My Manchester in 52 words

Our balcony overlooks the Northern Quarter; a heritage site, the original Victorian centre. Red brick buildings and rooftops interspersed with flourishing trees give way to high-rises beyond. I glimpse the Pennines and wind farms in the distance. I smile. Sometimes we watch fireworks or glowing paper lanterns. It’s peaceful here: Quiet.

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012

52 WORDS

NQLovesYouEdgeStreetChris Smith and Liz Peel from Finding Manchester are embarking on the mammoth challenge of visiting 52 Manchesters in 52 weeks in 5 continents. It’s a fantastic project inspiring people to reach out and connect with other communities around the world, as well as encouraging people to share their own experiences closer to home.

Chris interviewed me at the Manchester Museum earlier this year, so Manchester Meanders could be ‘placed into the Manchester Box’. This ‘Box’ will travel with them around the world help them explain what it is like to live right here, right now, in Manchester UK.

Contact Chris Smith

Follow Finding Manchester on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m already in the box but there is an opportunity for you to get inside the box too: by entering the 52 word challenge.

The challenge is simple…In 52 words, what does your Manchester mean to you?

You’ve read my first attempt at the challenge and you can read a few more of my ideas below.

But first, here are the rules:

CLAIM A PLACE IN HISTORY

The competition is open to everyone. Thirteen entries will be selected from each of the four age groups, so there will be 52 winners in total.

Entries can be short factual stories, poems, parables, songs or anything else as long as they are exactly 52 words in length. (For simplicity, hyphenated words count as two words).

The winners will claim their place in history by having their reflections entered into the Manchester City Archive Repository for perpetuity. How often does an opportunity like that come along?

Will you write something? Go on, try it. How hard can 52 words be?…

Here are three more of my quick attempts:

When I joined the Duck Race I imagined real ducks, not yellow plastic rubber duckies. I should have guessed. How could they herd thousands of birds along the River Irwell? They’d fly away, surely? Spectators line the banks of Spinningfields, laughing, watching them bob. We cheer for wind to float them along.

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012

Manchester’s first Duck Race was held on a scorching hot spring day. There was barely a breeze so we cheered for 40 minutes getting sunburned whilst they barley moved 10 meters. At one point they even moved backwards.

Manchester Duck Race

Photo: Thanks to MEN Media

The Duck Race is a fun but bizarre family-friendly day out with decent Manchester based prizes. Sponsoring a Duck costs from just £1 per duck (more for businesses) and the money raised goes to a children’s charity. This year they DID herd real ducks! (Technically, they were geese). Did you sponsor a ducky?

Whose idea was Pub Golf? A cocktail here, a pint there: I don’t normally mix my drinks. I’d rather sit and chat if I’m honest. It’s a good way to see new bars I suppose. Drink up: next venue. An eight-hole ‘course’ and I’m seven over par. The costumes are overkill.

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012

Pub Golf is on my Day Zero list but I’ve been putting it off. I’m fully resigned to the idea of coming last: Who wants to get so drunk they can’t stand up anyway? It’s the [optional] dressing up, having a giggle with friends and visiting new bars that counts. I will play it, one day. Probably.

Festival season again: So much to see and do! Parades, Markets, Street theatre, Concerts: I want to do them all! I plan the weekend meticulously. It’s the only way, I think. There’s never enough time. I’ll probably get side tracked as the crowds swallow me up. I rarely stick to the plan.   

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012

Manchester Galleon at the Manchester Day Parade

Manchester Day Parade

Regular readers will know my my plans change frequently. (Fantastic Frantic Festival Season, the £50 weekend challenge and my attempt to follow the Art Crawl are a few examples). It’s good to have a plan but you don’t have to stick to it. Plans get you out of the house and into scenarios where you can be spontaneous. Does that make sense?

So, in 52 words, what does your Manchester mean to you?

All comments are welcome 🙂

(Enter the competition here)

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Backpedalling and Backwards Running

Earlier today I clicked the ‘reblog’ button above an article I published last June. The ‘reblog’ button has never worked before so I didn’t expect it to work today either. I’ve tried it a couple of times and nothing has ever happened. So why should it work today?

At best I thought it would send something to my ‘drafts’ folder so I could add an introduction later explaining why it was relevant again.

But no:

The ‘reblog’ button distributed the outdated unedited 2011 article directly to all my subscribers.

