The Saltwood Boxing Day Run has become something of a tradition for me on my annual Christmas return to Kent. The course, which was probably a touch over 5k this year, is classic cross country: fields, gates, hills, slop, stiles, and grazing farm animals. Race management has always been a bit hatstand, but that has done nothing but add to the general appeal of the event, in my opinion, especially when you consider that they've traditionally kept the cost of racing to a fiver ($8).
That all changed a bit this year. Gone are the self-plasticized bibs, comedic timing methods, and start/finish mayhem on the village green, and in are standard race bibs, chip timing, a 100% price increase, and a new start and finish on the field just outside the village. The course is essentially the same with a quarter mile tack-on at the start.
While the event management is greatly improved and now quite professional, I can't help but feel that the vastly improved organizational methods have taken something special from a very unique race. Ah well.
Ever since first competing in the race five years ago, it has been an ambition to get on the podium, and milling around at the start not recognizing too many fast-looking chaps, I was feeling like this might be the year. However, this would be my first run since the Lake District, and my toes on both feet were still numb and swollen, but there was now enough bend to them almost a week later that after a couple miles of warm up, I felt like I could force the issue for at least three miles without doing too much additional damage.
frenetic off the start. Despite taking a few heel clips I was able to stay upright and then assume a position in eighth or ninth through the first quarter mile. Once the start loop was out of the way, things settled down a bit. It looked like Michael Coleman, multiple-time winner and I am told UK cross country runner, was off the front so there was no chance of the win, but the rest of the guys in front appeared to either be in my pace range or hopelessly optimistic about the pace they could hold for the duration.
By the small footbridge at the end of the big first field, I think I was in fourth. After hurdling the fence and working the short hill to the stile, I think I was still there having passed one and been passed by another. Over the stile, up the rest of the hill and by the time we'd cleared a herd of charging and terrified sheep, I was pulling back around the guy who had gone past me on the steeper section of the hill and then finally the guy in second, with Coleman almost out of sight ahead.
The guys behind gave chase for a while, but by the time I was in the woods and charging down the hill, I had a gap that looked like it would stick. My feet behaved surprisingly well, while my quads were barking by about two miles. Clearly there is still some recovery needed before I'm ready to race Bandera in a couple of weeks.
Another BDR in the books. One of these years, I'm going to win this race.