Quirky articles

Loros Tower Run

Review by first time tower runner Shell DillonRedmile

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After a whole year of back to back standard running events the Loros Tower Run appealed to me for something different. At £17 it was really good value so I signed up thinking ‘how hard can it be?’ On arrive, at first glance of St George’s tower in central Leicester my thoughts immediately changed to ‘Eeekkkk what have I done?”

The concept was simple. Run up the 351 steps from the ground floor to the top of one of the city’s most iconic and tallest occupied buildings.

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The race pack that was sent out several weeks prior to the event was informative and also gave training advice. The advice being to attempt to climb the stairs two at a time. With this in mind I planned my training for the event around this tip. I only managed to practiced to a maximum of 50 stairs but I also continued my running mileage and cross trained.

On arrival at the venue I booked in with ease and was made to feel really welcomed. They asked if I had done the tower run before and I replied I hadn’t but I was looking forward to attempting the challenge.

Lots of fellow participants joined me in waiting in the confines of the Premier inn away from the harsh wind and cold weather. I was glad this was an indoor run! As I stood waiting I could hear everyone around going over their plan of action and the do’s and don’ts from those who had run before.

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I got called to go outside and wait for my turn. It was very cold but the conversation from other participants passed the time quickly. I have to say the tower looked huge! I got to the front for my turn but then a competitor arrived late so I was asked to wait. This was fine with me as it gave me time to settle myself nerves.

As I waited the lady behind me said she would be coming for me in 20 seconds. This spurred me into action.
I was counted in (at my scheduled time) ‘3,2,1, go…..

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I set off using my planned two at a time approach. Each floor was 2 sets of roughly 10 steps and had a marshal at every one. At floor 2 the marshal happily advised me I only had 18 flights to go!

My plan was working really well and I felt I was doing okay. By floor 8 my lungs were burning but I overtook two people, one of which had stopped with a marshal to catch her breath.

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By the time I got to 13th floor I was really struggling and felt slightly dizzy. At floor 15 I remember thinking ‘oh my, what am I doing?’, I slowed to a fast walk up to floor 16 and then realised I only had 4 more floors to go. All of a sudden I could hear the lady who said she was going to catch me so I found some extra energy and sprinted to the top.

At the summit I recall a marshal shouting ‘push the buzzer’ which I did with great joy. I had finished! I felt a sense of exhilaration but I was really out of breath, my lungs burnt and I could not stop coughing.

I walked along the corridor to collect my medal and a well earned glass of fizz to find lots of other competitors coughing too. There were tables with snack bars and bottles of water. I took some pictures of the beautiful views across the city.

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Everyone was very bubbly and congratulating one another. As we made our way down in the lift we were all intrigued to find out how we had done. I made my way out and was guided to a van where I could immediately get a print out of my time which was a very pleasing 3 minutes 23 seconds.

I was congratulated on the loud speaker by the announcer as I made my way past which was a nice touch. I was amazed that my legs felt good but my lungs still hurt!

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Overall I would highly recommend this event. It was over quickly but the sense of achievement was high, the atmosphere was really good and everyone was friendly and welcoming. The volunteers were great and the event ran smoothly. I was even told I could run up again at the end if I fancied it. I politely declined decided but hope to give it another go next year.

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UK Wife Carrying Race 2019

It was that time of year again. Our fourth consecutive trip to Dorking, Surrey for what was to be the twelfth annual UK Wife Carrying Race.

Generally this is an event we look forwards to. It’s fun, it’s about as quirky a race concept as there is and it offers me a welcome break from the monotony of marathon training. This time however things were a little different.

There was no denying that it was still going to be a great laugh. You’re jumping over hay bales and running up and down a big hill while carrying your wife on your back. How can you possibly not rise a smile to that in a world where adults have to be so serious the majority of the time? Saying that there was no getting away from the fact that this year the demand for us to get the victory was high.

