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Our not-quite-essential guide to the Chariots of Fire 2023 relay race in Cambridge





It’s that time again… thousands of runners will take part in the Chariots of Fire relay race in Cambridge on Sunday (March 19).

We’ve put together this guide featuring everything you need to know, along with some things you really didn’t.

Admire the iconic sights as you run. Or stop gazing about aimlessly and get a move on - it’s up to you. Picture: Keith Heppell
Admire the iconic sights as you run. Or stop gazing about aimlessly and get a move on - it’s up to you. Picture: Keith Heppell

Good luck to all taking part - and remember to smile for our cameras, then look out for our galleries online on Sunday, and our special supplement in the Cambridge Independent, out from Wednesday, March 22.

Where and when is it?

The race is on Sunday, March 19, and will start promptly at 9.30am on Queens’ Green.

Hang on, isn’t Chariots of Fire normally in September?

Yes, it is. But last year it was postponed because of the Queen’s death, so it was rearranged.

Any parking?

Bike racks are provided but parking on the Green is reserved for the race organisers, so you’ll need to use public car parks.

What route will it take - and are there any road closures?

Chariots of Fire 2021. Picture: Keith Heppell
Chariots of Fire 2021. Picture: Keith Heppell

The circular 1.7-mile run will take runners through much of the city centre.

Garret Hostel Lane and Silver Street, which the route passes through, will both be closed from 8.30am to 12pm on the day.

Who is taking part?

Relay runners in teams of six will pass the baton to each other. Organisations from businesses to charities and groups of friends are involved.

More than 290 teams have signed up - meaning just over 1,600 runners.

Registration closed on Wednesday (March 15) and the minimum age of runners is 16.

Chariots of Fire is celebrating a special anniversary this year.
Chariots of Fire is celebrating a special anniversary this year.

That’s a lot of runners. So will they be raising money for a good cause?

Absolutely. Chariots of Fire is one of Cambridgeshire’s biggest charity events.

The organiser, HCR Hewitsons Charitable Trust, makes grants each year to one or two charitable beneficiaries of the race. In its previous 29 years, the race has raised a phenomenal £1.48milion.

This year, the chosen charity partner is Arthur Rank Hospice Charity and the money raised will help fund the expansion of its retail business.

Chariots of Fire 2021. Picture: Keith Heppell
Chariots of Fire 2021. Picture: Keith Heppell

The target to raise is £71,000, which was picked as it will enable the charity to add to its collection of five shops and one retail hub.

Wendy Von Niebel, trustee of HCR Hewitsons Charitable Trust, said: “This year is extra special – we’re marking 30 years of Chariots of Fire and 40 years of Arthur Rank Hospice Charity – this year’s chosen charity.

“Please do come down and support the runners – it promises to be a fantastic morning.”

I’m a team leader. Where should I go?

Team leaders can register their team on the morning of the race at the registration marquee on Queens’ Green between 7.30 and 9am. There you’ll pick up a team pack. This pack contains your runner numbers, safety pins, a baton and Chariots of Fire T-shirts (three medium and three large) if you requested T-shirts. Teams are permitted to run in their own T-shirts or, indeed, dress like a wally, as many do.

Fast food... but were they fast runners? Participants from Chariots of Fire 2018 who really cut the mustard. Picture: Keith Heppell
Fast food... but were they fast runners? Participants from Chariots of Fire 2018 who really cut the mustard. Picture: Keith Heppell

Ah! So fancy dress is allowed?

Yes, outlandish costumes are all part of the fun of Chariots of Fire for runners and spectactors. And if you face the ignominy of being overtaken by someone dressed as a fridge or in a giant rabbit costume or something, then just pretend it’s your third time around.

What? So a runner can do more than one lap?

Yes, should one of your team members fail to set their alarm clock after a big night out the day before (surely not?), then a runner can go round again. But each runner does have to hand over the baton to another member of the team and change over their colour coded number. Not having a team of six also means the team is not eligible to receive a prize. So if you’ve got Mo Farah on your side, you can’t send him out three times in pursuit of podium glory. Sorry.

