London's Oddest Annual Events: Wacky Races

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 20 months ago
London's Oddest Annual Events: Wacky Races

If we've learnt one thing over the years, it's that London has some really odd stuff going on. Really odd. From traditional events dating back decades to more recent additions to the annual calendar, we've started with the weirdest races that take place on London's streets.

The Spitalfields Goat Race

What? While the more refined Londoner has eyes on the Thames for the Oxford vs. Cambridge Boat Races, trotter on down to Spitalfields City Farm to see two goats go head to head in the Goat Race (see what they did there?). One represents Oxford, the other represents Cambridge, as they canter (do goats canter? who knows) around the cobbles.

Think it sounds like a load of nonsense? The ticketed event sells out around 1,200 tickets weeks in advance every year, with proceeds going to the upkeep of the farm. There's also live music, stalls and the like, but let's be honest, you're there for the goats.

When? Same day as the Boat Races, usually a Sunday in April.

More information: Spitalfields City Farm or The Oxford & Cambridge Goat Race

Soho Waiter's Race

Photo: The Soho Society

What? Waiters from Soho's finest restaurants and bars race around Soho Square, Greek Street and Old Compton Street. The catch? They've got a champagne glass and bottle and a napkin on their tray, which they must carry one-handed. Dropping is disqualification. It's part of the Soho Summer Fête, organised by the Soho Society and raising money for the Waiters Benevolent Fund. Only waiters from selected restaurants can take part, but by all means go along and watch the fun.

When? A Sunday in July

More information: The Soho Society

The Tweed Run

The 2015 Tweed Run. Photo: Matt S

What? Tweed suits, bow ties, flat caps and fairisle jumpers all come out for The Tweed Run, a leisurely cycle race for the best dressed ladies and gentlemen of London Town. Technically it's not a race — presumably the competitive spirit is not considered very becoming of the genteel classes. The ride is usually around 12 miles long, with an afternoon tea picnic en-route — park up the penny farthing and get stuck in. You'll need a ticket to take part, and they tend to sell out in advance. Vintage cycles and best attire very much encouraged.

When? Usually a Saturday in May.

More information: The Tweed Run

Peter Pan Cup

Photo: sinister dexter

What? While you're cosied up in your pyjamas unwrapping Christmas presents, a group of hardy swimmers are plunging into Hyde Park's Serpentine for a bracing winter dip. It's a 100 yard race, and is only open to Serpentine Swimming Club members to take part, but anyone's welcome along to watch.

As for the name, author JM Barrie donated the first prize in 1904.

When? Christmas Day, 9am

More information: Serpentine Swimming Club

The Cycling Nocturne

A penny farthing race in the London Nocturne.

What? Previously known as the Smithfield Nocturne, this 1.1km cycle race weaves through the City of London once a year. It's now been re-routed due to the development work at Smithfield, but the premise remains the same; an afternoon of novelty races for the public, including a penny farthing race, followed by the elite races. It's free to watch, but you'll have to pay and book in advance to take part.

When? A Saturday in June

More information: Rapha Nocturne London

The Parliamentary Pancake Race

Photo: Rehab

What? Members of the House of Commons and House of Lords and well-known political correspondents go head to head in the Rehab Parliamentary Pancake Race in Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Houses of Parliament. Watch them tossing pancakes as they dash around the course, all in aid of Rehab, a charity that works towards inclusion for people with disabilities.

When? Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day)

More information: Keep an eye on the Rehab website for details of next year's event.

The Chap Olympiad

Photo: The Chap Olympiad

What? This one's not strictly a race, but it'll appeal to anyone with a competitive streak — particularly those enamoured with the Tweed Run. By its own definition, it appeals to the "floppy of hair, rakish of trilby and elegant of trouser". No sporting prowess is required — you'll be better rewarded for keeping your trouser creases pristine than you will for coming first in any of the ridiculous games and challenges presented to you.  You'll need to book in advance, and again, this one always sells out.

When? A Saturday in July

More information? The Chap Olympiad

Which crazy London races have we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

Last Updated 09 May 2017