The power of the hi-viz

A hi-viz jacket has special magical powers when you’re a race marshal. First of all, it makes you look smaller, positively svelte. It’s true, one size fits none, so they’re ginormous, even if you’re not. Many’s the time I’ve worn one like a wrap-over dress, adding a few tucks here and there, it looked strangely chic….. no actually that was only in my head, no-one ever looks chic in hi-viz.

I’ve found the main hi-viz superpower is to help folk run faster. Slip on the jacket, wave your hand, shout if you have the volume (I do, I so do) and the runners zoom on past, especially if you call them out by name. Just watch them straighten up, lift their knees, stride out and speed up, pure magic. Or maybe they are just wanting to get away from the loud shouter in the hi-viz wrap-over. Same result!

Of course I prefer to run and be on the receiving end of all that encouragement, but injury and general lethargy have forced me down the hi-viz route of late. I’m expecting that go-faster magic to be in the fabric of the jacket and rub off as training starts for my big running year! Did I really say I’d train for an ultra….?

A shoe for everything..I now know..


I don’t go to the gym very often, all that grunting, panting and sticky, stinky sweat, and that’s just me trying to get my Shock Absorber sports bra on in the changing rooms.

Why sit on cracked vinyl seats which harbour their own bacteriological ecosystems and push bits of metal around when you can hoik barrow-loads of poo to the allotment and breathe clean, fresh air? Why run on a treadmill watching a screen when you can run outside watching the world, and get muddy into the bargain?

When I do go, it’s to take part in a circuit-training or similar class where there’s lots of little stations around the sports hall, each describing different exercises which thankfully only take a minute or so at a time. There’s a lot of jumping up and down, stepping side to side, juggling with weights and socialising with classmates. And as far as kit is concerned, anything goes, no-one wears fancy designer lycra, or if they do, it’s from the previous decade, maybe century.  And doesn’t everyone just wear whatever shoes come to hand…or rather foot…?

I have a good collection of running shoes, luggy ones for the boggy fells, less luggy ones for the less boggy fells, sturdy ones for the trails, which makes up most of my running, then a pair for roads, which I don’t do very much, and parkrun, so they are also my circuit shoes. I mean, why would you have a separate pair for inside?

Today I had an extra piece of kit to work with on the circuit and it was exclusive to me. I was singled out for this special treatment by the long-suffering Mike. Just by way of background, Mike is Mr Circuit at Kirkstall Leisure Centre, I’ve known him for years, he likes to keep a clean and tidy class and that includes the sports hall.

So I set off on my circuit journey, oblivious to the trail I had inadvertently collected at Saturday’s parkrun and was transferring to Kirkstall. When I looked behind me and saw a little mud sculpture next to a larger mud sculpture with a Saucony  tread, and a few muddy leaves tumbling from my shoes, I knew I was in trouble and may have to reconsider my policy on indoor shoes. Quickly.

Mike presented me with my extra piece of kit was a brush, a big brush, my punishment was to sweep up the mess I’d left behind and promise to wear mud-free shoes. Mud-free shoes? Is there such a thing? Looks like there is now!

parkrun, je t’adore


It comes to something when a continental weekend away is planned around a parkrun. Not that we’re addicted to parkrun or anything, but if that city has one, then it would be rude not to show our running shoes and chat over coffee and croissants afterwards.

In Paris, we had a choice, there are two parkruns, a little out of the city, so we chose a hotel at Puteaux, that was nearby, relatively. We had a 5km brisk walk to get to the Bois du Bologne, the longest warm-up I’ve ever done, but I was ready to join the hoards of local parkrunners and pick up a few new words of vernacular French for my running vocabulary.

We trotted up to the start, after marvelling at the Bois de Boulogne, which is like a very large version of Calverley Woods, I even did a spot of le plogging en route, though there wasn’t much too litter around and we’d spotted poo-bag dispensers, bravo! We’d passed many runners in the park, expecting to meet them at the start line, but no. parkrun in France is nowhere near as popular as it is in the UK, and there were just over 30 of us there to hear the Run Director explain the course first in French, to the two locals who probably already knew, then in English for the rest of us. Looks like I wasn’t going to pick up any French vernacular that day!

What a wonderful run in a beautiful place with delightful people. The Run Director, a Brit who lives and works in France was very interested to hear we were RDs in Leeds and I think, given half a chance, would have let us help him with the results as he’d only just taken over.  He confessed it had been Tuesday the previous week before the results were out, but hey, who’s in a hurry?

