BINGO! The World’s Most Unfair Race

download (1)Another weekend… Another stupid challenge… This time it was the first ever running of the BINGO race from the evil mind of James Adams.

A simple concept, you have a personal “ballbag”, (the first of many testicle-related jokes to come) which contains 30 numbered balls – from which you’re assigned 3 random numbers. Then, there’s a 2.4 mile-loop which you run around and, at the end of each loop you select a ball from your personal ballbag. If it’s one of your assigned numbers then it’s crossed-off, if not – then you set off on another lap. Once you’ve crossed off all the numbers you’ve finished.

DSC_0117I rocked up to a lake in Bedford at around 08:30 to find the cream of the UK ultra-running community assembling, was assigned my numbers – 2, 8 and 29. A chap from Outdoors Fitness Magazine requested a quick interview asking why I wanted to do this race, I couldn’t think of anything to say apart from “because I had nothing better to do today”… It was pretty chilly and windy early and everyone was wrapped-up in puffa jackets not really feeling the love for what could be a very long day out – or a very short one.

I’m going to describe the race using the Kübler-Ross model associated with death and bereavement, it’s entirely appropriate to this event!

Ballbags swinging in the breeze

Ballbags swinging in the breeze

Stage 1 – Denial

So – just after 09:00 we set off on lap 1, I wasn’t sure how to pace this… It could be over in 3 laps, or I could not finish. Odds were that most people would be finished in 15-16 laps – so about 32-34 miles which sounded like a good workout. I decided to push the pace a little harder than normal completing the first few laps in around 22 minutes. At the end of each lap a visit to the ballbag to pick out a number, I wasn’t really expecting much from the first few laps. At about lap 5 I noticed a chap with a medal around his neck.

“A winner, already?” I asked, “Three of them, all on the same lap” came the reply!

Stage 2 – Anger

Lap 5 came and went, and lap 6, lap 7 and lap 8 and still no matching number. I was up to nearly 20 miles and there was AT LEAST another 3 laps to do – so I was guaranteed a marathon. I started to wonder if it was just me who had no balls? Statistically surely I had to get one soon – or maybe not?

I was getting grumpier and grumpier as I slogged into the wind and up and down that bloody lake until finally – at lap 9, there it was – number 29… You beauty!

Stage 3 – Bargaining

So, I now had 1 ball after 9 laps. Things were looking-up, but how much longer was I going to be out here? I’d promised myself some music when I got that first ball so put the iPod on and cracked out a few more laps. I started planning out my treats each time back to HQ – a Jaffa Cake or Expresso Love GU gel, large glass of coke or can of Red Bull. I also swapped out my shoes to something with a bit more cushioning as the hard ground was beginning to get painful.

Stats - photo James Adams

Stats – photo James Adams

Stage 4 – Depression

The laps ticked by, marathon distance passed, then 30 miles… I started to master statistics – things were looking bleaker with every dip into my emptying ballbag. My first ball came at lap 9 and by lap 16 I still only had 1 ball, the number of runners on the course were rapidly diminishing as people finished or dropped out…

Stage 5 – Acceptance

Then, on lap 16 I had an epiphany – I was going to be out for the duration, there was only a few hours left… Once this happened it didn’t matter if I pulled out one of my balls or not, who cared?

But on lap 18, out popped a number 2! I had time for another 4 laps – there were 12 balls still in the bag and one of them was a number 8.

So, with 2 hours left I kept going, nothing on laps 19 or 20. Just about time for 2 more laps before the 10 hour-cutoff. With 9 hours and 37 minutes on the clock and 50 miles run I finished the 21st lap.



YEAH, number 8 came out! I’d run the almost perfect BINGO race, if I’m honest I’d like to have done that final lap and picked-out the last ball then – but I’ll take the result I got.

It was a really fun day if you didn’t take it too seriously – and I think most everyone approached it with a sense of humour. There was great camaraderie from both the runners and event staff and I’m really glad I was a part of the day. James will be organising future events with possible twists in them, and I for one will be looking forward to it.


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4 Responses to BINGO! The World’s Most Unfair Race

  1. Simon says:

    Where on earth do you find these things!!

  2. Martyn Clarke says:

    Good post Guy. And a pretty good day had by the people who actually completed!
    We were there til it got dark and the tortoise and the duck came home empty hearted.
    BINGOING FOR AGES – epic tactics; well done!
    Thanks everyone for being there and the food and drink and the tent.

    • Tortoise says:

      Indeed we did. Turns out the slow and steady Tortoise did not win the race…in fact, didn’t pull out any good numbers at all! The duck managed 2 tho! Well done Guy on getting your medal right at the bitter end!

  3. Dan Milton says:

    Was a top day out even if I had to bail on 31 miles due to time constrains (with only 1 ball). James is a ridiculous man but I can’t help smiling at events like this. Top atmosphere, top runners, lots of laughs.

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