How very embarrassing.

Perhaps I should explain…

FOREVER MANCHESTER

Forever Manchester (the Mancunian charity that puts money back into our communities) is once again holding the Backwards Running Championships at Heaton Park.

There is a £10.00 registration fee, for which you’ll receive a t-shirt, medal, refreshment and a donation to Forever Manchester. Any other money you raise will go to your charity / voluntary group of choice. (Registration is free if you raise money for Forever Manchester).

The Backwards Running race is this Sunday, 27th May 2012 at 10 am. You can register in advance on the website or sign up on the day near the Heaton Park duck-pond café.

So now I’ve backpedalled and explained, here is the ‘repost’ I wanted to share:

BACKWARDS RUNNING

Have you ever fancied becoming a UK Sporting Champion with little or no effort?

Last year I did: I discovered that the European Running Backwards Championships were taking place in Austria on the 7 & 8th of August. The UK only had 2 people competing so it was probably my one and only chance to represent the UK in something, anything, and to become a ‘UK Sporting Champion’ despite being not particularly good at anything physically challenging.

Backwards RunningI reaaallly wanted to enter. I toyed with the idea for weeks but in the end I just couldn’t justify a weekend away in Austria, especially after my friends pointed out I should probably try it in England first, before attempting to represent the UK in a sport which [some] Europeans take seriously.

Hmmm, so running backwards is a serious sport, is it? (Shrugs) Well yes it is… apparently. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.

BACKWARDS HAS BENEFITS

Running backwards has lots of benefits: It gives you an intense cardiovascular workout, reduces the risk of leg and back injuries, helps create a stronger more balanced lower body and is a speedy aid to losing weight. 

People claim that running backwards for just one lap could be equivalent to up to six laps of forward running and burns a third more calories too. (Think of the time you could save exercising!)

I didn’t go to the European Championships. Instead I entered the inaugural UK Championships.  

And I came fifth. FIFTH! Hurray!

UK CHAMPION!

2010 winners at Heaton Park, Manchester

Admittedly I only came fifth out of the female contestants and even then only about eleven women entered that first year, but none of that is relevant really…

The fact of the matter is, as it currently stands, I SammyDee, am the fifth fasted Female Backwards Running Champion in the UK. And I have a medal to prove it!

It’s surprisingly difficult. Yes it’s easy to go a few dozen meters. Anyone can ‘run’ backwards a few steps, but believe me; your calves start to burn very quickly when you don’t stop… I probably should have practiced at least once prior to the race.

MIND THE MANURE!

One memory that still makes me giggle is when I looked down to see I’d just stepped in horse manure. I continued running, naturally, but with every step I waded deeper and deeper into more manure. I had too much momentum to stop or swerve. Instead I just doubled over laughing and continued to run. Thank goodness I didn’t slip or trip at that point.

As the manure shrunk into the distance I noted it was several meters long in one fairly narrow path. One step to either my left or right would have spared me the mucky trainers. Perhaps I should have made a cap with mirrors at the sides, or at least looked behind me once in a while.

Back to present day: A BBC article about the event is still live on their website but if you wanted to play ‘Where’s Wally’ for me on the clip published on ITVs Granada Report, I’m sorry but the link has been broken.

If you don’t already have plans for this Sunday I recommend going to the race at Heaton Park. It’s going to be a scorching day and it’s a great excuse to feed the ducks and have a picnic.

The course is only 1 mile long… Anyone can walk or run 1 mile! 

Go on, give it a go… then you too can boast about being a UK Sporting Champion.

All comments are welcome 🙂

Hitting the Wall

What did you fear growing up? Was there anything that terrified you so much that you’ve never tried it since? I’m not talking about phobias here: I’m talking about real, [almost] rational and legitimate fears.Edale stream

I had several, most of which stemmed from school trips. Between the impressionable and personality defining ages of about 9 and 13, school trips involved adventure holidays at Welshpool in Wales and Edale in the Peak District. These beautiful, parentless locations were the backdrop to our attempts at a variety of challenging and often exhilarating activities – most of which I’ve virtually forgotten.

Rock ClimbingIn fact, I barely remember my achievements, but I vividly remember the scary parts. I remember that I dreaded rock climbing most of all. The idea of putting my life in the hands of another pre-pubescent child was terrifying, as was being responsible for another’s life when I had to hold their safety-line in return.