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Firstly, we’ve finished in 2nd place in all of the previous three year’s races. When you’re as competitive as I am and you get that close so many times it really ramps up the desire to win. Secondly, Our local BBC radio station have been documenting our journey to the race and we’d been selected to take part in a TV show on Sky One that gave various celebrities the opportunity to back us to come first and their cameras were there to record us. The world’s media is always at this event but this time some of them were there specifically for us. Pressure on!

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In some ways it’s surprising that such an obscure race attracts such high standard of competitors but maybe not so much when you consider that there’s a national title at stake, a world championship to qualify for, a chance to represent your country, a cash prize to go towards your flights to Finland for those championships and to get your moment in the media spotlight.

Registration, wives weigh in (they have to be at least 50KG’s), pre race interview, some promo shots and a good warm up all done and we were on the start line with 40 other couples ready to go.

The wind was swirling and the rain was lashing down. This was going to make the all grass 380 meter course treacherous in an event in which the headlines were dominated last year by a couple who slipped and fell resulting in hospitalisation on what was a dry day. This made my wife a little more nervous but I was confident.

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It’s important to get a good start as the hay bales are placed within the first 30 meters on this out and back route. I’ve been held up here before but got us there in a good position this time. After negotiating the four hurdles safely there was just one couple ahead of us as we began to climb the steepening hill. I’ve felt the strain on this significant incline over the past couple of year but this time I was feeling strong and fresh. I soon caught the early leaders and it was now our race to lose.

I reached the turnaround point at the summit with a slender lead which I then increased as the downhill started. I pushed on and felt comfortable. As I approached the crowds I didn’t feel any pressure from behind. Then came the water zone.

This isn’t your regular race’s water zone where you’re offered a nice cup of refreshing water to quench your first. Here they hurl buckets of freezing cold water at point plank range straight into your face. Being in the front I got the brunt of this. This sent me into a bit of a daze and before I knew it, from nowhere I felt a knock to my arm. I’d momentarily shut my eyes as the water was thrown, I opened them and like awakening from a bad dream, we’d been overtaken.

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By this point we were already back at the hay bales so a had very little time to react. I went over them as fast as I could then made the final burst to the tape. The momentum had swung their way and there was no getting it back. We crossed the line just inches from victory once again. Unlike last year thought, where we’d been battling all the way with several others, including the couple from Lithuania who finished third but went on to win the world champs, we were well clear of anyone else.

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I gave this race my all, I felt really strong throughout, especially on the up hill and this was by far my best performance to date but still just not quite good enough. Full praise to my wife Becky who not only goes through this race with me year in, year out but who also went the extra mile this time by going on a big diet and losing almost a stone since the turn of the year to get down to 58KG’s which is incredible as she’s 5ft 10”.

Congratulations to Chris and Tanisha who beat us and took the title for the second successive year, that was one hell of a finish to close that gap.

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I also want to give credit to event organiser Rob McCaffrey from Trionium who, in a time where health and safety and political correctness have gone mad, continues to ensure the maddest thing of all is that this race still goes on. Not only that, but it’s getting stronger and more popular every year. It’s the epitome of a quirky race and long may it remain a part of our racing calendar. Fifth time lucky?


The Sky One show featuring Chris and Becky is called Romesh’s look back to the future and will air in December.

2018 Year in Review

In 2018 we put on another 3 of our own events which have now all become annual staples on the calendar for Easter, Halloween and Christmas as well as a Strongman challenge all of which went really well. On top of this we attended and reviewed races with quirky concepts across the country and went international running in both Belgium and France.

First up for me personally was my third trip in as many years to the UK Wife Carrying Race in Dorking, Surrey and for the third year running we finished in second place, agonisingly close to victory and not without controversy.

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A new event we were really excited for was the Pizza Run. We sent our reviewer Alan along to this one and unfortunately he didn’t have the best of times in Leeds but it sounds like they are going bigger and better in 2019 and I’m looking forwards to hopefully getting to one of their nine events myself to check it out and this is a combination of two of my most favourite things.

