Zombies, steam trains, paddle steamers and capture cars. They all have one thing in common – you run a lot faster if they are behind you.
Things I had no eyed deer about chaser races
- I would be bounding through trees on a Space hopper at 10pm at night avoiding zombies
- The noise of a steam whistle can give you that extra steam you need to complete a race
- You can make like Harrison Ford in The Fugitive and avoid the capture car
I get bored very easily so the idea of running a normal race makes me want to put pins in my eyes; the same reason that I choose to do trampoline classes rather than go to the gym. At the start of my marathon training I struggled with the boredom. I would listen to podcast after podcast and became an expert in wine fraud, art fraud, and why corpses explode. However, listening to these made me run slower, especially the more interesting the podcast. When entering races, if there are lots of spectators along the way then it can be fun, but if not, then it can be a pretty lonely place. Because of this I started to look for all of the races that were more interesting – all of the ones where I had an extra motivation to run faster… The ones where you are being chased.
Being chased by zombies
The first chaser race I took part in was Running Scared. I can’t tell you how much fun this race was. I wasn’t one of those people brave enough to run at the Witching hour of midnight (as it was past my bedtime) but it was still scary. It is not every day that you are chased by zombies, vampires and ghosts, including at one point what looked like evil clowns on unicycles emerging from the trees with what looked like chain saws (fake I presumed – but I wasn’t hanging around to find out.) I found myself constantly giggling through the whole thing. Most of the runners come in costume, and even if you haven’t, you can get very realistic gory make up done by make-up artists whilst you wait to start. Plus the many volunteers are only too happy to throw buckets of “blood” over anyone willing to stand still long enough.
The start of the race was through a haunted house where your heart rate goes up before you even start running. Then you are out in the darkness, navigating by the headlamp you have been issued, and into the trees crawling under and over luminous spider webs spread across the branches. It feels just like in the movies when you have to avoid the security beams in order to steal a priceless work of art – aka Catherine zeta Jones in Entrapment. Except I’m not that glamorous and I fall face forward in the mud and knock my wig off. The rest of the race involves surreal moments such as riding space hoppers through the woods, running across a wobbly pier over the lake whilst a guy in a tinny rides along side you screeching, a long water slide and pulling yourself across the lake in rubber rings. It feels like the event involves a cast of thousands, with a constant flow of scary hillbillies jumping out from behind trees or rising from the ground. I was definitely running scared.
Being chased by a steam train
This May I raced the Puffing Billy steam trains in the Great Train Race. You would think that running against opponents over 100 years old would give me an advantage, but believe me, I ran out of steam long before they did, mostly due to the gradient of the race. 13.5km up and down the Dandenong Ranges made for a more appropriate name of puffing hilly. The atmosphere of the Great Train Race was amazing from start to finish, with the National Anthem being played and then Chariots of Fire blasting over the speakers before the first train whistle blew and the runners were off.
The scenery is beautiful and the race definitely has the best participation from spectators that I have experienced. If I had a dollar for every high-five that I got from small children I would be buying my first Lamborghini. There are two trains on the day, both full of passengers, waving you on. The idea is to beat one of the trains. The noise of the train’s whistle getting closer, and the glimpses through the trees, makes you run a lot faster. There is the added incentive of making it across the railway crossings before they are cut off for the train. The temptation to stop and take selfies is strong. It was definitely worth the pain of some very very (did I say very) steep hills – equally painful up and down.
Race a paddle steamer
Continuing the theme of being chased by centennials, last weekend I travelled to Echuca on the Murray River to race a paddle steamer in Sweat vs Steam. The paddle steamer in question was the PS Adelaide, the world’s oldest wooden hulled paddle steamer, built in 1866. Steeped in history, the Port of Echuca, meaning meeting of the waters, feels just like stepping in to a Western movie. Established by Henry Hopwood, an ex-convict and two times policeman in 1854, it later became Australia’s largest inland port and nominated as a possible national capital in 1891.
At the start line we wait with baited breath for Adelaide to appear, which she does, as if from nowhere. Her extremely loud whistle (sorry Puffing Billy, she sounds much louder than you) signals the start of the race and we are full steam ahead. Unfortunately due to the rising waters of the Murray River this year the route had to be changed to five laps of a shorter course. The change of route was taken in good spirit, as was the method of issuing runners with a rubber band every time they completed a lap – with a lot of banter among the runners offering to sell each other a rubber band so we had to run a lesser distance. Because of the swollen river, there are not as many opportunities to see where you are against Adelaide this year, but that makes it more exciting as you can often hear her and there is the added impetus when you hear the whistle to run as fast you can back to those parts of the route next to the water’s edge.
Race a capture car against the rest of the world
The final chaser race I’ve found is the Wings for Life World Run taking place all around the world in May 2017. The Wings for Life World Run is a race with a difference – instead of a finish line, runners and wheelchair competitors race to keep ahead of the Catcher Car – so you could be running for 30 minutes or for hours depending on your speed. Participants will start the run at precisely the same time – whether that’s dawn in North America, the middle of the day in Europe, or at night in Melbourne. The Melbourne start time is 9pm – so you will be running in the dark! The Catcher Cars take off 30 minutes after the start at 15km/h and steadily increase their speed, precisely synced across the globe, until the last participants have been caught. The website has a great calculator so that you can figure out on your current running speed how long it would be before the car catches you. 100% of all the registration fees go straight to Wings for Life-funded spinal cord injury research projects.
Pick your own chaser
When I was training for my marathons I amused myself with my own version of race the train against the friendly driver of the Heritage train once used to transport missiles and other WW2 munitions at Newington Armory in Sydney. Racing against something, whether it be the local ferry or the local bus gives me an added incentive to run a bit faster, even if it is just for that spurt of speed at the end. Although of course if Daniel Craig were chasing me I probably wouldn’t run so fast.
Do you know of other chaser races?
If anyone knows of any other races on a similar chasing theme I would love to hear about them* The others I know of are:
- Race the Train in Tywin in Wales
- Race the Rattler 18.5km race against the Mary Valley Heritage Railway’s Rattler Steam in Queensland which unfortunately has not been able to take place for the last few years
- Zombie Dash
*Not running of the Bulls thanks. 🙂
This is not a sponsored post. This represents my personal opinion.