Matthew Balding AKA Mental Bear

The Man Beneath The Bear

Matthew Balding’s achievement of completing SEVEN Spartan Race Trifecta’s in one year is almost unprecedented and that’s before you even consider that he did it all while wearing a huge bear costume. We caught up with ‘Mental Bear’ to find out all about it.


(Quirky Races) What’s your running/ racing background before you donned the bear costume?

(Matthew Balding) Being military I try to keep as fit as possible, I’ve done some ultras and about 80-100 trail runs /obstacle course races all together from 2015-2016 then I started the Spartan mentalbear challenge.

(QR) I understand that you wear the bear suit as an extra challenge to raise money for your chosen charity but why a bear and what made you chose such an elaborate costume?

(MB) A couple of things. The charity I picked – Zoe’s Place Coventry, had a picture of a bear as their logo and after my 2016 season ended badly with my hernia worsening, I couldn’t run to fast so mentalbear was born.


(QR) When did you first wear the costume to race in and did you train in it at all beforehand? If so where?

(MB) My first race as Mental Bear was Spartan St. Claire at the start of the 2017 season which was so hot. I trained as the bear running in rivers around Coventry to get used to carrying the extra weigh as it is nearly 30kg’s when wet.


(QR) I know you’ve done lots of obstacle course races (OCR) in the outfit, partially Spartan Race, but do you know how many you’ve done in total?

(MB) 22 in all. 21 Spartans (a total of 7 trifectas) and then mud7.


(QR) Wow! Have you done any runs outside of OCR as the bear?

(MB) Not yet, I did plan to but the Coventry half marathon 2018 was cancelled due to the snow.

(QR) What’s the biggest challenges you face while in the costume. You’ve said it gets very heavy when muddy and wet, which I can imagine, and judging by your photos you certainly don’t avoid the mud!

(MB) Overheating is the worse, I had to carry an icepack to cool my core temperate down. I went to France for Spartan Race Morzine which was so hard as it was wet and so hilly.


(QR) You’ve told me that you’re having a break from racing as Mental Bear this year. What are your goals for 2018?

(MB) None, I’m having some family time then I plan to be back to the charity work for a couple of runs in 2019 starting with winter Nuts Challenge.

(QR) Will the bear be making a comeback and if so do you have any future ideas to challenge yourself further and raise even more money for charity?

(MB) Yes just not sure what races and charity yet.


(QR) How much have you raised so far?

(MB) So far £2094

If you would like to keep up to date with Mental Bear’s challenges and give him a sponsor his fundraising page is below:

Good luck Matthew!


Where’s Wally? Fun Run 2018

The Where’s Wally Fun Run is an annual event put on by National Literacy Trust with a children’s run and an adults 5km and 10km. Our guest review Nicola Stokes headed to Clapham Common to check it out.

As the weekend approached I was concerned that the race would be cancelled due to the weather as other events all over the country were being called off but with the good news that it was on I braved the elements of Elsa – Beast from the East 2.0 and made my way to the location.


I turned up at 8:25AM and collected my Where’s Wally costume. Putting it on I did feel rather silly as I was one of the first there but the race village soon filled up with a sea of red and white stripes.


The kids 1KM run was first off at 9:30AM and watching the mini Wallys was entertaining and gave much encouragement for me.


Although the official ‘warm up’ was energising by the time we started at 10AM the cold weather meant I could no longer feel my fingers or toes.

With the course being slippery and muddy and my first marathon fast approaching I didn’t want to risk injury (Maranoia is a real condition!) so I walked most of the route.


As I progressed my way through the snowy ground the sight of over 300 others all dressed as the same children’s puzzle book character was quite surreal.

There was a bitter wind but I made it to the end and collected my goody bag and medal. The weather had done its best to spoil this run but it didn’t succeed. The smile of all the participants faces proved that.

Secret London Run’s Sex In The City tour

***Warning – this review contains sexual references*** (but is quite tame compared to the run itself!)

Review by Catherine Harker.

Well, what can I say. Secret London Run’s Sex In The City tour is the only 10k to leave you buzzing, quite literally, thanks to their saucy sex toy goody bag!

