Quirky articles

As Keen As Mustard Swimrun – St. Ives, 2019

Review by Elise Downing.

Having done one swimrun before and absolutely loved it, I leapt at the chance when Chris, my brother, suggested we team up for the St Ives event, hosted by As Keen As Mustard. Swimrun is a great sport. It’s exciting and different and you get to have a laugh with your teammate. There’s just one problem with it for me: it involves swimming. The race day in-water sections are fine – they’re good fun, you’re outdoors and you’re actually getting somewhere. It’s all the swim training, or lack thereof, that is my issue.

I spent the weeks leading up to the race messaging Chris about how nervous I was that I hadn’t been swimming for about three months. He said not to worry – his training had consisted of a few lengths of the 7 meter pool while on holiday. This actually did nothing to reassure me. I had been relying on him taking the front spot of the tether and pulling me along. Suddenly the very generous cut off times started to seem less generous…

We arrived at the Pike and Eel pub where registration was being held about an hour before race start. Registration was super quick, always a big plus point of taking part in smaller events, and soon we had our bibs and hats in hand and headed back to the the car to get ready. I attempted to squeeze into my wetsuit behind the car door without losing too much dignity, but largely failed. Hey ho. We put our swim caps on for a quick selfie (how do other people manage to look good in them?!) and then headed to the briefing.


We had opted for the longer 21km race, which was two laps of the shorter course, and consisted of a total of 12 swims and 13 runs. The swims were all on the River Great Oust, some upstream and some downstream. The runs took place on the surrounding fields and river trails, with a section around the RSPB Fen Drayton Nature Reserve. At just after 08.30am we were set off.

There was a 2km run to start, and then we were into the first swim of 400m upstream. We had chosen not to tether together for this first swim, as we weren’t sure who would be faster. Well, Chris wasn’t sure. I was fairly confident it would be him. I was right. Within about 20 metres I knew that I wasn’t imagining how rubbish I was at swimming and those few hundred metres felt like a marathon. Turns out swimming upstream really adds an extra challenge too. It was like going through treacle. Chris kept shooting off ahead, struggling to stay within the allotted 10m of my snails pace, and I felt fairly demoralised. It was going to be a long morning.

Finally, after what felt like a long, soggy eternity, I saw the yellow flag that indicated swim exit. Hallelujah! Back on dry land and the next run was just over a kilometre around some fields. This was fun: I remembered that I actually like running and we managed to do to a bit of overtaking. Soon we were back in the water for another upstream section, but this time we were tethered together, which was a vast improvement. I felt much happier. What’s the point of having a brother if they aren’t going to tow you along?


Next was the longest run section of the day, nearly 3km around the nature reserve. This was fine and we did a bit more overtaking of people who had zoomed past us on the swims – we ended up leapfrogging with the same people for most of the morning. The next swim section was the longest of the day at 640m, but also downstream. It was incredible. What kind of sadist makes you swim upstream anyway!? We raced through that leg and were feeling pretty chuffed with ourselves as we climbed up the river banks and out of the water at the end of it.

We weren’t quite there yet though. There was still another downstream swim and two short river crossings to go on our first lap, plus the runs in between them. We plodded our way through them, continuing to leapfrog other competitors, and eventually we reached the point where short course racers headed to the finish line, and us long course racers set out on another lap. I’d had a nice morning up until this point but I have to admit the thought of doing it all again wasn’t filling me with a huge amount of joy. Chris isn’t one for giving up though and I didn’t think there was any chance we’d be allowed to stop early. I tried to push thoughts of warm jumpers and a hot drink to the back of my mind.

Then came the magical moment. Chris turned to me and said, “are we finishing here then?” The best words he’s ever spoken in my 27 years of knowing him. Turns out his shoulder was hurting (probably from towing me along like dead weight… sorry about that) and with the OCR world champs coming up, he didn’t want to do any lasting damage. We’d already seen the whole course and very much taken on board the lesson that we need to do some more swimming training. There was nothing left to prove. We very happily ran to the finish line, handed in our race bibs and collected our 10km course medals.

