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‘I think I need another race,’ where the unlikely words to come out of the GingaNinja after the Mince Pi Run. It’s not that she has suddenly become enamoured with the idea of running or racing its more to do with the need to be healthy and a healthy example to ASK. With that in mind I found the Lamberhurst 5km event on New Years Day – a little road bimble that I had imagined would be a nice and easy leg stretcher. Let me assure you readers that the Lamberhurst event (the 5 or 10km) is no easy bimble but it is a shedload of fun – this is what happened…

Living about 30 miles from the race start I decided to use the opportunity to practice my driving along the country roads of Kent and with the rain being heavy this was going to prove a big challenge for someone who finds the idea of driving a nerve shredding experience. Thankfully I pulled into Lamberhurst at about 9.30am just as Google had predicted with all three of my runners intact.

Our GingaNinja inspired attendance was supplemented by myself and ASK for a 5km party of three. We ambled along to the village hall where I got a sense that the route wasn’t as flat as I had imagined… hmm. Still we grabbed our race numbers, a toilet stop and then waterproofed ASK (as she would be ‘running’ on the Unirider offering inspiring words to her mum) and soaked up some of the post New Years Eve cheer that clearly was still in the air.

As is often the way at races where ASK runs with us on the Unirider we receive lots of attention and this was no different with many of our fellow runners wishing us well or offering a cheery nod to ASK – something that I believe makes the experience much more positive for my toddler.

At the start line we chatted with more runners even as the rain began its downpour! ASK advised that she was getting wet but I promised that we would soon be running and wouldn’t notice the rain. At least half of that was true and we soon set off with the GingaNinja a little behind us.

The first challenge was a wonderfully steep hill and we shouted encouragement to the GN to keep on going as the hill got steeper. ASK and I powered past people and reached the first section to flatten out and gave the GN a chance to catch up, but our respite was short lived and we were all soon pushing onwards and with the field clear of the faster runners we could trundle happily along in the wet conditions.

ASK and I weaved in and out of the route and the remaining runners as we headed downward and back toward the village hall, giving the Unirider a real race test on the tarmac rather than the trails we normally run on.

Straight from the downhill though we entered our second significant climb but the GingaNinja had paired up with one of the lovely runners and I had got chatting to a lovely chap called Kev who like me had a youngster and was a Mountain Buggy user for taking his son out. Of course we chatted about the Unirider but also general running and this helped make the event much more fun for all. Of course ASK and I circled back to ensure that we all stayed together – this was very much a family race – and we continued to shout encouragement as the race progressed.

As we entered the next downhill we went a little quicker but my problem was that the heavy rain had stayed on the race course and ASK was getting mildly wet feet, actually very wet feet – thankfully like the superhero she is she didn’t complain and we thundered down the hill being greeted by the returning runners from the turnaround point.

We passed through what looked like a country house at the turning point and passed a grandfather and granddaughter running together – both looking brilliant and I used the young lady as an example to ASK of what she could be doing if she carries on being active. ASK was excited by this as the girl was almost all in pink!

The final climb was also the most challenging given the water on the course and its steep nature but both myself and the GingaNinja gave it our all and I suggested that we would wait at the top of the hill for her (and shout out support of course). I wheeled in behind the lovely marshal but had made a minor miscalculation in my turning circle and ASK fell off the Unirider for the first time. Thankfully we were almost stopped and no harm was done other than some wet gloves and a bit of a shock. There were also a few tears and so I cuddled my awesome little daughter and said, ‘don’t tell your mum’. She replied with the, ‘alright dad’ and jumped straight back on. However, her hands were now cold and with the rain still heavy she wanted to finish.

I told the GingaNinja what had happened and all credit to both of them we sped up to get back to the warm as fast as possible. The downhill was fun and I think we all enjoyed the run into the line with people cheering my daughter in and I heard the GingaNinja gave her name called out.

We finished and collected medals (mine immediately becoming the property of ASK) and headed indoors where we stripped off and put on warmer kit. What a belter!

Conclusions: Incredibly family friendly, lots of youngsters doing the child’s race, lots involved with their parents and grandparents in the main race. A nice, warm village hall at the start and a really, really fantastic route that could be as fast or as sedate as you wanted. The Lamberhurst races should be everyone’s start to the year and with the opportunity to grab a wonderful medal who wouldn’t want to do this on a wet New Years Day? Another great event from Nice Work and thanks for letting ASK take part with the Unirider, we are very grateful.

I may be a pretty rubbish ultra runner but I am an enthusiastic ultra runner and so when the opportunity to run a 10km road race came up I was bit ‘meh’. However, my dad was visiting UltraBaby and seeing as ultra marathons aren’t quite on his agenda at the moment the Medway 10km seemed like an ideal way to kill a couple of hours while at the same time earn another medal for the collection. 

   

I normally research races to the nth degree but this one I had barely looked up the start time and by the time we arrived at the sports centre start line I still had shown a limited amount of interest in racing but parking was easy and there was lots of it and I found lots and lots of runners milling around heading over through the sports centre to the start line.

Being a hot, bright day both my dad and I ‘buffed’ our heads up as we are prone to suffering from the sun – his problems stemming from being a baldy and mine from the sun just fucking me over at every available opportunity.

