Sunday, 31 July 2016

Runstock 2016 - Family Friendly Running Festival

Marshaling and a Few Laps of the Course at Runstock 2016 

Having a Rat Race Season Ticket is great when they announce a new event. It only enhances what great value their season passes genuinely are. (If you're willing to travel and work on the logistics to keep prices down). When they put on a new event it's usually something slightly different. We haven't done a badly organised event from them so we expected big things about their new Runstock family-friendly running festival.

Waiting for the start at Runstock 2016

Runstock has a great concept. A family friendly trail running festival sounds pretty logical but the reality is that it only seems to have been tried on a much smaller scale. As well as a scenic 5km trail run lap around the grounds of the iconic Boughton House in Northamptonshire they've stuck to their strengths by incorporating fun optional obstacles to keep the kids and big kids amongst us amused.

Back at the event village there's an amazing array of family friendly things to do as we know that children can easily get bored. The more they have to do the happier they are. With everything from a high ropes course to a climbing wall and entertainment shows there was plenty to keep them occupied as well as running.

The run course was a grassy 5km around the edges of Boughton House estate. With no particularly big hills and nothing steep it allowed a good flow for runners looking at stepping up to a 50km ultra-marathon distance run which was recognised with a special finishers medal. The course was also a sensible option for kids in terms of distance and difficulty. 5 km seems a very achievable distance for which it's easy for them to consider whether they could complete another lap, any further may well have been a little too far and as a result we saw large numbers of children racking up 15km or more with one young runner staying alongside her parents to achieve a mind-blowing 50km run.

The day wasn't just about the super-fit, with many parents upping their own games to achieve personal bests, whether it was running their first 10km along with their son or daughter to parents taking turns to chaperon children whilst the other did a flying lap. It was inspirational to see so many families challenging themselves and being applauded for their efforts.

Liam marshalling Rat Race Runstock

Despite being able to run this event I chose to Marshall this year. After completing the Wall Ultra marathon 6 weeks ago I don't feel my ankle is quite up to the rigours of another distance running attempt but at the same time it's nice to give something back into sport. Rat Race look after their volunteers well with offers of kit or entry to other events so helping out comes with some great rewards. I did however manage to get a couple of laps in mid race to get a feel for the event. I did all the obstacles with the exception of the Messy Tent as I didn't fancy going back to working the event whilst covered in paint or something worse. I also went out as last runner on course after a lady had gone through the finish line just before the cut off and looked to be struggling on her 8th lap with the aim of hitting the 45km mark. It's amazing what a bit of company can do that late in a long run as I learnt during the Wall.

The course itself I found to be great. The starting first 500 meters meandered down to a waterfall before a stern climb up to a giant water slide which I'm sure many of the kids loved from there we headed over to a zone of giant inflatables to scramble over before dropping down to Boughton's lake and the option of a rather bizarre AstroTurf bridge across which felt like you were running across jelly or an OCR style scramble over a set of obstacles at a wider point of the lake.

A short run along the lakeside took us over a cattle grid and to the main water station on the course prior to the option of a bridge back over the stream that led to the lake or a dirty, wet wade through the stream which actually worked as a bit of a short cut on the course but was a big favourite for many of the kids on course who love getting a bit muddy and need no excuse to do so.

From there we climbed uphill to the messy zone. A tent full of volunteers throwing paint powder, soaking you with water and throwing beans. I didn't venture in there knowing that I'd need to get back on the finish line after running a couple of laps but the people working in there looked like they had an awesome day. Apart from missing the sunshine and subsequent tan lines it looked amazing fun.

After another uphill we came to another set of obstacles with a set of cargo nets, a ball pool and some good old monkey bars leading to a sensible 5 foot high wall to scale for those above a certain height. The smaller children had their own assault course to negotiate.

After a longish run section later we get to a climbing wall on the side of a trailer with a high drop down to an air cushion. A big leap of faith for some but a great treat for the fearless. From there it's all downhill via a selection of circus style stalls featuring a shooting range, strongman style hammer, a game of hoops to win yourself a pack of Haribo and a Coconut Shy before a torturous run through the beer tent to the finish line to collect an inspirational wrist band showing how many laps you've completed whilst changing colours all the time.

The Bootleg Beetles at Runstock 2016

The evening finished with a local band on stage followed by the Bootleg Beetles which was an enjoyable end to the day. I'm no Beetles fan but they helped to bring a relaxed, family friendly mood to the event and you can certainly see why they were booked.

Our real highlight from Runstock was the kids. What we saw them achieve, whether it was someones first 5km or first time going much further than that. Despite a warm day there was a real positivity shown by them and for many, a maturity beyond their years. There were plenty of families spending quality time together away from the television, yet at the same time there were some serious runners embracing their racing whilst enjoying a great day.

How could Rat Race improve the event? I'd certainly like to see an achievement medal for kids who take a big step up. Maybe a 15 km medal for under 10's and a 25km medal for 10-16 year old as well as a few kids spot prizes.

It would also be nice to see a well stocked pit stop on course to help fuel performance. At Runstock there was only water and whilst I'm not sure we should be encouraging kids onto Redbull and energy drinks it would be nice to see a cordial option and some fruit or flapjacks to help keep runners going a little longer however these are minor gripes.

Runstock 2016 was a fantastic, feelgood event that I hope develops into something big as it really has potential. Multiple lap events are becoming quite fashionable right now but a family friendly concept is something that really is a big niche that has big potential. Maybe Runstock could become as big as the Dirty Weekend at Burleigh- It certainly has the potential. 

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