The Flitton Potato Race 2018

Legend has it that this race started before the First World War and continued between World Wars. It then took a break before being revived in the 1970’s then went into intermission again (apart from once in 2004) until 2010 where it was reborn in its current form that we see today.

According to tradition at the end of the potato season the farmhands would lift the old hundredweight sacks (51 KG’s) and race with them from the churchyard in the village of Flitton to the farm one mile up the road in Greenfield then get to keep the potatoes for their efforts.

10B84DCB-9186-4833-9234-55BF383BEFA5

In the seventies the route was reversed so that it ended at the White Heart pub (opposite the church) and the weight of the sacks was reduced to 25KG’s but the distance remained the same.

When it was brought back again the only further change made was bringing the weight down to 20KG’s for men and 10KG’s for women to meet with modern day health and safety regulations.

DFD3250B-852C-4255-9F22-E563894DD691

Quirky Races’ Chris has been attending this event since 2015 where he won the race breaking the course record with a time of 5:30. He successfully defended his title the following year with a slightly slower 5:35 but due to a fixture clash had to miss it in 2017 so he was even more excited than usual to be returning this year with the aim of reclaiming his throne as the potato king!

6E2B6521-8A15-4D60-B74D-E13D80324BEA

Flitton in the county of Bedfordshire is only a 40 minute drive from Quirky Races HQ in Northampton and the races don’t start until midday so unusually an early start wasn’t required which was nice as the event fell on Father’s Day so I got to open my cards and gifts before making the journey. I had my wife and two young children with me as this event is for all the family. As well as the adult’s race there are races over the same distance with lighter weight sacks for older children and spud and spoon races over shorter distances for the little ones. The pub garden at the finish line has fairground rides, stalls, inflatables, an ice cream van and BBQ where most gather afterwards and await the presentation.

It was another nice hot day, as it has been every year I’ve attended which always helps the occasion. Registration and safety briefing are held in the village hall at roughly the half way point of the course. I then took an easy run up to the start which acted as a perfect warm up. I was first to arrive and got some drills and strides in before the rest of the 59 males and 18 females joined me. It was then time to collect our potato sack. It was great to see three hardcore participants had requested to carry the old hundredweight! Fair play to them. I put my 20KG sack on the start line and waited for the signal to go.

4134679B-D303-4AAE-9C1D-3DAE696822C9

I was confident I was in shape to run a similar time to what I had done on the two previous occasions so I had the attitude that if someone was going to beat me they’d need to break my course record to do so. As the air horn was sounded we were off and my tactics were to start steady but be right up there in the leading group.

I found myself at the front with a couple of others just behind on either side of me but that gap seemed to lengthen with every stride and within a minute I felt no pressure. I was running well within myself and just stuck to my plan.

EBF2EF64-9034-439D-9CC0-FB0885585ACF

Each quarter mile point is signed which really helps as theres no way of looking at your watch as of course your hands are raised gripping the sack on your shoulders. The route, which is on a closed road, is straight and flat and the further you get the more spectators there are lining the paths either side. From half way it gets very busy and this is where I put my foot down a little more.

The crowd had been waiting in expect for the first runner to come through so when they saw me I could really feel their excitement and I fed off that as my legs started to tire slightly. In the final 400 meters the streets are packed and the cheers get louder and louder. I pushed on again as although I felt no danger from behind it’s hard to tell and the noice from the spuds rattling around prevents that sense you normally get if someone is catching you.

As I completed the final stretch with the church and pub in sight I knew I had the win wrapped up but because I’d felt quite relaxed the whole way and hadn’t been pushed at any point I wasn’t expecting the time to be as quick but upon crossing the finish line and the timing mat the announcer call out that I’d ran a new record of 5:26. This really surprise me and was a really satisfying bonus.

I turned round to see second place (last year’s winner) coming in just under half a minute later and stayed in the finish area to see almost all the other runners coming home with smiles but very tired looking faces and then the kids from 10 years and above who set off just after the adults.

D21492A1-FD76-4866-8D83-A3AC12C503B9

Next up was the relay where teams of four take on the same course running a quarter of a mile each with the potato sack acting as the baton.

This was followed by the under 10’s races which my daughter was taking part in so it was another little run for me as I ran alongside her cheering her on, shouting encouragement just like so many others had done for me.

44C01A64-B506-4C0F-908F-169C7A777514

Medals and goody bags collected it was time for a celebratory drink and ice cream in the pub’s garden while reflecting on what a great time we’d had.

14112549-4D7B-45CF-8FFC-AA666EFE4CCF

Advertisements

Rat Race Runstock 2018

A trail run, an obstacle course, an ultra challenge, a festival. Runstock really does offer something for everyone. Weather you want to run one 5KM lap or go for the ultra challenge of 50KM and beyond you can do it all here. If running isn’t your thing then there’s a festival full of family activities but I’m pretty confident that once you’ve taken on just one lap of this course you may well change your mind and become a running addict like the majority of the 2000 taking on just some or all of the 8 hours of running time available.

7142087B-48F5-4E19-94EF-94FD638904FB

As much as I love obstacles, on this occasion I personally was just there for the running (I couldn’t resist a couple of goes on the monkey bars though). I did however manage to notch up 16 laps so could well be best placed to comment of the course as I ended up running more than anyone else.

What I saw throughout the day was more smiles on faces than perhaps any other running event I’ve ever been at. From participants to marshals to spectators. Everyone seemed to be beaming from ear to ear from start to finish and it was easy to see why.

346E9657-8D32-4A8D-86DE-2BCAEB93B48E

I think what contributed most to the chilled and happy atmosphere was the freedom of choice. So many obstacle course races these days have mandatory obstacle completion or a forfeit for failure. Here you did whatever you wanted with a run route set out for those who didn’t fancy getting wet or muddy or those, like myself, who had set themselves a running distance target. For many this was the ‘ultra challenge’ of 50KM (10 laps) set up by the organisers which came with an extra shiny gold medal and a vest (if you paid an extra fee). You could also stop running at the end of any lap, take a rest, go and enjoy the many activities of offer in the festival, then join back in at any period from the start at 10AM to 5.30PM with participants getting until 6PM to complete their final lap.

261127C5-52A1-49E1-9F7A-46D48350F4A2

The variety of people taking part further alliterated the appeal to everyone this event had and the lapped set up meant I could see this throughout as I went past those of all ages, shapes and sizes.

94987BC2-0EFD-4D55-9710-68FB3B090AF2

This is the perfect introduction for kids to running and obstacles and for adults into ultra running as well as offering a challenging and competitive aspect for anyone who wanted it.

3FD709A3-2E5A-410C-9D6E-655CFF40B95F