When I decided to have a break from middle distance track racing to take on some new challenges and races with a difference I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to do such a variety of events but it seems wherever I look at the moment another crazy challenge pops up and this race was certainly one of those.
Last weekend I was competing in a 24 hour race, 6 days later I was racing over a mile carrying a 20kg sack of potatoes!
Billed as ‘the only race of it’s kind’ the ‘famous’ Flitton potato race has a great history. According to the tradition, it was held at the end of the potato season providing an opportunity for the farmhands to earn some extra cash. The runners would lift a sack off the church wall in Flitton and run a mile to the farm at the other end of Greenfield. The jury is out whether this was held before the First World War, but more definitely the race was run between the wars, and equally unknown is the reason why it did not continue after the Second World War. It was revived in the late 1970’s but again went into suspended animation, apart from a one-off in 2004, until 2010 when it was revived in its current form.
Some of my Parklands Tough Running club mates have been training with sandbags for a while now and I’ve joined them on a couple of occasions so when they heard about this race they jumped at the chance for put their hard work into practice. I had a look on the event website and was pleasantly surprised to see their was some substantial prize cash on offer and the times from previous years were very strong some I would have some good competition.
A couple of weeks beforehand I did a solo 1 mile time trial carrying my 20kg sandbag to see if I was in with a genuine chance of competing for the money. I knew I’d need to get close to the 6 minute mark so was happy with a 5.51 clocking.
The day came around and we all met up at the Flitton village hall for registration before walking half a mile to the start point in Greenfield where a lorry containing hundreds of potato sacks awaited. I picked my sack off and immediately slung it over my shoulders to test it out. It sat pretty well with the potatoes acting as moulds around the back of my neck and shoulder blades.
A couple of short strides for further testers and I was on the start line ready for the horn to be blown to set us off.
The weather was ideal, no wind and the sun was shining. The course was perfect for a fast time, a flat road stretching from start to finish with no bends or turns.
I set off positioning myself just behind the leading two and it wasn’t long before the three of us were clear of the rest of the field. This was a bonus as their was prize money on offer for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. I could sense it was a decent pace but I was feeling relaxed.
One runner slightly fell off the pace as I moved along side the leader applying a little pressure. He tried hard to keep his lead but I covered every little kick he made. We approached the village hall with marked the half way point. From here until the finish both sides of the street were lined with spectators. A lot if people were cheering for the other runner (I found out later that he was a past winner and the current course record holder).
I was still feeling comfortable so made a decision that I would kick for home from the three quarter mile point. I made my move and quickly opened up a gap. I continued to push on as my lead grew. The finish was in sight but the heavy sack bouncing around on my back was making it difficult to know how far ahead I was. I was unable to look over my shoulder so had no choice but to keep working hard all the way through. I crossed the finish line, looking behind to see I had produced enough of an effort to win by a significant margin.
I later found out my time was 5 minutes 30 seconds meaning I’d won by a clear 13 seconds and broke the course record by 11 seconds. I was really pleased not only to have won but that my legs had recovered well and coped with the chance in speeds.
The main race was followed by a relay event and then some children’s races where my day was topped off by my daughter finishing 4th overall and 1st girl.
All the runners and what seemed like the entire village then congregated in the garden of the local pub right by the finish where there was a hog roast, BBQ, beer tent, ice cream van, bouncy castle and a fair ride which all made for a lovely afternoon in what was a really friendly atmosphere.
As well as the rather unique finishers medal at the proceeding presentation I went up with my little girl to receive another winners medal in a box, a trophy and the £200 prize cash as my wife and baby son applauded to make it a perfect Father’s Day.