By Terry Welsh
Getting to the Newton Aycliffe 10k is dead easy. Straight down the A1 , right at Junction 60, two roundabouts, no traffic lights and you’re there. Parking near the start and entering on the day is no bother at all. Then it starts feeling a bit uneasy.
If you have ever played the computer game Sim City, you’ll know Newton Aycliffe. In the game you build your dream town on green fields by pointing and clicking from a menu of options. You can choose and click semi-detached houses and apartment blocks, shrubs and trees, schools and health centres and place all them in nice sensible spots.
You can build good straight roads by clicking and dragging the pointer to create miles of virtual tarmac. The computer itself fills up your industrial and commercial zones. Then it generates virtual traffic and pixelated citizens start to walk along clean sidewalks. That’s what Newton Aycliffe looks like.
At the start of the race comes the eerie or sublime feeling that that you are one of those pixelated citizens. Maybe somebody playing a game has clicked a button saying saying Organise Road Race. And that the computer has generated you and lots of little figures in running gear onto on the screen, doing warm ups and stretches..
Theres a reason why Newton Aycliffe feels like it does. It was the first new town in the north of England, founded in 1947. It remains more compact and more isolated from metropolitan conurbations than those which followed. The man behind its early development was William Beveridge, the great social reformer. His famous ‘Beveridge Report’ of 1942 set out a blueprint for what Britain should be like after the war. It was Beveridge who invented the term ‘the welfare state’ . As part of the post war consensus , all the parties accepted his vision for the National Health Service, free education, council housing, full employment and social security. Beveridge was the first Chairman of the Newton Aycliffe Development Corporation. He wanted the town to embody the principles of his report and he was pleased with the result. The Man Who Made Modern Britain liked Newton Aycliffe so much that he went to live there.
And as you run, it seems it seems that the Newton Aycliffe 10k is not real life but just a computer simulation of what a road race based on the principles of the Beveridge Report should be like. Planning makes life easy.
The route follows roads that are closed to traffic and which are straight and uncomplicated. There are two laps, with only three corners and one sweeping bend on each. You can always see where you are going. 303 runners is an ideal number for 10k., nobody gets bumped or isolated. There are undulations on the road, but it seems that the our gamer has pressed the option of neat and steady so they present a mild challenge and little hardship. There are no comedy hills to cause runners distress. The kilometer markers are all in the right place and the water comes when its needed and its wet . Marshalls are efficient and friendly. The scenery is manufactured beauty, but it’s sublime, not boring.
At the end there is no bucolic Allendale type post race refreshment session, no beefburger vans, or strong men competitions. There’s nothing like that in Newton Aycliffe., computer programmes don’t generate hog roasts. Everything gets neatly cleared away. Theres a suspicion that somewhere on somebody’s screen, a Race Over sign has appeared.
After the race I drove home, feeling slightly less pixelated. But the computerized results were on my PC when I got out of the bath. My time was underwhelming but it was exactly the time I was programmed to do based on my Blaydon of time of the week before.
So maybe I was in a computer simulation of a race applying Beveridge principles to make things nice for runners. . Maybe Newton Aycliffe doesn’t really exist outside a virtual 10k race day. Has anybody ever been there for a night out ?
You can get your programmed time for your next race here http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/racing/rw-calculators/1465.html