Newark Showground Christmas Challenge 17th December 2016
This is a 6 hour challenge event and is the second year it has been held. You can do as many laps as you like, within 6 hours. The majority of people choose 8 laps, which roughly equates to a marathon. The event is held over 2 days, with some people choosing Saturday, some Sunday and the mad people choosing both days.
Adam Holland, winner of the Hull Marathon, organises the runs, with his company MaraMile Events. He’s a really friendly bloke and amazing runner. Not only has he won a number of marathons, he holds the current record for running 10 marathons in 10 days in a total time of 28 hours, 37 minutes and 19 seconds, averaging 2:51:44 per marathon.
Choosing the Saturday, so that James could go to the Wrestling on the night without worrying about getting up for a Sunday marathon we set off from Hull at 6.30am. It also meant that we could both have the Sunday to recover.
It is about an hour and a half to get to Newark, with the race starting at 9.00am. This gave us ample time to stop at a service station and get to the venue to pick up our numbers, stretch and chat to fellow runners before the start.
We chose to travel down the M1, a familiar route to us. It also has a better selection of service stations. Unfortunately we stopped at Blyth, who’s toilets were out of order, however there were plenty at the venue, which was only about 30 mins away so no great hardship.
Arriving in good time, we took the opportunity to chat to a number of familiar faces, many of whom are already members of the 100 marathon club. Asking about recent races and future plans.
Conditions were quite chilly, with a thick fog and lovely sunrise. No breeze was evident and the air felt crisp. I had struggled at the previous marathon, about 10 days previously. It had been unseasonally warm and I had chosen to wear leggings and a compression top, it was mafting. With that in mind I decided to run in shorts and vest only. I think I was the only idiot, I mean runner, in shorts and vest.
Adam gave the racing brief and we made our way to the starting line.
The start went well, Adam leading the front runners on the first lap. The first and second runners set off at a good pace, with third position following closely behind, I ran in fourth, with Rich Rex and James running together in joint fifth.
Over the first lap these positions remained the same, with the gap between each group gradually getting wider.
The event was held at Newark Showground, an old airbase, and the route largely involved running up and down runways, with a couple of grass sections. The runways were a bit uneven, however as long as you took care of your footing, it presented no problem.
After about half a lap the gap between myself and third had grown a little and the fog gradually took him out of view. Adam had done a good job marking the course and though I got worried a couple of times, arrows sprayed on the ground or pinned on barriers and fences soon allayed any concern, ensuring a kept on track. James and I did this course last year and although slightly altered, it was largely the same.
With Adam’s background, he has a great knowledge of knowing what people prefer and had placed the start/finish line perfectly. Just before the end of each lap were the toilet blocks, which fortunately I did not need during the race. The water stations were also positioned shortly before the end of each lap and were well stocked with bottled water, cupped water and plenty of nibbles.
The event was chip timed, so each time you passed “Go”, your time was measured and recorded.
For the first few laps first and second ran together, continuing to stretch the lead, with third place also increasing his lead over me. Rich and James continued to run together and the gap between us widened. The fog had lifted about halfway through the second lap and a very slight wind could be felt. Each lap had a number of switchbacks, which made it handy to judge positioning and afforded the chance to say hello to all the other runners and give a friendly smile.
Wearing vest and shorts worked out as a great strategy for me, I believe it made me run a little faster and also meant that I didn’t need to take on as much water as I usually would do. I chose to just have cupped water for the first 3 laps, switching to bottled for the last laps. This allowed me to sip water en route and also gave me a handy container to put my empty carb packets, which I dumped in the bin at the end of each lap.
The course was about a mile over for “marathon” runners last year, however with the slight changes I was curious what it would come out as this year. Looking at my watch just after the first lap, I thought it would still be a bit long, however you never know with Garmin. I got around 13.3 miles after 4 laps, the halfway point and so guessed on it being around half a mile over.
After the 6th lap, I could see that I was gradually catching on the third placed runner and eventually overtook him just before the start of the 7th lap. The two leaders had also split, as had the Hull boys, James and Rich.
The winner was Paul Davies who came in at 2:57:59, second place was 3:00:19 and I came third in 3:21:59. Both of the other Hull runners did well, with James coming fifth in 3:37:10 and Rich coming 7th in 3:46:06.
I had set off at a pace that I felt was a little too fast, however it felt comfortable. I did have to push quite hard in the last lap to try and keep my pace, however I was more than happy with my finish time and splits.
Everyone got over the distance on their watches, mine showing 26.58. It was certainly a fast course though, nice and flat with many long straights.
I’ve met the winner, Paul, a few times and he casually told James and I at the end that this was his 80th sub 3 hour marathon. Great bloke and very humble.
The medal was quite a large solid metal one and the race number was also bespoke. I think the race was less than £30 to enter, great value.
We took our time to have a stretch and chat to some of the finishers, before taking the obligatory daft photos and heading home.
Happy New Year