Breaking World Records with Michelle Frost

Last month Quirky Races’ Chris interviewed Michelle Frost after spotting her completing The Big Half on stilts. (https://quirkyraces.com/2018/03/08/michelle-frost-skys-the-limit/) It was then that we found out she was using this as a warm up for a world record attempt at the London marathon. We were delighted to hear the news that Michelle was successful in that so we caught up with her for a follow up interview.

(Quirky Races) First of all, many congratulations once again on becoming the Guinness World Records holder, that was an amazing effort. You didn’t only break the world record, you absolutely smashed it! Am I right in saying the previous record was 6 hours 50 minutes so your time of 6:37:38 knocked over 12 minutes off? I remember you saying that you did 8 hours 25 mins last time too so that’s a huge improvement. Did the speed of your finishing time surprise you or were you expecting to go that fast?

(Michelle Frost) Yes smashed it! 6:50:02, now 6:37:38 and a drastic improvement on my PB. It definitely surprised me, I honestly didn’t know how well I’d do. I knew I could do the distance but did not know how fast! I knew I was in for a good chance after doing the half marathon in 3:15 but still knew anything could happen on the day.

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(QR) I’m sure the heat effected everyone out there this year. I personally was so glad of the water stations every mile but were you able to get to the water bottles ok? I know you said to me previously that you can’t stand still while on the stilts so what was your strategy with fuelling?

(MF) It was very warm and I’m nearer the sun! It did get a bit hectic at the water stations with runners cutting in and out to get to water, especially where some started running out. It looked potentially difficult but it was ok on the day. If the marshals were next to the road one of them would run over and hand me a drink but if they were stuck behind fences they couldn’t but plenty of runners saw me gesturing and helped pass me a bottle. Runners were also encouraged to share any water they weren’t going to drink so I was also passed bottles at other points. Very grateful for this in the heat. I had originally planned to not drink too much so that I didn’t need to go to the toilet (this involves getting off the stilts, not any other weird and wonderful method!) but with the heat I just drank as I needed and it wasn’t a problem. I’d rather brave a toilet stop than dehydration!

(QR) I guess the on course showers didn’t really help you either as their height would have only reached your waist?

(MF) I avoided the showers as I didn’t want to get cut up by too many runners and I feared that the wet roads might be slippy. I discovered just before the marathon that the stilt feet were a lot more worn than I thought they were but I didn’t want to risk changing them just before the race so some stilt pedicures happened.

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(QR) What other challenges did you encounter on course? Is congestion a real issue for you?

(MF) The congestion in general wasn’t too bad, it got worse near the end as runners slowed, but I was on a fairly steady pace being able to sneak past others from behind. Unfortunately I was knocked over at one point around mile 23 but luckily there was lots of helpful people who pulled me up and got me going again, bruises on my knees but no major damage.

I’d like to mention I had a fantastic support crew with me, not only organising themselves into teams to travel round and pop up almost every other mile along the course, but appear armed with sweets, cereal bars, fruit and any other kind of snack & might want. They were very coordinated passing messages between them so if I said to one group I wanted something, the next group would appear with it! They probably ran round just as much as me and I couldn’t have done it without them. As well as lots of other friends and family that popped up along the route to cheer me, it gave me such a boost to see familiar faces.

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(QR) Was there a point where you knew that the record was in the bag or did you literally have to keep pushing right to the finish?

(MF) I didn’t know and I didn’t want to. I know I have a pretty steady pace that wouldn’t slow down too much, but if I needed to speed up that was unlikely to be possible. My support team kept me updated, but knowing if my pace just wasn’t quick enough I wouldn’t make it, I didn’t want to be disheartened. But when they knew I would do it, they let me know, but even then it was fairly close.

(QR) What were your emotions when coming down the mall for those final couple of hundred meters ten years on from your last London marathon knowing the world record was yours?

(MF) Fear mainly, from the last mile there were markers every 200m and the distance between them seemed to take forever and the clock was ticking down. It was showing near the record time and whilst I knew I needed to count the time I passed under the starting gantry, I knew it was close and that last stretch seemed to take forever until I finally saw the finish line.

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(QR) Talk us though the record guidelines process once you finish. I know at London there is an official from Guinness there waiting and they actually have your certificate there ready and waiting don’t they?

(MF) Unlike last time (when I was quicker than expected and they were in a café having a drink and had to run across the park to get there to see my finish) they were ready and waiting. The certificate pictured with me at the finish is a generic one saying that you’ve achieved a record at the London Marathon 2018. I’m waiting to be able to claim my official certificate with my name and time and everything on. There wasn’t much at the finish, just well done & some pictures. At the start line we checked in with them and there were costume checks & measurements for those that needed them. I spoke to them about my timing chip as it didn’t work at the Big Half but I’d made some adjustments to help it sit more like it would on the top of a trainer, whilst being on the bottom of my stilt.

