The Weston Christmas Cracker took place on an extremely windy Sunday morning on 8th December.
The Weston Christmas Cracker was recommended to me last year as a fun race with a great atmosphere. At the time, I had just started running and was not yet ready for a 10K race. Besides, the race is very popular and was already fully booked. But I had my eye on the race for this year, and made sure to secure places for me and my daughter as soon as entries opened.
The race takes place from the beach at Weston-Super-Mare, a North Somerset seaside town, about a 40 minute drive from home. There was no parking at the race headquarters, so we parked in a multi-story car park (which was actually closer to the start of the race than the headquarters) and went straight to the race start.
People were gathering at the front of Weston pier, huddling in groups like penguins. When I entered the race at the beginning of July I wasn’t thinking much about running in the winter. Back then, I was struggling with running in warm weather. If I thought about December running at all, I would have envisioned crisp cold mornings, and imagined the joy of running without feeling like a volcano about to erupt. What I didn’t imagine, I am sure, is the fierce, biting cold wind blowing in off the sea. After a few minutes (we’d timed things to avoid too much hanging around) we heard the direction to go down to the beach to the start line.
The start line was under the pier. Around two thousand entrants gathered behind the start and waited eagerly to get moving and warmed up. Some people trotted up and down alongside the line of runners, while the rest of us jumped and ran on the spot to try and keep warm. From up on the pier, the sound of a race briefing was carried away by the howling wind. I could not make out a single word. Just was well that the race was well supported by literally hundreds of marshals. I have never seen so many marshals on a 10K course before.
Eventually, we began moving. The course took us along the beach on wet, firm sand, and straight into the wind. I quickly lost site of my daughter in the crowd of runners. A turn off the beach brought us back along the promenade with wind at our backs, which was delightful and felt like flying. Then back onto the beach, to the far side of the pier and beyond, As we turned at the end of the beach a marshal shouted out encouraging comments – and I soon saw why. In that corner of the beach the wind seemed to reach its peak of strength as it gusted around the end of the bay. I felt my face being blown sideways and my cheeks wobbling uncontrollably. Snot and spit blew away in involuntary streams. My Santa hat blew off. As my feet left the ground my legs blew sideways and I struggled to control them. People bumped into me. I bumped into other runners. What a way to spend a Sunday morning.
As we travelled up the beach, the wind eased slightly from this peak, but remained fierce. It was hard work. We passed the point at which we had previously left the beach, and kept going. The beach went on and on. I passed the water station without picking water up. I was focusing too much on breathing to worry about drinking (I also had my own water with me). As I passed the water station I was covered with a fine mist of other people’s water being blown from their cups.
Eventually, we left the beach to run through a residential area. Suddenly there was no wind, and I was too hot. The roads were largely open here, but the sheer volume of runners, and marshals, made it feel quite safe. I tried to pick my pace up a bit, and enjoyed the relief from the wind. But of course, the race would be finishing on the beach, so we inevitably found ourselves turning back towards the sea front. The course went along the promenade for a while, again with the wind at our backs, and then on to the sand for the final stretch. I found the last KM or so hard going (even with the wind behind me). I could see the pier, which I assumed to be the finish line. But it didn’t seem to be getting any closer. Running on sand began to feel like running through treacle. It went on and on. Until I eventually got there.
As I ran through the finish funnel, I spotted my daughter already finished, and went for water. My daughter had finished a few minutes before me. I was relieved that I hadn’t kept her waiting around in the cold for too long. We agreed that the race had been crazy windy, a really good workout, but good fun. I was also surprised to see I had my second fastest 10K time.
I looked around for medals, and realised that everyone was walking towards the race headquarters. We joined them, and joined on the end of a very long queue. This was really the only negative part of the experience. We queued for around half an hour in the cold wind for our medals and t shirts. We had extra layers of clothing, but soon got chilled after the warmth of running. Runners in festive fancy dress could be seen to be visibly shivering. When we got to the area (outside the headquarter) where t shirts, mince pies and medals were being distributed, there seemed to be lots of space and people just not moving forwards. The t shirt and medal were both very nice, but I’m sure they could have been distributed without causing so much discomfort. There was a post race party going on in the headquarters, and we’d also talked about having takeaway chips for lunch, but after getting so cold we decided to go straight home for sizzling hot showers.
On the whole, I loved the race. The wind made it very challenging, but it was also fun. The atmosphere was fabulous, and there were lots of people running in fancy dress. The race itself was well organised and well supported (just not the bit at the end). And there were free photos too. This is definitely one for my race diary next year.