stolen.
The pair of Humboldt penguins were taken in November last year from a zoo in Nottinghamshire.
It’s nice to get some good news, but let’s face it, that’s a rarity these days. The point is, running and penguin awareness raising are both mightily important. It’s a race against time to protect them all. Will they make it to the finish?
So dear reader, it just remains to wish you all Happy Penguins Awareness day! Make it a good one. Plan your celebrations for 20th January, for whatever year it comes round for you next, right now!
For all my Smiletastic posts see here, or don’t it’s up to you, but you’ll need to scroll down for older entries.
Just remember dear reader, do what you need to do come 20th January, the penguins will thank you.