We queued up to collect our numbers with everyone else (just a few short minutes despite the length of the queue), visited the loo (again just a few short minutes despite the length of the queue) and then went and stood at the side of the starting line (which was located on the local (and very nicely laid) running track. It was about 8.40am and the first of the children’s runs were taking place – one lap round the track – and it was absolutely awesome watching them thunder along the track. Ten minutes later, children’s race 2 and the slightly older children competed over two laps of the track, this was an exceptional race with some brilliant running and my dad and I cheered home those at both the front and the back.

Then it was our turn. Knowing that my dad was no longer the Speedy Gonzalez of his youth we headed to the back of the pack, hiding behind a mother and daughter combo who my dad had become fascinated with the younger of the pairs arse – if only he’d known that they were going to give him a pasting by some 15 minutes! I digress – we set off, pretty much at 9am and we started out round the track, I was going slowly at this point and having a brief chat with my dad, wishing him luck before a short handshake and I was off and not looking back.

It was typical of a track that most of the runners headed onto the inside but in order to make some headway through the crowd I pushed to the outer edge and started to pick runners off. By the time I had made it round to the start line again I had found my pace and was feeling reasonably rhythmic. I bounded up the little hill out of the running ground and onto the course. BOOM.

  
Here I crossed the road and headed straight over into the park, there was a single track entrance which we had to negotiate and was holding up runners a little but I had the foresight to simply leap the bollards and head up the incline. It was a beautiful day with a hint of wind to make it feel cooler and all around us were fields and blue sky, I was already feeling the love of this one – but also the heat.

  
As I trundled up to the top of the incline we came across the first of the many sights on the route, just a little lion encrusted monument which I took a moment to photograph before thundering along the gravel track and into the greenery of Gillingham. We were now into a local heritage park and there was a nice summer calmness on the course and being early the local populace wasn’t yet out in force but there was still a nice level of support.

We wound our way round the many twists and turns of the route, in and out of the many local military installations and along nicely maintained paths. By the time I’d hit 4km I as well into my stride and happy with my time but I’d realised that this hilly course was not going to offer a personal best but with my legs feeling lIght I continued to pass people as I headed back up the hill on the reverse to our starting point. The nice thing was that we didn’t just go back the way we came, we passed out along a different and well shaded path and then back onto the incline we had come up. Rather handily the park entrance was also home to the water aid station and here I grabbed a delightfully full cup of water that I splashed both over my head and into my mouth.

5km in – 22.5minutes on the clock – hmmm exciting and interesting given that I was barely over the effect of the Kent Roadrunner marathon the week before and I’d done about 50km of distance since then. This should be a properly slow race, especially given the hills… curious.

We ran along the outside of the track to the rapturous applause and cheers of the supporters and headed out to the other side of Gillingham and past the impressive looking Royal Engineers Museum (looks worth a visit). The real problem was that were were now on a downhill and a steep bitchy hill that I knew we would have to come up again. Again here the support was magnificent from both marshals and people on the street who had come along to wish us well. We dipped off the hill and straight into another incline and a lovely park, as we wended our way through to the maritime university buildings we knew that the end was in sight but that that hill was still to be conquered.

BOOM. Here I started my final quarter assault on a reasonable time. I hit the hill again and hit another gear as I willed my body to what I thought would be a final push. In the distance I could see my dad. I waved at him and he called out ‘I thought this was bloody flat!’ He was doing fine though and although slow he was still moving and more importantly still running and most importantly for him, not last.

  
I pushed hard up the hill and caught up to a couple of peoples had been keeping my eye on and then thundered along back onto the track but my legs were now a bit wobbly from pushing and I decided to ease off on the track. However, my mind would not let me do it and with more than 250metres left to go I kicked.

Holy fuck.

The problem was the kid next to me (aged about 20) decided he didn’t want to be beaten by an old, fat man and he kicked too. I passed him and then he caught me up with less than 90 metres to go, I heard myself say ‘go on kid, you’ve got me’ and he kicked even harder but then I remembered – FUCK YOU, I’M ULTRABOY.

I kicked again and with the crowd cheering behind me, the screams of come on, with less than 25 metres to go I opened my stride, let my legs go and went into a thunderous after burning autopilot and I went straight last him with mere metres to spare – me beloved sunglasses flying off into the distance.

At the finish I was hyper ventilating, I could barely breathe but I had made it, well under 50 minutes and finishing in the top 20%. I’d take that any day of the week – perhaps this proved to me that all my recent speed and hill work was paying off, something to think about.

Anyway the race was far from over – I had a dad to look out for.

The hour came and went, the arse he’d been admiring came in with what I assumed was her mother given they looked so much alike. And when the 1hr 10 came round in the distance I could see his buff and his trundling self still merrily making his way round. He might not be so quick anymore but he can still do the distance and he doesn’t stop when it comes to a hill or when he’s tired and this is impressive.

He began the long journey around the track and I grabbed a couple of photographs and then shot across to the 200metre point to grab a couple more. Heading back he started to build up a bit of steam and so I ran across back to the finish line and watched as he gave a bit of spurt for the final push. Very inspiring to watch my dad beat both the hills and the heat just a week before he takes on the Liverpool Rock n Roll half marathon.

  
Post race we grabbed some Jaffa cakes and fig rolls and headed to the stands to sit down and admire the last of the runners come in and also to congratulate some of the ladies that my dad had been flirting with around the course.

In conclusion This was an awesome race, truly brilliant atmosphere and a really good route – I can highly recommend this run and the people at Nice Work and Medway Council should be very proud of putting on such a great day. At £16 the race was priced very competitively and the medal was reasonable if not brilliant. I can’t fault this race and I’ll be going back next year to try and beat my time.

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