I’m 45, not very fit, and quite stupid. I must be otherwise why would I have volunteered to take part in the annual Bolney Pram Race? Again. This is attempt number three and having been a pirate (yarrr) and a vampire, this year I’m joining the medical profession. My mate Curly is my partner in crime. He is the patient and chief engineer. Previous evenings have been spent welding stuff onto the pram chassis to make it look vaguely like a hospital gurney. A dash of paint on the Monday morning and we’re raring to go.
How does it work?
The race starts at the Eight Bells pub. In previous years there’s been a mass start preceded by a compulsory beer. This year there are so many entries that we take part in a random draw for a grid placing. We draw 23rd place out of 34. Not great, not terrible either. This year there are red and green start lights just like at a Formula One race. There the similarity ends.
There are a series of stops on the 2.5km course around the village where pusher and passenger swap places, have a compulsory beer and grab a ticket as proof of your stop.
The atmosphere on the grid is tense, everyone is sizing each other up, checking out the competition. All the other racers look a lot younger, a lot fitter than we are. We’ve done this before we know it’s gonna hurt.
All the lights are set to red, then with a blast on the horn, they turn to green and we’re off. It’s carnage at the start as a couple of prams collapse almost immediately. The Pope in a boat is causing chaos with some extra wide stabilisers and it turns out the first pit stop has been placed too near to the start. I keep a cool doctor’s head and navigate the mess as carefully as I can and we’re out on the open road.
A couple of the quick prams speed past and I knuckle down for the long haul up to pit stop two. By the time we arrive we’ve picked off a couple of competitors and my lungs are hanging out. This is hard work. We glug a beer, grab our card and swap places for the short spring to pitstop three. The next few stages pass in a blur of alcohol and pain. No one overtakes us and we rocket past a couple more prams including a bath on wheels and some kind of weird lifeguard pram, both of which clearly went off too fast.
The last two stages are downhill and the challenge shifts from exerting and pushing uphill to retaining control on the fast slopes. Curly manages the penultimate stage very well and we pick up another place. Our last pit stop is perfectly executed. We take our final beer (number seven) and we’re off to the finish. We’re in no man’s land. There’s no way I’m going to let anyone else pass us now, and the road ahead is clear. Folks are cheering us on to the finish and we’re hamming it up shouting “medical emergency coming through” and “someone get me a doctor” for all we’re worth. The finish line is ahead and I can see loads of prams already finished. Then it’s over. We’ve finished, and we’re finished – absolutely knackered. We’re pretty chuffed with our 11th place, not bad for a couple of geezers eh?