Quirky articles

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!

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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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Pizza Run UK

Review by Alan Moore.

Having already done food themed running events such as the Chocothan and the Pieathlon (https://quirkyraces.com/2016/12/15/pieathlon-2016/) when I saw Pizza Run UK was coming to Leeds I though what’s not to like and what a great idea, a 5k run with slices of pizza at checkpoints, I was going to enjoy this!

My first challenge however was finding the venue which had been changed at short notice. I followed my sat nav but the postcode given took me to a cemetery. No sign of any pizza so I had a drive around and a mile later, on the same street, I found a park with people mingling and a few red marquees. Then a saw a pizza run flag, yes I had found it!

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There was already at queue at registration but this went quickly and I had my wristband and race number ready to go. I sat on the grass in the glorious sunshine with my son who I was running with and my wife who had come to support us as we watched the DJ.

Soon after the music got going it was time for the warm up hosted by Mr Pizza (basically a man in a pizza outfit).

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We where told that the run would be three laps of the park with two pizza stops on route then we where off!

I tend to struggle running in heat so stuck to a steady pace which put me in the middle of the pack. After the first lap it was time for a much anticipated slice of pizza. It was a lovely looking slice of margarita, however unfortunately it didn’t taste as good as it looked as it was cold and I mean cold! Now cold pizza is usually ok the following morning after a night on the tiles but not the best in 30 degree heat.

Lap two down I missed the pizza stop as I was looking for a water station but couldn’t find one resulting in me struggling on the 3rd lap, I know its only 5k but I was fast dehydrating and as I came around the final corner I was walking.

I crossed the finish line and was awarded a pizza slice shaped medal but chose to avoid the last bit of pizza and saw many other runners doing the same. I collapsed on the grass and my wife brought me some of her Fanta she had bought from a local shop.

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The music had stopped which I later found out was because the generator had blown up which was a shame. When I had recovered I found out there was a water station but it wasn’t on the course it was behind the finish line in the registration tent. Strange place for it but this is a rather strange race I suppose.

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In my opinion this event has all the makings to be a success but it needs to get some of the basics right first such as having water on course and finding a way to keep the pizza warm but I do love the idea and it’s concept and after they have done a few more I am sure they will get better at it and I would like to attend another to find out.

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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