Where Is Willy Run

When we found out about an event with the tag line of ‘Possibly the silliest fun run in the world’ we just had to be there so for the second time in four days (after doing the Blindfold run https://quirkyraces.com/2016/11/08/blindfold-run-2016/) Chris made the 180 mile round trip to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London to take on the Where is Willy run.

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It’s all too common in this day and age for race organisers to lay claim to being the biggest, the best, the toughest etc. but in practice they rarely back their audacious claims up. This time however I can safely say it will take some doing to find a sillier run than this one.

After a drive that took me nearly three hours in the Wednesday evening rush hour traffic I was in real danger of missing the 7.15pm cut off for registration. A flat out sprint from car park to venue ensured I made it by the skin of my teeth and before I knew it I was standing in a room with several other fully grown adults being helped by volunteers into a giant inflatable penis suit.

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Going outside to the start line and seeing over 100 others all dressed the same with the iconic bright lights of the Olympic stadium and the skyline of Canary Wharf twinkling in the background was one of the most surreal moments I’ve ever had.

As we all waited on this cold November evening for the warm up to begin there was a strange feeling amongst the participant. Where I expected smiles and laugher instead I saw lots of surprised and shocked faces and looks of disbelieve at the realisation that this was actually happening.

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This soon changed though as we were firstly reminded by an Orchid charity workers of why we were doing this, which was to raise awareness for male cancer, and then some loud upbeat music began and an enthusiastic personal trainer got everyone cheering and dancing around which was a hilarious sight to see.

Even more amusing was the start as a mass of willies wobbled towards the velodrome on the opening section of the first of two 1.2km laps.

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We then headed over the first bridge with several passers by staring on in amazement at what they were surprisingly witnessing as the eager marshals waved us in the right direction using torches on the part of the course which wasn’t well lit.

Going across the adjacent bridge was where you could really appreciate the city lights sparkling in the distance making this run even more special before we veered left to complete the first lap.

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As I ran round the second and last lap I had mixed feelings. I was having so much fun that I wanted it to go on for longer but at the same time I was looking forwards to finishing as the suit was tough to run in as leg movement was restricted and it was also very hot inside.

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I crossed the finish line to receive the most unique medal I ever expect to earn. Never did I think I’d win an award with a picture of a penis on it! I was also given a goody bag with a selection of items in, the most interesting being a Willy shaped whistle. All participants were also able to keep their costume. I’m not sure where I will find use for it again but that in itself must have been worth more than the £15 entry fee.

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This run was truly bonkers. Light hearted fun with a very serious message being put across at the same time in a clever way. This was the first time the charity has put on this event but we’ve been told it won’t be the last so look out for it again next year and join the craziness.

Here’s our event video: https://www.facebook.com/Quirkyraces/videos/1799005840342385/

You can find out more able Orchid – Male Cancer Charity here:

https://www.facebook.com/OrchidMaleCancerCharity/

https://orchid-cancer.org.uk/

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Blindfold Run 2016

This annual event, now in it’s third year, ran by the Royal London Society for Blind People, is to raise funds and awareness for the charity and give participants the opportunity to experience what it’s like for people with visual impairments to run and also what it’s like to be a guide runner.

Pairs take on either the 5k or 10k distance, one wears the rather snazzy blindfold supplied while the other guides them through the course. It is ran on a 2.5k lap around the outskirts of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with the option of swapping with your partner from being blindfolded to being the guide after each lap.

Quirky Races creator Chris headed to London along with running partner Pete to take it on. Here’s our event video and Chris’ review:

https://splice.gopro.com/v?id=21xNQkl6a

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After two very short practice sessions both in the last few days building up to the main event Pete and I arrived in the capital expecting a fun run that would also be challenging in a way we’d never been tested before.

As we are both fairly strong 10k runners (I have a PB of 33 mins and Pete’s is 35 mins) we were confident of being able to do quite well but I was a little more apprehensive of how long it would take to get used to literally running blind whereas Pete seemed expectant that we could get down to 7 minute mile pace almost straight away. Lucky it was him wearing the blindfold first then!

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After a countdown from 10, along with 100 other pairs, we were off. Within a matter of seconds we were at the front much to Pete’s joy as I informed him. I suggested we start steady feeling our way into the run but Pete wanted to get an early lead and he was the one doing the work this lap so I obliged. I suppose I could have just told him we were well ahead and he’d of been none the wiser but I knew it would soon be my turn in the dark and this event is all about putting trust in your guide so I did as he wished and put my foot down.

Running in a straight line was the easy bit and most of the pathways were wide so there were plenty of sections where we could push on and use our speed but there was also several more tricky bits which involved lots of communication.

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After the first stretch of approximately 600 meters we were tasked with taking a left turn to run back on ourselves. This offered the first opportunity to view how much of a lead we had. I estimated it at 30 meters. Pete wasn’t comfortable with this but did however seem very comfortable with running blind. He’d taken to it like a duck to water and instructed we push the pace on again. After a sharp right turn came the next long straight where we began to increase the gap.