I remember how small and baby-faced the boy responsible for my line looked: He was a full 5 inches shorter than me, the youngest and smallest in the class; I remember him looking up at me, nearly as frightened as I was, with his pale wide eyes and pudgy freckled ginger features.

I somehow managed to get to the top of the cliff despite fear oozing out through every pore. I loved climbing trees but standing before a rock face I became weak and scared of heights. I was always relieved when the climb was over. I eventually reached the top once at each location but that was it: Once was more than enough.

The only part of the climbing experience I enjoyed was the abseiling. I felt proud when the tutors commended me on my natural ability… It was more fluke than skill but I didn’t admit that at the time.

The terror I associated with rock climbing prevented me from trying it again as an adult. I’ve was never tempted, until I wrote my Day Zero List.

URBANATHLON

I didn’t just pluck this particular challenge out of the air: I ran in the Manchester Urbanathlon to raise money for Forever Manchester, which rekindled my thoughts about Urbanathlonclimbing.

Yes, I know I’ve mentioned it before, twice, possibly even three times, and yes I probably will mention it again: The Urbanathlon is “a silly yet challenging urban obstacle course where competitors run, wade, scramble, slip, slide and dangle to the finish line in sweaty, soaking, mud-splattered splendour.”

Amongst other challenges the Urbanathlon forced me to face my climbing fears at least twice during the 5km race. 

About 4km into the race Blondie and I were suddenly presented with a seven foot vertical wall to scramble over. It might as well have been a twelve foot wall for the likelihood of me getting over it. My upper body strength is virtually nonexistent.

Blondie and I turned to the race marshal and asked in disbelief whether people were actually getting over it unaided. With a nod and a smile she replied “Yes off course”, just as three competitors caught up with us and hopped over without hesitation.

HITTING THE WALL

We looked at each other. We looked at the wall. It looked impossibly tall. Blondie backed up several paces and took a running jump. She managed to get her elbows over whilst her legs flailed about beneath her. Several failed attempts and four grazed knees later the marshal conceded that we were allowed to take a short detour around the wall and go through the gate to rejoin the race on the inside.

Detour? That sounded like cheating. Blondie and I looked at each other and shook our heads. One way or another we were both getting OVER that wall.  

PLAN B…

Plan B: Blondie gave me a leg up. After the other obstacles we were both a little jelly-like so she manhandled me to the top in the least elegant way imaginable. Once I was safely seated on the wall Blondie took another running jump whilst I tried to pull her up from above. This clearly wasn’t going to work either so we embarked on Plan C: I dropped down the other side of the wall, followed the wall back around through the park and out through the exit, back to Blondie’s location to manhandle her over the wall. It wasn’t graceful but it worked.

Haystack wallCLIMBING WALL PHOBIA

After scrambling over a wall of haystacks and other random obstacles, prior to the two parked cars whose hoods we slid over Dukes of Hazzard style, we were suddenly faced with a climbing wall. My stomach clenched. My feet slowed.  

Ellie Howard on 40 degree board at Gorton Climbing CentreIt seems silly that I should be afraid of a climbing wall. The brightly coloured hand and foot holds are supposed to make it look easy and inviting but to me they look menacing.

With adrenalin pumping I barely had time to flinch: We both ran at the wall and were over it in seconds. I had no idea it could be that easy! All those years I’d wasted being afraid of climbing walls!  
 
I didn’t give the wall a second thought after that, until I came to write my Day Zero List. (The Day Zero Project is to complete 101 challenges in 1001 days). I added “Have a go at rock climbing / indoor wall climbing” to the list. I thought if I could climb a wall at the end of a 5 km obstacle course I could manage a nice easy session at a climbing club. I was wrong.
 
MANCHESTER CLIMBING CENTRES
 
Gorton Climbing CentreWe have fantastic indoor and outdoor climbing facilities in and around Manchester. The Manchester Climbing Centre in Gorton looks spectacular with its climbing walls against the backdrop of stained glass windows and gothic architecture.
 
In the city centre you’ll find Rock Over Climbing just a few hundred yards from Victoria Rail Station.
 
There’s also a climbing wall inside the Chill Factore, should you feel a sudden urge to hone your climbing skills between skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing.
 
