What are you doing this weekend Carl?, well, I am being chased by David Coulthard in a car and when he passes me I’m out of the race”

This is the Wings For Life World Run, something very different, no set distance and the finish line comes to you not the other way around.


In their own words:

“It’s a worldwide run where everybody starts simultaneously and the finish line chases you!

Here’s how it works: On one day each year, the Wings for Life World Run takes place at event locations across the planet. Everybody starts at exactly the same moment, 11am UTC. Whether it’s day or night, bright sun or pouring rain at your location – you’re running together with the world and sharing an amazing experience. Your name shows up on a Global Result List, too!”

Sounds pretty cool right?

I had no idea what to expect really, never been to Cambridge (I’m a Dark Blue boy), no expectations of how far I’ll get and but all I knew is that you get bling!

How do you train for this – what’s my strategy?

No specific training but I have been thinking a bit about how to pace it. If I want to go as far as I can then run/walking is probably the most efficient. After Chase the Sun 5k last week where I ran the whole way Nic suggested I used WFL Run to test how far I can go, although on a training run last week I managed 4.5mile/7.2km.

If I do a 5k race, I run it and stop – don’t get to test how far I can go. 10k – I might get to 7k, crash and I either don’t complete or get a horrid 3k/time. So at WFL I’ll just keep running, even once the Catcher Car passes me, I’ll run to the shuttle bus. I know I can do 7.5km but this is a good opportunity in race conditions to see whether I can do a 10k non-stop.

Targets for the day:

a) no idea

b) no idea

c) no idea

This for me is a training run with bling at the end. Also it’s hard to say, according to the calculator on the WFL website I should get to about 6-7km before getting caught, although I don’t have a specific target distance to get to. I am just using this to have fun, enjoy Cambridge and the countryside and see how far I can run non-stop, then get on the shuttle bus to take me back to the event village for bling and goodies.

 

Race Day

Alarm was set for 6am – someone remind me what Sunday lay ins are again?

I first had to make my way to Teddington, 20mins on the train to meet Nic and Tim who were super kind in offering me a lift to Cambridge – roadtrip anyone?

Getting to Cambridge was really simple, took us about an hour or so and there was hardly any traffic at all, the only queue was to get into the car park opposite the event village, fortunately we were nice and early.

The process was pretty slick, sign declaration – why this cant be part of the t&c’s when you sign up I don’t know and its also pretty scary stuff if you actually read it “you WILL take the blame”.


Next was round the side of the tent to collect our numbers – super quick for us as there was no queues for the 0-600 and 601-1000 lines but it did seem to be building for the others.


Then it was time to take some selfies, and explore the event village and all the wonderous Red Bulls stands and the merch and…..oh……there isn’t any.


There was one stand selling WFL kit, one flogging trainers and another selling tyres, no really. The food stands weren’t even open if you wanted them and we ended up standing for an hour or so twiddling our thumbs. They missed a trick – Red Bull Racing F1 team is 10mins down the road in Milton Keynes, bring one or two of the cars, bikes, trucks whatever, flog some RBR merch, get some sports/running shops selling bits and bobs – the event village (pre-race) was a bit of a let down in my honest opinion as we just ended up watching the big screen showing all the crazy stuff Red Bull peeps get up to.

Numbers on, no bag drop for me as Tim kindly took care of our bags and it was very fortunate. The bag drop queue was the longest I’ve ever seen at a race, it was longer than the queues outside the apple store in Tokyo when they release a new product in a new colour. Toilet queues weren’t much better, 3,500 people, 28 portaloos, yes I counted and no urinals either, which tend to speed up the process.
Then it was down to the race start – we had 4 on our bibs, which I am still guessing correlates to pen 4, of which there were only 4. I found Nic and friend Sarah (who is also doing Berlin). Saying we were in the last pen, the distance between us and the startline was not very big, but I guess they need to get us over the startline asap to give us time before the catcher car starts off.


