Going Marbles: A Different Spin on Formula One


Zoe Plattner

(Graphic: Nova Clark / The Ebbtide)

With the uncertain postponement of the 2020 Formula One racing season, few options remain for racing fans: they can watch reruns of previous races, turn to the world of racing video games or sample something altogether unprecedented — marble racing.

In its most basic form, marble racing is exactly what it sounds like: a competition to see which marble can reach the end of a course first. But what may have started out as a childhood pastime has since found a dedicated niche following in the world of internet sporting events.

While content producers and local leagues alike hold marble racing tournaments, others build courses just for fun.

The broad nature of marble racing means that enthusiasts can take on a number of forms. But perhaps the most recognizable are those that model their craft on real-life races — specifically, Formula One.

YouTube channel Jelle’s Marble Runs produces one of the most popular examples of this. Jelle’s hosts the Formula One spin-off series “Marbula One” (and, more recently, “Marbula E” based on Formula E), which features F1-inspired circuits.

Equipped with marbles which will sometimes be sponsored by real-life car manufacturers, the series attempts to recreate live racing in a marble racing context.

Commentator Greg Woods, who has done work for the Marble Rally and Hubelino Tournament, adds an additional shot of pizzazz by lending his voice to the videos to evoke the energy of a televised event.

But marble racing isn’t limited to auto racing simulations.

Other YouTube channels take different approaches, such as Fubeca’s Marble Runs, which presents soccer-themed courses. Between funnels, tunnels and loops, the possibilities are endless.

Beyond YouTube, Reddit is a great place for marble racing enthusiasts to connect and share ideas. r/JellesMarbleRuns is the most popular marble racing subreddit on the site with over 19k subscribers. Here, marble lovers can exchange projects and connect with each other in an environment dedicated to their mutual interests.

The next time you feel the urge to lose yourself in a YouTube vortex, try looking up “Marble Runs” — the results may surprise you.