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"Strangers off the internet"

WTF Cup Weekender write up - Darren McSweeney

I actually set that as my Out of Office message at work on Friday morning, “Not available until Monday as gone to meet strangers off the internet”. Doug Witness T-shirt printed, bags packed, parkrun barcode packed, finish token packed (really!) and off to the railway station for the three hour trip to Sheffield.

A delay leaving Barrow meant I got some weekend running in early with a course record for the Platform 13 to 9 Strava segment at Manchester Piccadilly, making the timetabled connection with seconds to spare, but just in time to hear the announcement we had now no driver so I could have walked it easily.

Some really long and dark tunnels through them there hills, I eventually arrived in the home of Worcestershire sauce, Sheffield.

Barrow actually has a long connection with Sheffield, in that Henry Bessemer had a great part to play in shaping the fortunes of both places. See, I did listen in history classes. So it doesn’t feel totally alien to me!

Admiring the chromium rich austenitic stainless steel that forms the imposing wall of The Sheaf (I know my metals too), I left the station and headed into the big city, where I soon stumbled upon another imposing wall where SMJ had left messages for Matt….

Settling into my hotel room, eventually - 12th floor and a broken lift - the anxiety kicked in a bit as I began to wonder about meeting a bunch of people I’d only ever really seen in Instagram squares and a Whatsapp group. Donning my Doug Witness t-shirt I thought at least then people might know who I am, I nervously headed down to the bar….and there it was…. someone wearing their WTF tee! Yay thanks Claire (@claire.runningmum) - all

anxiety instantly gone! We were joined pretty quickly by others and off we headed under Claire’s navigation to the Crucible.

Entering Tudor Square we met Rob, Sammy, Matt, Donna, Ben, Emma and the rest of the Friday night run beer family, a decent sized squad for a 5k around the sights of Sheffield before heading back to the square and a pretty decent sized corner of the Head of Steam pub reserved for the fam to enjoy beer, food and much to JP and Polly’s delight, our own screen to watch Burnley start their season with a win.

Sensible head me hit the hotel around half 9, one more beer and that would have been well out of the window so pretty pleased with myself for that one. It did mean I was wide awake early doors so chose to walk the 3 miles to Hillsborough parkrun. Hadn’t counted it on it raining all the way there though!

Saw a sign on the way, “Ben’s Centre, a sanctuary for the vulnerable.” I assumed this was Mr Stittle as the arrow was pointing in the general direction of parkrun so I followed it happily.

Arriving at Hillsborough park I saw two turquoise vests having a stand up argument with a car park ticket machine. Yep, these are definitely my people. Walked down to meet them (Nadine and Claire) and then we walked round to the main car park to meet the rest of the fam.

What a turnout! Turquoise takeover! A brilliant friendly parkrun too, great course, not hilly at all (compared to my home parkrun) and it was made even better by most of the on course marshals being #FartlekFamily, amazing encouragement all around the three lap course. Finished 27th, whipped out my oversize number 10 finish token for scanning but the strict volunteer was having none of it.

One of the weekends beautiful moments followed, as the family formed a guard of honour for a young girl in leg callipers and crutches, tail walking for her first parkrun in over 4 years. I think somebody must have chosen that moment to peel and slice an onion nearby, it got right in my eyes. This was shortly followed by a mercy mission from some of the fam taking an injured bird to the vets!

A quick brekkie in the Riverside cafe then off to Goodwin for the main event, the charity footy matches. An awesome afternoons entertainment, well documented elsewhere, so I won’t do a match report but from someone purely spectating both matches were great to watch. Never a penalty though.

Ball boy and stray family navigation duties kept my step count up too and while I covered about the same ground as those playing, spectating was a great opportunity to meet other members of the family.

A quick walk into town to catch Soccer Saturday in Walkabout watching Barrow slowly throwing away a 3-0 half time lead but hanging on for the 3-2 win, more food, more beer, then back to the hotel for a shower before we Ubered up to The Banner Cross for the big Fartlek Family party night. Much beer, rum, dancing, hilarity, floor shagging from Matt and having a bloody good best night out with the best people! Rolling out of The Bessemer at 2am wasn’t on my original plan, but that’s how it finished up for a few of us.

If you were there, you know.

If you weren’t and couldn’t make it, gutted for you.

If you half thought about it but were unsure, get your name down for the next one, 100% made welcome.

I most definitely found my tribe.

And do I love them hard?

F**k yeah!

Darren, Doug, @dumbwitness.


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