Crossing the line we were given the instruction to run to the left of the parked Catcher Car, where the heck is the catcher car – I assumed it was parked somewhere on our left as we needed to pass it to activate our chip timing.

But anyway, crossed the startline and running at last woo, ok, start steady, don’t get caught up in going off too quick, gently does it…..oh we’ve stopped. And I literally mean stopped. There was a 90deg corner about 50yards after the startline and created one heck of a bottleneck, but I got through it and right, running again, ooh look one of the car/jeep things, why have we stopped again? Another 90deg corner 100yards down the road and this time I was stood still for a good 30seconds.


Not good planning guys, this is the 4th year in Cambridge, surely this cant be the first time this has happened? There is a road on the other side of the park which is straight and leads into the town centre with no turns etc – this would be a much better option.

I checked my watch as I got into my running and it was already showing 19min/miles.

As I’d said I’ve never been to Cambridge before so was looking forward to seeing some of the colleges and the big sights & sounds of Cambridge. I remember seeing M&S, John Lewis, Paperchase and Debenhams before heading out on an A-road towards the countryside.

My goal was just to run as far as I could and there were people walking before we got to the 1km mark and including one point where I was following two running and they were about to overtake three walking on the right side, until the two running stopped, perfectly in line and blocked the whole road – I used my matters and pushed on.

Turning the next corner was pretty amazing as I could see pretty much the whole field in front of me stretched out in a field of fluorescent lycra that wouldn’t be mistaken a 1980’s fitness video. Then I saw it…..if I can see that many people, hmm that’s a fair hill, 40 foot of can I run all the way up there?


And I did, I slowed it down a bit but I ran all the way up the hill, I just told myself that there must be a downhill somewhere coming (technically not seeing as it was a A-B course, not looped), but that is what I told myself and just concentrated on the next set of traffic lights, that funky tree, those spectators etc etc.

I started to pick off groups of people walking after the hill – it took quite a bit to get up.

There was a sign not far off the top of the hill saying refreshments and next bus ahead (for taking people back to the start/finish once caught). However the refreshments didn’t appear, I wondered after another kilometre if I’d missed it somehow, I had seen the bus at least.

10 minutes of running later and the ‘refreshments’ appeared – and they were actually refreshing. There was a selection of Red Bull (eugh), Red Bull mixed with water (errm eugh), water (yay) and oranges and bananas (winning), albeit I did just have water and cracked on but safe to say I was very impressed with the selection even towards the back of the pack.

By this stage I had no idea where I was, it was an a-to-b route and I didn’t bother reviewing the course as I wouldn’t know where I was anyway. It turns out we ran through some nice quaint villages and countryside with a few spots of support from people outside their houses and pubs – all very English, felt like you’d be offered a cuppa tea and a custard cream any second.

I plodded on and finally got to 5km – managed to run all the way and even up the hills so I was pretty pleased seeing as it was tougher than any route I’d tried to run the distance on before.

I had decided that seeing as I wasn’t going to win – I just didn’t fancy running 88km in 5 hours something I thought I’d just have some fun instead – queue selfie with 5km marker, insta videos and a few giggles with other competitors as I passed them and left them in my dust.


Two cyclists appeared and informed me the catcher car was coming – I even impressed myself by doing 5/6 strides backwards (still running). I could see the cars coming a little way off so kept my pace as it was. Then another 3/4 cyclists informed me it was still about 5mins away – I was fairly sure they’d be closer than that by now and before too long they arrived.

Everyone sprinted, including one crazed lady coming past me shouting “WE CAN MAKE IT TO 6K, COME ON”, errrm I’m ok thanks – I was so chilled out and gave DC & co in the car a wave and did something completely different to everyone else – I kept running.


