Gunpowder Plod 5K York November 2012

Nov 06, 12 Gunpowder Plod 5K York November 2012

Yesterday lunchtime I almost gave up my place for this inaugural 5k race.  I’ve had a virus for several weeks and not been running and every time I go out in the cold I start coughing.  I sat back and thought about it quite a lot and decided that it wasn’t on my chest, it was only 5k and there would be fireworks so I may as well give it a shot.  After all, 5k seems to be my comfort zone mileage these days round the village so it couldn’t do any harm to give it a go.

What I failed to take into account is the location. The Knavesmire at York.  With the exception of Brass Monkey and parkrun every run I have ever done at the Knavesmire has been a disappointment.  For a start I am not a fan of any circuit that involves you repeating an area you’ve already run and despite the size of the Knavesmire this often ends up happening.  Couple that with appalling York traffic and you have a recipe for something that isn’t going to go on the list of best things you ever did.

Quite what posessed me to enter a race on the Knavesmire on a school night passes me by right now.  It must have been the promise of the firework display at the end.  For a start it’s the most expensive 5k I have ever entered at £20 (and that was supposedly early bird pricing) and then had to pay extra for my husband and daughter to go watch the fireworks and the run as well.  So what did I get for my £20?

  • A technical t-shirt saying Gunpowder Plod worth £20 yet being sold to every one who wasn’t running for a mere £5 from the Rat Race shop tent
  • A sparkler – but nothing to light it with
  • A medal – not  a bad medal but I did have to queue for 20 minutes to get it after finishing
  • A Snickers
  • A bottle of water
  • A parking pass worth £10 (we were actually directed to park on the street!)
  • My photo taken with Guy Fawkes (no idea how that was supposed to work but it certainly never happened, he was probably off having another sneaky fag somewhere trying to keep warm)

At the time of writing I can’t even tell you my race time, I honestly have no idea how long it took.  I do know that the race started 50 minutes late due to late arrivals.

They were quoting a figure of 1500 runners.  We all had to register on the night (for £20 I do think they could have posted my race number in advance) in the dark.  The tent had no lighting in it, and it was so dark you could barely read the instructions, apparently you had to sign a disclaimer (too dark for me to read what I was signing), find your race number on a board in the dark and then go in a dark tent to be given your race number, chip and tshirt.

Wading through the bog that was the Knavesmire I managed to find my favourite local coffee van, Poppy Coffee, and had what was to be my only hot drink of the night.  With a sold out attendance of 10,000 there were barely enough catering facilities to cope, I heard tell of queues of an hour to get food at one point.

The free kids castle and trampoline bungee were in the boggiest corner of the field, I nearly had my trainer sucked off my foot at one point as it was too dark to see quite how boggy the field was in places.  Again, the sheer volume of people attending meant long queues for these as well.

The front of the stage area where the race briefing was to take place was thankfully slightly less boggy but with a start delayed by 50 minutes it was getting cold despite the THREE warm ups they asked us to do as yet another delay was announced.  Of course most of this 50 minutes consisted of me coughing like a 20 a day smoker and a constantly streaming nose! I suspect I was giving Rudolph a good run for his money by this point.

Finally the race was to start so there we were, 1500 runners being led across the Knavesmire over a little bridge in the dark and as far away from our family and friends as you could get.  I suspect we were stood at the start for at least 15 minutes waiting for the line of runners to finally cross the Knavesmire to the start point.  With no streaming many of the fast runners ended up at the back of the field and as we only had a narrow concrete path to run on this made for some pretty unpleasant running.  The race started with more of a whimper than a bang, it was only the fact the people in front started moving forward that convinced me the race was under way.

My head torch was worse than useless so I quickly decided it would be better off in my pocket and tried to stay close to runners who had the proper equipment.  I set off at a comfortable pace for me but frequently found my way blocked either by someone slower, someone walking or being cut off by a faster runner trying to find a gap to move into in front of me.  As they’d warned the course was mostly unlit, no warning of where the path stopped being path and became muddy bog until the runner in front of you veered too far off and fell over as a result.

The first time through the finish was awkward as we were being told to keep to the left in a finish that was already narrowing the path and I was lucky to avoid a twisted ankle at this part.

The promised pyrotechnics around the course were a few flashes as we set off and the odd fire thing at various markers with some canned haunted house music that didn’t seem to fit at one marker.

The whole time we were on the course there was an amazing fireworks display going off in the background but it wasn’t ours, it was somewhere over the rest of York.

Finally the finish post loomed in the darkness with a small number of fire torches either side of it to guide you in.  I bloody sprinted that finish and was so chuffed with myself, not only that I’d done the run, but at the speed of my finish.  The euphoria was short lived.  The finish was a bit wishy washy if I’m honest with someone shouting at you to take your chips off your shoes and drop them in a bucket.  We then had to cross the bridge back over the racecourse and queue for 20 minutes to get through the tent where we received our medal and snickers to finally get through to try and find our friends and family somewhere on the other side in the crowd of 10,000.

When I finally got to my family I was disappointed to find they hadn’t even known when the race started nor been able to see us running.  That could be something to do with the entire race being in a field at the side of everything else that was going on and being in the dark.

By this point I’d started to really feel the cold, but at least I’d warmed up whilst running. Yet, there were still no fireworks.  After yet another announcement of a delay the crowd actually started booing! Who can blame them. It was a freezing cold night in a boggy field, there were lots of children present, it was a school night and the fireworks were over an hour late starting.   I’d like to say the fireworks made up for it all.  They were okay but they weren’t wow, and frankly after being in a cold muddy field for four hours I needed wow!

The bonfire had been lit at 6pm but was so small it probably burned out before most people managed to get to the Knavesmire and certainly couldn’t be seen whilst we were running.

So I have no idea how long it took as despite timing chips there was no clock at the finish, the results haven’t appeared on the website yet and as no one knew what time we actually finally started they weren’t able to guess my time.

Would I do it again? No.  All the buzz and euphoria of getting back out there and running again, and feeling like I’d run well was ruined by everything around the race, not least the farce that was trying to get home after the event.  Next time someone asks me if I’d like to go for a run that involves the Knavesmire I think I’ll run in the opposite direction, and as for fireworks, I’ll go to the pub in the Village.  I’m sure we’ll enjoy the whole experience a lot more and spend a lot less in the process.

It was a valiant first effort by the organisers Rat Race but so much went wrong that it spoiled my evening.


  1. Poor you, that’s a really bad delay, but well done for hanging around and finishing! I must say the thought of running in the dark did put me off entering. Hopefully Rat Race will have learned lessons for next time – if there is one!
    Angela Shepherd recently posted..Soup Glorious Soup!My Profile

  2. Dee Uzoka
    Twitter: TheChicGeekBiz

    Oh Helen. That’s not a good experience at all. Please share all of this with the race organisers as they need to know that the race fell short of expectations.

    As you said this was the inaugural race, so hopefully, the next race will be better. Provided that is, the race organisers take all the feedback on board and work on it to make improvements.

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