It’s no secret that the Catcher Car format of the Wings for Life World Run is a unique concept in running today, but did you know that there’s a long heritage behind it? In the UK, for example, the idea of running and being pursued goes back to the mid-1800s.
Back then, boys at British public schools formed packs, as hunters had done for centuries, and went for winter runs across country. This is how cross country racing began. In those days most of the boys were in the chasing pack, while a few set off some minutes earlier toward an agreed finish. That’s why some British running clubs to this day are still called “Hare and Hounds” in memory of their origins.
Like the Wings for Life World Run, this event could be both fun and competitive, with all participants re-assembling before a final run-in back to school and, no doubt, some tea and cake.
Fancy Dress was in fashion for 1837
First run in 1837, Rugby School’s 13-mile Crick Run is still held today. The rival school at Shrewsbury lays claim to establishing its run even earlier and with an eye for fancy dress (costumes). A senior boy, given the role of chief Huntsman, was described as wearing: “A black velvet cap with crossed gold whips on the peak, a scarlet jersey and carrying a hunting horn.”
Another form of run that still exists today among many British athletics clubs, especially during Christmas, is the Paper Chase. A runner sets off well ahead of the starting gun, scattering paper – these days biodegradable and environmentally friendly – over the countryside. The main pack of runners await the starting signal before following the trail wherever it leads, but the route always brings them back to the clubhouse.
The first Paper Chase recorded in British athletics was on October 17, 1868. It began and ended at a pub, and the organizers became founders of one of the world’s oldest running clubs, Thames Hare and Hounds.
Start your own tradition!
The surge of adrenaline you feel at the approach of the Catcher Car is one of the things that makes the Wings for Life World Run so much fun. It’s also a link to the roots and traditions of running history and how organized running events came into being.
So as you plan your run on May 7, 2017, what traditions will you start? Will you form a team? Wear a costume? Start a fundraising campaign? Sign up today and get started!