The St Ives swimrun was a great, friendly way to spend a Sunday morning. With its flat runs and not-too-long swims, it would be a great introduction to anybody wanting to give there first swimrun a go, especially as there’s the option to race as an individual, unlike many swim runs where it’s mandatory to be in a pair. And if you’re a fan of condiments and in possession of more swimrun prowess than us, then I’d definitely recommend entering as the winners’ trophy is a fairly dazzling perspex-enclosed jar of Coleman’s Mustard.


All 6 of their events for 2020 have already been announced. Check them out here: http://www.akamustard.events


Disneyland Paris Magic Run Weekend

I love running and I love Disneyland so when I found out that there was such a thing as ‘Run Disney’ pretty much all my dreams had come true. I booked up the whole family for a long weekend and off we headed to Paris.

The event consists of a 5km on Friday evening, a 10km on Saturday morning and a half marathon on Sunday morning. You can do one, two or all three races and there are also three different kids races with distances of 100m, 200m or 1km depending of age. Always wanting to do as much as I can, I was doing the 36km challenge (all three races) and my son was in the 100m and my daughter was doing the 5km with me as well as the 1km so we had almost everything covered.


We arrived in Disneyland early Thursday afternoon and spent the day on the rides, catching a few shows and watching the famous parade before visiting the race expo in the Disney Village. There wasn’t a lot going on but a couple of fun things to keep the kids entertained while I stood in various queues collecting each individual number and t-shirt for every race we were doing. I ended up leaving the marquee with 8 t-shirts and worked out that if all went to plan we’d be going home with 8 medals between us too!

There is a huge bit of bling to be earned for each race completed as well as a 31km challenge medal for running both the 10km and the half and a 36km challenge medal for completing all three distances. There were silicone medals for the kids races.

After spending the whole of Friday walking round both parks from ride to ride my legs were already pretty tired and the racing hadn’t even started yet! As evening fell we returned to our hotel to change into our running gear (well I say running gear, I was actually wearing an Ironman morph suit) and then headed to the Disney Village ready for the 8pm start time.


As you can imagine this is a very popular set of races with the half marathon peaking at 9,000 runners. There are five pens separating participants labelled A-E. Each pen is released to the start line one by one then groups of 100ish runners are set off 30 second apart. I had been allocated in pen E but luckily my daughter was in pen B so I was allowed in with her. This meant we didn’t have too long to wait before the much anticipated start.

The 5km course took us past the Disney village where crowds of supporters gathered then into the Walt Disney Studios Park, through the indoor shops and restaurants promenade then around the park past the rides including through Toy Story playland before heading around the back where there were lots of storage units and the unexpected addition of a fire station where all the fire fighters were lining the course cheering us on. We moved to their side of the course to give them all high fives.

It wasn’t long before we were back in the theme park and heading towards the last kilometre where several characters were available for photos. This did involve some rather large queues though, not something we fancied doing during a run. There was traditional Disney music blasting out and marshals all over the course which was fenced and coned in all the necessary places.

The only negative I could give about this run was the underwhelming finish line. I actually had to question if we had in fact finished but within a few steps I saw the workers giving out the medals and that was race one done. We headed into the other park to watch the magical illuminations then got some dinner and went back to our hotel for some sleep with a very early start the next morning for the 10km.

You don’t have to stay in one of the many Disney hotels in order to take part in these runs but with a 7am start for the 10km and the half marathon it’s certainly an advantage to be close by. I’d managed to get bumped up from pen E to pen A due to my half marathon PB so this time I had less waiting before the off.


I wanted to push this one a bit harder so got as close to the front as I could but that still wasn’t as close as I’d have liked. I wondered what time all these people must have got up to get to the start so early as I tried to squeeze my way through the crowds while listening to the legendary Paula Radcliffe who was up on stage as the event’s ambassador. She was also running all of the events herself.

Three groups were set off before me which meant a bit of a hold up on the first few hundred meters which featured a couple of tight bends before the course opens out a little more and the runners began to spread out. I was constantly overtaking people as I built on the slow start.

The course followed the same start as the previous night’s route though the Walt Disney studios then looped back round and into the Disneyland park which involved the special moments of running through the castle itself.

