How Sheffield’s Percy Pud 10k grew from a simple idea down the pub into one of the area’s most popular races 

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The Percy Pud 10k regularly attracts thousands of runners – and this year's race will be no exception.

The organisers confidently bill it as 'South Yorkshire's most popular 10k' – and for good reason.

Percy Pud 10k race sets off in 1997.

Percy Pud 10k race sets off in 1997.

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Since attracting about 600 runners at the first ever Percy Pud in 1993, the event has grown year-on-year.

The 2018 version sold out in little over two hours and around 3000 runners are expected to take to the start line in Loxley on the morning of Sunday, December 2.

It is now a major event on the race calendar and is heralded for its promotion of health, fitness and the sheer joy of running.

Competitors during the Percy Pud in 1999.

Competitors during the Percy Pud in 1999.

But the idea for the event was conceived – of all places – in the pub by members of the Steel City Striders running club over a few beers.

Former race director Alan Barnett said: “On a Wednesday night in the early spring of 1993 after another gruelling training run from The Pinegrove Country Club, the Striders members gathered in the bar for a glass or two of 'muscular relaxant'.

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“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 lord mayor of Sheffield.

Runners during the 1997 race.

Runners during the 1997 race.

“After a few beers I found myself as the race organiser.”

They looked for a course and settled on the scenic area of Loxley, complete with stunning views over Damflask Reservoir.

The 73-year-old, of Rivelin Valley, added: “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.”

As the race calendar was already very full he devised a plan to have a Christmas-themed race in which each runner would get a Christmas pudding at the finish line instead of the traditional medal.

Last year's Percy Pud race gets underway. Picture: Marie Caley NSST Percy Pud MC 6

Last year's Percy Pud race gets underway. Picture: Marie Caley NSST Percy Pud MC 6

And so the Percy Pud was born – the name of which has puzzled runners for years.

Mr Barnett explained: “I have been asked many times where the name came from.

“The first time being when I was interviewed for the Radio Sheffield Breakfast Show, the day before the race.

“Believing that you need a catchy name and logo, I told (the presenter) 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 Christmas pudding on Christmas Day!

“After that he always ate a Christmas pudding the day before a race, which invariably he always won.”

After a stint as race director fellow club member Richard Dunk agreed to take the reins.

Over the last 17 years, he has seen it grow and grow.

While the event is universally popular, it comes at a price.

Mr Dunk told how it takes several months to plan the event each year – a huge task which he has to fit around his busy day job working for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and home life as a father-of-three.

The 49-year-old, of Millhouses, said: “The organising of it actually starts in April so it takes the best part of a year.

“You have to get all the health and safety certificates and get permission from the council, police, ambulance service – so there are a lot of hoops to jump through.

“There is a lot of logistics to sort out. We have 3100 runners so that means 3100 Christmas puddings are needed and this year we are giving away a beanie hat so we had to get those in too.

“There is also 1000 litres of water we need and there are 130 marshalls along the course.”

Despite the huge effort it takes to put the show on the road, he said it is all worth it come race day.

“It takes a lot of work every year but it is worth it when you see everyone running with smiles on their faces.”

He believes there are a number of reasons why it is so popular.

“The atmosphere is fantastic, it is a really nice family event. 

“You also get fantastic views over Damflask Reservoir – there is no other course like it in the country.

“The course is undulating so there are hills but they are not too big, so it has a broad appeal for both elite runners and fun runners. 

“I remember about 10 years ago two of the elite runners wore a camel fancy dress with the one at the front carrying the camel's head and the other at the back running with his head in the hump.

“They managed to break what was the course record then of 42 minutes!”

Such is the broad appeal of the race, Scotland's Eilish McColgan, who represented Great Britain at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, has taken part in recent years.

She holds the course record for women at 32 minutes and 23 seconds, while the men's record is held by Andy Heyes, of Hallamshire Harriers, with a time of 29 minutes and 42 seconds.

Mr Dunk said having a two-time Olympian taking part is an indication of just how popular the event is. 

He said: “Eilish has run all over the world and she says the race she gets asked about the most is the Percy Pud! So that shows you it's appeal.

“One year we had a runner from Japan take part and there is someone from Germany joining us this year. We also get runners from all over the UK.”

The event has also raised thousands of pounds for a wide range of charities over the years, including Loxley Primary School, Stannington Brass Band, St Luke’s Hospice and Weston Park Cancer Charity.

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Mr Dunk is hopeful the race will continue to go from strength to strength in the years to come, adding: “I can see us having to expand it gradually every year just like we have been. It keeps on getting bigger.”

The race starts and finishes on Loxley Road, Loxley, and takes in a 10km course which includes views over Damflask Reservoir. It takes place on Sunday, December 2, from 9.30am.

*The Star will be running a 4-page picture special of the event in Monday’s paper.