Monday, 25 June 2012

Summer Solstice 10k - Long Bennington

For a 10k race that took place the day after the summer solstice the weather in the preceding week was poor. Race day bought showers and overcast conditions. By the evening, the rain had stopped and the cool temperatures made for ideal running conditions apart from a brisk wind on the exposed parts of the course.
Robert & Helen ahead of the start

I didn't run this race. It was a club race and so I offered to assist. Being closer to the organising team helped me to appreciate the level of work that goes on behind the scenes. Committee meetings had taken place at regular intervals for the preceding six months. An army of volunteers had been drafted in to help with, marshaling, catering, results, the start, the finish and everything in between. I was particularly surprised to be sent the official, accredited race distance measuring certificate and associated documentary measurement evidence. A  certifyer apparently measures a course on a bicycle and the pursuit of accuracy includes blowing the tyres up to a precise amount of millibars before setting off!

On Friday afternoon I helped set up the course placing "K" signs at regular "K" intervals. In between the K's were directional arrows and signs to warn motorists of the runners who would be gracing the tarmac a few hours later. In addition to race organisation there are a multitude of other bodies which need to be either recruited or kept on side, the highways department, the police, the parish council, St John Ambulance and not forgetting, the burger man and the beer man. The race signs were affixed to the side of the road, steaks stuck in the ground as far as they would go to give them the best chance of surviving the gusty wind which seemed to be increasing. After the race was set up I escaped to pick up Tracy, another willing volunteer.

Lead car & Ropsley Road Runner 
An hour before race start we were back. The atmosphere was building. Race participants were gathering outside. Inside Long Bennington village hall participants gazed sometimes anxiously pondering the 6,5 mile run which lay ahead. I assisted with the inflatable finish gantry. Despite sand bags used to weigh it down, we also tied the huge inflatable to the fence posts to make sure it didn't blow away in the gusty wind that was still blowing. The finish funnel was built and then unbuilt to allow access for an important man, the beer man. The funnel was re built and again dismantled to allow access to another privileged guest, the burger man. The beer man was able to command instant access just by miming the act of knocking a pint back from inside his car. "it's the beer man" I heard someone say, "let him in". Race directors McArdle and Roberts looked relaxed, they milled about directing the final preparations ahead of moving the assembled athletes up the road to the start

I was grateful to be allocated the easy job of assisting in the lead car. I watched in the wing mirror as the race was started at 7:15pm. An ensemble of colourful runners bobbed towards us in a small swarm of energy. The driver used skill to keep enough distance from the leader to avoid choking him with exhaust fumes whilst not compromising his safety. I was supposed to get out at and assist a marshall that was by himself. I never found him, he had positioned himself  far off the course and later wondered why runners didn't pass the lane corner where he stood. Matt Whitfield of Notts AC forged a lead which got bigger as the first 3k progressed. The lead was ultimately to be extended and maintained all the way to the finish. Matt was first back in a time of 33:32. It was exciting watching from the lead car as he extended his lead from the chasing pack. An effortless running style disguised the work that must have been devoted to the race. At the finish the next closest competitor was almost two minutes behind. Rebbecca Taylor was first in the ladies race in a time of 39:18. First Grantham Athlete was Ben Hatherley with Catherine Payne taking the female V45 class prize. 

Post race as competitors washed down burgers with specially commissioned solstice ale, I assisted data entry of the results. Within the first page we hit a snag that required us locating the second female to cross the line. In a disguised fashion we approached fast looking female racers to ask "how they got on?" Thankfully race director McArdle located the required runner and the race number issue was resolved enabling the presentation to take place shortly afterwards. The runners came, the runners ran and then the runners left. The host of helpers mobilised again for respective race clear up duties. I helped dismantle the inflatable gantry along with other helpers who reignited latent child desires by jumping around on the deflating gantry in some cases narrowly avoiding injury! The village hall was cleared and cleaned. The plug was pulled on the burger van (who's owner was apparently in the pub) and off we went for a post race celebration which went onto the night and then into the morning.

The post race reviews confirm that the event passed swimmingly with good racing a few Pb's and satisfied runners who seemed to enjoy the event. One for the diary in 2013.




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