There are all ability levels taking part from walkers to top class athletes and as I got closer to the front it was good to see lots of other runners on the many switch backs on course especially as I approached the last few kilometres and saw all those would had only just been set off.

On one of these switch backs I was surprised to see marathon world record holder Paula going one way as I was going the other. She had started right at the front so I must have made up quite a bit of ground on her and this pushed me over the final part to see how close I could get to her. I didn’t manage to catch her but she was at the finished area as I crossed the line so I took the chance to have a photo with her. This nearly wasn’t possible though as it had been pouring with rain for most of the run and my phone wasn’t working as it had got so wet but luckily a very kind marshal dried it off for me before capturing the special moment.


After the late night we’d all had then my early start I managed to get back to my hotel room before my family had woke up. It wasn’t long before we were all back out for another day of rollercoasters though mixed in with the children’s runs. Unfortunately these didn’t run as smoothly as the two races I’d done so far as there had been a printing error on the event schedule meaning everyone turned up for the start an hour early. After lots of waiting around an announcement was made about the error and eventually proceedings got underway starting with the youngest kids sprints then the longer distance which involved a full lap around the lake for the older children. They all looked very pleased to meet mischievous character Stitch at the finish line before being lead through to a secure area to be reunited with their parents upon showing a wristband which matched theirs. This was a great touch to ensure the little ones safety.


On Sunday it was time for the main event. The half marathon. This was the only race that was officially timed with results and finish positions published so I got up extra early for what was another 7am start to ensure I got off right at the front this time. It felt pretty special to be standing on the start line right next to Paula Radcliffe amongst many other top runners. These events may have a fun run type feel about them but this race in particular still attracts some elite standard athletes. This was evident from the speed several went off at as we were started off taking the same route as the previous day’s 10k before heading along a long straight road and into a residential area where many people had come out their houses to cheer us on. This was the first time any of the run routes had taken us out of Disneyland itself and it was really nice to see the surrounding areas.

Next up was a picturesque lake to run around before taking the same route back which gave an opportunity to see lots of the other runners. I wondered what all the commotion going on just behind me was before realising I was just ahead of Paula who was in a group desperately trying to run alongside her. I knew she’d be operating at a consistent pace just tried to focus on doing the same to remain ahead and hopefully real in some of those that had gone off super fast.


This tactic worked as I found myself overtaking several fellow competitors as we ran past some of the Disney hotels and arrived back into the theme park. We then took on the same lap around the lake as the kids had before going by lots of the rides then into the finish. I was pretty chuffed that I’d managed to stay ahead of a certain multiple time world champion and as she did finish again took the chance to have a photo. This topped of what had been an amazing weekend of running and one I’d love to return to one day or maybe even take of the same challenge in Disney World, Florida which also includes an extra day with a full marathon to finish!


Check out our video of all the events which really captures the magic: https://www.facebook.com/1767730730136563/posts/2166839663558999/

Use Your Senses 5k – Manchester

Review by Nigel Holmes.
This is an event series for all the family held by Guide Dogs charity with sensory experiences on route. There are 5 sensory stations Including taste, see, touch, smell and listen. I took part in last year’s event so I knew what to expect but I’d say that the 2019 event was bigger and better than 2018. Despite the threat of rain in North Manchester the numbers were up with 800 people registered and fortunately the rain held off whilst we ran.


The 5k route took the form of two 2.5km loops and gave the option for some to do a single loop. The event is perfect for young children as the number of sense stations around the route break it into smaller, more manageable chunks for little legs to handle.

I’m not sure what the first ‘taste’ station offered as myself and my running partner were on a mission to rip apart the assembled field of children and fun runners. Last year there was popcorn and candy floss, my briefing notes say that this year there were sweet and sour options.


I’d been approached to lead this run last year as I’m a regular pacer runner at the parkrun that also takes place in Heaton Park so I asked the organisers if I could lead the race whilst guiding my visually impaired mate called Danny.

The course was simpler than parkrun because it was two laps of 2.5 km and we could make sure we were at the front for at least the first loop. Danny has a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa which has left him with less than 10% vision since childhood. Normally he navigates using a cane rather than a guide dog, especially not a human sized one but that’s what I’d chose to dress as for the event!


