When I came along to the running world in 2009 there were no such things as Challenge Events. There were fixed distance events, i.e. Half Marathons, Marathons, 35 milers or there were timed ultras, which tended to be on small loops, running tracks of 400m or short 1km or 1 mile type loops and you'd be expected to run till the time limit and your distance measured usually to the nearest foot or yard. You'd literally stop at 6:00:00 and put a marker down and it would be measured.
The Challenge Event format that SVN created in 2014 was a combination of numerous incidents over the years. Firstly there was the Kent 50 event, this was a 50 mile run, but critically, you could stop after any lap and get a medal/finish. Unfortunately this caused quite a bit of confusion with the 100 Marathon Club as to if the event counted or not. On the one hand it was a 50 mile run, and if you stopped short of 50 miles it was a DNF? On the other hands the rules allowed you to drop down distance. Unfortunately in some cases folk dropping down were deemed to DNF the event so it didn't count. Not ideal at all when you've run 26.2 or 32.5 miles. When I rewrote the 100 Marathon Club rules in 2011/2012 one of the clarifications I put in was that it wasn't a DNF if the event rules allowed for it in advance.
The second striking example was in 2011 when I was taking part in one of the said 6 hour timed ultra events. On a 400m track and what I found amazing was that some folk wanted to stop at 106 laps (i.e. just over a marathon distance) and the RD wouldn't let them! It was an ultra event and therefore you had to run an ultra, despite the fact that people wanted to stop and indeed it was in the rules that you could stop at any time. I found this extraordinary, why not let people stop if they wanted to? It just struck me as bizarre.
Prior to 2014 all SVN events had been marathon only distance. On absolutely dead flat seaside tracks. And then we found Ranscombe and we rather suspected that people might just sign up without really paying attention to what they were getting themselves in to and that was something that was nothing like a dead flat seaside track! Add to that we had several regular marathon runners who had partners who didn't want to run marathons, but were interested in half marathons perhaps, could we do one of those in conjunction with a marathon.
So I was thinking, how could we do this… and the Challenge Event format was born!
Why don't we.
Have a lap that works out that x number of laps is a marathon distance. So 3.28, 3.74, 4.37, 5.25 or 6.55 miles.
Have no fixed distance, just a fixed time. (Thus avoiding any “Kent 50” type confusion).
Encourage people to run whatever distance that they choose, be that one lap, half marathon, marathon, ultra. So that people could do “one more lap” to extend their distances, start running ultras, or use Challenge Events to build up to marathon or ultra distances.
Slower runners are encouraged because after a lap or two nobody knows where anybody is anyway and the event is there for x hours come what may so it avoids the “alone at the back holding every one up” type feeling which isn't very pleasant. (Written by someone who has come last at 14 events!)
Have lovely bling, fun themes and make them as non-competitive and as inclusive as possible. That the Challenge is against oneself not striving to get ahead of person in front of you at maximum effort. To make running an enjoyable, encouraging and social activity as much as it is an athletic challenge only.
And so in July 2014 the first Ranscombe Challenge was run, folk loved the format. And some indeed were surprised by the hills! Since then of course lots and lots of other event companies have sprung up and imitated / cloned / copied / ripped off (delete as applicable!) the SVN Challenge Event format and there are 100s of Challenge Event format events about. But Ranscombe July 2014 was where it all started and the running world changed for the better!
So when you "ring out", get given a lap counting band (we gave up with those as just got disgustingly sweaty!), get your card punched, get a badge, go "wow" at a medal.... it all started with SVN in 2014 (OK the medals and chocolate started back in 2011!!).