Why Sheffield’s Percy Pud 10k run will be the best ever in 2019

Ten kilometres, 3,200 runners… and an even greater number of Christmas puddings.

By Richard Blackledge
Saturday, 30th November 2019, 8:00 am

These are the vital statistics for Sheffield's Percy Pud race which returns this Sunday for its 27th edition – and, says director Richard Dunk, it is expected to be the event’s finest outing yet.

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“We’re not only confident it’s the best field we’ve ever assembled, we’re confident it’s the best field ever assembled in South Yorkshire full stop,” he says, once again juggling his duties with a busy day job as one of only two officers responsible for checking the county’s fire hydrants are in full working order.

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The Percy Pud 10k in 2018. Picture: Scott Merrylees

The list of participants is indeed just as impressive as the route, which tours the picturesque Loxley Valley on the outskirts of the city. Olympic athlete Eilish McColgan will be competing, as will Andy Heyes, who also hopes to compete at the Games in Tokyo next year – and anyone who smashes the course records of 29.13 for men and 32.23 for women will receive £1,000.

“Nobody else nearby gives away as much as we do,” says Richard. “All of the winners get a trophy and a bottle of champagne. We’ve got 64 categories.”

Plus there are the hundreds who don fancy dress to run for charity, and those who simply relish the challenge of reaching the finishing line. They, like everyone else involved, receive a Christmas pudding and a customised beanie hat for their efforts.

Organised by the Steel City Striders club, the event has steadily grown in popularity since it began in 1993. This year every place was snapped up within just five minutes of the online booking system going live.

The Percy Pud 10k in 2018. Picture: Scott Merrylees

“We try and add to it each year, and we try to change little bits to improve it,” says Richard. “We’re always discussing it a year in advance. Next year’s gift is going to be a cotton T-shirt.”

Putting the race together is a ‘massive’ undertaking, he says.

“It’s my 18th year, I never envisaged doing it for that long. I only stepped in because nobody volunteered to carry it on. We start in May, getting the road licence – all of the local hospitals, the fire crews and bus operators have to agree to it.”

Then the route must be painstakingly measured.

The Percy Pud 10k in 2018. Picture: Scott Merrylees

“Somebody has to do it,” reasons Richard. “It’s to make sure it’s not been changed to make it faster.”

The field of 3,200 runners is the biggest number yet, but organisers would like to take on even more.

“It’s down to safety,” Richard says. “That’s the maximum we can allow, the course can’t take any more. The website had nearly 10,000 hits on the day booking opened. It’s a good, smooth run. Some races, no disrespect, have routes round fields and all sorts.”

This Sunday there will be added poignancy when a minute’s applause is held for Ken Chapman, a runner from Rotherham who had planned to take part but died last week aged 72.

The Percy Pud 10k in 2018. Picture: Scott Merrylees

Charities including St Luke’s Hospice, Weston Park Hospital and Sheffield Children’s Hospital are among the good causes that benefit from the Percy Pud.

“Last year we gave away £9,000,” Richard says.

The race, which starts at 9.30am, begins and finishes on Loxley Road with the tent, toilets and facilities opposite the Admiral Rodney pub. Parking is available on surrounding streets, with food and seasonal music provided after the run is over.

For many, organisers believe, the Percy Pud is a sign that Christmas is truly on the way.

“It’s terrific for people – it’s all countryside,” says Richard.