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The Knacker Kracker

New year’s eve for us has looked certain way for us for a few years now. Gone are the big nights out and extortionate taxi fares home. Gone even, for the time being, are the house-parties, bodies crammed in sleeping bags on the living room floor the next day. Someone getting a guitar out at 2.30am, a punch bowl, half empty, teetering dangerously on the sideboard above someone’s head, unidentifiable new stains on the living room carpet...just now our New Years eves often see one, or both of us in bed before midnight, champagne unopened in the fridge, Jools Holland unwatched. 

New Year’s Day, on the other hand, is a popular day now. We are nearly always up earlier then we’d like, we normally have visitors, family or close friends, and we nearly always do a sort of Christmas Day part 2, without the stress or the presents or the massive amounts of turkey.  

This year (2019) my husband had found an event to do. He calls them races, I don’t, I call them events. I don’t really care who wins, I am always very impressed by the speed of the winner but I don’t think these events are all about winning. 

He asks if I want to join him on what is billed as ‘the toughest 10k in the UK.’ His folks are visiting so it would be possible. The problem is, he doesn’t realise it, but, having only recently started actually running, when he says ‘do you want to do it too?’ What he is actually saying is this; ‘do you want to spend New Year’s Day running further then you have ever run before, up and down some monster hills, and then cook a New Year’s Day dinner for 4 adults and 2 picky children without me to help with the children because I will have pushed myself to breaking point trying to win a race I can’t posdibly win?’

Ok, sounds negative, he probably won’t thank me for that. I really don’t mean it to be negative, I don’t generally have a problem with him doing these events, but we don’t always see them through the same eyes. He has paid for me to do my first event as my Christmas present, and I know he thinks it’s a brilliant present. Actually, it kinda is-I would have procrastinated over it left to my own devices and possibly never quite got round to it. However, actually doing it is another matter. I’m not him, even at my very fastest, even if I smash my PB and do myself proud, I will still look to the rest of the world like I’m shuffling along red-faced at the back, not putting in the kind of time that makes people say ‘wow-really?’ Like he does. I am bottom 30 not top 10. 

The only time it really bugs me, him doing these events, is when he books them back to back. One month this summer he had 4 events in the space of 5 weekends. It has the potential to take over our lives in this context, and he’s not even a professional athlete!

I quite like the events themselves, as a rule. They drag us all out early on a weekend, guarantee some fresh air, often somewhere we have never been before. There is usually a few bits to do, some advertising stands with freebies for the kids-balloons or balls or something. Usually it’s a law firm or some stuffy seaming sports toiletries brand. Sometimes the fire bragade have a truck there, or the police. One time there was the air ambulance, which landed and let the kids look inside. Sometimes they are in National Trust properties or similar so there’s stuff to look at or ducks to feed. There’s often a burger van and almost always a coffee stand, which keeps me happy. When I don’t like them is when it’s sub zero temperatures, or blowing a gale, or, like last summer, over 30 degrees centigrade and in the middle of a field with no shade. Once, we plonked ourselves on the picnic blanket in a field with a take away coffee and a sausage bap and a gazebo blew away and headed for us (I wasn’t sure how to move the children fast enough so opted for jump up & ‘catch’ said gazebo. It wasn’t the solution). Generally tho, I like these events, and it’s useful that The Husband is often one of the early finishers. 

So, New Years Day, 2019 and we are packing up the car(s) to get everyone to the relatively late 10am start of the ‘Knacker Kracker.’ Sounds delightful.  

About a week beforehand, The Husband has sent me an email about it ‘the first 2k everyone can do with me, it’s called the ‘Nipper Kracker’ he says. Oh how often we have heard the phrase ‘Nipper Kracker’ since. Every time it gets mentioned, The Girl’s face lights up in delight!  

So, there we were, freezing cold on the top  of a hill in Surrey, with lots of other people with ‘fancy dress’ loosely attached to their running shorts, looking over some of the best views in the south east, ready to run down a hill and back up again. The Girl’s first  ‘proper’ run. She had got up and dressed into her ‘running clothes’ in some sort of record time, and was sandwiched between The Husband and I, while The Boy waited, oblivious, with his grandparents. We loitered at the back, anxious not to hold up any of the front runners, and found ourselves with Elmo and his dog, a lady (to her credit) with a buggy and two very small unicorns. 

We set off. 

What weather we had been treated too, cold and crisp, and what a view as a result. The Mole Vally spread out before us, purpleish in the haze, with scores of random cartoon characters, most of Star Wars and a bunch of pirates pouring down and back up the first slope. 

Someone had brought their bagpipes and was playing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at the brow of the hill, and the sound followed us down and back up the hill. Very festive, but it’s punctuated by a whingeing 4-year-old. She has just worked out that she has to run back up the hill she just ran down and is not impressed. She complains that her legs hurt and she is too hot-although not as hot as the little furry unicorns I bet! 

Meanwhile I am lagging behind, trying to get some good pictures, and worrying about where we leave the race-I can’t handle 10k of that whinge. Eveuntally I tell The Husband to go ahead of us, I know he will want to make progress through the field now that we have held him up. We are shepherded in what some of the marshals think is the right direction, and others think is the wrong direction. When the start/finish comes into sight, The Girl runs like I have never seen her run before. No longer on a hill and on the edge of some sort of moat she powers towards the finish line to the surprise of the volunteers who are fixing up the finish line for the actual runners in 40 mins or so time, she runs straight through the line, euphoric that she has finished, at a speed I am genuinely struggling to keep up with. She is 3. Turns out we had been sent in the wrong direction, and while we, and the fluffy unicorns, crossed the finish line, The Girl’s grandparents are facing the other way, having been told we were coming from another direction and having seen The Husband come past, they missed the whole thing! 

Still, The Girl didn’t mind, she has won a carrot (randomly) and has managed to get a cup of water ment for the runners which she is very pleased with (I am not allowed to drink from it!) She is thrilled to see Daddy when we all wondered round to a viewing point on the course and excited to see him finish. She ate flapjack and drank a babychino which I made the mother-in-law order (she didn’t actually believe a ‘babychino’ was a real thing so this caused much confusion.) The Boy, meanwhile toddled about and entertained spectators with his happy little trot.

The end of the event saw The Husband receive a sports t-shirt with the name of all the competitors on, a medal which The Girl wears proudly, a cup of soup and a cheese roll and a branded mug as well as his sup of water (The Girl is very pleased her small disposable cup matched Daddy’s. I am still not allowed to touch it despite doing as much as she did on the course). Daddy has taken 1h 16 mins to run the whole thing, the first 2k was at the back with us so it was slow. The overall winner took 50 mins. The girl & I took 19mins and 50 seconds to do 2.1k, (& 100meters of elevation).

It took the rest of the day to get everyone  showered and fed, and the dog walked, but we survived, and The Girl keeps telling is that she has to do a run without mummy and daddy now, because she is so good at running...

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