We set off from the front as we’ve found it easier for quicker runners to overtake the pair of us who are tethered together by a looped shoelace than for us to make our way past slower runners in the congested first few hundred metres of any race. We hoped to lead for the first lap as Danny’s 5k PB is under 23 minutes and the run was won in 25 minutes last year. Danny absolutely flew off the start line along with some giddy young lads who I expected to fall away within the first kilometre. I begged him to slow up a bit as I had the extra complication of running whilst wearing a furry dog costume. I was concerned that the trousers of this one size fits all suit might start to slide down my slender frame but as it turned out they stayed faithfully around my waistline for the duration of the run.

We turned for the first of two noticeable climbs on the route and Danny knew this first hill was short and followed immediately by a long downhill so he attacked it and we moved through the field to take up 2nd place. The second sense station was ‘sight’ and took the form of coloured powder paint that was fired at us and then on the longest uphill section on the course there was a ‘listen’ station with a DJ playing encouraging music to help us up the hill towards Heaton Hall. The music certainly lifted the pair of us as we took the lead on this climb. At the top of the park we skirted around by the golf course and the most ingenious of the stations, this time to stimulate our sense of smell, was a machine generating mint scented bubbles.


This was soon followed by a steel band to stimulate our ears before a sharp downhill to the finish. Just before the finish line we waded through a carpet of foam bubbles. We’d smashed out the first lap in 10 and a half mins breaking the hopes and spirits of the assembled field of children and fun runner but the pace started to take its toll. We had the complication of lapping people through most of our 2nd lap and despite me ‘barking’ out warnings of a guided runner coming though many were startled by Danny and his giant dog.


Despite slowing up in the 2nd lap we held first place which delighted the ever competitive Danny and I was left wondering whether there were any Gunniess World Records relating to giant dog suits!


This would be an ideal first 5k for children and people are welcome to walk it as well as run it so it’s very inclusive. Heaton Park is a great venue with good facilities. I hope they return next year as Danny and I will be sure to be there to lead it out again.

There are still two more events in the series this year if you fancy giving it a go. One in the Midlands next weekend (17th August) and one in Scotland in September. Check out www.guidedogs.org.uk for all the info.


Flitton Potato Race 2019

Once every year hundreds of ‘starch’ raving mad competitors flock to the little village of Flitton in Bedfordshire to attempt to run a mile as fast as possible while carrying a sack of potatoes over their shoulders.


This race has a great history and this was the tenth running of the event in its current format. After the pre race briefing and usual health and safety ‘waffle’ in the village hall the runners made their way to the start line. It was ‘crunch’ time!

I set off at a steady pace towards the front of the 53 strong field doing the adults individual race over the traditional full mile distance carrying my 20kg sack (it’s 10kg’s for the ladies of which there were just 12). There were certainly no couch potatoes here!


Within a couple of hundred meter I found myself in the lead and began to pull away. Although it had been raining all week we were lucky enough to have a fairly hot day and the sweat began to pour from my head as I upped the pace. ‘Roasting’ hot I managed to balance the sack using just one hand as I wiped my brows with the other and then with my eyes on the fries I increased my pace again.

Just after the half way point the spec’taters’ gather in their masses. It seems like the whole village come out to watch along with the families and friends of the participants and although the through of running harder isn’t at all a’pealing’ the encouragement really drives you on to the finish line.


5 minutes and 33 seconds later and I had finished. Just outside my course record but another convincing win meant I was ‘fried’ but very happy.

I watched my fellow competitors coming in. Most looking completely ‘mashed’ but nearly all with big smiles on their faces.


It was then time for the four person relays and the kids spud and spoon races over various distances depending on age. Lots of whom had just watched their parents compete and now it was their turn to show they were chips off the old block!



Once all the races are done the road reopens and everyone heads into the White Hart pub garden situated right at the finish for BBQ, drinks, live music, an ice cream van, fair ground rides, a bouncy castle and a selection of stalls and games as well as the presentation. What more could you want on Father’s Day when the event is usually held. Keep your eyes ‘peeled’ for next year’s races. This is one not to be missed.


