Meet the organisers of Norfolk Superhero
PUBLISHED: 15:38 12 June 2017 | UPDATED: 15:38 12 June 2017
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We caught up with Sophie Ellis and Jess Lapping, co-organisers of Norfolk Superhero
The lap of water, billowing of sails and high-spiralling birdsong is often all that can be heard at Burnham Overy Staithe. But on Saturday, June 17, the sea, sand and saltmarshes will echo to the thump of running feet, the splashes of swimmers and kayak paddles, the whirr of bicycle wheels, and cheers of crowds of spectators – for the Norfolk Superhero charity quadrathlon, named for the village’s Hero pub, is back!
How did Norfolk Superhero begin?
It was started, on nearly the same course, with just a few foolish pairs, by Mark Lapping and Simon Wilson-Stephens, in 2007. They were inspired by a quadrathlon in Scotland. Triathlon was a becoming a big thing, but this was more of an adventure race in beautiful surroundings. With such a beautiful coastal setting right here in Norfolk it seemed crazy not to try and do it with a group of friends. Thanks to loyal support from our sponsors and volunteer marshals we have grown and grown, so much so that there is a large waiting list to take part and a fierce and long history of rivalries between the competitors.
How many people will take part this year?
We have 214 people taking part in teams of two. The whole ethos is to do each leg of the event with your team mate, so you are looking after each other.
Where does the course run?
It starts at the Gun Hill sandbar at about 11am. We can never be exactly sure of the time as it is dependent on tide and weather conditions. The participants all jump into the water to swim a mile to Burnham Overy Staithe which is hard with the incoming tide. Then each team takes a double kayak four miles through the creeks and back out to sea before returning to the village. Then they set off on their bikes to complete a 48-mile cycle through the quieter villages out towards Sandringham, past Houghton and up to Holkham Hall before returning to the transition zone. The run is a beautiful eight miles out on the sea wall through Holkham’s dunes and woods and then back along the beach, with the last mile being across the muddy creeks. The competitors can hear the band and the spectators across the marsh as they return.
Have you taken part, and if so, what are the best and worst bits?
I (Sophie) have taken part and the hardest bit is carrying the kayak out of the water and down the road after the swim and kayak, as your arms are so tired. All the marshals and supporters are shouting and cheering and you really are trying to smile! The best bits are too many to count. Training alongside your partner is great. You push each other along and if there is something one of you is not so good at then you really want to try and improve so as not to let them down. On the day the atmosphere is amazing. Seeing everyone lined up at the start, all wanting to put themselves through the event is really impressive, it gives you a wonderful feeling of comradeship. The marshals are all volunteers and full of encouragement. Some of the refuelling pitstops take on different surprise themes, which makes you laugh all the way round.
What are some of the categories for prizes?
They are very silly, with names that come from the pub in the village, The Hero. There is the Lord Nelson Trophy for the fastest men, the Lady Hamilton Cup for the fastest women, the Dame Edna Trophy for the fastest mixed team, the Local Heroes award for the first team home where both members live full time in Norfolk, the Zimmer Winner award for the first team with a combined age of over 100 and the Wensum Trophy for the first team of relatives of different generations.
We also give fastest swim, kayak, bike and run prizes, and wooden spoons, taking part in the best spirit superhero prizes, best marshal, you name it, there’s a bottle of champagne with your name on it!
Which charities will the challenge be supporting this year?
Over the past 10 years the Norfolk Superhero Challenge has raised over a third of a million pounds for Norfolk charities. This year we have decided to create the Superhero Foundation, allowing us to support smaller charities under one unifying theme. For 2017 we have decided to target mental health and wellbeing in Norfolk. Three of the charities we are helping are Headway for people with acquired brain injury, the One to One Project for adults in West Norfolk who are experiencing emotional and/or social distress and mental health difficulties and The Matthew Project, which supports people across Norfolk with drug and alcohol related issues. The remaining money will be used to create a community grant programme.