What is the Turpin Challenge? Well, it’s whatever you want it to be really. You have up to 6 hours to run as many laps as your heart, legs or training plan desire around a 4.3 mile course. The name comes from the story that infamous highwayman Dick Turpin was hanged on the course. Ghoulish execution facts aside I was excited about the Turpin Challenge:
- It was the first ever time it had been run so that’s quite special (I was the 2nd person to sign up for it – that’s how excited I was!).
- It looked to be quite social.
- It was pretty much a perfect last long run before the Yorkshire Marathon.
So, how did it go?
First up let’s talk bias. I am biased. I’m sorry, I can’t help it. You see the Turpin is the brainchild of See York Run York (SYRY) and I’m a bit of a fangirl of one of the organizers, Joni. There. I’m not embarrassed to say it although I know she’ll be shockingly embarrassed to read it. Sorry luv. Got to be truthful in this review, right? Journalistic integrity* an’ all that.
On to the review…
Registration was inside a clubhouse which was great. It was a bit nippy out so being able to collect race numbers and then wait in comfort was much appreciated. This also meant…pause for effect… flushing toilets! Oh fellow race goers we all know the essential yuckiness of the portaloo – grimacing together in nervous pre-race queues. Imagine the luxury of an indoor flushing convenience! Tempting isn’t it? Us runners love a bit of loo chat but I promise I’m nearly done. Queues were fine, but, (and there had to be a but/butt in talking toilets) but, should the number of participants increase then there could be issues. Right enough of that.
Another benefit of the clubhouse registration was it made for a really pleasant meeting point. I’m not social, running is pretty much the only social thing that I do. Think about it: if the conversation is awkward then one of you can literally just run away! How perfect is that? Anyway, as such it was nice to be able to seek out some people, gather around a table and fidget with our bits (gels, water ‘n’ that – what else?!). A lot of participants, myself included, were from the online Facebook community Run Mummy Run (RMR). RMR is a very diverse community and despite the name is not limited to mums, however, it is female only – sorry Dicky T. RMR is about inclusivity, encouragement and support – which is exactly how SYRY run things. There was a mixed field of runners, from people doing one lap to the ultra runners. A lap was 4.37miles. There were the ‘mostly-walking-with-some-running’ folks, the whippets and everything in between (personally I went for running, got tired and then ran/walked). What I can wholeheartedly say is that the field of runners were friendly. SYRY races attract a friendly crowd because the organisers make their events very obviously for all. With being a small family outfit I know that they work hard to try and include everyone by answering any queries, trying to meet needs to make it work. They love running and want as many folk as possible getting in on the action in whatever way works for that individual. That is very obvious when you speak to them.
Race briefing was good. Spot on. No faff. York Dungeons had agreed to support the event so sent Dick Turpin along to wave us off. It was an opportunity for posing not to be missed! Personally I thought the theme with Dick was a nice touch and may be something which will grow in future years. I really wanted to steal his hat but resisted. I’m getting sensible in my older age!
The setup at the race start was perfect for me. There was a tent for our bags. I carry a ludicrous amount of stuff. Don’t judge. I have my reasons. Each lap would involve running right past the tent so I could leave things in there knowing that I could easily get to them.
And we were off!
Right, the course. The race took place on the Knavesmire in York. It’s an area that I know well. I’ve run there loads. At first I thought this was a good thing but, I’ll admit, in the later laps I found myself dreading certain parts. The race is advertised as a trail race and it does cover varied ground. There is a small stone path, tarmacked path, reasonably flat grass and more bumpy grassy bits winding through the trees.
The conditions underfoot were very good. Had it been wet it would have been slippy in the wooded area but hey, it’s a trail race. In saying that it’s a city trail so if you’re hoping for a quick loo stop in the trees then I would really advise against it – you’ll likely end up on the smartphones of a passing busload, or perhaps a dog may come and investigate. This is not a deserted area, in fact the Knavesmire can be pretty busy. On race day there was a campsite which had forced a last-minute route change on to the SYRY team (you couldn’t tell that they’d had to sort out a problem). There was also a beer festival happening, which didn’t interfere with us at all except perhaps to make me wonder why I was running around the Knavesmire when there was a tent full of beer right there! Add in various dog walkers, kite flyers, bike riders and you can appreciate that this is city trail.
