A Midfield Maestro’s Guide To Box – Box Running

Quite surprisingly it takes quite a bit of oomph to deflate a two-foot tall, yellow and black giraffe.  Other animals in the back of my car were awaiting a similar fate.  Painted cardboard boxes were already carefully flat-packed on the pavement and the linen shoulder-straps neatly tied to the side.  My Chinese neighbour was returning home and looked on somewhat intrigued.  Once I’d explained where I’d been and how these items had been used, she still seemed a little perplexed: “But I thought you were a serious runner?”

For several years now, I’ve spent the dark and lonely winter nights, designing, building and accessorising fancy dress outfits to wear at the Auld Lang Syne fell race.  The event very much encourages and almost expects entrants to wear fancy dress.  More recently my costume has also incorporated a cardboard box.

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When I say ‘design’ this means mentally mapping an idea without actually sketching, drawing or listing anything. The ‘build’ process similarly involves cobbling material together usually with the aid of tape, ties or much tutting and frustration. A brief search on the internet for cheap accessories shipped from China and supplemented by trips to local charity shops. I really don’t spend excessive time on this as it probably seems.

At no point have I properly attempted to test the suitability of running with the box and costume. I know this is recommended for runners doing VLM or charity races. I do not see this as a feat of engineering and suspect at some point to feature in a case study example for a Health and Safety training video.

Why go to all this hassle? No real reason – to me, it’s simply a festive fun thing to do. Plus, with a box, it’s a bit more of a run challenge; I suppose not unlike fellrunning over say the easier road running. And the annual Auld Lang Syne race acts as a traditional, light-hearted bookend to another year of running – a celebration of how silly we all are to run up and over filthy, boggy moors?

Rose, my girlfriend, formed part of the dastardly plans for the 2016 race: we would collectively form a two-box Ark, in costume as Noah and, err Norma, with inflatable animals bouncing to and forth. I could therefore also inflict on someone else the ignominy of attempting to run in attire wholly inappropriate to the terrain or weather conditions. Besides, Rose doesn’t really like fancy dress so was happy for me to envelope her into my plans for silliness.

From the initial idea I always knew that the concept would work: the image of the flowing biblical costume, crafted cardboard and colourful animals. If nothing else, the image would be excellent for the out and back double beck crossing. But running in or conjoined to a cardboard box, over moorland, always relies on guile and an excellent running style. And ideally still weather conditions. Any help from retained running craftiness is restricted by reduced vision (see Stormtrooper) while the structure renders any good running style to replicate that of a constipated rhinoceros.

During the drive to the race Rose was still sceptical that the weather was blustery. The skies, above the Bronte moors, were indeed grey and typically moody. Only when I fought to open the car door did she concede the forecast was spot on. The thought of collecting the memento beer at registration and a coffee powered me out of the car. The struggle back into the fierce wind then made me think that the integrity of the costume design would most certainly be tested. In meteorological parlance it was indeed ‘blowing a hoolie’.

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Points to share:

  • Thanks to the photographers and videos, plus the many, many shouts of support
  • To some others – I wasn’t Jesus
  • The bow was intentionally hollow so I could identify trod from trip-hazard
  • Harland & Wolff do not advocate affixing a bow to the quarterdeck using brown parcel tape
  • In a stiff breeze Biblical headwear doubles as an effective (and somewhat dangerous) blindfold
  • Have I just been overtaken by a ghost in a coffin?” Yes, I replied with sarcastic tone – one with a pink albatross attached to the back. Pffft.
  • If anyone discovers an elephant trunk on Withins skyline, please collect (sorry) and donate as an exotic gift to your local Japanese restaurant
  • Does anyone know if there’s a Guinness World Record at VLM for a Noah (or Norma) plus Ark…?
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