Every single person around me as soon as the catcher car got them started walking, as I said for me this was a training run with bling so I carried on to some bemused looks from runners and spectators alike. I did drop into run/walk for a bit, particularly as despite the roads being closed we had massive lorries, trucks and pretty much the whole of the M1 come through which was a little annoying seeing as there were lots of people still on the road.

The buses were supposed to be every 5k, but this didn’t mean at 5k, 10k, 15k etc. I passed a bus at 2.5k and didn’t see another sign for whether the buses were closer in front or behind. I plodded on hoping that there wasn’t a bus until 10k, fairly certain I was the only person thinking this. Alas, at 7.5km there was a sign and people directing us to the buses.


The buses were your bog standard double-deckers and fortunately had plenty of water onboard. I took a seat upstairs and chatted to someone called Laura whose husband was also running and got to about 13km – both did well saying neither of them run. I messaged Nic to see how she had got on and she hadn’t long been caught by the time I was on the bus but was caught fairly close to the closest buses to her as Nic had got a good 3k further than me.

And we were off back to Cambridge to pick up our bling and goody bags – ooh there’s the event village, oh there goes the event village, where are we going, must be getting dropped off over there, err nope, obviously not, where the ffflip are we going?. A few locals who knew the area were slating the driver for going up the street or that street and we had a good laugh that we just needed to rip the roof off and we could call it a sightseeing bus and charge people. 

After a 15minute loop around Cambridge town centre we finally arrived back and we all departed walking like a scene from the walking dead.


Pick up of our goody bag was pretty slick, tee shirts were in mens and ladies from Small to Large (yaay another tee shirt my wardrobe will love). Albeit the tee was a technical tee and very nice and it isn’t too small for me either (not by Brighton standards anyway). Goody bag included enough Red Bull to give you diabetes, a natural granola bar thingy, water, some leaflets and the all important…..beer token!!


I sat on the grass soaking up the sun and watching the live stream of the global leaders in the race in the now packed and atmosphere of the event village. I went over and said hello to the Profeet guys along with Emma, I met up with Tim and before long Nic joined us and I broke the awesome news that we had beer tokens.


Beers and awesome pizzas (not free) collected and we stood watching the live stream for a bit longer seeing people get caught globally and the numbers dropping rapidly. I am surprised it hasn’t been picked up by one of the major to channels the viewing is really compelling – we even listened to the stream on the way home – perfectly timed that the last person got caught just short of 90k in Dubai as I was arriving to get my train home.


Thoughts

The idea – brilliant. It’s something very different & it’s a nice challenge, also quite unnerving knowing that there is someone trying to catch you! Although I’m sure David Coulthard isn’t going to run you down. 

Organisation – could do better. Sort out the bottlenecks for a start – lost at least 1 or 2minutes running there. Have crossing points in the town centre would be better as I nearly got mowed down by a couple of oldies and a pushchair! 

Event village – Make it a bit more fun, get some more red bull involvement, more stalls or something. In kudos to them the big screen streaming the race was a spot on idea. Although I didn’t use it – bag drop pre and post race was really chaotic. 

The bling – Just sort it out will you? I’ve had better medals for coming last in the 100metres at school – eh, at least I’m consistent! There’s nothing bespoke about it & a bit poor really especially seeing previous years & the medals from other regions.

Despite that, I had a lot of fun – it was a fun race to do & it was nice to chill on the grass & enjoy seeing the other competitors. It was also nice to to have Nic, Im & Susan to chill with & chat to as well. In my opinion it was just the organisation & medal that let it down a bit.

Would I do it again – probably not Cambridge unless I knew people that were going. However I would like to make it to some of the other locations and try out Milan, Florida, South Africa or Dubai! 

I do owe a massive thank you to Nic & Tim for offering me a life & driving me to & from Cambridge! 

I’d say for anyone else, you have to do it at least once somewhere in the world!!
Happy Running!
Next Race: Not sure…. (Super Sprint Tri @ Eton Dorney/Wimbledon Half or Westminster Mile/London 10,000)