I've been aware of the Percy Pud for a while, being a long standing fixture in Sheffield organised the the Steel City Striders - in fact this year was the 25th anniversary of the first running of the event. Last year the event was on the first weekend after I had moved back to Sheffield, and starting as it does in Loxley it's practically on my doorstep, just over 2km away. I ran my first parkrun that weekend but already had a desire to run the Percy Pud, so you could say this marked the culmination of an amazing first year in running.
I'd run the return leg along Loxley Road a few times, as I would often go out along Loxley Valley Trail and back on the road after the slog up Stacey Bank, but one Thursday lunchtime decided to recce the whole route, so ran from my house to the start, did the full course, and then ran all the way back, making it a nice 14km run. Obviously the roads were open so I was only on the pavement, and there was a lot of wet leaf fall, but it was good to get a feel for the route. I found the outbound Loxely Road stint really hard work as it's uphill and undulating, but then I really enjoyed the road around the back of the reservoir out to The Plough and back despite quite a headwind, and Loxley Road return was the old familiar route.
When I entered I decided I was going to aim for sub 50 minutes, having run 50:01 at my first 10k in May, so submitted an estimated finish time of 49:49. Come the day of the race I met up with Andy, Liz and Kelly G and we made our way to the start area. It dawned on me I had to walk a long way down and was surprisingly near the front, positioning myself between the 50 minute and 45 minute pacers. After the usual standing around for a bit a horn sounded and we were off. I started my watch as we headed under the arch and ran with the pack, jostling for space a little but nowhere near as bad as Amsterdam.
The start was fast, I was happy. I was passing people, I was keeping up with the 45 minute pacer. This was good, I was really enjoying myself! But still, this first bit was my least favourite and there are 10 of these kilometre things to do so don't get carried away. I'd been working on my cadence and technique, so I was trying to bear that in mind keeping my pace high while ensuring that I felt my heart rate and breathing were under control and not at the ragged edge. The first KM went quickly in 4:24, the second even faster in 4:16, and I was at the dam wall - the bad bit was done!
I'd noticed on the first leg that not everyone was using the hills - this is Sheffield, surely everyone has had plenty of practice - but this meant that I was overtaking all over the place on the short sharp downhill segments and still absolutely loving it. OK, settle in for the mid section. Eyes on the prize, don't blow it all early, keep that breathing in check. We were being encouraged over to the left hand side of the road by now to make space for the returning runners, and the KMs kept falling - 4:24, 4:46, still amazingly good times for me and still WELL on target. Just after the 4km mark I saw the pace car, followed shortly by a few lone runners before the pack came past. Tricky hairpin turnaround at the 5km mark, take a gel on board before the water stop, and it's homeward bound.
Not long after turning I heard Andy shouting encouragement as he headed towards the turnaround, and shortly after I spotted Kelly G and Liz, returning the encouragement to them. Everyone was looking good. My legs were not tiring and the pace was holding high, before I knew it I was at the dam wall and knew that once I had the small climb out the way I could push for the finish. 2km to go and I was beginning to feel it, but I could see the 45 minute pacer in the distance and slowly but surely I was gaining on him.
Drive up the hills, use the downhills for speed, inching ever closer. With the finish almost in sight I passed him just as he was telling those around him they were well on course to hit 45 minutes, and then the finish line appeared and I could see the clock - gun time was on 44:50 and that was it, I started sprinting for the line. I crossed on a gun time of around 45:03 so was confident I had smashed my target and finished under 45:00. I felt weirdly emotional at this point - happy and yet really close to tears.
I collected my t-shirt and Christmas Pudding, got a drink of water, and headed up to see the others finish. Andy had already crossed the line by the time I got there, and I saw Kelly G and Liz finish. My Chip Time in the official results came through as 44:31, utterly blown away with that. Turns out we all had a really good race:
- Me: 44:31
- Andy: 47:17
- Kelly G: 49:43
- Liz: 55:21
And we weren't the only ones - the male and female course records both fell (there was a £1000 prize for each of these) with the Male winner being Andy Heyes in 29:42 and the overall second place finisher was Scottish Olympian Eillish McColgan in 32:23 - breaking her own record from last year and setting the second fastest 10k in the country this year. The first quickest? Her performance at Leeds Abbey Dash. Hmm, seems a fast race... maybe next year?