Race Rundown: Loftus Poultry Run, 15th December 2019

by Clair Walker

When I saw the Poultry Run website it was advertised as a friendly run, with, as is always important to me, no cut off time – sounded right up my street. The day before the run a fellow volunteer at parkrun told me “it’s a hard run, you run uphill for ages but once you get to the farm its all downhill from there”, had I bitten off more than I could chew? Hopefully Sheree’s hill training through the summer would put me in good stead.

Sunday morning was cold, very cold, after scraping the ice off my car I almost bottled it. I was very tempted to finally join the steady Sunday morning run at Wynyard which I’ve been wanting to join for ages but never managed to get there. Luckily I’m a Yorkshire lass and had paid so I was going, plus there was a T-Shirt with my name on it – I do love a free T-Shirt.

Driving towards Saltburn I noticed several cars driving in the opposite direction with their roofs covered in a good couple of inches of snow. Should I have checked the website before leaving, do they cancel for snow? I had no idea.

On arriving at Loftus leisure centre a friendly marshal directed me into the housing estate to try and find a parking space. Parking space found I started a precarious walk back down to the start, I felt like Bambi on ice; my sense of balance is never the best, should I be wearing trail shoes? Running was going to be fun when I struggled to walk.

All doubts were put to one side as I arrived at the start, Christmas music blasting, loads of runners dressed up in Christmas paraphernalia and a lovely atmosphere I was glad I came but definitely felt underdressed in my Harriers vest. I knew there were more Harriers competing but didn’t spot any vests as I took my usual place at the very back as the race was started.

The initial climb was through the housing estate where several people were out to cheer the runners on, a great spectacle of runners dressed in all sorts of weird, wonderful and festive costumes. The climb continued, at one point I overtook a woman dressed in an inflatable cow outfit, whilst another runner asked if she could mooove out of the way, bet she heard that a few times over the 8 mile course.

I find it difficult to recall the exact route of the course as I tend to be more of a one foot in front of the other, repeat, kind of runner.  It definitely involved quite a bit of climbing and every time I looked up I could just see the masses of runners in the distance still climbing. Every time we came to a farm I prayed this was the one I had been told about prior to the descent. After about 4 miles we turned off through a farmland track and here the mud was so thick I had to walk in order to keep myself upright and most seemed to be on the same wavelength. The ground soon firmed up and we were running along the icy fields. At one point we ran past a waving family who had built a snowman to help cheer us on.

We joined a country road and here the scenery was lovely, white fields to either side and the sea in the distance. At this point I was talking to a runner from South Shields who commented how lucky we were to be running in a winter wonderland. At last we seemed to be going downhill I’m always a slightly nervous downhill runner and the ice didn’t help matters. Soon we were at the five-mile point, only a parkrun left and I was still feeling surprisingly fresh.

The descent began in earnest back through the estate and to the finish. The last 2 miles were all downhill so I decided it was time I just enjoyed it, if I fell over I no longer cared.  Anyone who knows me will know that falling down is a pastime of mine especially after a drink or two. Running the last part of the race I overtook a giant Christmas pudding – what an achievement.

With the finish line in sight I even managed a bit of a sprint finish, a lovely friendly challenging run and I loved it. I will definitely be back next year and have promised to make a bit more effort with my outfit.

Well done to my fellow Harriers who completed the run, they were probably enjoying their fish and chips by the time I crossed the line.

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