Wombles and Christmas puddings: the ignominy of being beaten by a fancy dress runner


‘You do know…’ my mother whispered into my ear, moments after I had finished the race ‘…that you were beaten by a Christmas pudding?’ Yes, dear mother, I was well aware of that fact. Thank you for pointing it out. I had been aware of the Christmas pudding the moment he accelerated away from me in the first 400 metres of the race. He’ll come back. Inevitable fancy dress-inspired exuberance. After three miles, he was out of sight – forward, not rear – and I had to accept the reality of the situation: I was about to be gubbed my a man dressed as a Christmas pudding. It reminded me of my first marathon in 2000 when I was overtaken by a Womble.

I was ill. That was my excuse. This was Sunday and I had not run since Tuesday when my lungs felt like they were catching fire during 200-metre repetitions. The event was the Rudolf’s Red Nose Race in Blackpool, five miles of sodden paths in and around the city’s Stanley Park. The effort of running fast felt a little too much and, after three miles, far too much. I slowed. After running in 4th since the start, I was suddenly 6th and straining against a west wind.

I mustered a sprint finish, regaining 5th, my only remaining motivation to breach the psychological 30-minute barrier. I did – just. The time was 29.50. The goody bag was a can of lager and a bottle of white wine. Unwell or not, it was a peculiar end to my running year – the year of the Fellsman, the year of the Bob Graham, the year of 10k and 5k PBs – and yet also a second-ran to a Christmas pudding.

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