With only a few hundred residents to its name – including cabinet minister, Iain Duncan Smith, and cricketer, Darren Gough – the tiny Buckinghamshire village of Swanbourne is punching way above its weight in the eccentricity of endurance running.
The Swanbourne Endeavour charity event takes place on Sunday, October 20 (around the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar) and is a charity endurance race like no other. Runners plunge into ponds, walk the plank, leap through bales of burning straw, hurdle random tree trunks and crawl through tunnels of the stickiest clay known to man.
Event spokesman Tom Finchett said: “We held our first Endeavour two years ago. The race was started with a cannon fired by a man dressed as Nelson. The 300 odd runners loved it – the smoke, the crowds, the stirring music, the buzz. And the countryside around Swanbourne is just stunning.
“All that sploshing around in the mud sparks a real camaraderie. So many different people took part over the last two years - serious runners decked in Lycra, a 70-year-old lady, even a Frenchman dressed as Borat.”
The race is unashamedly patriotic, partly down to Swanbourne’s links with the Fremantle family. Admiral Thomas Fremantle, who fought with distinction alongside Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, and his wife, Betsey, a famous diarist, moved to the village over 200 years ago. Betsey also boasts Swanbourne’s award winning pub, The Betsey Wynne, being named after her.
Several of the Fremantle family still live in the village including Betsy Duncan Smith, wife of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, and the great, great, great, great granddaughter of Admiral Thomas and Betsey Wynne. Like her famous diary-writing ancestor, the modern day Betsy, a keen amateur farmer and beekeeper, can’t get enough of Swanbourne.
Another Endeavour fan is the ex-England cricketer, Strictly Come Dancing champ and radio host, Darren Gough, who tweeted: “Knackering but great fun!” after braving the course a couple of years ago.
The Endeavour caters for all fitness levels, including a gentle (make that gentlish) 5km race and a more grueling 10 km. There is also a children’s race – The Kids Endeavour – so adventurous youngsters between the ages of 12 and 14 can pretend they are James Bond or Captain Jack Sparrow and take the plunge too: 15 remains the minimum age for the main race. After the success of last year’s event the organizers are expecting a radical boost in entrants.
Tom said: “The best thing about the Endeavour is seeing the looks of joy at the finish line. You have the speedy runners who come in first, charging along like Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans.
“But it’s the stragglers, the battlers, that really make the race. Last year the final runner was Trudie, a great village character. She’s in her 60s, was caked in mud and on her last legs. When she crossed the finishing line Land of Hope and Glory was blasting out on the tannoy and her face lit up in the biggest grin.
“That’s what the Endeavour is all about. Oh, and the celebratory beers in The Betsey Wynne Pub afterwards, of course!”
It starts at 11am at Swanbourne House School. For more information and entry details see www.theswanbourneendeavour.co.uk.