Trinity fresher Rasmus Kisel opted for the demanding flagstones’ route in the annual Great Court Run this Saturday – and nearly beat the clock.
In the past, students attempted to run the perimeter of Great Court on the flagstones in the time it takes for the clock to strike 12 o’clock – actually 24 chimes because of the peculiarities of the Trinity clock.
In recent times, runners have taken to the cobblestones – reducing the 370-metre distance and making the corners easier to navigate.
The race was famously depicted in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire (although it was filmed at Eton), which tells the story of Cambridge students aspiring to the 1924 Olympics. The only person known to have beaten the clock on the flagstones is Lord Burghley, in 1927, who went on to become an Olympic champion in 1928.
On 10 October 2015, natural sciences student Rasmus was one of the few to attempt the Great Court Run on the traditional route.
I heard from a porter just before the race that Sebastian Coe did it that way. That’s why I did it.
In October 1988 Sebastian Coe and Steve Cram competed in a Great Court Run recreated for charity. They ran on the flagstones. Coe won, but he did not beat the clock.
Neither, it turns out, did Rasmus, who feared that he had ‘cobblestoned’ the last corner – a fact soon confirmed by the cameras. But still, a valiant effort.
And Rasmus wasn’t the only feted competitor this year.
India Dunn was the first woman over the finish line. The third-year history of art student said she had been ‘too disorganised’ to race previously but was in part inspired by a friend who came second last year.
I am very competitive. It’s my last year so I really wanted to do it.
Jiri Kucera, the first man over the finish line, seemed surprised by his feat.
Running here in Great Court was just fantastic. I didn’t expect to win.
The first-year natural sciences student from Prague runs ‘from time to time’, but his real sporting passion is volleyball. And therein may lie the secret to Great Court Run success.
Cornelius Roemer, TCSU President and winner of the three previous Great Court Runs, also plays volleyball. He and Jiri think volleyball may help because it strengthens your ankles – crucial for running on the hard and uneven cobblestones.
Cornelius improved his time on each successive race. Gracefully bowing out this year, he said that planning helps.
There is quite a bit of strategy. 400 metres is a murderous distance, you can’t go all in to not burnout in the end. But at the same time you don’t want to fall behind too far in the crowd.
The race lasts less than a minute but towards the end the mind goes blank, Cornelius explained.
You need all of your oxygen to keep running. You don’t hear the clock chiming anymore as there’s just not enough oxygen around to keep your senses functioning.