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19 Aug 2020

MATTHEW NORTHOVER experiences the excitement of the first race in the new order…

The day had finally arrived with all the anticipation and excitement of Christmas — and even some nerves thrown into the mix: a real race and not some contrived virtual nonsense. A race with actual people! Having read the race guidelines with some intrigue I felt confident of a successful event. Arriving at the car park for the University of Kent 10k I was greeted by a marshal wearing a facemask doing his best to give instructions, smile, and keep his mask in the appropriate position all at the same time.  Nothing was being overlooked.

In previous years the distribution of race numbers had been done inside the pavilion; in the new world this is arranged outside on tables. The only big change is that you now need to provide ID; for this a photo of your driving licence on your phone is acceptable.

Right on cue the quartet of Emma, Gemma, Sian, and Lidia arrived bursting with excitement. Having already parked at Emma’s they had run half the course as a warm up — as you do!

The now mandatory group photo was taken (see previous article below) and we readied ourselves for the off. On your race number was also a group number from 1 to 6, as the field was divided up according to predicted finish times. At exactly 10:00 Barry Hopkins called the first group. This was to be a rolling start, and without any need for reminders all maintained social distance… and they were off! The remaining groups departed at two minute intervals thereafter.

The organizers had little choice but to amend the course, incorporating a lap of the university before heading out on the Crab and Winkle Way. At one stage there was a no overtaking section. Rumours were rife post-race that one of the quartet struggled with this concept, such was her enthusiasm… (blonde hair!)

With the staggered start, at no time did the race feel uncomfortable or crowded, and the absence of a water station was probably not such a problem for club runners over a 10km distance. Someone new to the distance or perhaps still building their fitness might have been uncomfortable; likewise there was no water provided at the finish line, for sanitary reasons. Medals were given out in advance (yes, you read that right), together with your race number. After the race, competitors dispersed more quickly than usual, partly perhaps to rehydrate at their cars.

Overall, Barry put on an excellent event: nothing is perfect but I believe the races will evolve and with small compromises we can all enjoy racing together again.