Photos by Ampthill and District camera club.

For a more in-depth look into this event and its history see our review from last year: https://quirkyraces.com/2018/06/19/the-flitton-potato-race-2018/

Blenheim Palace 4 Miles on Wheels

4 Miles on Wheels

Review by Nicola Wright.

I was asked to do this run at short notice as the original runner was injured. I had heard of the Blenheim 7k but not the 4 miles on wheels which is part of the event. I’d had a couple of wines so I agreed. My son is nearly 5 and I didn’t have a running buggy but I thought I’d give it a go!

The registration transfer was simple and all done by email. I was pleasantly surprised to see that changes could be made up to 2 days before the run and thought this was really good.

My race pack arrived on the Monday before the run which included my number with time chip attached so no queuing up on the day.

I’d spoken to a couple of people who had done the standard 7k run before to ask what it was like and their reply was ‘‘Its beautiful but I hope you like hills!” I do plenty of hill training with my running group Parklands Jog and Run but never while pushing a 3.5 stone child in a buggy!

As I arrived on race day the drive into the grounds gave an amazing view of the palace and a beautiful bridge and there were marshals to instruct us where to park.


There were 3 races going on. An under 15’s 1 mile, which set off at 10:15am, the main 7k which started at 11:00am followed by the buggy and wheelchair run shortly afterwards. There was a fire engine and firefighters to keep the kiddies entertained which my son absolutely loved and I literally had to drag him away.

At around 10:45am the warm up started which I missed as I was queuing for the toilet. Before the 7k started the run director checked the toilets to make sure no one missed the race though.

Once the 7k has set off they asked the runners with wheels to line up. There were 39 of us in total with more buggies than wheelchairs. My nerves had really kicked in now and I wondered why on earth I’d agreed to do this.

Before I knew it the race had started. My son Jaxon vwas loving it shouting “faster faster.” As usual I set off fast but before long my legs were jelly (serves me right for missing the warm up) and my back was aching from leaning over slightly and pushing. I found running with one hand on the buggy the easiest strategy and when my arm ached I swapped to the other one.


Looking around at the other competitors there was various makes and models of buggy’s. Some were super fancy running buggies with inflatable tires and some basic strollers which must of been hard work.

The first mile took me past the palace it’s self so I took the opportunity to take a few photos and next came the beautiful bridge I saw on the way in. I stopped for a picture there and another runner offered to take it (I think we were both grateful of the few seconds rest). I then decided I needed to crack on and get moving.


The early running was quite tough but soon my legs felt better and the switching of arms meant I’d got a good rhythm going. By this point we’d caught up to the back markers from the 7k race and the praise they gave me was amazing! I soon reached the split off point where the 7k runners went off road for about 1k. This was clearly marked and I pushed on straight ahead and up the first small hill. It wasn’t long until we met back up with these runners where they came back onto the road. I was really enjoying it now as I really felt part of the race with lots of runners all around me.

When I reached the 2 mile mark I thought ‘wow this isn’t as bad as I thought’ but then I rounded a corner and faced a hill and OMG what a hill it was! It went on for around 1k slowly winding it’s way up into the woods. I carried on running for as long as I could but eventually the hill beat me and many others even without buggies and I had to walk.


So many people commented on how well I was doing, lots of people were chatting and giving high fives to my son and others asking for a cheeky lift in the buggy.

Walking gave me time to take in the surroundings as the path took us right through the middle of the woods which were full of bluebells and eventually I reached the top and what goes up must come down.

The down was fab. I let the buggy do the work and I just held on and ran as my pace really picked up. Jaxon really enjoyed this part as we were overtaking people and he was kicking the wheel trying to make us go even faster. Just like the uphill this part wound back down through the woods. We were now at the 3 mile mark and looking at my watch I was surprised at how fast I’d completed it.


We went past a lovely lake and over another bridge where a marshal pointed out that we were nearly finished. Just one last dreaded hill to go! That really spurred me on and as this hill was nothing like the last I managed to run it all. As we rounded the last corner I could see the crowds cheering us on and hear the rock choir in the distance singing.

