Handicap Happiness

The last Sunday before Christmas can only mean one thing in the world of amateur running, the Christmas Handicap race. Up and down the country, running clubs stage an annual fun run to mark the end of the year and my club, Manchester Harriers, is no exception.

The atmosphere is a mix of competitive club vests and mismatched fancy dress, some warm up routines and some standing around routines. I chose to stick with my trusty Christmas tree outfit, still going strong after 3 years of handicapping. The handicap times are calculated by wise committee members, with the aim that everyone will cross the finishing line at the same time, holding hands. In reality the field is spread out a bit more than this, with unknown contenders and old timers alike causing surprises.

Our race consists of 3 laps, of approximately 1 mile each. My relationship with 5ks is turbulent at the best of times (story for another day), but this year especially has not been fun on the 5k scene, so the general aim was to not come last, oh and have fun! I was started off with one of the youngsters, Emily, we had a nice chat for the first lap, ran past one of the other runners and his dog, who had stopped for a toilet break , dog not runner. Inevitably I started to struggle to talk whilst Emily started to look at her watch and ended up running off effortlessly.

Nothing much of note happened during the second lap, apart from I started to struggle. The start of lap 3 brought more excitement, as I spotted a Father Christmas in the near distance doubled over. It was Big Steve, despite my initial worry about his welfare he started to move again. Hearing a runner behind me , I tried to move over to let them past but they refused to do so. Who was this person tailgating me? I turned round to see my Jason. We ran the last lap together, crossing the finishing line as Christmas tree and non Christmas tree.

The after party was at Cheadle Social Club, and involved bottles of wine being exchanged and the revelation of who had won this year’s prestigious sportsman and sportswomen awards. Every year the club votes for the man and the woman who they think has accomplished a notable achievement, improved the most or contributed to the club in some way. This year’s winners were Mel Barber, who also won last year and is the first person in the club’s history to do a double header and Ian Fennell, of track and field fame.

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Me as a Christmas tree
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Group photo
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Waiting to start

Check out the full results here. The overall winner of the race was Mo Fox. Fastest male time went to Donnacha Maguire, in 17.43 and Emily Hughes, my starting partner, was the fastest female, with a time of 20.52.

2016 has  been a very inconsistent year of running for me, but coming third in the Thunder Run with Jason made it worth it. Finishing the handicap together reinforced what this year in running has been about, that working together and trying your best can provide equal satisfaction to running PBs.

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