As anyone who has endured an episode of the Jeremy Kyle Show or Britain’s Got Talent, the capacity for our fellow citizens to abandon any vestige of dignity that they might have in return for a brief experience of fame, however fleeting, knows no limits.
And so we come to this weekend’s freak show, a backwards running race, to be staged in Crystal Palace Park on Sunday morning.
If Spike Milligan was walking backwards to Christmas, the entrants for Sunday’s London Backward Run are doing it for…? Who knows: maybe a 30sec sound byte with Mark Bright on BBC London?
A major bookmaker has got involved, Bill Hill dipping into their marketing budget for a few quid to pay for some of the staging costs. William Hill has a habit of squeezing as much publicity out of quirky non-sporting sports events as possible. For 25 years, they put up 1,000 quid a time for an event in mid-Wales called the Man v Horse Marathon (except it is 22 miles, so wasn’t actually a marathon), the cash serving as a sort of accumulator for the first runner to actually beat the nag. It took until 2004 when international athlete Huw Lobb finally ended the horses’ winning streak.
So expect the PR machine to be turned up to full throttle in the next day or so.
The organisers are actively encouraging anyone to enter the backwards running race, which they are calling “the daftest race to take place in the capital this summer”. And it’s all in aid of Char-idee folks…
“No other sport could possibly lay claim to be as humorous, as tough, as exciting, as contagious, as healthy or as entertaining as this one and all at once too,” they say. Contagious?
Apparently, “Anyone who just wants to try something different will be attracted to backward running because of its ‘fun’ image.”
Anyway… the day’s events, being staged on parts of the old motor racing circuit around the National Sports Centre, include a “fun run and walk”, plus 1km and 3km races for men and women, with £100 and £200 prizes for the winners, and prizes for the runners up.
Now according to organiser Sally Raynes, “We are hoping that people will just give it a go as this is an experience that requires very little training beforehand.” [Our italics]
Oh right. Then she says, “We wanted to create a fun way for people to get fit and support local charities too.” Although how this is can be a “fun way to get fit”, yet requires “very little training” is not entirely clear.
We asked Sally whether her event wasn’t something of an ‘ealth ‘n safety nightmare. But apparently not.
“We use Crystal Palace Park because it is the only park in London with no pot holes or obstacles which competitors may trip on,” she told Inside Croydon. “We have also had three people try out the course for safety, one being a total beginner and the others are backward running experts who run the course as fast as they can to check that the world champion…” yes, apparently there’s a world champion… “and the other experienced backward runners will not have any problems.
“We also get the runners themselves to check the course before they run it and there are marshals all around the course to watch and warn of any sudden issues that occur.
“Last year 50 runners took part in the UK Backward Running Championships in Manchester and there wasn’t a single injury, which isn’t something most normal running races can say.” Well, actually, yes it is. Even those with more than just 50 entrants in.
Let’s hope there are no casualties on Sunday.
If you fancy taking part in this “wacky” race, take a look at the website, ring Sally on 01884 255896 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Entry fees are £13.50.