DeadDrop has grown from a small, single-man business to what it is today. So we took the opportunity to interview Alastair Clarke, Founder of DeadDrop Events, to find out how it changed from 15kg special forces half marathons to the whacky, immersive and exhilarating event series it is today.
How did DeadDrop start?
The two key elements of the event came to me at the same time. I’d run a Tough Mudder in 2011 and really enjoyed it but I felt it was lacking a) mental stimulation and b) an after party. The only real motivational element to it was that it was tough. And then it was over.
After completing a tough team event with team mates, I really fancied a session in the pub afterwards to celebrate. The nearest drinking establishment was an hour’s drive away, which slightly defeated the purpose.
As a result, the idea of an alternative event that would incorporate mental stimulus and a pub-celebrations in the heart of the city afterwards came about. I wanted to create something which gave the option for you to push yourself to your limit physically, but also challenge you mentally too. The reward for working so hard had to be a few pints. For me, beer after running is always a must for me!
I came up with my first race, “Mission One”, which was a 13 mile special forces race. Participants would arrive in a secret part of London and be given a 15kg backpack containing various items which would be used on their mission. They would run from point to point completing seriously cool espionage-type military tasks, being directed by former special forces soldiers and intelligence operators. It was super cool and very tough.
Was it successful?
Yes and no, depending how you look at it!
It was 32 degrees in mid August and half our runners got lost so they did 17 miles! but in doing so they all had brilliant fun and a great story to tell – no one asked for a refund!
It was also the start of our learning. At £80 it was an expensive race and priced people out of taking part. We learnt that to make it accessible we had to keep the costs as low as we could, and that’s something we continue to do.
How long did you run it for?
We ran nine “Mission One” races before wrapping them up in 2014. It was great fun but very niche and couldn’t move towards mass participation. In my bid to make the events accessible to more people, one of the runners suggested I did a 10k version of the race, so we tested that out next.
How did that work?
I came up with the “Spy Race” which was a 10k mission where you have to track down and kill a Russian spy in Mayfair. We watered down the race in terms of difficultly and took out the serious edge to it. I brought in a military team to help run things and added a huge amount of banter. This worked much better and meant we could play runners off against each other. This gave us the blueprint that 99% of DeadDrop Races are run through. We are still the only running company where slowly runners and walkers can still win the race.
When did you come up with more ideas?
We saw that the standard DeadDrop format was able to be transferred, and my ability to come up with wacky race ideas is pretty unlimited! Within a year we set up themed races for other seasonal areas such as Valentines Day events, Easter Runs, Halloween races and, of course, Christmas runs.
Did it work?
The ideas themselves always seem to work – I’m fortunate to be pretty creative, so the race themes and designs were never the problem. But I’d done the usual, ‘how hard can it be?’ with regards to the business side of things. You can have a brilliant idea, invest all your time and money and it still won’t sell. It was a sobering process, and after trying to make it work around my day job I realised I’d have to pick one or the other.
I made the decision and left my job in order to work full time on DeadDrop. To realise business acumen wasn’t my forte was a tough pill to swallow, I’d realised creativity was my forté and could drive forwards with that. And as a result, I think that appreciation for my skill set is what has allowed DeadDrop to relaunch again with such success.
What’s been the biggest challenge for DeadDrop?
Getting people to understand what it is!
It’s part 5k run, part secret mission, part game experience.
But it’s hard to describe unless you’ve been to a race. All I can say is that when people come once they always return, so I like to think that speaks for itself!
What was the most fun event?
I’d say the Spy Run and the Zombie Run. Having big teams of zombies is pretty cool and the wacky daring edge of the Spy Run is awesome.
Have there ever been any nerve wracking moments?
Not for me but for one of our runners definitely. I had an incident during our Spy Run where the “hit” went down on a quiet little street in Mayfair. One of our participants was ready to “take the shot” when armed cops casually walked round the corner and politely asked him what he was up to. You’ve never seen someone go so pale, so quickly. What he didn’t realise is the cops were in on the joke! It was the runner’s stag do and he’d been set up by his mates. It was great fun, and really added something! So I’ve got to give a shout out to the Met armed officers!
What does the future look like for DeadDrop?
After a 6 month break to refresh and develop our ideas, we’re back with a really slick new site and more top secret plans!
Our London Events are back in action and we’re launching in Birmingham this April. One of our races is within the Jewellery quarter so I’m mega excited to be going up there – I’m a midlands lad so keen to be back on ‘home turf’. I’d also really like to return to Bristol as the participants there in the past have been brilliant.
I’m very grateful and really appreciate all the participants who’ve bought tickets over the years and also the staff who’ve volunteered their time to help out. Both have really carved out some great events and offered some awesome advice to help run things. I’ve met some really awesome and inspiring people during this process and it’s been great. Here’s to more of that in 2019 and onwards!
Register for a DeadDrop Event
Why not save the fuss of organising your own treasure hunt? Instead, join our pre-organised, team events; suitable for large groups of all abilities. All events are themed and incorporate scavenger hunt elements and team challenges.