Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Wacky Races

(Haven’t posted in a while due moving back from Paris and generally, life).

There are two ways of looking at the foot racing calendar. The first is as a succession of essentially similar races, from 10ks to marathons, none involving much more than putting one foot in front of the other, as quickly as you can. But the second way is to look out for the pleasing number of events where the inner weirdness of running sprouts into external form. What follows is a list of some Wacky Races that I’ve come across, plus one that I’ve run in myself.

* An annual race in Prescott, Arizona pits humans against horses over 50 miles. Apparently humans have begun to win over the last ten years, proof that running is not just about the natural build of the human body.

* Run for your lives also pits human competitors against… zombies. Unlike the horses, their aim is not to win the race, but merely to eat the human participants. Unsurprising really, given zombies’ famous fixation on their main activity (you’ll recall their marching cry: what do we want? Bra-a-a-aains. When do we want it? Bra-a-a-ains). 

* The Barkley marathon takes the prize for sheer difficulty and also gets a special award for cultishness: read this article.

* Finally, there’s Tough Guy (scroll down for video), which I ran on its habitual date of 30 (yes, thirty) February a few years ago. The first half is just a cross-country course, with some silly course planning – it zigzags up and down the same hill ten times – as a warning of what is to come. The second half is then an assault course with some real teeth to it. There’s all the normal parts – rope courses, six-foot walls to climb, barbed wire to wriggle under. But there’s so much more. The burning haybales that we had to run over, or the forest of dangling live electric wires. Then trenches full of watery mud, or having to swim under an enclosed section of English river (this was February, whether the 30th or not). I’m pleased to say I came something like 30th out of 3,000. This meant that the ex-sergeant majors who were employed to bawl at stragglers silently watched me slither up out of the river with a strange satisfied glint in their eyes. I wonder how we all got to be like this. 

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