Our fabulous frolic through the smutty streets of London under the reign of randy Charles II is quite simply one of the most bizarre, hilarious and memorable runs.


Our guide Vanessa met us in the aptly named Cock Lane wearing a bright orange bobble hat which made her easy to follow as she led our group through the fruity adventure.

During the next hour and a half we skipped through the streets as Vanessa regaled us with smutty stories from the 17th century. The bed-hopping nobles and their affairs of the hearts……and other parts of their bodies.
We found the blue plaque dedicated to London’s second best prostitute (yes really, what a back handed compliment) and discovered her saucy sex game/circus trick which earned her a small fortune.


Vanessa, who’s impressive historical knowledge is only matched by her dirty laugh, introduced us to Colonel Condom who made it his mission to protect men from VD.
We found out about the dead Bishop who had his penis pinched and who the prime suspect was.

A good sprinkling of bawdy poetry kept us giggling as we notched up the miles until we reached the climax in Soho – so to speak.


After getting all hot and sweaty we were treated to a glass of Prosecco in a bar where we were presented with our reward – a sex toy from
Love Honey!

Drinkers struggled to hear themselves think over the buzzing as a dozen, slightly squiffy, giggly runners tried out the settings of their race(y) ‘medals’ by rubbing them on their noses!

Bizarre but brilliant. I had such a great day and I’d highly recommend this as a pressie for a friend or an alternative hen-do.

The next Sex and The City tours are in September and Secret London Runs have a whole host of other events. Check out their website or Facebook page for more info.

Michelle Frost- Sky’s The Limit

Ten years ago Michelle Frost became the first person in history to complete the famous 26.2 mile distance on stilts when finishing the London marathon in a time of 8 hours 25 minutes. A decade on she’s going back for more, still on stilts but this time aiming to break the current world record time of 6 hours 50 minutes. After witnessing her exploits in person at The Big Half (marathon) last Sunday Quirky Races’ Chris caught up with her for a chat ahead of the big day on April 22nd.


(Chris Lamb) How did aiming to complete a marathon on stilts come about?

(Michelle Frost) I am part of a team that teach stilt walking on Scout Camps, we get young people to learn to walk on stilts as big as 6ft tall. When we’re done teaching, we put the stilts back on along with costumes and entertain around the campsites. We always cover a good distance so I often thought that perhaps a marathon would be possible.


(CL) How many races have you done on the stilts?

(MF) The Big Half is now the 4th race I have done on stilts along with the London Marathon, the Silverstone Half Marathon and I have also done the Sports Relief Mile on bouncy stilts.

(CL) What are the biggest challenges of covering long distances on stilts and how often do you have to stop for breaks?

(MF) The main issue I’ve found in training is finding places to go where there’s a good distance with not too many low trees! Generally I’ve been found in some of the country parks and walks of Bedfordshire, hopefully not confusing too many dog walkers! So far I’ve done well by not stopping, but if I needed to I have to find something secure to hold on to as you can’t stand still on the stilts, if not its finding something big to sit on.

(CL) What’s your running/ sporting background, do you run races regularly or is this all for the challenge of completing London on stilts?

(MF) I’m not a runner, although I did run/walk the London Marathon the year after I did it on stilts to see if I could. It’s certainly just for the challenge and to raise awareness for Motor Neurone Disease by sporting my #TeamMND vest during the race.


(CL) Have you done any other runs/races in a quirky way?

(MF) I think other than my exploits on stilts, the closest I’ve got to anything quite so quirky was doing ‘The Dog Jog’. A 5k run accompanied by my sister’s dog Bailey.

(CL) What’s next after the marathon if anything?

(MF) Continuing to teach and perform on stilts with my Scout group – Stiff and Stilted and attending the Norfolk Jamboree this summer.


Michelle is raising money to help those affected by Motor Neurone Disease (MND). This dreadful disease is rapidly progressing and affects the brain and the spinal cord. It can leave people locked in a failing body, unable to move, talk, swallow and eventually breathe. Up to 5,000 adults are living with MND at any one time in the UK. If anyone would like to donate to her challenge they can do so via her JustGiving page:

Good luck Michelle and we hope to catch up with you again after the London marathon with an update on how it all went.

* We caught up with Michelle again after the London marathon. Find out how it went here: