The Great Court Run involves attempting to run around Great Court within the length of time that it takes the College clock to strike the hour of twelve, including the preparatory chiming of the four quarters and the two sets of twelve. (The clock strikes each hour twice.) The course is approximately 370 metres long. Depending upon the state of winding, the clock takes between about 43 and 44½ seconds. It is traditional for athletically-inclined members of Trinity to attempt the run every year at noon on the day of the Matriculation Dinner. The Great Court Run forms a central scene in the film Chariots of Fire (David Puttnam, 1981) (although it was not in fact filmed at Trinity).
In October 1988 the race was recreated for charity by Britain’s two foremost middle-distance runners at that time, Sebastian Coe and Steve Cram. The decathlete Daley Thompson was a reserve. Starting from under the clock-tower and running anti-clockwise, the runners restricted themselves to the customary course dictated by the the flagstones between the cobbles, and hence had to turn very sharply at each corner. Coe won, with his time of 46.0 seconds beating Cram’s of 46.3 seconds. Neither runner, however, beat the clock, which took 44.4 seconds.
On October 20th, 2007, Sam Dobin, a second year undergraduate reading Economics, made it round within the sound of the final chime, with a time of 42.7 seconds. The course taken by the runners of that year was slightly different to that of 1988, in that competitors ran on the cobbles as well as the flagstones.
A Movie was made of a mini-version (held for children) of the Great Court Run in which the participants in this Run can also be seen in the background.
In 2021, the Cambridge ‘Chariots of Fire’ run was re-routed due to reports of a suspected explosive device was pulled out of the River Cam by a magnet fisherman. The Bomb disposal squad said: ” It was a replica number 5 grenade used for training purposes in World War One.”