Beat the Boat

What better way to spend a sunny June morning than running alongside the river in the shadow of the majestic Windsor castle? How about doing all that while racing a boat full of spectators to earn one of the most impressively detailed medals you’re ever likely to set your eyes on?

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Beat the Boat was 10KM in distance with three spectator boats sailing out and back along the Thames at 40 minutes, 50 minutes and 1 hour pace. The target for the runners was simple. Pick your pace and race your chosen boat back to the finish line. That task however wasn’t as straightforward as it sounded as the course looped away from the river and around fields several times including at both the start and finish meaning you couldn’t just tuck in behind the boat and put in a sprint at the end. This meant pacing was key and of course you also had to allow time for at least one of the two beer and Prosecco stops on route.

To set the tone the event registration was aptly set in a pub garden perfectly located between the race start and the boat boarding point which were on opposite sides of the river. It was at this point that I said my farewells to my wife, son and daughter as they headed off to catch the boat and I made the short jog to the start area.

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It was lucky that I had allowed plenty of time as I then spent 20 minutes in the queue for one of the four toilets. With 550 runners in attendance this clearly wasn’t enough but it was good to see that the organisers Runface recognised this and pointed it out straight away in their post race communication. Other than that though I would struggle to find anything else that wasn’t positive.

The event MC was brilliant always keeping everyone in the loop of what was going on and it wasn’t long before he called everyone to the start line. I had chosen to chase the fastest boat so I positioned myself near the front. Before we got to the river though we first had to do two laps of the event village field. This meant that I didn’t get a glimpse of my boat until the first straight close to a mile in. I did however run passed the other two and it was great to see everyone on board cheering and waving.

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As I closed in on the leading boat I could hear the excited voices of my children shouting “go on daddy”. I picked up my pace so that I could run alongside them for a short while before the course took us into a field of long grass and a trickier uneven trail.

Lapping these fields meant that you could always get a good look firstly in front of you and then see what was going on behind which was really good for a competitive racers point of view, not that I was one of those on this occasion as I was filming and taking photos for this review but I was still in the top 15 until I stopped at the drinks station and much to the marshals delight opted for a nice cool beer. Apparently I was the first person to do this (although I’m sure a lot more followed). I though this was a great addition to the run to make it even more different from you standard 10k trail race.

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There was only a couple of kilometres left from here and the first part was back on the path along the straight so I used this to catch up the time I’d lost having a drink and managed to overtake all those that had passed me while I was stationary.

I was just under 40 minute pace and had further left to travel than the boat so it was still a way behind me but I could see it approaching as I crossed a small bridge. I slowed a little as I wanted to run alongside it as we went down the finishing straight for entertainment purposes but this meant judging it just right as I had 500 meters left to run back around the field we started in first.

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I ended up getting there a little early giving me time to film my run in with the boat sailing in just over my shoulder which was perfect.

I collected my medal, race t-shirt and goody bag and headed back to meet my family. To my surprise I was greeted by my son and daughter who were both also wearing the medal around their necks. They informed me that every child on board were presented with one as they departed. In my honest opinion I’m not sure medals that have been earned by the runners should just be given away to others but on the other hand this was a nice touch that certainly put a smile on my two’s faces. This wasn’t an advertised perk of the spectator boat ticket so if it was a case of using up spare medals then what better way to do it I suppose. They only go to waste otherwise.

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I asked my wife Becky what she thought of spectating from this completely different way to usual and here’s what she had to say:

My first thoughts were how well organised the whole thing was. Clear instructions were being called out and the three boats were very obviously marked so there was no danger of anyone getting on the wrong one.

As we boarded a staff member gave us a warm welcome and took our buggy to store away for us. We then took up our seats and as we started sailing into position to start the race a marshal informed us of exactly what would be going on over a microphone.

Then perfectly in sync with the runners we got going along the river. As we passed certain landmarks the marshal gave us some facts and historical information which was very interesting. She also introduced each on course marshal by name as we cruised by and we all gave them a wave.

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It was great seeing my husband running by several times in both directions, something that normally just isn’t possible on a predominantly out and back route. Time was also filled by a quiz for the children on info they’d been given during the trip with chocolate for the winner and lollies for everyone else. This was in addition to the medals which was a really nice surprise for them all. Everyone was made to really feel a part of the race.

As we approached the finish it was exciting to see some runners sprinting for the line in order to beat the boat before our horn was sounded to signify the time limit had been reached.

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As we disembarked the staff were again very helpful and the logistics mean that it was just a short walk to meet back up with Chris just after he’d finished his run.

Final thoughts:

Beat the Boat has an ambitious race to put on with the potential for a lot to go wrong but nothing really did. For things to go that smoothly at the first attempt show a hugely impressive level of organisationally skills in which the organisers should be highly credited for. They’ve already said that the event will happen again next year so it certain comes with a big recommendation for Quirky Races.

Check out our full event video edit here: https://www.facebook.com/Quirkyraces/videos/1904817169761251/

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Author: Chris Lamb Racing Diary

I am an endurance based athlete participating in events from 800m on the track to ultra trail marathons & obstacle course races. I like to test my strengths over the widest range of events possible at the highest level I can. You can follow me on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/chrislambpjr

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