The concept sounds simple – a festival celebrating running and runners.
But it’s the little twists and turns taken by the RunFestRun event that transform what could have been a pedestrian plod fest into a brilliant weekend of exercise, music and wonderful weirdness. It’s a bit like parkrun… on acid.
Making its debut appearance at Wiltshire’s Bowood House and Gardens, RunFestRun was the brainchild of veteran presenter Chris Evans and fellow presenter Vassos Alexander.
More than 6,000 turned up to take part in a range of running events, from a half marathon, a 10k to a bug-themed fancy dress 5k fun run.
As you might expect, there was running, a lot of running. But there was also a fair bit of fest as well.
The event kicked off with ‘Feel Good Friday’ during which the four team captains – Paula Radcliffe, Natasha Evans, Colin Jackson and Steve Cram were introduced to the crowd.
Reef and Razorlight provided the soundtrack for the launch night, with runners decked in flashing lights setting off along the track past the front of the stage for a 5k run through the dark and twisty forest tracks of the Bowood Estate. A mesmerising shimmering snake that could be glimpsed through the trees.
Saturday offered an early morning wild swim (not for me..!) before a hot and hilly half marathon and an afternoon of inspirational talks from the likes of running newsreader Sophie Raworth, Olympian Jo Pavey, Fearne Cotton and ultra marathon runners Rory Coleman and Mimi Anderson. There was time to wander the food and merch stalls before settling in for a lovely bit of Faithless followed by The Coral, Ten Tonnes and Olly Murs.
The best bit about festivals, to my mind, are the unique incidental experiences that happen between the main attractions and at RunFestRun they came thick and fast.
A trio of startled deer leaping across my path during the Saturday morning half marathon, trying to keep up with marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe (dressed as a dragonfly), dancing in the rain at a silent disco while dressed as an insect, eating the most incredible paella out of a paper tray as the sun slipped down behind the Cherhill White Horse, crawling through an inflatable tunnel alongside Chris Evans and evicting hive of ants from my tent while swigging from a bottle of red wine – it was not your normal weekend.
Speaking after the event, Evans said: “We have returned leaner, meaner, fitter, lighter and shinier which is a festival first. That’s not what happens when you come back from a festival which means that Runfestrun is already the greatest festival on our planet!
“It was a celebration of everything that is good about being a human being. A hit straight out of the blocks. On Friday we thought ‘Oh my goodness me, this is beyond our wildest dreams and it just got better and better. I ran 42km and I’m not aching at all this morning – RunFestRun has magic in it.”
I can vouch for that!