(QR) Was there much media attention for you and the other record breakers and have you received many requests for interviews etc. since?

(MF) Sadly not many, just lots of mentions online and stories about the records – particularly the one that did the fastest time as a film character. I was due to appear on This Morning the week before the marathon but unfortunately that got cancelled (as I was in the train station on my way there). There has been plenty of pictures shared of me online and friends of friends speaking about spotting ‘the Stilt Lady’ doing the marathon.

(QR) What’s next? Will it take you another ten years to return to the London marathon or will you be back sooner this time round?

(MF) I’m hoping that I’ll be another 10 years wiser but that didn’t happen this time so I’m sure won’t again! I’m hoping I’ll hold on to the record for at least a few years and that might stop me trying to claim it back but taking part in the London Marathon is such an amazing event I’ll always want to do it again in some way.

(QR) And finally, how much money have you managed to raise for MND?

(MF) So far I have raised £4500 which is so amazing to be able to know that’s supporting people affected by MND! I’d love to be able to hit £5000!

If you’d like to help Michelle reach that target you can donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/michelle-frost5

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UK Naked Sport Event Guide

It seems that naked sport is on the up so if you’re looking for a new challenge to keep your pecker up here are a few events that might do more than just raise your eyebrow.

Running

Since 2014 ZSL’s London zoo has put on an annual Streak for Tigers run where participants run around the animal enclosures in nothing but trainers and optional tiger body paint. The event has raised an amazing £135,000 for the wildlife fund but unfortunately is taking a break in 2018.

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On May 13th 2018 the Naturist Foundation are putting on the Naked 5k Run. This run is open to anyone and you can enter via the link we’re provided where all information (other than the location) can be found. Our guess is that they are keeping the venue on the down low to reduce media attention which was justified by the fact that our Facebook post about the run received over 1,500 comments in 48 hours!
https://www.naturistfoundation.org/5k-run-2017/

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British Naturism are also hosting a 5k and 10k at the NudeFest 2018 in Somerset on Saturday 14th July. All details can be found here: https://www.bn.org.uk/calendar/event/4111-5k10k-run-at-nudefest/

If you like the idea of running around with your Willy out but don’t want to get completely naked then The Great Willy Waddle could well be the event for you. 3k around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park dressed in a giant inflatable penis was certainly one of the most fun (and serial) runs we’ve ever done. Check out our review of the 2015 event here: https://quirkyraces.com/2016/11/15/where-is-willy-run/

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If the want to support Orchid – Male Cancer Charity and act like a massive knob for a night then this year’s event takes place in September: https://www.facebook.com/events/158240891558473??ti=ia

Swimming

We’ve all thrown off our clothes and ran in the sea after a few too many drinks on holiday right? Well now you can do it as an organised (and safer) event as The Great British Skinny Dip are aiming to put on nude swims, that are accessible to anyone, all over the UK with 12 venues already set up. You can find out where here: http://greatbritishskinnydip.co.uk/events/

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If you want to swim with nothing but your goggles on in slightly more private surrounding while still embracing the great outdoors then check out Red Bulls’ 10 top UK skinny dipping spots:
https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.redbull.com/gb-en/wild-swimming-uk-ten-places-to-skinny-dip

Cycling

In June the World Naked Bike Ride is returning to the UK and more specifically Folkestone. This is a global ride where cyclists bare all to promote awareness of safety on the roads. Kent Live sum this event up here: https://www.kentlive.news/whats-on/whats-on-news/world-naked-bike-ride-2018-1463743

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Before saddling up be sure to read Active’s ‘7 things to know before joining a naked bike ride’ which includes such wisdom as ‘Just be sure you bring socially acceptable clothing for post-ride activities. Nude is cool during the ride, but not always at the bar after.’ You’ll do well to remember that one in general life as well as naked cycling!
https://www.active.com/cycling/articles/7-things-to-know-before-joining-a-naked-bike-ride

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UK Wife Carrying Race 2018

Always the Bridesmaid at the Wife Carrying Race.

On Sunday 8th April 2018 for the THIRD consecutive year my wife and I made the 200 mile round trip from Northampton to Dorking to finish runners up at the UK Wife Carrying Race.

This year however didn’t pass without controversy both in our own personal race and that of another even more unfortunate couple as the eleventh edition of the event took place.