Look, don’t drop the baton when it’s your turn. It’s embarrassing. Picture: Keith Heppell
Look, don’t drop the baton when it’s your turn. It’s embarrassing. Picture: Keith Heppell

What are the colour-coded numbers all about?

Each runner will have a race number with a colour. Runners go in the following order:

1. Red 2. Blue 3. Yellow 4. Pink 5. Green 6. Black

Runners don’t have to run in the order they have signed the disclaimer form. But for your team time to be recorded, the final runner - wearing the black colour bib, remember - must place the bib labelled “FRONT” on the front of their body for the timing chip to work.

If incorrectly positioned, no team time will be recorded and you will face eternal shame (it’s also traditional that the person failing to do this buys a round of drinks at the after-Chariots visit to the pub, by the way). You can get your team time as a print-out from the StuWeb timing team near the race exit. Or you could conveniently forget to do this…

Chariots of Fire 2021 winners Guilio were rapid. If you spot one of these guys on the course, chances are he’s not got the same colour bib as you. Smile politely and let them through... Picture: Keith Heppell
Chariots of Fire 2021 winners Guilio were rapid. If you spot one of these guys on the course, chances are he’s not got the same colour bib as you. Smile politely and let them through... Picture: Keith Heppell

OK. So what time should my hot-shot team be aiming for?

Well, there are two ways to look at this. You might be one of those teams that compete for the top times each year. In which case, you could be looking at about 56-57 minutes based on previous winners.

But let’s be honest, most of us won’t be in that league. We’re just pleased to get around without doing ourselves a mischief, particularly if wearing a Mario outfit or something.

Chariots of Fire 2019 - an Anglia Ruskin University team dressed for the occasion. Perhaps they collected coins all the way around. Picture: David Johnson
Chariots of Fire 2019 - an Anglia Ruskin University team dressed for the occasion. Perhaps they collected coins all the way around. Picture: David Johnson

If it all goes wrong, and you’re the slowest in your team, you can either claim you stopped to give directions to a confused tourist, or say you couldn’t get past a giant banana costume without slipping.

Remember: it’s not really the taking part that counts, it’s about raising tonnes of money for Arthur Rank Hospice Charity. So get your sponsorship money sorted and you can deflect attention from your dismal effort on the course.

There are no chariots and - all being well - no fire. So why is it called Chariots of Fire?

The run is, of course, inspired by the Chariots of Fire film, which tells the story of Cambridge runner Harold Abrahams and his bid to win a gold medal in the 1924 Olympics.

The film includes an iconic scene of the race around Trinity College Great Court. So as you battle your way to the line to pass the baton to your impatient teammate, you could always claim you were recreating the famous slow-motion scene from the movie (as opposed to being woefully underprepared).

Any hazards I should know about?

In 2021, a bomb squad was called after a magnet fisherman found an old grenade in the River Cam during the race, forcing Trinity College to close its gates and the route to be adjusted mid-run. But don’t let that put you off.

The official risk assessment (we’ve read it - have you?) noted the dangers of city centre cobbles, a sharp left turn, some bins and - yes, the ultimate danger - the possibility of an ice cream cart in King’s Parade. Do your best not to hit it if it’s there.

Chariots of Fire 2021 - the winning mixed team. There are also sorts of prizes up for grabs, so get going. Picture: Keith Heppell
Chariots of Fire 2021 - the winning mixed team. There are also sorts of prizes up for grabs, so get going. Picture: Keith Heppell

Anything else?

Yes, did we mention that we’ll have picture galleries from the event online at cambridgeindependent.co.uk on Sunday – and a special souvenir supplement in the Cambridge Independent, out from March 22, packed with pictures by our award-winning photographer Keith Heppell? Yes? No need to repeat that here then.

Finally, good luck to all runners.



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