It's all about rain, dear!

Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Let the Reindeer Run Begin." With these words ringing in their ears 300 runners set off from Otterton Church for what were shortened but equally challenging courses originally planned as 10k and 3 k races, writes John Perratt

Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Let the Reindeer Run Begin." With these words ringing in their ears 300 runners set off from Otterton Church for what were shortened but equally challenging courses originally planned as 10k and 3 k races.It was an extraordinary day. Overnight rains and an exceptional tide had flooded the whole area but Graham Hill, the Race Organiser, showed himself well able to cope with the crisis. Whilst the rest of us were still in bed he was out on his quad-bike re-routing both races. The police, ably led by Sarah Tayburn our friendly PCSO, were tremendous and without their co-operation and the support of the community the races could not have gone ahead. Sidmouth Running Club, as usual, were at the forefront of the activities, adding immensely to the enjoyment of the morning. Festively attired, they lent great gusto and a rare tonal quality to the traditional carol that gets the race underway. The mud that met them shortly after did little to slow them down or dampen their enthusiasm, although it came as a bit of a shock when their diversion took them to Frogmore Lane. The flooded fields either side of the lane poured water into the road and for about 400 yards the leaders found themselves paddling through swiftly running water just over ankle deep. The water was still rising and so midfield it was getting close to knee high. Right at the back of the field it was becoming dangerously high and a tractor and trailer was provided by Bicton Gardens to ferry the last group safely through. All in a day's work. Thank you, Paul.The 3k Fun Run has a real family feel with many mums and dads running alongside their very young children. The finish is a great place to watch them and it was a true pleasure to see their obvious pride and enjoyment as they crossed the line. Ellie Stone, Georgia Hanson, Ashe de Sousa, Annabel Hill, the Grierson boys and Nick Smith all picked up prizes in their respective age categories, but there were many more of our future stars amongst the 130 or so finishers. The future of the club is looking very bright.In the 10k, which turned out to be just on 8k, we won no prizes but were there to enjoy the day. The water affected different people in different ways. Certainly it did not deter young Stephen Moss who decided at the last minute to do the longer run. He thrashed through the mud and water in fine style, beating all but three of the club's senior runners. Amongst the ladies, Jess Watkins didn't enjoy the conditions too much but Wendy Weir-Jones revelled in them and finished well up as did Emma Craigie, who just slipped in ahead of Brian Gosling. Bev Tarry and Sue Cunningham also illustrated that age is no barrier when it comes to tackling the elements. George "Father Xmas" Chalstrey struggled with his enormous bag of toys although it was suggested that it was more of a buoyancy aid rather than the real thing. If you get a life jacket for Christmas you will know it came from George.One intriguing aspect of the race was the prize for the first married couple. There were 19 of them entered with Cathy and John Keast, Helen and David Palmer and Debbie and Chris Marriott all pushing hard for honours. We understand that there was also some side betting involved but they finished in that order albeit out of the prizes. Perhaps the men should have tried harder. First place went to Judy and Steve Davey of Honiton.Two trophies not handed out on the day are those for the most improved club runners in both the 10k and the Fun Run. These are calculated quite scientifically by comparing each runner's time in last year's race with this year but it is quite a long exercise with 72 entries to look at. Having done so, 12-year-old Matt Tipton was a clear winner in the Fun Run whilst Miranda Hansford just took the honours from Andy Concannon over the longer distance. The trophies, donated last year by Paul Bowler & Sons were, in fact, presented on Wednesday's club night at the Sailing Club. It should also perhaps be mentioned that Miranda's husband John gave up the chance of winning the married couple prize, preferring to run with their nine-year-old daughter Robyn in the Fun Run.After all the mince pies were eaten and the mulled wine drunk we emerged from the village hall to be told by the police that the only route open out of Otterton was through Sidmouth over Peak Hill. For us that was fine. From the rest, we heard no complaints. The event raised a staggering amount of money for Otterton School and the headteacher would like to thank all those sponsors, runners and helpers who made it happen, especially Graham Hill and his team from OCESA.

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