Sunday, 22 December 2013

Cyclopark Christmas Cracker 2013

I found out about the inaugural Cyclopark Christmas Cracker only about a week before it was scheduled to take place. I've always wanted to run a Christmas race but have never actually been organised enough to make it happen. After a few tweets with @cyclopark I had formulated a plan.

arrival at cyclopark

The main event was a 5k race plus there was also a 1k family fun run. I decided that it would be fun to enter both, that way I could run the 5k as a race and run the 1k with my daughter in her running buggy - I gave her the option of actually entering and walking the course herself but she chose the running buggy.

On the day, we arrived at the Cyclopark, which is quite a new cycling facility built adjacent to the A2 in Gravesend. There is a spacious car park and parking costs £1. I hadn't registered in advance so we went into the registration room and sorted out the paperwork and payment. The 5k cost £7 for adults and £4 for children, while the 1k was a flat £3. The 1k family run was short enough to tempt the wife into entering too!

almost ready

With it being Christmas, I had arrived dressed for occasion and for those that hadn't, there were santa hats included in the entry fee - so no excuse not to look festive! The cyclopark has lots of different cycling facilities - one of them being a 2.5km long beautifully smooth undulating tarmac track, which is what was used for the race.

The 5k

For my first race of the day I lined up on the track at 10am and after chatting to a fellow runner and posing for a few fun photos we were sent on our way. It was two laps around the tarmac track. At the start, as usual, plenty of people went out way too fast but after 500 metres nature brought everyone into line and that left about four of us in the lead pack.

and off.. I am wearing the santa beard

The runner I was chatting to beforehand was leading the race, but when we were chatting beforehand he said that he usually runs 5k in around 22 minutes, so I knew that he had gone out way too fast (and he said the same post-race). Before too long a couple of us caught up with him and filtered past.

As I mentioned before, the course undulates and it also has some nice sweeping corners. So we continued our journey around the first lap. The end of the lap is run up an incline and just before we reached the half-way point, there is a footbridge that passes over the track which was lined with cheering spectators.

runners 1, 2 and 3 just before half-way

At half-way, I was in second place and just a few seconds behind the leader. I remember the race organiser saying something along the lines of 'keep going - you're being chased by Santa!' to the leader as he passed, which I found quite funny. As we started lap 2, I could hear footsteps not far behind me and I was convinced I was about to be passed at any moment.

runner 1 crossing the half-way mark, followed by santa

As you'll see in the photos, I wore a Santa hat complete with beard and a tie that resembled Santa's buttons and belt buckle. I was burning up underneath that hat and the tie had swung around so that it was flying in the wind behind me and strangling me. I thought about removing both, but it was a Christmas event and I didn't want to remove my festive attire!

I continued around the course, which was actually quite windy so some sections were tougher than they would normally be and it probably knocked a few seconds off my time. By the time I came around the final bend and could see the incline in front of me I was still in second place. The runner in front had opened a wider gap so I knew first place was out of reach.

the first 5k done

I was more concerned, as I had been the whole of the second lap, about the third placed runner overtaking me, but as I started the final incline there wasn't any sign of him sprinting up behind me so I passed under the footbridge and across the finish line without being overtaken, finishing in second place overall.

I overheard one of the timers say 19.37 was my finish time and I was really pleased with that (official results to follow when published), especially considering the undulating course and the windy conditions. To be honest, I felt terrible the whole way round. Much worse than some of my recent 5k races or time trials.

everything looking a bit wonky post-race

I had my festive medal placed around my neck before having a few photos taken and then heading off for 20 minutes of recovery time before the next race was due to start.

Full 5k results were posted on facebook - here.

The 1k Family Fun Run

At 10.45am it was time for the family fun run to begin. I had already secured my daughter into her safety harness in our running buggy (the baby jogger 2) and I lined up at the front with the wife to our side - she had toyed with the idea of entering the 5k but in the end went for the 1k only. Again, we posed for the official photos and then the fun run was started.

waiting to go again

As the start is slightly uphill, it took a while to get going with the additional weight of the running buggy, and others had already started darting around in front of us so it took us about 100 metres to finally get some clear air by going around the outside of some other runners on the corner.

When I run with my daughter in the running buggy, she constantly shouts at me to go faster -  she loves it. So instead of a slow plod, we pushed the pace - we (I?) had come up with the idea that we'd like to complete the 1km in less than 4 minutes. I felt a strange overtaking all of the children over the next first few hundred metres, but you have to understand that I was being ordered to run faster!

her first medal

Once my daughter was satisfied with the pace, she went into her other buggy running mode, which is to quietly scream the whole way round as if she is on a rollercoaster - and that's actually what one section of the course is like. There's a short sharp downhill which we flew down, and by the sound of her scream, that must have been her favourite part.

The good thing with the tarmac track is that there are lots of different configurations and the organisers had changed the layout with some strategically placed cones so that we would only have to cover the 1 kilometre to return to the start/finish area. The last section was still up the incline and this time I had to push the buggy up it - pffff..

wife and daughter with medals and chocolate

So we crossed the line in first position and my daughter was very excited to be awarded her first ever race medal, and even more excited to be handed a selection pack of chocolates! The 1k race wasn't officially timed so I took our time from my 1km GPS reading - turns out that we did it in 3.59.

We turned around to watch the rest of the runners finish and more importantly to look out for the wife, who soon after came cruising up the incline glad that she had listened to my advice and stuck with the 1k race and not the 5k.

Post race/fun run

After the runs, there were complimentary mince pies for all runners in the race registration area so we dived in and grabbed one each. We then decided to have a spot of lunch in the cyclocafe before heading off, the mushroom omelette and salad was pretty decent. They also sell freshly squeezed juices, which I have noted for next time I pass by on the cycle path that runs adjacent to the A2 and gives cyclists a safe route between Dartford and Strood via Shorne Woods.


We had a brilliant morning and are looking forward to next year already! However, I do plan to go back and try out the cycling facilities in the near future.

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