Here’s the weird bit though, I’m saying all this about how busy the ‘mire can be but, at the same time, the run did feel lonely. What?! How come? Well, the other users went about their business whilst we went about ours. There were 122 Turpin participants and, with laps of over 4 miles, a mixed field and many people finishing after 1-3 laps, I found myself quite on my own particularly for my later laps. In the earlier laps I found people were friendly, saying hello, asking how many laps. There was a really good vibe amongst participants but as it quietened down I did spend a lot of time out there on my own. This may well have added to camaraderie because whenever a faster runner passed me they would say well done or ask how I was doing. However, I did find it quite mentally challenging. It was nice whenever I ended up running near to someone, it felt like more of an event. At times it felt quite bleak. Maybe that was my frame of mind. It was to be my longest ever run and I’d been out of action with a cold so I was feeling a bit daunted about the task which lay before me. My laps went like this:
Lap 1: Run with a friend, chatting, saying hello to others. Legs stiff causing suitable pinch of ‘how will I ever do this?
Lap 2: Still with friend, feeling better. Here’s a picture!
Lap 3: Alone (friend had to nip to loo which meant leaving the course and visiting the clubhouse). I was running with music so settled into my stride and then I started to notice how much my bag was chafing. As I came to the end of lap 3 I had to stop, take my bag off and apply some KT tape. I’d started to feel a bit sorry for myself.
Lap 4: I worked hard on the whole positive mindset here. I was cold, felt like I wanted to vom and couldn’t quite see properly. Not ideal. I passed Joni at the fuel stop and she offered to run with me for a bit but I declined because, honestly, I wanted to be able to walk perhaps more than I should. Eek! Shame!
Lap 5: Yes! Yes! The final lap but why was it so piggin’ hard?! In my head I had imagined jogging around the final lap carried by the winds of my own smugness. It didn’t happen however I did, err, pause briefly to take the course pictures I’ve included here. Admittedly I looked like I’d lost my mind when I stopped just before the finish to photo the massive clock. You’re welcome!
There were two fuel stops on the course. The first at the start and the second a couple of miles in. Both stations were laden with everything a runner could possibly want. I carried my own stuff but I did stop at the station a couple of miles before the end of my run for a cup of water with some added encouragement from Jon the marshal there. Just having those few words with someone really helped break my ‘oh my god this is hell’ mindset. Thank you Jon!
Actually thank you to all the marshals. Signing up to marshal a 6 hour event where you’ll be stood outside in the cold largely on your own is pretty awesome and really appreciated.
When I did finally cross the finish I was a bit of a broken woman. That had been tough, tougher than expected. I felt very nauseous and dizzy. I was, of course, welcomed over the line with plenty of cheers from the SYRY crew. There was a pretty neat (and substantial!) medal handed to me along with a lovely goody bag. Everyone gets the same medal regardless of distance. I kind of like that – the challenge is personal; for some getting around 4.3 miles is a massive achievement, for others it might have been their first ultra-distance. It doesn’t really matter does it? Challenge is personal and that is very much the vibe with SYRY – come along, have fun, get some cake (and run too, there has to be some running!) The goody bag was great. I actually think with the smaller races you do tend to get better goody bags (Great North Run 2017 I’m looking at you – a packet of dried pasta to cook?! Are you kidding me?!) For completing the Turpin I was awarded some chocolate, a flyer for discounted entry into the York Dungeons, a small black plastic thing from the Dungeons (I’ve no idea what that was), and a flyer offering a runner specialized osteopathic treatment which, by the way, I am totally taking up – did I mention I am broken? B-r-o-k-e-n!
See York Run York events are widely known for supplying some pretty tremendous cakes at the end. There is always a great selection including a vegan friendly choice.
Seeing as I felt like chucking up I didn’t get into the cake but instead took a vegan pink cupcake home for later and, let me tell you now, it was bloody marvellous. I wasn’t asked to pay or donate any money for the cake but I would have liked the option. The work that goes into these events is evident in faultless organization, understanding runners’ needs, baking and a sprinkling of fun on top.
Oh God I’ve got so distracted by the cake I forgot to mention that the event was chip timed. There: the event was chip timed and I’ve already mentioned the giant clock. All good.
Value for money 5/5
Course 3/5 (lonely out there)
Overall experience 4/5
So, what can I say? I am a Turpinator and I’ll be back. Probably. (Did I mention that I was b-r-o-k-e-n?!). We didn’t need Dick Turpin to make the See York Run York Team stand and deliver because they always do.
*I’m not a journalist. I have a laptop and WiFi. End of.
If you’re interested in entering a See York Run York event then check them out on RaceBest: