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.
I 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!
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.
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.