The post-parkrun coffee was en plein air, in warm sunshine, with the usual interesting tales from a group of people brought together by their love of parkrun. I was chatting with one of the French parkrunners and asked why it didn’t seem to have taken off with the French, even though the French clearly loved running. He just smiled and shrugged in that wonderful Gallic way that always says, ‘I don’t know, I really don’t know’. ‘Mais moi-même, parkrun, je l’adore,’ he added.

Personally I’m looking forward to many more French parkruns, not just for the running,  the coffee, croissants, and good company, but because I’ll always be near the top of the results rather than leading from the back. In France, results are presented in alphabetical order by first name and this week, I was second to Alison. Maika was some way behind, and ahead of Noel. I definitely like parkrun France, in fact, parkrun, je t’adore!


Plogging along

Plogged in the sports centre car park.

It may be my age, but I’m getting more than a little grumpy about litter. What is it with people just dumping stuff out of the car window as they drive along? Or dropping bottles and wrappers because they can’t be bothered to carry them home after consuming their sugary contents? And dog poo bags. Don’t get me started on dog poo bags and the baffling habit of dangling them from tree branches.

I wept, long, deep sobs with real tears, as I watched the last sobering episode of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2. You know, the one where we’re killing the planet with all our plastic and making the Disney movie Wall E  a prophecy.

I’ve been plogging for some time now, picking up any litter I can carry while out on my runs, the bending down and standing up is now part of my workout, plus it’s great exercise for the facial muscles as I turn my nose up at the smell and dirt and in general disgust that people can be so thoughtless. It’s not much, but if we all do it, then it’ll make a tidy difference to our world.

Plogging is a real environmental running movement, and we have the Swedes to thank it, they even carry plastic bags, gloves and grabby-picky-uppy things. I guess being from Yorkshire and a rock climber, I’m not squeamish about a bit of muck, so it’s bare hands then soap and water for me.

I do most of my plogging in the local Calverley Woods, where there’s not a great deal of litter, so any that is dropped is noticeable. The main culprits seem to be drinkers of Red Bull and softer drinks in plastic bottles, along with fast food wrappers and, of course, dog walkers and their poo bags, empty and full, cold and warm…

The other day I even plogged in the sports centre car park on my way to circuit training. Empty screenwash bottles, 20 metres from the bin. They’d topped up their washer bottle then just left the container. Unbelievable.

I am so outraged, I’ve made a plogging-themed mosaic art installation, which will be launched soon to Noel and Heidi and no critical acclaim. Heidi’s fellow feline Socks Akers has declined the launch invitation, he has some serious sleeping to do. Heidi is only coming on the promise of treats. Watch out for the arty news soon, in the meantime, I’ll carry on plogging.

Heidi sits on my art installation. Typical.


A handful of compliments

Funny, me?

What if we only said good and positive things to others? What if we allowed ourselves to think we were actually all right and, in a very British way, rather good, if not awesome? And what if we started doing this as children and it lasted our whole lives?

I know, I know, it doesn’t  work like that, we’ve got to tell ourselves we’re rubbish from time to time, beat ourselves up and have a good old pity party, because that’s life, isn’t it? Well it can be, for some of the time at least, but it doesn’t have to be the norm, as I found out.

I’ve just spent three weeks as a volunteer coach (coach, ooo, get me) at a children’s summer playscheme run by the Mini Mermaids Running Club. The Mini Mermaids, which is aimed at girls and the Young Tritons, for boys, is a not-for-profit organisation which runs programmes in schools, focusing on mental and physical well-being. One of the key principles is not to give in to the nagging, waspish internal voice which tells you you’re no good.

I volunteered because as a run leader I was keen to help children keep fit and run. And as a glass-half-full kind of person, I also wanted to support them with their self-esteem and maybe top up my own  which has taken a bit of a knock recently.

The playscheme was wonderful. Exhausting, but wonderful, what with dancing, at least 200 games of dodgeball, legging it up to the nearby park for a run and yoga, it was very active. But at the same time, we helped the children to be mindful, have a positive self-image, admit what scares us and talk about how we can tackle that, to say good things rather than bad things and to be kind to ourselves and others. Not a bad agenda for life, eh?

