When things are not quite what they seem…….

When is a bed not a bed? When it’s part of The Great Knaresborough Bed Race of course!

What’s that you say? You haven’t heard of it??? Where have you been living all these years?  If you haven’t heard of it, much less viewed the spectacle for yourself, then frankly you haven’t been living…..merely existing…

Ok to be fair, before I had moved to the gorgeous Knaresborough in North Yorkshire, I was as in the dark as many others of you may currently be BUT having now born witness, in fact been honoured to take part in the creation of a bed entry, I strongly believe this should be up there with one of the 7 wonders of the world…..or at least, you know, one of those things that everyone should experience at some point in their lives.

So for the uninitiated, let me elaborate; the first Bed Race took place in 1966. It was the gem of an idea from the Knaresborough Round Table who created what would turn out to be a major fund-raising event in aid of local charities. A pre-determined route pushing beds round the town was decided and the first race was run by 4 teams.  The popularity of the event increased year on year and grew exponentially until it had to be limited to a maximum of 90 teams.

In 1973, the idea of the best dressed bed was born and so began fierce competition not only for the fastest bed but as, or even more importantly, the award-winning elaborately decorated and incredibly colourfully concoctions, limited only by those involved’s imagination.

The organisation and staging were taken over by the Lions Club approximately 20 years ago and it is now supported by numerous local businesses in terms of sponsorship, time and effort as well as the people of the town itself who are fiercely (and rightly) proud of this amazing event.

Every year there is fierce competition to obtain a much coveted place.  A public draw is held in March to select the teams and this year no less than 128 entries were received for the 90 places. 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the Bed Race and so the theme was decided as “Popular Culture from the Past 50 years.”

Whilst there have been some minor changes to the event over the years (health and safety wouldn’t you know it!) the town still retains many of it’s medieval features – a castle, cobblestones, narrow streets, overhanging cliffs  – and the 2.4mile course culminates in a swim across the River Nidd,  but the route itself remains largely unchanged.

There are VERY strict entry criteria for every bed including length, width, height, audible air horn, buoyancy aids that can support the bed for not less than 5 minutes, a 6 entrant running team plus passenger who must wear a helmet and life jacket etc etc. Of course all of this means it’s no mean feat pulling the unwieldy contraptions and it’s enough to make me tired just writing about it! (Sorry runners on Team 68, I realise you may now want to hit me…hard..)

This year my youngest children’s school was lucky enough to obtain a race place.  The hard-working PTA decided that funds raised from the event would be split 50% between the school and 50% to a charity, preferably one that had benefited  children. They contacted parents asking for nominations and I put forward SWAN UK –  Syndromes Without a Name. Those of you who have read my past posts will know that this is something I am passionate about, having 2 children with an undiagnosed genetic condition. In fact, if it wasn’t for the lovely SWAN family face book group, I may very well not have found Knaresborough as a wonderful home for us all but I digress.

I was both touched and excited to learn that SWAN had been chosen unanimously and I was invited by the PTA to take part in liaising between SWAN and the event team, contributing as much or as little time and input as I wanted to. Fortunately for everyone involved I was saved from having to run the actual course – seeing as it has to be completed in 30 minutes or less, this was definitely a good thing; I suspect 2 days on I would still be hampering the team on their way round if I had been put forward to run!!

Little did I realise the extent of the rivalry and competition between teams! More than one hired their own personal trainers to whip them into shape and for the last few months, the main high street at various times of the evening featured harassed, flushed runners hauling odd-looking carts being barked at Sergeant Major style by their erstwhile team leaders. No one batted an eye-lid so I assumed it was the accepted norm for Knaresborough at this time of year.

I was invited to a BBQ to discuss the theme of our school’s bed. I’d like to say that we spent hours and hours ruminating on the best, most amazing ideas we could come up with but in reality whilst due diligence was given to the reverence of the event, it was much more about fun and laughter and making some new and very lovely friends. There may even have been the odd glass (or 3) of wine and laughter thrown in. For that alone I am very grateful; you know who you are 🙂

The children were asked to contribute ideas too and we struck upon the theme of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Indeed what better way to enter a bed race than with an actual bed? I’m pretty sure that it appealed to a few of our runners (who shall remain nameless) for having a pre-race snooze on the parade route alone.

2015-06-13 11.27.58

The runners trained hard and often, injuries were sustained along the way but throughout they maintained (for the most part) their good humour and team spirit. There was a healthy amount of bickering and friendly banter but also some very inventive swearing and bickering on occasions, invoking much hilarity.

