“The Bewl Barrel Race was dreamt up one winter’s evening by a group of runners, who were gathered around a fire at The Greyhound Inn, a pub in Wadhurst…
Words by race director, Lee Henderson
Some of us had just completed the Tough Guy competition in Perton near Birmingham and were a lot worse for wear. We were discussing how to get rid of the all-over ice-cream headache we had, after surfacing from -3c water as part of the course!
“We were sat around the fire, comparing bruises and stories of crippling cramp. And we were in awe of the other mad competitors, such as The Royal Engineers, who had carried a field gun around the 13-mile course, and the extreme ironers – who had strapped ironing boards to their backs and run the course!
“So, there we were in a pub near a reservoir called Bewl, talking about the mad feats of our fellow runners, drinking beer… It didn’t take long for us to put together the idea of carrying a full barrel of beer and running around the reservoir!
“We left the pub with scribbles on the back of a beer mat… barrel of laughs
“But we had the idea, it had materialised into reality. Now we had to work out who was going to be in the team. Who could I persuade to help me carry a barrel of beer around Bewl? They had to be fit, determined, game for a laugh and of course like beer, as we were going to win.
“Fortunately, I know lots of people who fit the bill! And I managed to drag several people into it – mostly late at night in the pub. We put our heads together, and worked out a strategy, a way to carry the barrel, who could go longest without stopping etc. We planned and practised our various methods and then, we found the carrier, an old army stretcher from ebay.
“Various modifications were made and voilá a made-for the event barrel-carrier had come to fruitition! We decided the costume was to be ‘old ladies’, the chosen cause was Motor Neurone disease. Now, all that was left to do was to run the race.
“Four months after the beer-fuelled brainstorm in The Greyhound Inn, the day of the race had arrived. It was a cold, wet, November morning and we all gathered at my house for a bacon butty. Then it was down to the pub to limber up, apply the make-up, re-adjust the hair, gird our loins and prepare for the race! This took longer than usual as we were not used to wearing wigs, dresses and carrying handbags, not your usual running attire.
“The race started at noon and off we surged. The four of us carrying our army stretcher, dressed in full costume ran towards the reservoir… it must have been, oh, I’d say all of 200 yards when I realised just what a dumb thing we were doing – a full barrel, 13 miles, I was knackered and we had only done the first downhill bit.
“Four men carrying a barrel all dressed as old ladies…We leant forward, dug in, forged on and took spirit from the baffled onlookers who couldn’t really make out what we were doing.
“The latter part of the race was when the pain really kicked in. Running with a stretcher with 55kg on it is awkward enough, but, the ground around Bewl generally slopes towards the water so we were running at an angle for the entire 13 miles. For the runner at the back, it was extra difficult, as he couldn’t see where we were going and the odd pothole took him by surprise. We took it turns to carry, and run along side. The 10 minutes ‘on’, were agonising and I was wishing them to finish as the straps over the shoulders started to cut in, and my back ached.
“We pushed on and kept the pace up. As we’d planned, we were first back, coming in covered in mud, with sweat dripping off everything. As we entered the bar we could see our own barrel of beer waiting for us, with four glasses. That first pint tasted so good. As did the second, the third…
“By the time the final team were back the band had started playing and we were once again discussing the aches and pains and the bruises of the day … what fun! Would I do it again? Of course, in fact, since the first event, I’ve run it five times!
“We raised £1000 on that first race. The last event was in November 2009 and this time, we raised £10,000!
“The money was raised by entry fee, raffle and general sponsorship. It’s not just a race, it’s an all day event. On the night we also have an auction of promises and this year there will be a Jeroboam of Champagne as part of the raffle"
So, can you do it?
The only rules are no wheels and no engines!
- All you have to do is carry a 55kg barrel of water round the course as fast as you can in any contraption with as few or as many team members as you like.
- If you get back first, you win a barrel of beer AND you get to choose the charity for the following year.
- Think you can get a team together? Then come along on the day or the night before. You can pitch a tent in the field behind the pub and sit around the bonfire. Then it’s up for breakfast and prepare yourself for the race. After the race you can join in the fun in the evening with a live band, BBQ and other events.
- This year’s charities are a hospice in the Weald and the RNLI both chosen by Will Scott who died last year aged 29 and was captain of one of the first teams to ever do the race. This year, the event is on the 18th September 2010 and takes place at The Bull Inn, Three Leg Cross, Ticehurst, East Sussex.
- For further information call, Lee Henderson, on 07710 414583.