One of the highlights for me was letting others say something good to us, we find it hard as adults, but children are so uninhibited. It was simple, just draw around your hand, write your name and pass it around, everyone writes something about you and you them. For some reason, the kids thought I was funny! I have kept the drawings beside my computer so from now on whenever that waspish voice starts being mean, I have a reply. Everyone should have a handful of compliments from children!




One-Leg Jam


There’s a new exclusive jam in town and it’s shaping up to be the Queen of Conserves, the Sovereign of Spreads, the Kaiser of Flavour. Lovingly made with blackberries, handpicked at first light to the sound of the dawn chorus, then masterfully mixed with the finest sugar, lemon juice and a knob of butter. And the piece de resistance? I did it standing on one leg.

I’m not very good at admitting to myself or anyone else that I may have an injury. That only happens to proper athletes and those who do lots of training. I am neither, but I have a sore leg, actually it’s very sore and has got to the point where I need to do something about it.

It all started with a calf strain, and not even on a run, I hadn’t even earned it, FFS! We were heading over to the allotment to water around yet again during this long, hot summer we’ve had, and my calf just went ping, but not pop. I fell over, according to Noel it was a good impersonation of an Italian midfielder, I think he was trying to take my mind off being on the ground. The allotment went unwatered that day.

You do soldier on, though, and after a visit to the physio and a rest, it felt like I was all systems go. There were races to run, I’m relied on to bring up the rear. And there’s the goal I’ve set myself for next year, to run an ultra marathon. Who has time to be injured?

However, pain is a good indicator that something should cease. Move it and it hurts? Well stop moving it, then!  So it was off to the physio again, paying for more pain, but coming away with clear instructions to rest, stay off the running, cycling (as if) or even harvesting potatoes and not stand on it for more than 20 minutes to give it a chance to mend. Just ten days while I have an x-ray and a blood test. Ten days? I’ll turn into a statue!

I inherited the fidget gene from my dad, can’t sit still or just hang around, I need to be moving, or at the very least, faffing. There was a wheelbarrow load of blackberries to make into jam and being a Yorkshire lass, I couldn’t let them go to waste.

Jam-making is easy, you just have to be on your feet while it reaches 104C, then funnel it into sterilised jars, maybe an hour in total. Not long to stand on one leg, and it could add that little je ne sais quoi to the jam. After all, where else can you get One-Leg Jam? It’ll be a limited edition. I may patent it. It will certainly be entered in the village show this weekend, though I’ll get Noel to carry it.

parkrunのための3つの喝采 (Three cheers for parkrun!)


I can’t remember the last time that the applause was so sustained and heartfelt. There she stood telling us all how much parkrun had changed her life since coming to Leeds and about to run her 100th, surrounded by so many friends and hundreds of parkrunners.

Maika, or to give her the full Yorkshire title she now deserves, Our Lass Maika, knew nothing of parkrun, mucky fat or the rain being so heavy it came down like stair rods, but was promising to burn off, before she came here from Japan to study.

She’d never heard of ginnels, dry stone walls, or dray horses. She’d never eaten Yorkshire pudding, rice pudding or pie and mushy peas with mint sauce, how can she have lived so long and not known these pleasures? Despite being an Ironman athlete, she’d never done a parkrun. Well, I can tell you, that’s all changed now.

Maika tells me Japanese people are polite and always ready to show gratitude, they are also humble, even those who are on the verge of being granted Yorkshire citizenship as she is, we’re not known for being shy and retiring, we Yorkshire folk. So on the day of her 100th parkrun, despite this underlying humility and unwillingness to be a brazen show-off like a true Yorkshire lass, she wanted to thank her fellow parkrunners. All of them.

The thanks started with cake-baking, she wanted to give cake to her friends. This was carried out like a professional, complete with licking out the bowl afterwards, rude not to, really. Then on the Saturday, she made a short, heartfelt speech before we set off on our parkrun. This is what she said:

“It’s not just running 100 times at parkrun. My experience and life in the UK have changed since I started parkrun. I’ve made friends and joined a wonderful running club (Hyde Park Harriers) through parkrun.

“When I struggled (I still do often) in uni or personal life, coming to parkrun and running with friends had very therapeutic effects. Thank you parkrun.”

All of us who know Maika responded with ‘right back at you’, most of us shed a tear. Maika has enriched our lives and taught us so much about Japan, nutrition (which she is studying) and running, and parkrun has been the catalyst. Three cheers for parkrun! Three cheers for Maika!

Licking out the bowl after cake-baking!