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We were now heading over the bridge towards the Olympic stadium but then took another right turn away from it and onto the first of the narrower paths. At the end of this, and another right turn, came the trickiest section on the course. A snaking downhill path with a sharp turn at the bottom leading to a thinner walkway with water on the lefthand side.

Now well over half way around the lap the route again went back on itself allowing for another chance to see where our closest competitors where. As we ran uphill I got a little shock when a saw that they’d actually made up some ground on us and weren’t far behind.

We were still feeling fresh though and with Pete’s first stint with his eyes covered nearing it’s end we picked up the pace again. Back over the bridge and the final turn of the lap negotiated we were on the final straight before bearing left and passing the start/ finish arch.

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2.5k done and now it was my turn to play blind. Pete had got used to it very quickly and we’d struck up a good rhythm. That now had to start all over again and I wasn’t finding the acclimation as easy. The first straight felt very awkward and I nervously flinched several times. Pete’s advise was to just forget about what I was actually doing and just concentrate on my normal running style. This really helped and I was soon into my stride and quickening my pace.

At the same points we were able to get some intelligence on our lead. It was getting bigger and bigger with the next two runners now out of sight (or so I was informed anyway) but as we came to the narrow sections again we began to catch the back markers. This meant we had to slow considerably and take a lot more care as it was now had to take other people into account as well as the environment and surroundings. It was good to know that everyone was going through the same experiences and there was a really friendly feel with all participants doing their best to help out and encourage one another on.

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Although I was enjoying this new and completely different way of running the more I got into it I must admit I was still looking forwards to the lap ending so that I could get back into my normal comfort zone and within a flash we had completed another lap and were at the half way point.

Now that we had both had a go at both aspects of this unique run any anxious feeling had banished and we were ready to take it all on again. I would certainly say that Pete was better as the blindfolded runner and I was better as the guide, although I did get my left and right mixed up a couple of times which isn’t good in this situation.

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Another circuit completed while lapping fellow pairs almost the entire way it way my duty to finish the job and secure the victory. Pete had some how manage to lose his blindfold on lap two meaning we now had to do more of a transition but with that completed smoothly he even had time to stop to do up his shoelace on the final lap with us still coming home clear in first place. The medals we hung around our necks and for the first time since before the start we could both see at the same time again.

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We watched lots of others coming in, all with big smiles on their faces before heading home with a sense of accomplishment, not mealy at winning because this wasn’t a completive event but just at completing something that many cant even do and managing to do it in a completely quirky way, something that all 200 participants can share along with the more important stat that this event will raise up to £50,000 to help support 100 new families of blind and visually impaired children and babies.

The 2017 Blindfold Run will take place on Sunday 5th November at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park again. We have also been informed that the charity plan to hold a smaller Blindfold Run somewhere else next year with Birmingham being a strong possibility so look out for that.

Zeus Races Zombie Chase- Halloween 2016

Surviving To Tell The Tale

Zeus Races have really been impressing us in 2016. They are demonstrating that they are so much more than just another obstacle course race. Yes, they have a great venue in Ashby-de-la-Zouch with fixed obstacles, lots of hills, mud and water but they are using that as a platform to provide a whole range of different events.

Their opening paragraph on the website homepage describes them as ‘Themed obstacles races for all abilities’ and ‘The only OCR provider in the country to offer race places for age 6 upwards’.

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They put on regular OCR’s on their 8km route but also provide events for canicross racing (running with your dog) aptly named ‘Dogstacle’, races for runners with disabilities- they held a team wheelchair event recently and on New Years Eve they are holding the first ever OCR event to run over two years!

As well as all this, on Halloween weekend they hosted a Zombie Chase event, on their obstacle course, in the dark so we felt we just had to go and check it out.

Arriving in complete darkness for the 8pm start we made the short walk to the event village where spooky music was blasting out and a roaring bonfire was crackling away. Another prominent feature was a huge double decker bus which had been converted into a fully licensed bar.

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On collecting our numbers we were also given a glow stick necklace each which would make us more visible to the awaiting zombies, many of whom were stumbling around the start area looking extremely menacing.

Next up all participants were gathered for a race briefing. Here it was made very clear that this run was not for the faint hearted. We were told that if anyone was too frightened they could request to wear a high visibility vest so that the zombies wouldn’t scare them as much. We were then set off in small groups with only our head torches to guide us.

In the first kilometre or so there wasn’t any frights but there was a boggy, smelly water crossing to make. The zigzagging nature of the course route meant that we were never far away from the event village and that even though we hadn’t been scared yet we could still hear the screams of those who had.

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It wasn’t long before the zombies started popping out from all angles. I had envisioned the stereotype of the walking dead stumbling towards us in groups with their arms held out in front of them as you seen in the movies but here they were hidden away behind trees, bushes and obstacles awaiting their moment to jump out when you were least expecting it. Some even used distraction tactics such as placing a prop like a severed head or a flashing pumpkin one side of the course so that your attention would be attracted to that then they would jump out from the other side causing the heart to beat at 100 miles in hour.

