Running may have occupied only a modest place in my visit to Sheffield, but at least it was consistent........ once a week. Yes, my parkrun tally is now up to 21. It's only taken me 7 years to get this far. At this rate I'll be collecting my 50 tee shirt in about 10 years, maybe. The first week produced a PW, going over 30 minutes for the first time ever. It was not entirely my fault, however. Sheffield Hallam is one of the busier parkruns, regularly attracting around 600 participants. (The record is over 800.) That week, it was 650. J, still with an injured knee, planned to walk it, and started right at the back; out of some kind of misguided loyalty, I lined up near him. This was a mistake, as when the race director shouted 'Go', (not that I actually heard him, from so far back), nothing at all happened for about 15 seconds; over the next 15 seconds, we progressed to a slow walk, which then graduated to a shuffling trot, and finally to something vaguely resembling running by about the one minute mark. It all came to an abrupt halt again at the narrow bridge at the end of the first small loop, as we queued to get across. By now I was losing heart a bit, and thought I might as well just trot round, taking it easy. But as it began to thin out, I did start to put more effort in. One thing about starting at the back, you get to do a lot of overtaking. Anyway, this attempt came in at 30:28, position 469 (F144 of 254; age category 6 of 12).
Week 2, we almost didn't make it in time, thanks to watching vulpine visitors in our garden! (More about them later.) So once again, I didn't manage to secure the best of starting positions. But I was determined that the result would begin with a 2 again, rather than a 3, and worked hard for this small personal victory. 427th of 641 people this time (F 94 of 205, age category 2nd of 8). And the time? - 29:43. The photographer managed to catch me looking reasonably dynamic for once.
J was running again, but finding it a bit painful. A Strideout lady looking very happy at the finish, J rather less so.
Week 3 brought a further improvement: 353 of 553, (F90 of 205; age category 5 of 11), in a time of 29:25 - though it was a bit demoralizing to be overtaken in the final small loop by Dot (of Smiley Paces, 2 years my senior) pushing her grandchild in a buggy! "Come on!" she called out as she passed; I did try for a few seconds, but in vain - this woman has a parkrun PB of 21:46, way outside my league. S came to spectate, and we all adjourned to the cafe afterwards for the customary tea and scone.
Week 4: this was a real scorcher, even at that hour. J had already gone back to Switzerland, so I was on my own for this one. While waiting to start (somewhere appropriately in the middle this time), I met a friend, Hannah, and we agreed to meet up afterwards. I tried, I really did, but it was soooooo hot. I ran out of power on the second lap, but managed a sprint finish when two ladies overtook me about 50m from the end ("Oh no you don't!" I thought.) There was some embarrassing retching in the finish funnel as a result! - but luckily my breakfast didn't follow. 390 of 613 (F103 of 239; age category 4 of 10) in 29:33. It was 'graduation day' for a 'C25k' group, so I hung around to applaud them in, then ambled over to the cafe with Hannah for a catch-up.
Week 5, it was Hallam parkrun's anniversary, when they traditionally run the course in the other direction. I really dislike it this way round! The normal way, you get the uphill in small doses, divided by flat bits to recover in; the reverse way, you get to do it in one merciless piece, which seems to go on for ever. This section is narrow too, and very congested, particularly on the first round. And the start is chaos, a mad stampede across an expanse of grass, lots of corner-cutting and elbowing to get onto the proper path. Add another uncomfortably hot morning into the mix, and well........ this one was never going to be PB material. But I spotted one of the Smileys some way ahead of me, and made it my mission to catch and overtake her. Another PW (30:34, 455 of 684, F125 of 275, age category 5 of 8), but the best I could manage in the circumstances.
Adjourning to the cafe afterwards with some of the Smileys, I caught up with exciting news: some of them were coming to Switzerland in August, to run in the Sierre - Zinal mountain race. For a mad moment, I contemplated joining them, then thought better of it, but said I would try to come and support.
The only other running I did was a couple of outings with a group called Strideout. I felt a little disloyal to the Smileys, but they have made it pretty well impossible for me to join them by moving their group runs to the other side of the city, and neither of the people I could sometimes get a lift with is currently running. Strideout, on the other hand, has one of their groups meeting literally 5 minutes away from where I was staying, so I decided to give it a go. I explained I was only a temporary visitor, but they were very welcoming. The first evening, numbers were down, so they only had two groups: Beginners and Intermediates together, and Advanced. I opted for the former, and found it very easy, so on my second visit I decided to give the Advanced group a try. I suppose I should have registered that the others were all at least 30 years my junior; anyway, they were seriously fit and fast, and I was soon regretting my decision. I hung on as best I could through Crosspool and on the technical trail along the bottom of the golf course, but once we reached Lodge Moor and began heading home along the road, I could not keep up any longer. I called out to the leader that I was struggling with the pace, and would make my own way back, assuring her that I knew the way and would be fine. So off they sped, and with relief I slackened the pace a bit - though I did keep them in sight for quite a while before I lost them. I suspect they went the obvious way along the main road, while I took my preferred route down a quieter parallel road. I was going to go straight home, but then decided I would return to the meeting place to let them know I made it back okay, if anyone was still there; to which end I took a short cut through the cemetery. It wasn't dark yet, but did feel a little spooky! The Advanced group had gone, but a couple of the others were still there, including the Beginners leader, so I explained what had happened, and asked them to tell the Advanced leader I got back okay. They were very understanding - one of them said she'd had the same experience herself, and dropped down to the Intermediates after that. I think that's where I belong too. Next time! (whenever that might be.)
Oh yes, the foxes: a family of them (one adult, 3 cubs) has taken up residence somewhere nearby, and they have been regular visitors to our garden and that of our neighbours. It has been a real delight watching them play. Who knew you could have so much fun with an empty plantpot, a tattered remnant of bin bag (which we did remove afterwards), or even your sibling's tail?