It was then time for the most eagerly anticipated event of the year, The Beer Lovers Marathon in Belgium. This came highly recommended and it did not disappoint! 26 miles of running with 18 beer stops on route as well as food and live music, themed fancy dress and not forgetting the pre and post race party with unlimited food and drink. I can confirm it was as amazing as it sounds.

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June was a big month for me as I took part in two races that were both quirky but also very challenging and competitive and I not only managed to get the win in both Runstock and the Flitton Potato Race but I also set course records in both. What I really liked about Runstock is that although it’s essentially an ultra race they have set it up in a way that it suits so many different people from fun runners to ultra distance athletes and obstacle course races of all ages. The Flitton Potato Race is one of my favourite races on the calendar. The atmosphere there is so nice, it always seems to fall on a lovely hot summer’s day and the concept and history behind it is great.

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Then came The Great British Beerathon, the event we named ‘Quirky Race of the year 2017’. That meant it had a lot to live up to and often when something is so good when you go back a second time it can be a little disappointing, well this wasn’t. It was just as good, if not better that last year. I don’t think it’s possible to attend this run and not have a good time.

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The post that attracted the most interest on our Facebook page by a long way in 2018 was the poster for the Naked Run so although this wasn’t a race I was going to attend personally we did manage to find someone who dared to bare all in our quest reviewer Peter who went along and had a cracking time by the look of it. Fair play to him for that one.

It was then time to head overseas again, this time to Paris for the Disneyland Magic Run weekend. It was 3 days of racing with a 5k on Friday evening, 10k on Saturday morning and a half marathon on Sunday morning, all around the Disneyland resort and theme parks. This was a truly magical occasion that I tried to capture the best I could in my event video.

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This was a small period of time that I don’t think I could possibly have embraced my role with Quirky Races anymore that I did as two day after running around Disneyland Paris dressed as Ironman I found myself running around the Olympic park in London dress as a giant inflatable penis at the Great Willy Waddle. This is about as surreal as a run gets and again I tried to capture this with some filming so be sure to check it out if you haven’t already.

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I then finished off my year of quirky races with the Gherkin Challenge. A run up the 1037 steps of the Gherkin tower in London. Always wanting to challenge myself and be a bit different I decided to do it twice. Well why not?

You can find all our event review and links to our vidoes here: https://quirkyraces.com/featured-races/

I can’t wait to see what 2019 will bring as I continue to seek out more runs, races and challenges with quirky concepts. Bring it on!

Naked 5k

Peter Redwood-Smith is our kind of runner. He’s currently well on the way to competing his challenge of running 52 races in 52 weeks and a whole load of those races are quirky ones.
Peter came to our attention at The Great Willy Waddle then we found out that this month alone (September) he’s also already done Rat Race Man Vs Mountain, Weald Country Park 10K, Colchester Zoo Half Marathon, Loch Ness Marathon and The Naturist Foundation Naked Run 5K which he’s kindly agreed to review for us so check that out and a Little bit more about the man himself below.

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Having ran the BH5K (Naked Run) at The Naturist Foundation back in May, I knew what was to come on 16th September at their second race of the year. This race, albeit a little quirky is fantastic for body positivity and confidence. People of all ages, races, shapes and sizes participated.

We as a society feel too much pressure to be ‘picture perfect’ but we’re all unique, we are all individual and we’re all perfectly imperfect just the way we are.

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I started running back in 2017 to battle anxiety and depression whilst raising funds and awareness for charity. Growing up with body confidence issues, not feeling comfortable in my own skin and hating the person I saw in the mirror so whilst this race pushed me out of my comfort zone it was for the better.

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The race consisted of three loops on road/trail. No bib number was required as it was written on your chest and arm in lipstick. All participants receive a certificate for finishing and awards are given out to those placing in the top three for men, women and vet age groups. I placed 27th with a time of 24.58 for the 5K distance.

