The birth of our Percy by Alan Barnett
A history of how our Percy Pud 10k race came about.
On a Wednesday night in the early spring of 1993 after another gruelling training run from The Pinegrove Country Club, the Striders gathered in the bar for a glass or two of muscular relaxant. Earlier that week the new Lord Mayor had proposed that clubs should put on special events during the year to celebrate what was the centenary of the Sheffield Lord Mayor. Julian Paul who was the company secretary of Hepworths Refractories suggested that we should organise a race and use their site in Loxley Valley as the HQ. After a few beers and Julian’s smooth talking I found myself as the race organiser assisted by Dave Beech along with John Kerr who would do the entries / timing & results
Is it feasible?
The facilities available were the discussed large canteen (prize presentation, cafe) and adjoining offices(changing), toilets and shower block. All in need of substantial cleaning and maintenance, fortunately power and cold water were still on. Large areas within the two factory sites could be used for car parking, if cleaned of debris, one of which would be the finish area.
With 10k races getting more popular, it was decided that would be the distance. Working back from what had to be the finish line I arrived at the start, which was the bus stop on the brow of the slight incline on Loxley Valley Road. From there along Loxley road over the dam wall to the end of New Road. Turning into the Plough pub car park and out the other side, running round the pub and back the same way. Past the start and turn down Rowell Lane, then turn right on the lane (which would need masses of potholes filling) to the finish in the brickwork yard. When I had the course measured I ran along side the course measurer on his measuring bike. When he got to the finish he said “Right! we”ll now do it in reverse to check it!” So I ended up doing 20k.
Looking at what was a very full race calendar, only one weekend stood out, that being the first Sunday in December, which worked nicely with what i had in mind for a Christmas themed race where all finishers would receive a Christmas pudding instead of the usual medal. It would be the first and Original Christmas Pudding race.
Fortunately Morrisons and Safeway declined my invitation to sponsor the race. I have been asked many times were the name came from. The first time being when Dave and I were interviewed by Julie Mills on the Radio Sheffield Breakfast Show, the day before the race. Believing that you need a catchy name and logo, I told her that the name is based on a pre war local runner named Percy, who after winning his first race on a Boxing Day attributed it to the fact that he had eaten a whole xmas pudding on Christmas day! After that he always ate a Christmas pud the day before a race, which invariably he always won!!!! The running pud cartoon logo idea came after seeing a TV ad of “Treat” sweets running.
Obtaining the Permit
The council said if the police didn’t object then it would be okay. The Bradfield local policeman Mick Haigh was brilliant in his support, organising enough special constables as required. No need for a road closure notice, I have the power to close the road for safety reasons and so it proved. A race permit was applied for and arrived two months later. Mick even got a lot of village residents involved to marshal around the dam.( Steel City Striders raised over £10k via future Hepworth Percy Pud sponsorship for the new Bradfield Village Hall, it is recorded on a plaque of sponsors in the new village hall).
Puds and Prizes
A&B Grapic Repro the company I worked for supplied all the local artist “John Rudkin” limited edition signed prints as prizes. The trophies were engraved Miners lamps with half size ones for age group winners. Over forty letters were sent out to local companies to raise as many Spot Prizes as possible. Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday & Sheffield Steelers all sent tickets, Midland Bank sent sweatshirts, T shirts and caps. With a Hundred T shirts from my contacts in the Advertising & T Shirt Print business, it all added up 200 spot prizes. 80% of the 600 entrants were club runners, so I ensured that every club represented had at least one spot prize winner, should help positive feedback. Our company Mini Metro delivery van had to make several journeys to Mathew Walker at Heanor for the puds as the entries grew.
Northend Print, a client of mine, supplied 8000 entry forms. These were posted out to every running club in South Yorkshire, North Derbyshire & Lincolnshire along with every sports shop I could find in yellow pages. They were pinned to every notice board in all the University Hall of residences, Sports Halls and clubs we could find. Every other week at races I ran my wife Sandra & daughter Laura handed out thousands of form to finishers. Johns postmans sack weighed heavy with entries as the closing date neared. John had to manually enter all the entrants details on the computer, then ably assisted by Laura his wife and their girls. They then filled the runners supplied stamped addressed envelopes with their race number and race details and posted them back to them.
Being a new race the concern was that entrants would have problems finding the course. So the race directions were compiled, which still go in todays race details. Forty A3 Percy Pud arrowed road directions signs were made from plywood and would be placed at the junctions shown on the directions. These were all made during September along with as many race warning signs.
Ian Shepherds Bochum Exchange group organised the cafe. The profits from the cafe went towards the costs of hosting the weekend, when our running friends from Langlaufgemeinschaft Opelaner e.v. Bochum Running Club visited. The City of Sheffield is twinned with Bochum in Germany. The cafe was run by Pat Atkins, because she had a the required catering certificate, ably supported by Pam Shepherd, Jean Gregory, Sue Bragger, Julie Anson, Sue Dye, Margaret Bendell, Sally Wakefield, Karen Wilkinson and many others. Some of the ladies went the day before and scrubbed the cafe clean. Ian recalls how they sold hot soup, hot dogs, sandwiches, warm mince pies, buns, teas, coffees and cordial.