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On what was a wetter than usual 380 meter course conditions were slippery. I can’t however blame the weather for affecting my own performance on the day as my trail shoes did the job in keeping me on my feet (and my wife on my back!) This couldn’t be said for two couples in particular though as one stumbled then crawled over the finish line for victory and the other slipped and fell in discomfort for a trip to hospital. Unfortunately it was the latter that the large media presence (and all the vultures who picked up on it) focused on.

This race is fun. It’s silly, it’s crazy and it’s the pure definition of quirky. It can also be dangerous though. You’re racing at high speed up and down a steep hill, jumping over hay bales and having water thrown at you at great force all while carrying another human being over your shoulders. Of course it’s not 100% safe and this is clearly pointed out on the event’s website homepage (as well as in the pre race email and briefing). In fact it really couldn’t be any clearer:

‘Wife carrying can be a dangerous activity, which can lead to any one or more of the following injuries: slipped disk, broken legs and arms, spinal damage, facial injury, skull fracture, hernias, and other sundry injuries and illnesses, and potentially including death.’

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‘Grippy’ trail shoes were advised in addition to all of the above but disappointingly that didn’t mean an accident was avoided as a quick google search or a flick through the following morning’s newspapers will tell you and although we were bitterly frustrated to have not won (again) and obviously concerned for the couple involved it was perhaps not the worse year to have missed out on the title as the outcome of the race became a minor footnote where as in the previous few years the winners have been the highlight of media attention.

We’d put the training in, learnt from previous mistakes, adopted a new and improved holding technique and come aiming to win. This may sound very over the top to outsiders but anyone who has been to this event before will know just how competitive it gets forwards the front with a national title at stake and a winning prize of £250 towards costs for the World Championships in Finland.

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In the last two years we had let a couple get a big early lead and although we closed it down dramatically we’d not managed to overturn it so this time round the plan was to get out faster and not let anyone get away. This plan was however scuppered within seconds as a Lithuania pair absolutely flew off and a husband and wife from America followed them with us in third. This order remained all the way up the hill of ever increasing elevation.

Once the summit is reached that marks the halfway point in which you turn back on yourself and head back down. My feeling was that the Americans were catchable but it was going to take a momentous effort to even get close to the Lithuanias. Little did I know that, from nowhere, another team were about to steamroller passed all of us as we got to the bottom of the hill and tackled the hay bales for a second time.

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All I could do now was push with all I had left. Amazingly the couple that had lead all the way had now come to a grinding holt and we moved into third. As the water from the ‘splash zone’ blasted me straight in the face I continued to pick up pace and with only moments remaining we moved into our familiar position of second place.

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All eyes were on the finish now and just as I approached it I saw the leaders stumbling. With every step they got closer to the ground and just before the line both husband and wife hit the deck with a thud. The wife’s momentum had taken her passed the two huge blue flags that signified the finish but the husband, who was sprawled out across the grass, clearly only had half his body over the line so I crossed it with my arms spread to signify that I was in fact the first person to finish while actually carrying my wife. This somehow seemed to be ignored though as all the camera crews and news reporters started to crowd around the floored couple.

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Stumbling even before the blue finishing flags are in sight.

My wife and I got our breaths back and deliberated what to do. Although the rules state ‘If you drop the ‘wife’ you must both take three steps backwards before remounting’, I knew there was no instant playback technology available, the race director was running the race himself so still out on course and it seemed the media at least had already made their minds up so we just waited for the presentation. Although pretty sure, without a reply we couldn’t be 100% positive that they didn’t cross the finish before impact with the ground so there wasn’t really anything we could do at the time so we just, somewhat reluctantly, applauded the announcement out their victory (after all they didn’t fall on purpose) and went home with another runners up finish to our names.

A few hours later footage from the race started to emerge online and one video from Britclip confirmed our suspicions to be true. Watch the whole video as it’s a great insight to the event, then forward to 4.20 in where their fall and our finish can be seen: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rhVGUPvpzzI

This still is also pretty conclusive:

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This was an unfortunate end to what has, is and hopefully will continue to be a truly unique occasion of sport. A race that is everything one should be – fun yet challenging, enjoyable yet competitive.

We certainly don’t want the situations from this day to bring negativity on what is one of the world’s most unique running events. We write this review in hope that we can all take something positive from it weather that be to train even harder, to properly mark the finish line with an actual line or to wear more suitable shoes.

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The wife who fell and was hospitalised sustained bruising and ligament damage. We wish her all the very best in recovery and good luck to the winners Chris and Tanisha in the World Wife Carrying Championship in July and we look forwards to a rematch next year.

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