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This was a well organised event overall, I’m planning to return next year and I encourage others to add this quirky race to their bucket list.
If you want to keep up with Peter’s challenges and support him by sending a donation you can do so on this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/septemberstreakforwwf

Race The Train 2018

Review by Eileen Naughton

Don’t be fooled by the 90 year old stream train. The train covers 14 miles of hilly Welsh countryside in approximately 1 hour 48 minutes- a time only 10% of the two legged participants can achieve!Now in its 35th year runners line up on the bridge above the station at Tywyn in Gwynedd, West Wales awaiting the whistle to set off to race the train on it’s journey to Abergynolwyn and back while taking in almost every terrain imaginable. This is a true trail race.

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The railway station was one of the inspirations for the Thomas The Tank Engine stories by Rev W Awdry.

As we got going it felt like the whole town had come out to see the race but it wasn’t long before the busy roads were quickly replaced with grassy trails, and then the first of many hills.

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The route winds it’s way through farms and fields never straying too far from the train line. There are lots of marshals and water stops along the way.

Mile 7 signals the start of the fell running. The race literature had warned that the first half was the easiest so the worst was yet to come!

A very narrow track meant you had to be careful not to lose your footing on the steep down hill. It was impossible to overtake at this point but that didn’t seem to stop some people trying to do so as I kept a constant ear out listening for the “choo choos”.

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I knew the train was close and at mile 9 I was running so fast downhill my legs went from under me. I slipped but was quickly pulled up and a fellow participant and I carried on. Every runner was so friendly.
As I ran through some typically scenic Welsh fields I could see the train stopped at stations picking up spectators and as the train comes near the route a great cheer from all the families and children supporting on board can be heard.
Trees and hills hid the train for the final few miles of the journey but I could still hear it in the distance so just kept running hoping I was ahead of it.
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Coming back down into the town, and running the final straight I gave it everything but the train was already at the station. I had finished in a time of 2 hours 15 minutes. I was greeted at the finish line by my friend Martin who had beaten the train by just 20 seconds!

A fantastic medal, goodie bag, t-shirt, wonderful marshals and really well organised race.

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The Flitton Potato Race 2018

Legend has it that this race started before the First World War and continued between World Wars. It then took a break before being revived in the 1970’s then went into intermission again (apart from once in 2004) until 2010 where it was reborn in its current form that we see today.

According to tradition at the end of the potato season the farmhands would lift the old hundredweight sacks (51 KG’s) and race with them from the churchyard in the village of Flitton to the farm one mile up the road in Greenfield then get to keep the potatoes for their efforts.

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In the seventies the route was reversed so that it ended at the White Heart pub (opposite the church) and the weight of the sacks was reduced to 25KG’s but the distance remained the same.

When it was brought back again the only further change made was bringing the weight down to 20KG’s for men and 10KG’s for women to meet with modern day health and safety regulations.

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Quirky Races’ Chris has been attending this event since 2015 where he won the race breaking the course record with a time of 5:30. He successfully defended his title the following year with a slightly slower 5:35 but due to a fixture clash had to miss it in 2017 so he was even more excited than usual to be returning this year with the aim of reclaiming his throne as the potato king!

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Flitton in the county of Bedfordshire is only a 40 minute drive from Quirky Races HQ in Northampton and the races don’t start until midday so unusually an early start wasn’t required which was nice as the event fell on Father’s Day so I got to open my cards and gifts before making the journey. I had my wife and two young children with me as this event is for all the family. As well as the adult’s race there are races over the same distance with lighter weight sacks for older children and spud and spoon races over shorter distances for the little ones. The pub garden at the finish line has fairground rides, stalls, inflatables, an ice cream van and BBQ where most gather afterwards and await the presentation.

It was another nice hot day, as it has been every year I’ve attended which always helps the occasion. Registration and safety briefing are held in the village hall at roughly the half way point of the course. I then took an easy run up to the start which acted as a perfect warm up. I was first to arrive and got some drills and strides in before the rest of the 59 males and 18 females joined me. It was then time to collect our potato sack. It was great to see three hardcore participants had requested to carry the old hundredweight! Fair play to them. I put my 20KG sack on the start line and waited for the signal to go.