Car Parking and Communication
The biggest challenge was how to park 300 to 400 cars on the site. The old Hepworth Social club with parking for 50 cars had been sold, but the owner was traced and let us use his site. A local farmers mini digger with a road sweeper attachment would be hired to sweep all the hard-standing of any debris. A plan was drawn up, which covered every possible corner and warehouse on both sites. Marshals would be strategically placed on site and at the top of and on Rowell Lane. They would divert cars to various parts of the site to avoid bottle necks. All this depended on the mobile radios which would be used to pass on these instructions. The Marshall at the Start, Dam Wall, The Plough Pub turn, Lead Clock Car and Mick Haigh in the police car all had radios and would pass messages along, as the radio signal in the valley was poor. 26 yrs later mobile phone signals are still poor
Daves team of marshals were gathered from Striders, friends and family, Bradfield residents and even the senior Stannington scout troop. Time keeping and the finishing funnels were well drilled and organised by Doug Thompson, Mick Derrick, & Stewart Hooton. Doug on the stopwatch recorded finishing times on sheets numbered 1-600 as they were called out to him. Mick & Stewart had 4 finishing funnels directing runners 25 to each funnel. Recorders at the end had sheets with finishing positions on ( funnel 1 had sheets )1-25 /100-125 / 200-225 upwards, ( funnel 2 ) 26 – 50 / 125 – 150 upwards. By the time funnel 4 was full funnel 1 was empty and was filled again. A team of Striders children acting as runners then took both sets of the completed sheets to John and Norma Parkes who married times and positions together, adding runners details off the computer to compile the results. This method continued until we went with chip timing in 2011
The Sheffield Star, Telegraph and Gazette, Derbyshire Times, Rotherham Advertiser an Barnsley Chronicle all ran articles and pictures of what was then a different themed race, both before and after the race. Julia Mills on Radio Sheffield interviewed me and Dave on the day before the race. But the icing on the cake had to be ITV Calendar camera crew filmed the race for its Monday show. Choosing the Percy Pud over the Leeds Abbey Dash, which that year was the British 10k Championship.
Two weeks to go: a gang of Striders with barrows and shovels filled all the potholes in on the finishing lane, much to the joy of the local farmer and residents. Instead of our usual Sunday run me and Alan Brook ran the course posting advisory warning notices in every house and car parked on the course. Handing them to the Sunday fishermen. Notices had earlier been posted at the Yacht and Rowing Club, fishing ponds, football pitches and Bradfield village billboards and church.
One Week to go: All the road warning signs were put up.
On the Friday me and Brooky put up all the road direction arrow signs, then down to the finish site where the factory foreman had offered to build a finish gantry out of pallets of furnace bricks. We then tied the gold & green Striders finish banner across the top and stuck large PP logos down the pallet side pillars, it looked the business! Taking delivery of 300 road cones and signs from the Corrillean motorway service depot near Mosborough ( they still supply them 25 yrs on) as Sheffield Highways wouldn’t supply them!! Finally collecting from the foreman the keys that would open the many security barriers, gates and doors
On Saturday the site was buzzing with Striders, scrubbing and sweeping cleaning the canteen and toilets, changing areas. Final checks for parking surfaces, taping and coning parking bays. Julian was in his van taking cones around the course, then collecting table and chairs from Bradfield village hall for the canteen.
With a 10:30 start marshals reported at 8:45am. I have a lasting memory of Dave Beech standing on a raised brick structure, as he addressed all the marshals around him ( like Moses addressing his followers ) Radios were assigned and marshals were at their spots for 9am. Then we waited and waited, very few cars arrived, possibly the super tram track laying roadworks at Hillsborough was causing delays. Then at 9:30 they came, nose to tail cars for 30 minutes solid. All the planning had been worth it, cars were diverted to all areas and down Rowell lane as the radio plan worked perfectly. Car parking at the Sheffield Arena would be child’s play to the Striders Car Park team.
At 10am runners started to gather in Storrs Bridge Lane, as they were held their until Mick gave the go ahead that Loxley road was closed. At 10:20 he gave the signal and runners jogged to the start, bang on time a 10:30 the gun went (yes we had a starting gun) and the race was on. The race went smoothly with Simon Garnett of Sheffield University winning from Hallamshires Paul Young in 2nd place. John Kerr was 1st Strider home in 7th place and 1st over 40 in 33:16, he ran straight from the finish to do the race results. A few others of the 77 Striders who ran were Round Sheffield Relay organiser John Crossland 35:36. With Club Archivist Roger Stevenson, Membership Secretary Stewart Robinson along with Daves wife Marie in what was the 1st of her 23 PP runs. By the time all the results were sorted the prize giving canteen was packed, at least double the numbers that I had seen at the London Marathon prize giving in April. The Bochum cafe was booming, I recall a Stainforth AC runner saying “This is Brilliant where else could you can get at a drink, sandwich & bun for a pound. Christmas music was played by a friends disco, Steeler Dan the Sheffield Steelers mascot entertained the children present, which all added to warm friendly atmosphere. So much so that it was over an hour and a half after the prize presentation had finished that the last runners left. Over 90% of the spot prizes had been claimed. Whilst all this was going on Julian was entertaining Mick and all the Special Constables to Sunday Lunch at the Plough. A move than ensured that Mick had no shortage of volunteers in the years to come. The afternoon was spent collecting and returning all the cones back to the site. By the time i’d finished collecting all the warning and direction signs it was early evening and a large whisky was called for!!
Just as now, when the race is ran the Race Director still needs to wind things up, Ensuring all companies that have sponsored or helped in any form receive their puds and a few bottles of wine as a token of appreciation. John spent the next few evenings compiling all the results and printing them out on 8 x A4 sheets. With 70 runners having filled in their addresses on envelopes & 50p into the results box, it required 560 copies!! By the Friday they all been posted out, along with one to British Athletics. So there it was the Striders one off contribution to the Lord Mayors Centenary celebration. That was until Mike Ingham who was then the club chairman called round the Sunday after the January committee meeting. “The committee have asked me to ask you if you would consider organising the Percy Pud again this year” asked Mike.
As the saying goes……..The Rest is History.