It’s that time again… Thousands of runners will take part in the Chariots of Fire relay in Cambridge on Sunday (19 March).
We’ve put together this guide that shows everything you need to know, along with some things you really didn’t know.
Good luck everyone – and remember to smile for our cameras! Then look out for our online galleries on Sundays, and our special supplement in the Cambridge Independent, starting Wednesday, 22nd March.
Where and when is it?
The race is on Sunday, March 19th, and will start immediately at 9:30 am in Queens’ Green.
Wait, aren’t Chariots of Fire naturally in September?
yes it is. But last year it was postponed due to the death of the Queen, so I rearranged it.
Bike racks are provided but parking on the green is reserved for the race organisers, so you will need to use the public car parks.
What path will he take – and are there any closed roads?
The 1.7-mile circular course will take runners around most of downtown.
Garret Hostel Lane and Silver Street, which the route passes through, will be closed from 8:30 AM to 12:00 PM.
Relay runners in teams of six will pass the baton to each other. Organizations from corporations to charities and groups of friends are involved.
More than 290 teams signed up – that’s just over 1,600 runners.
Registration closes on Wednesday (March 15th) and the minimum age for runners is 16.
That’s a lot of runners. Will they raise money for a worthy cause?
definitely. Chariots of Fire is one of the largest charity events in Cambridgeshire.
The organizer, the HCR Hewitsons Charitable Trust, makes grants each year to one or two charitable recipients from the race. In the past 29 years, racing has fetched a whopping £1.48m.
This year, the chosen charitable partner is the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity and the money raised will help fund the expansion of the retail business.
The target to raise is £71,000, which was chosen because it would enable the charity to add to its portfolio of five stores and one retail centre.
Wendy von Nibel, Member of the Board of Trustees of the HCR Hewitsons Charitable Trust, said: “This year is very special – we are celebrating 30 years of Chariots of Fire and 40 years of the Arthur Rank Hospice – a charity chosen this year.
“Please come support the runners – it promises to be a great morning.”
I’m a team leader. Where should I go?
Team captains can register their team on the morning of the race in the registration marquee at Queens’ Green between 7.30 and 9:00am. There you will pick up a team pack. This package contains number runners, safety pins, a baton, and a pair of fire jerseys (three medium and three large) if you ordered jerseys. Teams are allowed to run in their own jerseys or, indeed, dress like futsal, as many do.
Yes! Even fancy dress is allowed?
Yes, the exotic costumes are all part of the Chariots of Fire fun for runners and spectators. And if you face the shame of being passed over by someone dressed as a refrigerator or in a giant bunny costume or something, just pretend it’s the third time.
What? So the runner can do more than one lap?
Yes, if a member of your team fails to set the alarm after a big night the day before (surely not?), the runner can come back up again. But each runner has to hand the baton to another team member and change their colour-coded number. Not having a team of six also means that the team is ineligible for a prize. So if you have Mo Farah on your side, you can’t send him three times in pursuit of platform glory. Sorry.
What are all the numbers color coded?
Each runner will have a color race number. The contestants go in the following order:
1. red 2. blue 3. yellow 4. pink 5. green 6. black
Contestants do not have to run in the order in which they signed the disclaimer form. But for your team’s time to be recorded, the last runner—the one wearing the black bib, remember—must put the bib labeled “FRONT” across the front of their body for the timing chip to work.
If placed incorrectly, no team time will be scored and you will face eternal disgrace (by the way, it is customary for the person who fails to do so to buy a round of drinks on a post-gigs visit to the pub). You can have your team time as a printout of the StuWeb Team Timing near the race exit. Or you can easily forget to do so…
Yes. So what time should a hot strike team target?
Well, there are two ways of looking at this. You might be one of those teams that compete for the best times every year. In this case, you might consider around 56-57 minutes based on previous winners.
But let’s be honest, most of us wouldn’t be in this league. We’re happy to walk around without doing ourselves any harm, especially if we’re wearing a Mario costume or something.
If things go wrong, and you’re the slowest on your team, you can either pretend you stopped to give directions to a confused tourist, or say you can’t get past a giant banana costume without slipping.
Remember: It’s not really the participation that matters, it’s about raising tons of money for the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity. So sort out your sponsorship money and you can distract from your poor course effort.
No carts – all fine – no fire. So why are they called Chariots of Fire?
The race is of course inspired by the movie Chariots of Fire, which tells the story of Cambridge runner Harold Abrahams and his attempt to win a gold medal at the 1924 Olympics.
The film includes an iconic scene of the race around Trinity College Great Court. So as you fight your way to the line to pass the baton to your impatient teammate, you can always pretend you’re recreating the famous slow-motion scene from the movie (as opposed to being woefully unprepared).
What risks should I know about?
In 2021, a bomb squad is called after a magnetic fisherman finds an old grenade in the River Cam during a race, forcing Trinity College to close its doors and modify the course midway through. But don’t let that put you off.
The official risk assessment (we’ve read it – right?) indicated the dangers of downtown gravel, a sharp left turn, some bins, and – yes, the ultimate risk – the possibility of an ice cream cart on King’s Parade. Do your best not to hit her if she is around.
any thing else?
Yes, did we mention we’ll have photo galleries from the event online at cambridgeindependent.co.uk on Sunday – and a special commemorative supplement at the Cambridge Independent, from 22nd March, filled with photos of our award-winning photographer Keith Hebel? Yes? No need to repeat it here then.
Finally, good luck to all runners.
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