parkrun has many traditions that exist, including rocking up at 9am on Christmas Day to run 5km. I hadn’t ever taken part in an Xmas Day run but this year everything lined up so I found myself visiting Pontefract parkrun for the first time.

One of the main reasons I have never run on Christmas day before is that I have a young family and Christmas is absolutely about them. However, we were staying at my sister-in-laws and knew that after a crazy start to the day, there was almost certainly going to be a lull while we awaited the arrival of the grandparents. A lull that would be perfect for heading out for a run (if it occurred!)

The closest runs to my sister-in-law are Temple Newsam and Rothwell parkuns. I have run both before (including a pre-Xmas run two years ago where the aim was to not get beaten by a giant sprout). However, neither was planning a Christmas Day event so I had to look just a little further afield and the closest with an event was going to be Pontefract. The day was always going to be fluid but the plan was ready in case it was to be implemented.

Christmas morning came and good news, my kids had been good so Santa had come! My daughter hadn’t had a good night’s sleep so I was shattered however! Presents were unwrapped and the kids set down to play with various toys so decision point was looming. There was the very tempting option of going back to bed for an hour or two to make up for the lost sleep the night before. But, my brother-in-law had also brought his running kit and we made the call to jump in the car and head down.

I really wasn’t sure if Christmas Day would bring out a bigger/smaller attendance but as we arrived in the car park we could see a fair sized crowd and the car park was quite busy. It was already 5 to 9 so we’d missed any first timers briefing (sorry!) so the course was going to be a bit of a surprise for us both. We did however, make the main briefing. It was a real shame that the PA system was a bit quiet and there was quite of lot of people chatting, because the briefing was great and not everyone will have heard it! I don’t know how much time went into fitting everything to the tune of Good King Wencelas but it was well worth it.

Post run Xmas Day parkrun selfie with appropriate headgear!

It was then time for the off. I wasn’t quite sure where the start line was and found myself in the middle of the pack on a grassy bank as “GO!” was shouted. It was therefore a bit of work for the first little bit, bobbing and weaving through the field whilst trying to keep my footing. The first km was all on a downhill gradient so I was somewhat surprised that when my watch buzzed for the first time I was under 4mins. Either Santa had delivered me new legs for Christmas or I had gone out a bit too hard (spoiler I wasn’t on Santa’s good list this time!!)

The course then headed up a gradual uphill section for the next 1.5km. It wasn’t a huge gradient and I didn’t notice it obviously but you can see in my splits that it definitely started to slow me down a little although by now the field had thinned out so I was able to keep a nice rhythm. The course follows the hard path on the inside of the racecourse which is used by the support cars/ambulances etc if you watch any horse racing. It meant it was quite good underfoot.

At halfway we then hit a turnaround point. I think based on reading the course description page and over hearing a couple at the end, that this out and back course is their B course. I am guessing in part as it requires fewer marshalls. The good news was that the 1.5km uphill section then became a downhill section. The one downside is that the track is made of two narrow tracks and with the rest of the field coming the other way, if you did want to overtake, you had to make your way on to the grass.

The final km was of course then back up hill which, given I was only fuelled by one cup of coffee and a single chocolate Teddy bear, was a bit of a slog. I crossed the line in 21:23 which was a little slower than most recent parkruns but still a nice time and placed me 16th. I then had just enough time to get back to the car and grab the antler ears my daughter wanted me to wear, but were a bit small to run in, before cheering home my brother-in-law.

All in all I was really happy I had made it down to Pontefract and done my first Christmas Day parkrun. I will admit that I have run on more inspiring courses but the happiness and joy of people coming together either to run or even better to volunteer on this day outweighed this several times over. Who knows where we will be spending Christmas next year but if the opportunity arises, I am sure I’ll be looking for another Christmas Day parkrun.

By Mike

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