It wasn’t only the zombies that were offering a challenge though. The terrain and profile of the course was far from easy with lots of uneven ground and loose mud made even more tricky in the dark. There was also sections of rolling hills throughout.

The part of the route I enjoyed most was an area in the woods with lots of balance beams suspended at hight between the trees. This was a different obstacle that I’d only ever encountered something similar to on the skywalk at the famous Tough Guy. Luckily (and sensibly) there were no distractions from outside interference here.

The frights kept on coming though with a chainsaw wielding clown and a rather disturbing human pig amongst the highlights. As well as people dressed up there was also scares supplied in the form of loud explosions at random intervals, as if we weren’t being kept on out toes enough already.

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One thing that really surprised me in a positive way was the shear amount on zombies on course. Other than right at the start there was never more that a few hundred meters that passed without one literally rearing its ugly head (apart from the few that were actually headless that is!)

One of the only negative points I could make was that I found the ending slightly anticlimactic. With all the surprises on the way round I was expecting a big finish but instead it was just a simple run up a hill back to the event village with no more shocks in store. This was somewhat countered though by receiving a top class medal.

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All in all this was a really good fun yet frightening run. I felt that the scare factor level was just about right in that it was always apparent but there was never a point where I felt it crossed the line and was a bit too much. It was clear that the zombies has been briefed perfectly with what they could and couldn’t do or it at least felt that way. We look forwards to finding out what else the Zeus team have in store in 2017.

Newhaven Fort Zombie Run- Halloween 2016

A Night of Mixed Emotions

Review by Andrew Ibbott

As I took to short bike ride from home to the fort I was full of excitement for what would be an evening of firsts for me. This was the first time I’d done an event so local to me that I was able to ride along the cliff tops to get there, it would be my first event where zombies were involved and my first ever night run.

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The pre communication told us to arrive between 5-7 (depending on how dark we wanted it to be when we ran). On route I got a preview of some of the zombies who seemed to love being in character, which was great. I passed lots of families with plenty of children dressed up in their own spooky costumes. It was still light so I headed into the fort to look around and wait for it to get a little darker. I wanted to get the full ‘apocalypse’ experience and when it was pitch black and no children were left on the course it was time for this to begin.

https://www.facebook.com/RichardPaicePhotography

The start took us into the fort and we were led through some role play by a brave zombie hunting mercenary. He gave the course brief and set the first challenge, to retrieve an eye from a darkened room. Surprisingly to some this provided the first zombie encounter.

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We were then sent on our way under the simple rules to follow the course markings, stay alive (by keeping the tags that had been given to us that the zombies would try to retrieve) and to then locate a marshal to gain an access card which would get us back into the fort.

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We proceeded outside and into the darkness. We circled the top of the fort and then were off into the surrounding area. A mix of tarmac, gravel track, grass and narrow wooden paths created the course route. Lots of twists, turns and hills both up and down kept it interesting.

Then came the exciting bit – The zombies. Hours after starting they were still fully in role and still shocking, hunting and scaring all participants. I was loving it but sadly the fun was over all to quickly. They say time flies when you having fun but for me to do 5km in 12 minutes must have been fun overload! It was very disappointing to find out that the course was only 2km, not the 5km stated.

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In fairness the organiser did say that we could go round again, and it probably still would have been fun but just not the same experience. They said that the course was shortened due to the amount of family groups that went round in the day and I think this sums it up perfectly. An event suited to families that want fun, scares and fitness all in one. The £60 family price also seemed much more reasonable than the £40 individual adult ticket.

It was still a great experience and one I had not had before. The unusual location made it unique too. It’s an event I would highly recommend to families but one that was over a little too promptly for adults, especially when expecting a 5km. Nevertheless, the medal was amazing.

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We Launch Our First Event!!!

Quirky Christmas Mince Pie Run

On Sunday 11th December we are hosting our very first event. Please come and join us to celebrate Christmas to Quirky way!

Run 5k, eat 5 mince pies! Come and celebrate Christmas the Quirky Races way. Set in the beautiful Salcey forest participants will run (or walk) 5km while stopping to consume a full mince pie just before every kilometer.

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You will receive one Christmas sticker at each pie stop to go on your Santa hat (included with every entry) once you have eaten your pie. At the finish your 5 stickers with earn you a Christmas medal.

We encourage all participants to dress in Christmas attire. Full Santa suits, reindeers, snowmen, Christmas jumpers etc. will all be welcomed with open arms. This is a fun event for all the family.

Event details and schedule
We have been lucky enough to have been given permission to hold the event in the beautiful Salcey Forest. This will be the first ever official weekend running event held at the venue. Be sure to check out the unique tree top walk which our route will pass. The course will be a one lap route taking in a mixture of terrains along the woodland trail, cross bridges and you’ll even be tasked with clambering over a huge fallen tree.

The run will start outside the Tree Ninja aerial assult course at 10am. Please arrive at least 45 minutes beforehand to register.

All under 16’s need to be accompanied by a paying adult entrant.

Enter here:

http://www.active.com/hartwell-northants/running/trail-heads/quirky-christmas-mince-pie-run-2016?int=