Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Race Review : Crazy Christmas Cracker Run

You know those moments in films where the character hears a noise, looks over his shoulder and sees a wall of water cascading down the corridor towards him? I experienced something akin to that on Sunday at the Crazy Christmas Cracker Race at Beale Park near Reading.

I can’t quite remember how I found out about the race but something about it convinced me to sign up. Maybe it was the promise of mulled wine and mince pies for all runners, the yule log obstacle run or just that it was a local, fun 10k. But sign up I did and found myself standing in the race village trying to keep warm and surrounded by Christmas jumpers, Santa and elf costumes, and a variety of other outfits including, but not limited to, a chap wearing only green speedos, a slowly deflating turkey and a large gift, wishing that I’d made more effort than just putting on my red parkrun t-shirt.

In addition to the 10k there was a 5k and a kiddies 1 mile mini-marathon around the obstacle course. I eyed the maze of tape around said obstacle course with some trepidation. In all honesty, if it hadn’t been for the fact I knew there was a very cool medal for the finishers and that I really really wanted some mulled wine, I’d probably have not bothered to start as the drizzle started and the wind picked up. 
The awesome final medal of 2013
This was a late starting race in both senses, as it wasn’t scheduled to start until 11:30, but actually started even later. I don’t know how long we were kept at the start, probably not half as long as it felt like as I grew more and more irritated by someone who had seen fit to bring along a school bell and kept on and on ringing it. I clocked the finishers medals just hanging on a post near the start and the thought did cross my mind that I could just swipe one and save myself the effort but clearly this wouldn’t have been in the spirit of things and I’ve been good all year so it would have been a shame to ruin the track record. But it was a relief to get moving and to note that the chap with the bell was faster than me.

About 2k into the run I had the “wall of water” experience. Happily minding my own, watching my footfall along the river bank I look up to see the entire front part of the race running back down the path towards me. This was unusual. I was fairly certain there wasn’t a turnaround point so soon. I glanced to my left, saw a path, and decided to take it; on the assumption a wrong turn had been made. My hunch paid off and I enjoyed being closer to the front of the pack for a while than I have ever been in a race. A marshal or a sign might have been useful at that point. I’m just glad it was a festive occasion and children were present or I might have heard a lot more swears.

The rest of the race was fairly uneventful, just a bit slippy in places, until we reached the final 2.5k section. This was where we entered the maze of tape, over “yule logs” and into the “Christmas Spiral” which was a seemingly never-ending spiralling run towards a Christmas tree and back out again (I’ve never hated a course designer so much) and then into the final kilometre over (the Hanukah?) hay bales and through the path of a snow machine.

Finally happy with medal, mince pie and mulled wine
I legitimately earnt my medal in a slow but steady 1:02. This was never going to be a PB kind of course and I’m out of practice and it felt like hard work so I was perfectly happy with that. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I enjoyed it… but it was certainly fun and festive. The mulled wine was pretty ace too!

At £18 on the day for entry but less in advance it was a good value event, family friendly and jolly. It was easy to get to, parking was free and close to the start and apart from the one poorly marked point on the route it was well organised and a decent flat route. There’s a lot of festive runs out there and this should rate as one of the good ones.

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