For those that know me well, I've been doing the festival circuit for a good 12 years now and have had my fair share of warm ciders whilst pitching a tent but this festival was something else...
Based in the beautiful grounds of Bowood House Estate in Wiltshire, Run Fest Run is a festival that brings the love of running together with camping, partying for all round good people. From pitching our tent to shopping the stalls, buying a pint and running, everyone was SO friendly and from early on during the Friday, I knew we were going to have a brilliant weekend.
The weekend of running was divided into teams to add some fun competitiveness to the runs and the teams consisted of:
- Team Butterfly with captain Paula Radcliffe
- Team Bumblebee with captain Steve Cram
- Team Dragonfly with captain Colin Jackson
- Team Ladybird with captain Natasha Evans
Each runner received a t-shirt along with bug accessories for the weekend and every race run put points towards each teams total. It was great to see family clans within their chosen insect team and the kids were so enthusiastic! I was on Paula's team which I was super chuffed about as she's been a real inspiration through my running journey!
As a newbie runner having only ran for 8 weeks prior to the festival, I must admit I was a tad nervous but I soon got to know that the running community is full of friendly and incredibly encouraging people that really spurred me on. The first race I entered was a 5k neon run which started at 10pm on the Friday night. I must admit it felt a bit weird to be watching the likes of Reef and Razorlight perform on stage whilst donning my running kit and without a drop of alcohol passing my lips but equally the music got me excited for the race ahead and what a first race that was!
All armed with our head torches, a mass of runners descended on the start line, ready to take on the challenge of night running. I'd never run in the dark nor had I ever done a race but the atmosphere was brilliant and the lights from peoples head torches, shoes and other light up attire dancing across the terrain made the whole experience truly magical. I had no idea where I was going but I just followed the lights and listened to Chris (my better half) as he encouraged me to keep going up the hills- something I also didn't anticipate from running in the flat fens! Before I knew it we could hear cheering and clapping and we were crossing the finish line, ready for a hot shower and a hot chocolate too.
As I've mentioned I've done a festival or two in my time so I was slightly dubious of what the shower situation would be like but I was pleasantly surprised and impressed at the facilities. There were plenty of showers to go round and there was always one free when I arrived, each steaming hot and welcoming after good run.
Saturday both Chris and I woke up feeling...refreshed! Again something I've never experienced at a festival in all my years of attending them. I'm usually greeted to a sore head and a dry mouth but instead we felt awake and excited for further races planned for the day.
Saturday was the main day for racing, with the half marathon starting at 08:45, followed by the 5k at 11:15. There was also a 2.5k, 10k a running club relay and a 3k road race to get involved with so there was a run for everyone. I opted for the 5k and Chris did that plus the 10k later on.
It was great to spur on those running before and after you as they ran through the beautiful Bowood Estate.
If you fancied a break between the runs but still wanted to exercise those limbs, there was wild swimming on the lake. It looked incredible and I envied those in their wet suits- something I'd definitely hire for next time! I did get to admire the beautiful view though which was just stunning.
So to get you ready for each run there was a warm up at the main stage from various runners which was brilliant and really got you excited to get out and go for it!
I must admit I struggled a bit with the Saturday 5k race due to the heat and my lack of hill running before but again the running community came to my aid! A woman with her young son were running along and could see I was struggling and instantly gave me words of encouragement, telling me how fantastically I was doing. Chris was doing the same and perhaps it was hayfever, excitement or just general overwhelment but my eyes may have leaked a little!
Peppered around the course were amazing marshals spurring you on and even live bands singing you past. It all made for a brilliant atmosphere and crossing the finish line past the main stage gave you that little extra burst of energy you needed to finish.
I was super chuffed not only to be part of the races over the weekend but to also cheer on, whoop and support fellow runners. Whilst Chris ran his 10k (and totally smashed it considering he hasn't ran 10k for months), I cheered, clapped and encouraged as many runners as I could during the race and it's made me think that I'd like to volunteer as a marshal at my local Park Run. Just one of the many positive things I took away from the weekend!
For those who ran the half marathon or just wanted a bit of a treat for their muscles, sports masseuses' were on hand to relieve any tension and relax your tired muscles. It looked pretty heavenly to be fair!
If you thought the running celebs weren't getting involved in the racing you'd be wrong! Chris Evans, Vassos and all the running coaches could be seen doing the half marathon, 10k 5k and even the relay racing which was great to see! Having listened to Chris Evans and Vassos on Virgin Radio talk about running, you can tell they are truly passionate about it so it was great to see them getting involved. I blame them for getting me into running in the first place! Although I should thank them rather than blame them- running is bloody brilliant and if it wasn't for them, this festival wouldn't have been born!
In between all the running, warm ups and music there were some fantastic tents to go sit and get inspired or motivated in. From ultra marathon runners to vegan runners, motivational speakers to nutrition and healthy eating- there was something for everyone to listen to and for me my favourite had to be listening to Fearne Cotton. Her talk was on being happy and learning to let go of trying to be perfect and instead learning to find joy in the everyday. I love how running helps her to clear her head and find balance and listening to her talk gave me even more enthusiasm and motivation not just in running but in everyday life.
So after a hard days running, it was only right to settle down with some hearty food and a cheeky cocktail or two and listen to Ten Tonnes, The Coral, Faithless and Olly Murs perform. They were all bloody brilliant but I did go a little mad when Sister Bliss came on stage!
Everyone was having a brilliant time and for those that didn't fancy the music, Chris and Vassos even ensured the footie was put on a big screen over the other side of the festival; keeping the football fanatics very happy!
Sunday marked the fun runs of the festival which I sadly missed out on due to travelling home but next time I will definitely make sure I can stay for those! They looked incredible for families with children and this was the final attempt to gain points for your team for the weekend! The Dragonfly runners won in the end and were rewarded with tickets to Car Fest South in August!
I've said it before but I'll say it again- I've never been to a festival like it! Usually I'd come away from a festival feeling fragile and shattered but from Run Fest Run I felt even more excited for running, enthusiastic and generally buzzing with energy! You wouldn't have known it was a first time festival as it was executed perfectly and every thought had been considered- the main thing being the facilities. Showers, toilets and sinks weren't a problem whatsoever and for me that's a huge tick. But the thing I took away most from the weekend was the atmosphere and the comradery from the running community. Whether you're a newbie runner, fun runner or have a goal in mind, there is something for everyone and you're all welcome. My only complaint? Why isn't there another one in the diary! I miss it immensely even a fortnight on and can't wait to go next year.
*Ad Gifted- I was very kindly gifted two weekend tickets to Run Fest Run 2019. I was under no obligation to write a full blog post but I enjoyed it so much I really wanted to share it with anyone who is interested in a) running and b) the next one!