I felt such a massive achievement as I completed the last few hundred metres and I then spotted my mum and one of my other sons in the crowd supporting me which made me sprint to the line. I received a bottle of water and a medal for both me and Jaxon which he was really pleased with.

I spoke to the run director afterwards and she explained that the race was introduced 4 years ago after a regular competitor of the 7k had an accident and ended up in a wheelchair but still wanted to compete so they adapted the course cutting out the cross country section reducing it from 7k to 4 miles and due to its success decided keep it going.


After the run we explored the grounds and had a picnic, got a return train ride to the palace, enjoyed the playground, maze, bouncy castle and butterfly tunnel and on presenting my race number for an extra £8 we could gain access to the palace itself.

On our way back to the car we could hear lots of cheering and into view came a girl in a wheelchair named Phoebe who 2 was completing her 4 miles which she had done with no help whatsoever. Jaxon helped hold up the finish line for her to cross and everyone around cheered her on. This completely touched me emotionally as it was what this event was all about. The whole course was designed for wheelchairs and pushchairs and although the roads were hilly they were completely smooth and wheel friendly.

Overall this was an amazing experience and day out. It was something for the whole family to be involved in and which gave people in wheelchairs the opportunity to take part. I’d definitely come back next year but maybe not with the pushchair!


World Coal Carrying Championships 2019

Review by Alan Moore.

Gawthorpe – A small village in the heart of Yorkshire where every year, on Easter bank holiday, men and women from all four corners of the UK (and some from overseas) come to push their mind, body and soul to the limit. Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the home of the World Coal Carrying Championships!

This event started like all great events, over an argument in a pub and of course a small wager. In this case it was between a farmer and a coal miner about who was the fittest. They decided by seeing who could carry a sack of coal from the pub on the outskirts of Gawthorpe to the village square and the rest is history as they say.

This was my fifth year doing the event and its like Deja Vu. The organisers have everything down to a fine art and thats the way it stays – tradition and doing it right go hand in hand here in Yorkshire and if you have a better idea well just keep it to yourself, after all ‘You can always tell a Yorkshire man, but you can’t tell him much’.


Registration takes place in the Boot and Shoe pub and opens from 10am. Making your way passed the hardened northerners who are just having their breakfast of John smith’s (and thats just the women) the registration desk consists of a pub table, a lady and a big book. I handed her my registration form and she said “ta” (Translated: Thank you). She goes on to say “Tha in oldies race 2, an tha numba fiftee” (Translated: You are running in veterans race 2 and your number is 50). I then moved on the the pool table where piles of yellow T-shirts were laid out. I was handed my top with race number attached. I also receive a copy of the rules:

1 – If you drop your sack – pick it up

2 – No cheating like cutting corners or running on the pavement

3 – No outside help from anyone

Back outside with the festivities starting at 10:30 with the children’s races – Yes the kids are tough up north too running the entire 1km course the course however health and safety has caught up with them and they are sadly no longer allowed to carry sacks of coal.


The crowds are out in force, the population for the day has quadrupled and the streets are full of proud parents clapping the boys and girls as they sprint down the course to the village square.

Kids races over and its time for the adults. I watch the first race go by then I take a steady jog down to the start line ready for my race.

Each wave has between 20 to 30 runners and its just luck of the draw to who you get in your race. I looked around me to see some familiar faces including a couple of previous winners but i’m not here to win. Its only four weeks since I had a major operation and although recovery is going well this will be a big step so I keep saying to myself “I’m here to take part, don’t push yourself, just try your best.”

For me it’s always here at the start line where my mind begins to take over. We stood awaiting the arrival of the coal truck with the sacks. The experienced runners are going through their routines trying to visualise carrying there sack, they do short warm up runs crouched over. The newbies are eagerly talking about tactics and trying to get some last minute advise.


The truck appears trundling down the road and the buzz starts. It’s too late for the nervous pee now, it’s time to race!

The faster, more experienced runners usually cross the road so they can get their sack first and get a good position on the start line. I just waited and got mine mid position, “Im not racing” I keep telling myself

I bend down next to the truck and a big burly bloke plonks this great big 50kg sack on my back, I grab my corners holding it in place and lift it up till its balancing on my lower neck/ upper back. Crouched over I make my way to the start line.


