Gung Ho! arrived at Earlham Park on 16th September as part of its 2017 tour. The brainchild of Alex Winters of CBeebies fame, this sold-out 5km run was interspersed with ten giant inflatable obstacles to add to the challenge. Thousands of people of all ages and abilities turned out, some running just for fun while other were there to raise money for their favourite charity. The organisers of Gung Ho certainly showed they know how to run an event.
As each wave of runners gather to begin their challenge, they are taken through a warm-up in front of the stage where music pumps out and raises their energy levels. A proper warm-up by a professional fitness trainer combined – with banter from the crew on stage – makes for an engaging start to the challenge. Alex Winters’ contagious enthusiasm as he prances about the stage keeps the crowd upbeat and energetic. Anyone who remembers watching him on CBeebies will be delighted with his youthful exuberance and cheeky grin; in real life, he is no different to his TV persona.
There’s no pressure to run the whole course, but it makes it more of a challenge to try and keep the pace going for the whole 5km. The run itself might be enough for some, but the guys at Gung Ho! don’t want to leave it there; they want to make things much more exciting in the name of fun and charity: placed around the course are a variety of giant bouncy obstacles, some of which may prove a real challenge, others less so. How easy runners find the obstacles really depends on levels of fitness and agility; the fitter among you may find them less challenging, but still huge fun.
With the rain in Norwich making the inflatables slippery there was lots of slithering and sliding, with plenty of tumbling over – however, none of this dampened the spirit displayed by the runners as they scrambled over, under and through each obstacle. Some of the obstacles proved a real challenge to overcome, with many runners getting a much needed boost or a hand up from the officials stationed around the course. Adults and children alike were throwing themselves around, having a great time, while getting muddy as they raced between obstacles.
With a choice of the world’s tallest inflatable slide, or a twenty foot jump onto crash mats below, there was no end to the fun as runners came to the final stage. The slide was clearly the more popular; racing to the top, runners were confronted by jets of water from overhead, making for a super-slippery ride down. As they flew down the slide, delighted runners were treated to a foam bath, leaving them covered in white bubbles to finish their challenge. Runners left the course exhausted, wet, covered in foam and generally laughing and exclaiming having had a fantastic experience.
Earlham Park’s perimeter doesn’t quite lend itself to a full 5km, so the course in Norwich cleverly wound up and down, twisting and turning, runners heading in all directions. The course was clearly laid out with cones and as long as people could tell their left from right, there was no chance of going the wrong way – not that it would have mattered, as there was a relaxed and chilled out atmosphere to the day.
There were however, a few niggles to the day. As the course progressed, queues began to form at the obstacles, meaning a wait of fifteen to twenty minutes for some of them. With the majority of runners opting for the slide at the end, queues extended to forty five minutes by the end of the day. This was disappointing and left runners feeling a little frustrated, especially those who were aiming for a quick finishing time. Also, by the afternoon, the day was running at least an hour behind schedule (although some of this was due to the weather). A few tweaks to minimise the queues, and keep things running on time, would make the event a much more enjoyable experience.
As anyone who lives in England is well aware, good weather cannot be relied upon for outdoor events. The Earlham Park event was accompanied by a traditional grey, wet British day, but it was clear from the party atmosphere that no-one was going to let the rain spoil their fun.
However, overall the day was a roaring success and proved the British public will turn out to have fun for a good cause whatever the weather.