You can even try a moving climbing wall in the Trafford Centre at Laser Quest’s ‘The Rock’ if you get bored of shopping or have time to kill before your film starts in the cinema.
 
101/1001 CHALLENGE
 
I completed my climbing wall challenge. It wasn’t easy and I don’t plan to return any time soon. Blondie ran up the wall like Spiderwoman but I got stuck. Repeatedly. My torso ached for days. I couldn’t lift my arms above my head without wincing in pain for the best part of a week.
 
It was fun at first but once the muscle fatigue set in I didn’t stand a chance. I made the mistake of trying too long on one particular obstacle which sapped all my energy and strengh. I would have been better off climbing back down and starting again. I suppose I know for next time, if there is one.
 
I should probably work on my coordination and strength before I try another hour session. It’s possible to book 5 minute taster sessions to help build experience and confidence – A great idea for people like me – as long as you don’t need to go out of your way to get there. (Who in all honesty is going to travel all the way to the Chill Factore just for a 5 minute climbing session? It’s a nice idea even if it isn’t practical).
 
LARGE OUTDOORS
 
I had considered joining Manchester’s new climbing club with Large Outdoors. (Started in October 2011). They run a weekly club in association with the Manchester Climbing Centre. It’s open to both experienced climbers and those wanting to learn. Although I was tempted I think I’ll stick to hiking instead.

What did you fear growing up? Have you faced any childhood fears? Have you ever run in an Urbanathlon? Do you share my fear of climbing walls?

All comments are welcome 🙂

UK Backwards Running Championships

Heaton Park, Sunday 14th August, 2011

Have you ever fancied becoming a UK Sporting Champion with little or no effort?

Last year I did. I discovered that the European Running Backwards Championships were taking place in Austria on the 7 & 8th of August. The UK only had 2 people competing so it was probably my one and only chance to represent the UK in something, anything, and to become a ‘UK Sporting Champion’ despite being not particularly good at anything physically challenging.

Reverse Running - Manchester 2010

I reaaallly wanted to enter. I toyed with the idea for weeks. In the end I just couldn’t justify a weekend away in Austria, especially after my friends pointed out I should probably try it in the UK before attempting to represent our country in a sport which is taken seriously in Europe.

Running backwards is a serious sport? (Shrugs) Well yes, apparently. Or so I’m told.

It has lots of benefits: Running backwards gives you an intense cardiovascular workout, reduces the risk of leg and back injuries, helps create a stronger more balanced lower body and is a speedy aid to losing weight. 

People claim that running backwards for just one lap could be equivalent to up to six laps of forward running and burns a third more calories too. Think of the time you could save!

I didn’t go to the European Championships. I entered into the inaugural UK Championships instead.  

I came fifth.

Hurray!

Ok, ok, so I was only fifth out of the female contestants. And alright, alright, only about eleven women entered. But none of that is relevant. The fact is, as it currently stands, I am the fifth fasted Female Backwards Running Champion in the UK. And I have a medal to prove it.

2010 winner at Heaton Park, Manchester

It’s surprisingly difficult. Yes it’s easy to go a few dozen meters. Anyone can ‘run’ backwards a few steps, but believe me; your calves start to burn very quickly when you don’t stop. I probably should have practiced at least once prior to the day.

One memory that still makes me giggle is when I looked down to see I’d just stepped in horse manure. I continued running, naturally, but with every step I waded deeper and deeper into more manure. I had too much momentum to stop or swerve. Instead I just doubled over laughing and continued to run. Thank goodness I didn’t slip or trip at that point.

As the manure shrunk into the distance I noted it was several meters long in one fairly narrow path. One step to either my left or right would have spared me the mucky trainers. Perhaps I should have made a cap with mirrors at the sides, or at least looked behind me once in a while.

You can still watch a clip from last year’s race on ITVs Granada Reports. I am in the clip but I’m not saying where. You can play ‘Where’s Wally’ for me instead.

A BBC article about the event is still live on their website too.

Our Manchester Race in the Metro newspaper

Manchester is hosting their second UK Championships at Heaton Park on Sunday 14th August, 2011. It’s only £15 to enter online and the race is only 1 mile long.

Anyone can run or walk a mile. Go on, give it a go.

The official website can be found here. Online applications close in about a months time so you’d better get in there quickly, then you too can BOAST about being a UK Sporting Champion.