RW deputy ed Joe Mackie and family enjoy a tremendous day of run fun
The multi-lap, activity-packed Runstock festival is the ultimate fun run, says Joe Mackie (and family)
THIS WAS NOT A DAY for the Garmin and so, sadly, I can't give you stats for my fourth and fastest waterslide descent, but I reckon my heart was pumping above lactate threshold. At the bottom I lift my son, Isaac, off my knees, mirror his wide-angle grin and exchange a high-five before we rejoin my wife and Team Mackie hits its somewhat soggy-bottomed stride once more.
Suffice to say this is not a standard race day. Runstock is a hybrid of off-road run and family summer festival. The 5K loop in the beautiful grounds of Northamptonshire's Boughton House packs in seven fun zones, starting with the tone-setting water slide. Runners complete as many laps as desired within the eighthour time limit, earning coloured wristbands for each. There’s also an ultra medal for completing 10 laps, although I can’t help thinking that the smattering of ultra-heads – bedecked in calf sleeves and bandanas – skipping the fun zones in relentless pursuit of wristbands have rather missed the point.
If the on-course entertainment isn’t enough, the festival village offers a bouncy castle, facepainting, bungee trampolining and more for the kids, plus a beer tent for the adults. A well-equipped campsite ensures you can make a weekend of it.
Back on the course Team Mackie barrels on, blissfully unhindered by dignity, through the Inflatable Zone and on to the Wet Zone. Isaac has been diverted, against his increasingly strong will, around the pontoon bridge for three laps but this time he’s not to be denied. We don life jackets and cross a water feature with a wobbly crawl over a couple of dinghies. Any smugness at remaining dry is splattered away with a combination of coloured paint and water pistols in the Messy Mystery Zone Tent, then it’s the scramble nets and monkey bars of the Assault Course and a giant leap for all Mackie-kind into the air-bags of the Stunt Zone.
All this is interspersed with run segments through both Boughton’s serene landscaped gardens and slightly wilder extended grounds. We move, as we have all day, to the exuberant sprint-walk rhythm set by our five-year-old until we hit the Funfair Zone. Isaac scores a direct hit at the coconut shy and, clutching his Haribo spoils, jogs happily to the start/finish, where we’re adorned with our fourth and final wristbands.
After the most enjoyable 20km I’ve ever run-walked-slid-jumped, we refuel with the discerning athlete’s choice – wood-fired pizza and the perfectly chilled if not entirely isotonic wares of the Prosecco van. Isaac insists on an active recovery session in the form of a spacehopper joust; then, after a shower and quick change, it’s back to the beer tent for the post-race party.
Full disclosure: we were here because RW was so impressed with the family running festival concept we wanted to check it out with a view to getting involved. Those of you of a certain vintage may remember the guy in the old advert who was so impressed with an electric shaver he bought the company. Well, this year the event is Runner’s World Runstock. Hopefully we’ll see you there.