An old bed was sourced and repainted. Charity shops and fabric outlets were raided for bed spreads. Lamp shades,  blanket boxes and the like took shape, largely out of cardboard. Team members asked work colleagues, local business’s, friends and family for support in sponsorship and a week before the race itself, a final booze fun filled weekend saw us meeting to assemble the bed with its remaining touches and to discuss team tactics (get round or else!) As importantly of course it was necessary to organise the much deserved post bed race shenanigans too.

Our school decided to support SWAN and the PTA in a sponsored dress down day on the Friday before Bed Race day with all proceeds being split 50/50. I was asked to go into school and speak to the children aged between 4 and 11, plus staff about SWAN and the importance of the work they do.

I have to admit I was nervous but I survived to tell the tale and no one pelted me with rotten fruit so I’m assuming it went ok…either that or they were too polite to say otherwise. The children listened carefully to me explaining about what life is like having undiagnosed children and the difficulties both we and they face as well as our other children and wider family too. They watched the short film of Ellie’s Story which was created to celebrate and raise awareness of Undiagnosed Children’s Day back in April this year:

Preview YouTube video Ellie‘s Story – Undiagnosed Genetic ConditionsEllie’s Story – Undiagnosed Genetic Conditions

I threw the floor open to questions afterwards and was pleased and surprised how much the children had absorbed from the brief assembly. I think some of the staff were more than slightly horrified (judging by the shocked expressions!) about the prospect of the children being given free rein to ask what they wanted but the children were a credit to themselves and their school.

Friday night saw me baking up a storm to ensure the calories for our runners could be replaced easily post race. 2015-06-13 09.41.21

Very important after their exertions I am sure you will agree!

Having had glorious sunshine for most of the week, Bed Race day was forecast to bucket it down with rain. Hardly ideal for spectators but more importantly for the amazing beds into which months of time effort and in some cases, money had been poured. I don’t think weather apps had ever been so consulted as they were those few days prior to kick off.

Sure enough the heavens opened over night and the morning of race day dawned drizzly and uninspiredly grey. However, having been told by many townsfolk that bed race day had never let them down yet on the weather front (probably a slight exaggeration having looked back at a potted history!) it was fantastic to see the rain clear and the leaden skies become ever more blue as the day progressed.

Come 11am, all beds were parked in organised chaos at the castle grounds and much merriment and laughter, not to mentions gasps of amazement could be heard with everyone ooing and ahhing at the fantastic sights before them. Such a liberal theme meant there were entries from all weird and wonderful walks of life: Lego featured heavily, Star Wars, Dr Who, Peace and Love and Bay Watch could be found amongst Cluedo, James Bond, Batman, Punk rockers etc.

It was great to see that although another bed featured Roald Dahl themes, we were the only Charlie and The Chocolate Factory entry and judging by people’s reactions, they enjoyed our entry as much as we did. Our cracking team costumes were so bright and colourful that we really stood out and although I am of course biased, we did get an extraordinarily loud  2015-06-13 11.14.55 2015-06-13 11.16.42   IMG_8526

cheer during the parade 🙂

Post parade came the part that everyone, especially the runners, had been waiting for.  The beds were unceremoniously stripped of their finery and entered into arena for the race kick off point. Barring those that had entered in previous years and secured themselves top spots as serious runners, those that entered as the entertainment category went in numbered order.

Team 68 surpassed themselves and largely smiled most of the way round, (albeit at times through gritted teeth and apparently one member grumbled most of the way and not the one everyone was expecting!) we watched them zoom (stretching it a bit but you get the gist) down the high street past us on to the final hurdle of the much-anticipated river crossing and they finished in a very respectable time of 27 minutes and 35 seconds.   2015-06-14 13.30.032015-06-14 13.30.25

Post bed race we were very hospitably invited to the home of some of the running team to enjoy Pie and Peas and a few beverages or so….(ahem) Despite the rain then deciding to make an appearance, we partied on under a canopy and enjoyed some entertaining karaoke…well it was entertaining for us, not so sure about the neighbours! We eventually left the party at well gone midnight and really only out of a sense of duty in getting our flagging children home.

So a great time was had by all. Not only did hubby, myself and the children make some great new friends and throw ourselves into local culture, we also helped be part of a team that raised money for school and SWAN UK in the process and I don’t think you can say fairer than that.

I don’t know the amount that was raised yet but will update as soon as I find out. All that remains now is to say a huge thanks to all involved and to ask what time we should organise the next BBQ for?! Team 68 et al, you rock!

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