I am fortunate enough to be able to say that I have a long association with the Potts Arf Marathon, having run the inaugural event in 2005. I have loved the race so much, that I have only missed running it once in the intervening years and that was in 2008, when I was totally laid up with a heavy cold. As everyone who has run this race will know, what makes it so special, is the wonderful support and atmosphere generated by the crowds of north Staffordshire folk, who turn out in great numbers every year to cheer all the runners along. The offers of snacks, sweets and oranges, the impromptu water stations and garden hoses to cool us down, together with all of the clapping and cheering help to make it such a memorable event for all of the competitors.
Without doubt, the course can only be described as tough, but this ensures that once the finish is reached in Hanley’s city centre, all of the hard work, effort and determination, required to get there, are at once forgotten. The huge and shared sense of achievement and satisfaction at having mastered such a hard race, together with all the warm congratulations and the generous goody bag, can even put a smile on the face of a grizzled old farmer!
As with any long love affair, there has been a little blip along the way and for me this came in 2011. The weather conditions for the race that year can only described as atrocious, more akin to a bad day in February rather than flaming June. Unsurprisingly, I had a miserable race that day, although many others relished the conditions and described it as a good day for racing. Never was I more in need of a hot bath than when I returned home cold and shivering.
My quickest time at the Potts Arf was back in 2005 when I had recently turned 60. I was pleased with 1.25.43 and managed 1.27.50 two years later. My slowest time of 1.41.34 was this year, 2016, as an increasing maturity (it sounds better than senility), gradually and inevitably slows me down. However, my enthusiasm for the race and the inclusive sport of running, remains undimmed. A major reason for this is the happy friendship I share with my fellow members at Trentham Running Club, together with all the encouragement I receive from members of all the clubs within North Staffs Road Runners Association.
The Potts Arf is a massive organisational undertaking and all of us who enjoy its success, owe a vote of thanks to its originator, Don Shelley. Of course, we must now especially thank Ken Rushton, his wife Sue and their large and reliable team of volunteers and helpers who ensure this event always runs smoothly. I don’t know how, but the race just seems to become more enjoyable every year.
If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone new to the sport and hoping to take on the Potts, it would be to join a running club. You will be made very welcome, make many friends and find a group to train with, whatever your standard. Quite possibly, you will surprise yourself at how quickly you progress and like most new members, wish you had joined up sooner.
Along with aiding many charities, the Potts Arf is a major and special sporting celebration for the good people of Stoke-on-Trent and surrounding areas to savour and enjoy. Its great popularity is well deserved and long may this fantastic event continue.