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I was confident I was in shape to run a similar time to what I had done on the two previous occasions so I had the attitude that if someone was going to beat me they’d need to break my course record to do so. As the air horn was sounded we were off and my tactics were to start steady but be right up there in the leading group.

I found myself at the front with a couple of others just behind on either side of me but that gap seemed to lengthen with every stride and within a minute I felt no pressure. I was running well within myself and just stuck to my plan.

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Each quarter mile point is signed which really helps as theres no way of looking at your watch as of course your hands are raised gripping the sack on your shoulders. The route, which is on a closed road, is straight and flat and the further you get the more spectators there are lining the paths either side. From half way it gets very busy and this is where I put my foot down a little more.

The crowd had been waiting in expect for the first runner to come through so when they saw me I could really feel their excitement and I fed off that as my legs started to tire slightly. In the final 400 meters the streets are packed and the cheers get louder and louder. I pushed on again as although I felt no danger from behind it’s hard to tell and the noice from the spuds rattling around prevents that sense you normally get if someone is catching you.

As I completed the final stretch with the church and pub in sight I knew I had the win wrapped up but because I’d felt quite relaxed the whole way and hadn’t been pushed at any point I wasn’t expecting the time to be as quick but upon crossing the finish line and the timing mat the announcer call out that I’d ran a new record of 5:26. This really surprise me and was a really satisfying bonus.

I turned round to see second place (last year’s winner) coming in just under half a minute later and stayed in the finish area to see almost all the other runners coming home with smiles but very tired looking faces and then the kids from 10 years and above who set off just after the adults.

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Next up was the relay where teams of four take on the same course running a quarter of a mile each with the potato sack acting as the baton.

This was followed by the under 10’s races which my daughter was taking part in so it was another little run for me as I ran alongside her cheering her on, shouting encouragement just like so many others had done for me.

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Medals and goody bags collected it was time for a celebratory drink and ice cream in the pub’s garden while reflecting on what a great time we’d had.

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Rat Race Runstock 2018

A trail run, an obstacle course, an ultra challenge, a festival. Runstock really does offer something for everyone. Weather you want to run one 5KM lap or go for the ultra challenge of 50KM and beyond you can do it all here. If running isn’t your thing then there’s a festival full of family activities but I’m pretty confident that once you’ve taken on just one lap of this course you may well change your mind and become a running addict like the majority of the 2000 taking on just some or all of the 8 hours of running time available.

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As much as I love obstacles, on this occasion I personally was just there for the running (I couldn’t resist a couple of goes on the monkey bars though). I did however manage to notch up 16 laps so could well be best placed to comment of the course as I ended up running more than anyone else.

What I saw throughout the day was more smiles on faces than perhaps any other running event I’ve ever been at. From participants to marshals to spectators. Everyone seemed to be beaming from ear to ear from start to finish and it was easy to see why.

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I think what contributed most to the chilled and happy atmosphere was the freedom of choice. So many obstacle course races these days have mandatory obstacle completion or a forfeit for failure. Here you did whatever you wanted with a run route set out for those who didn’t fancy getting wet or muddy or those, like myself, who had set themselves a running distance target. For many this was the ‘ultra challenge’ of 50KM (10 laps) set up by the organisers which came with an extra shiny gold medal and a vest (if you paid an extra fee). You could also stop running at the end of any lap, take a rest, go and enjoy the many activities of offer in the festival, then join back in at any period from the start at 10AM to 5.30PM with participants getting until 6PM to complete their final lap.

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The variety of people taking part further alliterated the appeal to everyone this event had and the lapped set up meant I could see this throughout as I went past those of all ages, shapes and sizes.

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This is the perfect introduction for kids to running and obstacles and for adults into ultra running as well as offering a challenging and competitive aspect for anyone who wanted it.

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