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Sunday, 19 December 2010

Santa parkrun

The first Coventry Santa parkrun took place yesterday. The conditions weren't ideal for speed, but were pretty good for Santas. There was some remains of the snow and ice from Friday on the ground at the start of the parkrun and during the parkrun the snow started falling.

Of the 85 or so  parkrunners most were in some form of fancy dress with at least 30 in full Santa, Mrs Claus or Reindeer costumes and most of the rest with Santa hats at least. Yet again it was a fantastic atmosphere and everyone was clearly intent on enjoying their run.

I was one of the runners in the full Santa outfit. The beard was incredibly annoying, the trousers far too big in all dimensions (probably too big for Santa himself) and with the whole outfit (including the hat) made from felt I knew I was going to get hot very quickly. I really didn't expect to be able to run very fast at all.

I set off very steadily at first, but soon realised that I was able to run close to full pace and only my breathing (through the beard) was really affected. The rest of the suit actually served well in keeping me warm on another cold parkrun morning. After half a lap I was in about 7th or 8th place and looking ahead I could see that the lead runners were probably only 100 yards in front of me. I recognised most of the runners ahead and at this stage I really fancied my chances of a high finish.

At half way I was in about 5th place and grouped with my brother Andy and Paul Slatford. I completed the first lap in 9:37, not one of my fastest laps by any means, but certainly respectable considering the ridiculous Santa outfit. I was still around 100 yards behind the leaders and counted their lead over me at just over 20 seconds. I could see that one of the leaders had started to move clear of the others at this point.

About 40 seconds into the second lap I decided that I felt good and had to give it a go at catching the leaders. I said to Paul Slatford that "we can catch them and win this if we want to" and that is when I went for it. I upped the pace just a touch but enough to make me think I could catch the leaders within half a lap. I didn't look back, but Paul didn't come with me.

I gradually caught and went past most of the runners ahead of me until, with a little over half a lap remaining, I found myself in second place, about 50+ yards behind the leader. At this point I really didn't fancy my chances of catching the leader, but I knew i would regret it if I didn't give it a good go. Remember, this was in a full Santa outfit. The leader was in normal running gear by the way!

Around 2 minutes from the finish line I was still at least 30 yards behind the leader. At this point there is a bit of an incline and I decided that I would not look at the leader but instead look down at the ground and simply go as fast as I could. I decided I wouldn't look up until I reached the top of the hill, where there would be less than a minute to the finish. When I looked up I had closed the gap to 15 yards and I realised I could catch him and win my first parkrun! I couldn't miss this chance.

I thought that if I caught him too early he would respond and go away from me again, so I planned to steal the lead in the last 30 yards or so. With 100 yards to go he had a lead of 5 to 10 yards and then I went for it. All the time thinking "how much do I want this!". I think it was probably his Dad that called out to him at this point to tell him I was coming back at him. I don't think he knew I was there until this point. I had the momentum and was on his shoulder before he got up to my speed. The last 40 yards or so we were neck an neck, completely level with each other. Into the funnel and the last 5 yards and still neck and neck, until right on the line he grabbed the win by maybe 2 inches at most. It was very close, but I knew he had it. We offered each other congratulations on a fantastic effort.

(I'm the Santa on the left!)

It was a great finish to a really fun race, but at this point my legs had completely gone. I haven't put that much effort into a parkrun lap for quite a while. Looking at the other blokes face, he was trying quite hard too! I pushed myself right to the limit at the end there and actually did my fastest every parkrun lap at 8:58 (fastest by about 3 seconds). I think my 3rd fastest lap is at least 10 seconds slower thatn that. Very pleasing given the ice in places around the course, a bit of off tarmac running (due to the work going on around the memorial) and of course the hindrance of the Santa suit. All in all a very pleasing effort and finish time of 18:35.

I was a little disappointed with coming so close to winning my first parkrun event and failing right at the very end, but at least I still have that target for next year. I just hope that this doesn't end up being my one great chance.

The atmosphere at the finish was even better than at the start. Jason and Joy (the main organisers of Coventry parkrun) had laid on plenty of mince pies, a Christmas cake, chocolate crispy cakes, orange juice and hot drinks. All greatly appreciated! Lots of people were chatting about the fun and madness of the run and plenty were looking forward to doing it all again next week. Unfortunately, being at 9am on Christmas morning I won't be able to make that parkrun or the following one at 9am on New Years day so this was my last parkrun for at least 3 weeks. I look forward to my next parkrun in the new year and am sure that in this case absence will certainly make the heart grow fonder!

After the run the snow really started falling quite hard. Andy and I ran back towards my house, both in full Santa outfits, and cars started beeping at us. Each time we responded with a wave and this continued as we went along the main road. Now this is very self indulgent, but we decided not to go home but to carry on along main roads. The beeping and waving continued. We must have run and extra 3 or 4 miles and close to half an hour extra in the end. We certainly put a lot of smiles on faces. It was amazing how many women and men on their own were beeping at waving. It was great to see the big kid in so many people coming out. That certainly made us smile too. If I go for any runs in the snow in the next week, I think I might just have to wear my Santa outfit again!

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