My new running philosophy is to start from the back so I stand 5 or 6ft behind the front line of runners as they line up all the way across the road.

The starter begins the count down:

3 – Runners start shuffling their sacks of coal.

2 – Time to check the grip on the Sack

1- Final thoughts are banished, Bang goes the gun and everyone is off!


I set off bending forward to keep the bag high and all I see is around 4ft in front of me and almost instantly this causes me problems as I almost run into someone who has started to walk already. I dodge right further into the middle of the road. The first 150m are a slow ascent only rising around 4m but it takes it out of those legs and just as you crest the hill the mind games start to kicks in. I had banished them for the first 150m as all I was concentrating on was moving the legs but know it starts:

‘This bag is heavy’, ‘Is it high enough?’, ‘Is it slipping?’, ‘You can walk if you want too’, ‘Why the hell are we doing this?’.

Pushing the thoughts away I get back to just putting one foot in front of the other as the road flattens. I see every bit of tarmac close up as I concentrate so hard on just moving forwards and not running into anyone.


Having done the race several times I have my own little checkpoints and the crest of the hill means check point one ticked off. Next is the left turn so I start to move to the left of the road and I almost go over another fellow runner who has dropped his sack. I dodge left and almost end up on the pavement – careful as thats an instant DQ!

The left turn is checkpoint 2 and a little bit of knowledge helps here as I take the fastest route, I don’t go left straight away but keep going straight and cut across half way across the road. This is because next up is an almost instant right turn. I hug the apex like Lewis Hamilton driving his Mercedes (just a lot slower!)

The mind games starts to kick in again at this point: ‘You know what’s coming next – The Hill!’, ‘Shall we Start walking now?’, ‘The bag has slipped for sure’, ‘You can’t hold this grip for much longer’, ‘Is that cramp I can start to feel coming on?’, ‘Why are we doing this?’.


I keep my legs moving, I start to think positively. I know I’m in a good way, the sack is still riding high, I haven’t walked and I still have a good grip so I try to push the negative thoughts aside and continue running.

Again moving to the left of the road ready for the next sharp corner and the start of the hill I feel my legs getting heavy and as soon as I turn that’s it, the mind wins, I’m walking the hill.


The incline is only 100m long but it rises over 20m and it can make even the strongest walk (or so I am telling myself) but the start of this hill also marks checkpoint 3 for me and the half way spot so I try to walk as fast as I can. As I reach the top the crowds are out in force. Thousands of spectators line the street cheering and the euphoria is contagious. My legs start to run again without me even thinking about it, the coal sack starts to feel lighter, I get a good grip and start to push forwards. Forget about it not being a race – who was I kidding?- I start to pass the crowd and other runners as they start to slow, dropping their bags and struggling to get them back up.

With 300m to go the noice is deafening! 250m to go I’m on a high, 200m I’m sweating like crazy, 150m I’m asking myself why did I started running again, 100m left – where is the bloody finish line? 50m to go I feel like I can’t go any further but upon finally reaching the finish line I drop my sack on the village green and collapse next in a heap next to it. I move away fast though as others will be finishing and I don’t want a sack of coal dropped on me.


A nice lady hands me a bottle of water and I stand there with 25 other blokes all with hands on knees trying to get our breath back.

I made my way back through the crowd wearing my coal stained race shirt with pride getting pats on the shoulder from strangers and congratulations ringing in my ears to find the wife who has a pint ready for me – yes this is up north and you have to do what Northerners do – carry coal and drink bitter!

If you’d like to give this race a try (if you think you are can be Northern enough) then head over to http://www.gawthorpemaypole.org.uk/ for details and who knows I might see you there next year.

Check out Alan’s video here: https://www.facebook.com/100007742052371/posts/2252976018303778?sfns=mo

You can see more from Alan on the following platforms:

Twitter @OCR_muddyduck

Loros Tower Run

Review by first time tower runner Shell DillonRedmile


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.


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.


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…..


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.


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.


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!


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.